On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Foreign lands, here we come

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Over several weeks I’ve been working on a set of cookies that represent our upcoming trip to the other side of the world. This will be my second time travelling that far. The first trip, May 2012 was with Emirates. Terrific airline but boy it was a horrendous travel route. It took over 34 hours to reach London. We took my Mother-in-law (who is English, but moved to NZ 45 years earlier and had never returned) and not one of us was able to sleep. In fact I ended up with a sore tail bone about 2 hours into the first flight (to Sydney) and at times was kneeling on the floor facing into my seat just to alleviate the pain. Even when we landed I couldn’t sleep. I think I’d gone about 2.5 days without sleep. It was awful.

This time we’re travelling with Air New Zealand. And thanks to work, I’m a Koru member. For our flights from Christchurch to Auckland,  San Francisco to Auckland, Auckland to Christchurch we can make use of the Koru Lounge facilities. It makes a huge difference and I’m extremely grateful that work provides all Consultants with this “perk”. We wont mention the 4:15am wake up I have this week in order to fly to Auckland for a client visit. Travelling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and almost every trip has me leaving or arriving after normal work hours. I’m on a salary and don’t get paid for, or have the extra hours officially recognised.  There’s a bit of give and take of course 🙂

A few weeks back I bought a Kopykake projector when I was in Melbourne (for work) and this has been a huge help in achieving the decoration of this set of cookies. I might have been able to do the same without it, but it would have been a significantly more laborious task.

Here’s what I started with (I’m missing the image for the Maple leaf).

The beginning. All images carefully chosen to represent something meaningful about countries we're travelling to.

The beginning. All images carefully chosen to represent something meaningful about countries we’re travelling to.

I’ll take you on a little tour of the cookies. First up is packing. I hate packing, and I hate unpacking even more.
The Cookie: This particular cookie, however, I love. For so many months as I’ve been decorating various cookies, I’ve tried to paint cookies in a watercolour. I’ve been unsuccessful. I knew this set of luggage needed to have a worn, faded look. It meant no vibrant colours, no solid colours. I mixed Avocado green, warm brown, Ivory and egg yellow and then used a bit of everything really, along with white, to achieve the four shades of colour. To that I added a lot of vodka and that was the trick. The Americolor food gels are thick. I always thin them with Vodka, but this time I went overboard with it hoping that it would reward me with a thinner, more watery colour. And so it happened. I used a Sugarflair food safe marker to draw the outline of the suitcases. This cookie was one of the last (along with the Koru) and I’d learnt along the way, with using the Kopykake, I needed another copy of the image in front of me. I had found that I tended to mistake shading for solid sections and thus made them solid as I was tracing. And sometimes the image wasn’t flush in the unit and I’d end up with a little wave where it was meant to be a straight line. Wait until you see the UK cookie, it was my first and these problems I’m describing all occurred all in that cookie. Initially I was thinking I wouldn’t care if I painted outside the lines of where the suitcases were. I painted the colours first, still using the Kopykake as my guide. But then I decided I was doing just fine so I might as well attempt to keep the colours where they needed to be. When you take the cookie away from the projected image it looks really weird. You have to believe what it’s going to turn into 🙂 The triangle is a big triangle, but the details of the suitcases were still fiddly, and small. The bottom suitcase is a smidge over 6cm, and the stack is 6cm.

Passports - check.

Passports – check.

Next comes the first Koru. This is the logo for Air New Zealand. This represents our first part of the journey, leaving New Zealand. We have to first fly to Auckland, I think that flight is 4:30pm. There wont be too long at Auckland International Koru lounge, but enough time to get dinner.

First stop Auckland. Thank goodness for Koru membership.

First stop Auckland. Thank goodness for Koru membership.

Our first stop is Canada. We’re staying with Mark’s Dad’s cousin in Chilliwack. Chilliwack is 90 minutes out of Vancouver. I also have a friend I used to ride with (she’s a very good triathlete, even getting a spot to compete at Kona) who has married a Canadian and lives in Abbotsford. We have to pass Abbotsford to get back to Vancouver so we’ll pop in and see Hilary, Jason and their new baby boy on our way to the big smoke. We have a 48 hour Hop on Hop off ticket whcih should get us to most of the prominent places in Vancouver City.
The Cookie: I think Mr Fussy believes I mucked this cookie up. When I added a mix of bronze and gold lustre dust and painted it on he felt that I’d dirtied it. I didn’t want a stark white cookie with a solid colour. And while clean and simple lines (read order) is where I’m most comfortable, I’m trying to embrace different looks and textures and a more haphazard way of decorating.

