Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm back. I know, it's been a very, very long time. Thanks for not giving up on me. I didn't give up on you, I've just been a little distracted. With this...

That's right, I've been busy getting my business off the ground! Businesses are really hard work...who would've thought?!

At the start of this year I wrote a post about my 2012 resolutions. Clearly I failed miserably at keeping them, particularly the one about writing a blog post every week... and the one about doing yoga every week... and, well, most of them. I did however, sort of, achieve my first goal - to write a business plan. I say sort of because I may have skipped that step and just gone straight into starting the business. Plan in my head. Not on paper.

I still plan on writing a business plan (I am making a plan to plan) so no doubt I will update you in another few months most likely saying I have created a cover and contents page. Let's be real here.

Anyway, since Spongedrop officially launched in July I have been busy. Being a small business owner is a real challenge - I have been eating, sleeping, dreaming, living cake almost constantly for the last few months. I've discovered that I have chosen a path that requires ME to do almost everything, given that I am not just the business 'owner' but also the baker, designer, planner, tester, marketer, financial controller, cleaner, shopper, social media manager, networker...I think you get the picture. I'm not going to sugar coat it, it is REALLY hard and there have been times when I have wanted to throw down my spatula and the frosting against the wall. Luckily I have people around who stop that from happening.

I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am a wee bit of a perfectionist and control freak (my mum and sister are nodding right now) but that is what happens when you put your name to something. You want it to be the best you can offer and it's hard to make compromises. Even sometimes when they make sense. Each week I am getting better at managing all this though, I'm learning new tricks, I'm getting faster, I'm finding a rhythm. And I am loving it. As hard as it is and as much of a lifestyle change it's been (going from ad agencies to kitchens, cleaning and market days in the rain) every time I finish a cake or have a great day at the markets I am happy that I do this. I've also met some very talented, inspirational people and made some great new friends.

So, here's to starting a new business! I am hoping to be back here a lot more often but won't risk making any brash promises I can't keep ;) Thank you a thousand times over to all my supporters and I hope to bring you mucho cake in the future!!!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We did it

Hello. I thought you might like an update on our cake stall adventures at The Little Big Markets on Saturday.

We had an AWESOME time and almost SOLD OUT OF CAKE!

Everyone who came by our stall was so lovely and complimentary. All the hard work and semi-sleepless nights (just over three hours sleep on Friday) were 100% worth it.

We learnt so much from this market and the lead up to it and I can safely say that next market we'll be a lot more organised and be operating on a lot more sleep.

Our market menu included:
  • Lemon Meringue, Rich Chocolate, Coca-Cola and Heilala Vanilla Cupcakes
  • Vanilla and Double Chocolate Cake Pops
  • Apple & Olive Oil Cake
  • Raspberry Sponge Layer Cake with Mascarpone Icing
(Any of these cakes can now be ordered via my Facebook page spongedropbakes)

There were some definite favourites on the day but overall everything sold really well. I wish I could find everyone who bought our cakes and thank them for their support. They all helped to make this girl's dream a reality. If you're one of the lovely people who tried our cakes please message me and let me know what you thought. All feedback (good and not so good) is much appreciated!

I couldn't have achieved any of this without the support of my incredibly tolerant and helpful boyfriend, friends and family who did all sorts of things from carpentry to painting, design to transportation, photography to prop supply, sign-writing to simply feeding me. THANK YOU. You guys rock and will be paid in cake handsomely. x

Vanilla Cake Pops

Little cakes, big cakes all in a row

The classic vanilla

Seriously whippy and creamy chocolate frosting

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Launching at The Little Big Markets!

Eeek! That's right, we are having our first market stall at The Little Big Markets this coming Saturday, the 7th of July. It will be an awesome experience.

Planning is underway and has been for weeks. I've been through cupcake trials, cake pop trials, trials for frosting, trials for paint colour. Being currently unemployed as I am (by choice thankfully) I have possibly spent a touch too much time turning this whole market thing into a far far bigger deal than it actually may be. But that's because I am crazy excited about it.

