sprinkle cake | mayhem & hell

In my earlier married life, I experienced some massive failures in the kitchen. I suspect we lost a few friends as a result of a few bad dinner parties. Fortunately, things do get better.

I read this great blog titled “The Cake Blog”. Sadly I read Carrie Sellman’s very descriptive and detailed instructions on how to bake a Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, just a little too late.

Her blog is packed with great tips and tricks to save you time and heartache…while also advocating that this is the ultimate treat for the sprinkle cake lover. The tips and tricks are designed to avoid the spilled sprinkle mayhem! Her version of this cake is exactly what I imagined a cake should look like.

So when I was asked to make a sprinkle cake for my God Daughter’s Sprinkle Baby Shower, it was hard to refuse. I think back and wish she had asked me to make the finger sandwiches (and I suspect if there is another time, she might well do that).

I embarked on my sprinkle cake journey without gathering any sensible or helpful information (mistake number 1). To start with my heart was definitely in it, but no sooner did my sprinkle mayhem quickly turn to sprinkle hell.


The Leaning Tower of Pisa | The best part of the day was sharing time with so many lovely yummy mummies’, and yet I did everything I could to avoid looking across at the sprinkle table, only to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa staring back at me! Saved by the Mimosa bar!

So back to the sprinkle cake, which on the face of it looks pretty easy to make and yet there is nothing easy about this cake. It was an absolute fail! Something that should have been easy became utterly horrendous. I could see a scene from Game of Thrones unfolding on my kitchen bench.

I am never great at operating outside my comfort zone and this was one of those occasions, and yet, I thought I can paint so how hard is it to paint a much smaller cake (much harder!!!).


Photo | Ignore the jar of jam. It was a nice idea, but the layers need a solid icing to hold everything together … well almost anyway!

I have never made a sponge before and I have never iced a cake of any great significance. So I decided, let’s cheat and go buy 4 layers of sponge cake from Woolworths. Seriously you have to ask yourself how hard can that be!

Layers of pink and blue | We don’t know if my God Daughter is having a boy or a girl (for the record I think it is a girl) so I made a butter icing in both blue and pink layers.  Surprisingly the icing was quite delicious and yet one further mouthful and I felt as if I had just poured a full cup of sugar down my throat. I could feel my hips expanding just as I stood there.


It was when I started to apply the soft icing to the outside of the cake that I started to make an absolute mess. I look back on The Cake Blog and it appears that I followed the steps reasonably well (without having had the luxury of watching the tutorial until after the massacre). The only problem was that every time I added more icing, I created massive a hole in the cake. So I commenced plugging up the holes with more icing (and more sugar).

Try picturing this nightmare unfolding in my kitchen. The sponge is starting to fall away, I am plugging the holes, the stack of sponges has started to go on a lean and the sprinkles now appear to be smothering the stone bench, not the cake.

Can it get any worse | my blob just continued to become an even bigger blob. So I rolled the cake on its side, gathering the thousands of sprinkles sprawled across my bench (I am certain that I read this tip on some other less helpful blog).

Eventually, I take a final distraught look at the war-torn Leaning Tower of Pisa and the lean does my head in. I start to have visions of the cake falling sideways on the dessert buffet and the embarrassment I feel as a result of this.

Finally, my brain fog clears and I think why not gently turn the cake on its side and cut across the bottom so that it is no longer lopsided (surely you get some credit for this). It worked a treat; until I put it back upright and found that I had cut too much off the other side (argh)! I wasn’t going to be beaten by some rotten sprinkle cake. I grabbed handfuls of sponges that I had just cut off the bottom and commenced stuffing them under the other side. Bingo! Finally, the cake stood straight. I must say I did take just a little pride in this resurrection.

Oh dear me, seriously how can you go from a left-handed lean to a right-handed one?

By this stage, I am so totally over the sprinkle cake and I have no idea whatsoever why anyone would ever want to eat a sprinkle cake let alone make one!

