Day 14 – Giftism spreads its wings

So I have a confession to make – I didn’t bake AGAIN last night! Shocking – I know.

It’s a long story but basically another of my lovely A-team supporters was incredibly generous with her time and baked for me – but through a mix up with train schedules I stuffed things up and ended up on a different train than her! (SO sorry Corinne!!) But never fear, we will gift the baking tomorrow instead. It’s actually pretty exciting as I have no idea what she has made – and it’s a great realisation to know that that what started as a little baking mission is now being shared amongst my community.

BUT – thankfully I have some other excellent news to share. Giftism is taking flight. The concept of promoting joy & connectedness through sharing baking with strangers is spreading – just like I hoped! I have two fantastic stories to share.

Firstly – the one and only Megan Savage and her gorgeous kids Nilah & Jonte took up the challenge and performed some xmas Giftism all the way from the Wairarapa to Wellington. They made a whopping 50 chocolate, cranberry and pistachio truffles (OMG – how good does that sound?!) and spread some hard core joy amongst passengers on their train. I have known Megan since I was 10 and she’s one of those sparkly, divine humans whose positive energy is totally infectious, you just end up hugging her all the time! So its no wonder she was the first to properly embrace this project. Her kids totally loved getting involved, and their act of giving completely lit up the carriage and made everyone’s morning. RESULT – pure sweetness on all levels!

Here is their handywork:

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They really upped the anti by presenting their baking in a cute wicker basket lined with a pretty  cloth, and offered little bags in case people wanted to take the goodies away instead of eating them on the spot. Jonte apparently strolled through the carriage saying – “Would you like your truffle now, or to take away?” Go Jonte you little ripper. But how genius! I will definitely have to incorporate this for my next round of Giftism.

I met them at the Wellington station to congratulate them on their success. Their truffles were so popular there were none left for me to try (no wonder with the takeaway option how could you possibly say no!)  not that I need any more chocolate or sugar this month!

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Go you guys – I’m SO stoked that you took the plunge and did it! Surely all your xmas wishes will now come true.

My other success story comes from my hometown of New Plymouth. One of my lovely friends from high school – Renee Penman – (also a super bubbly & awesome lady) was inspired by the Giftism project this week too. Instead of buying little gifts or chocolates as xmas presents for her husbands work, she decided to bake something instead!

Renee is also a non-baker like me, so the fact that she did this is a great act of courage and love. It is definitely harder to make something than to buy it – but the rewards are just tenfold! Check out these beauties – Fudge truffles (remember them from last week?) and mint truffles.

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The mint ones are made using crushed up mint slice biscuits blended with cream cheese and then rolled in coconut. (Also a genius invention Renee!) And for a non-baker these are pretty exquisite – they put my truffles to absolute shame….

Renee has been loving the project and said it was really nice to be inspired to do something different. Yay for you sweetheart – I am smiling from ear to ear writing about your act of kindness.

So its THE LAST DAY of the project tomorrow – for this time around anyway. I am only part way through my baking so I better go finish things off.

Merry xmas everyone xxxxx

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Day 13 – Ellie’s Welsh fruit cake ‘Teisen Lap’

Last night I was given another refreshing gift – a midweek break from my baking duties!

Ellie – one of my lovely new train friends agreed to help out with the project by baking something for me. My lack of  sleep over the last few weeks due to planning,  shopping, baking & blogging was starting to ware me down. Admittedly I was starting to wonder if I would in fact be able to complete my challenge…. so on Monday I plucked up some more courage and asked my Giftism A-team supporters for some help.

Corinne & Ellie both happily obliged – and as well as the fantastic generosity (never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be asking people I hardly know to bake for me!) I am reminded that by them taking part, the Giftism project is growing and taking on a new life, which was one of my primary goals at the start. So this small development is actually rather exciting!

Ellie is from Wales – so it was very fitting that she baked a traditional Welsh recipe – Teisen Lap. (Sorry Elile I hope this link is an authentic version of the recipe!) In 1984 she won an award at school for this same little gem, and since then its been her tried and true go-to winning recipe. And what a winner it was!

