Friday, 30 September 2011

It's In The Bag

Joining in with Rhonda for her Friday 'On My Mind' Post over at Down To Earth:)

In amongst our hectic schedule at the moment I finally found some sitting down time and thought I would share my latest sewing creation.  A few posts back I posted my practice bag, well this is what that practice was all for :) I'm feeling a great sense of pride with myself with what I have achieved. I enjoyed creating it and although there were a few hairy moments thrown in, I think I pulled it off relatively well, considering my VERY limited sewing experience.  It was a gift for my close friend's little girl who turned 5 recently.  It will probably sit in the closet for a while, she got a whole load of awesome presents, but I hope that in time to come she will pull it out and know that I made it with love just for her :) If not that's ok, I have the satisfaction of knowing I completed the task I had set for myself...and I have a feeling her Mum may just snaffle it after a while ;)

 In the creating stage

Love that this pattern is reversable :)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Busy Life

Wow it has been a long time since I have had the time to be able to sit down and write.  The last few weeks life has been very busy in our house.  We have had a few little 5 year old birthdays to attend and a very big lead up to Master 5's first Calf Club at school.  What an adventure it was getting ready for that! 

We grew some beans for a plant project and had a bit of fun with those. 3 of the original seeds didn't grow, we left them outside on the deck and think it wasn't quite the right environment to encourage vigorous healthy plant growth, so about 3 weeks out we planted 3 more seeds and managed to get them to grow.  We had diaries we had to keep on the beans and also our pet fish that Master 5 took for his pet display.  Then there was also the baking we had to do - phew as much fun as it all was I must admit to being a little glad when yesterday it all came to an end after the final prize giving.  But I might do more of a post on this later, I am so proud of my little guy for all he did to participate in calf club.

I have been also spending some time getting the vege garden expanded and ready for the spring planting.  I have a bunch of seeds now waiting to be sown into seed trays which I really must get onto.  But I am very happy with how the garden is coming along now :)

Before the tidy up and new planting

After the tidy up and re-arranging.  Also have sown some Radishes, Spring Onions and Mesclun salad mix.

The last Cauliflower to be harvested.  Tasted so yummy!
I have also spent some time doing some spring cleaning around the house.  We finally had some dry warmer weather arrive so I managed to catch the cleaning bug to get on top on the winter dust :) 

After a very busy few weeks, it is now time to make a conscious effort to pull back and slow things down again.  We are a few weeks out from school holidays so we are looking forward to some nice lazy days at home where if we choose not to we don't have to leave our little slice of paradise :) I am also looking forward to some nice warm days hanging out in the garden :)

So I must apologize for not being present around the blogging community for a wee while and I am now off to catch up on all that I have been missing out on :)

Monday, 12 September 2011

My Favourite Chocolate Cake/Muffins

So last night in a flurry of dinner activity I came to the point in my routine where I assess the baking in the cupboard and get some started for the tins and lunches if I need to.  The coconut loaf was nearly gone so I needed to make something.  Hmmm open the fridge and what am I nearly out of?? BUTTER!! My goodness how can I, the 'baking queen'  according to DH be out of butter?? Oh wait I let DH loose in the kitchen this weekend, that's how I'm nearly out of butter :) mmmm he made some yummy treats though so it was worth it.  

Anyway, for the times such as these when I have no butter or even no eggs I always turn to my old faithful Chocolate Cake recipe.  This is butter and egg free so it's perfect. This is my all time favourite Chocolate Cake recipe.  I also turn it into muffins for little treats as well :) This recipe produces a beautifully moist and tasty cake/muffins.  Team it up with some chocolate icing and Bob's your Uncle you have quick yummy treats sorted.

I was given this recipe about 4 years ago by a friend I used to go to Playcentre with so I don't know where the recipe originated from. It's a fabulous activity to do with the kids (my boys were making this cake as soon as they could stand at our little table I'd move into the kitchen so around 2yrs) and you can even make it like a volcano for a bit of a science experiment as well :) (I'll do this post another time)

Crazy Chocolate Cake (the normal way :))

1 1/2 cups of Flour
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
1 cup of Sugar
1/4 cup of Cocoa
1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
5 tablespoons of Oil
1 tablespoon of White Vinegar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
1 cup of Cold Water

In a bowl using a whisk, beaters or in the food processor, combine all the sifted dry ingredients.  Mix them all together and then add the oil, vinegar and vanilla essence.  Give it a little mix and slowly add the water mixing it through well to form a smooth but slightly runny batter (yes you can beat this cake batter without any worries).  Pour it into your greased and lined cake tin or greased muffin tins and bake at 180degC for approx 30 mins as a cake or 13mins for muffins.  It's cooked when a skewer comes out clean.  This recipe does not rise a huge amount as a cake, so if I am making this as a special cake I will bake two and then sandwich them together with Ganachè, or I triple the recipe and bake it in a roasting pan so I can have an extra large cake or so I can cut it into shapes to create some awesome birthday/celebration cakes (or rather so DH can create some awesome birthday cakes :) ) This cake can be made the day or night before you need to cut and ice it and it doesn't crumble very much, in fact I have been known to make it on the day it needs to be cut into shapes and iced and it still worked fine.