A few of the yummy mummies ate the cake (out of pity I am certain) and I suspect each of them threw up afterwards.

Then of all the people, the Queen of Cakes herself arrived. She was still saying hello and I was already in full flight excusing my sprinkle cake. As always she was gracious, looked across at the mounted cake and told me that it wasn’t at all that bad. I love that gracious expression “not that bad” which means, what a shocker and I are thankful for the support of other women.


Photo | I cannot even bring myself to show you a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

On a more positive note, they had a tarot card reader there (what a great idea). I got my 10 minutes of glory with this gorgeous young tarot reader. Much to my surprise, the 10 minutes was all about my blog. Somewhat relieved it was not about my sprinkled cake!!! How amazing was this … my blog! She told me that I needed to engage more with the heart of what I am writing. She told me that I have so much to share on a far deeper level (so beware ladies the dark might well follow). She said that anytime I spend quality time with my friends who inspire me, I need to sit down and share exactly what comes to mind. What is coming to mind for me right now is, oh great more coffee and cake and I cannot wait.


She did add that I needed to use that inspiration of what comes from this togetherness, sit down, write from the heart and stop overthinking what I am writing.

Sister4sister comes to mind | I always knew when I started my blog that it was never intended to only ever be about entertaining and food (albeit what a great idea), it was also intended to be about women supporting women. It was intended to be a way of reminding each of us just how important friendship is and the older we get the more we need our friends. We have shared so much in this life together, the good the bad and the ugly. We need to stay in touch with each other, be there for each other and above all, support each other to be the best we can be.

Some people arrive and make such a beautiful impact on our lives, you can barely remember what life was like without them.

Source -Your tango

So expect from time to time the sister4sister blogs will find a home on my blog site. We need to constantly remind ourselves, to show empathy and compassion to one another. Be there for each other!

A message from my God Daughter | Just as I was about to finish off this blog, I received a text message from my God Daughter in response to the photo I took of her at her Sprinkle Shower. Her message was hilarious, she said;

Oh dear, I think I look huge! Not so yummy! And it’s my fault, I just polished off a MASSIVE slice of your cake, it’s honestly soooooo yummy, that is my fave type of cake, sponge and icing! Xoxo

So while I am so totally over the sprinkle cake, maybe at least you can please your gracious God Daughter who will eat it regardless of the way it looks.

Sending you love and lots of sugar!

Tip:    If you are mad enough to want to try your hand at this popular Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, do not do anything I did.  Instead, visit thecakeblog.com. You will love the detail and the professionalism.



entertaining made easy | grazing board

“Best friends are the people you can do anything and nothing with and still have the best time”.

source:  Quoteslife101.net

If entertaining was made easier, I am certain we would do more of it! Back on my mother’s day, they always went to a party with a plate in hand. What happened to that tradition of sharing food and sharing the load?

We appear to have become slaves in our kitchen. It has become a reasonable excuse as to why we rarely entertain. For fear of repeating myself (which hasn’t stopped me in the past), sharing up the cooking not only lightens the load (and hopefully you get to stay awake until the end of the night), but it also makes for a more shared environment. I have found some of these shared occasions to be some of our most enjoyable.

Recently, a few ladies caught up for a mid-week lunch at our house. The sun was shining and the laughter was abundant. We didn’t need an excuse to get together, we just did! It was a refreshing change from meeting at some restaurant or café.

I set the table, prepared aboard for the centre of the table and we all contributed to the grazing board by bringing something savoury or sweet. I love the chatter surrounding the arrival of each lady and her dish. As always, the conversation quickly turned to food!

Photo|a simple table with stands, a wooden grazing board and napkins




All eight of us sat around the table, oops nine of us – let’s not forget Lucinda, who blew in with grandmother and was just a little treasure (who said iPhones don’t amuse small children) all chatted, laughed and enjoyed the food around us.

