Christmas Weekend

We absolutely love Christmas time.. It’s an opportunity to take a few days off and just live life with family- no work.. no distractions.. This year was no exception- except I came down with a stomach bug/food poisoning for all of Christmas day and most of Boxing day.

To top it all off, within hours of feeling better I went to check on Ava around midnight and she had thrown up in her cot! Over the course of the next 3 days she proceeded to christen our new matching pjs (mine not hers) 3 times with puke. I caught puke in my top, in my hands and in a Mcdonalds happy meal box. I’ve lost count of the amount of baths she’s taken to try and bring her temperature down and she is now taking her antibiotics without even a whimper..

I am thankful and happy to report that she is now on the mend! We’re taking each meal as it comes but she was almost back to her bubbly self this morning!

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Christmas Baking

Living in Sydney means our Christmas period is celebrated in sweltering temperatures. Even as I type this it is 44C or 108F outside. You can normally find at least half of the population at a beach sometime over the three days that are Christmas (Eve, Day and Boxing Day). I was born and raised here so a hot Christmas is the only Christmas I’ve ever know. It took Greg, my husband, a while to really get into the Christmas mood- being from mid-west America meant they were drowning in snow by mid-December, surrounded by fireplaces and overcoats. After 8 years I can say that he has truly become acclimatized- you can catch him in flip flops and t-shirts most weekends in December.

Part of getting into the Christmas Spirit is the holiday baking! We have some awesome Australian Christmas traditions- i.e. Fruit Mince Puddings, Roast Pork with Crackling, Fresh Prawns, Salmon, oysters (pretty much anything from the ocean), Smoked Ham, Pavlova.. I could go on and on..

Despite the great Aussie traditions I am a sucker for everything warm and cozy. I love warm hot chocolate and songs about having a White Christmas. I’ve tried to incorporate as any of these northern hemisphere traditions as I can down here!

Below are some of my favourite Christmas Baking and Dessert Recipes!

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Christmas Sugar Cookies | Fruit Mince Pies | Gingerbread House

Snowmen Cream Puffs | Aussie Pavlova | Gingerbread Men

Baby Ava- 18 weeks on!

Well friends, Ava is 18 weeks old.. I feel like I deserve a high-five for keeping a baby alive for 18 weeks! While it hasn’t necessarily been difficult it is a HUGE life change. The older she gets the HUGE-ER (is that even a word) the change gets!!

She’s still sleeping through the night (thankfully), but her naps during the day are becoming significantly shorter. She has steam rolled with discovering things:

  • her hair (she reaches behind her head and rubs and grabs her hair..haha)
  • her fingers (they are constantly in her mouth..we think she’s starting to teethe)
  • her voice (she screams excitedly all the time! She is also laughing so much)

Ava experienced her first Christmas this year- she slept through the opening of presents on Christmas Eve and the entire Christmas Service at church.. #nailedit

We did manage to get some photos before the service though..

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She made out with a few toys and some books and was highly stimulated for 3 days by the overbearing love from her cousin. We can’t wait till next year when she can actually feel some of the same excitement we do!

I took some photos of her the week before Christmas just incase we didn’t get any on the actual day..

img_2858img_2857img_2856-1We visited the huge Christmas tree in the Queen Victoria Building.. definitely a must if you have little ones!! (Picture below of Ava with her Oma)

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We braved downtown Sydney for the Christmas Tree.. along with half of Sydney..so Greg ended up taking her in the carrier at the end.. it was so cute!!

img_2914Overall everything has been going great with Ava! She had her 4 month shots today and screamed the house down. It was so so sad to watch. It’s a public holiday here in Sydney so Greg was able to hold her for her shots.. I still cried like a baby (even though I stepped out of the room).

She had her first try of rice cereal yesterday!!! She seemed to enjoy it.. I didn’t exactly know what to do so I made up the recommended amount on the box.. 2.5TBSP of rice cereal to 90ml of water.. yeah.. way to much.. I need to research a recipe that makes half of that.. We gave her half of the rice cereal followed by a 90ml bottle. She slept fine so I think we got a thumbs up on that! (on a side note.. she kept trying to help me put the spoon in her mouth..so I ended up grabbing another spoon for her to play with while I kept using the one I had to feed her)

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Well, this weekend she’s going to be taking the 5th flight of her short 4 month life- we can’t wait for her to meet some of our extended “family” members!!

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P.S. I have a great Lamb Recipe coming to you tomorrow.. followed by a great Raw Banoffee Pie recipe on Thursday!! Trust me..these are two good ones!!!

My first time Sugar Cookies!

I have always wanted to make Sugar Cookies, but with working full-time it wasn’t a priority, considering most people recommend refrigerating the dough overnight. But, I finally decided to jump off the cliff and make them! The dough was the easy part.. trying my hand at icing with royal icing was another story.. I will list all my issues below so you can avoid them moving forward!!

I used a recipe for the Sugar Cookie Dough from The Cake Girls. They have step by step pictures as well as a FAQ if something is going wrong with your dough! On a side note- I halved the recipe because I didn’t have enough butter and still managed to get 2 dozen cookies.

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ULTIMATE SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE

The Cake Girls advise that you should get approx. 20-25 medium cookies or 12 -14 XL cookies, however as mentioned, I halved the recipe and got 24 cookies!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 stick= 113 grams.. 2 sticks=226 grams)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

HOW TO

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium high-speed until light and fluffy. Switch the mixer to low and add the egg and vanilla. Stop and scrape down the bowl and then continue to mix on low until incorporated.
  2. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until the dough forms, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm; minimum 2 hours or overnight. I refrigerated my dough overnight which worked perfect.
  3. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling. Roll 1/3 of the dough (put the rest back in the fridge) on a heavily floured surface to a 3/8″-1/4″ thickness. Cut out shapes and place them on a parchment lined tray and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees (180 Celsius) for 12-14 minutes or until the cookies are just very lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on tray.
  4. Once cool, you can freeze them to be decorated later by placing them between layers of wax paper inside of a snap lid container. They will store well for up to 3 months. Just bring them to room temperature before decorating! I kept mine on the bench for the entire day in a sealed container before icing.

For the Royal Icing I used an Australia recipe because I was having a hard time locating meringue powder which was recommended on nearly all of the American recipes. This recipe is from Taste:

636167853835080858_Afterlight_Edit.jpgROYAL ICING

1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Food Colouring (I used Queen Food Colours)

HOW TO

  1. Lightly whisk egg white and lemon juice together in a bowl. Gradually add icing sugar, whisking until smooth and combined.
  2. Separate the icing into small containers and colour as needed.

TO DECORATE THE COOKIES

Piping Bags (I recommend having multiple piping bags. I tried using one and washing it each time, however the residual water in the bag affected the consistency of the icing)
Skewers or Toothpicks

HOW TO

  1. Pour the colours into piping bags and pipe around the edges of the cookies.
  2. Wait a few minutes for the icing to set and fill the centre of the cookies with icing. Using a toothpick or skewer ‘flood’ the middle of the cookie. Here’s a good photo tutorial from Sweet Sugar Belle.