Sparkling art: CD Sea

Posted by Bel. The time is 5pm here in Wellington NZ.

600,000 CDs transform a field into a sparkling ocean, in this installation by UK artist Bruce Munro.

The first in a series of projects utilising recycled and recyclable materials, Munro says it is inspired by the light of Australia of his childhood - but its also reminiscent of the current dire state of the Gulf of Mexico, as this image shows:

[via UFunk and Dezeen]

Key Lime Pie - part 2

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.00am here in London UK.

This recipe was a win. I shall be using it for all future occasions that call for Key Lime Pie. However I am yet to figure out how to get a slice of pie out of a pie dish without it looking like shit afterwards. Thus even though I took a photo of a piece, I'm not posting it as it doesn't do the pie justice. But the pie tasted good, and that's the most important thing.

Cakes and a pie

Posted by Lou. The time is 1.30pm here in London UK.

Raspberry Cheesecake Chocolate Brownie Cake

I had a big cake success this week after following Michelle's lead and turning raspberry cheesecake chocolate brownies into a cake. The recipe is one she has lying around at home generically printed on a plain white piece of paper that gives away nothing of its original, but after a bit of googling I have traced it to this Nigella speciality. Basically you just do it all the same except shove it into a loose-bottomed cake tin instead of a brownie tray (and please do remember to swirl - the swirl is very important). And - the key thing that she and I always forget - cook it for significantly longer than what the recipe says.

I made mine before heading off to the tennis on Monday, and despite leaving an extra 15 mins cooking time it was still a bit raw in the centre when I had to leave for my date with Federer. I left it in the (switched off) oven to hopefully cook a little more, then panicked all my way to Wimbledon that I was creating a disaster by letting it dry out. Thankfully the cheesecake component stopped it drying out, and the slightly-under-cooked nature of the brownie part just made it fudgier. I had also been concerned about the appearance at it developed a few crevasses, but my colleagues insisted it looked amazing and with one accusing me of buying it from a shop and passing it off as my own I guess I can believe them.

I was too embarrassed by the appearance to take a photo,
but here is one of cheesecake brownies to give you an idea of the potential.

And if you like could imitate the orgasmic sounds emitting from the dozen or so people enjoying a piece next time I see you. Thinking about their reaction in conjunction with the fact that Michelle won a cake competition at her work with it last year, I would say that of all the things I have ever made this is the one that is guaranteed to dazzle and delight so give it a go sometime! (They are, of course, also excellent in their intended state as brownies.)


Willie's Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake

Willie is a British chef who moved to Venezuela and bought a cacao plantation, which led to a business producing boutique 100% chocolate. (website here) He then had a Channel 4 series going behind the scenes of cacao production, featuring his recipes for food made using the pure cacao, both savoury and sweet. Kelly gave me his book and so - using Lindt's 90% dark chocolate as the closest alternative available at my supermarket - I've been trying a few of them out and this "Cloud Forest" chocolate cake has become a staple.

A slight twist that came through one of my serendipitous baking mishaps, was when I omitted the almonds, not quite realising that they were taking the role of flour, and was left with the most amazingly gooey cake ever. Not recommended if there is an emphasis on presentation and being able to eat it tidying, but definitely recommended for a messy treat at home.


Key Lime Pie - part 1

Whilst in Miami over New Year's, Di and I launched into the quest to find good key lime pie. Unfortunately the only really good one we did come across was at a bar one night after I'd eaten so much for dinner I didn't order one and had to be contented with one delicious forkful of hers. I decided to make some in the weekend in preparation for Di's upcoming 30th birthday celebrations (have to get some practise in to find the best recipe, you see), and used this simple recipe from the BBC Good Food website. Unfortunately I didn't think about it too much in advance, but in retrospect I should have gone with something more like this recipe from the Hairy Bikers as there is one key difference that is very important to me: one type of key lime pie has a creamier and larger filling (which is what I made), while the other is a thinner layer of a more tarty filling, with cream on top (which is very much my preferred version - in fact, I don't like much cream with it at all).

