Monday, May 28, 2012

Introducing our 2nd guest judge...

I know I know, the excitement has been building  hasn't it? I've seen the amazing entries that you have submitted so far for the Sweet Little Birdy Party Table competition and the calibre of party tables is certainly high.

So to tweak your interest even more, here is a little bit about our next judge....

Lilian is the creative director of Lily Chic Events, an event styling company that not only styles dessert tables but centrepieces, backdrops, floral arrangements, birthday parties, weddings and stylish dinners. Lilian and her husband also manage an online store 'Shoppe with Lily' and Lilian probably doesn't remember but I tried to order some items last year... what I remember most was the excellent customer service that Lilian had as she went out of her way to help me with my purchase. It's the little things that make companies stand out...

I laughed so hard when Lilian told me how they came up with the name Lily Chic Events. The Lily part was obvious but just remember readers... Chic is said as the French say it and not like the hen! Her work has featured on many popular blogs including Amy Atlas Events and Martha Stewart.

As most of you may know if you follow Lily Chic Events, Lilian is a busy mum of 4 (including twins) who works part time at Bunnings and spends the rest of her time being a mum and running a very successful business. She loves everything about nature, styling, swing dancing and watching Escape to the Country... who would have known!

Lilian's favourite styled party was the one that she drove 1.5 hours to style, 2 hours later packed it back up and drove 1.5 hours back home... yes you read that right. It was for a very special 5 year old boy with Autism and Lilian created a sensory party just for him after his mum contacted her. She donated her services and says that to this day, her heart still sings when she thinks of his smiling face seeing the balloons and dinosaurs and knowing it was all for him.

Lilian's must have party products include a photographer (she suggests delegating this to a camera clever family member if you don't have a professional one... because not everyone has!), a delicious tasting cake and themed invitations. She loves having surprises for the guests and guest of honour and she always feels the secret to a successful party is simple - it's one where everyone walked away happy.

Lilian's ideal party theme would be a barn wedding! As some of you may know, Lilian and her husband have just purchased a 1.5 acres property and Lilian is very keen to hire it out for weddings... now if her husband would just agree to it!

Lilian's best party tip is to not be afraid to ask for help. Everyone loves parties and loves to help. You don't need to do it all yourself - in fact doing everything won't put you in the fun relaxed frame of mind when everyone arrives and you're ready to celebrate for your guest of honour... very good point!

Now for some advice for my readers who are entering the Sweet Little Birdy Party table competition... Lilian's advice is straightforward and honest - only submit parties that have made you smile and your heart sing. These are the parties that always have the touch of something that shows through.... love.

So what's next for Lily Chic Events? As I mentioned before, Lilian and her husband have recently purchased a country property and Lillian is taking 6 months off to devote herself to the new property, much needed family time and study! She has just enrolled in the Preston Bailey Wedding Planning Institute. She plans to come back in January all refreshed for her first wedding event for 2013. But don't worry, Lily Chic Event's online shop (Shoppe with Lily) will continue to stay open, Lilian has heaps of fun sourcing new and fun party products. Goodness.... she is busy!

So if you haven't already started looking at the terms and conditions for the Sweet Little Birdy Party table competition... click on it now. There are 2 categories, professional and amateur and you must feature 3 products from Sweet Little Birdy. These are available from or from local markets that Sweet Little Birdy attends.
Good luck with your party planning readers!

Yours in blogging


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sweet Little Birdy Party Table.. meet the judges

Are you excited about the Sweet Little Birdy Party Table competition yet? I know I am and we thought over the next few months we would introduce you to our guest judges. I know my jaw dropped a bit when Tara from Sweet Little Birdy sent me the list and I know you will be very impressed. So without further ado, here's a little bit about our first guest judge...

Louisa and Jason are the founders and owners of The Little Big Company, an online store that sells stunning party items, gifts and home wares. They started their store to cater for both little and big people. As well as their online store they also run a beautiful event styling business and their work has been featured on many popular blogs including Amy Atlas Events.

