Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sort and Chuck

At this time of year I seem to get an overwhelming urge to have a good sort and a chuck! Maybe it's a kind of 'let's tidy things up as a way of closing off the old year and starting the new one off fresh'... not sure.

The other day I was in full-on 'sort and chuck' mode and next in line was the de-cluttering of my wardrobe. Unexpectedly, one of our daughters turned up - perfect timing! I co-opted her to help me. She has a good eye for style, she's decisive about what needs to go and doesn't get caught into the trap of being sentimental, which gets me every time!

So with Darling girl sprawled on our bed, in no time at all the room was filled with clothes and hangers, a discard pile mounting in the corner and I was being instructed to try things on for checking to see whether it made the 'cut'. I did linger on the odd garment or two... savoring a memory associated with it and struggling to part with the said 'special' thing. However, once it was tossed aside I felt OK about it! So now my wardrobe is parred down to a much more manageable arrangement and I feel great knowing that what remains will be quite adequate.. mmmm with maybe the odd summer sale item thrown in at a later date! I can see things much clearer and the clothes aren't as jammed up as they were. Those hangers just roll along that rail now! I know that will help me to make better 'what shall I wear today' decisions.

This is also a time of year when I try to do a little extra de-cluttering of the soul... I seem to accumulate a few things by way of bad attitudes, unhelpful thought patterns, memories of past stuff that is better left in the past. I say to myself 'chuck it' and move on.
Along with that I enjoy taking the opportunity to think on things that have happened during the year that I am thankful for, the lessons I have learned... the people who have challenged me and helped me to become a better person. I say to myself 'keep thinking on those good things' and I can now move forward into the new year with a fresher outlook. I hope, God helping me that this means I will be able to see things more clearly and make better decisions too!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Framed

Our Family Christmas gathering was the perfect opportunity to get a photo of 'mostly faces' for a frame that was given to my Darling Man for his birthday by one of our four girls. The space for the photo is small (6x6cm) so we will need to trim it to fit.

The frame has some lovely words that fit their Dad perfectly...

'Father is a hero of life's daily adventures, who inspires his children with a man's wisdom and a boy's heart. He is firm in his guidance, gentle in his love, and selfless in his sense of duty.'

Raising four daughters has been a mixture of joys and challenges and we have needed lots of God's wisdom for the task! However, I feel honored and thankful to have these five special people in my life and to be able to call them 'my family'. And as a bonus, they bring their partners into our lives and family circle and we are double-y blessed!

Monday, December 21, 2009

White Christmas

When I was a kid Christmas food was a big deal - ham on the bone, pavlova, roast chicken, brightly colored fizzy drinks, candy canes, nuts to crack.... a neighboring family used to have Christmas Pudding with coins baked into it, awaiting the discovery of some delighted child.
Hey! - you could buy a LOT with a single coin back in those days! We ate things at Christmas time that we didn't eat on ordinary days like we seem to now.

Also there were certain things that only happened at Christmas time, special decorations appeared that seemed exciting all over again, simply because they had been hidden away out of view all year. A couple of things I remember - crepe paper streamers, a wax candle, green & white in the shape of a Christmas tree with silver glitter sprinkled on it and a Christmas scene in miniature all tucked away in a clear plastic dome. When you shook it, it 'snowed'. I loved that thing! In recent years a girlfriend of mine bought me this one for Christmas! Probably after seeing me enjoying the nostalgic magic of a wee shake of each little Christmas snow dome we came across if we were out in the shops together. It's nice! It reminds me of my childhood Christmas' AND the thoughtfulness of my special friend!

I think Christmas is such a neat time to gather up all the food-y traditions. We enjoy such good food all year round in NZ so I like to get specifically traditional at Christmas time. I have made some White Christmas because it is Christmas-y and I only ever think of it at this time of year. "At Christmas, play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year."
from the Christmas Cookery section of the Women's Division of Federated Farmers of NZ Cookery Book 1965.

Snow belongs to the northern hemisphere Christmas, as do some of our traditional Christmas fare and decorations even to this day. Though for most of us our British origins are long forgotten! However I bet my sister's family in France will be hoping for a snowy, white Christmas and by the look of the weather over there they will probably get it! They have a gorgeous villa on their property which they let out for people to have lovely French holidays - take a peep HERE

White Christmas.

1 1/2 cups Rice Bubbles
1 cup milk powder
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup chopped red glace cherries
1/3 cup chopped green glace cherries
1/3 cup sultanas
250 gms white vege shortening (Kremelta)

Line a shallow 11 x 7 inch tin with foil. Put all ingredients except shortening in a large bowl. Melt shortening over a low heat and add to dry ingredients, stir until all moistened. Press into lined tin and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until completely set. Cut into small triangles.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Young Love

Our newly engaged daughter and her fiance turned up at our front door with a beautiful fresh fish - still warm from the smoker, balanced on the upturned palm of his hand, held at shoulder height - no plate in sight - he was clearly delighted with his 'work do' catch and keen to share the spoils with us old folks! He reminded me of a European waiter. Priceless!!!

