First Try…

One of the websites that i visit on a several daily basis (Overclockers Australia Forums) has a pretty active food section. People like to get in and share their food recipes and triumphs etc. There was one thing that piqued my interest. The Sponge Cake thread. I have always been afraid and yet mystified by sponge cakes. I have always loved how light and fluffy the cake is and how a simple cake can just be one of the most wonderful tastes.

Someone ended up posting a recipe for a CWA sponge cake. I thought to myself “i should try that sometime.” My dad’s birthday was fast approaching and I asked him if he minded if I took a stab at making a sponge for his birthday. My dad loves sponge cake. He always prefers the Sponge cakes you get from Woolworths (fake cream and all) and thats probably where I get my love of sponge cake from. So I thought to myself, I will make it from scratch for him. And I will also go all out, make the jam from scratch, and the icing. I wanted it to look like an old school sponge, kinda like this. I was really looking forward to this but in case it didn’t turn out I bought my dad a back up cake. I did not want him to go cakeless on his birthday. And in case it didn’t fail, it was cheap the back up cake so could be chucked/donated if necessary. Here it is, in all of its fake cakey goodness
The Back Up Cake

This Morning was cake baking day. Since I don’t go out running or anything on Sunday mornings meant I could make my dad breakfast (and my mum to lest I never hear the end of the complaints from not doing it!) I would then have an empty kitchen to do what I need to do (and swear as much as possible if I need to). And so it began. I will put all the recipes right at the bottom.

First off you can see all of the ingrediants (just like one of my fav food websites Pioneer Woman does. The Cast of Characters
Cake Cast of Characters
Pretty easy cake to. No flour, no butter. Cornflour, Castor Sugar, Eggs, Bi Carb, Cream of Tartar & Vanilla. Considering sponges have this lore of how difficult they are, I was looking at this thinking “wow… and this is meant to be scary”, I would soon find out why.

First thing after measuring out what I needed I greased and floured the two tins
Greased & Floured Cake Tins
I then set about beating up the Eggs & Sugar. Now this was meant to go on for 10 mins. So i set up the stand mixer.
Beating Eggs & Sugar - Attempt 1
So while this was going, I went to work triple sifting the dry ingrediants and getting that out of the way ready so that this could quickly be folded together and into the oven. But then disaster struck. The mixer was doing its job but was totally inadequate to the job. It just did not do anything good at all. So It was into the trash they went, stand mixer shoved out of the way and I pulled out the stab mixer with whisk attachment.
Beating Eggs & Sugar - Attempt 2 - Part 1
But again disaster struck. About half way in, the bowl was just getting way to full and going everywhere! So I had to get a bigger bowl. Stop the clock, grab a bigger bowl and restart the clock.
Beating Eggs & Sugar - Attempt 2 - Part 2
With that done it was time to mix the wet & dry together, into the Tins & into the oven. quick and easy. All up if it had not of been for the stuff up, a cake finished in half an hour with no real effort!
Into the Oven they go
With the cakes in the oven I quickly tidied up and got started on the jam. This time I wasn’t going by any recipes, I was making it up as I went along.
Rasberry Jam Cast of Characters
Another cast of Characters. Rasberries, Lemon Juice & Agave Nectar. Why agave and not sugar, I was trying to be a little bit healthier and not use any sugar. The less sugar the better I guess. We will see how it turns out in the long run. I made some of this about a month back (using different fruit) and it lasted pretty good with the Agave.
Rasberries in the pot
Shove it all in the pot, turn on the heat and let it go. Simple as!
Rasberries Cooking Down with Lemon & Agave
15 mins after going in, timer goes off, out come the cakes!
Cakes are out of the Oven
With the cakes out, it was back to the jam.
Jam Cooking Away
Then seriously after like 1 minute out i was slowly getting sad. I thought I had failed as this happened
After 1 minute out... already starting to sink :(
I just let them sit for about 10 mins, turned them out onto a clean tea towel and walked away, thats right walk away (Alton Brown reference there, most of you wont get it)
After about 10 minutes, out of the pan onto a Clean Tea Towel
I got back to focusing on the jam, wondering if it was going to set, was it going to be ok, the usual cooking panics
Jam Cooking Away
After a good 20 mins of cooking time, It was pretty cooked down and looked good, So I pulled the jam off the stove, placed it into a lovely sexy black plastic tray and into the Fridge to help it set.
Jam in a container ready to set...
I then left the house to go off and run errands and while I was out, I heard an ad for a Harvey Norman’s sale. I was tempted to go and buy a new stand mixer, one of the nice shiny ones. Ideally I would love a kitchenaid. Its the ones you see in every cooking show (Alton Brown’s has Flames!) and I wanted one so badly, but it cost $800! So not gonna happen. But There are some good more budgety models. Harvey Norman would do me one for $285.. down from $350… thats tempting. But I had to run off to the airport, so was going to come back. Then seeing as I was making good time to the airport (which is a whole other story) I stopped off at Good Guys, same mixer, retailing for $350… negotiations look good.. lets see if i have to pull the “harvey norman are offering it for less line” the conversation went like this.