This is what my ideal key lime pie would look like - no artificial colouring,
focus is the citrus filling, and just a little bit of cream.

The pie was okay - luckily I had bought an extra lime or two as our local grocer turned out to have sold me expensive and too dry limes grr so it wasn't quite as citrus as I wanted it to be, but it was a very quick and easy recipe. Luckily I'd only made half though (in a loaf tin using a lining of greased baking paper to easily pull it out and leave me with a rectangular shaped pie) as I don't think I wouldn't have wanted to eat another full serving. So I'm going to call this part 1 with further experimentations to follow - anyone want to invite me round for a BBQ to give me an excuse to try the Hairy Bikers' version?

**oooh just read the Hairy Bikers's one all the way through and it also is wrong - it has meringue on top, which makes it more like a key lime meringue pie, so I'm going to try this one from the Joy of Baking website**

I've got a fever

Posted by Lou. The time is 5.55pm here in London, UK.

A fever for FOOTBALL!!

Ranked 78th in the world, 25 professional players, one professional team, and New Zealand just drew 1-1 with the World Champions.

The All Whites are doing better than previous finalists France, better than this tournament's favourites Spain, and better than the football obsessed English. Plus, it must be said: we're doing much better than the Aussies.

Is anyone not loving this?!

[please imagine a great big beautiful picture of euphoric All White here. Unfortunately blogger won't let me add pictures from my laptop at the moment. Maybe Bel will put a nice one in for us.]Et voila!!

Smeltzy scoring his goal against Italy, going "WHOO! I rule!". Goalie Federico Marchetti lies on the ground feeling stink.

Stuff has a great slideshow with lots more photos, but for nudity, we have to thank the LA Times:

(although perhaps not for referring to us as "lowly"!)

Skate or die in Afghanistan

Posted by by Bel. The time is 11.52am here in Wellington NZ.

America's presence in Afghanistan is having many influences. The emerging skateboarding scene is one of the more positive ones.

Noah Abrams has documented with stunning images the Afghani youth and how they are reclaiming the bombed out buildings of their homeland for recreation. Interview here about the project, and more photos on his website.

[via GOOD]


Posted by Lou. The time is2.55pm here in London, UK.

I've realised that if I'm to post here consistently and regularly I need to find something in my life that is worthy of posting beyond the occasional review of films and books. (Beyond live-blogging my watching of Mad Men season 3 when it turns up...) The answer is... baking! But in the guise of avoiding copyright infringements I am not actually going to include the actual recipes (the real reason being that I can't be bothered writing them out).

First up:

The Baklava Cupcake Incident

For my birthday last year the lovely Kelly gave me a wonderous selection of glorious baking-related items including this recipe book Cupcakes: A Fine Selection of Sweet Treats and some silicon cupcake/ muffin cases. (I will tell you a fact to keep with you for life: silicon bakeware is the shizz. I will never look back. Especially after this one incident, in which I forewent the silicon bakeware to my demise.) This recipe book is also the shizz - it has a beautiful textured hardcover, and each recipe is is accompanied by a delightful full-page illustration that has you foaming at the mouth.

So I was heading to a birthday picnic in the weekend and decided to try out the Baklava Cupcakes recipe. Essentially it is rather simple: a fairly basic cupcake mix with a combination of chopped nuts (walnuts and almonds in this instance), sugar, butter and cinnamon placed in the middle and on top (pre-cooking!), with warm honey brushed onto the cupcakes as they cool.

The mistake I made was in defying the silicon moulds. I didn't have enough, so thought "hey, why don't I just put some paper cupcake cases into a large rectangular dish?". Do not do this. This is the second-stupidest thing I have done all year*. In case - like me - you haven't picked up on the obvious: there is a point to cupcake moulds. Paper cases do not keep their shape. You will end up with a big blob of a cake-like substance rippled through with paper cases.