Feeling Overwhelmed Entertaining | Why not consider making it a little easier on yourself? Invite a small group of close friends to your house and suggest that you all share the food. It is that easy!

All you need to do is set the table, provide the drinks (and don’t forget the coffee and tea) and arrange some nibbles on arrival and something for the grazing board.   It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? It is!

On arrival | I put together a few healthy dips for arrival and set up the table with a long wooden board. I was thrilled that I got to use one of the two wooden boards I picked up a short while beforehand, and on sale (show me a woman who does not love a bargain!).

Photo | arrival tasting board



I used my food stands to elevate the food. I always like to use varying heights, not all the same. If you don’t have food stands, you can use just about anything. Maybe you could try a mix of round and square glass bowls turned upside down. If you want to be truly creative, place a smaller glass bowl in the base and fill it with a single flower. If you are looking for a more rustic look, you can use wooden serving bowls, wrapped boxes for a particular theme, garden pots and the like (ideas here are endless). Just make sure that the base is stable. You don’t want your serving dishes tipping up on the table.

I cannot believe that I overlooked photographing the dessert, and I am disappointed that I don’t have anything to share with you here. I can however confirm that the lime tart and homemade hazelnut chocolates were both delicious.

Menu Ideas | A few grazing board ideas (remembering lunch and women command something a little lighter and healthier… so that we get to eat all the sugar we want afterwards):


IMG_7312 2
Hummus dip
Beetroot dip
Spicy red capsicum dip
Homemade seeded biscuits
Grazing Board:
Salad | figs, feta, prosciutto
Salad | tomato, bocconcini, basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Meat | shaved honey ham
Olives | green, stuffed green & black olives
Quiche | Roast tomatoes, parmesan and ham
Antipasto | marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes
Fresh vegetables | radishes, carrots, asparagus and shaved parmesan
Fresh fruit | green grapes and strawberries
Filo Triangles | curry beef
Dried fruits & nuts | mango and candied walnuts


French baguettes with garlic butter, wholemeal loaf and dry biscuits

Dessert | Tasting Plate:

Lime tart, clotted cream and rich vanilla ice cream

Homemade chocolates with hazelnuts

Tea and Coffee

So no more excuses! Go offer your house as the next venue and get your friends to help out. Nothing is more loving than sharing delicious food and stories with great friends.
Tip | share up the leftover food! Keep a stock of take-home plastic food containers for this purpose.  It could well make for a nice pre-dinner tasting if nothing else.

little pleasures | for our little treasures

“Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”

Food is the perfect icebreaker | There is no greater joy than the joy of seeing a small child’s face light up at something you have prepared, something, especially for them. Warm their tummy and you warm their heart.

More often than not, it is the little things, which will turn their head; therefore every small effort you make will come with some great reward.

A designer lolly bag | At my Chanel inspired afternoon tea, I made up little Chanel inspired lolly bags (their parents didn’t think they were so small) and yet the little ones loved them! I warn, however, that this did not prevent some of them from poking their sticky little fingers into as many cakes as they possibly could in the least amount of time.

Message to self: Make sure I set the table higher than a 3-year-old’s little arms can reach.

As a small child, my son always judged a person’s house by what was in their pantry. This was so embarrassing and yet fortunately he was young enough at the time for most of my friends to find it just a little bit cute. That said I tend to spend a lot of time with my head in the pantry, so maybe he is his Mother’s Son after all, or as they say “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

The start of something special | I never liked the sound of a step-grandparent, and yet that is what I am. It always conjured up in my head, pictures of a woman dressed in black (well I fit that description at least), with a long nose and flying around on a broomstick. So we start on the back foot with step-grandchildren because they never really understand where you fit into the picture. For a while there they thought I was their Grand Father’s Daughter, which I was more than happy to grab and run with … sadly they grew up and knew better!

The middle one of the three, started very shy with me until we found hot chocolate and let’s not forget the marshmallows. I found that through something as simple as finding what truly pressed his buttons you can become great mates.