Store Clerk: Can I help you with Something?
Me: Yeah, what kinda price can you do on this mixer?
Store Clerk: How you paying, cash or credit
Me: Credit card, I want the points
Store Clerk: What kinda card?
Me: Amex
Store Clerk: can’t discount on amex, but if you have a visa or mastercard I can do a price
Me: Yeah i can do that (was hoping the payments to my mastercard had cleared but they didn’t)
Store Clerk: Types away at computer, comes back $245
Me: Really? $245?
Store Clerk: Yeah
Me: What colours you got
Store Clerk: White…. looks at other box Or White
Me: Thinks Ok I’ll take it

I mean seriously $105 off the retail price! I was freaking HAPPY! So here she is in all her pretty, shiny glory.
My New Toy.. Kenwood Patissiere Mixer

So back to the baking. With new mixer ready to go, I was going to decorate this cake, old school styles. Kinda. Now some of you may know that I have IBS, and one of the triggers is Cream. I can’t eat cream. And after a cake request from a friend (which will be shown to the blog in a few weeks time) I was hunting round for a “non dairy” topping that was used in another recipe that I needed. Now it looks like cream, whips like cream but its not diary, so why not give it a try in the lead up to the other cake to see how it turns out. Dad was ok with trying it so went ahead with it. It’s called Rich’n Smooth. Similar to “Cool Whip” in the states.
Rich'n Smooth Non Dairy Cream Topping
All you do is shove it in the bowl and start to whip it like you would cream. That’s it… simple as!
Rich'n Smooth in the Mixer
Unfortunately it whipped up a lot more than i expected but hey, what can you do!
"Cream" whipped ready for the cake
Cake Assemble (I have to stop with the sad references, this one to the Avengers… u know Avengers Assemble… ok I will stop now). First Up. Jam onto the bottom layer of the cake. With the cake tops facing In so that the bottom and top are totally flat and level.
Jam on the Bottom Cake Layer
Then the “Cream” goes on next… nice thick layer (got player to spare)
"Cream" now adorning the Bottom layer
And then on goes the other half of the cake.
Top Layer on... almost done!
Wow… its coming together! It looks almost complete, now for some old school icing. When my dad worked for a company called “William Brooks Publishing” they printed some really old school cook books. I am talking old school, hell it was targeted for School Age kids learning to cook in the 70s. So there is some old school stuff in there (even a recipe for making a cup of coffee). I figured, old school cook book is bound to have an old school icing recipe. None of this fondant icing as you would see on all the cake shows (although I do love watching Ace of Cakes). Recipe found time to make. Not content with plain icing.. i chose yellow. Cause i can…

Another Cast of Characters. Icing Sugar, Butter, Water, Vanilla & Food Colouring
Icing Cast of Characters
Pretty simple recipe. sift icing sugar into mixer bowl (hell you could do it without the mixer but i wanna play with my new toy). Beat in the butter, add in the vanilla and a touch of water to form a paste. Add in some food colouring. ice your cake. how easy can you get!
Sifted Icing Sugar in the Bowl
Icing Sugar in Bowl…. Check
Icing mixing Away
Butter, Water & Vanilla in bowl… mix away… Check
Food Colouring Added
Food Colouring Added… Check
Time to finish this cake off. Spreading some of the icing on the top. Not to much to start with so that it doesn’t go to far over the sides, I want it to look pretty.
Icing onto the Cake
And here it is… the finished Cake:
Finished Cake
But heres a better Look
Finished Cake Close Up

So there you have it. Now to wait for dinner so that I can have my cake (and eat it to! hello weekly treat, although I did lick the icing bowl a little bit.. ok maybe the cream to ;) )

Now for the recipes so you can try it yourself!

