Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas Cake Part 2

So where was I with the Christmas cake?

So I had made it, and cooled it, and did the brandy thing.
Then I did the first batch of icing, the almond.
I actually had some almonds, so ground them up, and made the icing mixture, which tasted yummy.
Then I rolled it and laid it over the cake and extended it down the sides. Let it sit for a day or so and did the white/royal icing.
In the end the recipe was simple to make. Some egg whites with icing sugar added, beaten and beaten until it goes like meringue in glossy peaks. All the recipes said to add glycerine, which I didn't have so I added a few drops or more of lemon juice (not sure why) and then spread it on the cake, and left it a day.
Thus the cake was complete. The glycerine is to keep the icing soft, as it sort of went hard-ish but that didn't bother me.
So,  my first attempt and how was it?

It was a bit dry on the outsides, a tad over-cooked on the underneath but all in all, it was pretty good.
A bit crumbly but nothing to get too upset about. That's what spoons are for, right?
The flavour was great, and icing pretty yum.
I would not hesitate to serve it to someone outside the immediate family, put it that way.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Picturesque Seasons Greetings

Images of post cards from Heritage Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Mince pies are one of my favourites treats at Christmas and I do like making my own, and I think they're cheaper, and generally nicer (though not always...!). I made my own fruit mince with what was left over from the Christmas Cake, and added in a diced apple. Plus I'd inherited brandy so added some of that, since I had it anyway.  There was a bit more 'stuff'' in the mixture than usual, courtesy of the Christmas cake ingredients. 

I also decided to make mini ones, not the muffin-sized ones, and I had two lots of mini muffin tins. I can't say that I've used them a lot, they are quite fiddly, really,  but it was a bit of fun, too, playing Christmas music and making a mess in the kitch.
Plus I'd watched the Great Kiwi Bake off that week on the telly, so was a bit inspired to try and make a decent job of  the pies/tarts.

So there wasn't really a recipe for it, a bit of a hotch potch of ingredients, but they were baked, and tasted,  deemed suitable to allow everyone else to eat, and were quite perfect with a cup of tea. 

They were also gone by the end of the day (to be fair they were 'mini'),  and there is now the conundrum of what to do with the left over fruit mince. Make some more pies, freeze for another time, or do something else. I suspect it will be freeze.

Best of the season to you!!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

An angel and a Jacaranda tree

Years ago, a friend was throwing out stuff and she gave me this set of lights. I think it was some time before I thought I'd plug it in, and see what it was, and it turned out to be this cutie. An angel blowing a trumpet. Its taped to a window, and it does look pretty neat.

There are heaps of Jacaranda trees flowering, and I just love them with their purple flowers. I've never really appreciated them before (maybe there are actually more, hence I notice them) but this is one I pass often. The ground is littered with petals, which isn't so great in the wet weather. I nearly did come a cropper the other day. But they are so attractive, and with the red flowers of the Pohutukawa tree also blooming at the moment, there is a lot of gorgeous colour outdoors to marvel at.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas Cake Part One

I have never made a Christmas cake before for the simple reason that I will eat it all.
I love Christmas cake with tons of thick icing, but I know me (the benefits of growing up/self awareness/facing the truth...) and I will not stop at one piece a day.
I decided to make one. I decided that I would practice self-control and stick to one piece a day. (Snort/Dreaming)
I chose a recipe from my Delia Smith Christmas cook book.
The first thing was to soak the fruit mince mixture in 3 tablespoons of Brandy over night.

I thought the next day the brandy must have evaporated as it seemed quite dry. You just cover the bowl with a tea towel overnight, but it is summer here, not winter like in Delia's England so I thought that explained it.
Then, when I went on-line to see if the recipe was on-line, in case it was amazing and I could link to it, I discovered that on-line, on Delia's website, it said to soak the fruit mince in 100 mls of brandy. That is, around twice as much as it says in the book.
So I thusly added some more for a few hours, before I cooked the cake.

So, this is the cake, as it was cooling on the rack. Not attractive but boy, she/he/they melt good. I let it cool, which took a time, sprinkled more brandy into the pin pricks I'd slathered it with, and it is now wrapped in greaseproof paper sitting in a tin.
I opened it up yesterday and was assaulted, nay, imbued with the smell of Christmas cake. Whether it will be okay ie is it dry, or undercooked? I will find out after the next step which is going to be icing it.
I am going the whole hog and putting on it the yellow almond icing  you buy, and then making the white icing to go on the top of that.
That momentous event, ie the sampling, will take place on Tuesday December 24th. It's in my diary.
So if it is a success when the great cutting and tasting arrives, I will post. In fact, if its a failure, I will post, too, cos why not? After all, one can always make it into a Christmas pudding or something else if its bad. But I'm sure it won't be too bad at all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A great read

In wonderful new reading, that is not Christmas, my sister recommended Jenny Colgan, and I've just finished  The Cafe by the Sea.

Wonderful story with a whimsical theme running through it. Flora left her home island of Mure in Scotland, to live and work in London, but when a client of the law firm she works for wants to develop some land on Mure, and it involves a legal battle, her boss Joel (whom she's had a massive crush on) sends her back. But Mure is the last place she wants to return to...

There is a lot to this story. Who is she going to end up with? Where doe she end up?

