Last Sunday we had a ‘making day’. My husband spent the day finishing his manga style robot and after painting it perfectly… continued painting it so that it looked like it had been through a battle… or twelve. It looks fabulous! At some point in time he’s planning on creating a Tumblr blog of his creations. If he permits, I’ll share it with you. You didn’t think I was the only person making things in our house?
As DM spends most days hunched over a laptop staring at rows upon rows of numbers or in meetings about meetings for meetings, he likes to come home and do something to turn his business brain off. Ideally he’d prefer to be spending it in a garage, pulling apart some ginormous 1980′s supercar that looks like it fell out of a 1980′s Transformer cartoon (he and I have differing opinions about what constitutes a classic car) and putting it back together. But as we presently live in an apartment and don’t have a garage or an enormous monstrosity of a car, he makes do with putting tiny versions of them together and has recently moved on to items that look like they belong in a Miyazaki film.
So whilst DM was painting away in the studio, I baked and spent some time putting together another tutorial that I’ll share with you on Wednesday. Here is the result of my baking endeavours. They’re delicious. The cake is a gluten-free butter-cake with slices of apple through the middle. They’re topped with a thick custard (I used the recipe from the Apple Custard Tart I made a couple of weeks ago) and decorated with shards of almond praline. It creates a lovely combination of flavours and textures! Below is the recipe so you can make them yourself if you desire!
I’m really honoured to be included in the latest issue of Inside Out Magazine. Inside Out Magazine was one of my regular reads when I lived in Australia. So to find myself featured in their ’6 blogs to bookmark’ section held even more excitement!
I’ve since found out it is now possible to subscribe online to the magazine via Zinio. Why not check them out for a monthly dose of design and interiors goodness?
I’m now 25 weeks pregnant. I look like I have half a watermelon and two half rockmelons (Cantaloupes for you non-Australians) attached to my front. My toes have disappeared from view (which reminds me, I really need to get a pedicure if I’m going to start wearing flip flops and sandals for Summer. I don’t want to be scaring you all with Hobbit feet just because I can’t see them! ). It’s been an interesting few weeks, and whilst things have been really quiet around here blog wise (sorry!), my life has been insanely busy whilst annoyingly interspersed with days of absolute exhaustion where I’ve been unable to do little more than ensure the Nic shaped impression on the couch is still there. The addition of a little person into your life certainly shakes things up!
I was intending to try and keep the blog separate from my Munchkin ‘life’. But I now see that it’s impossible as my life currently consists of very little that is not baby-centric and just results in the blog stagnating. Please be patient with me, I’ll find the right balance soon.
Thankfully my health has improved and my fitness level is back to what it was before the 6 weeks of hellish morning sickness hit and I’ve started gaining weight after dropping 6 kgs. This was followed by full body hives that kick in whenever I get slightly over-warm. Nothing like impersonating an angry, red, insanely itchy blister to give you ‘pregnancy glow’. Thankfully I’ve been able to get it under control with medication and now only have random itchy patches if I sit in the sun for too long.
I’m now in the ‘honeymoon’ stage of the pregnancy. My energy levels have increased and I’ve yet to hit whale sized proportions, so we’re getting as much done now as we can in preparation for Munchkins arrival. I’ve selected a colour scheme for the nursery, have commenced in depth research into origami lampshades, nursery furniture, car seats, bouncers and prams. The nursery is starting to form clearly in my mind and is slowly becoming a reality. I’ll share the details with you as it comes together.
It helps that for the most part, the sun has finally arrived in Switzerland, it gives you a real energy boost!
Then there is the mountain of boring stuff. Spring cleaning, window cleaning, doing a years worth of paperwork for the tax man… etc
We also invested in a car. We’ve had no need of one for the past 3 1/2 years. The public transport system in Lausanne is amazing. But Munchkins pending arrival changed all that. We set out with a list of cars we wanted to test drive and then, for one reason or another, discounted every single car on the list. Thankfully, just before we gave up and I threw an over-tired pregnant woman tantrum, we discovered a car we both liked and that suits our needs perfectly. It’s boring enough to fill the mum car requirement, sporty enough that DM doesn’t feel like he’s driving a bus, safe enough for Munchkin and with a trunk big enough to pack the pram and a kitchen sink or two. We picked it up on Saturday. It came with a handmade Swiss chocolate car… these people really know how to please a pregnant woman!
It now looks a bit like he’s been in a horrific car crash. The whole front end is missing.
I’ve also created 2 recipes that are not quite right and need a little tweaking. My cinnamon donuts filled with custard were so light and fluffy the custard leaked out the bottom. Light and fluffy is great. Leaking custard is not so great. So I’ll try the recipe again this week and post it asap. I’ve also some cute packaging tutorials that are also not quite there. And I’ve been knitting like mad. As Munchkin will be experiencing a Swiss Winter in her first few months, I’ve been making cute cardigans and Liberty print bound blankets.