Corn Flour Sponge Sandwhich (CWA)

Ingrediants:
* 4 eggs
* ½ cup castor sugar
* 1 cup ‘Fielders’ Cornflour (i used homebrand)
* pinch salt
* 1 teas. cream of tartar
* ½ teas. bicarb soda
* vanilla

Method:
1. Preheat Oven to 180C
2. Grease 2 x 20cm deep-sided sponge tins, dust with flour.
3. Sift cornflour, bicarb. soda, & cream of tartar three times.
4. Beat eggs & sugar together for 10 minutes. (if using a stand mixer, make sure to have a whisk not beater attached)
5. Fold in sifted ingredients.
6. Divide mixture evenly between tins.
7. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
8. Turn out onto clean tea towel.
9. When cold, join together with raspberry jam.

Butter Icing
Day to Day Cookery – pg190

Ingrediants:
* 1 Cup Icing Sugar
* 2 Tablespoons Butter – Softened
* 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1-2 Tablespoons Water or Milk

Method
1. Sift Icing Sugar into a Bowl
2. Work in softened butter with a wooden spoon (I used the mixer)
3. Add sufficient Water (or milk) to make a smooth paste
4. Add Vanilla & Beat Well
5. Add Food Colouring if desired

Project Update…

Well this weekend has been a very productive weekend. I have spent most of the time at home, but unlike last weekend where I just chilled out and did nothing, this weekend was spent being productive. Managed to get quite a bit done on the “Reflect” project. Reflect is going to be a 24 inch digital photo frame that I am giving to my parents as a gift, but the thing is, I am building it from scratch and trying to use as much stuff as i can either find or scrounge and keeping costs to absolute minimum. So far all I have had to pay for has been the framing edging (as you will see in the photos below. All the other materials have been scrounged from around the house (and some even swapped for some beer with people my dad knows). Total outlay for this project shouldnt be more than $60 or $70. I do have to buy some PC parts (being mouse, keyboard & wireless dongle) and thats where the big chunk of $$$ is going to come from.

But my dad has been helping me, guiding me on what I need to do and how to do it. But he did try and jump ahead of me by doing the major carpentary work on the box itself, which I wasn’t to happy about, but hey… what can you do.

Today also there was a new project that began, called Operation Spring Clean. Yesterday I bought a new tv after having endless problems with my Media Player & the old TV (incompatibility as the Old TV wasnt Full HD, and the Media Player wanted Full HD to work. So what do I do… I buy a new one. to be honest though, I have been looking at new tvs for months now, but every time I just dont get one, I never make up my mind. So I pulled my finger out and just did it. Picked up a Hisense 42″ LCD Full HD for $850. Very happy with it, looks awesome :D Would probably look better with a Blu Ray but hey, next time. Only one problem though… The size of the TV meant rearranging a lot of things to make it and the peripherals fit. It was also covering up the inspire project and that dog just wont hunt!

So Operation Spring Clean began, It meant moving up stuff in my room and cleaning up a lot of the cupboards so I could rearrange some stuff for storage. It needs to be done some time. I got most of it done (so that I can make my room habitable till tuesday) but the rest of it will be done on Tuesday afternoon, after I pick up some more storage boxes for some other stuff. (might get rid of the bowling ball in my cupboard to).

Photos so far….

Projects

The Little Things

So I have come to realise over the last week that it is the little things in life that tend to make me happy. These small things, may not seem like much but when you put them all together, it makes me a happy chappy. After a week of missing some of these little things that I have grown accustomed to, i won’t be taking them for granted anymore I tell you that.

