Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet Dreams

Just some random thoughts...

I was cuddling Little Miss M in bed the other night, waiting for her to go to sleep.  I watched in fascination as she went from
 - flopping around like a fish out of water to
 - waving her arms and legs around like a distressed octopus to
 - checking out what was in-between her toes ("I'm just cleaning in between my toes, mama") to
 - laying there quietly whispering to herself to
 - snoring not-so-softly into dream land.

As I watched this progression into restful sleep, I couldn't help but notice how Little Miss M's eyes (or more specifically, her eyelids) would go from a rapid blink to a slow lazy blink until, eventually, her eyelids did not open again as she finally drifted off to sleep.

This would be in direct contrast to my journey into dreamland where I would shut my eyes first and then flop around like a fish out of water trying to find the most comfortable position and then quietly whisper to myself and then turn on the ipod to listen to the latest podcast before falling asleep (and no, I generally don't check out what's going on in-between my toes during my bedtime routine).

I wonder when I moved from closing my eyes last to closing them first.  And does this reflect moving from "there are so many exciting things going on, I can't bear to close my eyes" to "there are so many things going on, let me just burrow into the covers and forget about it all"?

Anyways, here's a doona cover that I made for Little Miss M's cousin.  Happy 3rd Birthday Chloe!!




Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reconciliation

Yesterday was just another day in Ag's household.

After mom and daughter both had a tantrum (and it was a doosy, folks), we kissed, hugged and made up over cupcakes.  






More specifically, Hummingbird Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes.  

Look - I found a use for those danged teacup saucers!

As before and as now, these are wonderful cupcakes.  And so easy to make!!  I made this recipe (which is actually half of the recipe that can be found in the book) and it made 24 mini cupcakes (plus a huge spoonful of extra batter for the elder baker in the house).  I used the ingredients for the icing, but I did not measure.  I just mixed to taste and texture.


We took them over to Dear Husband's work today for a last minute afternoon tea break.  It was quite last minute, so my Dear Husband could only duck out for a few minutes to enjoy his coffee, cake and the-cutest-of-cute company. 



With the beautiful weather here, I've been going a bit crazy with the camera (can you tell?).  So, I'll leave you with one of my favs.


What does this gorgeous weather inspire you to do?

Enjoy!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not so dirty, really.

Now, I don't know if I'm admitting to the greatest social no-no, but if I am I hope you can get past the contents of this post and still be my friend.  It's always a bit risky exposing bits of your personal life, but hey - what's life without risk?

Anyways, onto my potential social no-no.  

I don't know about you, but I tend to wear my jeans (and jumpers) a couple of times before throwing them in the wash.  

Call me lazy (for not putting it in the wash straight away), call me green (for saving water by not needlessly washing still relatively clean jeans) or call me gross, but I just don't see the point in washing jeans that have barely a speck on them.  I mean, it's not like I run around the playground and sit in sandpits and make mudpies.  I'm an adult who sits in chairs and uses napkins and drinks my tea with my little pinky sticking up.

So, what do I do with the jeans that I have worn once that are not really ready to go in the wash?  

Funnily enough, while I don't mind wearing jeans a couple of times before washing them, I do have a bit of a problem with putting them back in the cupboard.  Ok - so I have more than a bit of a problem.  Even while doing a thorough clean up I just can't bring myself to put them back in the cupboard.  I'd rather throw the jeans in the corner, or just put them in the wash.  At this point in my life (with a newborn who dishes out the best poo-plosions and a toddler who decides if she would like to be a potty-trained toddler or not for the day), I just don't have the energy for the extra loads of wash.  So the jeans stay in a pile in the corner (or under the bed if visitors are coming around).


There has to be a better way.

And, I think this is it.  


One side of my daughter's cot.  (Eh - I'm sure she doesn't really need it anymore.  She's tough enough that the fall won't hurt her.)

What do you think?  I got the idea from here (via Pinterest - I have to justify the time I spend on that website!!!)

Are you totally grossed out by this post or are you nodding your head in sympathetic agreement and wondering if you should buy a cot just to use that one side?  Actually, a ladder would be a really good way to go as well, but we already had the cot.

Happy Monday everyone!  I'm off to enjoy my morning cuppa/mugga.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Much ado about nothing

I've been thinking about teacups lately.  

Teacups and teacup saucers.  

I was thinking of treating myself to a fancy teacup to enjoy my morning and afternoon teas in. 

Just because it's only tea for one it does not mean it should be less of an occasion, less of a mini party.  Especially if I have freshly baked sweet treats to accompany my cup of tea.  Right?


