Tuesday, 31 December 2013

And just when we had made our own dragon...

We found these cookie cutters. Honestly not as good as OUR dragon, but a good activity.

A croquembouche - that's new!

Here's another Christmas treat we've made. It was a (gasp) packet mix. That's real toffee, and real toffee is pretty tricky. Catriona made most of this.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Time for holiday scribbles

Every year when we visit the family in Perth, I take a bit of art stuff with me. But just a limited amount. So when I need a little recharge, I can do a little scribbling. This time, the limited kit includes : coloured pencils, card, round punch, glue, and a few other things.

Here's some fun I had today. Loving the scribble.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A Laing card game

Xanthe didn't believe we'd actually get a card game going, but we did!

What's better than a gingerbread castle?

Well, a gingerbread DRAGON, of course!

Thomas developed this, Catriona added some ideas, and Jonathan insists he helped too.

And we haven't eaten it.

Finished gingerbread house

Here it is all finished!

Gingerbread castle is finished!

Here's the gang with the finished castle. Left to right, we have ... Jessamy, Emma, Xanthe, Thomas, Mitchell, Jonathan, James and Catriona. Connor was ... somewhere else.

Gingerbread castle part 3 - still not ruined

Yes, turns out, a team of three teenage girls does a better job of decorating a castle than a rabble of younger kids. Let's keep it classy, ladies.

Gingerbread castle part 2 - looking quite sophisticated

Yes, marking the brickwork on the gingerbread was a good idea. Catriona, Emma and Xanthe assemble the Petit Chateau de Diabetes.

Gingerbread castle - looking good!

Here's some of the pieces of our gingerbread castle before baking. Let's see how we can mess this up now!

Pool full of Laings

Annual task, get a photo (or photos) of all the cousins. Here's what we have so far. Left to right, Xanthe, Emma (an exchange student), Catriona, Jessamy, Thomas and Jonathan. Jonathan's doing a face. He does that a lot.

Stuart and Elaine at christmas

Here are Elaine (Nana) and Stuart (Jeff's brother) at Christmas lunch.

Christmas crackers made by us!

This year, Thomas, Jonathan and I collaborated to make Christmas crackers. The funnies were written by the boys, and the treats were chocolates, choo-choo bars, tiny cars, and tiny toy mice. And spoons. Lots of spoons. They all went bang very loudly, thanks to the snaps I bought in advance.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pauline goes to a book signing too

Following our successful meeting with Dr Karl, one of Catriona's heroes, I tried another book signing here in Perth. Tenina Holder, author of cookbooks on the Thermomix topic, was signing her latest. And Gail really wanted a copy! So I went to the rescue and got her a beautiful signed copy. I get to see Gail next week when SHE visits Perth too, so I can give her the book then.

Laings in the pool, 2013 style

Here's James in the pool, but whose legs are those? Turns out they're Jessamy's.

Yes, I'm starting again on the seasonal project of getting photos of all the cousins.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Treats at Miss Maud's factory outlet

If you are a Perth resident, you'll know Miss Maud's. It's a chain of nice cafés with tasty European style baked goods. But what we've discovered is, they have a factory outlet too. It's at 136 Fitzgerald St, Northbridge. It's only open on Saturday mornings (from 7am to 10 am, how's that for eccentric opening hours?).

Here are some trays that $5 or less will get you. And also the bad news - they are closed next week and the one after. So today was our one and only visit.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A day out in the Swan Valley

We're in Perth on holidays, and today was a good day to do a foody tour of the Swan Valley. 

We had nougat at Mondo Nougat (lemon is delicious)...

...a cheese platter at The Cheese Barrel, which is run by properly nerdy cheese lovers. Here we are having: Meredith Ashed chèvre, which is actually available here easily; petit Compte, possibly not the favourite; and Pont l'eveque, the hands down winner in my opinion.

And here's another look at the winning cheese - yum!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A long awaited ... cake

Every time we visit Sofia's, the local yummy family restaurant, catriona and I admire the cakes. They're not delicate, they're not elegant, but they are BIG. But every visit, nobody has room for cake after dinner.

So Catriona and I promised ourselves that we'd go and have cake, when she finished exams.

It turned out, we didn't have a chance until now. Oh, and look, it was VCE result day too. After we finished dancing the happy dance over her great results (top score in Psychology, and a really good score for getting into university), we went for CAKE!

Did we finish all this? Hell no! Were they yummy? Hell yes!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

I briefly catch Thomas appreciating Christmas...

... Or maybe he was just trying to break something. He says I can't prove it was him, but there's a reflection in the bauble!

Getting that Christmas spirit

It's nearly Christmas, and I'm taking Thomas and Jonathan to the city to see the gingerbread village. It's tricky entertaining teens. There has been bribery involved (in the form of tasty frozen yoghurt). And here we are cheering up the train ride. Meet my mascot, Sir Humphrey Wilford Spoonshire.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

How to make a tiny Christmas hat for a dinosaur

How exactly, I keep being asked, does one make a tiny hat for a dinosaur? Specifically a Christmas one? Well, I'll tell you.

Start by cutting two felt circles, one red, and one white.
Now, cut both circles in half. Cut the inside of the white halves out too.
Glue the white to the red like this. You are making two hats here, by the way. That will stop squabbles amongst your dinosaurs.

Now, the tricky part. Run glue along the straight edge, and fold the half circle over. Clamp the two edges with a clothes peg, or some kind of clip.

Interesting step here. You will find that glue doesn't really work on felt. Maybe I was impatient, but I couldn't get any kind of sticking to happen.

