Monday, 1 August 2016

'Art Palette' Rainbow Poke Cake!!

I wanted to share my recent discovery on how to take a boring old cake to 'next level'. Like 'how did I not know this was a thing' kind of next level!!!! 

It's called a 'Poke Cake'... Sounds weird, right?!? Read on and I will tell and show you more (if you haven't heard of it either, that is!)

My daughter recently had her 8th birthday party. We don't do parties that often around here so when we do, we kinda go all out!!! #canthelpmyself. She requested an Art Party, being a budding little creative, with an Art Palette cake to go with it. She is all about the big ideas, my girl, and I was thrilled with such a fun theme!

The Art Palette cake idea was pretty self explanatory. I wanted to do buttercream icing (cos - yum) with fondant 'paint splatters' (cos - fun!). As much as I love to make and bake, rather than bake the cake itself, I chose to cheat and buy a plain un-iced slab from the supermarket (gasp!). The reason was I wanted a really big cake for the palette and just couldn't be hassled baking four cakes to join together, stressing about size and uniformity etc. Spend your energy where you enjoy it is my motto - I'd rather have fun decorating the cake than baking it, hehee!

The night before I was going to decorate the cake I started worrying it would be a bit plain, boring and possibly dry under the icing. I started googling around at 11pm (as you do?!) for an easy way to moisten the cake - I was thinking like a syrup you could drizzle over it before icing it or something. Then I came across a zillion variations of Poke Cakes. So simple and fun I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of or tried it before!!! 

It's pretty simple. Poke holes in the cake, drizzle something liquid and yummy over it. Then ice. Mostly the recipes used sweetened condensed milk to sweeten and moisten the cake. I had a tin in the cupboard then has my own genius idea (ahem!) to take my art cake to the next level! So here we go.... the instructions, if you will...

An 'Art Palette' Rainbow Poke Cake!

Rather than plain condensed milk, I had the idea to dye it lots of colours for an arty/paint/rainbow effect - a fun surprise inside! Firstly, I divided the tin of condensed milk between sections in this silicone muffin tin thing, and then coloured them using food colouring (I used both gels and liquid so either can work!).

I laid out the slab cake (frozen beforehand to make it easier to cut - cheeky tip!) and had the task of trying to cut it in a palette shape. Not easy!!!! It's such a weird shape and I kind of winged it and freaked out a few times. Oh well. Sort of looks like a pacman but let's ignore that, lol! 

Then I simply used the thicker end of a chopstick to poke holes in the cake all over. You can also use the end of a wooden spoon or even a fork for lots of little holes. 

I had a syringe lying around (as you do, ha!) so decided to use it to squirt in the coloured condensed milk. Because I was using different colours I didn't want them to get mixed up. If you were just using a single colour or flavour, you could probably just drizzle or spoon it all over the cake. I  think the syringe did help it get right into the holes though! I just went line by line with different colours. This was the really fun bit!

And then the really super fun bit - icing! I made a plain vanilla butter cream icing (you know - icing sugar, butter, vanilla, milk). Then I rolled out bits of coloured fondant (some was already coloured, some I coloured with food gels) and used scissors to cut it out into painterly-blobby-sorta shapes!

Does it pass as an Art Palette??!


Of course, I was really excited to cut into it at the party the next day, especially as Lily had no idea about the colourful surprise inside the cake :) She loved it... #phew

Here is an after shot of the last sliver of cake after the party.


So there you have it! An easy way to spice up a plain cake, adding moistness, flavour and even colour!

There were SOOOOO many awesome poke cake varieties out there, I am now excited to experiment and try them all! I am thinking chocolate sauce, plain condensed milk, coconut cream and even... mmmmm, salted caramel sauce??! YUM. Ok, I think cake is calling me....

Sunday, 24 July 2016

when a SAHM goes back to work // musings on family transitions

The time has come. After almost exactly eight years as a stay-at-home-mum, next week I am heading back to the (paid!) workforce. Eek!

