Saturday, 24 December 2016

Santa sleighs

Santa's Little Helper has had a very busy December so Christmas baking was scaled back this year. Still, she couldn't resist these cute Christmas table settings that are easy to make and lots of fun.

All it takes to assemble these sleighs is a roll of sellotape, coloured ribbons and a hot glue gun. They're the gift that keeps on giving as you munch your way through what's left of the Christmas season.

Any selection of flat-packed chocolate or lollies will work, as long as they're a similar width and of descending lengths. I used large Whittakers slabs (peanut and milk chocolate), mini Kit-Kats, Milky Bars, Whittakers mini slabs and topped with a mini Moro bar. Just stick each together with double-sided tape or sellotape, then use a hot glue gun to attach the candy cane sleighs underneath. Secure with a ribbon and tie a bow at the top.

Santa's sleigh
The wooden reindeer were swiped left over from a Christmas party we'd been to earlier this month. I'm told they were ordered from overseas, but the sleighs would work just as well without Rudolph's assistance.

Meri Kirihimete!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

What would you take?

What a week! It started with a long, sharp series of jolts in the form of a severe 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It has been a long, unsettled week for those of us navigating the aftermath of this quake and the several thousand that have followed. I can barely begin to imagine how the poor folk near the quakes' epicentre are feeling, let alone contemplate how Cantabrians have lived with this state of uncertainty for so many years.

The quake that woke us up just after midnight was actually two major quakes near each other but with different actions. I was convinced it was Wellington's long overdue 'big one', but it wasn't even on our faultline. And then the aftershocks began and a heightened sense of what we might be in for set it.

A lot has been said about the quality of information available in the critical minutes and hours following the initial earthquake. So many mixed messages from various sources. The radio said one thing but contradicted itself shortly after. Various well-intended emergency sites were interpreting information in different ways. It's hard to know where some of these offices are located and what exact local knowledge they have. WREMO (Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office) posts excellent updates on Facebook and Twitter. I was glued to them both. Social media was having a field day, but ended up being my deciding factor.

Stay or go?

Long term Wellingtonions are well versed in the risk of a major earthquake. In reality, most (myself included) are quite complacent about it and as a result are less prepared than they should be. But the very real risk of a tsunami is another thing. There are blue tsunami lines painted on some roads in tsunami-prone suburbs. They were little more than talking points when they were first painted many years ago and are probably best taken with a grain of salt today.

But this earthquake was different. Even though it was inland, there was talk of a 2m tsunami forming and sea levels pulling out along Wellington's south coast. Or was it the east coast? (Southern suburbs were named - so confusing.) What is the real risk? Do we stay? Should we go? When? Where: higher ground or inland? Walk or drive? If we head for the hills, won't everybody else be doing the same thing and cause a traffic jam which will be worse when there are more quakes?

Firstly, let's look at the criteria for evacuating your property if there is a tsunami risk.
  1. There has been a long or strong earthquake. [Heck, yes! 7.8 and lasting a couple of minutes]
  2. You are unable to stand up during the earthquake. [Yes. Very hard to keep balance.]
  3. You live in a coastal area or tsunami red zone. [Just 100m up the road.] 
I have since learned that our region does not usually activate sirens for locally (NZ) generated tsunami, so it's even more important to know the evacuation criteria and make an informed choice.

We were extremely lucky - for so many reasons. We didn't sustain any major damage. All our utilities (power, water, gas, internet, etc) were still running. We had somewhere safe to go. We had two easily accessible vehicles with a reasonably clear path to our destination. And the pussy cat walked back into the house at just the right moment to seal our decision: we'd shove her into her cat carrier and evacuate. The tsunami sirens rang out through the Hutt Valley just as we arrived at our destination.

What to take?

After being caught short a number of years ago, we purchased a pre-packed emergency survival backpack for our home and also bought a number of smaller first aid kits for our cars and work. We don't have everything we need but are in a better position than we have been in the past. If you can't work out what should be in your kit, these packs are invaluable and a great place to start.

Years of navel gazing quizzes and memes make you think you're prepared. They ask what you would rescue if there was a fire/flood/emergency and you only have moments to decide what you value most. Of course, everybody is safe in these scenarios so you only need to think of worldy possessions. Your survival packs are ready to go. It's easy to speculate.
"I'd collect up my (conveniently located and easy to pack) photo albums and wedding dress/children's christening gown/baby foot bronze statue/priceless piece of art/Olympic gold medal/[insert other sentimental value here]."
Sure you would.