And so, with the credit card in hand, I started looking for a teacup for one.  

I found one that I thought I liked.  Bright, happy (it's Winter here, I need my "sunshine" from other sources), good size, not too dainty.  

But even on sale it was a bit pricey.  (This is coming from someone that has only bought crockery from Maxwell Williams - good stuff, but not exactly high end, is it?).  And that was just the teacup.  The pricey bit was just for the teacup.  I also had to consider the teacup saucer.  Which got me thinking...

Do I really need the teacup saucer?  

The teacup was a breakfast cup, so bigger than your Miss Marple teacups (not that I've seen Miss Marple's teacups or even know if she has teacups.  The name just invokes high tea, purple hair and scones with jam and cream).  

But it was not as big as a mug.  More like a mini mug.  

So, do I need the teacup saucer?

Seriously, I have a set of 4 of those teacup saucers sitting in the back of my crockery drawers.  

But I only have 2 teacups to go with them.  

So obviously, I don't really use the teacup/saucer combo very often.  

I use the 2 teacups, but not really for tea.  I use them to serve jelly or ice-cream, or to store leftover canned tuna.  So the saucers look pretty ridiculous if I use them when serving jelly or ice-cream, or storing leftover canned tuna.  

Don't you think?


And I have my tea in a mug.  

Which is my next question - when did we start serving tea in mugs?  Or is that only me?  No - I'm sure I've gone to other people's houses and had tea in a mug.

And that tea scoop that I bought during one of these "I love to celebrate every afternoon with a good cup of tea" shopping sprees - was that meant for a cup of tea or a mug of tea?  


 Does that mean I have been celebrating my afternoon tea times with a less-than-perfect mug of tea?  Does that make it less of a celebration?  It would definitely make a stronger cup of tea.

And should I now be asking people over for a "mug of tea" since that's what I use to serve tea?  

That sounds weird, doesn't it?  Would you come over for a mug of tea?

*sigh* In the end, my questions have still gone unanswered.  

With regards to my potential purchase, I asked my Dear Husband to have a look.  And in his wisdom-filled, ever-so-diplomatic-but-very-frustrating way, he just nodded his head and said, "I hope you love it for that price."  The credit card went back into the wallet.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Perseverence

Today - I'm thankful for my ever-talented, extremely determined younger sister.

Remember this mess?  


Well, it has been a bedside project because I couldn't be bothered re-winding the yarn.  The problem with bedside projects is that I tend to want to go to sleep when I am in bed (yeah - go figure).

Anyways, I was inspired by my sister's effort to pick this up and get moving again.  So, sleep be damned, I'm going to finish this.  

I'm still not sure how I feel when, after I had finally gotten through all of the yarn that I ripped back, I find that I have nearly finished the body.  What a HUGE mistake!!  I ripped back to the neckline!  I really don't know how I knitted so much and not questioned how the garment was shaping up.


At least now, it's no longer a bedside project.  And this is where babywearing + fussy baby + knitting = productivity!!


Will I finish this winter jumper before the end of this winter??

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Kid On The Block

Move over cupcakes.  Make room for the Whoopie Pie!!

That's right folks... we're making Whoopie Pies (and get your head out of the gutter, you!).  Apparently the new cupcake has arrived.  The humbler, less pretentious cousin of the macaron is here. 


I won't bother telling you where the name supposedly originated from because EVERY article about the Whoopie Pie loves to retell it.  And you know I'm not really the type of person to jump on the latest bandwagon (notwithstanding my forays into Cake Pops, Hummingbird Bakery Cupcakes, New York Times Cookies ... ok, so I do get sucked in by the hype).

Anyways, here is the Whoopie Pie, of humble Amish origins making it's way across the world.   This Whoopie Pie comes courtesy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book (the cake bit) and Chowhound (for the filling).  I couldn't bring myself to use the Hummingbird Bakery recipe for the filling because it required Marshmallow Fluff, which gave me a sugar rush just reading it in the list of ingredients. 



So what is a Whoopie Pie?  It's not a pie, but a (kinda) sandwich cake.  Or a hamburger cake, if you go by appearances.  This version is decadently dark and delicious.  It has a dense, moist, dark chocolate cake sandwiching a light, airy vanilla buttercream.  Here, it is made in miniature (as always for portion control).  But don't be fooled by it's miniature stature, it still takes a few bites to finish one off.  This is my kind of hamburger!

Well, I've finished making Whoopie and I'm ready to sit back with my cigarette afternoon cup of tea and sweet treat.  


What's your sweet treat this afternoon?