Never seen Canadian money before. Wont take long to spend it - trust me.

Never seen Canadian money before. Wont take long to spend it – trust me.

Next is the UK. We’ll be landing in London and being proper tourists this trip. Last time I was overwhelmed and shopped almost the entire time we were in London. Not this time. We’ll also be visiting Mark’s cousin Anna, James and Chloe, their new baby. Our last trip coincided with Anna and James’ wedding. Boy the English still do weddings properly. All the ladies wore hats and had matching shoes and handbags. Despite having a NZ designer dress I very much felt out of my depth in amongst such glamour. After a few days in London, sightseeing, visiting Peggy Porchen, The Hummingbird Bakery and a few other foodie places we’ll be taking the Eurostar to Paris. Last time we took the Eurostar to Brussels.
The Cookie: This was the first cookie (as mentioned). After I’d traced the outline and then took the cookie away and compared it to the image, I realised I had shaded areas that weren’t shaded, they were just a few random lines. I didn’t like it and decided that I’d thin down some grey royal icing and brush it over the surface. This did two things, it sort of blended the lines, and it gave it some texture, after all this is stone. This is another cookie where I’ve been giving it quite a bit of thought since. I didn’t know whether I should hand paint the outlines to see if I could redeem the cookie and bring it back to something that was a little closer to the image. I did hand paint it this morning. It took a fair amount of time, and the use of thinned black food gel, and straight food gel. In the end the cookie actually looks really good through the camera lens, it seems a little more crisp than what I see it in the flesh.

Amazing wonders await us.

Amazing wonders await us.

Paris, the city of love. For us it was the city we were both sick as a dog and struggled to get out of bed to participate in all the activities that I’d booked. This time we have a Food by Mouth walking tour as well as the expected Paris Pass. Perhaps oddly, I don’t wish to go back to the Eiffel Tower, and have no interest in seeing the Mona Lisa. There will be museums and galleries I’m sure, but I’m not fussed about traipsing about making sure we get to see every single one of them. I’m more about fossicking through antiques and trying to find some gems at the market. So we’re going to the Aligre market too.
The Cookie: My black royal icing was too thin. Rather than hold the piped shape the icing settled in a far less defined look than I wanted. I was only going for a silhouette for this cookie, but with the outer outline less curved as the inside line I decided yesterday I needed to add more. After Googling some images of French Poodles I realised I could add a patch at the back and then I piped dots. By the time I got to the other end of the Poodle I was pretty much good to go with adding a few more dots. The cookie does look better, but I’m still disappointed I haven’t got my original look.

Second visit, hopefully in perfect health.

Second visit, hopefully in perfect health.

After 5 days in Paris it’s off to Switzerland by (FAST) train. I can’t wait to see the Alps. Despite it being the middle of summer, hopefully the sights will still be breathtaking. Geneva has been the hardest place for me to arrange activities. How can you go to Switzerland and not eat chocolate?! I can’t book us on a chocolate tour because they only run with a minimum 10 people in a group. We don’t have the time to travel further afield either. We do have  a chocolate tasting booked, that’ll have to do. I’m also waiting for our host (most of our accommodation where we’re staying more than 1 night is through AirBnB renting a locals apartment) to recommend some places that do great fondue. We also have an afternoon excursion where we’ll be seeing Geneva by coach, tram and boat. Mr Fussy said he may even need to buy a new watch. The one shown no longer works. I guess nothing lasts forever, and this watch was purchased some 18 years ago when he was last in Switzerland.
The Cookie: This one is inedible. The silver on the blades is used with I don’t know what, but the label on the container tells me that decorations must be removed before the baked item is eaten. I had piped the blades in a grey icing, but it looked flat. Steel blades need to shine and reflect light. I really did debate long and hard whether to paint the blades with the inedible lustre. I decided that it didn’t matter if the cookie got tossed and was not eaten. But still a shame. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices in order to achieve something a little more realistic. This was the first of two cookies where the brush fell out of my hand  (maybe I’d stopped breathing and was about to faint ;-)) I have a bit of silver dust where it doesn’t belong. And after having finished decorating this cookie I re-froze it, but on removing the baking paper this morning I could see that more of the silver had flaked off. Good things to know.

