Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mini Cakes

I probably really don't need to blog these as they're just simple vanilla butter cupcakes with plain icing. However, I was really pleased with them, and I love the photo I took of them, so anyway...

Talitha was really pleased with these cakes, too. 48 mini-cupcakes, to take to school on her birthday. Plus, the teacher was thrilled that I made enough for both kindy classes, plus teachers. 10 points for me!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Chocolate and Orange and Racing Cars

For the big girl's family birthday celebration, I made this recipe from the good ole Australian's Women's Weekly "Cakes and Slices" book. It's called Orange Yoghurt Cake and it's great because it's a little bit interesting, but the flavour isn't too complicated so as to be too much for young kids. It also turns out firm and moist, and stays that way for a couple of days.

Oh, before you start, note that this takes 2 hours to bake,and needs a fair bit of preparation. I'd forgotten that, when I headed into the kitchen at 9pm the night before the birthday. Oh yes, it was a late night. The things we do.

Orange Yoghurt Cake
125g butter
1 tbs grated orange rind
1 cup castor sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup mixed peel (I left this out and just added a little bit extra orange rind)
2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup plain yoghurt

Grease a pan. The book says a loaf pan but, meh, use whatever pan takes your fancy. I made a double batch which was plenty of a loaf pan and a ring pan. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

Cream butter, rind and sugar in a small bowl with electric mixer until light & fluffy; beat in egg yolks one at a time. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in peel. Stir in half the sifted flour & half the combined juice & yoghurt, then remaining flour & yoghurt mixture.
Beat egg whites in small bowl until soft peaks form, fold lightly into mixture in 2 lots. Pour into pan. Bake in slow oven for about 2 hours. Stand 5 minutes before cooling on wire rack.

Now, just so you know, the mixture should not look like this. This is what it looked like when I put it in the pans & into the oven the first time.
Then I turned around and saw the egg whites still in the bowl on the bench. Oops! Quick!

Out of the pans, back in the bowl, in with the whites.... and this is how the mixture should look:
The recipe calls for orange icing, amde simply with butter, icing sugar and orange juice. However, I opted to use some luxurious Scarborough Fair (fair trade) orange chocolate and make up a choc-orange ganache type frosting.

I kinda made it up as I went, but basically.... put the chopped chocolate with some cream in a heatproof bowl above simmering water. Stir until all chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Still over the heat, add some icing sugar and keep stirring just till it gets a bit thicker. Take off the heat. If you're anythging like me you'll now spend ages adding a bit more cream, a bit more sugar, until it looks just right.
This frosting goes quite crusty as it cools down so get that cake covered, and enjoy the dollops left in the bowl (not too much though, especially if you've used rich dark chocolate like I did)!

The finished cake:
Racetrack and cars entirely optional, of course. :)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

My amazing daughter

My beautiful, firstborn, precious baby girl, Talitha, is 6 years old today.

She doesn't like it all that much when I call her "baby girl", but tough luck. She is and always will be. :) She is my sweet sunflower, craving attention and always, always, reaching for the brightest spot in the sunshine of life.

Here she is with her birthday present, a Tonka truck. She was thrilled to bits about it and was quick to ensure it got a good workout.

Happy Birthday, beautiful girl.

In the garden

Or, mostly, in pots!

I'm finally getting my act together around here and trying to get a bit of a garden going. We've always had a mandarin tree and two passionfruit vines, but they're no work at all really, apart from a bit of watering and fertilising whenever the fancy strikes us. I bought Noel a Wollemi Pine last Christmas, because he grew up very close to, and loves, the area to which they are native. Plus, we just love the whole "living fossil" aspect of having one of those beautiful trees... even though ours is in a pot, so very small.

Apart from those, though, the garden has been languishing for a while, with overgrown lavender bushes, sparse daisies, and a few native bushes in annoying spots.

I'm keeping the lavender, for now, because I will use the flowers to make smelly things for Christmas presents. But last week, I pulled out the daisies, chopped back a couple of the natives, hacked into the soil with a mattock, and dug some blood-and-bone into the soil. This week I'll add in some manure and in a couple of weeks I'll sow some carrot seeds, as well as plant out these:

On the left there are fresh new tomato plants, just springing their way up. I'm pretty late to start planting from seed, but in this area tomatoes grow pretty much all year so it shouldn't matter. These sprouted only a few days after I sowed them and they're growing happily on my kitchen window sill, alongside some random flower seeds and those two pots of parsley my mum gave me (with stern instructions to "keep them alive!").