Newspaper reports busily collated their own lists. Everyone has their own theory.

What we took

Here's what we took when we evacuated our home at 2.30am last Monday morning. Remember that we were leaving in a car so had the luxury of throwing more things in than we would if evacuating on foot. We also had somewhere to go where we were 99.5% certain they had enough food, water and amenities for us (unless they sustained damage in subsequent quakes).
  • Grab bag, pre-purchased and ready to go. It includes a torch, dynamo radio, first aid kit and various other essential items.
  • Laptops, phones, back up hard drive, camera, Kindle and chargers for everything. We already carry portable chargers for our phones and there is also one in my emergency kit at work.
  • Backpacks with some basic warm clothes (underwear, hats, change of t-shirt, thermals, pants) and good walking shoes.
  • Toilet bag and toothbrushes.
  • Raincoats, polar fleece jackets.
  • Yowling, moaning cat in a cat carrier and a bag of cat food (pellets).
  • My grandmother's rings and my whānau taonga. That's it. I realised that everything else was just stuff.
What I should have taken:
  • Passports and other important documents, although I should also scan copies of these and save them in various locations (portable hard drive and cloud).
What I should have left behind:
  • My work coat and swipe card. I was stupidly thinking about what I'd wear if I had to go to work directly from my new location, although hadn't thought about dress clothes. Seriously, why/how would that happen if I couldn't even return home?
  • Fitbit. It's not even a particularly valuable piece of equipment. Why did I bother? 
So, now you've had time to think about it, what would you take?

Monday, 24 October 2016

October snapshot

The year is speeding along. We've arrived at our final public holiday until the silly season. I don't know about you, but this single Monday off has been a long time coming for me. Everyone is so busy being busy lately. In fact, it's a great conversational starter. But what exactly is everybody doing?

Here's some of what I've been up to this month.

October snapshot

These shoes were made for walking
  • My blacklist of shops I'm boycotting until my Christmas watershed is officially lifted on 1 December is growing daily. Seriously, it's not Christmas in October!!
  • I'm loving the second series of Grand Designs NZ. I was so worried that a massive dose of cultural cringe would overpower my enjoyment of the show, but it's been really well made and local architect Chris Moller is a great presenter.
  • My musical renaissance artists this month are Elvis Costello and Van Morrison. Irish goodness all the way.
  • Everyone I know loves curly fries except for one particular 3 year old boy with curly hair. Co-relation?
Curly fries are the best

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Pineapple lump cupcakes

Pineapple lumps are some of my favourite lollies. The chocolate pineapple combination makes it scarily easy to polish off a pack before you know it. Remember this ad? It's not just me who thinks they are good.

With pineapple lumps in the pantry and baking to do today, I thought about how I could combine these two things and modified a recipe for pineapple and coconut cupcakes. The result was 24 delicious pineapple cupcakes topped with chocolate frosting and, of course, crowned with a heavenly pineapple lump.

Pineapple lump cupcakes

  • 240 g plain flour
  • 280 g sugar
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 80 g butter, softened
  • 240 ml milk
  • 1 t vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 g crushed pineapple, drained (1 x 440 g tin)
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Line two 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  3. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter on slow speed until reaching a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  4. Mix the milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Pour into the flour mixture on medium speed until well combined.
  5. Add eggs one at a time and mix well, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula in between additions.
  6. Fold in the crushed pineapple with a spatula. The mixture will be wet and sloppy.
  7. Fill the cupcake cases until two-thirds full. Using an ice cream scoops helps spread the mixture evenly.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cupcakes bounce back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tray for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate buttercream

  • 250 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 30 ml tepid water
  • 20 g cocoa, sifted to remove lumps
  1. Beat the butter and sugar on high speed using the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add water and mix to combine.
  3. Add cocoa and mix until smooth.
Pipe or frost the cupcakes when cool, then top with a pineapple lump.

Pineapple lump cupcakes

Piña colada cupcakes

You can vary this recipe to make piña colada cupcakes.
  • Replace milk with coconut milk.
  • Replace vanilla essence with rum.
  • Frost with vanilla buttercream and sprinkle with desiccated coconut to decorate.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

September snapshot

So blogging hasn't been happening much for me lately. I exceed my daily word limit at work most days and don't have any left for reading or writing at night. I guess I don't have to blog; there are no kick backs or consequences if I do or don't, but blogging has been something I've done for nearly nine years now. Sometimes the words just aren't there, or the subject matter isn't anything worthy of a blog post. And nine years feels like a very long time to be playing this gig.