There are all kinds of emotions mixed up in this of course - mostly sentimental! #youknowme

I feel so very grateful for almost a decade at home with my kids through these 'little years'. It's been a precious era, though of course challenging at times too (mild understatement, ha!). It ain't glamourous, it's true, but for me, being a SAHM was the most important job I ever had or will have! I will never ever ever regret staying home for this season.

This change is a little unexpected. With two kids now in full time school, my darling husband and I had been chatting earlier in the year about whether I might take on some extra paid work sometime, and thinking about some other family goals we wanted to incorporate (more on that later), but weren't really ready to pursue it just yet after a huge and challenging year in 2015 with my dear step-dad passing away.

Shortly afterwards, (still a few months ago), I was rather surprised to out-of-the-blue be offered a fantastic Fundraising/Communications position back in the Not for Profit industry (my old sector, pre-kids!).  Truth be told, I turned the job down!! It was a wonderful job but it just felt too soon for our family to transition. But then they very kindly offered to hold the job till I was ready mid-year and it was at that point I realised I was totally looking a gift horse in the mouth ;) and so I thanked God for orchestrating it all so nicely before I even knew what I wanted, and gratefully accepted the position! The organisation does amazing work in our community and I'm excited to help support and promote their valuable cause.

Now, after three months of mentally preparing and adjusting, here we are, about to change gears. I am going to work just two days a week in the office and a half day at home. I know it doesn't sound like much!!! but still feels like a big change in dynamics for our family! However, one of the best bits (and one of the main motivations in heading back to work) is that my husband is going to be dropping a day of his work for one of my work days. So he is going to hang out with our three year old, Miles, do house and church stuff and whatever else he can fit in! It's exciting for him and awesome (and reassuring!) for me to know he will be home holding the family fort! :)

My affectionate little Bear, my sweet sunshine, how I adore you!!
PS I think our stylist forgot to tell us we shouldn't BOTH wear stripes, haha ;) 
Oh Eli, You are pure joy, all heart, my lovely boy.
My girl. How grateful I am to know you , learn from you and soak up your sweetness and strength every day xx

So.... Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go! Of course, I still plan to be a mother, haha ;) But after eight years at home, it's a big change for me to be a working one!!! I  feel so grateful to have called being 'mum' a full time job these past eight years. Like, we can call that about a decade, right??? Wow. It has flown by, really... and yet also can hardly remember life not being this way. But I am now getting excited too for this new era where Mark and I get to share both working and being with the kids at home. He has worked full time for many years so it's a big change for him also, and it's exciting because of the possibilities for a different kind of 'balance'. Ultimately we feel very blessed and grateful to be able to make it work like this for our family, as we try this path and find our way.

It is a time of transition, the biggest change since I went on maternity leave eight years ago. My, oh my, those emotions all come rolling in as the tide changes. Of course, I can't help but wonder... did I make the most of these little years? Did I cherish them enough? I was here but was I always really here?? You know what I mean. Those early childhood days could feel so terribly hard and never ending, challenging and exhausting yet filled with such simple joys, quiet routines and an abundance of time for really knowing each other. What a privilege that is. It turns out those days really do pass in a blur and a blink and suddenly, here I am... on the tail end of the baby days, watching my children transition to school one by one, now I'm heading back into the workforce and looking back on a season that has now passed, never to return. Never!? *gulp* I survived, the kids survived... hey, on some days we even thrived!!! ;)