I mean, this is me, putting myself out there, selling my wares. I'm saying to people 'hey, look at what I made' and THEN I am asking them to handover money for it. I am basically stating, in a very sweet, innocuous way, that I can make a better cake than you...which in this country jam packed full of well-practised bakers with very specific and steadfast palates is a really cocky thing to do. And I'm not a cocky person. Maybe it doesn't show on the outside but I am a girl who very much gets herself into a tangle of fears and anxieties. I genuinely don't believe I can make a better cake than you. But I have decided that I am going to try really hard. Because I love baking and want to be really good at it.

Starting up my own business - oh hang on! News flash! I've started my own business which has been keeping me rather busy. So busy that I haven't posted about it. Shame on me. It's called Spongedrop - but let's hold those details for another post.

Starting my own business is (surprise surprise) a really personal thing to do. You're backing yourself. And you are asking to be judged. And judged you will be. I feel a lot of pressure to be perfect straight off the bat. I need to keep reminding myself that this is unrealistic.

Now, everytime I bake, I feel as though people are expecting so much more than they used to. Before they would just appreciate the gesture but now it has to be something truly great. Which, in all honesty, it's not always going to be. I have to test recipes. And I am really not a food waster - I can't bake something and then bin it if it's not right. So forgive me people if every now and then, something just a little average comes your way. I hope I don't charge you for it.

I recently baked cookies to take to a friend who had just given birth. Being disorganised I had lost the recipe I intended to use so tried a new one. Unchartered territory. I gave those cookies to my friend thinking 'God I hope she doesn't judge all my baking on those'. If I step back from the situation, she was probably just happy to have something that wasn't hospital made and, given that she had just had a baby, I'm sure she had other things on her mind.

Another fear lurking about, is that there is a group of mahjong playing ladies who have written my cupcakes off without a fair trial.

These are the things that whirl about in my head. They make me scared. They make me unsure. But they also make me feel challenged. And after some mulling, more determined. It's common for me to feed my insecurities by picking up on tiny criticisms and taking them so much to heart that I can't see the benefits that could come from them. I'm trying to change this. Self doubt is natural, and something I am naturally inclined towards. What I need to remind myself is that I am not trying to be, nor will I ever be, 'perfect' - no matter how skilled I get or how many cakes I bake there is always room for improvement, for new techniques to be learned, flavours to be tasted. There will always be people who don't like what you do, or just plain don't like you. I just have to do my best and keep learning along the way. I am not a trained professional baker but that doesn't mean I don't have the heart, the wherewithal and the tenacity to learn to be a great baker.

What I do know is that I will be my own harshest critic if I don't try. 

So... emotions aside and back to the point of this post! Spongedrop will be launching with a great deal of enthusiasm, passion and a healthy dose of nerves this weekend so PLEASE, come rain or shine, pop by, say hello and try my cakes. I do believe they are good. Not perfect, but definitely good.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ocean themed Dessert Table: Mum's Wedding

For years I've been following the work of Amy Atlas, swooning over her dessert tables and being amazed by the incredible submissions she gets from talented bakers and stylists all over the world. This lady is super high on my inspiration list (along with Molly from Orangette), she basically has my dream job. So it is Amy I have to thank for inspiring me and encouraging me to take on the challenge of creating a dessert table for my mother's wedding.

On April 28th 2012 my mum married a lovely man named Brian Palmer.

It makes me happy to see her so happy. It's nice how that works.

As my gift to them (more of a gift to me seeing as I wanted to do this so badly) I offered to create a dessert table. So after months of planning, here it is! My first ever dessert table! Disclaimer: the photos aren't quite what I hoped so apologies for the less than professional pics!

Mum and Brian first met through their work at the Tauranga Coastguard where they bonded over a love of boats and fishing, so it was no surprise they chose an ocean theme for their wedding.

The 'Anchor Me' bunting was inspired by the song of the same name from New Zealand band The Mutton Birds. It's a moving song with beautiful lyrics. You can listen to it here.


