Chocolate Berry Pavlova

27 Dec 2010

I've just returned home from my Christmas break with the family. It's a long drive from Brisbane to Sydney so I'm going to have an early night. Before I get into my pj's I thought I'd leave you with some of the Christmas baking I did. December has been such a busy month I haven't had a chance to share some of the things I've made.

For our work Christmas lunch I said I'd bring a dessert. I decided to make a chocolate berry pavlova using this recipe. Whilst I've made many pavlovas before, I'd not made a chocolate one before. I don't have a stand mixer, so beating a 6 egg white pavlova with electric hand beaters was a bit of an effort. I had delayed onset muscle soreness in my arms for 2 days.

I was going out for dinner and I was in a bit of a rush so I couldn't bake the pavlova for as long as I'd like. I left the pavlova in the turned off oven to dry out and when I came home a few hours later, I knocked the top of the pavlova as I was taking it out of the oven. I made quite a deep crack in the pavlova, then when I tried to remove it from the non-stick base, the pavlova cracked into quite a few pieces. I looked at the very wonky looking pavlova and tried to decide what to do.

Should I make another pavlova or just cover the wonky pavlova in a mountain of whipped cream? The thought of racing out at lunchtime in the pouring rain to get more pavlova ingredients soon determined my course of action. I decided to go with the camouflage option and bought 2 cartons of cream to effect the disguise. I managed to locate some raspberries that cost a little less than a king's ransom and some red currants as well.

I catch the train to work, so I had to transport the pavlova, whipped cream and berries over 2 days and assemble the pavlova at work in the lunch room. I get to work very early so at 7.00 a.m. on the day of the lunch I set to work decorating the pavlova with the whipped cream, topping it with the berries and lightly dusting the creation with icing sugar. I placed the pavlova in the fridge where it stayed until lunchtime. Each time I checked the pavlova, it seemed to have collapsed under the weight of the cream and berries just a little bit more!

No-one seemed to notice. The whole thing was devoured in less than 10 minutes, so quickly I didn't get a chance to snaffle a piece. I have no idea what it tastes like so I guess that means I'll have to make another one in the New Year. Great - just what my waistline needs after a month of Christmas festivities.

I hope you all enjoyed a nice break over Christmas. I have a few more days off work which I plan to spend editing a portrait shoot; visiting the Christmas sales; visiting the gym; working on my travel album and catching a movie. Who has time to go to work???

I'm not planning to return to the blog 'til the New Year so I hope you all have a fabulous time, however you plan to spend the evening. See you all in 2011.


Christmas 2010

24 Dec 2010


Christmas Craftiness

22 Dec 2010

I don't 'do' crafts, so I don't know what came over me this year. When it came time to wrap the Christmas presents, I wanted to steer away from the usual red, green or silver Christmas colours. I decided I'd go with the brown paper packages tied up with string a la Le Petit Atelier. I was quite taken with the pom-poms I saw all over blogland last year and wondered if it were possible to construct pom-poms from newspaper.

I found a pom-pom tutorial here on Once Wed and gave it a go using newspaper. Newspaper is pretty tough and tore a little bit but I persevered. I soon found the larger the pom pom, the easier they were to make. My hands were covered in newspaper print but my first efforts looked pretty good, so I made a few more.

I then went a little bit crazy and went for a 2 tone effect. I tried 2 combinations - brown paper interleaved with greaseproof paper and brown paper interleaved with newspaper. Pretty effective wrapping, don't you think, for absolutely no money? I used newspaper and brown paper I already had in the house, tied it together with kitchen string and used little tags I already had in my kitchen drawers. Old sheet music or maps would work just as well.

My friends live all over the country, so most of my presents have been sent by mail. I did hand one over to my friend, Little One last week and she was stunned by the wrapping, but thankfully in a good not a bad way.

What do you think?  Can you see garlands of newspaper and brown paper pom poms as the next big wedding decor trend?  And how am I going to top this Christmas wrapping effort next year???

Life is such a quandary,


Fruit Mince Tarts - a little taste of Christmas

20 Dec 2010

My idea of Christmas has always been the traditional Charles Dickens kind without the Scrooge - turkey with all the trimmings, fruitcake, pudding and fruit mince tarts. I've always liked fruit mince tarts because they're like a little taste of Christmas. They have all the flavours of Christmas packaged into one sweet little morsel.

Many moons ago I had an English boyfriend and one Christmas he asked for mince tarts. I didn't have a pastry recipe so I quickly scrawled one down on the back of a shopping docket from a book I found at the local supermarket. I've long since lost that recipe but I adapted another recipe which tastes pretty much the same.