One of the most expensive places to stay, but after a false start (3 years ago), we're finally making it to Switzerland.

One of the most expensive places to stay, but after a false start (3 years ago), we’re finally making it to Switzerland. I must try really hard not to pronounce it Switzerlind like we do saying New Zealand (Zealind).

Moving on from Geneva we find ourselves in Italy, the first of many stops being Milan. I’ve arranged for a private walking tour which includes a viewing of The Last Supper. Apart from that we have another day to ourselves to unwind or find more museums and galleries to gaze in wonder. My brother has suggested that there’s not as much to do in Geneva so I’m thinking this will be a chance to watch the world go by. I’m going to find a local supermarket and see what is “normal” in that part of Italy. I plan to visit as many markets as I can find, and a supermarket, just to get a glimpse into everyday life in Europe.

Italy. So much passion. So much to see and experience. Let's go!

Italy. So much passion. So much to see and experience. Let’s go!

Next up we’re off to Modena. Yes the same Modena that makes the beautiful dark liquid gold known as Balsamic Vinegar. Oh my! Although the highlight of the visit will be the Ferrari Museum and a simulated drive for Mr Fussy. He loves his fast and exotic cars. Our cats (Chinchilla Birmans) have Italian names, Maranello (Ferrari) and Murcielago (Lamborghini). We have a couple of days here including a Monday. In Europe many places come to a standstill on Monday with museums not opening. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing but there’ll still be a lot to see.
The cookie: This cookie was perhaps the most complex. It uses the most colour and was the first one where I included hand painting. I really didn’t trust my level of skill to pipe the Ferrari name. I also hand painted the stallion and the letters “S” and “F”. This cookie left me a bit breathless. I was holding my breath while painting. Somehow needing to keep a steady hand requires me to hold my breath. I was worried the yellow might crater but it behaved. And I had to make up a bit of green all for that tiny stripe. Still, what would the cookie be without the green stipe, it’s crucial, and given it’s a logo, there’s no way you take shortcuts, even if it means spending 5 minutes trying to get the right shade of green. This cookie as been in the freezer twice. It has been decorated in stages. Last weekend I added the stallion and popped the cookie back into the freezer. All I needed to do to complete the cookie was add a few tiny thin streaks of white to give the stallion the correct definition.

Bring on the fast cars.

Bring on the fast cars.

With the highlight of our Italian trip (for Mr Fussy) over and done with, it’s just a short trip by train to Bologna. I’m not sure why we’re going here, but why not! It’s a shame that the train time table is such that we’re arriving and departing parting mid morning. Mr Fussy likes to have a sleep in while on holiday, so the mornings will be a slow start. I on the other hand hope to find somewhere to run. I’ll be seeing a little more than he will be 🙂

Then it’s back to Florence, well for Mr Fussy, he’s been here once before. There’s a market that I’ve already been researching, and of course Gelato. Thank goodness it’s summer, there will be plenty of excuses to visit many places that make Gelato. And yes, I’ve been researching the best places to go 😀

Our last destination in Italy, and the last stop of our Europe leg, is Rome. What trip to Italy would be complete without a trip to Rome. The usual Vatican City and Colosseum visits are on the list and we have a tour of Rome by night by Segway, our first night. Then it’s up bright and early to meet at 7:15am for our day tour to Tuscany. We’re going to be pretty tired. I hope I don’t fall asleep and miss anything. Our AirBnB host has also recommended that we visit Gianicolo, from here we’ll get stunning views of old Rome.  And there will be more Gelato.  Again I’ve done plenty of research and have starred a lot of places for eating on Google Maps, and downloaded the maps for offline use.

Last trip there were many anxious moments as we were plucked into daylight from underground railway stations and faced with uncertain locations and an absence of street signs. I had purchased some mobile data, but used it sparingly because there were plenty of days still to go (we visited Bruges, Brussels, Berlin and Paris). Mark’s Uncle is looking into the various options for us so I’m hopeful that we’ll be traipsing around Europe with far less concern about where on earth we are.