I also love food-type stories, and when Flora finds her mother's recipes,  I got to thinking how my gran used to write down recipes and now we either print them off or read them while we're cooking from a website. (Or write them down on backs of envelopes...!)
I was given a lovely A4 blank paged sketch book recently, and I think I'm going to go all artful and write down (yes, actually WRITE DOWN) recipes in it, with lots of colour and nice fonts. Ambitious!

I also, being as I have a fair bit of Scots in the ancestry, although I've never travelled that far, enjoyed the story just for a taste of culture that is quite different to the culture I know. 
A wonderful bunch of characters in this story. Highly recommend.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Weekend Wanderings

I had family around this weekend, so we went out for a drive, to a "reclaimed" suburb of Auckland, Hobsonville Point, where there is a farmers market. I had thought I might buy some gifts at the famers market. You know, artisanal things like honey. Then I saw the price, and just opted for a cabbage, cheap strawberries and some potatoes to go with dinner.

Back in the early part of the 20th century, Hobsonville was an airforce base, and from the local history images and text you can read there, it was a true community of families that grew up around there. It was way out in the boondocks,  and it was sited next to the Harbour, and it seems that those families who made Hobby their home, loved it there.

Now, it has been reclaimed into a planned urban development that has a bit of a Lego land feel about it as you drive through. Brand new townhouse complexes and apartments, a same-ness to them, even if they are architecturally designed and look quite flash. It is a new style of urban living here that, if you can afford to buy (I doubt they're cheap), perhaps appeals to families who don't want much land to care for, and those who are nearing retirement and also don't want lots of land.  Or maybe they're affordable and they're a way to get into the housing market. Or maybe they're all rented, I have no idea.  I just know I felt claustrophobic driving through it, and even more so at the acres and acres and acres of land that are still to be developed into, I suppose, more townhouses and apartments. I was quite pleased to be going back to my boring old house bereft of architectural merit, with my overgrown albeit small back yard in desperate need of a mow, and chickens roaming over the patch.
The bay, though, is a nice development with bars and cafes, and there are walk and cycleways, and down at the bay itself, you can catch a ferry at specific times back to the Auckland CBD. I plan to do that one day on a bit of a tiki-tour.

It was a nice way to spend a few hours, have a bite to eat, enjoy the sun, as it was a lovely day, spend time with fam, and watch all the people taking their dogs out for a walk. Not a bad few hours at all.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christmas bears

There has to be a photo of the Santa Bears, doesn't there?
You can see Bobbie lounging on the chair next to them, unimpressed, as cats are.

On to a different bear... below is a gorgeous photo of a young girl in the early 1900s with a Teddy Bear.  The Teddy Bear came into being in 1902 and a few years later they were being imported into New Zealand and were hugely popular. The 1911 picture below is of a Missie Gifford with a Teddy Bear.

This young chap looks quite happy to be posing with his bear, don't you think?  References for the images at the end of this post, but are all from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

But I think this is my favourite. You wonder who these young children were... and at the back of your mind, if those bears were in mint condition, they'd be worth a fortune!!

Photographer: Herman John Schmidt, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections
31-66748 Missie Gifford with Teddy..
31-66511 Boy with Teddy, 1911
31-74352 Young boy with Teddy. 1913

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


The decorations are up, and then were re-arranged slightly, but they are so lovely.

I like the look of a shop with decorations, hence the photo above with some cute figurines.
Being as we have soft toys, lots of soft toys, I liked the reindeer on the mantle-piece as well. I think they may have come with someone's boxer shorts one Christmas, many years ago.

When I was untangling sorting out the tree lights, I stuck on A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version from 1984. Perfect viewing, I thought, once I finally figured out how to play a DVD on the Play Station (or maybe it was an XBox, something like that.) After some time, I realised the controller wasn't plugged in. Duh.
Anyhow, if you've never seen the film, check it out if you can. There's also a Patrick Stewart version from 1999, where Richard E. Grant plays Bob Cratchett which is really good, too, but I do like the older George C. Scott version and you know, I will no doubt be watching it again before too long.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Welcome lovely December

Ah, December. One of my most favourite months.
Christmas is in the air, and in the weekend I'll be putting up the tree and sorting through the decorations.
I've inherited boxes and boxes of new ones, from sorting out my mum's house a few months back, so she's coming over to assist with the dilemma. Shall I put them all up and go overboard, or sort through? and be discerning?  We'll see.
Plus there are the Santa Bears which take up quite a bit of the couch, so for a month we have to share couch-space with fluffy toys. Perfect.
Then there's planning the feast over Christmas and Boxing Day, so much time is currently spent browsing cook books, cos I just love print cook books. Naturally, I'll make the same thing (pavlova and mince pies) but will maybe try something new as well. There is only so much one can eat.
I also have a stash of new Christmas CDs to play. Actually, they're not new, they were withdrawn from the library and given away, so I grabbed a couple all the ones that were there, since no on else wanted them  I got to them first.
So it's all on.
In the meantime, I am working on finishing and publishing BEFORE CHRISTMAS "Bringing Back Emily."
Happy December everyone.

Two Free Books

I have a couple of books that are going for free on Amazon over the next few days, until the end of March, I think. The link is HERE . ...