We enjoy our four young adult daughters and their men. They are now our good friends and help to keep us feeling young! Their lively thinking on the issues of life helps keeps us fresh too.

When our own love was still young my Darling Man used to sometimes visit me at our flat at lunchtime and I would make smoked fish in white sauce on toast for him. I guess that was when I first discovered the 'desire to make something for someone, for no other reason than to please him.' It's still one of his favorite meals to this day. Although now I make the slightly more sophisticated version of Smoked Fish Pie. So the fish from the kids got flaked and sauced for our dinner!

Last Christmas I spent many therapeutic hours making each of our girls a recipe book. Each one hand-pasted and scrapbook-y - full of photos, family culinary history and all the recipes that are significant and memorable to our family. Naturally it includes the Smoked Fish Pie recipe and the story of our young love including a snippet of one of my Darling Man's 'love letters' he wrote to me while he was away working in Australia. We have now been together for nigh on 30 years! It's our long, shared personal history that helps to hold us together. And Smoked Fish Pie is just a wee bit of it.....

Smoked Fish Pie.
25 gms butter
1 TBLSPN milk
3 cups cooked, mashed potatoes
3/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1 TBLSPN butter
1 TBLSPN flour
1 cup milk
500 gm can smoked fish, flaked (or the real McCoy!)
1 TBLSPN chopped parsley
2 hard-boiled eggs

Mix first measure of butter and milk into the potatoes, beating with a fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Line a 20 cm pie dish with half the potatoes. Set remaining potatoes aside. Heat second measure of butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and cook until frothy. Gradually add second measure of milk, stirring constantly until sauce boils and thickens. Remove from heat. Add fish, parsley and eggs. Pour this mixture into the lined pie dish. Cover with remaining potato. Cook at 190 deg C for 20 minutes or until pale golden.
Serves 4 - 6.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sugar & Spice

The large red spotted baking tin that holds our Christmas Cake keeps winking at me and tempting me to cut into it - probably mainly due to our other baking tins being empty this last week. I love a wee sweetie with a cup of tea! The 'sensible Susan' in me thinks - 'no, it's nearly Christmas and all that extra eating, it won't hurt us to do without for now'.
However, making my Christmas cake has inspired me and launched me into some other Christmas-y baking.

I haven't cut the cake yet but I have made some Belgian Biscuits - they seem a bit special and Christmas-y to me. Especially the spicy-ness of them. They are quite a delicate operation but I managed it just fine by following Alexa Johnston's very clear instructions in her baking cook book "Ladies, a Plate - Traditional Home Baking". She chooses a version of the biscuits from a 1945 Women's Institute Home Cookery Book owned by her mother. They are very tasty, I love the combination of sweet & spicy, the tarty jam & the lemon in the icing... yum!

It's a real treat for us to have something in the tins again and something to share with our friends. I have popped some on a plate with a wee card to drop off to a friend of mine on our way to the gym - we need exercise after sampling the Belgian Biscuits for our afternoon tea!
I won't write out the recipe - instead I hope you will at least look at Alexa's book I've mentioned or her new one called "Second Helping". Both great books! Check them out HERE

By the way the large, spotted tin was $12.50 from the Warehouse. The pink pure linen cloth is a vintage number my Mum picked up for me at a market as an un-opened 'boxed set' - there are even serviettes to match.

The cups'n'saucers are French 'Limoge' porcelain with lovely silver work on the cups and iridescent, pearly ribbed saucers. A beautiful gift from our friends in France.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Cake Love

Yesterday I made a Christmas Cake. I know that really diligent souls have made their Christmas cake months ago in order for it to 'mature' and all that but hey I am just happy that I have made one at all! It is my darling man's Mummy's recipe which I finally managed to get off one of his sister's. I had feared that it had got lost when his Mum had passed away.

When Val was alive and well she used to make a Christmas cake for the family's of each of her children. She'd hand us a humble looking bundle... the cake wrapped in lunch paper and then newspaper all tied off with some string. An unassuming and as I say 'humble bundle' - a bit like her really. But what dwelt within was something else! A rich fruit cake - decadent and delicious. Also a bit like her - a woman rich with life's experiences, love and wisdom.

So yesterday I launched into this pleasant task - pleasant, mostly 'cause I thought of Val heaps and marveled at her lovingly mixing and baking and sloshing Brandy on 9 Christmas cakes for all her family. Therein lies a challenge - now I could continue that family tradition and make cakes for our four girls and their loved ones..... mmm. Trouble is, most of them screw their noses up at anything that looks remotely raisin-y or sultana-ish. Even a date is considered suspect! Meanwhile I feel sure my cake will be enjoyed by at least some of the souls who drop by our house over the Christmas period. One darling man will certainly tuck into it heartily!