Thankfully I had a brain-wave and recovered the situation by allowing them to cool, cutting them into smaller square shapes, and placing them delicately in the remaining cupcake cases. Of course there was a second disaster in that they turned out to have not actually cooked all the way through due to the lack of space between cupcakes, but this allowed the second brainwave of pushing the not-quite-fully-cooked bits cut off the sides into the magical silicon cupcake moulds before the second attempt at cooking them through, which left me with the bonus of having Drunken Cupcake Snacks when I got home in the middle of the night.

The Baklava Squarecakes were very well received and I can testify - on the basis of extensive testing of the square, cups and scrappy bits - that they taste mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed.

*The stupidest thing I have done all year is the fatal decision to take the number 100 bus home last Tuesday during the torrential downpour. This led to me spending more than an hour and a half on a hot and damp bus surrounded by wet people and their even wetter umbrellas and bags as we made a tour of all of London's traffic jams in defiance of the usual 40 minute travel time. I nearly cried.

On a happier note:

The Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes are the One Of The Best Things Ever. They are not-too-difficult to make, look amazing, and taste like heaven.

Essentially you: make a plain vanilla cupcake, only 3/4 filling the moulds and only 3/4 cooking them. Scoop out the centre. Put in a big fat dollop of lemon curd (I home-make mine but will only judge you a little bit if you buy it in a jar). Put an even bigger, fatter dollop of uncooked meringe on top, and bake just a couple of minutes until they start to look brown.

Et voila:

These specific ones were made for a Ladies Afternoon Tea Party.
Please note the glorious silicon cupcake moulds, which both
look good and slip off without even a hint of sticking.

My tip to enhance the experience of these is to scrunch the bits of scooped-out cupcake into the bottom of a smallish dish (or larger muffin moulds), spread on your leftover lemon curd, ditto with the meringue, and you have some mini- lemon meringue pies for that all-important Drunken Midnight Snack/ Hangover Breakfast.

This is weird, right?

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.45pm here in Wellington, NZ.

[via kottke]

And there's more!

That '70s Show.. Remington Steele... Desperate Housewives... Six Feet Under... 10 Things I Hate About You... Malcolm In The Middle... Cougar Town... Knight Rider...

Did the same props guy work on ALL these movies and TV shows??

Or. Or! Did each of these scenes take place... on... the same day!! (I would only really buy into this theory if there was a screen grab from Lost to fully complete the mindfuck.)

When you've got the craving... to read

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.30pm here in Wellington, NZ.

The University of Hamburg will have unused cigarette vending machines converted into book dispensors, swapping an unsavory habit for a rather more illuminating one.

A German publisher is behind the initative, which will see the campus stocked with easily accessible local titles (everything from novels to comics) for only €4.

A pause to feel some Consumer Guilt

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.13am here in London, UK .

Serving as a reminder of the human price of our Western consumerism: According to this disturbing report of a spate of suicides in (one of?) Apple's China factory(ies) an entry-level worker gets paid less in one month than I paid for my iPod nano. Oh. I guess my superficial policy of not-buying-sequined-clothing-from-high-street-clothing-stores* isn't enough huh... At least I don't buy Nike...?

*an exposee of the involvement of sweat shops in the high street clothing industry very much pointed to the intricate work required for some clothing such as sequinned tops and dresses as being the tipping point for the labour moving down to badly-paid children. Seeing a sequinned dress for £20 now makes me feel a little bit sick.


Posted by Bel. The time is 10.25am here in Wellington, NZ.

Pretty Pretty Pretty is your place to go for beauty product reviews, comparisons, inside scoops and girly talk. I've done a guest blog for them on the Top 10 Animal-Themed Outfits.

So far no one has mentioned that I left off new kid on the block, Lady Gaga, for long running doyennes of furry, feathered, flippered kook such as Grace Jones and Björk...