Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Halloween... Not something that we 'celebrate' in our family (or Australia even - I'm not sure why it's become such a popular event in the past couple of years), but having children who go to school, they come home excited about Halloween, and even counting down until the night, when they bargain to go out with their friends 'trick-or-treating'.

To them, Halloween isn't associated with witchcraft, zombies, harvesting festivals, undead spirits, and paganism...

It's about free lollies, free chocolates, and dressing up!

It's a fun thing for them to do and be involved in with their friends, and a hard thing to exclude them from when it is splattered everywhere in the shops and at school... Well, since it's Halloween (so I've been told), I thought I would share some creative foods that I made for a Halloween themed evening at church last year (for fun, and as an opportunity to invite people who wouldn't normally come to church - we had a dress-up night; listened to a sermon about angels, demons, and spirits -good and bad- in the Bible; and walked through the graveyard).

Spider cupcakes:

My spider cupcakes were basic cupcakes with different coloured buttercream icing. The spiders were made out of Malteasers, crispy M 'n' Ms, and licorice straps. I don't particularly like licorice (in fact, I think it is disgusting - but some people love it), and couldn't think of anything else that I could use for spider legs!

"Scream" ghost face biscuits:

I used an egg shaped cookie cutter to make these fout of shortbread, then used white royal icing and chocolate fudge writing frosting for the 'face'. Using letter cutters, I spelled 'Halloween', purely for presentation purposes :)

Last year, I attached John 3:16 to Freddo Frogs (or was it Milky Ways) that I popped into kids' buckets and bags when they knocked on my door dressed up in their costumes... This year, Ropes Crossing Church has provided 'Trick or Treat' leaflets, explaining in simple language the best free treat of all - everlasting life through Jesus.

"A day of playing dress-up and getting free candy is every child's dream. But children need to know that while trick or treating on Halloween is fun, the best treat of all has been given to us by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

(Read more at Gospel-Centred Publishing)

Though we don't make a big deal of it, Halloween is a great opportunity
to be a Christian influence in a world that desperately needs saving...

Aaaaand, because I really like baking, and melting chocolate...
Aaaaand because I just couldn't help myself...

I made some mini spider cupcakes :)

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Allow me to start with some rough conversations I've had with my husband
regarding this event:

   -- Three weeks prior to bluRopes --

Me: Hey, so bluRopes is coming up soon... And I've just had a really crazy idea!

Husband: ... Go on.

Me: So you know how church is having a barbeque... Well, we could also have cupcakes to sell!!

Husband: Okay, but who's going to make them?

Me: Well, I could!

Husband: No. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances. No cupcakes.

Me: But-

Husband: No cupcakes.

   -- A few days later --

Me: So, you remember how you said you were fine with me making some cupcakes for bluRopes?

Husband: No, I remember saying absolutely no cupcakes.

Me: But I've already got ideas for how to do them! They could have blue icing, and I could make melted chocolate musical notes to put on top of them!

Husband: Uh huh.

Me: Because it's a music event... Called bluRopes.

Husband: I get it.

Me: With music! You play music, and therefore you'd like me to make cupcakes.

Husband: That's a kind of twisted logic.

Me: Maybe I'll just make just a few... I promise I won't go crazy.

Husband: Fine. But don't make more than a hundred. Like, seriously. Not even a hundred and one.

Me: Okay, no more than a hundred... (clapping my hands in delight because he had changed his mind!)

   -- Two weeks until bluRopes --

Husband: (checking Facebook at the time, looking at a photo I had posted of our re-arranged freezer with perhaps a few more than 100 cupcakes in it) Nat, why do we have 218 cupcakes in the freezer?!

Me: Um... I kind of maybe baked another 100 cupcakes... Today.

Husband: You did what?!

Me: But it's okay! They're all in the freezer; I washed up afterwards, and I won't bake any more... Because, well, there's no more room left anyway...

   -- One week until bluRopes --

Me: So with the cupcakes, right... I was thinking that maybe we could wrap them up?

Husband: No. Absolutely not. No wrapping. Bakeries don't wrap their cupcakes!