I had to phone my own Mum, who is an expert baker, with regard to the "splash brandy over" bit of the recipe. She had some good tips on hand which I will include in the recipe. I saw a lovely 'passing the baton from one generation to the next' story on TV1's Close Up on Tuesday night. Take a look at 'Sweetheart Deal' HERE Choose chapter 2 to view this segment.

Val's Christmas Cake.

1 kg mixed fruit
250 gms butter
250gms dried apricots
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold tea or water
3 tsp orange rind & 2 tsp lemon rind
1 tsp each of cinnamon, mixed spice & ginger
1 tsp each of almond essence & lemon essence
1 TBLSPN golden syrup
5 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
blanched almonds (I put mine on the top of the cake before it went in the oven)

Combine fruit, sugar, butter, cold tea in pot. Stir til butter and sugar are combined and dissolved. Simmer about 8 minutes. Cool. Add golden syrup and lightly beaten eggs. Sift and fold in dry ingredients. Bake at 130deg C for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
'Splash brandy over' -
Leave cake to cool. Make several holes in cake with a skewer (or knitting needle). Spoon 2 TBSPNS brandy over the cake. I used a pastry brush to spread it around. Wrap the cake in 2 layers of greaseproof paper and then 1 layer of foil (or Newspaper as Val used to do). The brandy is good for flavour and helps the cake to keep well too!
Apparently this should be done weekly - a great plan if you have made you cake nice and early! Mine will get only one more dousing before we crack into it!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Smoko

My darling man is really looking forward to returning soon to his work driving milk tankers. He had a work accident and has since been recovering from a tendon repair. He had the op just over five months ago. It has been a long time away from work and and his mates on his shift.
S o o o o one of the things he has done to keep in touch with them has been to go down to their middle night shift team meeting. Since most guys find home baking hard to resist so he has gone with two, usually 'still warm' chocolate cakes to share for 'smoko'. For those of you younger ones who may not know - 'smoko' is a term that used to mean 'a break from work to have a smoke' and then later it was more inclined to mean ' a short break from work to have a cuppa and something to eat.'

I have been making a real basic, economical recipe from my old Edmond's Cookbook. Even so it comes out to be a really light, spongy, tasty, old school chocolate cake. Perfect with a bit of chocolate icing and some coconut sprinkled on top! Hey 'old-school' is good - just like Mum used to make and all that - in fact I use my mother-in-laws old cake tin which I love! It's dented and battered and thin in places from years of cake making. It always reminds me of her and all the lovingly created baking and meals she must have made over the years for a family of 12! It's a family treasure of sorts! I like the feeling of being linked with her - she was a lovely lady - happy with home and family and helping people in need. For years she did 'meals on wheels' right into her old age! She was quite unwell in the last couple of years of her life due to a brain tumour. The first thing she said, one time when we were all sat around her hospital bed waiting for her to 'come around' after a turn was, "Has everybody had something to eat?". That says it all really doesn't it! Today I made her famous Christmas Cake.... but that's another story!

One Egg Chocolate Sponge.

50 gms butter
1 Dessertspn Golden Syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBLSPN Cocoa
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
a few drops of vanilla essence
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda

Melt butter and syrup, add egg and sugar, beat well; then flour, cocoa and baking powder previously sifted together. Add vanilla essence and lastly baking soda dissolved in the milk. Bake 30 - 40 minutes at 190 deg C.




Saturday, December 5, 2009

Adult Biscuits

We would travel half an hour to Rotorua, once a fortnight to do our grocery shopping when the girls were small. It was the early days of 'Pak n Save' when you had to mark your own prices on each item with a felt pen, as well as pack your own groceries.

We were growing a young family on a budget - but we were still able to make way for a few little treats for the kids. The one thing we treated ourselves with was a packet of Arnott's Mint Slice Biscuits and the way we kept them for ourselves was to tell the kids that they were 'Adult Biscuits'. For a long time they never questioned that. They were just for Mum and Dad.

So when we had our family weekend at Kawhia recently - without a word to each other on the topic - we managed to amass a double pack and 3 singles of 'Adult Biscuits'. We all laughed about it. The girls being adults now too - we all enjoy a 'Mint Slice' but more than that - it's one of the memories that has become a tradition. Traditions link a family together.

Family memories and traditions can be based on the simplest and funniest things. We also played the customary game of Phase 10, 500 and Scattergories. 500 is something that my Darling Man's family liked to play and now our family is getting the hang of it. Scattergories is a more recent addition that we play girls against guys. The guitar was played and all manner of songs were sung along with a some worship songs. A couple of fish were caught - it wasn't the best weekend for the fish but it didn't matter - we still all got a wee morsel of fresh fish with our dinner on Saturday night! Shared experiences, 'knowing' and being known - these are the things that build intimacy in family life.

