Remember, Remember the 5th of November!

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.

click for source

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.

I followed the recipe to the letter, filled my mini-quiche pans nearly to the top and baked them for about 15 minutes, keeping a careful eye out lest they burn.

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.

Lila helped us by frosting two heart-shaped layers and decorating the cake herself.

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.

I can not adequately describe how satisfying it is to dig into a miniature Hummingbird Cake for brunch.  “It has fruit!  Vitamins!  Fiber!,” Enid and I smugly told each other.

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.

Stephen and Lila were inspired to bring this enormous sand dragon to life while I went for a long swim.  Raaaar!

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.

Then early this morning we got up for one more frolic in the Pacific.

When the sunshine got too strong for me, we headed to our favorite falafel stand.  We visit every time we’re in Byron, damn they make good falafel. (11 Bay Lane, about a block from the beach)

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?

Sharing lemonade over lunch

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.


  1. Happy Birthday! I love Hummingbird Cake and funnily enough thought it was an Australian invention and even perhaps a Queensland one considering the pineapple and banana.

    I’m so glad you had a lovely time at Byron for your birthday.

    • Thank you, Dianne!

      You know… That makes sense… It does seem very “Queensland”… I’ll have to do a bit of food research now, very interesting! :) But noooooom, it was a really good recipe.

    • Thanks, Beate!

      Oooooohhhh gingerbread and stollen… I’ve had that exactly once but it was delicious! First snow? Sounds so magical. I love it when it’s very cold outside and you come in to the smell of gingerbread or sweet potato pie baking… So cozy. :)

  2. The cake’s look gorgeous, I’ll have to see if I can get them to work with UK flour (banana and pineapple? Yum!) and I love the shoes! It sounds like you had a fabulous birthday.

    • I should think the metric recipe would work in the UK, I’ve pulled off several UK baking recipes successfully… And some American ones, but as a rule the American recipes yield depressing and barely edible results… :)

  3. Happy, happy birthday.
    What a wonderful time you had. I’m so glad you’re feeling so joyous now. And that life is so beautiful for you. Long may it continue.

    • Thanks, Evie! Sometimes it’s a struggle, so I thought it’s a good idea to write the good things down so it’s easier to remember when I’m not feeling so great… :)

      • I do understand. As you know we face similar health difficulties here as you do and some days are brighter than others! But I do try to focus on the positive because we are so very, very blessed. Although I could do with some of your sunshine…. ;-)

  4. Happy birthday, sounds like the perfect way to spend it! I passed through Byron Bay many moons ago while backpacking, its a magical place. Ohhh I’d love to be there now.


    • Yes! My husband and I spent some time there when I visited Australia for the first time, sometimes I think I fell in love with Byron almost as much as with my husband… ;) So magical.

  5. Happy Birthday! Those cakes look delicious! It’s amazing how much the environment, weather, etc. affects us. I’m glad you’ve found coping methods, including the amazing beach :)

    • Thank you Donna! :) It is, I suppose deep down we’re simple creatures and still subject to the elements even if we’d rather think not…

  6. Happy birthday! Your little cakes are so sweet and festive–making cake on your birthday…I can think of few things that are better.

    This is a theory, and I could totally be wrong. I wonder if you had a kitchen scale if your non metric baking recipes would work out. I have a little one from Salter that does metric, standard as well as liquid weight…it’s a workhorse. It came with a conversion guide that lists weights for all kinds of basic ingredients too. King Arthur Flour recipes are all written with standard weights of flour in mind (4 oz/cup in the 200th Anniversary Cookbook that I have, and on their website, they often just list the weight).

    • Heheh. Thanks! And yes, was super fun.

      No, they don’t…. I didn’t have the space to go into it here, but it’s 100% the structure of the flour. It’s different, the weight doesn’t matter… I investigated every single aspect of baking I could think of before I landed on that one, it’s been five years of trying to figure out why I can bake back home but not here. :)

  7. Happy Birthday!! Love the photos of the beach, water (Byron Beach looks like my kinda place ;)) and your lovely family. What bliss!

    The cakes look so good ~ I’ve never heard of Hummingbird Cake – i will have to try that sometime.

    Oh and the shoes – I LOVE shoes so I’m heading over to check them out.

