Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The long slide

The long Christmas holidays aren't exactly the virtually endless joy they were when I was a child (or uni student) but I do like the fact that I can slowly ease myself into the busyness of regular life. After three and a half glorious weeks off I was the first to head back to work, last Monday. Being natural night owls, Andrew and I have been going to bed late and sleeping late too, so getting up early has been a bit rough but I have not had to make five lunches or, indeed, do anything at all for the rest of the family as they were all fast asleep until after I had left for work on my bike.

I coped perfectly well with the ride in and a ten hour day but at the end of my first day Andrew rang to say that he and the kids had taken fish and chips to the Botanic Gardens and that I could ride there, rather than home. It is awfully hilly on the way to the Botanic Gardens and, as I hadn't ridden since before the flood, I am significantly less fit and, for the first time, had to hop off my bike and push. At least I didn't give in to temptation and ring Andrew begging him to pick me up from the side of the road.

On Saturday we had dinner with our good friends, Steve and Jane. They used to live at the end of our street and have been away at Bible College for four years. Now they are back, not at the end of our street but still in our suburb and have two lovely children. I made Nigella's Malteser cake for old times' sake as I made it years ago to celebrate Toby and Steve's January birthdays. It looked rather nicer than it tasted, I'm afraid.

It was Liz' birthday on Sunday and I made her this card. I spent so long on the jolly thing (not being creative it takes me ages to come up with something if I am not copying) that I still gave it to her despite the fact that my final touch of shimmer paint was frightfully smudged on the top two flowers. Imperfections are how you know it's homemade, or so I keep telling myself. I used the flower stamp from the Elements of Style set, which I borrowed from Liz.

I finally finished the little project I have been working on. It is a box containing nine cards with matching envelopes.

The stamp set is Birthday Bakery (cakes and stamping - the perfect combination) and each note card has a cake and says either "If you are what you eat, eat something cute" or "This is no day for just a sliver". I made it specifically for someone and sent it yesterday. I hope it's OK to give someone something that is very much me. I do hope it's a little bit her as well.

And so, to what I have been reading and watching. Sorry to those who already know about it because I do tend to tweet about reading. Anyone who wants to can join a Twitter reading group called Read It 2011. There is a different theme each month and you tweet about your books using the hashtag #readit2011 and the different monthly ones. January's theme is Scare Up a Good Book, which is also the theme for the summer reading club. We are reading scary books and I chose Nineteen Eighty-Four. It isn't horror because I don't enjoy horror (I did, however, read every Stephen King book available until I was nineteen. It wasn't the horror I enjoyed but the characters and the settings) but I thought dystopia was scary enough to make it fit. I absolutely loved it. Clearly, I don't need my books to be happy or even hopeful. It seems to me that, in the end, Orwell was saying that society is heading in an ominous direction and no matter how hard you resist, you will eventually give in. I can think of lots of books and films that are dystopian, I suppose it is a fascinating topic to explore, but which books are utopian? Even  the impossibly beautiful and quaint world of Anne of Green Gables had its share of messes and relational problems and the idealised 1950s America of the Donna Parker books (my step-mother owned these and I loved to read them when I visited) always had obstacles to be overcome. No obstacles, no journey, no book!

Now I am reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n. I have already had to write down a quote about the power of literature. I can tell that I am going to enjoy this book a lot. I'll have time in the evenings to read it because we have finished watching the third Series of Ashes to Ashes on DVD. I adored Life on Mars and thoroughly enjoyed the first two series of Ashes to Ashes. The fashions and music were more exciting as I remember the eighties very well but I was more attached to Sam Tyler than Alex Drake and found the political incorrectness funnier in Life on Mars. I was so looking forward to having all the questions answered and I wasn't disappointed. The whole series was fabulous and the ending was satisfying and heartwarming. I have moved on to re-watching the Forsyte Saga when Andrew is either out or busy. He was very good to watch it with me the first time around but he'll never do it again! I love the costumes, the scenery, the time and the characters. I love old Jolyon Forsyte. Why does no-one use that name anymore? Jolyon Heap?

Happy Australia Day to everyone. Especially happy as it it a holiday in the middle of the week! Here is Bethany's Australia Day tattoo which, sadly, did not survive the bath.