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So delicious – moist and satisfying without being too sweet. Almost like a sweet doughy bread – I don’t think I could have eaten more than one.

Our carriage totally loved them! I kept my end of the bargain by giving them out, and it was so nice to be able to say that my new friend had made them to help me out.

Thanks Ellie – you’re a legend. I’m stoked to know you 🙂

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This is us on the platform in Wellington. See that cute top Ellie’s wearing? She sewed that herself. Clever lady of many talents! Oh god I’m going to have to take up sewing next….

Christmas is just around the corner, and as usual there is money being spent like wildfire and shopping bags bustling around us everywhere!

Giving gifts is fantastic, its one of my favourite things. It’s a wonderful symbolic act to show our love, appreciation and respect for each other. But I believe its also good for us to try to consider WHAT we buy, and HOW we consume too. Because so many of the products in our shops are made with very little respect for the environment or the people who make them.

Sorry to sound so preachy! This project has got me thinking about these things more than usual…….

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Day 12 – Banana bread & a big surprise

Today’s recipe comes courtesy of one of my new train friends – the lovely Pam.

After overhearing a conversation I had last week on the train about cake recipes  (as you do when you’re carrying out Giftism) and how hard it is to find a good one for banana cake – Pam promptly turned up on Monday with a photocopy of a great failsafe recipe for banana bread. She got it from a newspaper a few years ago and is a classic favourite from her home country of America.

It was really easy to make – and lucky I didn’t double the recipe this time as it was quite a  beast just to mix this sucker in my one and only (rather small) mixing bowl. Man, if I keep this up I’ll probably need to upgrade my humble basic beaters some time soon…

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It came out beautifully light and fluffy, not at all dry and with a delicious bananary flavour. The secret I reckon was 1/2 a cup of plain yoghurt and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. (Man how good are walnuts aye?!)

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The train wasn’t that full today but I had loads  to give away so I ventured into the next carriage. I have only done this once or twice before – it doesn’t usually work that well because people are way more skeptical when they haven’t seen others taking part – as they do in the carriage where I start. But I boldly go fourth. Its hard going and most people say ‘no thanks’ as expected, but a few bright sparks accept with glee – some even trying to convince others to take some too! Ha – its just brilliant. And by the end of the trip, once again I’ve gifted all my baked wares – yusssss!

Thanks for your recipe Pam, its so nice getting to know all these new people who I can now chat to every morning. You really do make me smile!

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Me & Pam with today’s banana bread

And guess what? Giftism really is the project that keeps on giving – all this good will seems to be coming back to me – in the form of baking equipment! Today I had a call  from one of the local sales reps from Sunbeam. Jan and her boss had both seen me baking on Seven Sharp and noticed that I was using an ‘old style’ mixer (little do they know that only a weeks before that my mixer was a wooden spoon…) and that they would like to give me a brand new one!

Yes – seriously. In all honesty I did not approach them for sponsorship, they were just inspired by the Giftism project and wanted to share the love by carrying out their own random act of kindness. How awesome is that?! Go Sunbeam – you guys are just brilliant. Embracing the xmas spirit and the act of giving with no expectation to receive anything in return.

Jan lives not far from me so came over and personally delivered my top of the line ridiculously fancy new mixer – I nearly cried I was so taken aback by the such an amazing act of generosity.

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My new beauty is called the ‘Planetary Mixmaster’ and will last me for many, many years to come.

So I guess once December is over I will have to keep baking. Goodness knows maybe Giftism will become an actual thing in the future!

I guess its true that you really do get back what you give out.

Day 10 & 11 – savoury slice & classic chocolate cake

So apologies for the lack of blogging about Friday’s baking over the weekend – I was busy catching up on sleep, attending xmas parties, decorating the xmas tree & putting the finishing touches on my  presents I’m making for my whanau. Oh Christmas how you  create so much busyness for us humans!

Day 10 (Friday) went pretty well considering I was on my last legs from the massifness of last week. I was really struggling to keep going with the baking but I’m glad that I did, as I managed to open up a whole new realm to my cookery skills – savoury stuff!

