Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to make a robot from old computer parts

My four year old, H, is on a sudden robot kick.

Not the sort of robot you can make from cardboard boxes and tinfoil and bottle caps and pipe cleaners which we already have, but the REAL robot sort. The sort that talks and walks, or preferably flies. This came about after reading Wendels' Workshop, a kids book about an industrious little mouse character who is an inventor, and of course, he invents robots.

If you want to check out the Wendel story being read in a plummy British accent, feel free to watch the clip below....

Or if you don't want to be spoken to as if you are a 3 year old, you can see the book here.

I quickly made the obsession worse by looking up robots on Youtube which has all sorts of walking, flying, soccer playing, wrestling, violin playing robots. So H is under the impression that robots are the easiest thing in the world to make and can we go out and buy parts and make one tomorrow please?


You don't want to burst their enthusiastic/mummy-daddy can do anything attitude but......

So hubby comes up with idea of making a scrapheap robot, as Wendel does, but the only scrapheap we have is a pile of old computers that are waiting to be taken to a recycling depot.

No problem, H is suddenly all fired up again, yeah, yeah a scrapheap robot!

A good scrounge reveals all sorts of appropriate bits and a glue gun holds it all together. Yes, a glue gun. No it doesn't walk and talk, although once a battery is found for the fan, I mean the lethal spinning limb severer, that is positioned on his right arm it should spin lethally (not really) and in that excitement the walking, talking and flying requirements seem to have been put aside.

This guy is seriously cool. He even has teeth!

And he was made by Dad, aka hubby, so he's even cooler.





Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fasting than a speeding bullet.....

I FINALLY finished Superman, he's turned out okay but not really anything spectacular. I think his face is too big for his super heroic body, and despite H's request for Superman to have hair like his ie, NOT black, I think he could use a bit of a makeover.
Some hair dye would definitely give him more impact, and the googly eyes are not doing it for me, I think I will take them off and embroider him some replacements.

And his cape needs a bit more more oomph, a bit of flowy action wouldn't go amiss, after all it's meant to gracefully stream after him as he soars through the skies.

But the recipient of Superman was gratifyingly delighted and I'm thinking about making a series of the little guys, the ones that go IN the pockets, as these little fellas seem to be seeing a lot of action.


Hmm, a bit more thinking required here, before I get my master pattern all worked out......

Thursday, July 23, 2009

White chocolate cupcakes with raspberry icing....or frosting, if you prefer

This is my latest creation, white chocolate and raspberry, ooh yum yum!


Easy to make and very delish too....


Mmm mmm!

This recipe is a keeper, it is veeery easy to make, it certainly makes plenty, they taste fantastic and, they freeze well too. What more could you ask for?

The following recipe is from the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery book.

White chocolate mud cupcakes

4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
500gm butter, chopped
2 cups milk
4 cups caster sugar
300gm white chocolate, chopped
4 eggs, whisked
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat over to 155 c and place cupcake liners into molds. (Recipe said 24 cupcakes, I got more like 48, so I must be using smaller liners)
  • Sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl, make a well in the center and set aside.
  • Put milk, butter, caster sugar and white chocolate in a metal bowl and place over large saucepan of simmering water. Stir continuously using a wooden flat bottomed spoon, until choc has melted and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  • Use a rubber spatula to fold the eggs and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour this mixture into the well in the flour and fold together until well combined.
  • Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for 25-30 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean.

Now, I was a bit stumped as to what to ice these with, the book makes them in dariole molds and pours ganache over them, then ices the tops with a very simple mixture to drip down the sides.

I wanted something simpler and more cupcakey so to Master Chef Google I turned.....
and found raspberry frosting and raspberry buttercream frosting.

Right, raspberry it is.
I went with the first frosting recipe, mainly because I didn't have cream, and it worked a treat.

Although I didn't strain the berries as per the recipe (forgot) so my icing is a lot deeper in colour and has bits in it.
Which I like, except for the fact that the colour and texture makes me think of sausage meat, which is sooooo not something I want smeared on a cupcake. Also it didn't pipe well, although I am still using my too small piping nozzles, so bigger ones may fix that problem.