I'm going to sleep in. Are you doing anything special for Australia Day?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wedding cake

Back in October I spent a day and a half making three layers of wedding cake and my Christmas cake. The Christmas cake has just two pieces left and, on Saturday, the wedding cake was called into action. Baking, within reason, is something that I can do. Icing, however, is new and scary territory. Thankfully, the bride is a young, creative, arty sort of girl who didn't particularly want a pristine cake.

After Liz had shown me food dye stamping I thought that maybe I could introduce some stamping into this project. I didn't bother with food dye as the board wasn't to be eaten and the cake didn't touch it (each layer was on its own board). I don't have this stamp set yet so I borrowed it from Liz, it is Elements of Style.

Thanks to Nigella for the tip about the baking paper strips to protect the board.

I'm so glad Mim was here to help.

We tried minimal ribbon at first. Mim really wanted to put flowers on but I wanted to keep it modern and simple (I also didn't want to go to the florist - I was hot and very anxious to get the cake delivered!)

In the end we went for ribbon on all layers, including a thin layer around the board. Transporting it was very tricky. It weighed a ton and couldn't be touched anywhere! It was so very hot and when we arrived at the Riverine Club the top two layers had slipped. I did my best with them, placed it as well as I could on the table and hoped that in the hours remaining before the reception that it would set and not melt into a puddle. I left it like this and gratefully walked away!

The Riverine Club is where Mim had her reception last year. So elegant and old worldy.

It was terribly hot in the church but the wedding was beautiful. The six men take up so much more space than the same number of women!

Bethany was so enamoured of the bridal party that she didn't want to leave. Her favourite part was the kiss!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Birthday Boy

Toby is nine years old today! Never have presents matched pyjamas so well. There were Celtic goods, bongos, knights that need excavating, books and tantalising possibilities with gift cards. The weather did not allow for the promised golfing at pitch and put so Andrew took Toby to see Tangled at the cinema instead.

After studying the chocolate cake hall of fame in Nigella's Feast, Toby decided to go for the quadruple chocolate cake. Cocoa, dark choc chips, white choc chips and chocolate syrup - he is a boy who likes his chocolate (no idea where he gets that from).

We went down to Albury yesterday to peruse the furniture shops. Albury is an hour and forty-five minutes away by car and while I have been several times for work (they have a library converged with a museum) I haven't spent a lot of time there. Some good friends from church moved all the way to Albury from just around the corner, just before Christmas, so we took the opportunity to visit them in their new house. They not only gave us lunch but offered to keep the kids for us while we shopped! Toby looks pretty happy to be surrounded by so many girls.

They have a paddock behind the house with a horse and foal which thrilled Bethany.

Horses have such beautiful faces.

Mim and Bill arrived early this evening, just in time to head to a pre-wedding BBQ at the Botanic Gardens. It is, unfortunately, raining so we were very thankful for the large undercover area. I have made the wedding cake and this afternoon began the scary and totally new process of icing it. The three layers and board all look slightly dodgy at the moment, covered in a thin layer of fondant that goes under the royal icing I'll make tomorrow. Hopefully, tomorrow afternoon, I'll have some photos of a sweetly rustic but perfectly acceptable, wedding cake. I'm really hoping it goes well because Karen gave me a beautiful teacup as a thank-you - I hope don't feel compelled to give it back!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Watching the news at the moment it seems that all the parts of Australia that aren't under water are on fire. We're praying for all of those affected. It's one of those odd things that while so many people are struggling in extreme conditions, others are just going about their normal lives. Not that we are completely back to normal as we are all still on holidays. We are finding ourselves staying up very late and sleeping in every day. It will mean a rather nasty Monday morning for me when I get up  early, ride to work in the heat and do my ten hour work day. So, I'm not thinking about that yet.... it's ages away.

According to Facebook, 2011 is the year to pay it forward. Did you see that film? I vaguely recall seeing it. I don't think I liked it all that much but I definitely like the idea. I was one of the first five people to comment on Sarah's status so she is going to send me something she has made. I'm not certain it was entirely fair of me to comment as I already own a few lovely items made by Sarah but I couldn't resist. The deal is that I had to post the same status for myself and send five people something that I have made. Being one of the least crafty people I know, this would have meant, a few months ago, that I would be sending food. I made this chocolate pavlova on the weekend - not exactly easy to send.

