Saturday, September 28, 2013

The first moments of the school holidays.

School pickup yesterday was fun. The children and most of the parents seemed happy and I'm sure the teachers were thrilled. My six year old wanted to do every planned holiday activity STRAIGHT AWAY. I conceded with an art activity.

I can't remember where I saw this idea, it is hardly novel. I collected river stones, bought test pots and used sharpie pens to write on the stones.

It was great fun. As usual, I had to recognise that my daughter had her own decoration ideas and she started off with elaborate, multi colour stones that were for 'decoration, not labelling.' She neatly wrote some plant names, adding love hearts or 'polish' (gold paint) here and there.

We also made some decoy strawberries. I read in an article somewhere that a family used decoy rock berries to misdirect birds or to hide amongst real ones to give birds a fright if they try to nibble on them. They are cute regardless and fun to make!

Again, we used a sharpie pen for detail.  The stones were then sprayed with clear varnish to protect the writing. Be careful about spraying, too close and the pen may run. Spraying from 30 cm is good.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Third Annual Chocolate Festival

This year I was very pleased to be invited once again to attend the opening of Wellington's annual chocolate festival.  Last year I was quite overwhelmed to attend, as the festival was also the start of the New Zealand Food Blogger's conference and also the first time I'd spent time away from my youngest.  Given I've spent a lot of this year sick, and have only regained the ability to eat chocolate quite recently the invitation was gratefully received.

The festival opened with a toast - with chocolate ganache pots, instead of champagne. The festival was noticeably bigger than last year - a lot more small chocolate makers.  It also seemed better attended - it was very busy by the time I left. I wonder if last year the festival was swallowed up by Wellington On a Plate, held at the same time? This year there was just enough time to feel sad that Wellington On a Plate had ended when it came time for the festival. A special thing about this year's festival is an emphasis on fair trade chocolate and detailed package labelling of bean type and country of origin.

The festival has lots of fun elements - I regret not staying long enough for chocolate bingo (using chocolate bingo pieces and receiving chocolate as a prize).  I made sure that I left the perennial chocolate fountain to the end - last year delicious warm chocolate landed on my dress, leaving me with a distinctive stain for the rest of the day.  For a further $10 festival attendees could make four little ganache pots (as above) and take them home in a small clear box.  Mayor Ceila Wade-Brown was the first to have a go and very kindly shared out her creations.  Food and hospitality students volunteered to assist the public with making the ganache pots - and I was surprised to learn that some of these students were from Auckland, having made their own way to the conference.

The bit that I loved the most had to be all the new flavour combinations - La Petite Chocolat had matcha flavoured bars and some amazing ginger and mandarin chocolate.  My favourite flavour, salted caramel appeared in a couple of stalls, including local producer BohemeinBig Bad Wolf had a very appealing sausage with a mole (chocolate) sauce.

Chocolate is an amazing food.  While reading the packaging notes of White Rabbit Cacao's Venezuela Mantuano Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao bar I noted that you could taste 'complex berry fruits and stone fruit.'  The chocolate did have a strong raspberry taste to me.  During the Food Blogger's conference last year we had a chocolate masterclass where we learnt the elements of chocolate tasting.  Great chocolate hints at other tastes (unlike most commercial chocolates which often taste strongly of sugar).  Of the chocolate I have tasted so far the White Rabbit Cacao is my favourite - shiny, with a good snap and the delicious berry flavours.  It actually seems mean to write about it without sharing the chocolate with readers!  I'll stop writing!

The most special part of the day was catching up with other food bloggers.  Long ago conversations were remembered and memories of last years conference were discussed amongst sampling from the trade stalls. I've spent a lot of time thinking about food blogging today.  There are a lot of food bloggers from last year who no longer blog.  Lives change, focus changes.  There are also a lot of new food bloggers.  I love blogs.  I love reading what people find interesting.  Blogging is a great way to share passions, to inform, to keep a record of special times.  I have no idea how long I'll keep blogging at Make-Do Mum, but I suspect as long as there are fun food events and food experiments to conduct, I'll be writing for a while to come.

Disclaimer: I was an invited guest to the festival and received a gift bag containing products or vouchers from most of the businesses I mentioned above.  I've done my best to be honest and mention only those stands and products that I was most interested in.