I'm going to try something different every now and then. It might tide me over while I experience blogger's block or lead me somewhere else entirely. Here's a snapshot of where I'm at right now. I'd love to hear what you're up to, too.

September snapshot

  • I've walked up five flights of stairs several times a day this month for Steptember - for every day I've been in the office. The first three flights are fine. The fourth and fifth flights aren't getting any easier.
  • I'm loving the beginning of spring, my favourite season, and can even forgive its tempestuous weather. I also can't wait for daylight saving to start tonight.
  • I'm revisiting an artist I hate to love: the incorrigible Terence Trent D'Arby. It annoys me to no end that he is as talented as he tells everybody. 
  • I don't mind emptying the bottom rack of the dishwasher (plates, cutlery and big stuff) but I HATE emptying the top rack. It's mostly filled with coffee mugs that don't stack neatly, none of which I use but Mr Weka manages to churn through with his endless cups of tea.
  • I've made a lot of potato bread lately. It's great comfort food.
  • This hummingbird cake recipe is great. It uses coconut instead of nuts and I've made it twice in the past fortnight, including for Good Bitches Baking tomorrow.
  • I'm half-watching Deadpool (2016) as I write this. Parts of it are quite funny but I'm not concentrating enough to work out if there's a plot. There probably isn't, but there's Ryan Reynolds and that's enough for me.
  • I've just polished off half a packet of soft Italian pistachio nougat for dessert. I'll be joyfully licking the bits that are still stuck in my teeth all night.
  • I still don't trust blue toothpaste. Striped is fine. White is best.

Sunday, 11 September 2016


It's September. It's spring. The days are getting ever so slightly longer and summer is on the way. This means leaving behind the comforts of winter (after the storms pass), getting lots of fresh air while the sun shines and, most of all, getting active.

Motivation is here to help. They call it Steptember. (I had to check that it really is a thing!) But instead of just aiming for 10,000 steps per day, my workplace has decided to step things up a level or four by making Steptember about walking up the stairs at work instead of taking the lift. That's five flights, or 120 vertical steps each time!

We were pointed towards StepJockey to sell tell us the health benefits of stair climbing, of which there are many. Apparently your body will burn roughly one calorie for every 10 upward step and one calorie for every 20 steps down. Even when climbing stairs at a normal pace, you will burn two to three times more energy than walking on the flat at a brisk pace or jogging. It's free, can be done indoors, doesn't require any special equipment and promises improved cardiovascular health, toned thighs and tight buns. Just two minutes extra stair climbing a day is enough to stop average middle age weight gain! (Yeah, right ...)

It makes sense, really. 10,000 steps isn't a big stretch on a normal day. I've always walked down the stairs at work, but up? I tried it once or twice before taking easier option with everybody else - but not any more. I have to say that the first three flights are pretty easy. I start to puff at around level 4 before feeling every other muscle kicking in as I approach level 5. Let's see how long my enthusiasm lasts.

Who's joining me for Steptember?

Sunday, 4 September 2016

How to throw a tapas party

I love entertaining and usually cater events I host myself, often with the help of a few keen volunteer kitchen hand guests. A long, relaxed event serving continuous finger food from start to finish is my preferred menu and it means I can usually cater for a wide range of palettes. I aim to prepare most of the food in advance and it takes away the pressure of needing to have everything ready at once. Even better is avoiding the inevitable mountain of dishes that comes after a dinner party, as most courses can be served on paper napkins and without cutlery.

Tapas are great for parties and they come in many forms. We learnt How to throw a tapas party at the Ruth Pretty cooking school yesterday. My interest was already piqued during last year's winter tapas demonstration. This weekend's class turned into an all day affair with a wonderful demonstration of how to create eleven different tapas dishes. We then got to enjoy them all before taking home the recipes to try for ourselves. Just look at the beautiful table setting!
The table is set
Every course was served on delicate crockery and accompanied with wine and coffee. It was hard to choose a favourite dish with so much on offer but I'm keen to try making the lamb cutlets, garlic prawns and chicken croquettes at home. Maybe it's a good excuse to throw another party sometime soon?

