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.

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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.

sewing basket

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

Lucky I have a huge selection of cotton!

teapot flower

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.

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

Avoiding Food Waste

brownie

Did you know that the average New South Wales household throws away $1036 worth of edible food each year? (abc.net.au) That is like taking $20 out of your purse each week and throwing it in the bin.

I hate wasting food and try my best to avoid it, but every so often I end up with a container of something dodgy lurking in the back of the fridge that needs to be thrown away. Or a smell from the food cupboard that turns out to be a wet, mushy, very old potato. Bleugh!

These are some of the ways I minimise food waste:-

  • keep leftovers visible by using see through containers
  • have a designated spot in the fridge for leftovers
  • keep the fridge organised so that food doesn’t get ‘lost’
  • have a meal plan so I don’t buy more than I need
  • use the freezer. Even if it is a single portion of food, or I think I may be using something in the next few days, freezing food ensures that it won’t go off if I forget about it or change my mind.

bananabreadSome of the ways I avoided wasting food last week:-

  • made ice blocks using coke that had gone flat.
  • baked a banana bread (in the picture above) using bananas that had gone brown. I put my brown bananas in the freezer and save them for baking.
  • I bought two bags of onions because they were $1 kilo. I chopped them up using the blender, then spooned them into ziplock bags (1 onion per bag) and put them in the freezer so that they will keep for a long time.
  • We had a leftovers for dinner on Sunday night (see below). I set it out like a buffet, and told the kids they could choose what they wanted. They thought that this was the best dinner ever!
    buffetDo you have any tips for avoiding food wastage?

Thinking outside the box.

The sun came out today after four days of rain and storms. So I did what people all over Sydney were doing – hung some washing out on the line. I wanted to wash the winter blankets before putting them on the beds, to get rid of that cupboardy odour. They now smell like fresh air and sunshine!washingpowder

As I scooped the washing powder into the machine, I thought about how I love the green colour of these containers. (Yes, it was a bit of a slow day around these parts). I started using these vintage canisters to keep my washing powder in after I began making my own. Even when I buy my washing powder ready-made, I still pour it into these canisters, because they are so much nicer to look at.dogfoodtin This is the old bread bin that I keep our dry dog food in. Molly the collie recognises the sound of the lid being opened, and rushes into the kitchen whenever she hears the clang.toothbrushesI keep our toothbrushes and toothpaste in an old Stilton cheese jar that I bought in a Scottish op-shop for £1.washingupbottlesThis is our washing up liquid and surface spray (I just use diluted washing up liquid in the spray bottle). I bought the original cleaners from Aldi ages ago, and covered them in some contact from a roll that I bought at a garage sale. When they are empty, I refill them using a bulk bottle of Aldi washing up liquid.

I love using old, repurposed or decorated containers to store my everyday things in. It is a lot more aesthetically pleasing, reduces the need to buy new storage items, and also means that you can often buy in bulk, which cuts down on unnecessary packaging.

Do you tip things out of their original packaging, or use unusual containers to store things in? I’d love to hear any ideas.

 

One person’s trash….

Exciting times are upon us folks….it’s council clean up week!! I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this concept, but in our city, twice a year, households have the opportunity to place their unwanted goods out the front of their house to be picked up by the council. The sort of stuff that you can’t throw out in your weekly rubbish eg. mattresses, fridges, broken toys etc etc. In amongst the genuine ‘rubbish’ are lots of perfectly good things that people no longer want or need. Hence, the treasure!!

When we were kids, ‘throw out day’ was the highlight of our year. One time my friends and I discovered a whole box of high heels. We immediately put them on (of course!) and teetered all the way home, feeling ever so glamorous. On another occasion, a discarded pram provided hours of entertainment, as we pushed each other up and down the steep hill where we lived.

I am not ashamed to say that clean up week gives me the same thrill now as it did when I was a child. I love going for a quick stickybeak around my local area to see what gems I can uncover.

Speaking of gems……

edited teaset2

Can you believe it?! They’re old, and gorgeous and look perfect on my dresser. I am in love! Especially with this wee fellow..

jan 2014 139

My other find was this lantern below. Swoon!! When we (I took my kids along with me for moral support) walked around the corner, I spotted it, in the hands of a man who looked suspiciously like a second-hand dealer. He was holding it, turning it over, this way and that, while I silently willed him to put it down. Luckily my telepathy worked, and as soon as he had put it back and driven off, we swooped over and grabbed it. I gave it a wipe down and put a chunky white candle inside, and it now looks tres elegant on the table on our back verandah. Happy days!

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Over the course of the weekend, we also managed to acquire: two basketball hoops, a hot pink office chair, numerous brand new board games, a wooden garden bench, a set of vintage Christmas decorations, a Pyrex pie dish, three boogie boards, and a hand-knitted blanket. I have meticulously washed and cleaned all of these things; some I’ll keep, others I’ll donate to our local charity shop. I just hate to see waste, and I would much rather these things be given a second chance, rather than end up as landfill. It also gives me a bit of retail therapy without actually parting with any cash!

As Lucie said yesterday…”Mummy, this has been the BEST day!”