I’m also collecting fabrics for Munchkins crib quilt, and finding yarns and patterns for a cross stitched fine wool blanket. In addition to designing and making gifts for the masses of others I know also giving birth this year. So I’ve a mountain of projects in progress but very little to actually show you right now. Hopefully this week will be a little more productive and I’ll get some of the projects finished!
I couldn’t resist. My kitchen was so shiny I could see my reflection in the kitchen bench and didn’t want to mess it up. But it was raining and overcast and I felt an insatiable need to bake. I’ve been feeling a little homesick of late. Being an expat, you can sometimes find yourself hankering for the strangest things from ‘home’ and being pregnant hasn’t helped with the food cravings. I wanted lamingtons!
Lamingtons consist of a vanilla cake/ sponge, rolled in a chocolate icing and then in coconut. Variations include those filled with cream and jam. They’re perfect party and fete food. I can’t remember a party or fete when I was a child where Lamingtons were not available. We even used to have Lamington Day as a fundraiser in Primary School!
So after doing a little Googling and realising that they’re very basic. I grabbed my copy of The Commonsense Cookery Book (an Australian institution) and got to making myself some. I made the recipe more of a ganache than an icing and as per usual they’re gluten free. They’re perfect as gluten-free sponge cakes can be quite dry, so the addition of the icing and cream make them much more moist than usual.
This past Christmas I was given a glorious present. A copy of Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth. This bright and cheerful book certainly won’t hide amongst the masses when you put it on your bookshelf. It’s bright green cover, pink edges and gilt will certainly see to that! But it’s a good thing… as really you won’t want to put the book on your shelf in the first place! You’ll want to bake from it every day; waistline be damned.
I picked Lily’s Spiced Apple Custard Tarts to adapt so as to make them edible to my celiac self. I fell in love with the recipe as it contains what has to be the richest custard I’ve ever seen, apples cooked in caramel, a shortcrust base and then a crunchy crumble topping. Like all the best bits of apple pie and crumble combined!
I took the result to Sunday lunch with friends. The silence around the table punctuated only by low hums of delight, multiple demands for the recipe and requests for seconds mean this recipe has now become a fixture in my dessert rotation.
For those of you who want a glutenous version, I’ve found it online here.
Otherwise, below is the gluten-free version I made. I’ve adjusted the quantities to make one tart rather than the individual ones in the book.
We’re really excited. I had a 21 week scan last week and we now know that Munchkin is a little girl! As far as they could tell she’s healthy. They counted her fingers and toes (as well as a whole heap of other things) and she has the appropriate number so all is going splendiferously well.
This has however thrown me into a bit of a spin. I now need to get my act in gear to get the nursery finished before I grow to whale-esk proportions. We’ve gone through the spare room (soon to be nursery) and have de-cluttered and culled. We sold the spare bed and we’ve ordered new wardrobes and bathroom cabinets; all to be delivered in a week. We’ve been living in this apartment for over three years but we’re finally ‘moving in’.
We have commenced serious research into all things baby and took our first trip to the baby store. We were the shell shocked and very lost ones wandering aimlessly. We did succeed in buying Munchkin’s first outfit. We’ve spent countless hours researching baby gizmo’s, gadgets and furniture since. Goodness all of it is elaborate and confusing!
I’m still trying to find the exact shades I want for the nursery. But the design is firming up and we’re planning expeditions into France to find furniture etc.
We do have some things though, one of which is this little cardigan I made from this kit available from La Droguerie. It’s made of gorgeous 100% alpaca yarn and is just so gloriously soft!
The kit came with everything I needed to put it together, including knitting needles! And as we bought it before we knew what flavour Munchkin was, it is a perfectly practical colour. I’m now looking for some cute little additions to add to make it a little more feminine.
If you’re new to knitting, it’s a perfect item to start with as it’s very easy.
It’s sized for a three to six month old, which is perfect as Munchkin will be 3 months in December and after visiting family in Australia for Christmas, will experiencing a very chilly Swiss winter!
You can order the kits from La Droguerie via telephone but you’ll need your best French. Otherwise you can head to one of the many stores they have dotted around France and Japan.
Mad Hatters Unbirthday Party Themed Invite/ Notecard
A couple of years ago DM and I decided to host one big party per year, to celebrate Summer and well… just because we wanted to! The first year we held an Unbirthday Themed Party. I made a cake and decorations and sent out letterpress invites I’d made. We gave away gifts to all of the children who attended, had a piñata including gifts for the adults, and ate way too much cake whilst quaffing alcohol laced lemonade.
Unfortunately we don’t have many photos of the table or event as we had so much fun we forgot to take photos! Last years event was a little more sedate and adult in nature. And this years will be even quieter as I’ll be 7 months pregnant when the time comes.
