So last night I had 10 people come over for dinner to celebrate my birthday, Christmas and our new back deck.

Preparations began in earnest on Thursday when I started to clean up the cesspit our house had become.

Friday was the kicker with bathrooms scrubbed and piles of paper and crappe (how the hell does it accumulate so much in such little time?) binned or sorted.

Then I made the sweet shortcrust pastry for the two desserts, the vanilla creme for one of them, the bechamel and bolognaise for the kids menu as well as taking all the boys to Oscar’s end-of-year school disco.

Then there was yesterday. This was the list I wrote for myself on Friday night:

Bake tart cases
Make caramel
Finish cleaning dining room table and polish
Shopping on way home
Make choc sauce
Make mousse
Cook potatoes
Make dressing and chop nuts
Cook pasta
Set outdoor table
Meat in oven at _____
Prepare kids dinner

And you know what?
I followed that list to a t.
Methodically and calmly I worked through each component with Mum being a saint hanging out the 8 loads of washing I put on in between (we’ve had a few days of wet weather) AND bringing it all in AND putting most of it away.
Granted I was sweating for the country (thanks Jac for that turn of phrase) because it was a not-breezy-at-all 34C and eleventy gagillion per cent humidity (and yes, the Lady Speed Stick did hold out for much of the distance but I was pretty wiffy and sweaty by shower time at 5.40) but I was calm, the kids were all helpful and happy and everything got done.
Friends started arriving at 6.30 and all were gone by around 11.
There were 11 adults and 12 children aged from 17 months to 10 who all played beautifully for the entire night.
You know those dark days when you think you have no friends and your life is shit? The next time one of them rolls around I will make a concerted effort to remember last night and just what wonderful, fun and thoughtful friends (I got some lovely, totally unexpected pressies) I have.

The menu
Cheese plate (including a French blue that was a blend of sheep, goat and cows milk; a hard goats cheese and a brie)

Whole strip surloin – roasted served with truffle butter (Chef’s contribution to the evening as he had to work)
Potato and pecan salad
Rocket and English spinach salad in a simple lime vinegarette

Choc caramel tart
Vanilla creme and berries tart

The desserts were my pride and joy, even though the meat was absolutely sensational and will probably be my dinner-party main course of choice for oh, the next decade.

The choc caramel tart featured a beautiful sweet shortcrust pastry, a layer of caramel (which I made and had the perfect unciousness, if that’s a word) followed by a layer chocolate mousse and topped with a coating of dark chocolate. It was SUBLIME. (recipe came from a Aust Gourmet Traveller earlier this year – June or July I think)

The berry tart had the same pastry case then my first ever creme patissiere (which I would gladly bathe in) topped with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Sublime evening.

History turns the page

In February 1998 we had Oscar, which was a bit of a surprise because he wasn’t due until April. Six weeks later we got to go home and one of the first things I did, apart from standing at his cot watching him sleep for a ludicrous periods of time, was go to my first mother’s group meeting. Everyone gasped at how little he was, which also caught me by surprise because not only were we used to it, he had cracked 2kgs and we thought he was SO BIG!

Anyway, Saturday night saw five women from that original group get together for dinner and well, it was just so lovely, restorative, informative, bolstering.

All of us had horror stories to share. Everyone had the ability to laugh at themselves and particular parenting moments when they’d either lost their shit or misplaced it momentarily.

It was one of those female evenings when you can just vent, offload, advise, reaffirm, discuss, laugh and just listen.

And you know what, we’re all on the cusp of the next stage.

Our ten year olds are throwing us curve balls on an almost daily basis. One is having absolute grief at school with bullying (my goodness girls can be BITCHES), one wanted to know how to spell condom, some are crying in that ‘I don’t know why I’m crying’ genre, someone’s child had skipped out of scripture and when the school rang to inform her mum, her first response was, ‘wow, I didn’t know she had it in her,’ which the school didn’t seem to think was the correct answer and one has recently written a note to her mother saying she is too meddling and ruining her life. Already!

It’s like becoming a parent all over again.