Super Easy!! Super Yummy!!

White Chocolate Icing

To Ice these, I melt in a bowl in the microwave a handful of white chocolate buttons and a tiny chunk of the butter.(less than 25gms).  I buzz this for 15second intervals stirring well in between each until the chocolate and butter is melted together. Don't stress if you over do it and it goes grainy - yes I have been there many times which is how I came to make this recipe up :)  once it's all melted stir in a slosh of cream and then using desert spoon fulls at a time of sifted icing sugar, mix until it's at the right consistency for you.  Adding the icing sugar allows you to make real chocolate icing without having to use lots of chocolate as it makes it go further.  It also gives a nice consistency to pipe or spread.  When it sets, it sets firm and holds its shape, but its not a hard icing when you eat it. You could make this using milk chocolate if you wanted.  

To last nights icing I also added some strawberry essence, red food colouring and a touch of blue food colouring to give a hint of strawberry flavour a some colour.  I then piped it using an old snaplock back with the corner nipped off onto the muffins.  Yummy! A nice little treat for Master 5's and DH's lunches.

My 'New' Sewing Machine

Because of my flu/sinus infection I have had the past few weeks, my blogging (as I'm sure you have noticed) has slowed down somewhat.  I had to give some time to me.  I feel I am now somewhat back to normal and have been back to dreaming up posts and taking loads of photos to share :)  This post needed to be written a few weeks ago right when I came down with the bug, but alas it has patiently waited until now :)

One of the things I had on my wishlist to get was a sewing machine.  I have never owned one and when I have done the limited amount of sewing I have done, it's always just hand sewing.  I had a few items on my list to make like some waterproof overlay sheets for Master 5's bed, and so I started looking at Trade Me for sewing machines going cheap.  DH can fix most things electrical so I went after the auctions that were super cheap because they had something wrong with them.  In the end it was my close friend who mentioned her Mum was selling her old machine as she had upgraded, and asked if I wanted it...would I what!!! So I had saved some of my pocket money and DH donated some of his pocket money to the cause and I now proudly own for the grand total of $50.00 a new to me sewing machine :) It is awesome and I am becoming more confident each time I use it (the last time I used a sewing machine was in highschool, but its amazing how much comes flooding back).  It did cost more than I wanted to pay but given the fact that it was my friend's Mum's machine I knew it would have been well looked after and that to me justified the extra cost. 

Super Machine!! think it was made in the 70's

I have surprised myself with what I have been able to make.  I have never felt myself very good at crafting things but I think I doubt myself a little even if I do say so myself :)

This was a cape I had made for myself nearly 5 years ago for a dress up day at Playcentre (sorry pictures are the wrong way, I'm to tired to try and sort it out right now :) ).  The boys loved to get it out and wear it but it was always far to big and they constantly fought over it so the first thing I did with my new sewing machine was to cut it in half and make it into two capes.  It went off without a hitch, although the second one is still waiting to be done :)

The next thing, was a biggie for me.  Master 5yrs has just started wetting the bed (thinking it's just settling into school that has bought it on and it's only sporadic).  A friend had told me about these sheets you can get called Brolly Sheets.  They are like half sheets with a waterproof backing, that you put on the bed just in the area they sleep on.  Then when they wet it only wets that sheet and not the underneath so it avoids constantly changing sheets and bedding, you just take the brolly sheet off and thats it.  At $40 each though I wasn't getting one of them.  When a search on trade me turned up none, I set about thinking about how to make one myself.  In the opshop I managed to find two cot protectors and a cute little white and blue checked sheet - Bingo!! The plan was to cut the sheet and sew it onto the mattress protectors and then I would have a homemade version of a brolly sheet, oh and at a fraction of the price! It cost me $6 all up for the 3 items to make two of them.  So it took a while to figure out the best way to do it, but I got there in the end :)