  8. Happy Birthday! Hummingbird cake has pecans where I live. When I lived in Georgia, you could choose from among 10-12 different varieties of pecans … I miss that. Walnuts are for Yankees. Unless you have black walnuts, and the means to crack them.

    • Yeah, I grew up along the florida-georgia border… But since my grandparents weren’t from the area we were outsiders anyway. Walnuts are delicious. So are pecans. Besides, Yankees freed slaves so I never really understood why Yankee should be a slur… (ooops, Lin, you poked a very old sore spot! ;))

      • I didn’t mean I don’t like southernors, just the Yankee thing rankles slightly… Though I suppose if I went back that’s what I’d be! ;)

  9. ¡Cumpleaños Feliz! belatedly :) Beautiful post, glad you had fun. And what great cakes. I have those little tims but usually use them for little quiches, so what a great idea!

    • Thanks, Tasha! :) I couldn’t help but think of the line from the song about how global warming is a reward for “treating others as we’d like to be treated, obeying stop signs and curing diseases. for mailing letters with the address of the sender, now we can swim any day in November…” I just hopped hemispheres to swim in November… ;)

      I do miss cold weather, though..

  10. Byron! Falafel! What a beautiful day! There is a coffee shop in montrose that has a divine hummingbird… Not nearly as fun tho as baking with Lila!

    • Yes! I was thinking of you all the time… It was such a gorgeous day, Jeanna, soft swells on the water… They gently rose up like soft plate glass and washed to the shore…

      Oooooh Montrose!

      Haha, Lila is pretty serious about baking…

  11. Happy Birthday! It sounds like a truly blissful weekend, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer lady. I’m so glad you had such a lovely time. :) Hope the rest of the year is just as wonderful!

  12. Happy birthday! I am glad to hear it was a good birthday for you. I understand the mixed feeling that can come with a day that should be a celebration.
    I have never heard of Hummingbird cake. I will have to investigate that.
    I was half expecting my husband to want to watch V for Vendetta last night.

    • Yes. I know you do… But it can also be very very positive, I’m learning! :)

      Ooooooh dear me go make one. The batter looks oddly thick but don’t let that put you off. So so delicious.

      I love that movie… I always get all emotional near the end when people take to the streets for the girls that were killed.. Last year when Syria kicked off that’s all I could think about..

  13. Happy birthday! What a wonderful, evocative story of a weekend of contentment. I can hear it in every sentence. That makes me happy too! :)

  14. Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a wonderful time in a wonderful place. November babies are the best – my Dad, his Mum and lots of very interesting people :)

    I am a bit out of sorts at the moment but will definitely give Hummingbird Cake a shot when I am feeling better. Probably pecans for my first attempt, but then I’ll try walnuts.

    • Thanks, stef! :) Yeah, I know some cool people born this month, too… My grandfather, several uncles…

      I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. Definitely try the hummingbird cake, it’s not a difficult or tricky recipe, and it’s just delightful.. :) Hope you’re better soon!

  15. Happy Birthday! Thanks for sharing that — now if I ever make it to Australia I know one more place that I want to go. Interesting what you said about adjusting to the season.

    • Yes, absolutely put it on your list. I’m really fond of taking visitors to Byron, much nicer than hanging around south Brisbane…

      Yes… The seasonal adjustment is super hard. Some people don’t seem to have any problems with it, but it’s quite hard for others… Including me…

  16. Happy birthday! Sounds like a perfect day to me. I spent some time in Byron Bay about 12 years ago and could have happily stayed to live the rest of my life there so appreciate the gratuitous photos. Family time, beach, good food, cake and shoes – it really does sound perfect!

    • Thanks, Andrea! It was…

      Such a lovely place… And the surrounding countryside is pretty gorgeous, too… When we go hiking in the area I always feel like I’ve been dropped in some ancient tropical forest full of dinosaurs.. ;)

  17. Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Your cakes are SO cute! Love your bathing suit? as well.
    I too am thankful for the life I have and the people around me that allow me to pursue my creative dreams!

    • Thanks!