Since we stayed an extra night we took home what remained of the food and amongst it was a packet of Mint Slices. We have been enjoying one after our dinner this week- it's been a nice way of savoring the memories of a lovely family weekend!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Anticipation

It seemed to take us forever to get packed up and away off to Kawhia for our family weekend. We packed and stowed and lugged and hauled until we were quite tired out by the time we left. Car and boat loaded to the hilt! We wondered at earlier days when all the girls were young and the huge job of packing up to go on holiday. How did we do it? We seemed to do it so frequently and easily back then! We even packed up and moved our family over to Fiji to live at one point! The pinnacle of our packing career!

We sure were glad that at least this time they all had to pack their own stuff! Just like we'd trained them to - 'lay everything out on your bed and then let me come and have a look' . By the time they were in their teens they were expert packers in their own right.

There's always that wee point in the packing nightmare when you wonder if it's all worth the hassle of transferring practically your whole house to another destination for the weekend!!!! However once we got there and set everything out we felt sure it was! First to arrive, we ended up with a few hours of enjoying our delightful new surroundings, the view of the harbour and a walk along the bush clad track for Fish n Chips. By the time they all turned up in the early evening our faces were fresh and eager, all traces of earlier stresses now gone.

You have to be a parent to understand the joyful anticipation of seeing the beautiful faces of your kids especially when you know you are going to get to spend a whole weekend together! By 9:30pm they had hatched a plan to rug up and head off down the beach for a spot of surf casting. We happily left them too it and snuggled up in bed with our books!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fit for a 'Do'

Last weekend we got together with our extended family for a Birthday 'do'. Kerry was turning 60, a much loved sister and the eldest of the ten children in my Darling Man's family. She and her husband came over from Aussie to celebrate with us all!
However the extended family get together anyway about every 6 months to play for the 'Lourie Cup' - being quite a competitive lot - it gives the day some focus and purpose. This time 30 of us gathered to play Ten Pin Bowls - both young and old.

One of our daughters went to buy a drink and got chatting to the guy at the counter who asked, "What's with the big group thing?". She explained that we were all from the same family... He was amazed! He said that he had two brothers and he hadn't seen either of them for about 20 years!

Families are really special. All it takes to keep in touch is a bit of effort and organisation and 'voila' much fun and catching up can be had by all!!!! Young and old. It's even better when your family gets to take the Lourie Cup home as we did - one of our daughters has just got engaged and her fiance won the Ten Pin Bowling competition AND therefore the cup! So we, the Pete Lourie Family contingency were yippie-ing, yahoo-ing and shouting with great gusto!

Then there was food - of course... a family 'do' would not be complete without it! We all enjoyed sampling other people's goodies that were brought along to share. When you have to take a plate for a family 'do' it's nice to make something a bit special... I like this Caramel Meringue, it's a great one to share with others because it is far too rich and sweet to eat on your own. Since it is coming up to that 'getting together with the family' time of year I thought you might enjoy giving it a whirl too! You can even make it ahead of time because it keeps well for 3 - 4 days.

As it happens, this weekend our family, as in our four girls and their guys, are staying together at a house overlooking the Kawhia Harbour for fishing and relaxing and hanging out! There's nothing quite like being in the 'bosom of the family' - lovely, lovely!!!

Caramel Meringue.


Base:
150 gms butter, softened
2 Tbspn caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour (generous)
1 tsp baking powder
Filling:
395 gm can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbspn butter
2 Tbspn golden syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 1/2 Tbspn flour
Meringue:
3 egg whites
6 Tbspn caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line a 20 x 30 cm slice or sponge roll tin with baking paper. To make the base, cream the butter and sugar until pale, then beat in the egg. Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir in, mixing well. Press into the tin. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool in the tin. Leave the oven at 180 C for the meringue. To make the filling, combine the condensed milk, butter, golden syrup, sugar, yolks and vanilla in a saucepan, stirring over a gentle heat until smooth. Add the flour to combine. Cool, then spoon the filling over the base. To make the meringue, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the meringue is glossy. Spoon this over the filling. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the meringue is golden. Leave to cool before slicing into squares with a hot knife. Store in an airtight container. This slice will keep for 3 - 4 days.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cosy Christmas Love

You have to get organised if you want your Christmas love gifts to reach the other side of the world in time for Christmas Day without it costing the earth for postage! I have just posted off some cosy Christmas love because my nieces live so far away that it is cold and (if they are lucky) snowing at their house at Christmas time.

