Friday, July 30, 2010

Wine Glass Lanterns...

These are really simple tabletop decorations, the inspiration for which I can date back to my recent trip back to New Zealand.  I saw some similar ones made out of light plastic, printed with Kiwiana motifs in a gift store.  I took the idea and changed the shape and made them easy to make out of common, inexpensive materials.

These would be amazing for a special occasion - whether that be an intimate dinner party or a wedding.  They add a beautiful gentle glow and just a little bit of magic to your table or wherever you choose to put them.

To make them you will need:

* A dinner plate with a diameter of no more than 29cm (11")
* A small round bowl or container with a diameter of around 10-12cm (4 - 4.5")
* 2 pieces of A4 copy paper
* Sticky tape
* Pencil & eraser
* Ruler
* A large cereal box
* A4 sheet of tracing paper (patterned or plain)
* Narrow double sided tape
* A wine glass
* A tea light

Stretched Tea Towel Canvasses...

Back in January during our trip to New Zealand, I was on a mission to acquire some local artwork for our apartment back in Zurich.  Because we're not really at that "buying original paintings" stage of life yet, I had to look for cheaper and easier-to-transport alternatives.


I came across these tea towels in a design store.  They are hand-screen-printed by artist Melina Martin from her original drawings and feature a range of native New Zealand birds and flora.  I fell in love and decided to take them home and do "something" with them.

The Tui.

After the idea of framing fell through because of cost, I decided to try stretching them over some canvasses I had, (purchased with the enthusiastic but unrealistic intention of painting a triptych).

I stretched the tea towels over the canvas and secured them at the back with an upholstery gun.  I managed on my own, but sometimes an extra pair of hands can be helpful to make sure you keep good tension as you go.

We're all enjoying having a little bit of New Zealand art on the walls, even if it's re-appropriated, kitchen-related media.


Update as at 11th August:  I've found this great tea towel site:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Auf Wiedersehen Cake...

On Tuesday just gone our coffee group surprised four of it's little members with an Auf Wiedersehen tea party.

Expat life is a bit like this - you seem to make new friends and say goodbye to friends at an alarming rate.  This time it is especially hard since the two families leaving have been a big part of our lives here in Switzerland.

But in our coffee group we do like a party, so we conspired and collaborated to give them the Swissiest little leaving do we could muster up.

The day before, I iced my contribution to the day, the Swiss Flag cake.  I used the same techniques I used for Miss S's Hello Kitty cake.

I found a Swiss flag image using a google image search and printed it out, enlarging it to the size I wanted and cut out the cross.  I made one recipe of the white layer cake I made for Miss S's Hello Kitty Cake, and crumb coated it in buttercream.

With the paper cross peeled off, and just starting the white outline in the space left.

I then placed the cut-out cross on top in the middle (the crumb coat holds it in place nicely), and piped the red buttercream frosting in small stars all around it.  Note:  This buttercream recipe is fantastic, tasty and great if you need a bright white, but does not tint well when it comes to darker, brighter colours (lighter colours are usually fine).  Butter based buttercreams are better for dark tinting.  My red was lighter and more coral-like than I would have preferred.

Then I removed the cross and piped in the white.  It was a surprisingly easy cake to make.

The Swiss Flag is actually a perfect square, but I took a little license with it.

Once I got to the party, I wrote "Auf Wiedersehen" and the kid's names on the cake board with a red Wilton gel pen.

And here are a few more pics from the lovely party we had.  We will really miss our little playmates, Marion and Betti, Tom and Gabriela, and I will miss their mums terribly too!

With Swiss National day just around the corner, there's no shortage of Swiss decorations in the shops at the moment!

The sun was shining so we went to the roof terrace so the kids could burn off some steam.

The spread.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Five Cent Party Favour/ Gift Bag...

I had been looking for plain white paper carry bags for Miss S's party favours for quite some time.  I had visited every craft store from A to Zurich and finally found some for the bargain price of 4.50 Swiss Francs each ($4USD - yikes!)

Miss S's goody bags all filled and ready to go

As I needed eleven of them (and I also wanted to be able to afford to serve food at the party), I walked straight out and decided to home-make an alternative.

After a little origami-esque experimentation I devised a lovely, simple carry bag that can be made from one piece of A4 copy paper or light card and can be made in about 10 minutes (sans decoration, and with a little practice).  I calculated that if made from a piece of A4 copy paper, and using inexpensive ribbon, the bag could be made for under five cents a piece.

So, here's what you need if you want to make them for yourself:

* An A4 piece of paper or light card in whatever colour you like (light card will need to be used if your bag's contents are going to be a little heavy)
* Narrow double sided tape or a gluestick
* Metric ruler
* Pencil & eraser
* Scissors
* Hole punch (I like to use a long-reach hole punch as shown)
* Scoring tool, if using card (if you have it, otherwise you can just gently use your scissors)
* 43cm (17 inch) piece of wide satin ribbon, if you want a ribbon handle

Lay your piece of A4 paper out in front of you, landscape-wise, and bring the two shorter edges together.  Gently pinch the top and bottom to mark the centre of the paper.    If you don't want to make a pinch in the paper you could measure to the centre.