I bring mince tarts to work on my last working day of the year. Until recently I used bottled fruit mince from the store jazzed up with the addition of grated apple and lemon rind but this year I decided it was time to make my own fruit mince. I used this recipe for the fruit mince from Gourmet Traveller but used my own pastry recipe. My recipe also uses cornflour, so if you want to try this one, it isn't too far from my own pastry recipe.

I still had some bottled fruit mince mixture leftover from last year so used that up first then filled the rest with the home made version. I forgot to decorate the tops of those tarts differently so I have no idea which tart contains which filling. I was tired when I came home from work so that's my excuse.

I brought them into work packaged like this. I snaffled 2 of the tarts for myself and had one on the journey to Brisbane.

Now that I'm home in Brisbane after a very long and soggy drive, I felt a bit bad hoarding a solitary fruit mince tart, so off I went  to the shops this morning to buy the ingredients for another batch. They're now cooling on a wire rack just waiting for a dusting of icing sugar.

Many thanks to Holly of decor8 for featuring my photos of the Finders Keepers Market on her blog last week.

See you all again on Wednesday,


Procrastinator with a Capital 'P'

17 Dec 2010

My mother used to refer to me as a procrastinator with a capital P. I've just looked up procrastination and the description is surprisingly accurate. I don't often procrastinate but when I find something too overwhelming to deal with, I put off making the decision, well for as long as I can.

So what am I procrastinating about? Packing for my trip home. Yes I am leaving tomorrow and no, nothing is packed and won't be until tomorrow. Instead of packing I've busied myself with a myriad of tasks. I've done 2 loads of washing/downloaded some memory cards and prepared the images/made an iPod playlist for the long journey home and arranged lots of things in piles all over the living room floor all whilst listening to the cricket.

As I can't decide which gift goes to whom, I'm going to drag the whole lot home with me plus all the wrapping paraphernalia. I'm doing a little job of work when I'm home so that means I need to bring along my cameras, the laptop, a flash, batteries, cards, card reader etc, etc.

Then there is the food to consider. As the list of what I can't eat and won't eat is quite long, plus I'm driving along some remote stretches of road, I have to bring the food with me for my 13 hour journey. I like to treat myself so I've bought some smoked salmon and ricotta cheese, cherries, apricots and peaches plus some home made trail mix to keep me going. And for my sweet treat? Some homemade fruit mince pies.

I should be back again Monday with some more of my Christmas baking.

Have a great weekend,


Rifle Paper Co

15 Dec 2010

I love stationery and all things paper. I still write letters to friends and I send out postcards and Christmas cards as well. Thankfully I still have a few friends who share my interest as there's nothing like finding a letter in the mailbox. It sure beats an email.

I first learnt about Rifle Paper Co a few years ago when I saw some of Anna Bond's beautiful wedding invitations on a wedding blog. Rifle Paper Co opened an online shop selling cards and personalised stationery just over a year ago. Those of you who know me well, know I'm a dog nut, so I was already won over when I saw the dog logo.

Thanks to the strong Australian dollar the personalised stationery and postage is finally affordable, so about 2 months ago I decided to order this pretty design. This is what I found when I opened the box.

The notes are really sweet and I can't wait to write my first note!

It's been a busy week with lots of Christmas festivities and way too much eating, so I'm going to have an early night tonight.

Bye for now,


Raspberry Butter Cake

13 Dec 2010

A few months ago I started looking for some vintage homewares for props. I particularly wanted some old cooling racks, knives and a wooden handled wire sieve. Those things are either really hard to track down or ridiculously expensive to find in Sydney. (I'm still trying to source some of these items btw).

I finally found the perfect wire cooling rack online, but it was part of a set and when the set was broken down piece by piece the wire cooling rack was way too expensive. I threw caution to the wind and bought most of the set figuring the pieces were at the most decorative and hopefully functional as well.

The parcel arrived and I eagerly opened it. There was no warning on the site that the tins showed signs of rust so I was disappointed to find all the bakeware was substantially rusted and the star shaped tin was the most affected of the lot.  It was so pretty I thought I'd try baking something in it, just to see if it was still functional. I found a recipe for a raspberry pound cake in an old Donna Hay magazine and gave it a try.

It was a disaster. The mixture rose too high and when I tried to turn the cake out, one edge of the cake remained firmly attached to the pan. That cake went straight into the bin. I adapted an old Gretta Anna butter cake recipe and tried again. This time I oiled the tin like a crepe pan and left it for a week before using it again. I greased and regreased every corner of the tin and floured it as well as lining the base with non-stick paper. This time the cake turned out perfectly.

