Saturday, April 30, 2011

Little Blue Penguins

Yesterday afternoon we went down to Oamaru for a swim. Since it is getting dark earlier now we decided to visit the Blue Penguin Colony, as the best time to see the penguins coming back in from the sea is on dusk. Blue Penguins are the world's smallest penguin. We were really lucky to see over fifty penguins come in. They swim together in groups and then land in with the tide.  When they hopped up the rocks they looked so clumsy as they have such stumpy wings to balance with! The penguins then head in towards the cliffs where they have nesting boxes. In the peak season five hundred penguins are based in the colony. The kids loved the time we spent there and it was a great way to end the holidays.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My latest commissions

With a few days spare during the holidays I've been working on several commissions. I'm happy with these latest ones - I have a few more family groups to do then I plan to start one of our chorus performing.

I am taking new orders again. The illustrations are matted in white and framed with an 8" square black wood frame. If you are interested please send me a comment or contact me via facebook.

How time flies

A year ago when my baby was about to turn five I realised that no one had spent the time teaching him how to ride his bike without trainers. Peter, first born and indulged with parental attention, had achieved this feat on his fourth birthday. So on the eve of Jack's birthday we took him out on the lawn and Peter pushed him off, ready to find his wings.

And that was it. One push and he's never looked back. Yesterday I took him on the mountainbike track down at the Scenic Reserve and he did so well. The chains came off three times he gave the bike such a hard time. Little boys and the joys of biking.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Comfort food at its best

Today I have spent the majority of the day cooking. Oh yes, I had other plans for the day, but with six kids in the house feeding hungry people somehow took precedence! Breakfast was buckwheat pancakes - a good alternative for a gluten free option. Lunch was a very strange cross cultural mix of the BEST foccacia  I've made to date (no photos sorry as it was demolished so fast) and tom yum soup with fried tofu, pak choy and chicken. We call it 'tom yummo' soup here.

We had tea at my partner's and I offered to do dessert. I had no inspiration until I went in to my job at Artfull Crafts (where I load up the new products on the website), and my fantastic coworker Juanita had brought a bag of feijoas down from Auckland for me. Down in the South Island we pay ridiculous prices for feijoas. Even when they are in season we still pay $5-$6 per kg. Back home Louisa helped me peel granny smith apples and we made a divine feijoa and apple crumble (with a hint of ginger in an almond crumble). The end result was delicious - highly recommended winter comfort food!

Feijoa, Apple and Ginger Crumble

4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup water
Juice ½ lemon
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup feijoa pulp 

Stew all together, minus the feijoa, until the apples are soft, then add the feijoa and cook for a further two minutes.

1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
150gm cold butter

Sprinkle crumble on the stewed fruit and bake 180℃/ 350℉ for 20 minutes. 
Gluten free.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter cupcakes, the Easter Egg Hunt and chocolate!

Yesterday my two sisters took me out for afternoon tea and gave me belated birthday presents (I'm the reason why this was six weeks post my birthday - I'm still in denial about being 40 and haven't hosted any official party!) Kathryn gave me one of her fabulous paintings and Margaret's present was a very cool cupcake stand, complete with recipe. I already had plans for making gluten free cupcakes today for Easter Sunday so I altered the recipe:

Easter Gluten Free Cupcakes

200gm softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups gluten free flour
70gm ground almonds
2 heaped tsps baking powder
vanilla essence

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time. 
Add dry ingredients and vanilla. 
Fill paper cases 3/4 full (placed in muffin tins). Bake 15 - 20 mins.
Ice with white chocolate ganache and mini easter eggs

I added some strawberry liqueur to the ganache which gives it a nice flavour. Louisa did the decorating, hence the coordinated egg trios. The eggs are Cadbury, with chocolate centres and candy shells. She decided not to spread all the icing as she wanted a 'nest' look to the cupcake.

Out of the kitchen this morning I also made chocolate muffins with caramel easter eggs in the centre.

