Yum, yum, finger buns!

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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.

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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.

Bits and Pieces

chives

My mum divided her chives up and sent me home with a nice clump.

These will be lovely stirred through mashed potato.

choc chip biscuits

Choc chip biscuits making the house smell yummy for when my kids get home from school. I used this recipe.

eggshells

Egg shells sprinkled around my seedlings to keep those pesky snails away.

It’s the gardening equivalent of broken glass on the top of a brick wall to keep intruders out.

oranges

Oranges were on special this week, which is great as I’m trying to keep everyone’s Vitamin C intake up.orange bag

And I used the bag from the oranges as a scourer for the porridge pot.

Works a treat.

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Finally we have sunshine, so I’ve been washing anything that’s not tied down.

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I need to sew these pretty flowers on to my daughters ballet costume.

Lucky I have a huge selection of cotton!

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A few holes drilled into the bottom of  an old teapot have saved it from becoming landfill. Carmella, who writes the blog Assortment, has been talking about making do with what you have. Her words are always inspiring.

Have a lovely weekend. xx

The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

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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

Moments in Time

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Happy Easter everyone!!

We have been having such a relaxing time of it these school holidays. After a few days away at Kangaroo Valley, we are now home again and have been very busy doing nothing much at all.

There has already been much chocolate eaten (I keep promising myself that after Easter I will start eating better!) and I suspect there will be lots more consumed before the weekend is over.

We went for a walk yesterday, to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. The kids and Barry kicked the soccer ball, while Molly the dog and I kept a more leisurely pace, and watched the birds diving for fish in the water.

Every now and then, one small, warm hand would find it’s way into mine, and a little person would chat away to me about this and that.  I drink up these moments, realising how fleeting these early years are. When they were very little, it seemed that we would never emerge from baby/ toddlerhood. I was so consumed in the day-to-day, that it didn’t occur to me that one day we would leave this stage, never to return. I now make a point of savouring the little things- tying shoelaces, brushing hair, listening to rambling tales about their day, tucking them into bed, because what seems permanent now, is merely just a moment in time.

While walking, we were also looking for ‘the perfect branch’. One that had fallen from the tree, just the right size, spreading twigs- perfect for our Easter tree. Just when I was about to give up, I saw it, and it now stands on my kitchen dresser, festooned with ribbons, tiny birds, and coloured eggs. It makes my heart sing every time I look at it. It is just so pretty!!

Do you decorate an Easter tree?

Do you sometimes wish that you could slow down time?

Are you planning on eating too much chocolate this weekend?

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The homework station.

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If homework at our house was a book, it’s title would be ‘100 ways to procrastinate – the ultimate guide to putting things off’.

The conversations go something like this – “I need the scissors”, “I can’t find a pencil”, “Where’s my homework book?” and “I left my pencil case at school”.

In an attempt to eliminate this daily struggle, I have created a homework station, which contains everything a little person could possibly need to complete their dreaded homework. I used this trolley, as it is bright, has three levels, and is on wheels. We keep it next to the kitchen bench, which is where the children do their homework. I like being able to keep an eye on them, and be close enough to help when needed.

Pencils, textas, crayons, scissors, eraser, sharpener, ruler and glue sticks live on the top level; homework books are in the middle; and spare paper is kept at the bottom. I try to keep it looking tidy so that the children can get straight into their work, without having to hunt around for what they need.

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I use silver plant pots to hold the pencils, so the children can move them to where they are needed. These pots also help to keep everything organised. I find that the easier it is for children to put things away, the more inclined they are to do so.

I deliberately made the area as inviting as possible as I want homework to be a pleasurable experience, not something to avoid. (hmm..we’re still working on this!) I know that when my office desk is neat, clear and organised, I do feel more motivated to begin work. We also try to stick to a routine when it comes to homework. After the children have unpacked their bags, changed out of their uniforms and had something to eat, they do half an hour of homework. I like to get it out of the way, so they then have the rest of the afternoon to relax and play.

Having all of the drawing materials in the one place also means that quite often, the children will just grab some paper and the coloured pencils, and sit up at the kitchen bench to draw a picture while I am making dinner. I love chatting to them about their day as they draw and colour and create.

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What tips do you have for getting children to do their homework?

Are you a procrastinator, or do you just get stuck in?

Do your creative juices flow when you see a row of perfectly sharpened, coloured pencils?

What’s for dinner?…..ask the menu board!

Are you the type of person who plans your meals a month in advance? Or do you find yourself at five o’clock standing in the kitchen wondering what on earth you can put together for dinner?   I tend to have phases of extreme organisation, which are then followed by weeks of unplanned mayhem. I think my problem so far has been the lack of an easy, simple meal-planning system. WELL…..until now, that is!

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This menu board has been an absolute sanity-saver for me. It took me about an hour to put together, and has saved me many hours since then. I used a cork board which I happened to have already mounted behind the kitchen door, and covered it with four sheets of pretty scrapbooking paper.

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The laminated menu cards sit in their little box (a recycled couscous carton) until it is their turn to be displayed on the board.

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Wooden pegs hot-glued onto the side of the corkboard hold the cards perfectly.

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On the back of each card, I have listed the ingredients needed for each meal, which makes writing my shopping list a breeze.

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As I shop weekly, this layout suits me perfectly. However, you could vary the number of pegs according to how far ahead you wish to plan.

The cards are an easy way of keeping all my regular meal ideas in the one place. As I remember past favourites, or discover new ones, I just make up a new card. They are also a good way of getting the family involved in planning the dinners for the week.

Do you use a meal planner? Or do you decide on the run? What is your family’s favourite dinner? My kids always request burritos!!