This is the last thing I have been working on.  I had this fabulous idea to make my close friend's little girl a birthday present for her 5th birthday that's around the corner.  I didn't want to just go and buy another gift, I didn't know if making something would save money but it would come from the heart with love. Great idea.....but just what to make with my limited sewing ability?? I came up with the idea of a bag, she could either use it for school, as an overnight bag for sleepovers or just as a general use bag...I mean come on, a girl can never have to many bags right?? :)  So my friend and I headed to spotlight and found some pink and purple material for the bag, and I found the pattern online.  But not wanting to jump right into making the bag, I found an old sheet and towel and did a practice run using these.  I am ever so proud at achieving this.  It's the first big thing I have sewn before and there is only some minor tweaking to be done to the real one when I get around to making it this week.  The pattern I used came from this amazing blog here: 

So there you have it, I have gone from very limited ability crafter to someone who can follow a pattern online and make a bag ;) go me!!  I'm sure there will be many more sewing photos to come in the future :)

Friday, 9 September 2011

On My Mind - Rugby World Cup Fever

Joining in today with Rhonda at Down to Earth with the Friday Feature - On My Mind, where we all share a photo and something on our minds :)

Well dare I say it, we have been hit with the excitement of the Rugby World Cup starting in this little country of ours.  We barely watch Rugby in our house I must confess we aren't huge fans at all. Although we do keep an eye on the big games with the All Blacks, and when growing up I have fond memories of getting to stay up late with my parents and watch the All Blacks play, but it's not a huge passion of ours.
There has been a certain amount of dread as to the impact on our day to day lives with everyone over here in NZ, particularly with my DH's work which is doing a big profile roll out nation wide which is somewhat complicated by the World Cup.  However at school they have had to put the Rugby World Cup into the curriculum so Master 5 has been coming home the past few weeks talking about it and we watched his excitement build the closer we have gotten to this time.  Today was a big day at school and the children and teachers supported the All Blacks by going in mufti and wearing black clothes.  You should have seen it! the excitement among the children was just a buzz to watch :)

So tonight with Master 5 having talked about it all afternoon and trying to explain to him that we didn't need to be at the actual game to be able to shout for the All Blacks in support (how to get a 5 year old to understand the Rugby culture of just shouting at the boys through the TV?? didn't go to well lol) we let the boys stay up to watch the opening ceremony, and we were blown away! What an awesome ceremony, very befitting to New Zealand.  An immense sense of pride over came us, as we watched our culture being shared with all who was taking part.  What an awesome celebration for our country and all the countries taking part.

All settled in and awaiting Kick off between the All Blacks and Tonga
 This then led into the kick off for the first game with the All Blacks playing Tonga.  The boys were just a buzz with excitement so with a promise of having a nap tomorrow we let them stay up to watch the first half.  Wow they thought this was pretty special.  What delight it was to hear their questions and see them soaking their first rugby game up, just like I remember doing as a child.  Very precious.

So for a family not so into Rugby we all sit on the edge of our seats and watch with immense pride as our boys in Black play the first game and open the next 6 weeks of rugby fever in our country.  Now we await to see who will will tonight's game :)

Way to go All Blacks..Way to go!!! Proud to be a Kiwi

Monday, 5 September 2011

Mexican Beef and Bean Casserole

This is a favorite of ours, so delicious with plenty of flavour, very filling and can feature either on a summer or winter menu so it's one versatile dish.  Of course being a recipe that features regularly in our house it uses regular ingredients from the cupboard and is low cost to make.  I can't for the life of me think of where I found the original recipe so sorry can't quote that in here, but I don't think it resembles it to closely now anyway. As with most of my recipes I have spent a while tweaking it a fair bit.  In winter I make this dish and serve with rice and steamed veges (tonight was peas as I had a million other things on the go and forgot to put the steamer on, DUH!).  In summer I serve it with a loaf of hot out of the oven bread and side salad - delish!

Ruth's Mexican Beef and Bean Casserole

Olive Oil
400gms or so of Stewing steak (you know the low grade cut with plenty of fat that stews to beautiful and tender melt in your mouth pieces of meat.  Of course you can use less or more in qty depending on what you have on hand)
1 large or 2 small onions diced
1 tablespoon of Paprika
1 or 2 Carrots chopped
Other veges if wanted - I use Courgettes or Capsicums, I have also been known to throw in some mushrooms
1 400gm can of chopped Tomatoes
2 good tablespoons of Tomato Paste mixed with 1/2 cup of Water
2 teaspoons of Mexican Seasoning Mix (see my post here   for the recipe)
1 can of Kidney Beans, drained and Rinsed
Sprinkling of Raw Sugar, Basil and some Salt and Pepper to season
1/2 cup of Beef Stock
2 good teaspoons of cornflour and a little water for thickening at the end

