Neapolitan cake

Alexander is a bit obsessed with the idea of cake. Instead of reading him bedtime stories, we spend the last few minutes of his day looking at cake recipes everyday. He'd point at the pictures and I'd tell him the name of each cake. That said, he doesn't actually like eating cakes; he just loves looking at them and helping me bake cakes and he'll lick the spoon and be all excited while it's in the oven but when it's actually ready, he'd just have one mouthful and that will be enough.

So anyway, I thought it'd be fun to bake a Neapolitan cake with him with the three different layers and colours to really make his day. As always, he only had one bite (of each layer) and guess what? That really did make his day. Weirdo.
Neapolitan cake (makes one 20-cm round cake or two 10-cm round cakes)

Ingredients

4 cups self raising flour
2 cups caster sugar
250g butter, melted
11/4 cups milk
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
115g baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup frozen or fresh strawberries, pureed
2 drops pink food colour (optional)
300ml cream, whipped

Method

1. Preheat oven to  180 degrees celsius, Grease three 20 cm-round cake tins of the same size.

2. Combine flour, sugar, butter , milk, eggs and vanilla essence in large bowl and stir until smooth.

3. Pour one-third of the batter into one cake tin. In a separate bowl, mix one-third of batter, the strawberries and pink food color. Pour into second cake pan. Stir melted chocolate into remaining batter and pour into remaining cake tin.

4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool, then trim off top of cakes to make level.  


6.  Place chocolate cake on serving plate or cake stand. Add 3-4 tablespoons of whipped cream on cake and spread with spatula. Repeat with strawberry and vanilla cake layers.

7. Garnish with fresh strawberries, chocolates and vanilla sticks (optional).

In this moment

reading... Room by Emma Donoghue; this is the best book I've read in years. Compelling, heart breaking and completing unputdownable. I've been powering through it yet I never want it to end.
 
watching... Mr Selfridge. Just discovered this show and loving it. Can't wait to get my hands on Season 3!
 
buying... nothing at all. I'm a self imposed shopping ban for the greater good of my bank account.
 
feeling... a little bit sad. It's the Lunar New Year and we're not celebrating with my parents this year. It just feels wrong. I would love to bring Alexander home to Singapore to celebrate as one big family one year.

planning...
to launch my nanny referral agency early to mid-March. Fingers crossed everything runs smoothly and to plan.

drinking...
green tea (lots of it).

listening to...
Alexander say good night to all his toys. It takes forever but is the cutest thing ever.

looking forward to...
Wednesday, when I treat myself to a pedicure.

baking...
a Neapolitan layer cake. Will be sharing shortly.

loving...
the few hazy moments before sleep each night.

 

What are you up to in this moment?

Fab Five: shower gels

How many showers do you have in a day? In the heat of summer, I've been known to take up to three showers daily; I find few things more pleasant than a cool(ish) shower on a hot and muggy day to clean and refresh myself. Of course it helps that I have a neat collection of shower gels to use for whatever mood I'm in. Here are five of my favourites... Botani PhytoBody Wash - packed with the goodness of lemon myrtle, burdock, calendula and mandarin oil, this zesty wash is the perfect wake up call in the morning. It leaves skin feeling squeaky clean and is suited for all skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis.  Bonus: it does triple duty as hair shampoo and shaving gel.

The Body Shop Coconut Shower Cream - this lotion-like, slightly creamy formula is essential for those hot and dry summer days that makes my skin feel tight and parched. It provides much needed hydration and skin smells deliciously tropical after each use.

Green People Moisturising Shower Gel - one squeeze of this gentle cleanser leaves skin feeling luxuriously soft and clean. I like its subtle relaxing scent - great for daily use. Green People use recyclable packaging, and you may be pleased to know this product is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Sukin Botanical Body Wash - as you may well know, I really love the Sukin range and this refreshing body wash is one of my favourite of all their products. It boasts of a gorgeous yet non-overpowering scent which both refreshes the senses first thing in the morning and revives the tired mind. Contains jojoba, avocado and rosehip oils to soften, hydrate and purify skin.

GAIA Lavender and Frankincense Body Wash - the sweet woodsy scent of Frankincense combined with calming lavender makes this body wash my pick for night time use after a long stressful day. It lathers up well despite not containing sulphates and other nasties and works well for even sensitive skin.

What are your favourite shower gels?