Make a light mark with your pencil in both creases.  (Note:  My marks and lines will be much heavier than yours need to be because they need to show up in the photos).

Lay your ruler on the paper and measure and mark 4.5cm either side of the centre point.  This is the width of the bag's front panel (9cm).  Do this top and bottom and then join the marks with two faint lines (or if you are using card you can skip the pencil marks and go straight to scoring).  Erase your centre marks.

Now make four marks, 5cm in from each corner.  Join these lines with a faint pencil line from top to bottom.

This photo shows all the vertical lines

Now with your ruler along the first line on the left, measure 5cm up from the bottom edge and mark.  Repeat this for the last line on the right.  Join with a faint pencil line.

All measurements are done now!

If you want to have a ribbon handle, then punch your holes now.  Mark where you'll punch them first:

Then punch them out:

Cut up each vertical line from the bottom edge to the horizontal line.

Attach two strips of double-sided tape as shown.  You could turn the sheet over and decorate it at this stage if you like.  Also, this is a good time to erase any lines.

Now assemble the bag:  Fold all creases inward.  Peel off the backing on the tape strips.

Bring the bag together and seal the back seam.

Fold up base and stick.

Pinch both sides of the top as shown.

To attach the ribbon handle:  Thread the ribbon through the right hole from the outside and then back out through the left hole.

Short end under then over the top...

Tie the ribbon so that the short end faces downward.  Repeat exactly on the other side.

Trim the ribbon ends on an angle.  Voila!  That's the basic bag finished.

Another variation - a loose front knot

Add any decorations you want.  The possibilities are limitless.

This tea-light bag lantern was made from fairly stiff tracing paper and decorated with punched-out snowflakes, glued to the inside of the bag.

And here are a few ideas of what to make the bag from:

* Your child's artworks...  It would make a lovely gift for a grandparent!
* Tracing paper, for a lovely translucent look
* Paper that you have made by photocopying your favourite fabrics (see how to do this here).
* Newspapers or magazine pages (you might have to stick newspaper to another sheet of plain A4 so it is a bit stronger)

And here some ideas for fillings, for both gifts and favours:

* Home-baked cookies, biscotti etc (package in cellophane bag first to keep fresh)
* Scented candles, soaps
* Little Easter eggs or chocolates
* Mini Collage Kits
* Mini cookie cutters and a family recipe for cookies
* Dukkah and mini bottle of olive oil
* A trio of homemade preserves in mini jars

Any small gift will look fantastic presented in this nifty little bag.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


(This draw has now happened and the competition is closed).

How exciting.... my first giveaway!  This morning I went shopping to my favourite housewares store and after some awkward conversations in English and bad German (my bad German), I managed to put together a fabulous collection of Swiss designed kitchen bits and bobs for one lucky reader to win!

It contains:

Set of 6 Landert Fondue Forks
Kuhn Rikon Metallic Peeler
Zyliss Magnetic Can Opener
Zyliss Julienne Peeler
Zyliss Garlic Crusher
Steinlin Bag Clips
Swiss Flag Serviettes
2 bars of my favourite Swiss chocolate (not pictured)

All valued at over CHF110 ($104US).  It also includes delivery to the winner, anywhere in the world.

Here's how to enter.  Any of the following will give you one entry to the prize draw.  (You can enter multiple times).

* Make a comment on any of my posts or pages
* Become a follower (existing followers already have one entry each)
* "Like" The Mucky MacBook page on Facebook
* Post something on the wall of the above Facebook page

Entries close at midnight (EST) on the 31st July.  I'll keep track of all the entries as they come in and the draw will be made on Sunday August 1 (Swiss National Day, don't you know).  The winner will be announced in a special post on that day.

Good luck!

Lady Muck xxx

Friday, July 16, 2010

Top Five... Kitchen Doodahs.

Here is the first of my monthly "Top 5" lists, and today's list comes from the Muck Kitchen.  Since becoming a mum I spend so much more time in the kitchen and these gadgets and appliances are as hard-working as I pretend to be, and therefore worthy of a little praise, blog style.

So in no particular order:

Alessi Juicer by Phillippe Starck

Form and function.  My brother gave me this for my birthday about 10 years ago and it's been one of my favourites since.  I always thought it was a decorator item for the benchtop, but then one day I used it to juice a lemon and I've never looked back - it works so well.  And when it's not being used it's a great piece of kitchen eye-candy and a design classic that will never go out of style.

Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer

And speaking of hardworking, brilliant things that look gorgeous even when they're not being used, here is my kitchenaid which I'll admit I've been banging on about to anyone who'll listen.  My husband won serious brownie points (which, interestingly enough in this case, can be converted into actual brownies) when he got me this, from the kids, for Mother's Day.   It's just so powerful and such a pleasure to use.  You can see my previous posts about the Kitchenaid, including some recipes here.