I recruited my sister, sister-in-law and my soon to be step-sister (sisters unite!) to help and over the space of a week we managed to pull everything off - without a hitch. I wasn't expecting that...I honestly thought something would go wrong. There was so much work involved but I loved every minute. Never underestimate the work and love that goes into creating dessert!

The Menu:

Ruffle Wedding Cake - the bottom tier was fruit cake (made by Brian while I was in London, thanks Brian!) and the top tier was a caramel chocolate layer cake with an ombre affect (graduated colour). You can see Mum holding a slice in the photo above. I love this cake. If I made it, am I allowed to say it's really pretty?


Lemon Pearlised Cake Pops - held to attention on a piece of driftwood Mum collected from the beach.  


Chocolate Seashells (made by my new step sister Karina) and Coconut Ice-bergs


Macarons - Not French but 'Mauao' macarons! Mauao is the Maori name for Mount Maunganui an old volcano and scenic feature of Tauranga harbour where we live. Macaron flavours included blueberry, dark chocolate, salted caramel and passionfruit. I haven't quite got macarons down to a fine art (they will not beat me!) but they just passed quality control (i.e. me).


White Chocolate & Blueberry Cheesecakes and Salted Caramel Cheesecakes served up in individual little jars. These were really good, so simple but so good.

Feedback on the night was fantastic and I received loads of lovely comments from friends and family, including my Mum who, although knew we were putting this together, wasn't aware of the details. I loved putting this table together even more than I expected and learnt a LOT. Hopefully I'll get to create another one very soon...any one getting married or celebrating a birthday???

Dan x

Monday, April 30, 2012

My new mascots! Noah's Ark Cake

On my last two days of work at Cakes 4 Fun in London, I had the chance to do a course with the very talented, cake decorator extraodinaire Debbie Brown - she of sugarpaste modelling fame.

Bear in mind this was my last two days of work. This meant, last chance to farewell my favourite customers, last chance to be overly diligent with the gorgeous Zoe and last chance to be one half of the control freak duo that we were, tidying corners of the shop in silence until we realised that we were taking it way too seriously, fell into fits of giggles and stopped to contemplate what we were doing with our lives over a cup of tea (and cake).

I was torn, do I spend my last two days of work officially 'working' with my pals or do I spend it playing with sugarpaste? After much umming and ahhing (which Zoe can attest to) I chose sugarpaste and even though I missed all the fun with Zoe and the gang I'm glad (sorry guys) I did because I got to make this!

Hello little Noah's Ark animals.

Debbie Brown is the equivalent of a rock star in the cake world. She is seriously talented and over the past two decades has built up a successful career publishing over 20 cake decorating books and teaching students worldwide. The Noah's Ark Cake comes from her latest 'Baby Cakes' book. 

Debbie is naturally artistic and has some crazy skills when it comes to sugarpaste modelling. She started her career at home, where her natural ingenuity led her to find ways of using common household items to help shape and create her cute characters. This skill became clear during the two day class - very few actual modelling tools were used and we relied heavily on our hands and other common items like toothpicks, knives and brushes to create affects.

It was a full on two days. At times I tormented myself with fears of half created animals and a solo bear on a boat filled with animal couples (how awful would that be!?) but in the end it all worked out.

Even though modelling isn't my passion when it comes to cake this class really helped me to appreciate the skill involved. It was tough! Fingers get in the way! The tiniest change in angle can make a cute face look angry. I have a new found respect for sugarpaste modellers. They are a patient, persistent, dexterous lot.

Here are some work in progress shots - on the left are some blind hippo's, they look so weird without pupils! He's blind but toothy. And on the right is me hard at work adding the finishing touches, wearing an odd brown top. What colour is that...? Terracotta?

And here are my new mascots. My giraffes. They flew all the way home with me via Hong Kong, safely tucked into a Laduree macaron box. Their ears and little antlers have broken off but I have all the parts so will fix them up good as new! These guys make me happy so when I am feeling doubt, when I am freaking out about how to finish a cake, I will look to them and know it's going to be okay.