Many of you may not know that Louisa actually comes from an events background and has worked for a number of well known organisations including the Hawthorn Football club, Financial Foundation of Australia and even for a Politician in Parliament. She has significant experience in interior styling, event styling, event planning and visual merchandising and has worked on many large scale events including Miss Australia.

Louisa's favourite styled table is actually her daughters and what makes it so very special is, like all mothers, the hard work is worth every minute when you see your child's eyes light up. Creating those special memories is what inspires Louisa every day.

I was interested in what some of the 'ideal' themes Louisa would love to style and she said she loves themes that are 'out of the box' so to speak - a bit different, a bit whimsical but elegant with a bit of magic. Louisa loves things that create an experience that is memorable but also tangible.

Louisa is currently working on lots of very clever themes including the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (I love that book!) with Just Call me Martha as well as a few parties with some amazing props... so much to watch out for and glean some creative ideas for your table!

Louisa's "must have" party products include mini milk bottles, glass beverage dispensers, lollipops, rock candy swizzle sticks, paper straws, hanging decorations, glass candy jars, ribbon, jelly glass pots, paper plates and cups... oh so many things to put on my wish list!

Louisa's best styling tip is to come up with a theme that involves the party girl or boy. Something that makes it special for them! She also advises setting a budget, organising your supplies and catering well in advance as well as remembering to plan activities for your party. A good hint is to get your invitations to portray your theme but remember to always ask your invitees if they have any allergies.

Now I know this is something I would want to know if I was entering the Sweet Little Birdy Party Table competition so I have asked this question with all our guest judges - what advice do they have for participants? Louisa urges everyone to have fun and enjoy it! She loves seeing parties that are tangible for people to do but also gives people that breath of inspiration that makes them think... wow... they could do it for their wedding or their own child's party.

She felt that parties don't need to cost excessive amounts of money and the ones that shine are the ones that come up with creative ideas, details that can be handmade and have those certain creative and unique details that take her breath away. Sound advice!

The Little Big Company's first birthday is coming up and Louisa has given us the heads up as they have a few very exciting things in the pipeline that are going to be launched in the forthcoming months, so stay tuned! It was such a pleasure interviewing Louisa and I hope you got some good ideas for your upcoming parties. In the meantime, good luck and make sure you take the time to enjoy your planning.... because parties are meant to be fun!

Yours in blogging


Monday, May 7, 2012

To market, to market

To Market, to market to buy a .... oh so many wonderful things to buy at the Cherry Blossom Markets, located at Broadmeadow in Newcastle, NSW! This wonderful market had their first official market day on 11th February 2012 and since then Todd and Lynne, the founders and owners of Cherry Blossom Markets, have been off their feet with enquiries.

I was fortunate to have a coffee with them after their most recent markets earlier this year to ask them how everything was going and what we could look forward to over the coming months.

Did you know that the Cherry Blossom tree is one of the most popular symbols of good luck in the Japanese tradition? It is said that the tree evokes a positive response in anyone who tries to associate themselves with the any aspect of the Cherry Blossom Tree.

How did the name 'Cherry Blossom Markets' come about?
Todd has loved the sight of the tree around Newcastle for a long time and loves the origin and meaning behind the Cherry Blossom Tree. Both Todd and Lynne wanted something feminine, pretty and special for their market and when Todd mentioned the Cherry Blossom Tree it was the name that they had been looking for all this time.

What was your inspiration for starting these markets?
Todd wanted to start this market primarily for his wife ~ as some of you may know Lynne owns 'The Little Pink Owl' and it was her crafts that he wanted to feature. Once they started talking to other like minded people they found that there was a real niche for their markets and so the wheels were put in motion.

