Thursday, 21 March 2013

Baking: Mini Banoffee Pie

Every year my office puts on a lunch to celebrate Harmony Day. The idea is that everyone brings in a dish and we celebrate cultural diversity by eating way too much delicious and varied food. There was a huge range of dishes on offer including green curry, lamb biriyani, fried rice, pies and sausage rolls, pumpkin and fetta salad, roast lamb, and butter chicken curry. I brought mini banoffee pies for dessert. If you haven't heard of banoffee pie before the name come from banana and toffee. It's my mum's specialty so I've eaten a lot of really tasty banoffee pie. This was my first time making it however.

I used this recipe but I decided to make mini versions as it would be easier to share. I used a mini muffin tin to form the base of the pies. It ended up being very messy and time consuming but the end result was exactly like a large banoffee pie base only miniature.  

I was very worried that they would be difficult to get out once they'd set so I put a strip of baking paper under each pie. It definitely helped a lot when it was time to get them out!

Here's the finished product. They tasted very similar to my mum's banoffee pie and they were just so cute. I'm quite proud of them! They seemed to go down well at the work lunch because there wasn't a single one left to take home (luckily I saved a couple!). 

This is a very simple recipe and it's very hard to get it wrong. If you've never had it before it's definitely worth a try!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Craft: Crochet Crab + A Tiny Hat Pattern!

Meet my latest crochet project, Mr Crochet Crab!

The pattern is from the blog Awkward Soul, but if you look at her website you will see that I have made a few slight modifications... Namely the moustache and top hat! Also I turned his front claws into pincers because a crab's not a crab if he can't pinch :-P

The pattern is nice and easy to follow. The only word of advice I can offer is to be aware of how tight your stitches are. I tend to crochet very tight stitches and this did not work well with the body of the crab as it made the edges of the first round stick up awkwardly. The problem was remedied by making sure my stitches had some stretch. It took a few attempts, but thankfully the project is small and can be completed very quickly.

I don't have an explanation for why my crab is moustachioed and top hatted, yet I'm rather pleased that I decided to add them. I think he looks like the monopoly man... If the monopoly man was a crab. If you want to add a small top hat to one of your crochet projects, here's how I made it.

Round 1: Sc six stitches into a magic circle (6 stitches)
Round 2: Sc twice in each stitch (12 stitches)
Round 3-6: Sc in each stitch (12 stitches)
Round 7: *Sc in the first stitch, Sc twice in the next stitch*, repeat until the round is complete (18 stitches)
Round 8: Sc in each stitch (18 stitches)

Unfortunately these photos of Mr Crab are not the best as I only just remembered to take pictures before giving him away as a birthday present and took them in a rush. I didn't notice all the shadows until I uploaded the pictures. Hopefully you can still appreciate some of Mr Crab's cuteness :-)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Craft: Card Making

Since starting this blog I've wanted to expand my crafting horizons and last week I had a chance to try card making. I was invited to a Stampin' Up party by a friend and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I was expecting something like a Tupperware party where I'd be pressured into spending lots of money on pretty things I don't really need. Happily it was more of a craft workshop and I didn't feel obliged to buy anything (although I did of course :-P). 

At the class the participants were given supplies and guidance to make five projects. Here's what we got to make:

A "celebrate" card using embossed card and stamps. 

An Easter card. The stamp is coloured in with a water colour pen.

A butterfly tag using a butterfly hole punch and stamps.

And a cute dressed up Easter egg using stamps and a cut up flower punch for wings.

I also made a birthday tag but I gave it away before I had a chance to take photos!

I was really impressed with the class and all the pretty things that we got to make. None of the designs are my own, but I can see how it would be easy to make lots of lovely cards and tags with the right equipment. Unfortunately a lot of the equipment is fairly pricey; the machine used for embossing card costs over $100! Card making probably won't become the primary craft in my life, but it was nice to try something new. And who knows, I might give it a try once in a while now that I know how :-)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Finance: Want To Stay Home With Your Babies? That'll be $300,000, Thanks!

Just the other day I asked my sister "are you sure you want to go back to work? It might be cheaper to stay home given the cost of childcare..."

Childcare is expensive, true. Most parents I know are paying $100 a day (no, I'm not joking) for junior to be looked after while they're at work.

But it looks like staying home has some serious financial downsides other than the loss of your salary.
MUMS taking time out from work to care for children until they start school face losing $160,000 in superannuation.
The savings hole has prompted calls for teenagers to be taught about the financial perils of being a stay-at-home mother.
The superannuation sacrifice blows out to almost $290,000 when women stay at home for a decade from the age of 30, calculations by financial research firm Canstar reveal.
One year out of the workforce costs $34,000, while three years out amounts to a $95,000 loss, it says.
I knew that being a stay at home mum for a year or two could impact on your super, but seeing the figures makes it real all of a sudden. $34,000 to take off a year?

Of course, my retirement plans don't really take my super into account. I feel like super is too hard to predict - you can't control the investments made past picking what kind of account you want, you can't control changing laws around super, you can't withdraw any money until you're 60. I want to be retired well before 60, and given that I'm committed to living within my means and deliberately building wealth, my super should just be gravy. (Let's keep those fingers crossed).

But there are a lot of parents out there who will be relying on their super in retirement, and it scares me that they could make decisions about whether to continue working or stay at home based on a less than complete understanding of the financial issues.

So is it worth it to stay home with your kids? Of course it is, if that's what you think is best for your family. But you need to know what that means for your financial situation, so that you can make an informed choice.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Baking: Dutch Spice Cookies

Mmm... these cookies are super spicy! Not for the faint hearted.

300g self raising flour
220g brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa (preferably Dutch style cocoa)
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
220g butter, softened.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Sift together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Rub in butter.
Using a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll into small balls and then flatten with a fork, on baking paper on good quality baking trays.
Alternatively, if you have a cookie forcer, use this to create fun shapes.
Bake for about ten minutes, or until just starting to darken at the edges.

I often sandwich my dutch spice cookies with a little vanilla icing (icing sugar combined with a very small amount of butter, and a little milk). This helps to offset the spiciness of the cookies.

I've given these cookies as presents a few times and I've been told that they're great when warding off morning sickness - maybe it's all the ginger??