Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mad Hatter's Tea Party - Kerrie's Kreations

Normally my posts are about my own creations but today it is about my sister Kerrie. Last weekend was a joint 40th birthday party for Ja and myself and it was a Mad Hatter themed affair. My gorgeous sister Kerrie offered to help with our birthday cake as I wanted a topsy turvy cake with lots of character pieces on it. In the end she made the whole thing with me acting as her fondant colourist and assistant (which suited my skill set perfectly I think). I was overwhelmed by how amazing each piece was and spent the weeks before the party excitedly anticipating each piece as she sent me the next photo on my phone. Here is the link to her blog so that you can see for yourself how amazing her work is! Be sure to like her facebook page too. Kerrie's Kreations are absolutely outstanding.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where has time gone?

It's been a long time since my last post, but I have an excuse... I've been busy! I've come to realise that having a house full of preschoolers each day is not conducive to doing much of anything creatively. Having said that, I have tried various smaller projects over that time.

I was very pleased with my Pay It Forward projects for this year. I tried my hand at sewing and made some great little aprons for my recipients. I even made a few extra and managed to keep one for myself. The thing I loved most about the aprons was the fabric. SH and I picked it out from a quaint little quilting shop in Tauranga, New Zealand while we were on our last cruise.


Most recently I have been crafting a gift for my eldest daughter's 14th birthday. She is a huge fan of everything Harry Potter and I really wanted to make something special for her that you can't buy anywhere. I searched Google high and low, and realised that what I had planned to make would be entirely unique! I wanted to make a clock for her room in the design of a Snitch.

So with that in mind, I went ahead with my plans. I sourced a suitable bowl for the body of the clock from my sister and then had a friend who was able to give me a clock mechanism to use. I spent one day base coating it with gold paint and then another day sitting at the table with the laptop beside me for reference as I painted all the details on. Finally, my dad was instrumental in putting it all together as he attached the clock mechanism and the hook to hang it on the wall.

Base coat with gold paint
Place outlines and add shading.
Add highlights and remember to sign!

Finish with two coats of varnish and add mechanism and hook.
Hang on the wall!! :)

 As you all know, I usually post about food and I couldn't put this post up without doing just that. As my daughter was getting a Harry Potter themed gift, I also decided to make her a Harry Potter themed cake. Many months ago she jokingly asked me for a cake that she had seen on the internet. I looked at it and scoffed thinking there was no way that I could possibly make it. Well, guess what... I made it! Today I decorated her "Monster Book of Monsters" cake. And it was awesome!

Anyway, that's it from me for now. I hope you have enjoyed catching up on a bit of what's been whipped up around here lately. I've certainly had fun making them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Mustard Pickles (Or "What do I do with a Giant Zucchini?)

A couple of nights ago, my eldest daughter (13 yrs old) went out for her first babysitting job. She was very excited and feeling very grown up. It's just great watching her maturity and responsibility come through as she is growing up before our eyes. When I dropped her off at the house she was sitting at, I took her inside to chat with the mum. This lovely lady is one I have known through primary school and high school, and now our kids are at primary school together.

As we were talking, the mum said she had something for me. She had won an Easter raffle and sitting in the basket of eggs and chocolates was a giant golden zucchini! She knows that I love to cook and was certain that I would be able to find a use for it. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it; it was enormous and so very heavy!
We put the 30cm ruler in for comparison. It weighed 2.1kg!

When I got home I started looking up recipes of things to make with it. I have become enchanted with Pinterest, so I did some searching on there and came across a couple of recipes. The first one I have just finished making, so it was worthwhile research!

I decided to make Sweet Mustard Pickles as I love relish, chutneys and pickles. I'm not particularly fussy, so long as they are sweet and don't contain anything too spicy like chilli. This recipe I found was from the ABC Tasmania website by Chef Sally Wise. You can find the recipe here. It was super easy, with not too many ingredients. I've never made relish before, so it was a bit of fun. I'm not a fan of slicing all the vegetables by hand, but my mandoline slicer did the job just fine. I was going to use my food processor but the attachment left the pieces too thick for my liking. I was after a really fine slice.

I love how vibrant the colours are.

Once I had sliced the ingredients and placed them all in the bowl, I had to leave them coated in salt for 2 hours to take the excess water out of them. Then it was into my large pot with the sugar, vinegar, and spices.

The next step in the process was cooking it all for 20 minutes before bottling in the jars. This step made me very unpopular with my kids as they said it was very stinky. I tried to convince them that it smelled like Salt & Vinegar Chips but they weren't buying it.

