Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Hummingbirds, beaches and shoes-
Birthday time teaches that hummingbirds, beaches
And T-Straps delight and amuse…
Y’all, I just had the best birthday. Birthdays are hard for me, usually I feel embarrassed to mention it or try to ignore them. But this year, this year I feel like my feet are underneath me and connected to the earth. Or the sea. Connected to something.
I was so busy with Cake Patterns, life and election-watching, I was happily oblivious to the fact that the 5th was rapidly approaching until last week when Stephen asked me if I’d like to go to Byron Bay for my birthday. Yes! Then he went away camping for the weekend, and I decided to get my bake on.
My buddy Enid came over with her little boy for a sleepover on Saturday. When I hit up the grocery store for Hummingbird Cake ingredients, I saw these tiny quiche pans on sale.
“Mini-cakes!!! Enid! Mini-Cakes! Let’s make mini-cakes!” Full-size layer cakes kind of intimidate me. They’re so big! They don’t fit in the fridge! And once you cut into a cake, it loses some of its charm… I’ve been looking around for smallish cake pans for ages and these dropped into my kitchen at just the right time.
A little while ago, I discovered a metric recipe for Hummingbird Cake. Have you ever had Hummingbird Cake? The cake is like a light, sweet banana bread with walnuts (some prefer pecans) and pineapple that bakes into the cake. Slathered with cream cheese frosting, and I like the raspberries on this version. Once upon a time, in the southern United States, a young 4-Her named Stephanie won blue ribbons for her Hummingbird Cakes.
When I moved to Australia, I found I could not longer bake them- to my profound disappointment. I’ve very recently discovered that American flour is different from flour here. Something about the gluten content- which explains my early failures. It’s safer to stick to metric recipes, they always work for our flour.
Did I mention some of the clearance-quiche-pans were heart shaped? They totally were. I let the little cakes rest in the pan for about a minute before turning them out on a wire rack. All told, we ended up with about 12 mini-layers.
Enid and I lazed around Saturday night watching Downton Abbey, trimming cake layers and smothering them in frosting, fruit, nuts and cinnamon. Yum! These were the cakes that survived Saturday night and also Sunday morning brunch.
Then on Monday I packed up our remaining little cakes along with our beach gear and Stephen, Lila and I headed down to the northern New South Wales coast. Warning for Carol- gratuitous Byron Bay pictures!
The brilliant summer sunshine Down Under overpowers my senses. It’s like drinking a pint of whiskey when you’re used to beer. My first two summers here, I thought I was finally and completely losing my mind. Eventually, I talked to enough immigrants from the Northern Hemisphere with similar symptoms (supercharged anxiety, insomnia, skin pustules, physical fatigue, mania, dizziness, nausea), I realized it had to be something in the environment.
I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you that limiting my sun exposure and keeping the house semi-dark in the summer has helped me keep my head together during the past three bright seasons (not to mention the skin pustules- all gone!). This year, we’re adding family trips to the beach to my toolbox of coping mechanisms. In the late afternoon or the early morning, I love nothing more than to run around on the sand with my little girl or to throw myself headfirst into the rushing, relentless waves. I leave refreshed, renewed.
So we headed down the coast for a long late afternoon playing at Byron Bay. Dolphins leap from the waters of the Bay, the humpback whale migration passes twice a year, and there’s some wonderful snorkeling off the rocks at the mouth of the bay. That’s not to mention the quietly cosmopolitan atmosphere of the small town full of hippies, yippies, backpackers and occasional international celebrities hiding out from the world. I love Byron. I could live there. It’s a magical place.
Case in point- a beautifully detailed pyramid sand sculpture on the beach, unattended by the unknown artist (also in the banner). This is pretty common in Byron, and people tend to pause and admire these sculptures rather than destroy them.
At dusk, we headed to my in-law’s little piece of paradise- an organic citrus farm in the coastal hinterland. My MIL made a delicious vegetarian meal (Thanks, Jan!) and we turned out all the lights in the house so I could blow out the candles on one more of my tiny cakes. She even took care of Lila’s night-time routine so Stephen and I could sneak off for a starlit stroll on the nearby local’s beach where we were married. With no light pollution, we laid on our backs and stared up into the vast twinkling universe.
Could it be a more pleasant few days? Yes, yes it could- the stars aligned and Lauren started the pre-sale for her 23Skidoo T-strap shoes just in time for me to spend the birthday money sent from home. Bliss! Lauren is running a giveaway for the 23Skidoo Shoes, so if you’re dying for a pair but it’s not your birthday, why not give it a try?
Over the past few days, through successful cake-baking and spending quality time with people I care about (and, uhm, SHOES!), I realized how grateful I am for the life I have. For the small things, and the loving people and beautiful places. It hasn’t always been this way for me, but these days my cup runneth over.
Do you like Hummingbird Cake? I think it’s a southern America regional thing, but Brits like it too? Pecans or walnuts? What are the small things in your life you’re grateful for? And ooooooooh how great are those shoes? (I think mine will be red and white. Probably. We’ll see!)
Upcoming sewing-related posts: assembling the Lonestar Burst quilt top, my notes on abusing fusible webbing strips, and the felted-sweater-turned-tote-bag experiment.