I'll let the photos do the talking.
Chicken croquettes with aioli
Coca with rainbow chard, garlic and almonds
Garlic prawns with chorizo
Lamb cutlets with orange and almond salad
Quesadillas with mushroom, rainbow chard stalks and cheese
Chocolate dipped brandy prunes with brandy crème anglaise

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Craft chocolate and soda night

Tucked away upstairs at the start of what is known as the Hannahs Laneway is a tiny soda factory that is taking on the Wellington food world. Six Barrel Soda Co make sodas and soda syrups that you'll find in bars, cafes and restaurants all around the region. It has been a pleasure seeing their business grow and develop from its humble beginnings in Newtown four years ago.
Six Barrel Soda Co sodas
Not too far away is The Chocolate Bar, a boutique bean to bar chocolate maker. There are very few bean to bar chocolate factories in New Zealand (Whittaker's is one and Wellington Chocolate Factory is another). They sure do take their chocolate seriously.
The Chocolate Bar
Both these wonderful businesses came together to host a Wellington on a Plate event this week, the sold out Craft chocolate and soda night. Hosted by Luke from The Chocolate Bar and Tegan from Six Barrel Soda, we got to sample ten (10!) different chocolate and soda combinations. It was a great way to taste our way around the world of New Zealand made craft chocolate, discover some new soda flavours and learn more about the process of bean to bar chocolate making.

Each chocolate and soda 'course' was introduced with a description of the beans used, their origin and tasting notes.
The first of ten chocolate and soda combinations
Wellington Chocolate Factory Peru 70% with orange and dandelion soda
This chocolate promised hints of apricot and honey. It turns out we started with one of the best tasting sodas of the evening.

Ocho Samoa 70% with creaming soda
Who remembers creaming soda? Yummy! Not as thick (creamy) as I recall but still delicious. The chocolate was made by Ocho in Dunedin, who source all their beans from the Pacific Islands. It had a really pleasant nutty, caramel finish.

Ocho PNG 66% with hibiscus soda
Much like PNG origin coffee beans, I didn't like the bold up front flavours of this chocolate. Also, the hibiscus soda was too sweet for me.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Akesson Estate with raspberry and lemon soda
Hogarth Craft Chocolate is a new chocolate maker based in Nelson. This 70% chocolate using beans from Madagascar had a lovely raisin and raspberry aftertaste. It went well with my long time favourite Six Barrel Soda flavour, raspberry and lemon.

Ocho Beekeeper with lime soda
I'm not much of a honey fan but this 70% bar with manuka honey, bee pollen and puffed amaranth was really good. It also went well with my favourite citrus flavour, lime.

Wellington Chocolate Factory Dominican Republic with ginger ale soda
This dark bar was rich and with undertones of burnt marmalade - or so we were told. I couldn't quite taste it for myself but knew that I really liked the chocolate. I was also reminded that I still don't like ginger ale.

Wellington Chocolate Factory Bougainville Bar with pinot noir soda
There's quite a story behind how these cacao beans were sourced from Bougainville. The chocolate tasted raisiny and was worth the journey. The pinot noir soda was a little bit different: non-alcoholic, for one thing. Given that I don't care for either the wine or this soda, it seems reasonable to assume that pinot noir grapes are not for me.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Conocada with cola soda
This chocolate was made with the same Dominican Republic beans as two others we sampled but the flavour palette for each was quite different. I liked the hints of caramel and toffee. The cola soda tasted a million miles away from Coca-Cola but is still not a flavour I like.

White Rabbit Cacao Dominican Republic with sarsparilla soda
Another chocolate bar made with the same Dominican Republic beans by a boutique chocolate maker in Bannockburn, near Cromwell. I don't remember much about this chocolate apart from its smooth finish. The flavour was completely overpowered by the cough mixture soda.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Gianduia with coffee soda
We'd saved the best for last. I loved this soft, creamy gianduia chocolate with 30% Nelson hazelnuts and 70% Venezuela cacao. As for the coffee soda ... I'll stick with the real thing.

A big thank you to Luke and Tegan for a delicious and enjoyable night of sampling. We also got to take home one of my favourite bars from the evening to savour later, Wellington Chocolate Factory's Dominican Republic 70% single origin.
Wellington Chocolate Factory bars to take home

Monday, 15 August 2016

High coffee

It's no secret that high tea is one of my favourite treats. Sure, it's been pointed out to me many times that "you don't like tea". Most high tea venues are happy to exchange their selection of teas for coffee. Some will even upgrade you to sparkling wine. With high coffee for lunch today, I didn't have this problem.