Needless to say, I have to wait patiently for it to cool completely and then I can give it a taste. I got about 6 smallish jars of pickles from the giant zucchini, which is fantastic. I even have some of the zucchini left over to make the other recipe I found - Baked Zucchini Chips. I will let you know how they turn out next time.

Sweet Mustard Pickles

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dutch Apple Tart

This is one of my favourite recipes from mum's collection of dutch treats. Taste triggers such strong memories, and this is no exception. I have great memories of going to Oma's for Christmas, Easter or her birthday when I was a kid, and now we go there with our own kids. Visits to Oma on these days are an open house affair. My mum is one of 12 children, so when they all get together, it's quite a crowd! Usually there would be upwards of a dozen people squished into Oma's small lounge room, all talking loudly and at the same time. Dutch people are very energetic, lively people. I always joke that if you made me sit on my hands, I would probably be rendered mute!

When I was younger, the aunties would usually bring a plate of something to be shared over a coffee. Oma would bake a half dozen different types of biscuits, and there would be various other cakes arrayed on the table, including the Dutch Apple Tart. This is lovely served warm with icecream, but also equally as delicious cold with fresh cream poured over it. It is such an easy recipe to make, if you like a sweet apple tart you should definitely give this a try. My favourite part of this recipe is the pastry case as it doesn't involve any rolling or blind baking. You simply press the dough into the base of the tin and up the sides. I have included the recipe in the recipe page for you too.

Friday, March 9, 2012

DIY Ceiling Light Shade

I have been spending some time online recently, researching DIY sites to figure out how to make my own ceiling light shades. I am impressed with the amount of information there is out there. There are some seriously talented people! Anyway, I found a few that I really liked the look of, and decided that it was something I would like to try. I don't like spending money on things like light fixtures as I think they are heavily overpriced, and at the moment, not a necessity.

So with the thought in mind that I would make my own, I set off to our local op shops (Salvation Army, Vinnies, Family Life, etc) to see if I could find any preloved lamp shades or ceiling lights that I could work with. I was in luck too, as I found the perfect shade for $5 at my favourite shop! It was a tacky terracotta colour, but I looked beyond that to the perfect frame underneath.

The original shade - yucky terracotta!
After a good strip down and scrub, a workable frame for my shade.
Once I pulled away the terrible original coverings and cleaned all the dried glue off the frame, I was ready to cover it. Another stroke of luck for me, my mum has cupboards full of fabric that she has bought over the years and she had the perfect piece for what I had in mind. It is white, sheer and covered in little hearts. So with the pattern from the old covering, I was able to cut out the 6 pieces I would need to make the cover. I spent the morning at mum's, cutting, stitching and then gluing with her hot glue gun. I put the sewn cover over the top of the frame, glued down the seams, and then glued them shut again on the inside of the frame. At the bottom of the shade I added a little white frilled trim for a cute finishing touch. I am really happy with how it turned out!

Working with the hot glue gun, I stretched the fabric around the frame.

Pretty little hearts.

Finished project. Hanging in my youngest daughter's room.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Family Recipes

Well we have been back from the cruise for two weeks now and life is starting to find it's rhythm again. I'm yet to start working in my new role as a Family Day Care "Educator" as they now like to call all the carers. This means that I am home alone, with no kids or job to distract me, possibly for another week still. I have been doing all the usual chores associated with being a mum of three kids, but that isn't enough to keep me from going stir crazy. Casting around for ideas for things to do, I suddenly realised that I haven't finished my photo book from albumworks.

Last May I won a competition for my photo of my Cookie Monster Cupcakes and the prize included a $100 voucher to get my own photo book printed. I decided that I would use this voucher to make a cookbook/photo book of my favourite family recipes that I have been collecting over the years. These are recipes from my Grandma, Oma, mum, mother-in-law, and a few aunties. I have them all handwritten in a notebook that is well thumbed and coated in flour and fingerprints. I am hoping that this project will turn into a book that my kids will love to look through and will be able to keep as a memory of all the great food that we have baked together over the years.

Anyway, when I went to the albumworks program on my laptop and started to put together the photos and recipes that I have already taken over the last 9 months, I could see that I didn't have any where near as many photos as I thought I did. Obviously I got distracted from my goal as I know I have been doing plenty of baking and cooking - just not the "right" recipes. So I have spent the past two weeks looking over the notebook and working my way through these recipes again. I'm making good headway now and I am getting more excited about it with each photo I take.

