Yesterday I had a dinner at the local yacht club which is conveniently 1 minute from our house!
I'm not a party person, my close friends will tell you that. In fact my favourite way to spend time with friends is to have a couple over for dinner and chill. Large groups of people is not my thing. However, this was a big birthday and I really wanted to celebrate it. So we had a very chilled, laid back, casual dinner. I loved it, I was so glad I did it, and I really love my friends. ( but most of all Lloyd <3 )
No surprise I made my own cake!
Good old vanilla sponge with buttercream and strawberry jam filling. Then go to town on the decorating. Bung on more buttercream, chuck in a few macarons, lots of little vanilla meringues, some fresh strawberries a few roses and other bits and bobs and you have a pretty lovely cake... yes, I am now 50. How did that happen?
Here's a few pics of the party. I know it's a bit corny, but I feel incredibly lucky to have the friends I do. We moved to NZ not knowing a soul and now I consider these friends, family. How cool is that!
This was my favourite one! I reckon I could still get away with it.
Forecast today was severe weather warning with thunder storms and masses of rain - woke up to this.
A few days ago I needed to find a recipe that I hadn't used in ages, so I thought the quickest way to do it would be to check here.
Then I realised that over the years I've written this I regularly check back to see what we did when, look at how best a certain veggie grew, find an old recipe. All sorts of things! I'd been happy enough to keep it like an old diary, an archive of a life gone, gathering dust on a shelf! But today I realised I missed it. I missed writing. I missed being able to look back and check what we were doing last month. I think Facebook has taken over as a snapshot in time, but I'd like to start writing this again and see where it takes us. I'm guessing dogs, Lloyd, baking, food, water stuff, sewing and life!
So here I am.
A quick catch up!
An awful lot has happened in the last 2 years.
We are completely settled over on the coast and loving every second of it. The farm is a distant, but happy memory. We don't miss the incredibly hard work it was, we miss the animals, but not the enormous responsibility that came with them. I miss my chickens and often think about getting more, but one of the reasons for selling the farm was to simplify life and so far I've resisted temptation.
I think the dogs probably miss the space more than we do, but they're getting on a bit now. Bob is 15 1/2, Lulah is 10 and going grey. Sadly and completely unexpectedly we lost Wee Brodie just before Christmas. He had cancer. Thankfully for him he was in no pain until the last 2 weeks, which meant that we were unaware that there was even anything wrong. Two of the most anal dog parents, who rush our animals to the vet for a splinter, and there was just nothing to show what was going on inside of our wee man. It's been almost three months now, and we haven't got over it, we still cry, we're still heart broken.
Last year was a toughie - I also lost my Dad in January. I don't think there is anything that prepares you for the actuality of losing a parent. I have friends who's dad or mum has died and I've been terribly sympathetic, but I had absolutely no idea what it was like until it happened to me. I had the best dad and for this I feel lucky, but I miss him. We're still going through a lot of firsts - first Christmas, first dad's birthday...
So it would be fair to say that even though lots of lovely things happened last year - I'm sure they did - It was a year I was happy to say goodbye to.
Coastal living suits us extremely well.
It's warmer over here than it was at the farm and also drier and sunnier. We wake up every morning and look out at the view and even now, still pinch ourselves that this amazing, beautiful place is where we live.
So, some stuff we've been up to...
Lloyd acted in a play and had one of the main parts, we went to Bali and had to come home early because a volcano was about to erupt ( which was after the holiday had been delayed by a day because our plane was struck by lightning and we had to go back to Auckland!), I had a close encounter with dolphins, lots of sewing has been completed in my wee sewing room, we went to Brisbane, I played roller derby, we celebrated birthdays, Banana cat is still going strong, we did a lot of boating, I went to Scotland, Lloyd went to the Uk, mum came over twice, once for 2 months, Lloyd and Bob were almost on TV, fires were lit, movies were watched, cakes were baked, time has been spent with friends, concerts have been attended, plays have been seen, time's been spent with family.... so, a quick catch up and 2 years in photos!
