Posts from — December 2012

Christmas Pudding Cake Therapy 3

December 10, 2012

Ahhh, the sleepless season. I mean festive season. I recently accomplished an international plane flight with both my girls (no, I wasn’t the pilot but it took so much skill and finesse I feel justified using that particular verb) and since then baby number 2 just will not settle. Flat out refuses. Clearly she does not appreciate that after I coped with them both on the plane we landed in a hurricane and my stroller came out of stowage with a punctured wheel. It was awesome.

So, as you can imagine, I have needed therapy. Lots of therapy. Therapy that looks like this:


That medicine, right there, is my Mum’s Christmas cake. It’s made from a recipe by Annabel Langbein, who is one of NZ’s most beloved cooks. It is delicious. It is so sticky and full of nuts and fruit that I told her it really should be called “Christmas Pudding Cake”. Even Mum, who suffers from practically crippling humility admitted that the neighbours at her neighbourhood Christmas party were “quite taken with it”. Yes, my Mum watches too much Downton Abbey. But truly – it’s a cake to be quite taken with. Or taken by? Ah, whatever. Make it, make it, you will see!

Here is the most splendid recipe. Thank you Annabel. Check out all that fruit, would you? Yummmm. I think Mum might undercook it slightly to make it even more “fudgey”. Served with tea, I am telling you, it can right a whole lot of wrongs.

It certainly takes the edge off sleep deprivation, which is saying something. Isn’t that always the way with Mum’s cooking? Cooking so familiar and comforting it can make the world seem brighter and burdens feel lighter. Of course it’s not just the cooking, but the whole coming home experience. Mum has put fresh sheets on the beds, hung mobiles and bunting for my girls, cleared out wardrobes, made space and cleaned. There’s love in the details. Dad has bought boutique NZ beer to share with me in the evenings, Mum has pegged up an advent calendar, the tree is assembled but not dressed, so we can hang decorations with B1. Little things, that all say “We’re so happy you’re home”. Feeling loved – now that is the true therapy.

Without getting too sentimental (i.e. you know I am going to) that’s what Christmas is about, isn’t it? Love? The heart of the matter which can get a bit buried in travel and stress and hosting and buying and rushing. It’s lovely to be back in New Zealand, watching my girls being spoilt with the same traditions I had as a kid. It mean, it might just be chocolates behind cardboard doors, or silver baubles on hooks, but I can see in their faces that they feel the love in it all.

It makes me happy. Happy to be home, sleep deprivation, challenges and all. With family. And cake. With tea.


In: Food, From Hannah, Kids and Parenting

Sweet Little Something 0

December 7, 2012

An end of week ritual – a wordless post, a personal photograph that captures a moment to be savoured, relished and preserved for looking back on. One photograph from Hannah, in the Southern Hemisphere and one from Ria, in the Northern Hemisphere. Feel free to post your questions, thoughts and comments. Have a great weekend!

From Hannah:


From Ria:


In: Sweet Little Something

Sticky Pages 2

December 5, 2012

Is it wrong to have a crush on a cookbook? Let’s just say if there was a desert island with a full kitchen and I could only take one cookbook (the ingredients for which would just be there, of course) I’d take the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. I’d also take it into the afterlife with me if I were a pharaoh.

It is full of delicious awesome. Its pages are sticky and spattered in a way that might make DH shudder. He likes clean books. I do too, but I also think cookbooks, ones that are really loved, must be used. And I cannot,  no matter my good intentions, remember to put the cookbook into its plexiglass protection sleeve when I’m cooking. I’m one of those people.

But here’s why I love the Rebar cookbook.

1. It comes from a real-life restaurant in Victoria, BC, which is every bit as good as the recipes, and boasts a retro collection of jelly molds on its walls.

2. Every recipe I have tried in this book (I’m thinking somewhere around 75%, which, if you think about it, is kind of crazy. That’s a lot of recipes.) is awesome.