The flavour is wonderful, definitely reminiscent of raspberries, but to eliminate the mental image of sausage meat on cupcake, next time I will use less berries and straaaiiiiiin them well.

Here are my efforts to apply the icing....


Yep, I still need practise.

But YUM!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Carpentry for the kids

I had an inspired idea a few days ago, or at least what passes for an inspired idea in my kid-centred world....

(Why was it inspired...because it was another FREE activity....my favourite sort!)

My boys love hammers and nails.

These things are hanging round after our ongoing but nearly finished house renovation, but as my hubby is not into carpentry (or renovating, actually) we don't have anything convenient to hammer aforementioned nails into.

So I rang round a few hardware stores asking about free wood off cuts and was invited round to a local Home Timber and Hardware store to have a scrounge. 

Bunnings Warehouse, it turns out are involved in a recycling program to "give something back to the environment" (their words) so kudos to them, but no good for me.

So the boys and I gathered up a few armfuls of scraps, raced home and dragged out the hammers, nails and the erm, felt pens. Not sure how those ended up in the mix, but it all made for a very engaging afternoon.




Tomorrow we might get the paints out for a bit of wood decorating, although I need to be in the right mood for that, as it invariably involves painted children and clothing as well as whatever object was designated to receive a coat....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache - mmmmm

My next lot of practice cupcakes are chocolate and coffee, although I think you're not really supposed to taste the coffee, as it's not included in the title. Anyway, I won't be making them again, they are somewhat dry and flat, even though I followed the recipe to a T and watched my cooking time carefully.

But they were fine for decorating practice, so I made some chocolate ganache and got to work.

Working on my handmade swirl mostly....



I still haven't got myself another piping set, hence working by hand. I was pleased with the results although a tad inconsistent.

This is the swirl I'm trying to emulate...


These sweet looking things are from the Crabapple Cupcake bakery in Melbourne, topped by their signature swirl, the details of how to recreate it are in here...their tell-all-secrets-book.


Which if you desire it, you may buy from The Bookshelf of Oz, currently on special.
Or probably any other major bookstore too. It's a great book for ideas and just general drooling over.

(Crabapple Cupcake Bakery in their original form has closed down, they now have an online presence as Crabapple Cupcakes and Supplies).

But the ganache is yum, yum, yum! I can think of 100 ways to use that, except that I might need to join Biggest Loser if I put my thoughts into practice...

Sent them with hubby to work as usual, where they went down well.......maybe they're just too polite to say anything else!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ooooh, Thermomix on Master Chef!

Yes, I am a kitchen nerd and am watching Master Chef every night.

And tonight (actually it was last night but this post got way laid at 11.30 pm by a teething 15 month old), low and behold, they had a Thermomix on the kitchen bench in master class. I was so excited, for no particular reason, hahaha!

And, it was also in use in the foodie segment on the nightly Tour De France coverage. So it looks like real chefs do use them, it's not just something the thermomix consultant made up. Although I never doubted.....

Mast Chef were making sabayon, which involved "add all ingredients, set the machine, finished!" Yum, but my thought was that's not going to help the contestants any, unless they have a thermomix themselves.

I am loving my thermomix more and more every day at the moment, as I'm trying to make more of our food from scratch, which is somewhat time consuming, so when I am getting behind, I kick the thermomix into action to help me out.

Today for example in short time I made pumpkin soup and bread rolls for lunch, both in the mixer, then a very fast but really delish spaghetti bolognaise in it for dinner.

Oh thermomix joy! Get one if at all possible, you won't regret it!

Oh, and have a look at this poster. Hehehe, this is me, dessert all the way!

Desserts Are Served I

In case you're at all curious, I'm getting some of my latest images off AllPosters.com. If you loooove a picture, click on it and it will take you to their site, where you can purchase a copy of the poster if you so desire.

