Monday, April 13, 2015

A birthday cake

It was Ali's birthday this week. Her mum asked me if I'd make a cake for her party and of course I said I'd love to!

Ali and I both spend a lot of time looking after the monarch butterflies and caterpillars and have planted swan plants especially for them to have food, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a cake based on this. I've made Lloyd's birthday cake before, and of course lots of cupcakes, but I've never taken on quite such an extravaganza before!

I started about a week before the party making the flowers. Lots of fondant flowers!

I love making fondant decorations.
These are done with fondant cutters, then you use tools to shape out the petals and stuff. Great fun!



I had also taken a photograph of some flowers and sent this down to Auckland to get put onto an edible transfer. My idea had been to then cut out the flowers individually and stick them all over the cake. I didn't realise that there would be a slight raised edge round each flower if I did it this way, so I changed plans and just used one of the sheets and stuck it on top of the top tier of the cake. 

Anyway! back to the actual cakes. 
I made a large, bottom cake - Sicilian Orange cake - the same recipe as I used for Lloyd's cake. Which worked a treat. It had marmalade and orange buttercream as the filling.
For the smaller top cake I made a rich chocolate cake, using the recipe that I make chocolate cupcakes from . I put strawberry buttercream in the middle of it. 

Then it was time for the fondant covering. To make the fondant stick to the cake, you need to cover it ( the cake!) in a syrup, easiest way is to take some jam and melt it, then paint it over the cake. Let it cool, then cover in fondant. 

Here it is with the flowers and the topper on. Oh and some butterflies! 

I decided it wasn't quite enough yet, so I made some monarch caterpillars. These were a right bugger to paint, and I had to make their antennae out of bits of cocktail sticks painted black with food colouring! Shame really, as I wanted all of it to be edible!




The finished cake looked like this.




I was really pleased with it. Ali loved it, and that's the important part!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Cushions!

When we put our furniture into the new house the old sofa didn't go at all. This surprised us as it's white and large, but it looks like someone has just dumped an unmade bed in the livingroom.  We were pretty sad about this, as we love that sofa!

Anyway, we ordered a new one. Went down to Auckland a few weeks ago to look at some, as we'd seen them online and the price seemed too good to be true, we were sure they would be totally rubbish! But no, they are lovely, and you can choose different fabrics and different legs etc. So we got one and it should be arriving in the next couple of weeks.

It's a very grown up sofa compared to the old one but it needs a couple of cushions, so I decided to go to Whangarei yesterday and get some not grown up fabric to make some. ( The old sofa will go downstairs into the new room once it gets built, so it won't be leaving us!)

I didn't want to make my usual easy peasy envelope cushions. I really wanted to go to town - piping, invisible zips... you name it! Only problem, I've never done piping or invisible zips before. I did a search and found a few tutorials - which I didn't really understand - but went for it anyway.

I can't give instructions, as the zips were a total trial and error! The piping was great though. Very simple.
Just make a bias binding and hide the cord inside it!

Here they are!
 A wee bit smooshy round the corners, but not too bad. 


Nice round the edges, though.


And the invisible zip! Quite invisible. (This was the second one! First one not so good!) 


They're pretty big, bigger than I planned, perhaps, so I really hope they go.




For now I've just put them on our bed! 

Have to say, I am missing the wee Pip. I really need somewhere to sew that's not the dining room table. The power socket nearest isn't really that near, so it's a total hazard! Almost garrotted Brodie and my machine was in danger of taking a flyer! 
It'll be lovely when the council give us the go ahead to start the building work. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Easter Cupcakes


Tomorrow is Good Friday and Lloyd has the day off. Hopefully we are going out boating with R&V, but if this falls through we'll probably go to Matauri Bay for a bit of surfing. I tried boogie boarding last weekend and adored it. Lloyd bought me a board and I'm desperate to try it out. Regardless of what we end up doing, I wanted to make some easter cupcakes to share. 

I went for rich chocolate with vanilla buttercream icing. 