I noticed when we stayed there they had a cubby-hole dedicated to Hotties, all covered in a range of cheerful fabrics and yarns... so I thought a couple of new ones might perk up their collection...
I imagine that the darling girls may spend at least some of their holiday time cosy-ed up with a book. A hottie might be in order for such delicious Christmas relaxation.

I love knitting hottie covers for their 'micro-project-ness' making them quick and easy to complete. They're also a perfect opportunity for a colour and texture adventure. I hunt the bargain bins in every wool shop I come across - which seems rarer and rarer these days - for 'odd' balls of wool. In my hands they may well end up incorporated into a cheerful hottie cover - eventually giving some beloved soul a good old fashioned dose of cosy-ness! I mix chunky, multi-colored yarns with plain, perky brights and downy, fluffy mohair's then have heaps of fun signing the project off with a dashing ribbon.

I know it takes precious time but I think hand-made gifts are quite special - all the more so for the gift of time that goes into lovingly crafting something whether that be stitching or baking or.... whatever your hands find to make that is your special thing you can share with someone you love at Christmas! It's a bit of an antidote for the commercialism of Christmas too don't you think?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blankie

It's quite an exciting adventure to launch into a stitching project without a pattern - just a vague vision of an idea - that 'this could work'. I wanted some mindless plain knitting. I thought a baby blankie to tuck away in my Grandma's 'hope chest' would be a good plan.
Thing is I didn't have a plan as such - just a colour combo and a vague sense of how I wanted it to look. I am quite a structured person but I also really like the creative energy of 'lets just get started and see how it develops' thing too! A little bit of domestic risk-taking.

It's been fun launching in, dashing off to one of our local wool shops to stash away wool, trying to anticipate how much I'll need as I go along and hoping like mad they won't run out just as I get to the last few squares!!!!
Working out a 'pattern' for the layout of the squares is quite a mathematical thing too which is definitely not one of my strong points. It has been laid out on the spare bed with bits of paper to represent as yet un-knitted squares and it has nearly done my head in at times, trying to work out where to put what colour to get some balance combined with a dash of randomness! When I am nearly finished another square I start to knit at a feverish pace as I anticipate the satisfaction of slotting in another 'real live' square and screwing up the paper one it replaces! Oh the thrills of the domestic life!!!!
Getting to this stage I have decided that it is going to work! Whew coz it has cost a little more than I first thought but it is pure wool and it will keep one of our grandbabies warm one day!!
As I knit the last few squares I am dreaming up a scheme for edging it.... I have a bit of an idea to experiment with. I'll let you know how I get on!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Little Notes

I REALLY like nice writing paper and notecards. Even as a child I can remember being quite satisfied with a gift of nice writing paper - 'perfumed' was all the rage, with maybe little sprigs of flowers or a kitten sat in the corner...
These days I can also be kept amused for ages looking at greetings cards... some are really funny and make me laugh out loud. It's even better if you are shopping with a friend and you can enjoy the joke together and return it to the shelf without parting with any money!

Over the last couple of days I have been enjoying a little note given to me by my friend. It was just a random thing declaring her appreciation for my friendship. It came with a gift. I have sat the little card and dinky envelope on my dresser and it 'winks' at me whenever I walk into the room. This allows me to enjoy those warm feelings of being loved and appreciated all over again!

I like nice writing paper and notecards because I too like to send random notes to people by snail mail, to let them know they are valued or that something marvellous that they did or said was noticed and appreciated. We mostly only get bills in the mail box these days don't we? So to get a handwritten note or letter is such a treat! Honestly it is the best spent 50 cents to take the time to love somebody with words - and with a stash of nice paper and notecards in the cupboard we can do it in style!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Table Centrepiece

The French LOVE their flowers! Even the tiniest villages seem to be furnished with a florist! There is nothing quite as charming as flowers on the dinner table or anywhere in the house for that matter! Gardening is definitely not one of my strong points. My usual approach is rather haphazard, I have fits of weeding the whole garden systematically, but that may well be followed by a long period of total neglect. Under my watch plants either survive by sheer guts and determination OR they curl up their toes and die!

To be fair though - we DO do OK at the vege garden thing! Good, fresh food rates way up there for us. Darling man does the lawns about as regularly as I sweep and vacuum the floor - regularly enough! Every now and then we have a major cull of plants that have grown too large for a town garden which consists of backing up the car, hooking the plants to a sturdy tow rope and wrenching the prickly sods out and replanting some of the smaller shots ...
As I was perusing the garden scene recently I noticed that Pete's Mum's pot plant, well one that came from her place... was looking rather dashing. Quite by chance mind you! So I promptly co-opted it for the 'centrepiece' of our new garden table. This inspired me and prompted me to make a plan to get things a bit sorted.....

