A friend of mine had her baby shower today to celebrate a baby boy that she is expecting in July. She has decorated the nursery room with a nautical theme and I knew that she wanted a lamp for it. Little did I know however that trying to find a nautical lamp let alone any nautical, beach or fishing themed adornments during winter was a big ask. I was told that during the summer there would be plenty of options for me, but it wasn’t the right season for it now. The only nautical themed adornment that was remotely suitable was a flat wooden anchor from Spotlight. After visiting over a dozen stores I finally came with a solution to decorate a basic lamp myself in a nautical theme. Out of all the lighting, hardware and department stores I visited I found the most ideal lamp from The Warehouse. I knew that I would be able to sew a lamp shade cover easily due to the even circular shape of the shade (rather than a cone like shape tapered in at the top). I was also able to locate the same material that she used for the blinds in the nursery so that the lamp shade matched the blinds. I had also specifically chosen the lamp design as it was perfect for tying a piece of Sissal Rope around the base (sourced from Bunnings) which I could incorporate the anchor into. The trickiest part of the entire project was neatly joining the ends of the Sisal rope together at the back after knotting the front, so that the ends were sitting in the groove of the lamp. I don’t have a photo unfortunately, but I simply wrapped a matching tan coloured cotton around the end of the rope to stop it from unwinding and fraying, and then had to loop the cotton perpendicular around the two ends of the ropes so they would stay together. Those in the industry call it a ‘Whipped End‘. It was a simple yet fun project which now looks great in the nursery matching the blinds. The beauty of the lamp shade cover is that one day if she is finished with the nautical theme, she can just pull the cover off and start again.
Looks like I have taken two holidays – one away in the Cook Islands and the other away from my blog. Whoops! The good news is that I am back. Michael had been doing a variety of sales trips to the Pacific Islands during the NZ winter, so Israel and I took the opportunity to join him after he had finished working for a family holiday. We had a great 10 days in Rarotonga and Aitutaki swimming, snorkelling, reading, relaxing, motorbiking and general sightseeing. It may seem obvious but traveling with a young child is completely different to traveling with adults. It didn’t necessarily stop us from doing anything that we wanted to do, but previously simple activities like snorkeling required us to take turns going under the water. Overall Israel was a wonderfully easygoing traveler and enjoyed the holiday. Initially my biggest concern about our family holiday was actually flying with Israel. As Michael was already over there for work, I had to do the 4 hour flight with Israel by himself. I know that comparatively 4 hours is a short flight, but with a child who is very active, it is still a big deal. I probably spent about 70% of the time on my feet walking around the plane with Israel as he greeted other passengers. Quiet activities that he would usually enjoy, such as reading, were no longer of any interest. Even on our short 1 hour flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki, Israel spent most of the flights at the back of the plane climbing over the empty seats. Thankfully on our way home to Auckland Michael was with me, and Air New Zealand kindly booked us into a row of three seats, blocking out a spare seat for Israel at no additional cost. This was the best thing for him on this flight. He loved sitting in a seat all to himself, rather than on our laps, and we only had to walk around the plane towards the end of the flight. He even got to play with the remote control for his entertainment system rather than disrupting mine like on our first flight. If you are traveling with an energetic toddler under 2 then I would recommend finding a way to get their own seat (either by paying if you can justify it, or by pleading with your airline). I can’t wait until our next holiday.. wherever it may be.
As a treat for my husband returning from a work trip, I decided to make him some Banana Cake. I am not a big fan of Banana Cake personally so I wouldn’t usually think to make it. I figured it would be great for morning tea for him and his staff. I decided to try Jo Seager’s Brill Banana Cake recipe for something different, as it includes the use of yoghurt in the recipe. It tasted nice enough to me (as much as Banana Cake can), but my husband and staff loved it. Also I wouldn’t usually think to do a cream cheese icing (instead of chocolate), but it seems that it is quite a popular icing for Banana Cake. If you are a Banana Cake fan then I would definitely suggest you try this recipe (below).
Brill Banana Cake
1 cup Sugar
100g Butter, melted
3 Bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Milk
1 tsp Baking Soda
150ml Natural or Fruit Yoghurt (I used Greek Style Coconut Yoghurt)
2 cups Flour (or swap for Gluten Free Flour Mix if you want a gluten free cake)
3 t Baking Powder
Beat sugar, butter and eggs together until creamy, then add banana and beat well. Hear milk on a stove or microwave until nearly boiling and then dissolve baking soda in it. Add milk mixture and also yoghurt to the banana mixture and mix well. Sift in flour and baking powder and carefully mix. Pour into a greased 22cm springform tin and bake at 160° for 50minutes or until firm and a knife comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before releasing from the tin, and cool on a wire rack. When cold, ice with your choice of icing e.g. cream cheese, chocolate or lemon icing.
Recipe by Jo Seagar
Cream Cheese Icing
125g Cream Cheese
60g Butter, softened
1t Vanilla Bean Paste or Vanilla Essence
1 1/2 Cups Icing Sugar
Beat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until mixed well. Spread or pipe how you like.
Recently I was given a very large amount of grapes from my in-laws. They have an abundance growing in their backyard and kindly gave us a whole bucket full. My husband was heading away on a work trip so there was no way Israel and I were going to get through them quick enough so I decided to try use them to make Jam. I am not sure what kind of grapes they were, but they look very much like Concord Grapes which I have seen many jam recipes for. I decided to follow the step by step photograph instructions given by Chef In You. As a newbie to jam, I have discovered it is quite easy to make but very time consuming to separate the skins from the insides of the grape. It took me a good half an hour or so to do this properly – making sure there were no seeds getting caught up with the skins. Check out the recipe below.