Now if glance back at their logo at the top of this post you will notice that there is a butterfly just above the 'Cherry' on the main heading - this is symbolic of Todd's dad who passed away 15 years ago (but who still holds a very special place in their hearts and thoughts) - and 6 butterflies around the tree which symbolises every member of their family. The Cherry Blossom Markets are more than just markets to Todd and Lynne, it represents what is important to them and that is family.

What makes the 'Cherry Blossom Markets' unique?
Lynne want a market that had a 'family feel' to it... one where a family could come together and there would be something that would interest everyone. They are both adamant that they want it to be an affordable market with lots of parking and pram accessible areas. Todd and Lynne are aiming for a 'family feel' amongst their stall holders as well and want it to be one where all stallholders will look out for each other.  They said they both felt that they are already seeing this in the last few markets.

Our very own Tara 'in action' at the Sweet Little Birdy stall

Can you tell us a little bit about the people behind the 'Cherry Blossom Markets'?
Todd and Lynne are a vivacious couple who are parents to 4 children. Lynne describes Todd as 'having the gift of the gab' while Todd describes Lynne as a 'great wife and mother who is very talented with craft things'.

How have the markets gone so far and how many stalls have you had?

Todd felt that previous markets had gone well (and not having rain at the most recent markets has helped) but they have also re-evaluated where they have placed stalls and main thoroughfare after their first markets in February (when it rained all week prior and on the morning of the markets). The new layout has meant that the flow of people has moved well and they also created a 'food court' which helped bring people together for a rest and something delicious to eat.
Ruby the Clown in action

Lynne felt that the ATM organised for their March markets was extremely popular and I for one, was very impressed (I never seem to have enough cash in my wallet)!

With over 115 market stalls at the March markets and plenty more planned in the coming ones, there seems to be something for everyone.

What's next for the Cherry Blossom Markets?
Todd and Lynne are both very excited about what is planned next for their markets including book launches by Lollypop reading, shaded areas for people to sit down and relax, music and buskers and more husband and kid friendly activities. There are also twilight markets planned later this year and market charity days.

I can't reveal too much of their plans but I for one know my husband is going to be very keen to come to some upcoming markets with me and my boys are going to be busy with their hands.

When, where and what time is your next market? How can we find out more?
The Cherry Blossom Markets are at the Newcastle Harness Racing Club (behind the Knights Stadium) on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9am until 2pm. You can find more details on their Facebook page and website (currently under construction) as well as e-mailling them at
"Run by families for families" is Todd and Lynne's motto... it certainly sounds like a market that I want to go to....

Now as you know, Sweet Little Birdy is having quite a few sales in the lead up to Mother's Day, and here is the best one... 10% of all products at Sweet Little Birdy this Saturday 12th May 2012! Plus there is an extra special present for your mum with all purchases bought on the day. So head to the Cherry Blossom Markets this Saturday to buy some great products for your mother... and a few for yourself!

Yours in blogging


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Celebrating Mother's Day

I recently went home to Sydney to spend a weekend with my family and thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate Mother's Day a bit earlier with the two special women in my life - my dear Mum and gorgeous sister.

'Ice' Teapot and saucer from Sweet Little Birdy
We always exchange presents but this weekend I baked some very special cupcakes for us and would like to share the recipe and piping techniques with you.
I was inspired by a cake I tasted at Sugar Rush in Mount Hutton (where I did a fabulous buttercream piping course). So although this recipe is not theirs, it is definitely inspired by them.

Vanilla bean and Rose water cupcakes (Base recipe adapted from

This recipe will make 24 standard cupcakes plus a bit extra for little fingers!


2 cups SR flour

1 cup plain flour

1 cup caster sugar

150g unsalted butter at room temp (this is important!)

155mls milk

3 eggs

1 vanilla bean

1 1/2 capfuls of Rose water (see photo)

2 -3 drops of pink food colouring


Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius fan forced.