I pray earnestly for the seeds that were planted in those days. I give thanks for the time we had to know and be known, to teach and learn and train up and explore and stuff up and forgive and to grow. I'm including myself as well as the kids here!! I was not the 'perfect' SAHM, sometimes I frankly felt like the very worst and yet... I know my ever-gracious children were always (mostly!) just grateful to have me there, and for that? For that I am thankful. At the end of the day, I'm grateful for an abundance of time, for quantity to allow for quality to organically emerge (in the car, in the kitchen, in the garden, in the in-between). It was not all sunshine and roses, cuddles and colouring. But it was life, our life, with mess, tantrums, crankiness and all the rest. I never quite mastered the domestic diva thing, meal planning was always haphazard and the floor was usually dusted in crumbs. I really thought after eight years I would have had a 'proper schedule' with cleaning days assigned and all that, I tried but never really got there. Oh well ;) I didn't quit my job to keep the house clean, did I! It was ultimately about values and character training and nurturing that I was there for. Though I did unexpectedly fall in love with nourishing my family through food, through cooking and making and baking. That was a bonus ;) Things were certainly often tight on one wage, and we budgeted carefully and planned and sacrificed to live this way for so long. Sure, we never did it all or had it all, but what we had? It was real life, it was messy, it was gloriously ours, and we were together. That's all we really wanted.

My heart pangs a little, knowing I won't have the privilege of being quite so available or flexible anymore. I won't always be there like I was, at school events or after school or on sick days. Yet I know I am blessed to still be available as much as I am - and Daddy will be even more available than he was, which is simply wonderful! But still. It's a different kind of emotional rollercoaster when you pass the baton, when you are used to being the keeper of the household and manager of family life. And while some tell me how good it will be to have the 'best of both worlds' I also know it can be challenging to have those divided interests. So that will be something to navigate  - especially as I don't handle stress or busy-ness particularly well!! #watchthisspace

For so long I have been grateful to have my focus fully on this task of child raising. Not everyone can or even wants to be a stay at home parent and that is okay (more than okay! whatever works for you!!)... but I wanted to and I'm so thankful I could. And while I know some have questioned the value (or as they put it, 'the waste'!) of me being at home rather than in the workforce, those opinions don't phase me because Mark and I knew the value of one of us being home was priceless and precious and infinitely good for our children, our values and our family life. It may not be right for everyone but it was right for us - and how good and peaceful it feels to be confident in your family's choices, no matter which way the tides are flowing outside your home :)

But now. I transition! It's bittersweet as I say goodbye to a season I loved, but I also gratefully welcome a new season for our family. Most likely, just like SAHM life, working life will have good days and bad days, blessings and challenges and everything in between. Some people ask me if I feel 'excited' to return to the workplace/adult company/real work but that doesn't quite capture it - I certainly have not felt locked away, brain dead, starved for adult company or longing for paid work as a full time mum! But I'm not dreading it either... I love my professional work, and am very passionate when I am involved in it. And though I do feel sentimental and nostalgic about my retirement from the SAHM fulltime gig. I mostly feel like this is just the next right thing for our family. It will have highs and lows like most choices - but it does feel perfectly timed (thanks God!) and wonderfully flexible (thanks, employer!) and like I tend to do anyway, I will seek and find and focus on the good! I can say that in my gut I now feel ready for this next step (though I do feel nervous too - dusting off my corporate self, haha!) and like it came at the right time, even if I didn't know it yet. We will need time to work out the kinks of this new era, no doubt! But we will find our way. I am confident of that.

And so, in savouring the end of an era for our family, I'm a little sad as one tends to be when a beautiful season ends. But like every season there is a time for it and then there is fresh beauty to be found in change. We are farewelling the baby days, those tumultuous, precious, adorable and physically-exhausting early years at home, and stepping into a fresh new season of independent school aged kids and the working parent juggle. There are lots of blessings to be discovered in the new era ahead!

So, bring it on!

(Time to dust off my high heels, huh???)

xx Kate

Every year for Mothers' Day, I use it as an excuse/reminder/opportunity to take some rare photos of me WITH the kids.
My darling hubby took these precious shots! :) #themumstaysinthepicture
Everyone looking at the camera, smiling sweetly. Just Miles subversively winking!! #classic

Thursday, 30 June 2016

30/30 - clubhouse

The kids discovered a little nook behind the armchair and declared it immediately their clubhouse.

Several happy afternoons and evenings have been spent behind there...including Miles too (he just escaped before I grabbed this photo). 