I was sent a great recipe for savoury muffins by my wonderful cousin Keight Skeight Hammond. She’s a magnificent mum of two, skateboarder, artist, collector of fine sneakers and lover of good food. Her beautiful daughter Ella Remington also blogs about coffee and food (with a wee bit of help from mama) – you can read her files here, at “fluffy…..not so fluffy. It’s a pretty comprehensive roundup of where to drink (and possibly not to drink) coffee in Auckland, and always makes me giggle with joy to see her cheeky adventures:

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She recently blogged about my Giftism project: “The best thing about baking is licking the spatula. If only I lived in Wellington!”

I love you Ella 🙂

So – I added zuchini, carrot, dried herbs from the garden and lots of parmesan to the basic muffin mix, and cooked it in a large meat dish instead of using muffin papers. (A – I don’t have a muffin tray, and B – I would only have 8 – 10 items to give away if I did regular muffins, and we couldn’t have that).

Then more cheese on top and grilled – YUM!

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My fellow train passengers LOVED it! Thank goodness – I have never made savoury muffins before and was quite worried they might have been my first dud. (Quietly stoked – add that to the baking list thanks).

SUNDAY: after a big day with xmas trees, toddlers, birthday parties and some wines in the sun I was deep in my computer – frantically making photo books for gifts in time for xmas. 9 pm rolls around and I realise I still have to bust out something for Monday – gah! What on earth to bake?!

Enter my wonderful Chris, who after some friendly encouragement agreed to bake for me. Goodness me I am a lucky girl. He also loves cooking but admittedly has actually NEVER baked anything from scratch (he is known to make an incredible ‘Betty Crocker’ cake-from-a-box though). While I called out instructions from the safety of the kitchen table, Chris creamed butter and sugar, measured & sifted dry ingredients and managed to pull it all together to make a lovely, light creamy chocolate cake. Yay for helpful boyfriends!

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A flash of chocolate icing, some M&Ms dotted on top and we are good to go.

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I was late getting up so ran most of the way to the train today, laden down with 35 pieces of the little beauties. I was in one of those rather stink buzz Monday moods – tired from the weekend, pending jobs to do at work whizzing around my head and just suffering a general feeling of grumpiness at life.

But once aboard I started chatting with my friends Corinne & Ellie about xmas things and how our weekends were, and everything seemed OK again. By the end of my giveaway I had received loads of smiles & thankyou’s, and  several people told me how they had read a story about my project and were so pleased to be on my carriage. Man Giftism is one great instant cheer-up!

PLUS I saw the nice man with the glasses who rescued me from my anxious paranoia on day one – remember that? We remembered each other, he gladly accepted some cake and it made me really happy to see him 2 weeks later and still be carrying out my project. Here he is – visibly chuffed having eaten some free baking during his trip to work.

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To everyone and anyone reading this – I challenge you to join me.

If I can do this then so can you. You only have to try it once – just bake something easy and give it away to  strangers on your bus or train on the way to work. It’s not a big undertaking but I guarantee it will make you feel AMAZING, and the recipients will go to work happy too 🙂

Go on – spread some real joy this xmas! And if you do decide to take the leap please email me your story and pics – inga.ann.boyd@gmail.com

You can do it!!!

I can’t wait to hear your stories…….

DAY 9 – Fudge Truffles

WOW I still can’t believe how much attention Giftism has had in the media – its totally mental!

Here is an article about it in the Dompost today:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/9505285/Free-baking-given-out-to-commuters

I must say I was pretty darn chuffed with the photo they took of me. Its really refreshing to look at yourself and not scrutinise everything you see! (I am going to try to have this outlook more often from now on). I have asked the Dompost if I can have a copy of the file to print as a gift for my nana & parents for xmas – I reckon they’ll love it.

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And I really need to thank all my friends, whanau, colleagues and also all the complete strangers locally and from afar who have been writing to me with amazing words of encouragement and kindness. I never expected this level of engagement with this little project – but the fact that I have been able to inspire happiness in others, and the sheer volume of positive vibes coming my way must be by far the best xmas present I have ever, (and probably will ever) receive. So thank you everyone – you have MADE MY YEAR!