I'm getting quite a collection....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In defence of food - some healthy eating rules

I am reading a book at the moment.......if you can call propping my eyes open with matchsticks to get through a couple of pages when I've gone to bed way too late and am about to pass out from tiredness reading..........um, where was I? Oh yeah, my book, it's called In Defence Of Food, by Michael Pollan.

Now just typing that up, my pc gave the auto-correct red line....huh? Defence, or is it Defense? Right, dictionary out. Ah, Defense is the US spelling of Defence.

Ok, that out of the way, Michael Pollan writes about the Western diet and the way our Western diet has become less about actual food and more about science and food-like substances.

And we all know what problems the modern day Western diet can bring.

At one point in the book he sets out some guidelines that we would all do well to follow in regards to food.

Here's the first one: Don't eat anything your Great Grandmother wouldn't recognise as food.

(Mr Pollan's example was yogurt, back in the day that was a one ingredient food, milk. Now if you pick up a carton of perhaps fruit flavoured yogurt and read the ingredients yes it will contain milk, but may also contain gelatin, stabilisers, sugar or other sweeteners, flavours, colours, corn starch and others. Reading that list, would your Great Grandmother recognise it as yogurt?)

Next one: Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) Unfamiliar, B) Unpronounceable, C) More than 5 in number or that include D) High-Fructose corn syrup.

(Not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but each one is a marker for foods that have been highly processed. For example a particular bread ingredients list reads: enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, water, whole wheat flour, rice flour, rice bran), high fructose corn syrup, whey, wheat gluten, yeast, cellulose, honey, calcium sulfate, soybean and/or cottonseed oil, salt, butter, dough conditioners, guar gum, calcium propionate, distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients, corn starch, natural flavour, colour, vitamin D, soy lecithin, soy flour. Whew! Would your Great Grandmother recognise that list as being bread? Uh, no.)

Then: Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

(Traditionally, processed foods are in the center aisles and fresh foods are set at the edges.)

And: Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

(Farmer's markets.)

Obviously there are exceptions, such as would our Great Grandmothers recognise the traditional cuisine from another country? Well, some no doubt would but many others I'm sure would not. And aforementioned cuisines may well come with some unpronounceable ingredients which are none-the-less natural, whole foods. So, you get the idea? This is the book...


And this is where you can get it...

Or you might be able to find it at your local library like I did. Although mine has a different cover and different spelling of Defense/Defence, in deference to being in Orstralia no doubt, hehehe...

And here's a health inducing picture to set you on your way...

Eat More Fruit

Yikes, I better get to bed, it's late and I have my matchsticks ready.....

Friday, July 3, 2009

Having fun on a rainy day

How much fun is a rainy day?
Well, if you give up the notion of curling up under a blanket with a good book and a hot drink, which of course if you have young kids is not at ALL possible, you can rediscover your love of puddles.

Or at least stand close by while the kids rediscover theirs, hehehe



Oh yeah, gotta love a Melbourne winter, sigh....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Well I made some practise cupcakes....

After my recent cupcake decorating workshop, I've decided I need more regular decorating practice. I tried out a new recipe yesterday, which turned out to be a flop.....all my cupcakes had flat tops......and then found my piping set in the very back of the pantry. Once I'd washed the cobwebs off it, I filled it with buttercream icing and got to work , trying out some of the techniques I'd learned at the workshop.

I figured out why you need cupcakes with a lovely rounded top, that's so you can put a beautiful swirl of icing on it that comes up to a point. It doesn't have quite the same effect if you have a flat top to begin with.

Anyway, the only photo I have of my efforts is of these two little ones that I used up the remainder of the icing on. Perfect kid size.


So not a true record of my endeavors, as I sent all the larger ones to hubby's work, with strict instructions for him to make it known that these are PROTOTYPES only, PRACTICE cupcakes, not a true showcase of what I can do. I can't help but be slightly vain!

Decided I need a different piping set, the one I have appears as if it's better suiting to decorating cookies, making fine lines etc. Or is it a case of a workman and his tools............?

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