Heat a good slosh of oil in a pan.  Cube the beef and brown of in batches, setting aside once its browned.  
Into the pan add the onions and more oil if needed and soften these down and start to brown.  
Add the paprika and stir it through well.  Cook for a few minutes.
Next add the Carrots and any other veges and cook for a few minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes and the paste and water mix.  Stir well and add to this the Mexican seasoning.  
Drain and rinse the Kidney Beans and add to the pan along with the sugar and other seasonings, and the beef stock.
Now add the beef and slow cook in the oven at 150degC for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until meat is tender.  (Make sure it's in an oven safe dish though!) Taste and re-season if required, then if you want to thicken it a little add the cornflour/water and mix through. I pop the lid back on for 5 mins but just leave it to stand on the stove and this thickens the sauce just a touch.  Serve :)

So yummy! This makes enough for one meal for the four of us, some leftovers for DH's lunch and enough for a Pie filling for the next nights dinner (which will actually do DH's lunch the following day also).  So you can stretch it quite far - 2 dinners and 2 work lunches Bonus!.  You could bulk it out further with more beans and veges if you wanted to, or if you have no beef on hand, just substitute the beef for a second can of kidney beans for a meatless meal.


Mexican Flavouring/Seasoning Mix

This is a very versatile seasoning mix that you can use in anything you want.  Great for the flavour base to Nachos, Tacos and anywhere a little Mexican flavour is wanted, you could even try it as a spice rub on meat.  I have been using it for years, and keep an old jam jar with some already made up on my spice shelf.  It is an important addition to my Mexican Beef and Bean Casserole I make.  This recipe is one from Sophie Gray's book, ENJOY! (2007)

Combine together:

1 heaped tablespoon of Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons of Sugar
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 teaspoon of Oregano
1 tablespoon of Chilli Powder (you can use less if you aren't a big hot chilli fan)

Great stored  like the picture in its own special jar so you always have some on hand :)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Celebrating Father's Day

Today was Father's Day and the boys and I were all up for creating a special day for our Number 1 Dad!
So up early this morning while DH slept in the boys got to work and made him a card

Last night I made a banana cake and this morning I dressed it into a special cake for DH

Then I cooked DH's favourite breakfast Eggs Bennedict with Mushrooms.  All homemade Hollandaise Sauce and Wholegrain Bread mmmmm yummy!

Then it was off with a picnic basket full of my signature pinwheel scones, a thermos and cake to enjoy a day out with very close family friends at the local Zoo.  We had so much fun running around and laughing and just enjoying a great day out with lovely company. 

Master 5 got handy with the camera while we were out :)


One of the fun things at our little local zoo is you can buy little bags of food to feed some of the animals.  Master 5 is obsessed with any living creature so he was loving it today! He fed lots of different animals including an Emu and this Zebra.  What an awesome experience for him and a lovely memory for him to cherish as he gets older.

This is Millie the friendly goat at the zoo. I thought I would share this photo with you, her story touched my heart after growing up on a farm with animals and in particular goats.  I know that this is a truly special story as many animals in Millie's position would have just been put down, but she was blessed with a second chance and is now the most friendliest, gentle goat.
Millie was a wild goat and was attacked by dogs.  Her neck was ripped out by them :( she was saved by some awesome vets and has been given a second chance and nursed back to health from this terrible attack.  As you can see she has no neck as such, so she's a little lopsided and on first approach looks quite like some sort of exotic unknown animal :) but man does she love to nibble at the food from your palm! ever so gently and she just bends her head to whatever angle she needs to reach it.  Truly amazing I think.

Our two little monkeys :)

Happy Father's Day sweetheart, thanks for being the best Daddy ever!!

I'd love to hear how other families celebrate Father's Day or Mother's Day :)

Quick Hello

Hey Everyone, I just thought I would quickly post a note for all my awesome followers and readers to say I'm sorry I haven't put up a post in a while. I've been laid up all week on the couch with a hefty cold which turned into a Sinus Infection.  I'm nearing the end of it now, thank goodness! It's not been fun, and I've been stuck on the couch since Monday and not really able to concentrate for a very foggy head.  I must say I have found this hard, as I like to be pottering at something or other most of the time.  But it gave me a chance to let my body relax which was most needed.  So I'm just getting back on my feet and have a few posts waiting to be written over the next few days.
Hope to back in the swing of it by next week :)  Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend, and tomorrow in NZ it's Father's Day so we have a few surprise treats in store for DH :)    Take care xx Ruth xx

Spring Has Arrived!!

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