The Intercontinental Lobby Lounge was the location for today's Wellington on a Plate event. We were presented with a selection of fifteen high tea items (I think - I lost count!) and a novel coffee selection to begin with: either an espresso martini or affogato on the side. Given that it was a work day and I had meetings to return to, I opted for non-alcoholic affogato, much to the disappointment of the maître d. "Shall I put a shot of something in it for you?" she asked. I have to admire her tenacity.
We hatched a game plan early on and decided to take it slowly, pacing ourselves through the wonderful menu, but we were no match for what was placed in front of us. The savoury and sandwich layer included a delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese mini bagel, egg and cucumber club sandwiches, pumpernickel with blue cheese (not for me) and little scones with jam and cream. My attempt at the middle layer was pitiful; I managed a mini red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, a lemon meringue tartlet and a few spoons of fruit salad in between finishing my affogato before declaring defeat. The leftovers (seven more dessert treats!) were packed up into boxes for later.
Intercontinental high coffee
Back in the office, my box of treats was admired and drooled over by my workmates. Mr Weka and I shared them after dinner and enjoyed an orange macaron, strawberry tartlet, lemon cheese cake, dark chocolate mousse cake, Gâteau Opera and a delightful chocolate and popping candy lollypop that fizzed and popped on my tongue.

High coffee at the Intercontintal is a decadent treat more suited to a long afternoon tea than a workday lunch ... so we'll make sure we do that next time.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Dairy Made

Wellington on a Plate 2016 has started. Two and a half weeks of endless food and local foodie events lined up. Wellington's food scene really comes alive at this time of year.

Our first event was hosted by one of my favourite foodies, Ruth Pretty. The Dairy Made was a celebration of all things dairy. (Think milk, cream, butter, cheese ... mmm.) Fittingly, the event was held at The Milk Station in Otaki, an old 1900s milk station converted into a beautiful venue and function centre. Check out the decor.

I'd love a chandeleir like this
(and a house big enough to hang it).
'Old school' milk and dairy memorabilia
This copper milk jug used to carry 5l of milk at a time.
We were warmly greeted by Ruth and treated to coffee and cheese scones. The tables were beautifully set and decorated with daffodils, reminding us that spring is just around the corner.
I love the huge wooden doors in the background.
They led through to an interior courtyard.
A touch of spring.
I confess to not having read the event description properly before we arrived. Imagine my surprise to discover a menu for a four course meal with wine matching! Each dairy-inspired dish was preceded by a speaker talking about various related topics (an introduction to the venue, the chemical constructions of dairy products and a talk about the free range pork we ate for the main course). This spread the meal out, meaning we could take time to enjoy each course before the next.

We began with the first course of smoked fish pie with walnut and Colby crumble and fennel lemon salad. The wine match was 2014 Soho Jagger Pinot Gris from Awatere Valley.
First course
As if one entree wasn't enough, we had a second! Double baked cheddar, mushroom and bacon soufflé served with a refreshing sorrel and radish salad. I hadn't eaten raw sorrel before. On its own, it would taste quite overpowering but the radish complemented the flavour. The wine match was Tietjen Witters Gold Chardonnay from Gisborne.
Second course
Even the palette cleanser between courses was a noteworthy dish of its own! I could easily have eaten this kaffir lime sorbet with poached pear and frozen yoghurt for dessert. Note the original 1930s parchment paper (a butter wrapper) place mat.
Palette cleanser
The main course was all about pork cooked three ways (plus crackling). Woody's Free Range Farm founder Daniel Todd talked about the challenges of feeding quality food to around 200 free range pigs to produce a quality pork product. We enjoyed pulled pork, pork belly and pork braised in milk with apple and pork jus. The creamy Swiss style cheese potato gratin was absolutely delicious. Note the token touch of green (broccoli)! The wine match was 2012 Georgetown Pinot Noir from Central Otago.
Main course
Finally, it was onto dessert. I hadn't tasted junket before but apparently it was a staple dessert before my time. I didn't care much for this rum junket but did like the crumble on top, along with the other dessert dish of Esther's gingerbread with poached quince and vanilla whipped cream. The gingerbread would also have tasted great slightly warmed.
After dessert, we got to walk through the impressive wooden doors into an interior courtyard, where Milk Station owner Lindia Wood had opened some of the accommodation rooms for us to explore.
European style interior courtyard.
Thank you to Ruth, Lindia and the team for a delightful long lunch. Needless to say, I don't need dinner tonight!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Neapolitan cake

There's so much more to Neapolitan than the ice cream we grew up with as kids. Back in the day, vanilla and chocolate were the predominant flavour options. We hadn't heard of cookies and cream, goodie goodie gum drops or salted caramel yet. Neapolitan added a touch of exoticism, even if we didn't really like it. Hokey pokey was another whole level of excitement for kiwi kids.

