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I have Paris to blame for my current obsession with macarons. I'd never actually seen, heard of or eaten a macaron until 2007. In March of that year, Andrew and I visited Paris for our wedding anniversary. Andrew's boss at the time recommended that we visit a tea room on the Champs-Élysées called Ladurée for afternoon tea. It was there that I fell in love with the macaron. (I also had a really lovely cup of tea - the Marie Antoinette. *sigh* I wish I could go back to Ladurée.)
Macarons Tea at Laduree

After that first visit I made sure to sample macarons whenever I had the opportunity. When we visited Paris I'd try to have afternoon tea at Ladurée (if it was open). There are also two Ladurée stores in London, one on Piccadilly and one in Harrods. I'd often pop in to pick up a macaron or two when I passed by the Piccadilly shop. Obsessed!
Laduree is closed *tear*

Ladurée invented the modern-day macaron (originally it was just the biscuit bit without the ganache filling) and they have set a pretty high standard. My favourite flavour from Ladurée is Vanilla. It is a perfect concoction of light, airy crunchy biscuit and pure creamy vanilla ganache. Heaven.

Now we are back in Sydney. Paris is, unfortunately, no longer just a train ride away. There is no Ladurée store in Martin Place (are you listening Ladurée? It would be the perfect location for a new store.) Since we've returned home I've been trying to find a suitable macaron substitute to satisfy my cravings.

First up, we have submission from Baroque Bistro for Jess' new favourite macaron. I was inspired to visit after reading a post on GrabYourFork. I actually read the post and immediately emailed my foodie blogger friend Caitlin and suggested we visit there for a lunch date that week. I wasn't really interested in the food though, just the macarons. In the end, we didn't eat lunch there because it was too expensive but I did buy a dozen assorted macarons (they were expensive too but it was all in the name of research).
Baroque macarons

Baroque macarons Baroque macarons Baroque macarons

So did they stack up to Ladurée? Well, they didn't have a vanilla flavour which is a requirement for a true comparison. However, all the other flavours we tried were really good. Caitlin really enjoyed the passionfruit, Andrew rated the chocolate and coconut and I liked the rosewater best. Baroque Bistro is good enough to go on my Ladurée Macaron Substitute list. Unfortunately, the restaurant is in the Rocks so it's not somewhere that I will often walk past. So macarons good, convenience not so good. The search continues!

Caitlin has also posted about our macaron taste test on her blog, Roaming Tales

jess - 30th Apr 2011, 15:55 tags: macaron explore_sydney

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We visited the Veitch family last week for dinner. It was the perfect opportunity to bake some Easter themed cupcakes. These days I always volunteer to bring dessert.

So the decorations are supposed to look like Easter Eggs on grass. The coloured dots are supposed to be flowers (I didn't have any flower shaped sprinkles). That's what they totally look like... right? In the beginning I was piping little dots of grass but it took fooooooooorever. With 15 cupcakes to ice, I took a bit of a shortcut continuously piped the grass and added a few dots at the end.

I had bookmarked this idea last Easter but I could not find the crunchy shell Easter eggs. This year I bought the crunchy shell eggs as soon as I saw them in the shops and put them away just so I could make these cupcakes. Yes, I'm one of those sad people who buy Easter eggs months in advance. I also bought a special piping tip to do the "grass".
Easter cupcakes
Easter cupcakes

So were the cupcakes a success? The Veitch girls thought they were very pretty. But, as usual, when it came to eating them they just licked the icing off and left the cake bit.

Now, I have no problems with the cake bit. Last week I had a cupcake every day for four days in a row. Luckily, they are all gone now (in mah belly!). Methinks I better have a few CFDs (cupcake free days).

jess - 21st Apr 2011, 08:32 tags: baking cupcakes easter


Last time I wrote how disappointed we were when we came second. Well, Karma decided to pay us back on our latest trivia outing. We came equal seventh with three other teams. Seventh! To add insult to injury the team of young boys (some of them aren't even legal drinking age) came in first. Somehow I think we left our brains at home this time.

Would you have been able to help? Here is your chance at this month's questions:
  1. Which movie features a supervillian named Gru?