Here are the latest photos of recipes I have been whipping up:

Short stack of Pancakes with Vanilla Ice-Cream, Golden Syrup and Apricot Jam

Linda's Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake

Scones with Apricot Jam and Cream

Grandma's Cupcakes

Dutch Poffertjes
I haven't put the recipes in the other page yet, as I'm not sure which ones I should do. If you would like one of these recipes, leave me a comment and I will post it for you. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dining with Dolphins

We have been onboard our cruise ship, Celebrity Century, for 9 nights so far and it is amazing. My SH and I have been on 5 cruises now, working our way up from the boozy cruise of our honeymoon on the Fairstar in 1996 (they didn’t call it the “Fun Ship” for nothing!) to more recently the Princess Line on the Sun and Dawn Princesses. Sailing with Celebrity is a more mature experience. There are no activities that would interest our children, and in fact, we are amongst the youngest passengers on the ship. There are probably only about 30 or 40 passengers around our age group out of about 1890 passengers. Having said that, we are having a great time despite the age differences we are encountering. We have met some truly lovely people and are enjoying finding out about their home towns and the differences between our countries. Most of the passengers are from the US, but there are also passengers from the UK, Germany, Australia (although we are among the minority) and various parts of Europe and Asia.

Our cruise is sailing from Auckland to Fremantle for 18 nights, and is called the “Bottom Circumnavigation Cruise” as it is sailing from New Zealand around the bottom of Australia to Perth. So far we are still in New Zealand, with tomorrow being our last day here before sailing to Sydney, Australia. We have been to Tauranga, Akaroa, Christchurch, and Dunedin; finishing our tour of New Zealand with a day sailing through the Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds in fjordland. All of these places have been just so pretty and we enjoyed visiting all of them. We were saddened to see the destruction in Christchurch that the earthquakes have caused. It is a bit like a ghost city as it is very quiet; the silence only broken by the sound of masonry crashing down from the terminally damaged buildings in the “Red Zone”.

Anyway, enough of all that; this is a food blog! I wish there was some way I could let you all experience the pleasure that the food on this ship is giving me. It is just the most amazing sensation, to be eating food of such a high standard every night. The main dining room is at the rear of the ship and reaches out over two levels. It is a stunning room, and our table is at the very rear of the restaurant overlooking the ocean and the wake of the ship. Each night we look out over the water and we can see dolphins jumping over the waves, chasing after the ship. We have also been privy to an albatross, with a wing span of more than 6 feet, dipping and soaring along the wind currents behind us. The sea has held our attention almost as much as the food has.

The Grand Restaurant serves a gourmet “a la carte” menu every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The selection is sometimes too much, as I am struggling to choose which meal I want to have at any given moment. I have decided that I am going to choose the foods that I have never had before, if that is an option. With that thought in mind, I have already eaten Frogs’ Legs (buffalo style) and Foie Gras, both of which are completely new to me. I was particularly pleased with how delicious the frogs’ legs were as I had heard varying reviews of them. To me they tasted partly like chicken, but also a little like fish. The foie gras is not something that I will hurry to have again. SH chose this for his entrĂ©e, and while he did try it, he was very quick to let me finish the dish as the consistency is… well I would say it is “tricky” to stomach. It was very jelly like, where I had imagined it would be more like a pate.

Frogs' Legs

Enjoying dinner at the Murano restaurant. SH has foie gras and I have the escargot.

The frogs’ legs were part of our regular dining menu, but the foie gras was actually part of the meal we were served in the specialty restaurant onboard, Murano. This restaurant serves a menu that you might find in a 3 star Michelin restaurant in France. It had the most amazing choices on the menu, and the waiters and Maitre D’ Restaurant were all very helpful when it came to making our choices. Some of the dishes are prepared at your table side, so there is a great deal of showmanship in the evening as well. We were treated like royalty, and they really went out of their way to ensure that we were having a great time.

While dining at the Murano, we also both ate black truffle for the first time. SH had a Romaine salad with black truffle vinaigrette which he said was sublime. Perched on top of his salad was an egg “sunny side up” with a sliver of truffle sitting in the middle. Quite an interesting flavour, it certainly added something extra to his salad. However we both joked that the truffle probably cost more than we had paid for the meal itself! We left our wine choices to our Sommelier as they have paired particular wines to each meal. This meant that I was served a Pinot from Santa Barbara, California with my duck dish, which was actually really good. This is only the second time I have had red wine since the Tahbilk Taste of Shiraz dinner, and I definitely liked the Pinot better than the other reds as it wasn’t as heavy.

There are so many different food experiences available onboard the Century. So far I have been to a cooking demonstration where they showed off the types of dishes that are presented at the Murano. Then SH and I went to a presentation showing us how to cook the perfect steak; and another that was focused solely on chocolate. There are others later in the cruise to do with desserts, pastries and so on.