It was then that our relationship with hot chocolate began. So now I look for great chocolates and marshmallows in the hope that I can please him with something new and exciting, watching his gorgeous and sometimes mischievous face light up with delight at the mere sound of hot chocolate.

Serve it up | The hot chocolate always seems to appeal to most young kids and it is always more than just hot milk with chocolate sprinkled on the top, you are also judged by how you serve it up.


Like the Grandchildren, Scarlett loves her hot chocolate. As she is arriving at our house she can be heard telling her Mum exactly how she would like for me to make the milk and put the chocolate sprinkles on the side (I recently found out that I did not make this 3-year-olds hot chocolate the same way the coffee shop does…she is such an “I” snob. It shouldn’t surprise you that she only likes pink marshmallows! She also loves our Alessi’s heart-shaped spoons, which sit on the side and I am thrilled her snobby coffee shop does not provide this same spoon.


Photo:  Scarlett is just a little bit happy with herself!

No sooner has she filled the entire cup with the chocolate sprinkles than the chocolate ends up all over her face, down her sleeve and closely followed by the entire kitchen bench.  She then commenced putting her gooey fingers straight back into the can of chocolate (and I remind myself again to throw the can out afterwards).


Photo:  Mila is another story | always unable to break through with Mila because she has only had eyes for her Grand Father (my Brother).  So I arrived with a babyccino in hand (and marshmallow) and not only did she talk to me, she wanted to come home with me!  I am not sure why it took me almost three years to work this out!fullsizeoutput_1a38

Photo:  Jake is still too young to enjoy hot chocolate and lollies and yet it does not stop him from eating the Alessi lolly jar lid (I am thinking germs, germs, germs as I write).

Find out what kids like and make it for them. It is the parent’s job to provide balanced meals, not ours. We just want to make friends and if that means they go home with a little more sugar in their belly so be it. They will go home having had a good time and you spare those constant remarks like “can we go home now Mummy?”


Special kid’s food ideas |a few good ideas include:

-sweet or salty homemade popcorn (even better if you grab all the ingredients and make it together)

-lolly bags (and something healthy to keep the parents at least a little happy)

-a chocolate fountain with strawberries and homemade marshmallow

-cheese toasties

-rose coloured water with fresh strawberries

-mini cheesy pizzas (see easy cheat recipe below)

-homemade fruit muffins (it is all about the icing)

-sausage hot dogs

-Oh and please let’s not forget hot chocolate and marshmallow.

Another great fallback for those unexpected visits is a beautiful lolly jar filled with a wonderful assortment of colourful lollies.  I might need to see if I can superglue the lid … so that they last longer than a few nights … then again that kind of defeats the purpose.




Photo:  Mini pizzas are always a hit with the kids!  Another cheat idea is to buy the 2 pack pizza base from Coles (I am fast becoming a fan of Coles) and top with your favourite topping.  Then using a cookie cutter cut out the mini pizzas and cook them in the oven. So simple and seriously tasty!

A note | Make sure you have a packet of gluten-free chips or others in the cupboard on standby.  I had a child visit recently with her mother and she was gluten-free. Oh dear me, the bench was filled with everything but anything gluten. She was asking her Mother when they could go home! How tragic was that!

Short story | I purchased a small domestic fairy floss machine with all the coloured sugar to go with it. I thought this was an amazing idea to have on hand. Not only do kids get to eat the fairy floss, but they also get to make it with you. Only problem being, that it blew up on my first trial. Sticky fairy floss sugar is something you want to try and avoid. I still think the idea is a great one, however maybe next time I might purchase from a more reputable supplier.

Can you see their little faces  … just as we think about these ideas?

If you can do it … do it together | nothing beats spending quality time with kids making food and sometimes eating it together.  Tip:  Avoid watching what the kids do with their fingers when making food.  It will make it way more enjoyable when it comes to eating it!

recipe of the week | cheat’s delicious hummus

This recipe feeds 8-12 people as a pre-dinner appetiser/starter.

