Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A New Recipe (and a Parrot Cameo)

melted 72% dark chocolate for florentines
 I have a big magazine habit.  Mostly interiors mags, but several times a year the habit expands to include food mags too.  Especially at Christmas time.  I like to try something new a bit before the holidays, to trial something to make and take to some outing or event.

This time, I found something in ABC Delicious, December 2012 edition Cranberry Macadamia Florentines.  They looked amazing in the photos in the magazine and I had most of the ingredients.  I decided to do half with white chocolate and half with dark chocolate (the recipe did them all with white chocolate).

I've never made these before, it was not that difficult, but there were a few steps and you pour the buttery-sugary base into a baking tray and then after it bakes a bit, you put dried cranberries and chopped macadamia nuts over the bubbling base and cook some more.    The base is a toffee like one, and it tastes good.

It all needs to cool a bit when it comes out, then you use a small round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the florentines out. This part is a bit fiddly, because the base has to be cool enough not to be a molten mess, but still warm so its toffee character is not hardened too much to cut into rounds.

After they are cut out, you chill them in the fridge.  While you melt the chocolate.  I tried dipping the florentines in the chocolate but found it quite messy (a lot of chocolate also on bottom of florentine). I used a spatula to spread the melted chocolate on half the florentine instead and found this to work well for me.  After the chocolate hardens a bit, you pop the tray with these back in the fridge to let the chocolate cool and harden some more.  (best to remove them from fridge 30 minutes or so before serving).

Close up shot of the Cranberry Macadamia Florentines
on vintage pink chintz plate
The florentines passed a taste test with flying colours.  Ian liked the dark chocolate on them best.  I took a plate of these to a Bernina Club meeting later that night and they got very nice reviews.  They make an impressive looking dessert and make a special treat, good for when you want one really nice not too big thing to serve.

And below, two shots of one of the Adelaide Rosella parrots that has nested here at our house.  This may be the mother bird.  I don't have a good enough zoom lens to get a better quality photo, and she won't let me get too close when she is sitting in the tree.  She and her partner seem to take turns doing a watch duty across from the nesting box.  Ian has seen them perched on the little landing he put outside and below the hole doorway to the box.

now looking to the left, one of the Adelaide Rosellas
Nice orange colour on chest, yellow neck, banded
blue tail and wing feathers, and subtle blue
cheek coloration
The baby birds have not emerged yet, but must be getting closer to that stage.  They flap about in the box a lot and this week have begun to make little chirpy and tweet noises.

Watching the nest box, from tree opposite

close up of the nest box Ian made and tied
to our roof gable.  The parrot parents
like to perch on that landing

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Colour Mixing: Mariner

 It was very hot today, so I had to take refuge inside  and escape the heat of the day.  I had a good play with my clay and chalk paints.  I have a number of items I have been collecting that need to be painted up.  And I did some colour mixing too.  I made a lovely  soft navy blue colour out of a bright blue and a dark charcoal.  I dubbed the new blue 'Mariner.'

Having made a  decent batch of Mariner to get a good colour mix, I had enough to paint several items.  The board backing a new towel rack/hooks for the new shower area.  a small timber milking stool.  A sample board and also a shabby old finial I got for painting colour samples onto.  And a small vintage birdcage.   Most all is waxed and tomorrow will be buffed and soft polished. Except the birdcage, which will get some touch ups before sealing with wax.

I also went to a garage sale today and got some good industrial stuff:  wheels !  Here is a sampling of them.  There are enough to mount three cabinets or tables on wheels.  I cant wait to work out what they should go on !

More colour mixing next post:  from Pistachio to Margarita !

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Parrot Season

Parrots Inside !
 I am so remiss, a lax blogger of late.  Another biz travel overseas now done and I am back and recovering from jetlag.

Here is the BIG news that happened while I was away !  Our home became a nesting place for some lovely Adelaide Rosella parrots.  To see a nice pic of what they look like, check out  this link an Adelaide Rosella photo link.

First, I must tell you, I really like these parrots.  They are gorgeous and have multi colours, with banded colour and black feathers on wings and tails.  Cute blue cheek spots.  Shy and swift, slender graceful parrots.  Sweet little bird songs and chirps.  And I read that they are fastidious, preferring tidy and clean nesting spots, not soiled or marked by other creatures, like possums.  That clinched it for me.  Parrots that are fastidious about their homes and nests, my kind of parrot !

So, what happened while I was away ?  Well, all the excitement it seems.  Apparently the parrots were already in residence here before I travelled.  In fact the cats and I heard something above the front window, over the ceiling one night before I left (we thought it might be mice--yeew !)

Anyway, when some electrical wiring work was being done, the access to the roof (from the kitchen) was open while guys were going up and down ladders into the roof.  And a parrot flew into the house from the roof !  One of the electricians told Ian a parrot was in the house.  Ian found it, at the window in the Dining Room, and he opened the door to let it outside.

But he wondered how a parrot flew from the roof cavity into the house and when the electricians left, he went to go see what was going on.  And he found a clutch of four young parrots in there.  He also found how the parents got in the roof, they chewed through some of the original timbers up in the eaves area, to gain access.  However, the access for fledgling birds to egress when ready to leave their nest did not look promising.  And with hot weather, he worried the birds would perish up in the roof one hot day.

View of the entry to the improvised parrot nest box
So what to do ?  Well, make a nesting box.  Ian fashioned one of cardboard.  He used gloves to put the small parrots inside (he said they all went off, squawking something tremendous--I miss all the fun !).  And he tied the box up at the top of the gable, right under the eaves of the roof peak.  happily one of the parents found the box within an hour, as Ian saw it go in.

Now we hear the parrot babies thumping  in the box, and sometimes I hear small bird sounds.  So long as they keep active, we are optimistic they are being fed and looked after.  They maybe half grown by now, so perhaps have another several weeks before they become fledglings.

parrots' nest box, tied under the top of the eaves of roof

We are wondering what to do next year.  Will these parrots want to come back to our roof again ?  (they often do return to a nesting place).  This winter I had wanted to put a proper timber Rosella nest box up in one of our big gum trees.  I got over-ruled by that, but maybe it is not such a bad idea.  There is time to work out a plan for this though.

Meantime, we hope the small birds get looked after (thought we do have Young parrot food to mix up and give them if we think they need it...but seems best not to interfere if they are OK).  And get to fledgling stage.  I hope to see one of them.  For now, I will be content with seeing the parents in the tree opposite the makeshift next box.