All happily, cosily crammed in together, they gave themselves club-names (Zeb, Archo and Violet, lol), wrote out club-rules (posted on signs on the wall nearby), filled a box with club-house-stuff and ... well, you get the drift. There seems to be a lot of club requirements, haha - all on theme!


This is the stuff of childhood. The magic of childhood. The memories of childhood... or so I hope - who can say! But it's been a joy to track my trio a little more closely over this past 30 days.

Yep, that's the end of my little Documenting Delight challenge in June! Thirty days flew by! While I didn't get as creative with the photos as I'd hoped (blah!), I am grateful that I took the time to capture those little family moments. Perhaps I will make it a regular thing each January?? As summer holidays may be a little easier to capture than wintery June!

Here is where I admit that what spurred me along on this sentimental project is that I will soon be going back to part time work. after eight years at home with the kids. Got me all nostalgic and even more eager to soak up these little moments of childhood. More on that to come....soon-ish!

Thanks for following along! xx

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

29/30 - My BOY!!

Mark was sitting on the couch and Miles jumped up for a big cuddle then after a few moments, sat back and proclaimed 'My BOY!!!!'

I suddenly recognised that that was what Mark usually says when he greets Miles with a huge hug... Miles must have thought Daddy had forgotten this time, so he would fill the gap! 

Funny the little routines they value, things you don't even realise, being treasured in little hearts and memories...

My boy and his Daddy xx

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

28/30 - bookworm

She has reached the level of bookworm where she walks around the house with her nose in a book. No major injuries.... yet!

What can I say, as a self-declared #booknerd this makes me very, very happy.

(Current read - Witches by Roald Dahl. She declares it the best, funniest book she has ever read). 

Sidenote: Who is this grown up little lady!? Where has my chubby faced little girl gone!?

Monday, 27 June 2016

27/30 - remembering papa

Lily writes her memories of Papa, beautiful flowers from Claire reminds us of the love and support surrounding us today, while three little glowing houses reminds me of how David's love and light lives on in my children xx

Kind/Cuind. Yes, he was, Eli xx

On the one year anniversary...

The kids decided to write out things they remembered about their beloved Papa. We sat on Papa's special blanket for an impromptu picnic as we shared the things we loved and remembered. 

'Kind' wrote Eli. 'He was nice and gave me cuddles' said Miles.

We listened to the audio book he recorded for them 'I love you from head to toe'. We gazed at the three little candles glowing inside three little houses. Little houses shining bright with light - Papa's light that shines on in three little hearts and memories, as well as up in heaven.

Then we sat on the rug, munching on the muesli bars that Lily had just baked completely independently for the first time. We dropped crumbs everywhere and knew that Papa would have thoroughly approved!

Documenting delight, every day in June.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

26/30 - marking time // one year on after loss

It's the day before the one year anniversary of the loss of my beloved step-father, David.

"They" say the first anniversaries are the hardest, and that the lead up can be worse than the day itself. 

I have so far found this to be true, as the tension coils and the emotions bubble up and over with even more bite than usual. It still hardly seems true that he is gone. Still. 

But today....

Our little family decorated stones, to lay at the foot of the tree where David's ashes are scattered, the tree by which he ran and played and climbed as a child.

We had a quiet afternoon tea with his 95 year old father, a gentleman of the highest order, still living independently and sharp as a tack, kind as can be. He had lit the fire at his home so he could roast marshmallows for the great grandchildren, on his super deluxe double-pronged metal marshmallow roasting stick. An activity David would surely have delighted in joining in, and he would have gleefully let the children eat all the marshmallows they wanted (likely hundreds!).

Today we missed him but could hardly talk about him, a grief still too raw to express, one year on. But it felt good and right to be together, drawing quietly near as the day approaches.

And where is our delight today?

In family moments, in still-tender yet fond memories and in knowing that we grieve, but not without hope. 

We miss him, but we know he is at perfect peace and that is the delight in the midst of my grief.

Documenting delight, every day in June.