      Hahahhaaahahaa no that’s a favorite dress I made last year… A batik… I sometimes wear her to the beach… Don’t worry, underneath I had an itty bitty bikini and stripped down to go swimming…

      Yes, I am too. :)

  18. That hummingbird cake was meant for you girl! It’s very interesting to learn that flour is different in Australia than the US. I wonder why? Regardless, happy birthday!

    • Yeah, no idea why… I first got a clue about 6mos ago when I was reading the baking blog of an American expat in The Netherlands… She wrote a bit about her baking failures using tried and true recipes in her new country and it was exactly the same issues I have been having… She also found out it was the gluten content. So, very interesting.

      The beef is made way way differently too. No feed lots, grass fed lean cattle. I’m from Texas and I have to say they have some incredible beef here…

  19. Happy birthday Steph! Sounds like it was a fantastic celebration. :D

    I’ve never heard of hummingbird cakes (they look and sound delish!), but I did know that American all-purpose flour is different than Canadian all-purpose flour (apparently Canadian AP is more all-purpose than American AP? Weird). I have a nifty link that compares the flours available in Canada, America, and the UK (no Australia though, but maybe Australian flour is similar to Canadian or British?), and explains a bunch of other handy stuff about flour.

    • Thanks, Heather… we had a nice quiet good time. :)

      I would suspect that Australian flour is closer to British or maybe Canadian flour… I haven’t yet used a metric baking recipe that doesn’t work, but the American ones seldom do. Thanks for the link, so interesting…

  20. Happy birthday!! I’ll give hummingbird cake a miss, due to pineapple allergy, but Byron, yum, though when I went there for schoolies, there was a food shop selling ‘burgers’ with ‘cheese’ and ‘lettuce’ and ‘tomato’ and ‘bacon’… that made me slightly nervous :)

    • Thanks, Sarah…! :) Sorry, very sorry for you that you’re allergic to pineapple. :(

      I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying about burgers? ? ? One of the things I like about Byron is the range of easy, generally healthy and incredibly good “indie” food options they have… Pizzas, falafels, burgers that are so so good… I’d almost make the hour and 45 minute drive just to eat in Byron… Good proper restaurants and cafes, too. Very civilized.

      • Sorry, morning brain and bad explaining! It was just the fact that everything on the menu was in inverted comas.. it wasn’t a burger with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, it was a ‘burger’ with ‘cheese’, ‘lettuce’, and ‘tomato’.. I couldn’t figure out if they were really bad at punctuation or if it was all manufactured stuff, ie. cheese substitute etc.

        • Oh! Hahaha! Me too. Yeah… I’m always a bit suspicious of inverted commas in menus… ;) I would say probably bad at punctuation, Byron’s not much of a processed fake food kind of place… But who knows?

  21. Happy Birthday, trust you had a good one, that beach looks amazing….so do the shoes !

    Small things I am thankful for at the moment a) a glorious savoury pot of pumpkin soup…glad that the annual pumpkin massacre has not been in vain…my mum made a fab pumpkin cake with her pumpkin left overs, heady with the tantalising smell of spices
    b) autumn leaves, glorious orange brown and mustard leaves that go crunch, crinkle and shluff as you kick your way through great big drifts of them…best on bright crisp autumn days with bright blue skies…not so good on the grey drizzly ones !

    • Thanks!

      Oooooh pumpkins! Yuuum… I might see if I can get my MIL’s pumpkin, spinach and ricotta pie recipe to share. Oooh that was delicious.

      Leaves! I miss leaves and autumn!

  22. Happy happy birthday! Your cakes and beach trip look like a lovely way to celebrate…hope you had the best time with your dear ones!

    And for what it’s worth, I think you’ve really accomplished quite a bit in this last year — all the more reason to celebrate!

    • Thanks a bunch, Cindy. :)

      Yeah… when I remember that a year ago I was just pushing through and figuring out how to make the blank canvas tee into a pdf… And now all this… Kind of blows my mind. Especially because when I’m in the middle of working on something, it seems to progress so slowly… But then I pick up my head a bit and can hardly believe how much has happened this year.

  23. Happy Birthday to You!
    May your Dreams become Reality in this New Year!
    Many Blessings!

  24. Pingback: Plans for 2013 Pt 1- 3 Hours Past and Cake and a Survey! « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  25. Pingback: 23 Skidoo Shoes! « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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