Thanks Debbie for bringing these little guys to my life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Home and a big, fun PROJECT

There's a storm outside. Lightning and all. All this is happening over the Hong Kong harbour while I watch from my 29th floor window. That's right, I'm in Hong Kong! I've come to visit a friend who is happy to put up with me dossing at her place for a week while I break up my move home. Home.


When I get back home there is something very exciting on the agenda. A WEDDING! More specifically my MUM'S WEDDING! Woop! And of course weddings mean wedding cake. And not just wedding cake, wedding dessert table. And who has offered to create this all? is I. In a moment of Amy Atlas confidence and quite possibly madness (my own, not Amy's), I convinced myself that I should and indeed could design, plan, create, bake and decorate an entire dessert table. Pulled off in two weeks between the time that I arrive in New Zealand to the time of my mum's wedding, April 28th.

I first started this 'challenge' last year - months ago - and I had the very best of intentions to be uber-organised. I read up on all the advice from the best dessert table creators I know and had plans to write all sorts of awesome and super helpful lists, schedules, recipes etc that they recommended I do. All this started with a roar. Images were collected, sites were scoured for recipes and designs, a menu was drafted, but then things got in the way. Things like my mind, all its thoughts and its amazing propensity for distraction.

So here I am. Three weeks out and only so much (so little) planning done. But in between not physically writing lists and not officially planning, my mind has been using what down time it has had to mentally do these things and because of this I'm confident I can pull this dessert table off. Hopefully with style, grace, calm and flair - and my siblings (including one of the new ones I'm gaining via the wedding!) to help.

As I'm attempting to keep the full details of the table as a surprise for mum and her new hubby I can't go into too much detail just yet. But you will get a full run down of the table once it's complete...providing I manage to pull it off! If not you'll just get a picture of a wedding cake. Possibly one entirely unrelated to my mum's wedding that I will use to distract both you and I from my own disappointment in myself. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

What I can show you is this. A collection of images I am using as inspiration for colour, texture, design and feel.

If you couldn't tell, there is a breezy, ocean theme happening here. I love the colours of blue and beige together. Images are from:
  1. Celebrations at Home (styling via Events by Sarah Elizabeth)
  2. Heather Equitz Design (found via Amy Atlas)
  3. The Candy Tree's Sweet Little Parties
  4. Green Wedding Shoes
  5. Jay's Catering
  6. The Inspired Bride (and Bake It Pretty)
  7. I can't find it! If you know please tell me and I'll update this post.
  8. Amy Atlas
I can also show you these. My first ever cake pop attempts! These little pearly babies will be included in the menu.

Now to simply...
  • Finalise the menu
  • Put together a work schedule/timing plan
  • Write the ingredients list
  • Write the props list
  • Write the equipment/decorating list
  • Order props
  • Test the recipes
  • Bake the desserts
  • And so on...

I'll be fine. No, honestly, I'll be fine. Wish me luck! x

Monday, March 19, 2012

Birthday Adventures in Paris

Writing about my trip to Paris has been so much harder than I thought it would be. Hence the late post. What words to use that will appropriately, accurately, truly describe my weekend in Paris? I will start with this: I loved Paris. From the moment I got there to the moment I left. Weeks later I still get a little buzz thinking about it.

Paris fulfilled all my expectations completely and utterly. I know some people will cringe at that statement (hopefully those people aren’t reading this blog) but it's true. Paris, you did not let me down.

I have been dreaming of going to Paris for years, which is nothing new or out of the ordinary. It is Paris after all. Everyone wants to visit Paris, no? It just has some kind of special allure. It can make people do silly (but fun) things…like celebrate a French themed Christmas, complete with a screening of An American in Paris, a gift of The Art of French Cooking, French toast, Champagne and a French language CD. It’s fun to play pretend, but this time it was for real. I was actually going to Paris!

Arriving on my birthday, I got off the Eurostar with a stupid, giddy smile on my face. I tried not to grin so ridiculously, tried to be more Parisian 'cool', but failed massively. My joy was way too much to contain! I checked into my hostel, panicked that it wasn't a girls only room, sucked it up and went off to explore. (The shared accommodation turned out to be fine...silly, panicky me).

