Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s cake and stargazing

Standard

Valentine’s Day sped by in a blur this year. Remember last year’s fanfare? Well, this year was quieter but still fun, and I used the celebration to work on two more of my goals: #22 (bake another cake) and #30 (visit a planetarium).

We went to the Johannesburg Planetarium for their Valentine’s Day show. It was really funny being in a crowd of about 150 couples! The show was cute, and one could opt to screen a personal message in the stars. This is what I wrote for my man:

Ninja

You are strong, handsome, godly, funny, loving and an incredible husband. No matter what happens in life, always look up!

With love, respect and stars in my eyes,

Zest

All together now: “Awwww!” 🙂

As I mentioned, I also managed to bake the fourth of five cakes on my 22nd goal: a fresh raspberry cake. The recipe for this treat (and all the credit!) for the cake can be found here: http://bakingbites.com/2013/06/fresh-raspberry-cake/. (The only thing I changed was using 1 t lemon juice instead of 1 t lemon zest.) Here are my pics to whet your appetite:

Fresh raspberry cake

Fresh raspberry cake

The batter only fills part of the tin

The batter only fills part of the tin

Then you dot in the raspberries

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

And bake till it's lovely golden colour

And bake till it’s lovely golden colour

I can’t imagine this cake with any berries other than these tart red delights, but of course you could try other berries if you wanted to. Next time I make this I might experiment with using less sugar, as a whole cup seemed like a huge portion, but otherwise this was fantastic and gobbled up by all those I shared it with. (FYI: I did notice that it’s probably best eaten fresh, as the longer you keep it the softer the berries will become.)

Thank you, Baking Bites, for sharing this recipe with us! The sweetest side of baking is in the sharing 🙂

Advertisements

My top 10 unusual possessions

Standard

For a while now I’ve wanted to write this fun post about 10 of my favourite and most interesting, unusual and special possessions. So here they are, in no particular order. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Item #1: 3D-printed coaster and fridge magnet

Item #1 is a plastic coaster and fridge magnet. These are unusual because one of my friends designed and printed these himself using his own 3D printer. Quite impressive!

Item #2: Limited edition painted plate

Item #2 is a special W. S. George fine china plate that I received as a gift many years ago from my aunt in Austria. It comes with a certificate of authenticity and depicts a painting of kittens by Henriette Ronner. It’s a beautiful collector’s item and has special meaning for me because of my relationship with my aunt.

Item #3: Swarovski crystal duck

Item #3 is a tiny Swarovski crystal duckie. It’s precious and unusual for me because this is the first and only Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever received! Ninja warned me from the start that he didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day, so he’d only be getting me something special for our very first one together 🙂

Item #4: A homemade shell necklace

Item #4, a homemade shell necklace, is unusual mainly because I didn’t need to put a single hole in those shells when I made this. They all already had tiny holes in them when I collected them on the beach! This item is also special because I used shells collected during our honeymoon.

Item #5: Cloud Strife earrings

Item #5 is my pair of Cloud Strife Cloudy Wolf/Fenrir errings. Need I say more 🙂

Item #6: Earrings from my man

Item #6 is more jewellery: a set of earrings and a necklace pendant. The thing that makes them unusual is that Ninja made these for me himself! He was watching me work with some of my beading kits when he decided to make me this set.

Item #7: Toy soldier

Item #7 isn’t technically mine: Ninja brought it with into the marriage and now I’ve adopted it too. This toy soldier has brought us loads of laughs as we’ve used it to suprise each other. It’s a fully articulating model, so we can make it cling to shelves, hold love notes, hide in cupboards and support items. In fact, we’ve used him in such a variety of poses and situations that I think he deserves a blog post of his own. Watch this space 😉

Item #8: Hat with badges

Perhaps there’s not too much that’s unusual about Item #8 – after all, it’s just a hat with badges. But in my circle of friends it’s very unusual, and one of these badges even started my romance with Ninja! The very first time I met Ninja I was wearing this hat. He shook my hand in greeting and proceeded to read my interesting badges. Once he saw this one…