Are you looking for more baking inspirations?  Then head on over to A Spoonful of Sugar Designs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And the Competition is on!

Please note - this post is filled with quotation marks (otherwise known as rabbit ears).  Please skip reading this post if rabbit ears offends you.

My Dear Husband requested for a Victoria Sponge Cake for his birthday this year.  Sounds like a simple request, huh?  Problem is, before I met my dear husband, I had never consciously tried a "sponge cake", much less a "Victoria Sponge Cake".  I'm sure I've eaten many a sponge cake, probably disguised as birthday cake or something like that.  But it has never been presented to me as "Sponge Cake" like you would say "Devil's Food Cake" or "Sour Cream Pound Cake". 

And so I went looking for a Sponge Cake recipe.  As with all classic, traditional, well-known and well-loved sweet treats, you can find numerous robust-almost-obsessive discussions on what makes a perfect Sponge Cake, particularly the Victorian Sponge Cake.  The description I like best "A Victoria Sponge is always un-iced, served with just a dusting of icing sugar, neat but never prim".  Neat but never prim - I love it!!!

Apparently, "producing an evenly risen, high Victoria sponge sandwich cake, moist and tender with a buttery flavour and airy lightness, is the ultimate proof of the traditional British cook."  Now, I am neither traditional nor British, but I do love a challenge.

And so, I turn to the British Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson - for her Victorian Sponge Cake recipe.  And here is the end product...


Not bad, I thought.  Slightly domed, looked airy, looked buttery, looked moist.  I was pretty pleased with my effort, actually.  Neat, high, not prim.
But, the testing is in the tasting.  So after a tweak in the decorating department by Little Miss M
And after much fanfare...



I ask my "Dear" Husband (notice the quotation marks - yeah...), what does he think of my ta-da "Sponge Cake"?  And the response (as he is smacking his lips together, mind you), "It's certainly buttery".  HUH?!?

"Well, they say that it's difficult to make a really good sponge cake."

HUH?!?  As my chest deflates and my indignation inflates.

"But this is really yum.  The strawberries are really good and I like the cream."

Strawberries that I bought from the shop.  Cream that I just lightly whipped.  What about the cake????

"I just remember it being lighter, that's all."

Aahhh... memories.  When he was a child, my Dear Husband and his family would have a yearly holiday by the beach where they would frolick in the sand (as boys do frolick) and eat Passionfruit Sponge Cake from this one bakery in the area.  So, not only am I trying to measure up to a British National tradition, but I am also competing with childhood memories.

And so, the competition is on!  I'm on the quest for the "perfect" Sponge cake - as defined by my Dear Husband.  Stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, Happy Birthday My Love!!!






Sunday, August 7, 2011

What is Karma?

I would not call myself a fussy eater.  I love food.  I love new tastes; experiencing worldwide influences; trying new restaurants, new cuisines, new dishes.  I love food in it's simplest form and also complex dishes with those hints of this and undertones of that.  I love food.


Admittedly, my tastes are still developing.  Having gestational diabetes introduced me to "fruit" to curb my sweet cravings instead of just turning to chocolate (yeah - fruit, who da thought?).

And while I enjoy a variety of exotic vegetable dishes during a meal out, my vegetable cooking repertoire was pretty limited to broccoli and beans and just microwaved at that!

Now, again due to the gestational diabetes and Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals, I am exploring all types of vegies and new ways to cook them.  Even the broccoli has gotten a make over (mind you, I still like my microwaved broccoli).

 That's a raw prawn!  And I loved it!

But, wowser, I was a fussy eater as a kid.  I'm not sure if I had fussy tastes, or was a slow eater, or I just didn't like eating, but I was a trial to my parents at the dinner table.

Surely not this little cutie, you're thinking :)

I remember, while no-one was looking (probably because they had long finished their meal and had left the table), throwing bits of food behind the refrigerator.  And back when refrigerators had exposed coils - it's a wonder our kitchen didn't burn down.

Side note - have you ever wondered how we got from refrigerator (with no "d") to fridge (with a "d")?


I remember opening my school bag for lunch only to find last night's unfinished dinner, still on it's plate with spoon and fork, covered in cling wrap tucked neatly between my books.  (And no, I didn't believe in leftovers for lunch back then.  Plus there was no microwave oven at my primary school back then.  I won't tell you how accessible microwave ovens were to the common household when I was in primary school as that would be showing my age!!!)

I remember a weeks worth of mouldy sandwiches stinking out the bottom of my bag.  (I don't think you can completely blame me on this one... I once got a cheese and lettuce sandwich for lunch.  I took a bite and thought the lettuce was a bit crunchy.  I took another bite and thought the lettuce was crunchy and tough to bite through.  I took a closer look at my sandwich only to find that the cheese slice had not been taken out of its plastic covering.  And there was no lettuce.)