Me: But they will look so pretty - like little presents!

Husband: Nat. Seriously. There's no need to wrap them. They can just be put straight into people's hands on the night.

Me: But what if they want to keep it until later?

Husband: That's their problem!

Me: But I may have already bought little bags for them...

Husband: I thought you promised you wouldn't go mental.

Me: Soorrryyy...

   -- The night before bluRopes --

I made more cupcakes... And also decided that instead of just blue icing for all of them, I would make a blue/green icing combination, and a red/yellow combination, because Redwoods was also playing! I couldn't have felt more proud of my own brilliance!

I also melted chocolate and traced musical note upon musical note onto baking paper and set them aside - ready for the following day!

   -- The day of bluRopes --

Starting pretty much as soon as I woke up and made myself a coffee, I took the cupcakes out of the freezer and placed them in rows over the (entire) kitchen bench, all in their colour co-ordinated (blue/green and red/yellow) sections... Oh man! I forgot about pink! While they were defrosting, I made (in batches) 3.5 kilos of icing... I then counted how many of each colour I had, and without wanting it all to be colourfully imbalanced, I decided that the pink ones could have a white/chocolate combination on them.

With batches of icing, I piped the icing onto the cupcakes. Then I went around and placed the chocolate musical notes on them...

Cupcakes were taking over my kitchen!

Despite all that icing, though, I ran out of it at 200 cupcakes! I went slightly nuts at my poor husband because he refused to buy me more icing sugar to make more icing for the remaining 60 cupcakes! He said that there was already plenty of cupcakes, but I was freaking out because there was so many left still to ice!

I asked him (starting calmly, escalating to crazy) to "Please, please can you just go and buy me some more icing sugar? I really don't want to get all cranky and crazy, so please just do what I've asked you to do!"

To distract myself from my ingredient disaster, I melted some chocolate and made more musical notes, double notes this time, instead of single ones and just kept on going until either the chocolate ran out, or the baking paper...

I don't even remember which one it was!

My husband left to go and set up for the evening. I hoped he wouldn't be long and would be back with his shining armour, and with icing sugar!

Meanwhile, with tongs, I started placing the finished cupcakes into the bags and tied them up... This part was honestly the most time consuming of the whole story, and also the part where I wondered "Why, oh why, had I decided to do this part and not listen to my husband?!"

Then saw how good they looked and remembered ;)

I looked at the time, and it was quickly running out! Just as I had packed the last finished cupcake into it's bag and tied it up, my (wonderful, wonderful) husband came back with icing sugar for me, and I was able to ice another 30... Before I ran out of margarine! Rahh! What I had already iced would just have to do.

At least most of them sold...

Well... About half of them sold.

Probably should have stopped at 100.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Deefa at the farm...

We have just come back from giving ourselves a spontaneous extended long weekend... We went to visit family, who live on a sheep and cattle farm, and it was so nice changing scenery and enjoying life slow down for a few days.

I think the boys in my family were the ones who enjoyed this trip the most (they were totally in their 'zone')... Fresh air; thousands of acres to run around in; dogs; and quad bikes. A love they all share.

The day before we were to return home, we went on a very long quad bike ride around many paddocks to check their pasture. Deefa came with us, but he was not a big fan of riding in the quad bike, like the other farm dogs. So he ran beside the bikes instead, and looked fairly content with doing that.

That was when my husband clocked him running at 45km p/h!

As well as being a super quick puppy, we found out over the weekend that our half border collie puppy has absolutely no interest in sheep! So much for being (half) a 'sheep dog'!

He was much more interested in playing with the other dogs/puppies; eating the grass; and running like mad through the paddocks next to us on the quad bikes... He went for his first swim in the creek, and didn't seem to mind it that much... He often plays in the puddles whenever it floods in our backyard, so we were interested in finding out what he'd think of being neck deep in water.

Deefa has such a nice running stride, but gee he looked old when he stopped.

Poor thing must have run about 20km on that trip. And that was just one of the times we went out and about on the farm!