I took this dip to a friend’s house this week, as a starter for the dinner.  I promised her the recipe and I am sure she will be amazed at just how easy it is to make!

A great cook would suggest that hummus should be made from scratch with fresh chickpeas (how thoroughly tiresome). I have tried my hand at this method a few times and generally, I find the consistency to be a little too chewy in texture for my liking (which might say more about the Cook than the method). I have also made many a hummus using the canned organic chickpea version and combining that method with my foolproof Thermomix, I can generally pull off a reasonably well-textured hummus (emphasis on reasonably).

Hummus | a Middle Eastern creation is another one of my favourites and works very well as a starter for any dinner party or simply that go-to item, which can be kept in the fridge for a quick snack.

I prefer a smoother texture, topped with anything that adds colour and texture to an otherwise bland beige canvas. So imagine my delight when I found the 1-litre tub of hummus purchased from Coles! Better still it only costs around $6 for a tub and trusts me it beats any hummus I ever slaved over.  BTW … ignore the bland coloured photo, as I forgot to take a final photograph once the flat parsley leaves had been added (plus the smoked paprika adds some life to the otherwise dull hummus).

Yumi’s Traditional Middle Eastern Hommus Dip| (dairy-free and gluten-free). So some call it Hummus, others call it Hommus and others say Houmous. For me,  it is Hummus.


Let’s cheat together | Now that we have the perfect smooth hummus base, add your special touches to disguise the fact that you did not make your hummus-like all the other great cooks.


My added disguise, is the roasted cauliflower, lemon and spiced chickpea hummus. I have modified this from a recipe I once made from scratch and have since refined it to something truly tangy, tasty and even better, dead easy.

Easy Hummus Recipe | Ingredients:

1-litre tub of Yumi’s Hommus

1 lemon

1 tin of organic chickpeas

1 large cauliflower

2 tsp. of smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

100 ml virgin olive oil

Flat-leaf parsley or coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Yoghurt flatbreads | Ingredients:

1 cup of wholemeal flour

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp. of baking powder

1 tsp. of dried yeast

200 gm. thick plain yoghurt (don’t use Greek yoghurt)

Virgin olive oil

100 ml of hot water

Cut the cauliflower into small florets and toss gently in 100 ml of virgin olive oil. Place on a baking tray and grate the rind of 1 lemon over the florets. Add salt flakes and ground pepper.


Cut the lemon in half and add to the centre of the baking tray (the lemon juice will run onto the baking paper and be absorbed by the cauliflower). Place in the oven at 220 for about 30 minutes or until the florets are lovely and dark brown.

Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining roasted lemon halves over the cooked cauliflower (I love my hummus to be very tangy) and let rest.


Drain the chickpeas and toss in enough virgin olive oil to coat and then add the combined spices (smoked paprika, coriander and cumin) and toss together.

Place the chickpeas on a sheet of baking paper and roast until chickpeas are crisp and golden. Remember to toss from time to time.


Combine 2/3 of the lemony cauliflower florets with Yumi’s Hummus and stir gently adding flakes of salt and ground pepper to taste.

Pour a generous swirl of a good virgin olive oil on the top (great olive oil can make all the difference to the final taste), and add a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika across the top of the hummus and ground pepper. Heap the roasted chickpeas on the top of the hummus (remembering that the bland beige is no longer) and pile the remaining cauliflower florets in the centre of the chickpeas.

Finish with a generous handful of lightly torn coriander leaves or flat-leaf parsley. Both work equally well.

Yoghurt Flatbreads

I found this recipe sitting in some waiting room. I photographed the recipe and did not manage to capture the source. However, given that it was a waiting room I suspect the magazine was well out of date.

To cheat or not to cheat | If you prefer your hummus could be served with a good quality flatbread (and yet I often find it difficult to find a great flatbread).  Making your flatbread is easy; it just takes a little time.