Another happy tale of seed germination lies in these strawberry plants:

The seeds from these came from store-bought strawberries which were made into a smoothie, which, when drunk, left hundreds of those tiny seeds in the bottoms of our cups. "Aha!" I thought. "I see fresher strawberries in our future!" So I fished them all up, dried them out and sowed them in some wet cotton wool. They took a few weeks to sprout but they're doing well now. Hopefully at least a few of them will last the distance and we'll get some yummy fresh berries in summer!

One passionfruit vine is going "gangbusters", as Noel would say. A few days ago I counted 33 fruit on there, not including the tiny ones with flowers still attached. I'm hoping they all ripen around the same time so that I can make some passionfruit jam for Christmas pressies.
I'm loving the idea of using our own plants and bit of my own effort to make useful gifts for people I love!

More passionfruit flowers. Aren't they lovely? I'm finding it fascinating to watch the progess of our vines. They are little hubs of activity, with insects all over and flowers in different stages. I've been taking photos every few days of two specific flowers, to track their progress and observe the process they go through.

I've also filled up a whole bunch of pots on my front verandah with seeds of various flowering plants. Useful plants are great, but flowers are wonderful too! I'm looking forward to a big bright show of colour next to my front door. Just look at these little guys reaching out to find the light...

Friday, 14 November 2008

I'm still excited

This SMH article has me feeling less worried about the state of "Australia". Particularly, this quote from Luhrmann :

"There was always a struggle within me. There's the way Titanic ends and
there's the way Gone With The Wind ends.
It's neither of those. It's an ending specific to this moment and it's what I want the film to give out and what I need in my own life. It's what I want to feel.
On that level, it's completely personal."
Excellent. :)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Pondering Australia

Sorry to have neglected the blog for a while. Noel and I and the kids have all been sick... and it's no fun having to be the mum when you're sick!

I'm looking forward to Baz Luhrmann's new film Australia in the next few weeks. I've been anticipating this one for a long time, having attended a casting back in March 07 , for extra work (at which I was unsuccessful because, as you may recall, I was too big for the 1940s costumes).

I'm a huge fan of Baz. Strictly Ballroom was always one of my favourite films (in fact it was THE favourite for quite a long time, even when admitting that would have meant social ridicule...). So obviously I'm really hoping this one is another piece of wow-worthy cinematic artistry. Baz has stated that it's a departure from the Red Curtain trilogy, a different step into more epic and "landscapey" tales rather than the theatrical bent of those three. (I'm paraphrasing, obviously, although I'm sure Baz wouldn't mind the word "landscapey" too much.) So I'm not expecting it to be the same, but I really am hoping it'll be just as good.

I'm getting a little worried.

A friend linked me to the trailer and pointed out to me how "Americanised" it looks. This is a story set in the Aussie outback, talked up for over a year as this huge, epic, Aussie-est of Aussie films... and I have to say, my friend's comment that it's "an American film about Australia, for Americans".... rings true, just a little, after seeing the trailer.

See for yourself, if you haven't already. The worrying part is the cowboy-esque way Jackman's character comes across (that saloon-door shot is straight out of an American Western!). Drovers may be pretty much the same things as cowboys, but I don't think any Australian would imagine them behaving like one. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's worrying me (except those darn saloon doors!), but despite all the landscape, the indiginous boy, the locations... it just feels like an American trailer for another one of those "America saves the day" films.

Howver, I am still holding out hope. I have faith in Luhrmann's vision and the fact that he dedicates so much time and passion to making the film he want to make. Don't let me down, Baz!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Just quickly...

Noel and I watched the final DVD that Hayley lent to me - Closer. Don't ask me to review it because I still don't know what it was about. I mean, it told the story of two couples meeting, falling in love, faffing around, eventually finding their rightful place in the universe... but that doesn't quite seem to be its point, exactly. I'm sure they were aiming for something, but I don't know what that was. Great acting, though, and I'm beginning to think that you can never get too much Jude Law. Lovely chap, he is.


I made another little handbag, for one of Talitha's friends. I made this one differently and it turned out much nicer. Two handles, neater edges and a better job of the lining. Yay me. :)

Americans. Please. Do the right thing. We've ALL had enough of the crap. We're all watching you and we all need you guys to make the right choice, okay? Go vote! That is all.