Some of the little things, that make me happy…

* A Nice, Yellow, Large Banana – It may sound silly, But I do enjoy starting the day with a Banana on my breakfast. I love the taste, the texture (even if they are a little bit over ripe) but after a week of tiny little bananas thanks to limited stocks and the shops (stupid panic buying but i won’t rant on about that) I have come to appreciate them more!.
* Music – So the gym has had no power the last few mornings, and its wierd how much you kinda forget that music usually plays in some instances in the background but you never realise just how much you miss it till its gone. Also I left my ipod at home yesterday so had a daily commute without music, wow… felt so bored even for the 10-15 mins each way.
* A Hot Shower – As above, no power at the gym the last few days, so this morning was my first hot shower this week, o my god, how good! I guess I always took it for granted, but a hot shower in the morning, after a work out is fantastic. It helps relax the muscles and helps relax me into the day.
* A moment to breath and relax – We live in a pretty fast paced world these days. Everyone seems to want things RIGHT NOW DAMMIT!, and it means that especially at work, people are not prepared to wait even a few minutes they want it now, and they want it done yesterday. So with calls on hold it feels like you don’t get a chance to even breath, you get rushed, your heart rate increases. The chances you get where you can stop for a minute, take a deep breath, calm down, and just switch off, even for 1 minute, make me happy. Hell I’ve been running round the house this morning getting stuff done quickly before i go to work in 9 minutes (shit 9 minutes!) but when i get to the train this morning, I’ll have 25 mins on the train, music in, book out, to chill out, relax and some quiet time before the world becomes crazy.

And with that… back to a crazy world…

A Bucket list… of sorts

So with a big Round the World trip on the horizon (less than 6 months to go) I sat down and thought, what are all those things I want to do while on this trip. All the things you look at a big trip and think… i wanna do this, see that, see this, do that.

So here it is. My Round the World Bucket list (also now as the RTWBL). It is in a pretty random order as I just wrote it down as it came to my head. If you wanna suggest things go right ahead, Im happy to add things if i haven’t already done it.

1. Drink a glass of French Champagne in France
2. Drink a glass of champagne on a long haul flight
3. Run through Central Park
4. Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s Deli in New York City
5. In n Out Burger Run at LAX (if i have time during my transit)
6. Drive a Car in the USA
7. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge
8. Ride a Bullet Train in Japan
9. Hot Dog from a Cart
10. Food from a Truck in Portland
11. Sushi for Breakfast at Fish Markets in Tokyo
12. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
13. Visit Borough Market
14. Fly on the Upper Deck of the A380
15. Visit Hiroshima
16. Visit Normandy
17. Ride a Train on 3 different Contients
18. Sit in a Backwards Facing Airline Seat
19. Plane Spotting in San Francisco, Vancouver & Narita
20. Catch a Flying Fish in Seattle
21. Visit Alcatraz
22. Touch the Berlin Wall
23. Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco
24. Go Hiking in the Rockies
25. Ride a Bike
26. Go White Water Rafting in Canada
27. Visit a Location where Macgyver was filmed
28. Eat at a Celebrities Restaurant
29. Eat Chicken Rice in Singapore
30. Buy Clothes at a Store in New York City
31. Visit Macys
32. Go to the Rodeo in Canada
33. Glass of Wine in Napa Valley
34. Visit a brewery
35. Visit a temple
36. Visit a Cathedral
37. See the Mona Lisa
38. Make New Friends
39. Go Airline Lounge Hopping
40. Try to meet a Flyertalker
41. Do something Crazy
42. Go to a Baseball Game
43. Eat a Voodoo Doughnut
44. Visit the UN
45. Walk to the Top of the Eifel Tower

6 months to go!

Well it is 6 months till i start on this awesome new trip. My Contiki tour should be paid off tomorrow, flights in the next month or so. It’s all coming together nicely now.

Japan is all organised as I booked my last hotel the other day with my Tokyo accommodation now booked at the lovely Hyatt Regency Tokyo (looks AWESOME and got a fantastic rate. I am slowly putting together a list of all the things I want to do on this trip and will post it sometime over the weekend.

In other news I have booked a crazy Easter Holiday to New Zealand for a weekend, purely just to use up some points i had with Air New Zealand. Flights are Brisbane to Auckland on Good Friday. On Easter Saturday I am flying Auckland to Christchurch to Queenstown and then returning the exact same way after an hour on the Ground in Queenstown. I won’t get to explore much but I have been told its a fantastic flight into the airport in Queenstown. Ill have Easter Sunday to explore Auckland a bit and then that evening I am flying from Auckland to Sydney on Emirates on the A380 (my first A380 flight). After spending Easter Monday/Anzac Day in Sydney as usual, I will fly home that evening with Virgin Blue. Should be a good crazy time!