Le Marais - amazing street culture and food

My first afternoon was spent wandering through Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre. I then made my way to meet Patrick – a chef from the Montmartre based ‘Cook’n with Class’. Patrick led two lovely American ladies and I on a tour of the local fromagerie (cheese shop), boucherie (butchers), poissonnerie (fish shop) and fruit and vegetable store. We spent the rest of the evening whipping up a three course meal of scallops, foie gras, roasted monkfish with zucchini cakes, and fresh ginger creme brulee. Followed by a slice-by-slice guide on how to serve (make sure everyone gets the same amount of rind!) and eat five beautiful cheeses, ranging from an ash covered goats cheese to an ammonia smelling little bomb called Couer d'Epoisse. If you are interested in cooking classes in Paris, I would definitely recommend this place – they offer a huge range of classes and all are taught in English.

Roasted Monkfish at Cook'n with Class

The next day, my friend arrived. I need to pause here for a moment to say how much it meant to me that I got to share this adventure with Abee. It is a weekend I will never forget and having her there made Paris all the more beautiful and fun. (Thank you kitten).

We spent the afternoon walking along Boulevard Saint-Germain and stopped for lunch at a tiny French restaurant called Vins & Terroirs along Rue Saint Andre des Arts. Where I ordered tartar de bouef. Steak tartare, people! I have always wanted to try this but even I was surprised at how easy I found it to eat a plate of raw meat. And by how good it was. Complete with raw egg yolk, capers, cornichons, onions and chives - eaten mixed together (on the advice of the waiter and the sweet old lady at the next table who spoke no English but nevertheless tried numerous times to have a conversation with us...bless) with tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce and tabasco - this was the classic french dish. The best way I can describe it is like eating a very tasty, light, fresh, raw hamburger - gherkins and ketchup included. If you’re not afraid of raw meat (and really, why should you be?) then I urge you to try it. Trust me.

Tartar de bouef at Vins & Terroirs

That evening, after our first Parisian lunch, I experienced the Eiffel Tower. At this point Abee and I courageously (at least to us) decided to split - without way of contact! - and meet up at a later point as she had been up the tower before. So I was on my own, climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.

How I felt when I saw the Eiffel Tower up close took me completely by surprise. I didn't expect to be so overwhelmed and excited, but I was. This is what seeing a real icon makes you feel. A little awestruck and spellbound. Coming down from the tower as the lights came on I felt pure happiness at being in this place. I don’t know what it is about this grand structure, it could have been made with a little magic. It even sparkles (literally, those clever Parisians have made it sparkle. I’m not making that up). I will definitely be visiting this place again.

Hello Paris

Abee and I met up later that night near the Pompidou Centre and found a cute little cafe, Dame Tartine, nearby where we drank carafes of wine and ate salmon tartare and a 'tartine' (open sandwich) of jambon cru, goat's cheese and green peppercorns. A huge mural on the wall watching over us while we ate.

Dining in Marais

In the morning I walked along Champs Elysses and visited Laduree, the birthplace of the macaron. It was so hard not to buy them all but, being on a budget, I limited myself to five:
  • Original Chocolate 
  • Cherry Blossom (the flavour of the month created by Japanese fashion designer Tsumori Chisato) 
  • Raspberry 
  • Rose 
  • And the 'Incroyable Almonde' which pays tribute to the original macaron and the flavour of almonds.
I love these sweet, light, crisp and chewy treats. And the Laduree packaging takes them to a whole other realm of pretty (my photos are not at all an accurate representation of this).

Next up was Place de la Madeleine where I visited the famous patisserie Fauchon and the gorgeous food store Hediard. From Fauchon I purchased a Chocolate Eclair and a beautiful bright Lemon cake called Piou Piou (cheep cheep). But by far the best pâtisserie I had while in Paris had to be the Bollywood from Pain de Sucre. Pineapple, pistachio, curry, coriander. Amazing. Not too sweet, not heavy. Indulgent but not guilt inducing. I love trying unusual flavours like this.