We’re heading back to the UK from Rome. We have a few days in Hove (just out of Brighton) staying with Mark’s Mum’s cousin and wife before setting out by train for Chester, where Mark’s Aunt and Uncle live. While I don’t expect to go all out shopping while in the UK, Chester has a great complex called Cheshire Oaks which I visited several times. I just couldn’t get around it all in one day! I’m also sure that I’ll be on the look out for cake decorating stores as well (and throughout Europe). Once in Chester it’s time to settle in one location for a longer stop (but still short – just 6 days). John and Margaret have free reign to plan anything they like for us. We might be in for a surprise 🙂

The night before we fly out, we head back to London for a Derren Brown show. Mr Fussy is quite interested in the “skills” of Derren Brown. I don’t share the same fascination but I’m going too. Then the following day it’s off the the United States of America. My first trip to America.

The Gold Gate Bridge awaits us. Can't wait to run over it.

The Gold Gate Bridge awaits us. Can’t wait to run over it.

We land in San Francisco – woo hoo! We’re staying with a lovely couple in their Historic Italian house. This is our first AirBnB that’s a shared holiday home. And by all accounts (from feedback), we’re in for a treat.

With our flight out of San Francisco being an Air NZ operated flight, I get to carry another piece of luggage for free.  Another piece isn’t going to cut it, so we’ve bought extra allowance for 2 more pieces. That brings our tally to 5 checked in bags!!  Yes, there will be shopping!  We’re setting a day aside for shopping. Ok, I’m setting a day aside. I have several places on my list, first up, Trader Joes. I want to visit a Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joanne’s Fabrics, Home Depot, Dollar store. Lots of places I’ve read on numerous blogs that are places to shop for craft gear.  If anyone has other places that are great for craft gear, specifically cake/cookie decorating, then please speak up.

While in San Francisco it’s my birthday. How wonderful to be somewhere so different for my birthday. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing. I’ve asked our hosts for some assistance/recommendations for making reservations. We have a booking to head out to Alcatraz at night, that should be special. At one point I thought that we couldn’t book at all, until I realised that I was trying to make a booking too far ahead of when the dates became available. Alcatraz isn’t open on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, so I only had one day to choose from. I can assure you I was making that booking pretty much as soon as the date became available. I’m not sure yet what else we’ll be doing/seeing, apart from going over the Golden Gate Bridge. But I’ve got a little bit of time and plenty of hours travelling where I can do more research.
The cookie: This is my least favourite. I outlined the image just fine. I even piped all those lines just fine (and again held my breath, but also got cramp in my hand). But the original image (above) has the background a solid colour and I got carried away and flooded the cookie white before my brain caught up. So I was a bit stuck what to do with the background. This morning I asked Mr Fussy for opinions about making the background a sunset with warm oranges, yellow and red, or a blue sky. He felt the bridge would be a bit lost with the warm tones (even though I intended to add gold lustre). Getting colour into those tiny sections was difficult, but I got there in the end. I guess the reason I’m disappointed with this cookie is that it doesn’t match the original image I’d chosen. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just not how I wanted it to look 🙂

Bring us home Air New Zealand.

Bring us home Air New Zealand.

After 5.5 weeks of travelling it will be back to the big plane to head home, and lose a day in the process. And with arriving home comes unpacking. No wonder I don’t want to come home!  We have a few extra days before heading back to work. Last trip I remember every day thinking about what I was doing that same day the week/month before. I tortured myself doing it, but it was so much more exciting than sitting at a desk working office hours.

Excited much?!

Excited much?!

You’ll see these cookies again. I plan to keep up blogging while we’re away and using these cookies to highlight which country we’re in. There will be an absence of recipes or occasions where I’m baking/decorating, but there will be plenty of food. I intend to try many many things, ok, pastry, bread, pasta, chocolate, desserts of all types. I’ll be sharing some photos and stories along the way.

All we have to do now is work another 11 days (7 of mine in Auckland and Sydney). I’m not really looking forward to unpacking from a week in Sydney to immediately pack for our trip. I can assure you there will be a lot less clothing going with me this time.

My MIL will be taking care of things at home, including keeping the cats company. I’m sure they will much prefer staying around home then spending the time at the cattery. I’m crossing my fingers that there isn’t any unexpected excitement at home and things tick along nicely while we’re a world away.

 

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2 thoughts on “Foreign lands, here we come

  1. Enjoy your trip I will be eagerly awaiting your blog update when you return travel safe take care most of all have the time of your lives

    • Thanks Carol. I’m sure we’ll enjoy every single minute, if you look past all the other tourists. It is after all the height of their busy season. I’ll be filling up the Facebook page with plenty of food related photos, followed by a few blog posts too. I wont really be out of touch 🙂

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