And I’m just so pleased I have these women around me for the coming years.

So You Think You Can Dance – LIVE! – NOT!

So there’s no SYTYCD coverage this evening.
Carlton broke their five year long losing spell today and Chef needed to watch the replay.
I get that these things can be important to men.

Besides, the Ds were coming for afternoon tea today but afternoon tea didn’t happen and they arrived at 5.30, so it became dinner.

I did honey soy chicken wings, sauteed broccolini and Chinese broccoli w/ oyster sauce, rice and Nigella’s quick mousse for dessert. There were a couple of bottles of champagne and sparkling shiraz. It was absolutely wonderfully lovely and just what I needed.

So, I didn’t even see the performances let alone pass judgement on them. Do share!

Oh, and a moment of parental gloat – Felix saved the game this morning with an awesome smother on the ball as the opposing team kicked for goal right on the final siren. Exciting stuff.

How you have a long hard day that is actually really lovely at the same time

Yesterday was a hard slog. I was still pregnant-cranky and just struggling with the most basic of actions. Very boring.
The son of one of our best friends had his first communion. I do believe this was the first time for me in a Catholic Church and service. Not that different from an Anglican one and – apart from its importance for S – I was rather taken aback by my own cynicism and apathy to the whole thing. I am afterall, I thoughtI was anyway, a good Anglican girl and have had a hankering of getting back to regular church going for some time. Weird. Maybe it was just the pregnant-cranky and that it was very cold, and early, and I was just so fucking uncomfortable.
Then we all went to breakfast, which I was so looking forward to due to the about reasons. I was dreaming of a big mug of hot chocolate, poached eggs on sourdough and maybe a side of mushrooms, but I wasn’t committed to that component.
I got a pot of tea.
Jasper is at that age when the notion of sitting, in a crowded room, at a table, and eating is as horrendous as the notion of sleeping in his own cot.
So I spent the entire time, in two phases, wandering along the Manly beach promenade with Jasper being happy and squealing as he jumped in puddles and me feeling freezing and fucking uncomfortable.
It was hard and did nothing to alleviate the pregnant-cranky.
We came home, I made myself a giant cup of hot chocolate and poached two eggs, which I then ate on two slices of ciabatta.
Quite restorative.
In the afternoon we headed over to see Chef’s olds, who have just spent seven weeks exploring the north-west corner and coral coast of Australia. It just sounded divine.
My MIL’s favourite part of the trip was an aerial flight that took them over Lake Argyle (which is actually an inland sea and holds 22 times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour) at sunset.
For my FIL, it was Cable Beach and Broome.
Quite frankly, it all looked sensational and I can’t wait until we do a similar explore with the kids in probably about 5-8 years time when we surface from the land of toddlers once more.
Last night we lobbed in on my best friend from school and her family, who were all in town because of it’s long weekend status and the chance to all be in the one place to celebrate their Mum’s birthday which is the same day as Chef’s – the 17th of June.
This family were basically the collective saviour of my teenage years – a time marked by normal teenage angst and eating disorders but exacerbated by an pretty traumatic divorce and a mother who basically suffered untreated chronic clinical depression for the better part of a decade while still being the best goddamn mother she could be, which was pretty awesome I must admit. As me, my brother and my mother muddled along as best we could, the J clan were my solace, my refuge and my second home. K will still give me a hard time about how I never wanted to stay the night at her house, something I still can’t really explain except for it being some weird teenage quirk (and probably some deep-seeded concern of repeating the time I stayed at my cousins’ house, refusing to accept my period had started the night before so bleeding the equivalent of a suckling pig all over my nightgown and the bed).
It is the type of occasion where we all just slot in, there’s no effort, no anything except volume, rapid-fire conversation as we try to catch-up, much laughter, always much eating and just a general feeling of love and contentment.
Considering they’d all been at a family lunch all day and probably just wanted to pull on the trackies in from of the tele but just made room for our troup and carried on the entertaining is just an indication of the type of people they are.
I was so happy and pregnant-cranky was at its lowest ebb in days.
Just lovely.