And I remember sitting at the dinner table, everyone had long gone and probably in bed, and me falling asleep right there, at the table, with food still in my mouth.

Well, here is Little Miss M.  What do you think Karma is?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mmmm - me love cookies

Once, I was so desperate for a chocolate chip cookie that I actually put a few dollars (!) in a vending machine for one of those super-sized chocolate chip cookies.
Oh oh - super-not-good!!!  And from there started my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

So, what is the definition of a super-good (nee perfect) chocolate chip cookie?
1 - freshly baked.  The cookie must be freshly baked.
2 - buttery without being too buttery.
3 - soft and gooey on the inside; a bit of a crunch on the outside.
4 - a good balance between cookie and chocolate.
5 - a caramel toffee undertone (I'm serious!).
6 - a little bit of summtin' summtin' that balances out as well as brings out the sweetness (again, I'm serious!).
7 - the time and the place to enjoy this humble yet complex concoction.
8 - there must be at least two of them for the one sitting.


Now I (used to) love Mrs Fields cookies. I have "used to" in brackets because I really don't know if I still love them. When I was in the throes of my love affair with Mrs Fields, I would drive to my local shopping center in the last hour before closing, spend half an hour looking for a parking spot, brave the crowds and wait for that special sign on the Mrs Fields counter that would pop up in the last ten minutes before closing advertising "All cookies half price". And I would go nuts - I would clear out the trays of my favorite cookies, munch on more than a handful as I waited for the exiting traffic to clear, and come home with a huge bag of those decadent cookies. Oh those buttery chocolatey cookies.

That was then; this is now. I moved to an area that didn't have Mrs Fields, so... Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. When my quest started, for some reason I did not even consider Mrs Fields. I just went online and found these...

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now, if you're fanatic enough to read the accompanying article "Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" in it's entirety, then you're fanatic enough to give this recipe a go.  Admittedly, I don't bother with the different types of flour anymore.

I love this recipe.  I make up the recipe, roll the dough into cookie dough logs and put them into the freezer.  Then, when the urge hits, I just cut up a handful of cookie disks from the log, pop them into the oven and then enjoy freshly baked chocolate chip cookies 10 minutes later.



This is great as a gift.  Bake a handful, wrap them up nicely.  Then get a frozen (unbaked) cookie dough log, wrap that up nicely with baking instructions and the two will go nicely together.


I should find a Mrs Fields store and try out one (or two) of her cookies again.  But, I must admit, after living the luxury of freshly-baked home-made-with-love chocolate chip cookie (cookies), I'm not in a rush to rekindle that old love affair.

Who makes your favourite chocolate chip cookie and what makes it your favourite? (Because it's unfathomable that you would not like chocolate chip cookies).

For more baking inspirations, head on over to A Spoonful of Sugar Designs.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Go on... give it a go

I find it funny how the concept of the computer and the internet should be and can be impersonal, non-social and isolated but that it can also foster a sense of community and kind of "human-ness".  I mean, I can look at pretty pictures and long for what I see on the screen, but it's the human-ness and community that inspires me and tells me to "give it a go".

So, I came across some blog posts and were inspired to "give them a go".  And I'm so glad I did!!!

The soft ball inspiration came from browsing around sewandthecity blog (thanks for the inspiration!!).  I see these soft balls in every baby store.  I pick them up and have a bit of a play.  And, in agreement with the manufacturers spiel, think it's not a bad toy for a little one - teaches textures, encourages eye-hand coordination etc etc etc.  But did I ever think I could MAKE one?!?  Not until now - and so I gave it a go.


I'm pretty chuffed about this one and I can see a couple more being made for a couple more little ones.

I need to add more ribbons (!), stuff it a bit more and practice a bit more on the "north and south poles".


And I put a small bell inside with the stuffing, but I only have a VERY LIMITED supply of the bells before I have to actually buy some.  How many more bells do you think I can steal from Little Miss M before she notices?


What has inspired you to "give it a go"?

Bright lights

My two brightest lights

There's a room in my house
With a dark corner
Over there.
I try not to go near there
Unless I have to.
I try to just quickly pass by it
But sometimes the darkness reaches out to me.

One time I sat there
Just sat there
And no-one could see me in the darkness
I had to come out of the darkness on my own.

Every other room and every other corner is so brightly lit
With my family; with my friends.
It's just this one room
With this one corner
That has this darkness
In my house.