So, a couple of days ago we were having a lazy day. It was drizzling rain so we were making the most of an enforced day of being inside. All of a sudden I said, I fancy churros!
After a wee Pinterest search I came to the conclusion that they were actually super easy to make.
I decided on this one...
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. salt
1 cup flour
(½ cup sugar)
(1 Tbsp. cinnamon)
see! easy peasy. The sugar and the cinnamon in brackets are for covering the finished churros in. This recipe called for no sugar at all in the actual batter. All the other ones I found did have some sugar in them, so I bunged in about a t-spoon.
Pour 1 cup of water into a pan, preferably one with a thicker bottom. Set the heat to medium.
Add your oil.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add the flour and salt. Stir. It gets a wee bit gooey, but just keep stirring. It will form quite a solid, glossy ball.
Set the pot aside so that the dough can cool before you handle it.
Heat your frying oil on medium (180C/350ºF), in either a large pot or a frying pan with raised sides.
I have loads of piping bags and piping tips - I used the largest star tip I had. I tried to pipe the dough out, but it was pretty solid! So i ended up just pushing it through the nozzle by hand. This worked fine, and I'd be loathe to change the texture of the dough at all because the end result was so brilliant.
You'll need to cook them till golden brown - they will colour more still once they're out of the pan, so go for lighter rather than darker. Roll them around in the cinnamon sugar and voila. These were totally delicious!
We started the outside work at the beginning of May. So, just the end of autumn. It ( as usual!) turned into a much, much bigger job, partly because so much lovely soil clay had to be removed to make the area under the house flat for the new room, the council takes FOREVER, and also some wee bits and pieces were changed. In the end pretty much the whole back garden had to be relandscaped, a retaining wall built and the whole area of grass reseeded! For me this was actually more stressful than the actual building work. The building all went really smoothly, passing each council inspection with flying colours. Our builders were great. Lovely guys and not a problem to have around the place at all.
So, plan - widen the deck substantially, build stairs down to the new room and build a new room and bathroom under the house.
The digger arrived and the digging started. More and more dirt piled up...
Pretty early on it was clear that we'd have to come up with a plan for what we were going to do with all this muck!
While the digging was going on, framework for various bits and pieces started to go up. Some for the stairs, some for the deck extension... the concrete pad was prepared.
Posts for the deck extension were concreted in.
Then the concrete was poured and after a few days it was hard - we had a floor! Lloyd celebrated by jumping for joy...
I, on the other hand, had a skate!
It felt like we were flying along. It was all going to plan and nice and quickly at that.
The deck was going up
The ships railing worked perfectly
I thought my painting balustrade days were over - I was wrong.
My raised beds went in, which was great, but time was marching on, we were heading to the UK for a few weeks and had hoped it would all be finished by then. But that was not to be. Things had slowed down a smidge. But, bit by bit we were still getting things done. The rain wasn't helping much! Where oh where had the garden gone!!
We went on holiday, it was Lloyd's dads 80th birthday, so we planned a trip around that and disappeared for almost 4 weeks. Our poor house sitters had no garden whatsoever, but they didn't seem phased at all. When we left this was where we were at. Room walls up, I'd got the first coat of paint on. Deck pretty much finished. Garden trashed.
So, we went to the Uk, caught up with friends, family. had a lovely time, went to Kuala Lumpur and then came home. Some work had been done while we were gone which was great. It was all getting there.
Now the floor needed to be prepared for sealing. I spent hours scrubbing it. Not that much fun actually!
worth it, though! This back wall is a cinema screen.
The work was on the final stretch now.
After a few weeks the grass started sprouting - we threw bag after bag of seed around!
The veggies are growing...
And this is what it's all about, Christmas Eve, friends round, Love Actually on the screen and good food. It was SO worth it.