Didn't we have some fabulous gardening weather over Labour Weekend? We managed 3 very enjoyable half days in our back garden. Darling Man did a satisfactory amount of bonding with his chainsaw, despite a bad shoulder... leveled a dead old tree to the ground and sorted out the firewood stack all ready for new wood to be added. And I weeded and tided and pottered with pots and plants to my hearts content... ending the weekend with the garden looking pleasing enough for me to continue on a more regular basis in the future. I can't wait to get back out there once some inside jobs are up to date!

Our humble back garden is a nice place for us to 'be', it's sunny, reasonably private but it still has a 'neighborly feel' - we enjoy this little outdoor space. We had our lunch out there at the weekend and it's also somewhere we have enjoyed having an evening drink and nibbles with our neighbor. I hope we spend even more time out there over summer - both in tending the garden and in sitting and relaxing. It's all pleasant and enjoyable!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Plain Biscuits

Whether Mum had just refilled the baking tins or they were empty because us kids had dashed off with the last crumb - you could always count on the 'plain biscuit tin'. It was where you went for a plain, bought bikky to spread with butter, to dip in your tea or as a portable snack so you could run off and keep playing. It was always there in the cupboard when I was growing up and it's still provides a 'dunker' for Mum & Dad's early morning cuppa all these years later! I am sentimentally attached to it... I bet it could tell a story or two about the days in the lives of our family.

There's been a lot of talk lately about some of our time-honoured, Kiwi, bought biscuits and how they ain't what they used to be. Smaller, too much palm oil in the chocolate, less of a 'puff' on the Mellowpuffs. Not to mention poor value for money. I keep thinking to myself 'let's bake our own'. Even with the rise in the price of butter... power to heat the oven - it is still more economical.

Lately we've enjoying a Bran Biscuit with our early morning cuppa. I found the recipe in the Edmonds Cookbook. Quick & easy to make and 'in my humble opinion' much tastier than the bought ones! Tui Flower, an iconic NZ baker from way back, now in her eighties is featured in the latest NEXT Magazine (November). She serves home made bran biscuits for morning tea when she is interviewed about a new cookbook that she has contributed to. It's called
'A Treasury of New Zealand Baking' Published by Random House $55. The royalties go to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation. VIEW

Bran Biscuits.

125 gm butter
75 gm sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup bran
1 cup wholemeal flour

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add bran and wholemeal flour. Knead well. Roll out 2 mm-6 mm thick on a floured board, cut and bake 20 minutes at 190 deg C.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Level Crossings

Once and a while on a train trip where rail meets road we would hear the ding ding ding of the bells and know that we had come to a level crossing. We would wave to the people waiting in their cars to give way to us since cars can stop but trains can't - well not so easily anyway. Unfortunately Ohingaiti is where car has met train all too often with tragic consequences, when a motorist has failed to stop! When we passed through, road works were underway to do away with this notorious level crossing. An overpass was being constructed and once completed, the cars will travel over the train which will pass underneath through a tunnel. Car and train will no longer have a chance to meet at Ohingaiti!

We took our Crossword Puzzle book with us on the train. To do a crossword together, morning and night has become one of our 'rituals'. It began sometime during the year we celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. It's a good ritual. We have discovered that a crossword is a simple tool that forces us to work together to solve something. It requires that we work as a team, each appreciating the different skills and perspectives we bring to the task at hand. Sometimes one has to give way to the other to allow for 'different isn't necessarily wrong'. Some like to go right through the 'acrosses', then the 'downs' then go back and fill in the gaps. Others like to work outwards from a spot, doings 'acrosses' and 'downs' at random to fill in the empty spaces. Some are good at coming up with answers from thin air and a broad, general knowledge. Others are better able to visualize the answer once a couple of letters are in place to prompt them. Some are brave to slam in a word, even if it might turn out to be wrong. Others are more cautious and like to be sure of being correct by checking all the clues around about. Some like to be neat and tidy and others don't mind scrawly writing and cross outs.

Whatever the case may be, a crossword has been a good ritual for our marriage. A good daily opportunity to appreciate each others differences, to encourage one another, and to be gracious enough to do a crossword together without cross words. At a level crossing where train and car meet, someone always has to give way!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Martha's Pantry

Since we were going to Wellington I was determined to visit this little tea shop where they serve 'high tea' (bookings essential). I had read an article about it... old fashioned home baking, embroidered tray cloths, fine bone china cups, bursting with nostalgia and reminiscent of afternoon tea at Nana's place.

We located the tea shop on the corner of Karo Drive and Cuba Street. It was all I imagined it to be and more! The tea shop counter is like an 'old school' kitchen - all warmth and charm and homey-ness. The food was as gorgeous to look at as I'm sure it was to eat! We only had a wee pink, iced cupcake donned with teeny flowers and silver balls as we'd just eaten an enormous breakfast.