 Le Creuset Frypan

Now I have this I can't believe there ever existed a time when it was not on my stovetop.  It's super heavy but this is a good thing as it heats and cooks quickly and evenly.  Finally,  I've been able to make the perfect french toast...

Miss S's birthday breakfast

This is my "forever frypan" as I have been frustrated with other frypans in the past that are less expensive but don't cook as well and the teflon coating comes off after a year or so.   Buying one of these every 10 -15 years has got to save you money in the long run if you consider you might buy 3 or 4 cheaper ones in that time.  I've also never really used a lid on a frypan before but it's great to have one for when you want to sweat onions or retain the moisture in a simmering sauce.  All in all a great buy and worth the money.

Nespresso Aeroccino Plus

My morning Flat White

If you enjoy a latte (or a "Flat White"  if you're a Kiwi like me), then you'll appreciate this.  We bought this to steam the milk to go with the espresso we make with our Delizio capsule machine.  (The Delizio is just like the Nespresso machines but Swiss).   It makes a very dense foam that is slightly sweet - simply delicious, and a really great way to start the day.  It also makes a cold foam if you want to make iced coffee or chocolate.

Furi Knives

If there's one thing in the kitchen I recommend spending some money on it's got to be your knife set.  Even one or two quality knives are better than a whole set of flimsy blunt ones.  My brother got me on to Furi knives when he gave me one a few years back.  At the time I couldn't find them in NZ, but google came through and I found the rest of set in Australia (where they come from) and had them sent over. (You can actually buy them in NZ now, by the way).  I use my Wusthof Sharpener to keep them in shape, and they are always a joy to use.

Make sure you watch this space as my Swiss Kitchen Competition will be starting next week.  A fabulous collection of Swiss kitchen gadgets will be given away to one lucky reader.  Details to follow!

(Just thought I should add that I don't have any affiliations with the makers of any of these gadgets).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mmmmmmmm.... Bread.

It's currently 34˚C (93˚F) here in Zurich, and about 110% humidity and I don't know what has possessed me to suddenly bake some bread.

It's just that ever since my beloved Kitchenaid "Kitty" came into my life I have had this burning desire to become one of those mums who bakes her own wholesome bread daily.  Actually it's always been a dream of mine, but when you hardly have time to shower, mixing, kneading and proofing dough seems a little frivolous.

My kids have the right idea in this heat...

But then I stumbled on a recipe for "Rapid Mix Cool Rise Bread".  This is basically a "chuck everything in your Kitchenaid and mix it up then put it in your fridge for a bit then bake" kind of recipe.  And that's my kind of recipe.  It's a great everyday loaf, makes nice sandwiches and really yummy toast, and most importantly, it makes two good-sized loaves.  I'm sure I'll experiment with adding some more healthy ingredients later, but for now it's white bread, like Mr Muck and the little Mucks like it.

So here it is:

Kitchenaid Cool Rise White Bread
Makes 2 x 500g (1.1lb) loaves
* 5.5 cups Bread flour/ high grade flour*
* 2 tbs sugar
* 3 tsp salt
* 15g instant dry yeast (or enough for two 500g loaves depending on the brand you use - check the packet)
* 115g butter, softened
* 2 cups of water at around 40 - 45˚C (around 110-120˚F)
* 1/2 to 1 & 1/2 cups of extra flour

Attach a dough hook to your mixer.

Put the first 5 ingredients in the bowl and mix for half a minute.

With the mixer on low (speed 2 for Kitchenaids), slowly add the water until it is mixed in.  You will be left with a wet-ish pasty dough.

Now start adding the additional flour, 1/2 a cup at a time.  When the dough "cleans the bowl", stop adding flour.

Continue to mix/knead for another 2 minutes.

Cover with cling film and a clean tea towel and leave on the bench for 20 mins.

Risen dough - it should nearly double it's original size

Empty the dough onto a floured surface and cut in half.

Flatten the dough off with the palm of your hand (or a rolling pin) into a rectangle and roll it up.  Place both loaves in tins you've greased with a bit of butter.

Cover with cling film and place in your refrigerator for 2 - 12 hours.

This is after only 2 hours in the fridge...

Just before baking, leave the bread out on the bench for 10 minutes while your oven heats.  This is to return it to room temperature.  Brush it with milk before baking.

Bake at 35-40 minutes at 200˚C (400˚F).  It's done when it's a lovely brown colour and sounds hollow when you tap it.

Turn out of the tin straight away and enjoy!

Wish you could smell it...

Blueberry jam and butter just seemed so right...

* A note for my Switzerland-based friends.  I made this bread using Haushaltmehl the first time and it was awful!  I haven't found a good equivalent for high grade/bread flour here, so I purchased my high grade through
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