  2. How many seconds are there on the shot clock in an NBA Basketball Game?

  3. Louis Braille had perfect eyesight. True or False?

  4. Patti Boyd left her husband, George Harrison, for which rockstar?

  5. Beam, cantilever, suspension and cable-stayed are all types of what?

  6. What abrasive rock is solidified frothy lava?

  7. Citizens of Puerto Rico hold which country's passport?

  8. The ancient Roman province of Lusitania encompasses which modern country?

You know the rules...

jess - 20th Apr 2011, 14:09 tags: trivia sydneyrowers badgers


It's all about hand made presents at the moment. I figure that you have to get in early and give them hand made gifts while they are still young. At the moment kids still like my presents. I'm sure that by the time they are teenagers they will be thinking "I wish she had just bought me an iTunes voucher." Even now it's pretty hard to compete with Zhu Zhu Pets!

Leo started kindergarten this year. I noticed that his library bag was just a plastic bag, so I decided that this would be a good birthday gift for him. Not very exciting for him but it solved my whole gift-wrapping conundrum. (Although, when we gave Leo the present he asked "Why aren't my presents wrapped?". Apparently 5 year old boys aren't environmentally conscientious.)
Library bag for Leo Library bag for Leo

I used Ali Foster's Flea Market Tote Sewing Pattern to make the library bag. I'm still a bit of novice when it comes to sewing from patterns, so I was happy just to be able to follow this pattern. Then I took it a step further and made adjustments to the pattern. Actually I just left a few steps out. The pattern is for a shopping bag so it includes a few pockets inside. I figured that a library bag doesn't really need pockets so I didn't do those. It also includes interfacing which makes the bag a little more rigid. I decided that since the bag was going to be scrunched up in Leo's school bag that it would be better without interfacing. Look at me! Getting all over-confident in my sewing abilities. This is usually when something goes wrong to bring me back to earth. (In this case, I sewed over a pin, broke my machine needle and was nearly blinded by flying debris.)
Library bag for Leo

I figured that the library bag was going to be the handmade part of Leo's gift and I'd just put the usual stuff - toy, book, t-shirt - in it. Then I saw a tutorial for a dinosaur hoodie on Pinterest. It looked so cool and the tutorial looked pretty easy so I decided to give that a whirl too.

Now Leo can be Leo-saurus. No action shots yet as it was quite late when we gave Leo his present.
Dinosaur hoodie Dinosaur hoodie Dinosaur hoodie

jess - 16th Apr 2011, 09:40 tags: kids leo craft gift_guide no_to_wrapping_paper


Leo celebrated his fifth birthday on Friday, 8th April. We marked the occasion with a mini-party: pizza, cake and presents of course. Leo had gone to another birthday party in the afternoon and had his face painted. Somehow I don't think it was by a professional face painter though. He looks a bit scary in the photos.

It was only a mini-party because the "official" party for Leo's birthday is planned for the near future. Annie has scheduled it for a couple of weeks down the track so Richie can be there. It's going to be an animal themed extravaganza complete with a visit from the Reptile man. I think the Reptile man will have to double-check that he has all his animals when he leaves though. Leo might take the opportunity to adopt a pet crocodile.

Lighting the candles Leo's Birthday Blowing out the candle

I offered to make the cake for Leo's mini-party. It gave me the opportunity to try out a Lego cake that I'd pinned a while back. The cakes are supposed to look like Lego bricks. How did I do? I think that in the photos they look pretty good.
Lego cake

The block bit is chocolate cake covered in butter cream icing and the bumps on the bricks are Oreos covered in butter cream icing. The cake was a bit fiddly to ice.

I had to do a couple of batches of icing for the different colours. It's nigh on impossible to get bright primary colours for icing. Red is definitely impossible! The Wilton website just said to keep adding colouring until you got a bright red colour. It made the icing so grainy and sloppy though. Not going to bother with red again.

Then you have to individually ice the Oreos to go on each Lego block. It was quite time-consuming. I actually had another couple of 4-bump bricks planned but I ran out of time.
Lego cake Lego cake

So guess what Andrew and I had for dessert last night? Leftover chocolate cake and ice-cream. I feel like such a 50s house-wife when I can serve up home-made cake for dessert.

More photos (slideshow) on Flickr.

jess - 11th Apr 2011, 13:17 tags: birthdays kids leo baking

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