I used this recipe - which you can halve if you don't want to make as many. I tend to make a full batch and freeze half. 


INGREDIENTS
This makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (best quality available)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality available)
1 cup boiling water
Directions-
Line  tin with paper liners.  Heat oven to 180C
Into the Kitchen Aid (or mixer!)  bung together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix a bit.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for one minute.
Stir in boiling water.
Fill papers 2/3 full with batter.  ( use one of those old fashioned ice cream scoops)


Bake cupcakes for about 18-22 minutes. ( mine took 16)
Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

I used my tried and tested vanilla buttercream recipe 

  • 220g salted butter, softened
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 to 5 teaspoons of cream or milk - for this recipe I didn't use any milk, it took that much green food colouring!
  • Again, you can scale this down. Or just make a huge batch - I bake so often I just make lots and freeze any leftover.


I used the wilton tip with all the holes in it to make the grass. The wee eggs are bought ones. I thought about making some tiny white fondant flowers as well, but thought that might be overkill so left them as they were.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Things are much calmer now

We have really settled in beautifully. Lulah has assumed her position on top of her dad.


Banana has assumed his position on the most expensive piece of furniture we own, obviously!

And I have finally had some time in the kitchen. Friends of ours have just moved up from Auckland and something that makes this even more lovely is that they have a sweet chestnut tree in the garden. ( The one Lloyd and I planted at the farm didn't have time to give us even a single chestnut - so I hope the new owners like them!) I plundered their garden and within about 5 minutes had filled a carrier bag. I shared it with Simon and Ali and pretty much ate all my share at one sitting!
Sweet Chestnuts remind me of my childhood. Dad used to get them, boil them then roast them on a shovel over our coal fire. When they were done we tipped them onto newspaper on the floor, opened them ( burning our fingers!), sprinkled them with salt and scarfed them down. 

I couldn't quite replicate this, I just did them on the stove top in a pan! But they tasted almost as good. 


I've also attempted macarons again. I had lost the knack completely.  They still tasted lovely, but either cracked a bit, had no feet, were hollow, or all three!  I reckoned new house, new oven, give it a go again. First lot were fine; No cracks, but no feet. However they were blooming tasty. I made apple shells and filled them with blue cheese buttercream - do not knock this until you've tried it! And yeah, they had glitter on them.





Second batch I tried something completely new. I've always made them with the french recipe. This time I tried them by making an Italian meringue. Supposedly this is a more stable way of doing it. Meh! About half of them had feet and half of them were cracked. However there is one big difference - they are a much more fluffy texture inside - not hollow at all. Less sweet and very delicious. I'm definitely trying this way again, oven temp lower and let them dry out for a lot longer before putting in the oven. I'll keep you posted!

These were chocolate shells and strawberry buttercream filling. They were also lovely.

I've also been gardening! bahahahaa! It's a somewhat smaller scale here. I took white hydrangea cuttings and gardenia cuttings before we left the farm. I have plans to rip out some ugly ground cover stuff and put gardenias and some hibiscus down the side of the front garden. 



Finally,  woke up to this today. Whats not to love?


Friday, March 20, 2015

A new header, for a new start

Long time readers please bear with me while I work out what I'm going to do!
I don't want to start a whole new blog as I love this one, it's got history in the many, many pages I've written over the years. Ten years to be precise! So, I'm keeping the web address as it is. It just won't be about Our Wee Farm any more as the Wee Farm is no longer ours.

We settled today. Oddly it was quite bittersweet. I thought that once the money was in the bank I'd feel happy, relief that it had all gone smoothly, which of course, I do! But it just feels ...odd! Good, but odd. I had a major meltdown on Wednesday night when I drove down the lovely driveway for the last time. I reversed back, shone the headlights right onto Darroch Cottage and just howled.

But, on to new things.
There will still be baking.
There will still be a wee bit of gardening.
There will still be veggies (once I get my raised bed made)
There will be a lot of outside building work once that starts.

