Monday, April 26, 2010

cookie monster #1

the other afternoon we had ben, one of our well-loved little regulars, in for a chocolate chip cookie with his mom erin and it was as much a pleasure to see them both as it always is (and we love seeing cookie monster #2, a.k.a josh, with them when he's not at preschool). as you can see, the cookie was apparently a good one.

you guys are awesome. you always make us smile (and we love that you love our dinosaur book as much as we do. dinosaurs totally rule).

big love XX

Sunday, April 25, 2010

no one belongs here more than you

one of the most enjoyable things about this touching and very human collection of short stories is the delightfully quirky bent that author miranda july (in true miranda july style) brings to it. if you've seen her film me and you and everyone we know then you'll already be familiar with ms july's heartwarmingly awkward presence and you're bound to love this book (if you haven't seen the film: go. now).

all the stories are pretty cool but there were a couple that really stood out. the first was "something that needs nothing" which tells the tale of a painfully half-realised love – in this story the joy of one character finally fulfilling their desire for another is bitterly balanced out by the pain they feel at only being able to do so partially. it's a tricky sensation to try and describe but i think the closest image i can apply is that of being able to constantly smell your favourite meal cooking (and feeling your mouth water and stomach gurgle) without ever being able to actually eat it.
the other that really struck me was "the boy from lam kien" which describes the situation of a woman so painfully shy she won't even leave her own home. the isolated world she inhabits within her four walls is broken in upon one day by a young boy who, completely unaware (in the way that kids usually are) of what's going on in the woman's head, sees no reason not to invite himself round to his neighbour's house for afternoon tea and a chat. what i liked so much about this story was the contrast between the (totally self-constructed) complexity of the woman and the almost selfish simplicity of the boy. plus my heart broke a little bit for this lady who was so terrified of life she wouldn't live it.
which leads me to add, actually, that my heart broke a little bit for each of the characters in these stories and, each time, it was because i could see a little bit of my own awkwardness or that of someone i love in them.
p.s. if you are completely unfamiliar with miranda july then visiting her website for this book will give you some idea. just go look, i can't explain: .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

little brown house carrot cake

this yummy scrummy little brown favourite is influenced by the spice mix in our hildegard cookies.
be warned: this cake is darker than wuthering heights and completely irresistible (it has been know to induce intense, moody cravings).

enjoy! xx


250g flour (use wholemeal spelt flour for an extra nutty taste)
1 tsp baking soda
1 generous tsp mixed ground spice
1 generous tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of salt
a pinch of ground cloves
4 free range eggs
170g brown or unrefined sugar
250g white sugar

370g light olive, grape or sunflower oil
3-4 biggish carrots, grated (you should have roughly 200g)
150g of walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts (or whatever you're nutty about)


preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius.

sift all the dry ingredients together and enjoy the spicy aroma.

lightly blend the eggs together and then add these with the two sugars to the sifted dry ingredients. stir gently until just combined and then beat with a cake mixer or (or, if you're an enthusiastic purist, by hand) for around 4 minutes - but be careful not to overbeat or you will toughen your batter.

this makes quite a big carrot cake so find a round 20cm cake tin that is deep enough to allow for some rising. line the base with baking paper and oil the sides. pour the batter in and bake for approximately 90mins to 2hours (check regularly after 90mins until wooden skewer comes out clean)

when done, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool before icing.

the cream cheese icing (oh! la la! the very best bit!)

125g cream cheese
100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
juice and zest of 1 or 2 lemons (depending on how lemony you're feeling).

throw everything in a bowl and beat it until it begons to resemble the lovely, decadent icing it is. after lashing this creamy concoction on the cake with great flourish (this flourish is very important and cannot be overdone), you can garnish with roasted nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, dried apricots, and dark or bittersweet chocolate.


Monday, April 19, 2010

paper cut perfection

for quite some time now we've been big fans of nikki mcclure's paper cut art.
this very clever lady, a self-taught artist from olympia, washington, uses an x-acto knife to carve incredibly intricate images out of paper. the trick is that every single one of her images remains an entire sheet of paper (no mean feat when you see just how much detail she has cut into them).
her work speaks of community, family, sustainability, and the environment. it encourages us to slow down and take time to look at all the simple things around us that we so often miss in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
nikki's art is something that always revitalises us when important (a.k.a boring but stressful)things get us frazzled. we hope it does the same for you too.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

fantastic freeset donation

just a quick note to let you all know that, thanks to the $2 raised on every ticket sold for the little brown house soiree with peta mathias, we are making a whopping $250 donation to freeset bags.
so take a big pat on the back because we literally could not have done it without you. XX p.s. if you haven't heard of the wonderful venture that is freeset, you can read more about it on our website by clicking here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