Fresh berries at Hediard

The Bollywood from Pain de Sucre

The famous Fauchon

For dinner we decided to eat as the French do and purchase food from the local market – baguette, cheese, pork rillette and salami. The girl behind the counter at the deli was kind enough to tell us that the salami we had asked for was ‘bad’. It was soft and the best salami was dry and hard. In her words 'soft was for tourists’ – so she gave us the good, dry salami, the one reserved for the locals. I hope she was telling the truth, I'm sure she was because it was good salami. We ate sitting on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes in a soft drizzly rain before being kicked out by whistle bearing guards who were shutting the park for the night.

Street light.

We ended our weekend with a visit to the Porte de Clingancourt antique markets or 'Les Puces' (the fleas) – where you can buy (mostly for a high price) any number of weird and wonderful French collectables.

Treasures at Les Puces.

And that, my friends, was my birthday weekend in Paris.

Matching outfits!

For some people maybe Paris won't live up to the high expectations that being Paris sets, but for me it did. I didn't have a lot of money to spend. Nor did we have the prettiest, sunniest spring weather, the sky was a dull grey and it drizzled at times, but even in this grey weather Paris shone through. I'm sure I didn't do Paris justice with my words. It's just a very beautiful, fascinating city. It is big and full. It's proud, unashamedly so. It can be grimy and of course, it's romantic.

To me Paris felt like sparkles. Soft sparkles. With little dark patches that just make it all the more beautiful and intriguing.

Paris love x.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paris! Paris! Paris!

Image Source

I am really excited. And ever so slightly nervous.

Tomorrow I am going to Paris. By myself. On my birthday. And I LOVE it.

Being in Paris. By myself. On my birthday. Feels a little romantic and very self-indulgent. Sometimes I like to be alone to ponder the world and absorb my surroundings and I totally intend on doing that in Paris. I'm also realistic though in that being by yourself in an all new city, where you don't speak the language, will probably result in some serious loneliness. So luckily my friend Abee is coming to meet me on Friday. So it's just one night in Paris. By myself. On my birthday.

I shall tell you all about it on my return. Jusque là. x

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pancake Schmancake

On Tuesday night, in honour of Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day, I made pancakes. Or more correctly 'griddle cakes' as these were officially called. Said cakes did not make me happy.

I should've known this would happen.

Pancakes and I are friends, but only from a distance. We're more acquaintances. Definitely not besties. You could, at a push, say we run in the same circles. Maybe.

It's not that I don't like pancakes. Au contraire! I love them! But eating them and loving them is different to making them and loving them. I'd like to be better friends but every time we try to work together it turns to custard. No, not custard, custard is good. These pancakes were sad.

I followed an old recipe (2008 is old from an online perspective) from The Wednesday Chef. Now don't get me wrong, I love The Wednesday Chef and my dreary pancakes are no reflection of her talents, tastes or her recipe. They are a reflection of my lack of ability to handle pancakes. I just struggle with them.

Tonight this one even taunted me. Do you see the face? Do you? It is mocking me. It's beady little eyes saying 'why bother? You know you'll never win'. Evil pancake.

Anyway. The only redeeming quality of these pancakes were the chunks of chocolate and sour cherries I added to jazz them up a bit. I don't think these additions were why they didn't work - they were why they were eaten. Without the chocolate and cherries I may not have bothered (to eat the three that I did). They were soggy, sappy, sad messes of pancakes. A wimpy, weak, flaccid example of cake made in a pan. That may sound a little harsh, but it's how I felt at the time.

I really wanted to get on board with Pancake Day but for me it was just a sad reminder that I can't cook them. I think I've had success once. Once. With a buttermilk based recipe. But I am determined not to let this get me down! I will find the perfect pancake/griddle cake recipe. Because pancakes are one of my favourite breakfast (or dessert, or even dinner) items and I don't want there to be beef between us. Here's how I'm going to find this 'perfect' recipe.