Thankfully, my new obsession hobby is Stampin' Up so I have something much better to send. I am enjoying the stamping more than I could have imagined. We had our first stamp club meeting last night. Stamp club is a bit different to the regular workshops because the same six of us attend each month and we are building our skills so Liz doesn't need to cover the basics each time. Last night we did cracked glass embossing. You may need to click on the photo to see the effect (it's on the flowery bit).

Even if my new hobby qualifies as crafty, I am still lacking significantly in creativity. The great thing about Stampin' Up is that the catalogue is also an ideas book with lots of projects to copy be inspired by. Also, if you put Stampin' Up and the name of your stamp set into Google, you find lots and lots of great options. This set is called Pendant Park and I really love the tree. 

This set is Birthday Bakery (way to combine two great loves!)

I think there need to be more book stamps as reading is my favourite hobby of all. I have just started George Orwell's 1984. Can you believe that I have never read it? I am loving it so far but then I am predisposed to do so because I read a great biography of Orwell and Evelyn Waugh, called The Same Man. It was brilliant. Now, as it is almost half past ten in the morning, I may go and get out of my pyjamas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back to Civilisation

I know it's odd to come from Sydney and call Wagga civilisation but as I have had no Internet access for two weeks I feel like I have been in the wilderness. Two busy, people and excitement filled weeks away.  Now that I have hung out three loads of washing, I can sit down and share a few photos.

Last year Andrew and the kids went to Gloucester before Christmas to spend some time with Andrew's sister and her family in their new house while I was at work. This Christmas I was able to go too and found Gloucester a lovely little town. The house is on a hill just out of town and has views like this from every angle.

We went for a drive to the river with a plan to skim stones. My children, however, never miss an opportunity to get completely soaked. The three youngest cousins went home in their undies.

The cousins had so much fun together. Toby and Holly raced down to the long grass and back.

This is the moment Toby realised he had lost. Go girls!

Andrew's sister and her husband don't get up early so we found ourselves up with six excited children on Christmas morning and were running out of ideas when we remembered the huge television. That kept them going until everyone was awake and ready for presents.

Christmas Day was lovely. We had a fabulous lunch and really enjoyed spending time with the Gloucester contingent. We said goodbye to them on Boxing Day morning and drove over Barrington Tops to Mum and Dad's.  A few days with six excitable kids was nothing compared to the sweet chaos at the vineyard - there were around thirty two of us for lunch.

We met our newest nephew - he is so sweet.

Bethany enjoyed time with Granny and Sunny.

The traditional game of cricket was played. Even I had a bat.

Later, after all the aunts, uncles and cousins had left there were just sixteen of us left - so quiet! Mum and Dad, three children and eight grandchildren. Three babies so there were lots of cuddles. Doesn't Henry look like he's trying to escape his wrap?

Staying at Mum and Dad's means sitting at the long kitchen bench eating fabulous food.

So many people, so much noise. Even the cicadas were so loud that you could hardly hold a conversation outside. Every day Mum and I would go up to the chooks with the girls to collect the eggs. My Nanna used to take me to collect the eggs at Weetaliba when I was a little girl and I have always loved it. I cannot, however, be trusted with the eggs as I attempted to juggle a couple and dropped one on the first throw.

The last leg of our trip was a stay in Wahroonga with Andrew's parents. Andrew took Jossie and Toby ice-skating, a long promised adventure. Bethany and I went shoe shopping. She tried on every size 13 pair of shoes in Macquarie Centre and rejected them all. Not fun. Thankfully I discovered that T2 teahouses have scones with clotted, rather than just whipped, cream.

They were very busy so we had to wait a while. The teapot above did not contain scalding tea but was the marker for our table.

Wagga really needs a T2 teahouse. Andrew took Bethany to the zoo, which she loved, and her hat fell into the elephants' pool. Jossie and Toby saw The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with Nan, as I decided I really couldn't stand to see my favourite of the Narnia books messed with. We went to the beach with the whole clan on a windy day, went ten pin bowling and saw Gulliver's Travels.

So now we are home. Milo was very happy to see us and we were all excited to see the baby Willy Wagtails that hatched while we were away. I don't go back to work for another week and a half. This will be the part of my holiday with lots of sleep (hopefully)!