It was no surprise, then, that on the way back from our 2 hour bike ride to check the pastures for the sheep/cattle, Deefa was more comfortable/happy riding in the back of the quad bike :)

The next day, still recovering from all the running he had done for three days, he slept and snored for most of the 6 hours in the car ride back home, which was very cute indeed...

I suppose he can stay :)

Friday, 19 October 2012

New baby boy cakes!

With 3 different sets of neighbours on my block having babies (all boys) within 4 weeks of each other, I wanted to create something unique, special and different for some "Congratulations on your new baby boy" gifts...

So, of course, I decided to bake.

With the success of mixing two colours together with my horse cupcakes earlier this week, I thought that this time I would combine three colours together. The three babies born on my block were all boys, so the colours I chose to combine were blue, green, and white.

Without wanting to refill my piping bag (and because I figured there'd be less mess this way), I stood the piping bag up in a glass. I didn't actually need as much icing as I put in, so I may just have to bake more cupcakes to use it all up ;)

This will definitely be a method I will use again. The glass held the bag steady so that I could just keep spooning more and more icing into it (probably why I spooned in a bit too much in the first place, though)...

I still have some practicing to do with piping techniques, but this is by far the easiest method of icing I have come across. There's no spreading, no scraping. Just line up the nozzle and squeeze :)

This is what the icing piped onto my 'baby boy cakes' looked like:

For the baby feet (I've wanted to create these for ages), I had thought of using jelly beans, but I am all for matching, and because I only had white or chocolate fudge writing gel things, I used chocolate coated sultanas instead.

Dabbing the toes on meant precision, symmetry, and dedication... At least for the first couple of cupcakes. Unfortunately, they look more like bear feet than baby feet, and some of the feet have webbed toes, but this is what they all look like!

To wrap up the cupcakes, I went to the local take away store and purchased cardboard noodle containers. Once putting cupcakes inside, I wrapped them up with blue cellophane :)

For cards, I made my own with some plain cardboard and wrapping paper. I had some Baby Boy Christening Day wrapping paper (for some reason - unused), and began to cut out a couple of the pictures to stick on. Then with a silver paint texta, I wrote "Congratulations!" down the bottom!

Newborn babies are so sweet and little and cute and precious, and I am not clucky at all... Ah who am I kidding, I totally am ;)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Feeling a little horse...

Today I had one of those rare and amazingly productive days, filled with 3 loads of washing, the tidying up of 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, getting up-to-date with the washing up, and organising (again) the pantry...

The afternoon rolled around (a bit too quickly), and as I went outside to bring in some of the dried washing, I found my dog eating a shirt of my daughter's! Her Grandpa got it for her from overseas a couple of years ago, and (after getting so cranky at him -and everyone else in sight unfortunately-), I was heartbroken...

I'm not sure what others do when they are completely overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions*, but I often bake.

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with the cupcakes once they were done, but still made the mixture and spooned them into the patty cases, ready to bake anyway.

Not long after they were in the oven, I saw on Facebook that the church play group I take my youngest to was looking for someone to bring some morning tea in for the parents the next day... Brilliant! A plan was then underway to find out what animal we'd be learning about, and make cupcakes to match.

The animal was horses.

So, thinking quickly, I printed out little horse outlines and melted some chocolate in the microwave. With dark chocolate, I traced the horses' bodies. Then, with milk chocolate, I added their tails, manes and an eye.

With the icing, I thought that today I'd try something different... I made a batch of buttercream, separated it in half, and added cocoa to one of the halves... Then I alternated spooning each of them into a piping bag to pipe onto the cupcakes that had cooled down by this stage. This was the first time I'd combined different coloured icing to pipe, and I am happy with the result! After refilling the piping bag, I found that the colours then blended a bit more, but I was alright with that :)

The piping was done, and I added the chocolate horses on top!

I am feeling much better now.
In fact, I'm even hungry enough to eat a little horse ;)

* I'd actually really love to know what others do in these situations! Does anyone else find spontaneous baking therapeutic?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Disney Party!