soiree with peta mathias

as many of you already know, last tuesday we hosted a soiree with peta mathias at the little brown house. there was so much we loved about the evening, not least the fact that you all came out in force supporting us by being there or by sending your love from afar. there were lots of other things we loved too and (so that we can try and keep the memory of them fresh!) we'd like to share them here. everyone loved peta because: her talk was impromptu – totally honest and obviously not rehearsed. she made us laugh. she helped us believe that it is never too late. she made us love red wrap dresses even more than we already did (as did the red wrap dress pip donned for the evening). when she sang one of edith piaf's songs, we cried happy tears and felt instantly teleported to paris. her energy and enthusiasm lifted our spirits, infusing us all with a "well, why not?" attitude we will all value and draw on for a long time/ her talk made us really, really, really want to go on a trip to marrakech with her. and it made us want to go to the south of france even more. but mostly (and here's the best bit), she helped us all to believe in ourselves that little bit more by having the ability not only to laugh at herself but by also putting on a little light in everyone's heart that evening. merci mille fois peta xx we've also got to add:
watching sharyn prepare the scrumptious platters and chatting with her as she did so was the perfect pre-event thing to be doing. her flair and enthusiasm was infectious. what a wonderful lady! many many thanks and big big love to her ... and let us not forget her husband johnny who thought it would be a good idea to have just such a soiree at the little brown house in the first place.
we love you all! XX p.s. we know some of you were disappointed on the evening that some of peta's books sold out. we'd like to let you know that the publishers have now sent more (youpi!) and if you would still like a signed copy we can organise a bookplate to be added easily enough. just email or call us and we'll sort it out for you! (but be aware that limited numbers are available).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

the book of love

cathie recently finished reading this book and loved it so much she's got a few thoughts about it to share with us:
the book of love was recommended to me by two wonderful women – bonnie the artist and sue the writer. this is a woman’s book – like no other except possibly some parallels with the red tent by anita diamante. the book of love is a moving novel with some fascinating historic research woven throughout. if the lands of france and italy speak to you in ways you can’t easily explain then this book will also speak to you. art, architecture, history and intrigue ... you'll enjoy this one! p.s. the book of love is kathleen mcgowan's sequel to her earlier book the expected one. XX cathie

jt on the big screen!

well, that might be somewhat of an overstatement ... but we are nonetheless very, very, very excited about this ad we made with the fantastic people from may e films (kaz and greg are truly amazing, they so got 'it'). it's screening as a preview at wanaka's very own cinema paradiso.
but that's enough talky from us. take a wander up the garden path and let us know what you think!

luella's chilli chocolate mousse

a couple of weeks ago we promised to share the chilli chocolate mousse recipe one of our lovely visitors, luella, so kindly offered to give us.
well, it's here and true to our word here it is for you too! according to luella (who should know) this mousse is best served with lashings of thick double cream and red berries. 'nuff said. i don't want easter eggs this weekend: i want this.
60g unsalted butter
1 large red chilli (or 2 small hot ones), seeds and all
200g best quality chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 tbspns chocolate or coffee liqueur
3 eggs, separated
3 tbspns caster sugar
slice chillies, seeds and all, and add to melted butter. leave covered in cling wrap for 24-36 hours .... yes, that's right. it's a long time but necessary to give the mousse a 'zing' (so make sure you allow plenty of time if you're making this for a dinner party).
before using the chilli/butter mixture again, melt the butter and strain off all the bits of chilli and the seeds.
break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water. once it's melted, add the very-chilli-infused butter and the liqueur.
remove chocolate mixture from heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, being careful that the mixture doesn't curdle. keep stirring (it's at times like this that 3 hands would be useful).
whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then slowly add the sugar and keep beating until the mixture is glossy.
fold in the egg whites: try to retain as much of the air in them as possible. place the mixture into glasses, bowls, or whatever takes your fancy. chill for at least 2 hours.
yom yom! thank you luella!!

the little red-headed kid

we all know of (and love) the little red headed girl from charlie brown.
so when toby the little red-headed boy came to visit the little brown house a couple of weeks ago, we were very, very excited. as you can see from the photo he is totally adorable. he was so cute we even let him play with our my little ponies (which is a huge privilege, we can assure you). XX

happy easter bunnies

we're sure you'll love these stoned bunnies from schoc as much as we do. they look like they're having a pretty good easter (the googly eyes are a bit of a giveaway, hmm?) and we hope that you do too!