Tactics to be implemented by me:
  • Use a better frying pan - it may not have helped that I was using an electric pan that turned itself off once it reached temperature. Why would it do that? Who wants a pan that turns itself off once it's hot enough? That's just silly.
  • Letting my batter sit for at least 30mins before cooking. I'm not sure why I think this is a good move but it feels right.
  • Different buttering/greasing options - butter, no butter, oil etc and also wiping away the butter from the pan and adding fresh butter between each round of pancake frying.
I'm going to attempt these recipes:
And any other interesting recipes I may find along the way. During my research I also found I'm not the only one who makes terrible pancakes - thank you Ms Humble for making me feel a little bit better.

So it's game on pancakes! Batter up. (I couldn't help a pancake pun! There were SO many to choose from. The pun possibilities almost made my poor pancake experience worthwhile). I'll leave you with a half decent picture of Tuesday's sad pancake attempt...this very average photo makes them look better than they were. Raspberries make anything look tasty.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What I've done. Not what I'm going to do.

I've had a really full on week this week. Or maybe I just think it's been full on. There's a lot going on in my head and quite a few plans that need to be made. So I've been putting off writing this week's post. All this 'going on in my head' has meant not much time for working on ideas and what to write about. This makes me feel bad.

Writing, and this blog, is something that I want to take seriously but I definitely feel the pressure to write well and to write something that means something. If you know what I mean. I don't just want to put out crap or a half-arsed post. I'm not saying it'll never happen but if I can avoid it, I'd like to try.

Because of my apparent limited brain capacity (I'm probably at about 90% right now so it's pretty chocca) I've taken some advice from one of my favourite people and one of my hands-down best friends, Abee aka Kitten. At the time she told me this advice (yesterday on the train back from Brighton) she was actually talking about advice that was given to her and her own situation. I don't think she realised she was indirectly giving me advice too, but I'm glad she did! The advice was to take some time to acknowledge what you've done, what you've achieved, instead of constantly looking at what needs to be done. And forever writing 'to do' lists. Lists are great but they can also make you feel stressed out when you take a look at them and all the tasks seem a little too daunting. Too many lists = a lot to do. Simplify your lists people.

When I look back at what I've done in the past year, I feel overwhelmed and a little amazed. Sometimes I wonder if I'm also possibly a tad crazy for trying to squish so much into such a small amount of time. I'm at once tired and energized, but also happy and strangely satisfied. I'm proud of myself for doing so many big, scary things and I'm really glad that I did them.

This is my last year in a nutshell:

I moved to a new city and re-connected with someone I love. I started a new job, I nurtured a passion (cakes!). I then left that 'new' city, quit that 'new' job, and once again dis-connected (location only) from that someone I love.

I moved countries - halfway across the world! I traveled with my mum and sister through France, Switzerland, Italy and Venice. I loved Venice! I loved it all! I drank Champagne in Champagne, I ate fondue in Gruyere, I went to the top of one of the Swiss Alps, I wandered cobbled streets in Bergamo (so pretty) and got lost in the little streets of Venice. I had a charming old Venetian man spontaneously serenade my sister and I with Opera in the middle of the day while watching the Regata Storica. I messed up the video, but can replay it in my head.

My family lost a loved one (not an achievement but something to most definitely be acknowledged because she was very special). This person was also a motivator in making me do many of the things I've done this year - mostly travel and I hope she is happy with what I chose to do! I think she would be.

I got to know my big, loud, fun and fiercely loyal family in London - which is very cool! And I made connections with them that I hope will always be there. (Girls, you know where to find me).

I started another new job, this time in an all new industry (cakes!). I learned loads of new skills, and am still learning. I met some people who I hope I will always stay in touch with because they made my transition to London that much easier and entertain, inspire and encourage me just by being themselves (Zoe, I'm talking about you)!

I also gained a new family back home in New Zealand, thanks to my mum's impending nuptials! And a very special new family member in America - our little Lilah Boo.