But since the first party, I’ve often looked at the letterpress invites and have wanted to do something more with them. So I’ve decided to create printables so you lovely people can use them as invites or note cards.
They’re really simple to put together, just cut out, fold and add a little bit of glue to the envelope. You can download each of the templates below. You’ll need A3 paper for the envelope and A4 Card stock for the invite/ card.
I’ve been served gluten-free bread from grocery stores at restaurants and when out to dinner and in times of desperation I buy it. But it’s a poor substitute at best. The bread that I make using gluten-free flours and eaten fresh out of the oven is much better and my husband will happily eat it. But the pre-packaged stuff… ugh! It’s good for toasting and that’s about it. DM says it makes a pretty good substitute for cardboard and occasionally as a doorstop.
So what do you do when you don’t have time to bake a loaf of bread and you’re desperate for a half decent brunch? You buy the packaged stuff and cook it.
Gluten free dark chocolate layer cake with salted chocolate cream
I received one of the best Christmas presents from my friend Jo this year. A 12 Cup Mini Sandwich Cake Tin. And then I promptly got so sick I couldn’t play with it properly. But now that I’m feeling quite a bit better, I’m finally able to play with all the Christmas presents I’ve been unable to use (I also received an ice-cream maker!). But I’m also trying to be fairly well behaved and not to eat too much from the naughty list so that Munchkin will be happy and healthy when he/ she is born. How does one make a cake and not eat it all?! Normally I would bake a big cake and then have people around to eat it, or send it to work with my husband. But whilst staring at the small cake tin, I had a small epiphany. I would make two little cakes!
And this is the result! I adapted this recipe to use dark chocolate and to be gluten-free and topped it with salted dark chocolate cream. It should make up 2 small layer cakes. One for you to eat and one to give away (it’d be perfect for Mothers Day or a birthday).
45 grams of good quality dark chocolate plus 50 grams for the chocolate cream
Decorations. I used dried flower petals I bought at my local market.
This should make 2 little layer cakes. But it depends on how many layers you make.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Melt 45 grams of chocolate, either in a small bowl over a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl whisk together your eggwhite, 30mls of milk and vanilla paste.
In a mixing bowl, beat together flour, caster sugar, guar gum, baking powder, softened butter and the remaining 40ml of milk until the mixture is smooth. Add eggwhite/ milk mixture and finally the cooled chocolate and beat until light and fluffy.
Spoon mixture into Mini Sandwich Cake pans (it should fill 5 – 6 of them) and smoothen to even them out (the mix can be a little thick).
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the cream, melt 50 grams of chocolate, either in a small bowl over a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add cooled chocolate and pinch of salt to taste. Whisk together and refrigerate for a further 15 minutes.
To assemble, cut the tops and bottoms of your cakes off and slice so that you have nice even ‘layers’. Sandwich them together with the chocolate cream. Put a little more cream on top and decorate as you desire.
If you live in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Peru, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium or Brazil (along with a host of other countries) it’s coming up to Mothers Day. Stumped as to a gift idea? Why not make or bake your mum something sweet and nestle it in a cute hexagon gift box?
I’ve had a bit of fun messing around with watercolour splodges and have come up with a couple of templates for you to download and make up. Or you can download the blank template and decorate as you wish!
For this project you’ll need:
Adhesive or double-sided tape
The thickest A4 card stock you can put through your printer (mine takes 200gsm, but check your printer for details)
Scissors, scalpel or exacto knife
Some decorative ribbon (I’ve marked cutouts to allow for 10mm wide ribbon)
Some paints, crayons, pencils or other decorative materials (if working with the blank template)
The templates make up 2 sized boxes 72mm wide in diameter (point to point) x 60mm high
and 90mm wide in diameter (point to point) x 43mm high
You could easily scale them up and print on A3 card if you required them to be larger.
For the ones above I did some quick watercolour scribbles and added handwritten notes in white pencil (white charcoal pencil to be exact). But the sky is the limit. You could bedazzle, embroider, paint, draw… whatever you’d like! This would be rather a lovely project to work on with a small child as you could cut it out and they could decorate the box as they wish and with a little help from you, assemble it.
Print and cut out your desired template. I cut my templates out using my Graphtec cutter/ plotter but it’s not a difficult template to cut out by hand.
If you’ve printed out the plain template, now is the time to get scribbling and decorating to your hearts content!
Fold along each of the dotted lines and glue the edge tab to the underside of the opposing panel to create the hexagonal shape.
If you need a ‘base’ in your gift box for heavier gifts, glue one set of the top tabs and gift box lids together for extra support as shown (I used strong double-sided tape).
To attach the ribbon, glue the ribbon to the underside of the tab shown and thread through the ribbon slot as shown.
Then thread through the corresponding ribbon slot in the lid, pulling though and aligning the lid and tabs. Repeat on both sides and tie into a pretty bow.
And there you have it. Pretty hexagonal gift boxes ready for your gift!