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use electric beaters or your mix master to beat on a low speed until combined.  Then increase the speed to high and beat for 3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and the butter is incorporated (this is why it's so important to have the butter at room temp). Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases. Bake for approx 20 mins - depending on your oven this make take longer or shorter. I lightly touch the tops of the cupcakes to see if they are done, they should spring back and your finger shouldn't leave an indent. You can also insert a skewer into the centre and check if it comes out clean if you are unsure. Set aside in pans for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I found my rose water in a local green grocer (which is a fairly big one with lots of gourmet items). I think you could find this brand in most gourmet stores or speciality ethnic food shops as rosewater is commonly used in Lebanese, Arabic, Moroccan and Egyptian cooking...yum yum!

Vanilla frosting


200g unsalted butter (at room temp)

1 kg icing sugar mixture

 60mls combination of milk and water (half half)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Food colouring to colour different flower designs


Beat butter for 2 minutes until pale and creamy, slowly add milk mixture, vanilla extract  and icing sugar in alternating batches. I will sometimes need to add a bit more or less of milk depending on how thick I want my frosting. Separate into as many bowls as you need and colour.

If you want very white frosting, you can add a few drops of Wilton 'white-white' food colouring (available from most cake decorating stores) to make it even whiter as most butters are slightly yellow, without colouring it, your frosting will never be completely white.
Cake stand from Sweet Little Birdy

For this design, I wanted my cupcakes flat, if yours are domed, then you may need to cut the tops off before icing with some of the white frosting.

Once frosted, you will need a Wilton 104 petal tip (available from most cake decorating stores) and a disposable piping bag. I decided to make a 5 petal flower and daisy flower which are both piping techniques demonstrated in a Peggy Porschen book "Pretty Party cakes" I have.

You will need to start with the wider tip at the centre of the cupcake and the narrow tip slightly raised and apply consistent pressure while moving your wrist (one-fifth of a turn) to create an almost fan like petal. Peggy suggests using less pressure as you move your tip back to the centre (for the second half of the petal). Keep repeating until you have all the 5 petals. I like practising so here's what I did.

You can pipe dots of icing for the centre or add some sprinkles  - I went for a simple look and added a few white non-pareils in the middle of the flowers and a silver cachous in the middle of the yellow daisy.

Liberty pink square plate from Sweet Little Birdy

The daisies were made using the same piping tip, just hold the tip in the same angle (but the opposite way round - wide end away from the centre and narrow end at the centre of the cupcake), pipe and slowly pull the tip towards the middle while you release pressure on the piping bag. Easy! 

Sweet Little Birdy stocks these beautiful Pink Liberty square cake plates... mum wanted to buy one for both my sister and I... love you mum!

I liked the slightly pink inside, you don't have to add the food colouring if you don't want to. This recipe makes delicious dense vanilla bean and rosewater cupcakes.

Mum and my sister loved this Sweet Little Birdy Tea Set -
I think it makes a beautiful Mother's day gift.

Now my exciting news! Sweet Little Birdy is having a special Mother's Day sale - 15% of all the products in their "for your home" section - so an even better reason to buy something for Mother's Day!!!  Just enter code MUM at checkout!

 I think this would be perfect for some cheese and crackers!

Black and White Oversized cup and saucer on sale - What a great gift for a coffee/tea loving mum

Tea for one... how cute would this look on an office desk for your morning cuppa

Turntable with buckets comes in a range of colours and is one of the top sellers... now on sale!

Peg bucket - not only for Pegs but I can think of so many uses in your laundry.

Kitchen garden planters - how perfect would this look with a couple of herb pots for a Mother's Day present!

Now they were just a few of my favourite items on the "for your home" section, have a look today and take advantage of the Sweet Little Birdy Mother's Day sale.

I love Mother's Day and I know I'm biased because I am a mother but maybe that also makes me realise how special my mother and all the mothers out there really are. Being a mother has shown me the depth, strength and power of love. I have learned to love my two little boys more than myself and have realised that the same love I have for my boys is the same love my mother has for me - constant, never failing and forever forgiving.

Happy Mother's Day

Yours in blogging