… he promptly dashed off in search of a sticker. When he came back, he covered the ‘Don’t’ on the badge, so that it read ‘Assume I Cook’. Hah! That was one way to strike up a conversation 😛

Item #9: A small trophy

There’d be nothing unusual about Item #9 if it wasn’t for what it represented. I received this small trophy at an awards ceremony for my Hindi language class. I was the only non-Indian participant and I passed the exam with a distinction. OK, it was only at first-grader level… but it’s still an unusual achievement 🙂

Item #10: Wooden carving

I’ve saved the best for last. Item #10 is a beautiful and intricate wooden carving of old ships at sea. I absolutely love old-world things like this. I’m astounded by the detail and the time it must have taken the artist to carve this.

Look at the tiny details of the figures on the ship. It blows my mind. Here are some more close-ups:

Unusual items 15

Great detail on the rigging above, and on the ship’s cannons below:

Unusual items 16

I also like the rope surrounding the title of this creation. The Drommedaris and the Reijger were two actual ships that travelled to the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. On board was Jan van Riebeeck – the dude who helped begin the European colonisation of South Africa.

Unusual items 17

Unbelievably, I bought this for the price of your average hamburger at a ‘kitsch’ store that sold all manner of second-hand ‘junk’. I think it’s a treasure 🙂 I’d love to know the history of this carving. The signature says it was crafted by Chris in 1975. Who was the man who carved it? Did he sell it for a good profit or was it handed down as a keepsake in his family? How did it end up on sale for 30 bucks in a junk store?

I guess I’ll never know, but I’m very glad it found its way to me.

Valentine’s mousse-and-custard trifle dessert

Standard

If you hadn’t noticed by now, you’ll soon realise that I’m a sucker for desserts. They knock me down and tie me up every time I plan a special dinner! Although I’m not a big fan of chocolate (too much dairy and my throat reacts badly), I couldn’t pass up a chocolatey, decadent dessert to end off our special romantic dinner.

Armed with some Woolies duo white-and-dark choc mousse, Woolies mini chocolate cake slices and some homemade custard, I made this terrific trifle:

Here are all the ingredients together:

First I crumbled the mini cake slices (sans icing) into the bottom of each bowl…

Then I added 125 ml milk to each batch of the mousse powder and whipped them up…

I layered each of these with the homemade custard, to form a classic layered trifle. On top of the final mousse layer I poured custard into a heart-shaped cookie cutter (which I should have done later once the mousse was set, but oh well!).

And I finished off the decoration with silver dragees (which I should have added just before serving, because they ‘melted’ into the dessert since I made it the day before and kept it overnight in the fridge).

A little messy (read ‘authentically homemade’) but the effect was worth it! Delicious, and the perfect end to our dinner 🙂

Valentine’s dinner decor for Goal #35

Standard

A few quick pics of the decor and table layout I used for the Valentine’s dinner

The theme was red, white and silver… and yes, those are cake forks! They were for spearing the tempura fish and dipping the nuggets into the mayo. I couldn’t find the two-pronged forks I was looking for.

Each person got the following welcome gifts: a heart-shaped chocolate, a miniature Valentine’s mug and a magnetic page marker with a Scripture verse on it.

V-day 2I made the namecards with items I had on hand: coloured paper, craft scissors and craft stamps.

V-day 3Simple but sweet 🙂 It’s the little touches that make all the difference.

Tempura hake nuggets, mini baked potatoes and a veggie trio

Standard

Instead of the same ol’ chicken drumsticks I’ve made for previous dinners, for the Valentine’s dinner I chose a fish recipe instead. After much deliberation I decided on hake nuggets in crispy tempura batter. I didn’t want a thick batter such as the one usually made with egg and flour, so I used self-raising flour and soda water instead.

After browsing various websites I learnt the following basics of tempura:

  • everything, even the flour, should be well chilled before coating and frying
  • the oil must be very hot and deep enough to cover the fish
  • fish must be defrosted before use (you can do this in a bowl of water)
  • expect a mess!

Here’s my batter, made of 1 cup self-raising flour and 400 ml chilled soda water:

I first dusted the thawed fish pieces with self-raising flour. When the oil was ready, I mixed up the batter and dipped the fish into it, immediately transferring the nuggets to the sizzling oil.