1.5kg of Concord Grapes (or similar)
3 cups of sugar
Thoroughly wash grapes. Separate the skins from the insides of the grape, squeezing the insides into a large saucepan and placing the skins in a different large bowl. Put saucepan with grape insides on a stove on a medium heat, bringing to the boil and then cooking for around 5 minutes until they are all mushy. Place a sieve over the bowl with the skins, and push the insides through the sieve using a spoon. Discard the seeds in the sieve. Tip grape mixture back into your saucepan and bring to the boil. While bringing to boil, heat sugar in the oven on a tray. After grape mixture has boiled for a couple of minutes, gradually add sugar a little at a time, stirring after each addition. Get the mixture boiling rapidly, stirring constantly, until thickened. Check it is ready by putting a clean metal spoon in the mixture and watching that when the mixture runs off the spoon it is more clumpy than syrup-like. Also coat your spoon in the mixture, put the spoon aside on a plate and within a couple of minutes you will see if the mixture thickened up as it cooled down. When you run your finger through the spoon, the jam should hold it’s place, rather than run together. Pour jam into hot sterilised jars (by heating in the oven) and once cooled a little put the lids on.
Recipe based on Concord Grapes Jam by Chef In You.
We had a dressup day at Playcentre on Monday. I didn’t really have much in the way of costumes for Israel but I knew I had seen something on Pinterest that I wanted to make – a Dinosaur Tail! The techniques used to make the Dinosaur Tail were straightforward and particularly easy to follow using the Running with Scissors Instructions. In my bag of sewing goodies was already everything I needed to make it. I also had some very thick felt that was a perfect substitute for the spikes and the waistband. The biggest hurdle was actually getting Israel to wear it and sure enough role-play was the answer. You can just imagine me running around wearing the tail yelling “Roar”, right? Well it worked! He was happily wearing it and in true Israel fashion didn’t really want to sit still for a photoshoot. I am sure as Israel gets older there will be years of Dinosaur Tail wearing to come!
Last night I attended an angel themed girls night and we were asked to bring a plate of food. In keeping with the theme I created these Mocha Angel Cupcakes. It was a simple process of making mini Mocha Cupcakes, piping White Chocolate Ganache and placing some Dark Chocolate Leaves on top. I made the leaves in advance the day before and left them in a dry container in the pantry. Chocolate leaves are quite simple to make provided you use compound chocolate. Compound chocolates are made from vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter which means that you don’t have to temper the chocolate so that they will be set firm at room temperature. The recipe below makes 20 full sized cupcakes, but in this instance I halved that recipe which made around 20 mini cupcakes. When sharing food with others I find that mini cupcakes are much more manageable as they are less filling and people get to try a variety of food. Hopefully you can spot how they look loosely like angels!
2T Instant Coffee Powder
85g Caster Sugar
225g White Flour
2T Cocoa Powder
1t Baking Soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Place coffee, butter, sugar, honey and water in a saucepan, heating gently until boiling, then simmer 5 minutes on a reduced heat. Pour into a large heatproof bowl and leave to cool. When cooled, sift flour and cocoa in. Dissolve baking soda in milk, then add to mixture along with egg, beating until smooth. Spoon mixture into 20 cupcake cases, baking at 180ºC for 15-20 minutes or until firm and bounces back.
Mocha Cupcake recipe from Cupcakes by Susanna Tee.
White Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup of Cream
1 cup of chopped White Chocolate
Chop white chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl, suitable for beating with a hand mixer later. Heat cream in a saucepan until bubbles form around the edges and then pour over the white chocolate. Let sit a couple of minutes then stir until incorporated, then beating with a hand whisk. Place in fridge for an hour or so until set, then beat with a hand mixer until fluffy and suitable for piping.
Quick Chocolate Leaves
Pick some organic leaves, washing and drying thoroughly. Melt dark, milk or white compound chocolate in the microwave. Paint the backs of leaves (where veins are prominent) using a pastry brush and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Set in freezer for a couple of minutes. Remove from freezer and peel back leaves from the chocolate. Always paint more leaves than you intend to use as some may possibly crack in the process of peeling.
I love trying new things, so when I stumbled across this recipe for Melting Moments I had to give them a whirl. They are very simple to make, although they are just a little time consuming rolling the dough into little balls. I was in a bit of hurry when it came to assembling them trying to multi-task both Israels dinner and icing the biscuits before we had to head out the door with the biscuits in hand. They definitely could have been iced a little tidier, but as I transported them to a friends house for supper they also got a little knocked around in the process. If you have eaten a Melting Moment before you will understand why they are called that – which is exactly why the soft biscuit isn’t the most ideal for transporting. Never mind, they tasted great and are a lovely treat to have on the odd occassion (as they are certainly not good for the waistline). Check out the recipe below.
1/3 cup Icing Sugar
1t Vanilla Essence
1 1/2 cups Self Raising Flour
1/2 cup Custard Powder
Passionfruit Filling Ingredients
1/2 cup Icing Sugar
1 1/2 T Passionfruit Pulp
OR: Coffee Filling Ingredients
2t Instant Coffee2t Hot Water
1/2 cup Icing Sugar
Heat oven to 180°C. Beat butter and icing sugar til light and creamy. Beat in vanilla essence. Sift flour and custard powder, mixing well to make a soft dough. Roll level tablespoons into about 28 balls, placing on 2 lined baking trays. Flatten slightly with a floured fork. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly golden then cool on a wire rack. Choose either passionfruit or coffee filling, half of each, or your own filling. To make passionfruit filling, beat butter and sugar til light and creamy, then beating in passionfruit pulp. To make coffee filling, dissolve coffee in hot water and leave to cool. Meanwhile beat butter and sugar til light and creamy, then add coffee mixture beating well. Use your filling to sandhich the biscuits together and leave to firm up before serving.
Recipe from Sweet Food by Lynn Lewis