Combine both the plain and wholemeal flour in a bowl and add the baking powder and dried yeast.

Whisk the plain yoghurt and 100 ml of hot water together and add to the well the dried ingredients. Mix all ingredients until dough forms.

Put the dough on a lightly floured board and kneed for a good 5 minutes or more (until your arms drop).

Rub the ball of dough in olive oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with cling wrap.

The dough should rise to about double its size in 45 minutes. Knockback the dough and break it into 8-10 even size balls. Roll out each ball to a nice thin consistency and then cook in a heavy very hot pan.  Flatbread should be cooked one at a time until parts take on a charred look. When you take flatbreads out of the pan, drizzle some good quality virgin oil over and add a sprinkle of salt flakes to each.


These are truly delicious and nothing beats hummus and great flatbread.

Hint |The dough will last in the fridge for days if well wrapped in glad paper.

Happy eating!




going sweet on ottolenghi


I have all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. We have shared so many nights with Ottolenghi, albeit his food, not Yotam himself. After having just finished watching Yotam on Master Chef for the past two nights, I realise that all this time I have been pronouncing his name incorrectly, Yoth…am instead it is Yot…am! Oh dear me!


Guess Who is Coming to Dinner | My sister once asked me whom I most admired in this world. Knowing all too well that for her it was Oprah (and just a little disappointed that she didn’t pick me). It made me think to myself that if I had a “guess who is coming to dinner” kind of moment, who would I want to sit with me at the table.  I would have liked to sit at the table with Nelson Mandella, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Angela Jolie, Aung San Suu Kyi and the likes and yet I have never been one of those people who would clamber to get an autograph of some famous person (certainly not sportsmen because generally, I have no idea who they are anyway).

Be an Inspiration | Look at the fabulous legacy left by Coco Chanel. Her exquisite style and grace are legendary and she has made a massive impact on the world of fashion. She encouraged women to dress for themselves and be themselves. She encouraged women to be confident. So do I want to be like Coco Chanel?  Not.  However, Coco Chanel truly inspires me on just about every level.

It is not only famous people who inspire me in life. If we open our eyes we can see the beauty in the actions of many people who surround us each day and who are often silently inspiring us. Sometimes their inspiration can be felt in a small way and sometimes in ways that truly matter and make a difference in our lives.

I am digressing (the strange thing that … and I am starting to sound a little like Anne of Green Gables with my rambling, just a little less articulate).

I am inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi (pronounced Yot … am), his cookbooks, his restaurants and the passionate relationship he has with food (I even love his personal story)! When I first fell across his cookbooks I developed an absolute love of the way he talked so passionately about food and ingredients. He introduced me to so many new spices, which I did not even know existed (Ras-Ei-Hanout has become my second best friend). Over the past five years, I have cooked a lot of his recipes and while they are not always the easiest of dishes to cook they are ever so flavoursome. His food is filled with heart!



It has never been Yotam Ottolenghi that I crave to meet or sit with at my dinner table, but his recipes and his love of food and spices continue to inspire me on every level.

Ottolenghi Relaunched | So imagine my delight when I yet again visited his website, trawling for a new recipe, to find that there has been a new cookbook released. They have just relaunched a special edition of the cookbook titled Ottolenghi and the cover is printed in a vibrant red. How fabulous! I send a message to myself that I must order this online before they sell out.  I just know how fabulous this vibrant red will look sitting on top of my existing collection of Otto cookbooks.

Can you imagine my double excitement when I also found out that they are releasing a brand new cookbook titled Sweet? So for all those Otto diehards like me, go online and order your copy now from their online store.

I have copied details about his new recipe book because I adore his desserts. His rosewater and pistachio meringues are one of my favourites and you need to have a great set of beaters to master this one. Luckily I have a Kitchenaid and it beats the perfect meringue and pavlova.


My take on Ottolenghi’s rosewater and pistachio meringue!