I hope you stick around to enjoy it with us.

As one of my friends just said "What a blast that was."  Wasn't it just.






Monday, March 09, 2015

Goodbye Our Wee Farm, hello Spindrift

Officially we don't leave the farm until next Friday, but over the last few weeks we have moved everything out. It was absolutely exhausting. We have done about 15 tip trips, donated a van load of stuff to charity, sold furniture and given some away. Moving from a farm with the equivalent of three houses to one smallish house is no mean feat. And we did it all ourselves. No moving company, no moving truck, just us and our wee trailer!

We have just moved into the new house and are simply loving it. Waking up to the view every morning, being close to all our friends - its amazing.  We still have to go back to the farm every couple of days to weed, mow and make sure everything is safe, but because the move has been so drawn out I haven't felt the sadness I thought I would. Perhaps we're simply too exhausted to feel much right now!

We worked very hard on the new house for a few weeks. We painted, ripped carpets out, laid a new floor, redid the kitchen and lots of other bits and bobs. It was all very good fun.

So prepare yourselves for lots of photos!!


Here's our new view - gorgeous.


This was the first day of work. The carpets were all lifted, then the underlay, then about a million staples were removed from the floor.


The kitchen floor had cork tiles which had been glued down with the strongest substance known to man. It took hours of hard work to get them completely off.


Once that was done it was cleaned and swept in readiness for the new bamboo flooring being laid.


While that was going on inside, a fence was being put around part of the garden outside. We've moved to an area where there are a lot of kiwis and we need to keep them safe from the dogs. So, fence it is! 


Here it is all finished. Nice wee gate leading down through the native bush to the reserve at the water. 


Kitchen being hauled out. The design was good, so we kept it, but got it all resprayed. We also extended the island part, put in a new sink etc and new worktops.


By this stage it was all looking rather chaotic! But very surprisingly none of it was stressful at all.


We'd taken off all the skirting boards so that we could lay the new floor properly. I had to paint 120m worth of new skirting. It took a long time! We also repainted the whole inside of the house and new flooring in the bathroom.



The bamboo flooring had been held up, but finally arrived a couple of days late. This guy was a total star. This stuff weighed 1.5 tonnes!



We laid the whole floor over 2 days. We had a bit of hassle with the edging trim. When it arrived in NZ MAF found some weevils in the packaging, so the whole shipment had to be destroyed. Which was somewhat of a nightmare for us! But the company were able to send us up enough wee bits so that we could insert them where we needed so at least we had the right measurements to work from.  Lloyd and Ali look like they're praying to the floor gods for inspiration!

The bamboo flooring looking like it's almost finished.


The kitchen arrived back all beautifully painted. A new glass splash back was put in. New cooker and dishwasher. And this amazing new light!






 No idea why Lulah is tired - it's not like she helped or anything!



We look at this most evenings.


 So now we are in, and the inside is finished. We are waiting for the plans for the outside work to be approved by council. Once that's done that work will start. It's a biggie, but we're not doing this ourselves!!

We LOVE it more that we thought we could in such a short time. I think we've never been so bone tired in our lives. ( this might have something to do with the fact that we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor!)

More later!

























Monday, January 19, 2015

Lloyd's mum and dad are here.

We have been enjoying the most amazing weather since they arrived, which somehow always makes things even more lovely.

Been doing a lot of exploring, wandering around and eating!

Lloyd, Alan and Penny up at Mangonui. A big favourite.

At Marsden Estate and Winery


 The view down Kerikeri inlet, Lloyd and Penny were off to do a 10km hike up to Rainbow Falls. Alan and I did not :)


A stunning trip out to the Hokianga - one of my favourite places in the world. The Copthorne did us proud, as usual.





There's been a bit of Whisky tasting...



And even I have had a drink!

Tomorrow we take possession of our new house! There is a lot to do over the next few weeks, lift all the carpets, paint the whole house, lay a new floor and re-do the whole kitchen. It's going to be a very, very busy time!