Yum, yum, finger buns!

fingerbun3

When I was a kid, one of my favourite things to buy from the school canteen (or the “tuckie” as we used to call it) was a sticky, sweet, pink-iced finger bun. Back then, they were about 20 cents, which is a lot of money when you are six!

We have recently discovered one of those old-school, no-frills bakeries, selling all the treats that remind me of my childhood:- meringues, custard tarts, vanilla slices and….fingerbuns! At $1.80 each, the cost adds up when buying 3 at a time, so I thought I would give them a go myself.

I found this recipe in my daughter’s Frankie magazine, and made a couple of changes. They are pretty simple to make. The trickiest part is the kneading, which is both soothing and a workout! I’m glad I got a couple of photos, as they did not last long.

Ingredients

For the dough

150ml whole milk

2 1/3 cups plain flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp dried yeast

1 tsp bread improver (heaped)

2 tbsp soft butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the icing

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp milk

Tiny drop of pink food colouring

Method

Heat the milk in the microwave until lukewarm (about 30 secs)

Stir together flour, caster sugar, salt, yeast and bread improver in a large bowl. Add the warmed milk, butter and egg, and stir to make a soft, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is springy and elastic. Place into a clean, lightly greased large bowl, and cover with a clean tea-towel. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This takes about an hour.

Turn the oven to 200 degrees celcius and line a tray with baking paper.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a long, fat cigar shape. Put the shaped rolls on the prepared tray, leaving about two finger spaces between them. Cover loosely with the clean tea towel and let rise for another 15 minutes, then bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove to a rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, add the milk and food colouring gradually to the icing sugar, until it forms a thick, smooth, glossy paste. Spread a generous amount on each bun. At this point, you can also sprinkle the buns with desiccated coconut or 100s and 1000s. Leave to set. (You may need to stand guard and swat away little fingers, as I did)

Makes 12 finger buns.

fingerbun2

The Christmas Table

Every year, around October, I start to think about how I would like our table to look on Christmas Day. I love thinking about colours, the place cards, the treat that I put on each persons place. I try to create an atmosphere that ensures that each person who sits at our Christmas table feels special and loved, and excited about the day.

In 2010 I went with an icy blue and silver look. I made personalised baubles for everyone, which were very quick and easy to do, but looked gorgeous. I just used a thin brush dipped in pva glue to write the names, and then shook fine blue glitter over the glue.

In 2011, I chose a cheery green, red and white colour scheme. I sewed up felt stockings for everyone, and placed a few fun treats inside, such as wind up toys, lip gloss, and chocolates.


2012 had a natural theme. I created a table runner using hessian bags that I bought from Bunnings, the kids and I scavenged some pine cones from the nearby golf course, and gingerbread angels lay on each persons plate. I really loved this look.

In 2013, my aim was to not buy anything new for the table setting. I limited myself to things I already had around the house and greenery that I found in the garden. I always cover my placements in gift wrap so that they match the table (Thanks Mum for that idea!), and luckily I had lots left over from previous years.

  Last year, I did a kind of Scandinavian/ foresty/ fairytale look. My Ikea hanging star light was once again put to good use, as were the green cuttings from the garden.

    This year, I am thinking of using a lot of glass, gold, copper and creams, and having an antique look to the place settings. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I always set the table on the 24th, so I have plenty of time to fiddle about with things. 

Even though I love planning and decorating our table for Christmas, I know that the most important thing is that we are all there, family and friends, together on Christmas Day. That’s what makes it special.

The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

margaret olley

Have you ever read Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’? I read this wonderful book out loud to my children last year. Every evening, we would sit on one of their beds, snuggled together, one of them brushing my hair (so nice!), as we laughed and cried over the tales of the March sisters. They talk about the characters now as if they are old friends. When we had finished the final chapter, we celebrated by watching the 1949 movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O’Brien. I wanted to wait until we had finished reading so that they could form their own images in their minds of what the characters looked like.

One of my favourite parts is when Meg and Mr Brooke marry and move in to their “tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front”. I love the descriptions of this small, simple home that is filled with love. Meg’s family and friends all help with the cleaning, arranging, decorating and furnishing of the home, each taking on tasks that they are particularly skilled in. Everyone seems so invested in making this little home as cosy and as beautiful as possible for the young newlyweds, and when Meg’s mother asks “Does it seem like home, and do you feel as if you should be happy here?”, Meg replies “Yes, Mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, and so happy that I can’t talk about it,” with a look that was far better than words’.

I think we can put this into practice in our own homes. For example, making the bed is quite a dull task. I can either pull the covers up and be done with it. Or, I can think about the person who will be sleeping in this bed, about how much I love them, and how I want them to have a good nights sleep. Then I will make sure that the sheets are smooth, that the pillows are plumped up, that the cushions are arranged in a way that looks inviting and cosy. The person who sleeps in this bed will feel cared for, cherished and loved.

Here is an excerpt from the book:-

“There were no marble-topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

I don’t think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave lost any of its beauty because John put up the bracket it stood upon, that any upholsterer could have draped the plain muslin curtains more gracefully than Amy’s artistic hand, or that any store-room was ever better provided with good wishes, merry words, and happy hopes than that in which Jo and her mother put away Meg’s few boxes, barrels, and bundles, and I am morally certain that the spandy new kitchen never could have looked so cozy and neat if Hannah had not arranged every pot and pan a dozen times over, and laid the fire all ready for lighting the minute `Mis. Brooke came home’. I also doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece bags, for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.

People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose, for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought.”

Image:- Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers (1995) by Margaret Olley

My shabby chic wedding – Part 2

Yesterday I started to tell you about my wedding, which took place in 2008. (see post here) Today, I’ll fill you in on a few more of the details, if you’d like to take a look.

These are the little take-home gifts that I put together for our guests. I chanced upon a pile of beautiful Cath Kidston hand creams in Target which were on sale, so I gathered up each and every one of them, as I knew they would be perfect for the ladies. I also picked up a few larger gift packs from the same range to give to people such as my mum and bridesmaid.

For the men, I bought miniature bottles of Johnny Walker whiskey, a nod to Barry’s Scottish heritage.

I loved how pretty they all looked, tucked into the wicker baskets.

My gorgeous Auntie Christine made the wedding cake. I described to her how our wedding was going to look (ie, pretty, floral, pink & green), and showed her a few pictures of cakes that I liked, and she came up with something better than I could have ever imagined.

A couple of days before the wedding, I decided that we needed programs, see below. As I had so much spare time (Ha!), cutting out one hundred and twenty paper butterflies was no problem at all. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the butterflies were attached with tiny metal fasteners, which allowed the wings to ‘flutter’ on the card. They were very pretty, but I must have been slightly deranged to attempt this in the lead up to our at-home wedding.

So there you have it, our wonderful, magical wedding day. It was such a lot of fun getting everything ready and spending hours playing about with ribbons, flowers, and paper lanterns. Barry, in typical man-style, was happy to go along with whatever I planned, and would make the appropriate sounds of approval whenever I showed him something new. I was thrilled with how it all turned out, but at the end of the day, what made it so special and memorable was the love of our family and friends and having them there to share it with us.