3. There’s a lot of garlic called for. No apologies. Just tasty business.

4. The desserts and soups and breakfasts and salads and homemade tortillas are all winners. Did I repeat number 2? I think I did.

5. There are no shiny, sexy colour photos of up-close food–just black and white candids of Rebar staff and happy customers and random cameos of a toy T-rex. In a world where sexy colour photos sell the book, I kind of root for this underdog.

6. It’s flexible. Recipes are vegetarian or vegan, or have a bit of seafood, but can be infinitely adapted for any diet.

I don’t know about you, but cookbooks are kitchen porn to me. I often read them while eating. [edit: past tense. I often read them while eating before I became a parent] I’m one of those people who plans their dinner right after eating breakfast. I have yet to find another cookbook that has hit as many home runs as this one. But enough with the mixed metaphors.

Here’s a few photos of my most recent Rebar recipe. Banana bread. With walnuts and wheat germ. I made them into muffins so I could eat more of them in one go without getting depressed that half the loaf was gone.




I just realised something that should have been evident years ago: the word cookbook encapsulates our two favourite things–food and writing. Both are verbs and nouns. They are the same word, save one letter. If you read the word long enough, it starts to actually mean writing. Cooking a book, the way cooking a baby is a euphemism for pregnancy.

Am I crazy? Maybe. I need to go eat some banana bread.

What’s your favourite cookbook?



In: Food, From Ria, Writing

The Useful Potato 3

December 3, 2012

You know how enamoured I am with my veggie box. I got so excited for veggie box delivery the other day that when I squealed to B1 “Ooooh! Guess who’s coming?!” she answered “Christmas!” Aw no, sorry honey. It is a bit like Christmas….for Mummy?! But, despite my amour, I have to admit there are some items I find piling up and not being used. Namely, potatoes.


I thought our family ate a reasonable amount of potatoes but those brown paper bags of spuds just don’t seem to be depleting. The bottom of my pantry looks like my potatoes had a wild party and all the potatoes in the neighbourhood swung by. I’ve got kipflers, sebago and royal blues. I’ve got boiling potatoes, roasting potatoes and itty bitty salad potatoes. I really needed to do something about “The Potato Situation”. Finally I remembered a Christmas tradition…

Wren paints

Making Christmas wrapping paper! I have told you before, I am sure, that I am a hopeless stationary addict. I cannot stop myself buying stamps, ribbons and alphabet stickers. It’s a bit of a compulsion. A compulsion that began with Christmas wrapping. Sure, as a kid I loved getting presents but I really loved wrapping presents. I loved choosing a theme for that year’s festive season and wrapping all my gifts in the same way. One year I went out to a warehouse that supplied food containers to restaurants and bought chinese takeaway noodle boxes, in bulk. Everyone got their gift in a noodle box that Christmas. Another year was all pink and orange. I’m particularly partial to satin ribbon, brown paper and using red (good for Christmas, Valentines Day, Chinese New Year and birthdays!) Have I mentioned that I’m a bit ahh…weird?!

Potato stamp

Anyway, now I am putting both my potatoes and my daughter to work. I’ve loosened up on my “particular” (aka. fussy, obsessive and annoying) habits re: my wrapping being matching and perfect and consistent. I’m not using fluro paints because it is trendy but because they’re lovely non-toxic finger paints I bought from the Museum of Contemporary Art (side note: one of my favourite places. Ever.), that I just happened to have lying around. So away we went. Enormous roll of white paper, paint and a ridiculous abundance of potatoes…



Some stamping, some finger painting, some hand prints. The end result? Quite sweet I thought.


But more importantly – such good fun. Who knew I could combine my love of stationary and food? B1 was entertained, I had a ball, my potatoes did not go to waste. Happy, happy, happy. Truly a festive season moment. Don’t you think?

HUGS, Hannah x

In: Food, From Hannah, Kids and Parenting