My daughter, Tamara, has just turned 8. She had requested (in July, while I was organising my son's  party) a Disney themed party to celebrate! Organisations for the party were underway (much, much later than July). I found an awesome Disney font generator site which I used for her party invitations, along with a Disney picture of Tamara's choice on the front. They looked like this:

When the children arrived for the party, I had some 'craft' already set up on the table, which had a purple plastic table cover to be Disney themed: Fairy wands (admittedly, this was a left-over idea from 4FAMILIES), and Scoobie bracelets (which actually proved a bit tricky and wasn't really an interest for the kids anyway)... So, just the fairy wands it was!

There was also a guessing competition! Inside washed and dried baby food jars, I had placed M 'n' Ms and gummy bears. I titled them 'Mickey Mouse droppings', and 'Baby Brother Bears'. Reuben thought the first one was pretty gross, but hey - I don't think the kids actually paid attention to what they were called anyway! With some black cardboard and sticky tape, I cut out mouse ears and put it on top:

Games we played started with 'Pin the hair on Rapunzel'. For this, I printed out a picture of Rapunzel without long hair, and after kicking myself for not buying yellow wool as soon as I saw it at a discount shop, I thankfully found a yellow hula skirt, so with a bit of last-minute improvisation, I tied some of the strands in little bunches, and then snipped them off the skirt... That made Rapunzel's 'hair' to stick on. With names written on paper and taped to the bottom of each bunch, the kids lined up perfectly and waited patiently for their turn at the game! Rapunzel ended up with hair everywhere :)

Next up was Disney Bingo! This was the whole reason Tamara wanted a Disney themed party! As I was designing bingo cards for Ben's Pokémon party earlier this year, Tamara had already decided that she wanted me to make Disney bingo cards so that Bambi could be on them! ... I had fun making these, actually, even though there were so many Disney characters to choose from! It was hard to round it down to just a couple of handfuls... Again, a small plastic cup filled with smarties were used for counters. Here's what one of the cards looked like:

I used the Disney font site to make the names of the characters, to hold up as the game was played. I think this is one of my favourite parts of parties - when all the children sit quietly and patiently, waiting for their chance to scream out 'Bingo' if they had a row of smarties on their cards, or 'DISNEY' if they had filled the whole page with smarties... And then of course eat them :)

We then played a bowling game with a small ball and little army figures (like from Toy Story) but I did not have a chance to photograph in between balls rolling everywhere and army men to straighten up for the next go.

For lunch, the kids made their own pizzas! Prior to the party, I cut up squares of baking paper to write the kids' names on them so that they didn't all get mixed up in the oven.

Ingredients came out, pizza bases were ready (i.e. defrosted), names were written - it was time to get some pizza making skills happening! The kids really liked this, and they were patient waiting for sauce, and shared the ingredients so beautifully. Many points for my husband who organised how to fit so many pizzas into the oven at one time!

I over estimated how much ham, pineapple and cheese that would be needed, so there was enough left for my husband and I to make pizzas as well... And potentially we will be making pizzas for the next few days, too :)

Dessert included:

- Shortbread cars with mini Oreo biscuits as wheels (and also mini shortbread cars with brown M 'n'Ms as wheels), both decorated with blue and yellow 'royal icing'.

- Tim Tam traffic lights (with red, orange and green M 'n' Ms attached with melted chocolate)
- Disney cupcakes

With my new found interest in melting chocolate (in snap lock bags in the microwave), I printed out some Mickey Mouse outlines to use for the Disney cupcakes... Purple buttercream icing was piped on top, and then a Mickey outline was placed on top of that.

And just to add a bit of spark, the 'candle' was actually a number 8 shaped sparkler! I did not realise such things existed until I found it.

For some decorations, I cut out (probably too many) cardboard stars to put up around the house and on the front door... I did start painting them with glitter paint (yes, seriously - the things we do for our children!), but after a few I lost a bit of interest, and figured that no one would notice anyway! The glitter painted ones went on the front door anyway, and the others just remained plain white.

As the mother of the birthday girl, I thought I should at least dress up a tiny bit... So with some black cardboard, sticky tape, and a headband, I made myself some Mickey Mouse ears to wear.

Happy birthday sweetheart! :)