I’m really sorry if I haven’t responded directly to your comments or messages – as well as all the baking its also a really busy time at work for me and I’ve been rather inundated with online communication in the last week. But please know that all your sentiments are so great to receive – they encourage me to keep going and make me brim with joy!

So – onto today’s baked item….

After the wee bout of stress associated with the xmas shortbread I really needed a super easy recipe with the smallest amount of baking possible.

My lovely workmate Nina sent me some quick and easy (but delicious!) ideas when I first started the project early last week. I knew there was a reason I had been saving them up – and at this moment during the grueling midway point of the project when my eyes are hanging out of my head and I’m really feeling like giving up on this mental assignment they are a beacon of hope. (cue hyper-emotional orchestral music)..

But seriously – this has got to be quickest homemade treat ever – I am SO going to bust this out for future summer BBQs …..

FUDGE TRUFFLES

1 packet malt biscuits

1 can condensed milk

1 cup chocolate chips

Desiccated coconut

(Don’t you just love the word ‘desiccated’ ?! It always makes me think that the poor coconut has been brutally murdered for the sake of baking ingredients).

Blend malt biscuits in a food processor until fine.

Or in my case if you don’t have a food processor – triple bag the biscuits, place on kitchen floor and stamp the hell out of them! (Nina said it was fine to do this and she’s a super ace project manager and mum of two so I totally trust her judgement…) After stamping, continue to bash with rolling pin to get rid of any pesky hard pieces. This method is also good for relieving unwanted levels of stress or emotional unrest.

Mix ground biscuits  with condensed milk & chocolate chips and roll in coconut. Refrigerate then devour!

These beauties took me all of 10 minutes and turned out perfectly.  Yussss – what a relief from the hot stove! However I have really let the team down by not getting any photos of them – please forgive me. 😦

Instead I have some good news to share about how popular they were – within only a few minutes they were all snapped up! For the first time ever I gifted ALL of my baking to fellow train passengers, much to the disappointment of my hungry co-workers. (So sorry guys! There is a double mix of my next treat in the oven for you right now, OK?)

Here is Corinne with the evidence:

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Its OK – she got to try one – but it is a pretty accurate indication of the reaction I got at work when I turned up empty handed!

(Also that’s Ellie chuckling in the background 🙂

BTW – My workplace is pretty darn awesome and I am very chuffed to be part of such a great team of individuals. Chrometoaster are a super slick digital design agency based in Wellington – you can check out the website here)

I also made a new friend on the train this morning. His name is Chris, and he’s a contractor at the Ministry of Education. He thought my Giftism experiment was the best thing since sliced bread. What a great result – another human stoked to be connecting with people in his community. And all through a little piece of free baking 🙂

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DAY 8 – Christmas shortbread

Last nights baking was a rather interesting and intense experience – navigating my way through yet another new recipe while being filmed for a national TV show – Gaaaaah!

Jehan and Delwyn from TVNZ’s Seven Sharp were super lovely though. Easy-going, open minded and genuinely in support of my mission to bake for strangers.

I decided to do a double batch of shortbread. All accounts I’d read were that shortbread was pretty easy (only 4 ingredients!) and its also bit of a nice Christmassy thing. I added a tasty red and green element with pistachios and cranberries too – (fancy much?). I figured it was perfect for Giftism’s debut TV moment – what could possibly go wrong……?

WELL —  my doubling of the recipe did not translate into doubling the size of the mixing bowl, so hilarity ensued as clumps of butter and icing sugar started literally flying around the kitchen while attempting the creaming process.

After almost weeing myself with laughter I realised there was also a cup of cornflour and another THREE cups of flour to be combined into this monster. (Shizer!) I gallantly stuck with it, but after adding the cornflour the beater was struggling and carnage was upon me so I had to stop and take stock.

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ACTION STATIONS! No time for self-doubt – plan B must be mobilized: transfer unruly shortbread dough into bigger bowl. Glass casserole dish appears to be the only option, but the show must go on!

