Friday, January 22, 2016


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.


Step 1
Pour 1 cup of water into a pan, preferably one with a thicker bottom. Set the heat to medium.
Step 2
Add your oil.
Step 3
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.
Step 4
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!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


well, work is finished on the house!

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.

And...6am Christmas day. View from the new deck.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

A new Venture

Now that I have no farm, no gigantic garden, no greenhouse, no mowing, no weeding and all the million outdoor things I used to have to do, I need a job! I've started up a wee cake business.
My preferred thing to do would obviously be cupcakes! But I also love cake decorating.

I've set up a wee facebook page - Pixie Cakes. Lovely Lloyd came up with the name, and I love it.

So, if you're a local New Zealander, or even if you're not, check out the page, like it if you want, and look at pretty pictures of cakes!

Even Banana helps. No He doesn't really!!

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


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. 

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
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?