Fun party ideas for kids

For the last two years, Stu and I have resisted throwing Alexander any birthday parties, opting instead for simple family celebrations. Partly because we weren't ready to cater for screaming kids high on sugar, but mostly because we thought Alexander wasn't old enough to appreciate it. But in recent months, we've been to quite a few children's parties and he'd thoroughly enjoyed himself each time. So we've decided this year we will throw him a party when he turns three in September.

September's a long time away, but you know me, parties and entertaining means a lot to me, so I've already started doing my research and looking up some fun party ideas for kids. I'll share a few that I love with you today...
1. Teddy bear's picnic - of all the kid's parties we've been to, Alex's favourite is a teddy bear's picnic at the beach. Every kid brought a bear and sat them down on a picnic mat. After a swim in the water, we all retreated to the shade, on the mat with all the various teddies and ate some lunch. We coloured in teddy bear pictures, read teddy bear books and there was the cake cutting (in the shape of a teddy bear, of course).

2. Costume parties - all the kids at our local playgroup love getting the dress up box out and it amuses them to no end playing with simple props like a crown, a dinosaur tail, a hard hat. So a costume party with a specific theme such as "pirates and princess", "heros and villains", "elves and fairies" is something I'm seriously considering. But I'm not going to let the kids have all the fun, I think it would be pretty awesome to get the parents to dress up too. Disguises has a huge range of fancy dress costumes for kids and grown ups that you can hire or buy.
3. Garden parties - Alexander loves the outdoors and spends the bulk of his day pottering around in our garden. I really like the idea of having a garden/gardening party where we serve up a heap of food made with fresh healthy produce; the kids can explore our yard, collect leaves and flowers, learn about the fruits and vegetables we're growing and they can plant a seed each to take home as a party favour.

4. Construction themed party - Alex is obsessed with all things construction - tools, trucks, diggers, you name it, so I guess it would make sense to have a construction themed party to keep him happy. I saw once on TV how you can hire a handyman to host a workshop so he can teach the kids to make their own toolbox to bring home. He is too young for this but it is definitely something an idea to keep in mind in the future.
5. Farmyard party -I'm thinking a petting zoo with piglets, calves, lambs and kids, sheep, goats, chicks and ducks, rabbits and guinea pigs – cute baby animals for Alexander and his little mates to interact with. It will be a great learning opportunity as well as a fun experience for them to bottle-feed baby lambs and a calf; hand feed goats and sheep; play with the piglet; cuddle rabbits and chickens; as well as watch sheep shearing and stock whip cracking.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Disguises. I was compensated for this post, however all opinions are my own.

Tips for decluttering your home

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, Stu and I spent the large part of the Christmas holiday break just cleaning and decluttering our home. And oh boy, it felt good to actually have excess space. Mentally, it felt incredibly good to start the year afresh as if we'd thrown away our negative emotions together with all that physical junk. Today I'd like to share some of my tips for decluttering your home. Read on if you're interested...
1. Start small - at first I found idea of cleaning out the whole house extremely daunting and kept putting it off. Then one day, after having trouble finding a key, I decided to clean out the one drawer I had a feeling it was in. I found the key shortly and that achievement alone motivated me to keep going. I couldn't stop cleaning afterwards.

2. Teach kids to clean up their mess - Alexander has been trained at an early age to clean up his toys after play before he is allowed to move on to the next toy or activity. I hope that this gets him in the habit of putting things away now, than procrastinate.

3. Categorize your belongings - Stu and I went through every single item in our house (and yes that includes the wardrobe) and categorize them into "keep", "donate" and "toss'. Everything in the "toss" pile gets binned straightaway, while the "donate" items are dropped off at our local charity. The cupboards and drawers get a good clean before we put the items we want to keep back in an organised fashion which brings me to my next point...
4. Storage containers - For our linen cupboard and bathroom cupboard, we used clear containers which we labeled to make it easier for us to find items stored in them. We use straw baskets for toys, magazines, books and craft materials. On the back deck, we have a storage chest which doubles as a craft table for Alexander as well as storage for blankets, cushions and cleaning materials. Drawer dividers are great for organizing stationery, cutlery and other items in drawers.

5. Consider self storage solutions - when we turned our study into Alexander's nursery, we had to use a self storage facility for some of the items that were previously in that room, such as some furniture and filing cabinets full of documents and business records that we had to keep for a certain number of years but no longer had room in the house for. Fort Knox is one such self storage facility that can help you keep clutter away in a secure location.

Do you have any decluttering tips of your own to share?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Fort Knox. I was compensated for this post, however all opinions are my own.