Why would this lot be looking so pleased with themselves? Chocolate raid!!! As I write, Jack the youngest is devising an Easter Egg hunt for the others. I've had to call on the assistance of his eldest brother Peter (14) as Jack was putting the matching clue with each hiding spot. Now that wouldn't be much fun for anyone and I imagine very disappointing for the creator of the hunt!

And finally, Louisa has worked hard on this 'Woodland Folk' card so I thought I would share it - she loves this collection. This was made using the stamp set from Artfull Crafts and a lot of fussy cutting.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The hot cross bun bakeoff

Our Easter tradition is that on Easter Friday we make hot cross buns. I bake bread most days so it is fairly straightforward. However, this year two of my babies have been diagnosed with coeliacs/gluten intolerance and I thought I should find a gluten free recipe for the three of us. I haven't eaten a hot cross bun for ten years so I was feeling motivated about the challenge (challenge being that successful gf bread is not an easy feat to master!).

I did a google search and found this blog from Australia:
Adventurous me, gluten free
and this great NZ blog:
Coeliac diagnosis – Gluten Free OMG!

The recipe involved lots of messy, time consuming hand mixing. That's what happens when you take binding wheat flour out of the recipe - you basically get sticky gloop. We added raisins and diced apricot for fruit. I was pretty optimistic at the half way stage of the process....

 These are the buns prior to rising and baking.....

and the end result! 
I wish! Those are the perfect gluten/wheat flour ones

and these are the gf ones that look a little sad. 
I think I added too much rice flour when I was shaping them!

The proof they say is in the eating....not bad at all surprisingly :)
I would love the Masterchef contestants to be challenged with a gf segment!

Jack (my biggest fan in the world) said they were the best hot cross buns EVER. 
But he was eating the non gf one.

 Another tradition on Easter Friday is to decorate with my old rabbit collection and flowers. There has been a lot of discussion on what day the chocolate should be eaten and why that can't possibly be brought forward a day or two. Too tempting - I wonder if they will still be sitting there on Sunday!

It's autumn out there

Even though the thought of the temperatures dropping over the next few months is depressing, I must admit I do love autumn and it's beautiful colours and smells. There are some amazing cherry and maple trees in the garden turning colour this week. The mornings are cool but there have been some great days with clear skies - just gorgeous!

 Finally I'm posting a project I have done. There are a number but I always forget to document and take photos of them. This is a BTP (beyond the page) tissue box covered in Cosmo Cricket Material Girl papers and inked with Tim Holtz distress ink - two of my favourite manufacturers.

I decided to do a twist on the label as I couldn't fit the original words I had planned. The quote is one that I frequently say, you know, an indirect comment but with direct meaning as we do as parents.... the funny thing is, since this box was introduced to our kitchen, some small people are making use of it and there is little sniffin' to be heard!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another celebration and an excuse to decorate!

I'm not sure if this is a new thing this year or not, but when I was in Christchurch in the weekend I was amazed by the shop displays and products themed around Easter! I'm not talking about easter eggs and chocolate rabbits here, it was all out, pastels and fluffy creatures. And how could I not be entranced by this delicious decorating? The colours alone were enough, let alone bunnies...and chickens...! I LOVE bunnies. I've been collecting them since I was seven (the ornamental variety) and I have three on my bed. Sad, I know.

Now this has given me the idea that maybe I could do the same at home. I have been putting out my own collection each Easter and put the rabbits on my dresser. How about getting a bit bigger than that? Before I knew it I had a pair of cute bunnies and a bucket of china eggs.

How cute are they??? Now I'm crafting an Easter sign. Keep posted to see what I come up with...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The long weekend

Back at work today (6 hours of teaching) after a long weekend in Christchurch and yet another big aftershock, of 5.3, to unsettle the nerves. Our rehearsals for Christchurch City Chorus are kicking up a gear and we attend compulsory weekends every month or so in addition to our weekly rehearsals.  So much fun, but really draining with a two hour trip on either end to add to eight hour days.

My delve back into my artistic side is starting to take off. I have sold seven works in the last week. Wow!!! I'm looking into getting prints and greeting cards made. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this new development (or should I say, a love that was put on very much long term hold with the arrival of babies!)