Order via: http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/books/ottolenghi

Following blurb taken directly from Ottolenghi’s website.

Pre-order your signed copy now: Ships for publication date September 7*

In his stunning new baking and desserts cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Helen Goh bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Sweet includes over 110 innovative recipes, from Blackberry and Star Anise Friands, Tahini and Halva Brownies, Persian Love Cakes, Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines to Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut and Rosewater and Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs.

There is something here to delight everyone – from simple mini-cakes and cookies that parents can make with their children to showstopping layer cakes and roulades that will reignite the imaginations of accomplished bakers.

*Please note: This item is available for pre-order only.

I so want the walnut, rosewater and cinnamon pavlova recipe (a fresh challenge for my husband at Christmas).




mad about napkins or just mad

Some call them a serviette and some a napkin.  However, Debrett’s say napkins and never a serviette.  They should be placed on either side of a plate or in the centre of the setting, where the plate will go.  They should be folded simply (and yet for me I sometimes prefer to leave them large and bold).

I know you know, but let’s take a further look at what Debrett tell us. Before you start eating unfold your napkin and place it on your lap (never tuck it into the top of your shirt…seriously who would do that).  That said, any napkin on my lap always ends up on the floor, not once but more times than not and you spend your night with your head in your guest’s lap attempting to retrieve your napkin from the floor (not a good look ever).   Dab the corners of your mouth throughout the meal but never make grand side-to-side wiping gestures (besides that would mean wiping off my Mac lipstick so that’s not at all cool).  Finally, when you have finished picking up your napkin from the floor 20 times and wiping the corners of your mouth, place the napkin, unfolded, besides your plate.


Napkin Debate |I prefer paper because they are so much easier to maintain than cloth and so much more choice.  I do however pull out the beautiful linen for more formal occasions (which are rare in our house as I prefer the more relaxed style of entertaining).  As weird as this sounds, I love great paper napkins (tragic…maybe).  We all collect one thing or another and for me, it is paper napkins (along with a few other things).  Currently, we have about 200 napkins stored away (actually please don’t make me count for I think I probably have closer to 1,000!!).  So often I would go shopping for the perfect napkin and could not find what I was looking for.  There is nothing more annoying.  So now when I see what I love I simply buy it and store it for that perfect occasion.


Perfectly French | These french napkins pictured here (from Simon Johnson, Subiaco) have since sold out both in Australia and on their French website. I am thankful I purchased just enough to get us through this lifetime of dinner parties (and possibly my son’s life after me).

Go large (40cm x 40cm) so that they make a big splash on the dining table and they look and feel generous.  They cost more (between $20-30 for a packet of 20) and yet I am also known to stock up on Ikea’s napkins which sell for around $3 for a pack of 50 (a massive bonus).  Mix them up and have fun.  Put them together or layer them.  I love layering.  You can never have too many napkins and if one falls on the floor you still have another to go before you have to put your head in the lap of the guest sitting next to you.

Tip:  Go bold, large (40cm x 40cm) and gorgeous!  Let your napkin make a statement!

a sparkling new year…

We enjoyed a New Year’s Eve party at our house for about 60 guests.  We made it a Cocktail Party which ran from 7 pm-11 pm so that they could party here and then happily see the New Year at home.  I often hear people say that what they dislike most about a New Year’s Eve party is the count down at midnight (maybe for fear of catching a cold sore from someone who has had one too many).


Easy Entertaining | It was an easy night for entertaining.  We used the dining table to lay out all the buffet food, the benchtop for the teas, coffee and chocolates (which from memory very few people even bothered to have) and the outdoor floating benchtop for all the drink service.

The invitation list and the music are just as important as the food and wine on nights like these.



uproarious family christmas

“Never sacrifice these three things:  your family, your heart, or your dignity” 


The Bigger the Better| Each year our family Christmas Dinner grows.  This year we had 31 for a buffet dinner.  For me the bigger the merrier and that is just my side of the family.  I love it!  It is never a quiet occasion and I suspect the neighbours might well  leave home to escape the noise.