I was anxious to get all the pieces in the pot while the batter was still bubbly, so I ended up with a batter-and-oil-splotched kitchen within minutes. Thankfully my dear friend was standing by to help me mop up some of the mess! Anwyay, I fried all of the pieces at once, and drained them thoroughly on absorbent paper before serving them (on kitchen paper) with the rest of the main meal:

To make the tangy mayo, I thinned lite mayo with a little milk, then added paprika, salt and dried herbs to taste. (You could easily make endless variations on this, with hotsauce and other flavours.) The tempura batter absorbed a lot of oil, so it was good that we only had a few pieces each – that way it wasn’t too rich. The mayo was a great addition because the batter had no salt in it, but I’m sure salting the fish once fried and adding a squeeze of lemon juice would be just as fantastic.

The baked potatoes were also lovely and oh-so-easy to make. Wash and dry potatoes of a similar size. Rub them all over with butter (this makes the skin crispy; if you want soft skin, rub them with oil). Then sprinkle with salt and bake at 190 °C for 1 hour, turning once after the first 30 minutes.

I chose a ‘red’ veggie trio to stick with the Valentine’s theme of red and white. I sliced up some purple carrots, dished up some pickled beetroot, and put together some cute tomato hearts. The tomato hearts were a lucky find from The Inspiration Room on Facebook. Perfect for V-Day 🙂

Hosting a Valentine’s dinner

Standard

Ninja and I don’t usually fuss over Valentine’s. In fact, I’ve only received one V-Day gift from my man in all the years I’ve known him: to celebrate our very first Valentine’s together in our first year of dating. I was warned then not to expect a repeat performance, ever. I don’t mind so much, really, because Ninja shows me he loves me in dozens of non-clichéd, non-commercialised ways every day 🙂

But this year I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s with our closest friends, and use it as an excuse to cross off Goal #35 on my 101 things in 1001 days list. I suppose I’ve technically met Goal #35 – Host a dinner party – several times already (such as here and here), but I hadn’t cooked for four guests yet (the max our little dining table can accommodate!). So Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to spoil my friends, complete a goal, give a nod to the clichés and push my hostessing skills even further.

I’m pleased to say the evening was a great success 🙂 Take a look at the mouthwatering menu:

You might recognise the starters from the 7-course dinner I made for our anniversary last year. Once the stuffed ‘pizza mushrooms’ were served, we all gobbled them up so quickly (gobbling doesn’t really suit a fancy dinner, I know, but that’s exactly what we did) that I forgot to take a pic. Anyway, you can see the recipe and the results here if you missed it the first time.

I also forgot to take a pic of the first part of the dessert: mixed berries with white chocolate shavings. I’m sure you can imagine it for yourself, though… the berries I used were fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. If there weren’t so many other creamy items on the menu (mayo, sour cream, mousse etc), I would’ve melted the white choc and added a little cream and vanilla essence to pour over the berries instead. Yum!

I’ll post separately about the main meal and the mousse part of the dessert. As you’ll see, this wasn’t a particularly healthy dinner, but who wants skinny-this and low-fat-that on a romantic evening? Not I! 😉

Forthcoming attractions: a Ninja party and a Valentine’s dinner!

Standard

It really seems that 2013 is going to be a year marked with many things to celebrate. The Lord has filled my life with wonderful people and this year it seems I finally have the time to bless them in the way I enjoy most: throwing parties and hosting special dinners! February in particular promises to include at least two highly anticipated events…

First up we have a ninja-themed birthday party for my amazing husband. I consider it a little short of a miracle that he even wants to acknowledge his birthday, let alone throw an actual party 😛 So of course I’ve leapt at the opportunity to make it a creative and memorable event. And I plan to blog about the ideas and results right here on the Sunshine Scrapbook (celebrating, in this case, all things ninjatastic) 😀

Later in Feb we have another near-miracle: Ninja has agreed to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year; yes, that ‘over-commercialised, most insipid of days’. We’re planning to have our best friends over for a special romantic dinner. I can hardly wait!