Birthday time calls for a special birthday cake. I wanted to use my Fresh As freeze dried strawberry powder to bake with and Neapolitan cake came to mind. After unsuccessfully searching for Neapolitan cake recipes, I decided to double and modify the standard Edmonds Cookery Book butter cake recipe. It's incredibly versatile and produced three layers for turned out to be a very large cake once assembled and decorated.

Neapolitan cake

  • 300 g butter, softened
  • 3 t vanilla essence
  • 330 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 420 g flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 375 ml milk
  • 1 t freeze dried strawberry powder
  • pink food colouring
  • 2 T cocoa
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line three 20 cm sandwich cake pans.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift flour and baking powder together. Fold into creamed mixture.
  5. Add milk gradually to give a soft dropping consistency.
  6. Divide mixture into three equal portions (about ~568 grams each) as follows.
    Vanilla cake
    : Pour one third of the mixture into a prepared pan.
    Strawberry cake: Pour one third of the mixture into a separate bowl. Add freeze dried powder and enough pink food colouring to achieve your desired colour. Pour into second prepared pan.
    Chocolate cake: Add cocoa to remaining mixture and combine thoroughly. Pour into third prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cakes are cooked when a skewer comes out clean and cake shrinks a little from the edges. Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Assemble cake layers with chocolate on the bottom, vanilla in the middle and strawberry on top. Spread buttercream in between each layer before icing and decorating the whole cake.

Decorate any way you choose. I made 700 g of strawberry buttercream by adding one tablespoon of freeze dried powder and food colouring to a standard buttercream recipe, then decorated the cake with fondant ruffles in the same order as the cake's layers. The finishing touch was fondant roses using my new easiest rose ever cutter.

Neapolitan cake with fondant ruffles

Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate layers

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Wellington Regional Sugarcraft Competition 2016

Just next to one of the most popular Pokémon Go hunting spots in the Hutt, the Dowse Museum was once again host to the annual Wellington Regional Sugarcraft Competition and Exhibition this weekend. The exhibition is a great source of cakespiration and a celebration of the many hours of hard work that go into cake decorating.

I really enjoyed this year's 1950s rock and roll theme. Think juke boxes, diners, music and lots of dancing. It allowed for bright colours, black and white themes and a kind of design simplicity that really appeals to me.

Here's a selection of my favourite cakes from this year's competition. They weren't necessarily category winners but caught my attention in one way or another.

At the diner
Angry bird
made by an 11 year old
My nephews would love this.
A celebration of Grandparents Day
These figurines are beautifully detailed.
A funky handbag
made by an 11 year old
A celebration of music
I love the effect achieved using just black and white fondant.
Realistic cakes usually freak me out
but this one wasn't so scary.
A celebration of rock and roll
This is my people's choice nomination.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Shouldless days

I recently started listening to the Death, Sex & Money podcast by Anna Sale. The premise for the podcast is that it openly talks about the topics we think about a lot but usually leave unspoken.

One of the many episodes I enjoyed was Ellen Burstyn's lessons on survival. I have to confess to not knowing who Ellen Burstyn is before listening to it but I was taken by one particular piece of advice. Ellen is a fan of shouldless days, when you do what you want to do and not the things you think you should - the epitome of guilt-free.

This got me thinking. I'm very much a should person. I should do this and I should do that and I should get around to doing the things I haven't done yet and so on. I'm also a should have person, whereby I relive the guilt of not doing the things I should have done at the end of each day. Does this sound familiar?

In an ideal world, Sundays would be shouldless days for me. It's not just about being lazy and achieving nothing. Sometimes this describes my Sundays perfectly, but there is usually an element of guilt about the things I should have done. This is definitely something I need to work on.

As for what I'd do on my shouldless days, well, I imagine this would be different every week. It's likely to involve coffee, baking, brunch, music, home, new places, sunshine, a book, a walk, making plans, having no plans, good company, no company ... all of the above, some of it or none at all.

What would a shouldless day look like for you?