It's been a busy year, a completely FULL year. And I'm not going to lie, I am tired. There are loads of other things that have happened that aren't mentioned above and of course, there are always things to come. Exciting things. Scary things. But I'm not going to think about those right now. Right now I will say 'this is what I have done' and leave it at that. Tomorrow I can look at my lists. x

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A little sweetness

Happy almost Valentine's Day everyone! I'm away from my Valentine this year so have no one to bake for, although I may still make some cookies. As my little tribute to the day devoted to lovers I've gathered together a smattering of some of the prettiest, dreamiest, most Valentine's appropriate sweet treats I've stumbled upon on cake blogs recently. Oh and of course Pinterest which I am now officially addicted to...thanks Gigi for the invite!

A completely and suitably indulgent Chocolate Chip Cherry Cheesecake from Raspberri Cupcakes (new blog discovery, yay!)

Balsamic Strawberry Butter Cake topped with macaron hearts, again from Raspberri Cupcakes.

This super sweet cake with a secret from I am Baker. This was too clever not to post. And not as difficult as I thought it would be (says she who hasn't tried it). 

A gorgeous, soft and fluffy ruffle cake from My Sweet and Saucy.

This beautiful, dark, (and dare I say it for risk of sounding ridiculous? I do, I do dare...) SULTRY, Oreo & Olallieberry Cake from Desserts for Breakfast. I had to google what an Olallieberry was.

And finally this saucy little Pink Meringue cupcake with Raspberry Curd from Martha (the lady with her finger in every occasion pie possible).

Have a happy Valentine's Day everyone. May your day be filled with sweetness and a whole lotta spice! x

P.S. I just found another fantastic hidden heart cake example over at Milli's blog. Check out her work, she is very talented. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Borough Markets Adventure

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the famous food haven that is London's Borough Market. My companion was Kristy, my cousin who gets (almost) as excited by food as I do and is up for trying anything, making her the perfect food market accomplice.

As soon as I crossed the road from London Bridge station the smell of barbecue and Spanish food hit me. "It smells like meat! Charred meat!" I said. I was quite excited.

We had a great day ambling around the different market areas, tasting a ridiculous amount of cheese and just devouring food in general, all while taking in the colours, the people, the cultures, the traditions. There were so many gorgeous, vibrant picture opportunities. I tried to capture them as best I could but (disclaimer) I don't think my photography skills did this place justice...

The Borough Market has a long history, having been the location of a food market in different shapes and forms since the 13th century. Given this, the market has a rich, bustling, heritage feel to it and there is a massive variety of food available - including fully feathered pigeons if that's your thing.

There are also some gorgeous fruit and vegetable stalls. I think fruit and veg stalls were the winners on the day when it came to displaying their produce. They have the benefit of colour to work with and the stalls at Borough Market made good use of this, piling the produce high and wide. Like with these oranges.

And all these tomatoes.

And these perfect cabbages.

We tried cheese and bought lard(!) from this happy man below. The lard was, as bad as it might sound to some, pork fat sold in paper thin strips like prosciutto. We were dubious about it and were standing there discussing it's existence when this moustachioed man kindly offered us a taste. We were both sold on the spot. It had a strong, salty, smokey bacon flavour and it was really, really good. He suggested we serve it on hot toasted bread so that it melts into the bread like butter. How could we say no to that?

If buying lard isn't your thing, there are numerous pastries to try. The best I had were some tiny caneles, little doughy pastries with a tender custardy centre and a thick caramelised crust. They didn't look like much but they tasted incredible and I intend on doing more research on these little gems. If you find them and eat them!

My final purchase was a loaf of the pillowy yet crusty Rosemary and Olive Oil bread that you can see below. I spent the next few days eating it with my Aunt's Parsnip Soup and fresh basil, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and olive oil. I was a happy girl.

If you love food and love history, a visit to the Borough Markets while in London is essential. We went on a Saturday and it does get quite busy after midday so I'd recommend getting there around 10am if you can. This way you have a little more time to peruse and chat to the vendors. It's still a great vibe once it gets busy though.

The markets are open Thursday 11am - 5pm, Friday 12pm - 6pm and Saturday 8am - 5pm. You'll find all the information you need here. Enjoy!

P.S. One last photo, just because I think this girl looks cool.