Darling Man read the NZ Herald while I enjoyed watching the people's open delight with their 'Martha's Pantry' experience. Seeing what women wear in Wellington is also interesting - a lot more coats and scarves and artful assecories. I then scoured the shop, taking in every delicious, dainty, domestic detail. There's lots of lovely things like fancy aprons and vintage household pieces to buy.

I also spoke to the owner who told me that when the Karo Drive Bypass roadworks were going on, 'burly blokes' would come in for a cuppa and home-baked goodies. They would say they felt like 'a bull in a china shop' but secretly they liked it. There were two regulars who would sit at the outside table cald in their fluro orange saftey jackets sipping from china cups! What is it with 'fine bone china' and home baking that can melt the hearts of the toughest Kiwi bloke?

Martha's Pantry is located at 276 Cuba Street, Wellington. Ph 04 3857228 Sadly, they don't yet have a website but honestly, it's one of those places that's better to visit in reality than virtually anyway!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Portable Domesticity

While our trip to Wellington on the train was something of a novelty for us, in days gone by when cars were a relative luxury New Zealander's tended to take the train. Train travel was much more common.

Knitting also " ... was once an activity of huge popularity that was passed from mother to daughter; women sat in trams and buses, able to simultaneously chat and knit without dropping a stitch." pg 139 'Kiwiana-The Sequel' by Richard Wolfe & Stephen Barnett

I didn't see another person knitting on our train trip - not that I went through ALL the carriages. I liked it cause it kept my hands busy and it was productive toward my peggy square baby blanket - I mean to say, I wasn't doing anything else! I also like that it is a little slice of 'portable domesticity'. If I take my stitching with me when we go places it means I get to take a little bit of 'home' along with me. I like this picture that my darling man has taken cause there's a wee house in the background right above my knitting!

Throughout our married life we have traveled a lot, we have also made our 'home' in lots of different places so having those 'portable' special home-y things with me is like taking a 'home comfort' that links me to our special place in the world that we call 'home'.

My Mum is a great knitter and I have memories of Mum clicking away while we rode along in the car. She always had something on the go... a lot of progress could be made when we traveled from Reporoa to Napier for example! She is much quicker than me and much more able to knit without looking or dropping a stitch. She tells me that her own mother was a very basic knitter but she learnt most of her early knitting skills from her Aunty.

My sister, who lives in France sent me a fabulous book for my last birthday called, 'The Gentle Art of Domesticity' by Jane Brocket. In the book Jane says - "The idea that one's domesticity is rooted in a single, fixed spot, I think is erroneous. Domesticity is not confined to the physical and the concrete, as it is also a state of mind or a way of life." pg 256. Jane chatters on in the same chapter about how her knitting has gone from 'at home' or 'in her room'.... to 'out of the house' and into cafes, theatres, trains and planes. Lovers of the Domestic Arts check out her book HERE It's fabulous!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Main Trunk Line

Recently we took a trip on the 'Overlander' train from Otorohanga to Wellington. It's one of the things on our 'mid-life adventures' list. We enjoyed the ever changing views of the mountains while we ate our 'hand-made by Darling Man' free-range egg & parsley & avocado sammies AND 'hand-baked by moi' Louise Cake while we rumbled and clattered along. We bought a cup of tea on board. It was served in a pictorial paper cup - a far cry from the original Crockery Railways Cup -
"... made by The Amalgamated Brick & Tile Company of Auckland. Originally established to produce sewer pipes and electrical porcelains, during WWII the company diversified to produce crockery for the American Navy stationed in this country. In 1943 another order for crockery came, this time from the NZ Railways."
pg 50 'Classic Kiwiana' by Richard Wolfe & Stephen Barnett.

Since we had our blue, pussy cat lunch tin, we didn't have to queue at the cafe at National Park OR pay over-inflated prices for food on board. Though the tea is no longer served in a 'Railways Cup' you can still buy the traditional 'great railway pie' for $4.50 & all manner of other 'Kiwi Kai' morsels at the on-board buffet car. 'Hunger for the Wild' TV presenters Al Brown & Steve Logan put together the menu of NZ favorites for the hungry train travelers.

From time to time, as the train meandered and lurched along, our knowledge of NZ was enhanced with a commentary, pointing out various historical places and interesting facts and info about the railway and its history. It is definitely an 'off the beaten track' travel experience. We were treated to views from viaducts, at times we plunged into long dark tunnels, caught sight of the front carriage as we looped around horse-shoe bends and experienced the spectacular engineering feat of the Raurimu Spiral. There is plenty to see out of the HUGE windows!
A great thing to do for sure. We recommend it!