My experience has put me off buying any more vintage wares on the internet for the moment. Has anyone else been a bit disappointed with their internet purchases?

I hope you all had lovely weekends. Guess what I did? I bought some more Christmas presents! I'll be dropping back briefly on Wednesday as I have some mince pies to make for my last day at work for 2010 and no other night in which to get them done.

Until then,


Christmas shopping or the day I became my mother

10 Dec 2010

Do you ever have those moments, when the words come out of your mouth and you know you sound just like your mother? Scary, isn't it? Well I discovered another trait I share with my mother - present hoarding. My mother always bought gifts in advance; she'd hide them away in the cupboard in the hallway which was a little like the Bermuda Triangle. Many gifts went into that cupboard, never to be seen again.

I've been stashing away little gifts since I went on holidays this year. I put them all carefully into a large brown paper carry bag and promptly forgot about them. Mid week I went hunting for a small gift to give to a workmate and uncovered my secret stash. There are items from La Galerie Vegetale, Merci and Herriot Grace I'd completely forgotten about, in addition to new items from Mr and Mrs White and PPD Design I've just bought. I've been buying Christmas gifts for my friends completely oblivious to the fact I'd already bought something for them!

So what to do with my extra gifts? Well I could keep them for myself but that would be greedy. Instead I think I'll buy a large clear plastic box and store them in there so next year I'll be able to dip into my lucky dip box whenever a birthday comes around.

And as all posts are better with photos, I've attached a rare example of the craft goddess within. This year's Christmas gifts are being wrapped in humble brown paper tied up with string. I decided to make my own gift tags which you see below whilst some gifts have newspaper pompoms attached for decoration. They look quite good if I say so myself and when I get the chance I'll post some photos of the final product.

This my last weekend at home before I drive home for Christmas and with a round of Christmas bbq's and lunches to attend this coming week I'll be chained to the kitchen for most of the weekend.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you all again on Monday,

Bye for now,


The Finders Keepers

8 Dec 2010

Saturday was a pretty dreary day in Sydney. I didn't mind though because I was safe and sound indoors at Carriageworks at the Finders Keepers. I wasn't the only one who thought it was a good way to spend a rainy day - the place was packed.

In keeping with the paper theme, paper crafts abounded from a colourful paper installation, origami paper cranes and bright paper pom poms hanging from the rafters.

I bumped into Alischa from Bespoke Press who I met at the Autumn Markets  a few months ago. There were lots of new stall holders at the Finders Keepers and I discovered some new paper favourites.

I fell in love with the beautifully crafted cheeseboards from Bickertonsmith. I didn't have enough arms or cash on me on Saturday but I have plans to buy one for my home.

As soon as I saw the goods in Mr and Mrs. White's shop, I was pretty sure I'd be buying something. I came home with one of their wooden crosses to give to a friend for Christmas. I do have a habit of keeping things though, so we shall see is she ever receives it!

I ran upstairs to get an overview of the building and the very large crowd in attendance.

How amazing is the light in Carriageworks and how gorgeous is this girl from Frankie magazine?

Pom pom making classes were being held on Saturday and here are some of the pom poms on display.

I stayed until the first band of the day, Fergus Brown, came on. I couldn't help myself and had to take a classic band shot to end my day at the Finders Keepers.

Many thanks to Sarah from the Finders Keepers for inviting me along on Saturday.

Bye for now,



Cranberry Shortbread Stars

6 Dec 2010

I had such a busy weekend, so busy in fact I didn't get time to do any baking. The cookie jar is empty! Actually I have one of these shortbreads stars in the bikkie tin but that will be empty in an hour or so.

I made these cookies last weekend. I made a half batch of dough using this recipe but left out the nuts and added 1/2 cup of dried cranberries to the mixture. Martha Stewart has a very similar recipe, which you'll find here.

I rolled the mixture about 75 mm thick then cut out the star shapes before baking. It's a very soft mixture so the cookies spread a little when baked. I took the cookies into work last Tuesday and there were none left when I returned Wednesday.

There were howls of protests when one of the part time girls came into work and found no-one had saved her a cookie. I guess that means I'll have to make another batch before I go on holidays next Friday.

Got to go, lots of things to do.


Sydney Finders Keepers

3 Dec 2010

Have you heard about the Sydney Finders Keepers? The markets will be open tonight and again on Saturday at Carriageworks.

I took a few photos at the last Finders Keepers and I'll be back again tomorrow morning doing my thing. I'm also hoping to complete my Christmas shopping. If you happen to see me there, please come on over and say 'hello'. You won't be able to miss me - I'll be the little one with all the cameras!

Have a great weekend,

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