So now, we discard all the felt, and switch to a much more forgiving medium, pretty coloured card stock.

Punches do a good job here. I'm using a 3/4 inch ("big") and a 1/2 inch punch ("small").

Punch a big circle of red, and puns OUT a small circle of white.

Use the nifty trick of punching the big punch around the hole left by the small one. That gets you a ring of white card.
Glue the white ring onto the red card, and cut in half.

Roll one of the hats around a pointy tool. Here, I have used a pointy tool. You should choose something pointy.

Overlap the tiny cone you have made, and glue the overlapping bit. A tiny enough clip will come in handy here.

Your tiny hat is ready! Put it on your dinosaur, and arrange the dinosaur in some kind of terrarium. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I'm up early...

... so there's time for a cup of tea - from my BIRTHDAY CUP!

Thanks Anne-Marie for a gorgeous gift!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Catriona's Valedictory Dinner

At her Valedictory Dinner last night, Catriona received Excellence awards for Chemistry, Specialist Maths and Psychology. And a service award for being Music Captain. And they praised her singing, which was nice!

We had a very nice night with Finola and Erin and their families.

There were brief glowing speeches about every single student as they took their certificates. It was nice seeing all these kids becoming adults and taking their place in the world.

Congratulations, graduates!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Proper Pear

Rita, a workmate, caught me eating a pear in the kitchen at work once. That's not unusual, I like my fruit. She complained that Australian pears are strange, and not as nice as the ones she grew up with in China.

And then I found this at my local fruit shop, Bushy Park.

This is the Fragrant Pear, grown in China. I usually prefer not to buy imported fruit, but I was keen to see what a proper Chinese pear tastes like.

It is crisp, juicy, very sweet, and has a perfumed taste. The skin is perfectly edible, but a bit tougher than most local varieties. It is delicious! These ones looked vey fresh, too.

So thanks, Rita, for encouraging me to try yet another new fruit!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How I've been making yoghurt in the dehydrator

Some people were asking, so here's my method... I've been making yoghurt, and using the dehydrator to incubate it.

I start with some milk, about a litre. Warm it up to 80 degrees Celsius, then let it cool down to 37 degrees. Stir in some yoghurt from the last batch. That's plain, unflavoured yoghurt. My very first starter was some Jalna Greek Style, which was delicious, and I haven't bought any since.

Now, the dehydrator comes in. Instead of pouring this milk/yoghurt mix into a thermos or other container, I portion it into very clean Tupperware containers (snack cups, which are 1/2 cup sized). Here they are, all neatly filled.

Do you notice one of them is half the size again? There's a reason for that.

I put the seals on, then stand them in the dehydrator, which is set at about 37 degrees.

This is a Harvest Maid dehydrator. These cups would normally NOT fit in the trays, but I've added a spacer ring. It works perfectly.

The lid of the dehydrator goes on after this, of course. I test the temperature from time to time, because, although the machine has a temperature dial, it's not that accurate.

Most of the cups have colourful lids, but I make sure one has a clear lid.

Now we go away for a few hours. Don't fuss with the yoghurt, it doesn't need you.

Some time later in the day, if you pick up the cup with the clear lid, you'll be able to see that it has set. No need to open it. If it's clearly still liquid, let it incubate some more.

That's basically it, you've made yoghurt. And look, it's already in portions.

See how nicely set it is. This is how yoghurt is supposed to look.

If you want it to be fruity and sweet, stir in some jam (or fruit, obviously, but jam is less runny). Or just eat it unsweetened, with lovely fresh fruit!

So what was the half sized cup for? That's the starter for next time! You won't eat it by mistake if it looks different.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A gleaning excursion

As if I needed any further motivation to go on bike rides... I can't help but notice, on a lot of bike paths, there are fruit trees overhanging public areas. Now, fruit falling there is likely to go to waste. And in some cases, even cause paths to get slippery and dangerous. So, it's very much my duty to collect it and get it out of the way.

Here's the haul from my last fruit gathering excursion. Plenty of cumquats (from several different trees), some lemons, grapefruit and mandarins.

And here's what I did with it! Some "found" marmalade.

And in case you are wondering, I've checked, and as far as I know, fruit gleaning is perfectly legal, and even quietly encouraged. Here's a map of "feral" fruit trees.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Bagelquest 2013

You know how teenagers just love getting involved in stuff their parents are doing? And how they cheerfully go outside and have fun?

Nope, me neither.

Last weekday of the school holidays, and I felt we had to do some serious family stuff. We started with a bike ride to Jells Park - easy ride, good distance. Then, we went on a BAGELQUEST!

What is a Bagelquest? Well, it's basically a quest for bagels. Thomas asked specially for onion bagels, a real favourite snack in our house, and not a flavour that Aussie Farmers deliver, sadly. My usual source is Costco, but until they open in Ringwood, they are a bit far away.

I looked up where you can get onion bagels. Well, of course, Glicks! I used to live near this traditional bakery in Balaclava, and they've opened lots more branches. We quested all the way to Malvern.

Well, they certainly have some good things to eat!

The quested-for onion bagel. We bought a dozen. They are delicious!

Oh, and we stopped at Dairy Bell for ice cream on the way home. That's TWO Melbourne food icons in one day!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Getting very meta at the Royal Show

Last year, one of the highlights of the royal show was the cheeky yarn bombed tractor in the arts and crafts hall. This year, one of the cakes in the cake decorating competition is a cake representation of the yarn bombed tractor!

This year they decorated a car and caravan!