Perhaps the event that excited me most so far? Being one of 10 people attending a cooking class with the Executive Chef and some of his staff! This was a 4 hour event, that included about 2 ½ hours of cooking lesson time, followed by lunch with the Chef enjoying the food we had created. I also received an autographed copy of the Celebrity cook book, which has over 260 recipes in it! I got to wear the apron and the hat and took photos of the food and the preparation. It was so much fun! 

We worked with the Executive Chef, learning as we went. He talked us through each step, and then we went ahead and did them ourselves. The entree was a smoked salmon, avocado mousse and peeky toe crab dish. I can't remember the name of the dish, but it was really pretty in the book and mine finished up looking exactly like the picture! The main was a BBQ Chilean Snapper on mash, that was absolutely delicious, and the new skill I learned while making this dish was how to flip food in a pan without using tongs. I've never done that before, so I was pretty stoked when I didn't end up with fish or mash all over the hot plate.

My entree

Chef's entree

Chef's main

My main

Lunch with the Executive Chef

So as you can tell, this trip is going to cause a few kilos to take up residence on my hips – but it is so worth it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Australia Day!

My friend over at Rhyme Time shared an idea with me for Australia Day that is from the New Idea Magazine. She knows how much I love to make and bake gorgeous food, and felt that I would love these too. Very easy to make, these Koala Cupcakes are sure to be a huge hit with my kids tomorrow. They will love their special Australia Day treat.

I will let you in on a dirty little secret though... I didn't make the cakes from scratch! When I decided to make these little beauties I knew that I would want to send some to my lovely neighbours next door. Their young son has a dairy allergy, so the recipe needed to be adapted to suit him too. I have had the most insane couple of weeks (I'll fill you in at the end of the post about everything that has been going on) and really really didn't feel like baking, but I also really wanted to make these for the kids. So instead, I went to the supermarket and found a packet mix that is gluten free, dairy free, nut free etc etc. Super easy to make once I used the milk and margarine that he can have, and I know that it won't make him sick.

Anyway, once the cakes were made, I whipped up some buttercream frosting and coloured it with black food colouring until it made the most beautiful silvery grey colour. Then dipped them in the coconut, made the ears from pink marshmallows (cut in half, iced and coated in coconut); the eyes are mini choc chips or mini chocolate M&M's; and the nose is a black jelly bean. Add one Australiana prop and you have a True Blue, Dinky Di, Aussie Morning Tea!


On a side note... The reason for the madness and mayhem at my house lately is that I have quit my job at Curves - I am instead embarking on a new career as a Family Day Care provider. Basically this means that I am my own boss, working from home caring for other people's children. This is all very regulated and official and runs through our local council. It has involved lots of work around my house getting it all up to scratch as far as safety issues go (Big thanks to my Dad for all his hard work, as he has been the one making it all happen!). I will also be going back to school, studying for my Certificate III in Children's Services. I'm very excited about all of this and hope that it works out well.

In addition to all this we are madly packing for a holiday. Just before Christmas my SH entered a competition with an online Cruise magazine and he won a trip for two onboard the Celebrity Century cruising from Auckland to Fremantle for 18 nights! We have come to realise just how great my parents are as they have agreed to watch our kids (and our house) while we make the most of this opportunity. What a great start to the year!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pay It Forward 2012

Well folks, I have done it again! I swore that I wouldn't do another PIF project after last year and I have just committed to doing another! It was a great experience last year, but far too involved for what should have been an easy process. Painted projects are time intensive and very personal. I found the whole process very stressful and I constantly worried whether my work would be as appreciated as I would hope. I know that wasn't the point of doing the project, however my heart and soul went into each piece that I worked on, and it felt like giving a little piece of me away each time with no guarantee that the recipient would love it as I did.

So that being the case, I have decided that I won't be painting anything for the project this year. I have other plans in mind! I'm going to make 6 pieces again (it's supposed to be five, but seeing that I couldn't count last year and completed 6, I'm going to do the same again this year) but this time they are all going to be the same item, just different versions thereof. The good thing with this method is that I can work in batches, so I should be able to complete them more readily. Last year I worked on the projects one at a time and began in February, finishing the last one at the end of September! Hopefully I will be able to complete these ones in a more timely fashion.

Who knows, if it all works out, I might do a "Part 2" for the second half of the year! I love giving people things that I have made. Usually it's food, but in this case it's something that they can use. No Spoilers! Nearly gave it away there! You will just have to wait until I have posted them out before I will be posting photos. So... until next then, I'll leave you guessing!