The dough is rolled out, but not without a few more hiccups along the way – the rolling pin keeps sticking to dough making it super tricky to flatten out evenly. Man, my manic baking styles are going to make great telly I can feel it.

NB: I have since been given some good advice from a fellow commuter – “flour the rolling pin AND the top of the dough (But not too much, just a light dusting)”. Thanks lady – will implement that for next time – cheers!

I get the dough cut into shapes and after the wild mixing frenzy it was finally under control and in the oven.

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Thank heaven they also tasted good! The pistachios and cranberries toasted up nicely and I was actually pretty proud of myself once they were safely in the container. Wow – after 10 days I might actually have become an OK baker. 🙂

The train peeps were awesome too. My regulars helped me feel at easy with the camera and as usual it was more smiles all round. It might but just be me but it did feel like my carriage was a bit more full of punters today….?

OK well enough from me – I am bloody knackered! No more media interviews for a while please – I have baking to do.

You can watch the story on TVNZ demand here, and below is a pic of me with Seven Sharp reporter Jehan  Casinader and cameraman Delwyn.

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Peace x

DAY 7 – American Apple Cake

Holy mothership Giftism really does appear to be going off!

Today TV3 news ran a story on their website about my little experiment – you can read it here. How very exciting!

And so it begins…..

To date I have done: an interview and photoshoot on the train for TV3’s website, a phone interview with the Dompost, and a film crew from Seven Sharp (TVNZ’s nightly current affairs magazine show) have just left my house after documenting my next round of goodies. Yes – seriously – Giftsim is going to be on national TV! Tomorrow I have a pre-recorded interview with The Breeze radio station, more filming with Seven Sharp (this time on the train while I give out the baking), and a photoshoot with the Dompost at lunchtime to go with their print story.

Maybe its a slow news week?!

Who would have thought that my humble project to give away baking on the train would be such a hit with the media. It’s a wee bit bonkers, but also pretty awesome that it’s capturing peoples imagination in such a positive way. I think it is having the intended effect of helping people connect with each other,  and is a nice little reminder that all xmas really needs to be about is making others happy.

However this media storm is taking its toll on me somewhat. I am feeling rather exhausted and it’s only Tuesday! In between baking, blogging, doing dishes and conducting interviews about the Giftism experiment – I am also undergoing the usual pre-xmas work madness of delivering loads of projects before year end, making presents for my family and attempting to attend to catch up with friends and colleagues at xmas parties. (Oh poor me & my first world problems!) But I am starting to wonder what madness this project will conjure up next….

Last night I chose to bake a recipe from my lovely aunty Jennie Boyd. American Apple cake – super easy and just as delicious! So far I have been turning to the internet for inspiration, but this one I copied out of her personal cookbook a few weekends ago.

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NB: after adding the apple you also need to add the (melted) butter and vanilla essence. I guess I forgot to copy down that part, but it made sense on the day 🙂

There was an emergency late night dash to the supermarket when I realised I didn’t have either cinnamon or nutmeg (Dang it all!). Thank god for my darling boyfriend – Chris to the rescue! He has been a great Giftism supporter – dutifully taste testing every recipe (but he is way too nice and would probably not have the heart to tell me if something was a bit iffy) and accompanying me on the train this week.

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(Sorry I’m too tired to rotate the photo and re-import it – but you get the gist)

The Apple cake was a huge hit, very wholesome and rustic with its country spice theme. My group of regulars is also steadily growing, and the number of people who accepted the baking today far outweighed  those who didn’t. People now see me coming and just grin their little hearts out – its such a wonderful thing to experience!

I had a lovely chat with a woman called Jocelyn today, and made a new group of train buddies. Here they are – what a nice bunch!

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That’s Jocelyn next to me with the pearls. Hopefully she’s there again on my carriage tomorrow.

So I’m going to go get some shuteye and mentally prepare for the media frenzy that awaits me in the morning. Wish me luck!

In the mean time, here are some ideas for things you can do at xmas if you are interested in making choices that are ethical and sustainable for our world. Courtesy of Conscious Consumers – http://www.consciousconsumers.org.nz/

Conscious xmas