Everyone brings a shared plate.  I prepare the baked ham and roast turkey breast and my other half and I prepare dessert.  He can actually bake a mean pavlova.  The only problem he is his limited attention span in the kitchen.  By the time he has added  the  3 ingredients he has already started to lose interest. So when it comes to preparing the cream, fruit and fluffing it all up, it is often left to me.  I let him take the credit, after all it is all about the pav isn’t it!

Our buffet is always filled with loads of roast vegetables and delicious salads.  Our dessert is always finished with our signature pavlova (which now means 2-3 pavlovas) all topped with festive fruits.

Our indoor easily takes in the outdoor and we erect a 3rd temporary table in between  the two. All seated side by side, inside and out to accommodate the cast of a thousand.



Bringing a Game into Play | The highlight of the night is our Secret Santa. My Son brought this idea back from Copenhagen with him.  We have loved it ever since and it simply means that our noisy gathering just got a whole lot louder.

We place our wrapped Secret Santa gifts in the centre of the tables (remember three tables for us on this occasion) and everyone takes it  in turn to throw the dice. As soon as someone gets a 6 they select a gift from the centre of the table.  This continues until all the gifts have been taken.  There are a few problems with this game and that is my Mother who takes them even when she hasn’t thrown a 6 and tucks them under her seat, my Father who pulls the 90 year old card and takes one or two when he feels it is warranted and naturally my Son who I have since learned had his own dice in play.

Once certain members of the family have cheated and all gifts have been taken, a timer is set for a specific number of minutes, and nobody other than the official timer knows just how many minutes (oddly enough it is my Son who has appointed himself the timer).   As soon as the timer is set everyone starts throwing the dice again.  As soon as a 6 is thrown they can take someone else’s gift.  I am sure by now you can picture the utter mayhem in our house as everyone is racing from table to table, falling over each other, screaming and knocking off the the best wrapped gift in the house.

Just Another Normal Family | We have such a multicultural family these days and I love that about our family.  We have a few countries not yet represented so there is no pressure whatsoever on those still unmarried!

Tip:  Introduce a game to your Christmas Dinner!  It is so much fun!

wigs and afternoon tea

“Family | A Little Bit Crazy, Big Bit Loud & a Whole Lot of Love”

On this occasion, our afternoon tea was less about the food and decoration and more about getting together and simply having fun!  I was in the middle of chemotherapy so it was easy for me to pull the “I don’t want to go to a lot of effort” card.  How quickly the table turns when you are having fun because no sooner were we into afternoon tea when I revealed my bald head to my sister’s grandson.  I expected a reaction of shock and horror, however, instead he asked his mother if he could shave his head just like mine.  That provided a good laugh for all.

Pulling off a Bald Head | It wasn’t much longer when my wig and “other” wigs all fell onto the table. Everyone started trying them on and I was relieved that they looked equally as bad on them as they did on me.  I always wanted to wear a wig and I remind myself to be careful what I wish for.


As for my Mother, message to self Mother “you must never wear a wig“.  As always we made a lot of noise and had a lot of fun.

Tip:  If you don’t have a cupboard full of wigs hiding out, find something else which will entertain and create some added fun!




client brunch at home

Girls & Champagne always go Together|We hosted a staff and client brunch at our house!  Strangely enough, all women again!  The focus was on the dining table which was laid out with gorgeous delicate brunch-style foods and the kitchen stone bench played host to the champagne (again I always seem to put girls and champagne together) teas, coffees and chocolate.


I downloaded some French cafe style music to create a light atmosphere (my son always negotiates with me that he will stay and help with some entertainment if I allow him to put his music on in the background…fortunately it is not all bad and mostly nordic so I can live with that).

Our company colours were green and purple so of course, all the theming and food was styled around these colours.

Needless to say, what a great bunch of women and a fabulous brunch.