Projects for 2011

So one of the things I decided to do in 2011 was try and do some of the things that I have been putting off for so long saying “yeah I will get around to it”. Obviously keeping up with the site is one of them. But I had also planned a couple of other proejcts. One of them was a 24″ Digital Photo Frame. I had an old Dell 24 Inch Monitor lying around doing nothing. Then Work ended up dishing out some Old pcs for free that were “take it or leave it” situation. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work. Well my ultimate goal was to turn this into a decent looking digital photo frame. Why put up with a tiny little thing for the living room when I can have this awesome, decent sized hi def screen.

So another thing happened. For christmas my good friend Alisha gave me something to help me stay on track, each day. She gave me the words Inspire in big letters (wooden) that you can mount on the wall. But they wouldn’t sit up on the shelf. So back to the drawing board. Well, I looked at a way to get it on the wall and then thought, well now why don’t i do some “construction” and see what happens.

Well i spent Saturday morning, working in the Garage putting together the letters using some cheap stuff I picked up from Bunnings (with a bit of Dad’s advice) but it turned out pretty well. It’s still sitting on my wall in my room (as u can see below from pics it looks pretty good). Then the same day I started working on the Photo Frame. I’ve named this the “Reflect” Project thanks to a suggestion by an old friend.

So I spent Saturday and Monday rebuilding the old Dell PC for reflect. Started from a scratch install and it took forever (they weren’t exactly speedy). But hey, it was free, I am not going to complain. Now the next step is building the frame of the shell and then moving onto putting the final touches on it. So more updates to come.

Other projects, well there is the usual RNA photo comps but other than that, i am open to more ideas!

Projects

2010…. What a year!

Well its always around this time of year (well normally a few days before but im giving it to you like a few hours before the end of the year) that I look back on the last year and ponder on all the good and bad things that have happened.

There hasn’t been to many bad things this last year. I mean sure I have had my bad days, where I have had my struggles but nothing royally bad has happened. I mean sure I’ve had sickness (who can forget my Malaria scare) but its been by average a pretty damn good year.

Lets look at the good things that have happened to me in 2010.

* Travelled a LOT! Pretty much spent at least once every month travelling away from Brisbane. Numerous trips to the Gold & Sunshine Coasts, be it overnight, or for the day. Visited Melbourne 3 times, Sydney & Canberra. I got to visit Norfolk Island, that was definately an experience. I also got to visit PNG but see the next point for more on that. I saw the end of one passport now that it has been cancelled. Looking back at the stamps in that passport just makes me reminisce.
* I got to trek Kokoda. I mean seriously… I never thought that would happen ever and it was probably one of my top 5 things for the year (not the top, prolly number 2). Visiting the Track was a life long dream, now come true and seriously it changed my life.
* I met some amazing new people. From all over the place, got to spend plenty of time with them and have made some fantastic new friends out of it (you guys know who you are).
* I got more and more into Twitter. After a solid year of saying “i am so not joining”, i joined in 2009 but didn’t really do to much, well that changed. In 2010 my twitterverse spread like wildfire and am now totally and utterly addicted.
* I moved into the world of Smartphones and Android. Even though i bought the phone just before the end of 2009, I hadn’t really done to much with it. Now that with 2010 fully underway I am onto my 2nd Android Smartphone and fully intertwined with connectivity. I am connected 24/7 which is probably not the best thing, but I love it!
* I got more and more into Mileage & Point Accumulation. I joined Flyertalk back at the very start of 2009 and didn’t really do to much. But the last 12 months I have been heavily looking into the best ways to get the most bang for buck out of the point programs. I have churned 2 seperate cards for points and who knows what the new year will bring with these points.

The #1 thing though of 2010.. It has to be A Current Affair and the Weight Loss. You have all seen it, you all know about it, so I don’t need to say to much about it, but over the last year so many people have given me words of encouragement and support and now this is my time to say a BIG THANK YOU! I love and appreciate you all!!

Now as we all wait for 2010 to come to a close i leave you with the parting words that have helped me all year.

“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”

heres to 2011 and all the fun it will bring!