AND since our lunch tin was empty for our trip home we treated ourselves to a 'great railway pie' and a few other 'Kiwi Kai' morsels from the on-board buffet car! Very tasty too!
Find out more about the Overlander HERE They are currently offering a special one-way fare of $49. You couldn't drive there for that price!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cookies & Colouring In

Oh my goodness - it's the school holidays again already! We went down to the Events Centre for our swim/exercise and found we had to 'share' the facilities with lots of little people! It's easy to lose touch when you no longer have kids at school! I used to love school holidays - a great break from routine and a chance to do some different things together. Baking is always a fun thing to do with the kids - school holidays or not!

Our cookie jar sits on the little table winking at people when they call in for a cuppa and chat! I like to keep it topped up with wholesome goodies for friends and family who pop in from time to time. Much better than a bought biscuit. Our girls usually look for something to munch as they catch us up with all their news and views. They each have their favorites.

Sometimes little people visit too and if they want they can draw a picture - it helps to keep them occupied while their parents talk AND sometimes they even give me a lovely picture for my fridge!
We don't have any grandchildren of our own yet but when we do I hope they will enjoy cookies and colouring in too!

These cookies are a scrummy recipe from my sister in law in Aussie - they grow Macadamia nuts on their lifestyle block near Lismore in NSW.

White Chocolate & Macadamia Cookies.

150gms butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tblspn vanilla essence
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups (200gms) Macadamia nuts
180gm chocolate, chopped(white or brown)
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Lightly grease 2 oven trays. Beat butter, sugar and essence until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients until combined. Roll into balls and bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on trays. Makes about 30 cookies.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Patchwork for a Princess

After attending a local patchwork exhibition with all these extensive, elaborate, B E A U T I F U L quilts - I felt inspired to have a go myself. However the quilts on display looked like hours and hours of dedicated, precise work which I wasn't really up for so I decided on a micro patch project.

I know little girls love to stash all their precious bits into a wee bag and cart them around because we had four wee princesses of our own. With that in mind I made a wee bag for my little 'princess' niece who lives in France. It was the perfect opportunity for a pleasurable, patchwork project that wasn't going to take time ad-infinite-um!

At the moment I prefer to be able to do lots of different types of stitching. I also like to see some reasonably quick results for my efforts. Stitching a smaller project that still involves all the same sort of skills as a larger one gives the same measure of pleasure for much less time input and at less expense too.

The little bag for Liliana is made from the scraps of material left over from the cot quilt I made for her as a baby which still lays on her bed. I bought the fabrics at a fabulous patch-workers paradise out at Gordonton called 'Grandmothers Garden'

It is a lovely old villa with multiple nooks and crannies all bursting with gorgeous fabrics to stitch, kit sets to make up and piles of books. They also run a variety of classes.

Our local Patch-workers who ran the excellent exhibition, have a weekly get together to stitch . Who knows I may even join them sometime and extend myself into a larger, more challenging project and share in some of their expertise!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conversation

I have been practically banned from saying Grace when we gather around the table with our adult children to share a meal together! 'No, not Mum she'll cry!'

The whole 'having all our girls and their men around the table' overwhelms me - it is a lovely thing that fills my heart with gratitude and at times my eyes with tears!

Parenting involves a mixture of successes and regrets. One of the things we did with our kids when they were growing up is to sit around the table as a family for dinner and breakfast. It was a good time to see each others faces, talk and laugh and cry and joke and learn manners and hear each others ups and downs and pray together too. Add to that - nurture the development of the art of conversation. Our four girls pictured here on Kawhia family weekend by the sea in 2010.

Yesterday on Sunrise TV3 Breakfast News I heard of a new game called 'The Art of Conversation' inspired by the lack of such a thing. Probable causes - technology and the fact that we don't sit around the table much anymore. I felt glad we had worked hard at doing that with our family. There is now a children's version out in addition to the adult one.

We found when we were in France that the French are good at eating at the table and taking time over a meal... In the book 'A French Woman For All Seasons' Mireille Guiliano says this, "Time is not something we are given; it is something we make. We all have much more to do than can possibly be done in a day. Even French families have been forced to choose which meals they will have 'en famille'; the time honoured ritual can no longer be observed with the traditional regularity. The world is no longer set up to furnish such occasions; we make them for ourselves. We must: life would lose all satisfaction without the time we set aside - the days and hours and even the odd moment - that we reserve to enjoy it. This is not selfishness; it is just living, an opportunity too precious to waste."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Woolmarks

We bought this gorgeous 'man-cardy' at our local Hospice shop for $7. Thing is, it wasn't second hand, it was brand spanking new, the Pure New Wool label still intact. Not the sort of thing my darling man would normally wear but just perfect for 'post-shoulder-op' when getting things on and off over one's head can be painful. It's been excellent and looks great on him too!

Seeing the labels made me feel nostalgic about days gone by when we made most of our own wool garments here in NZ. The latest recession has seen the closure of more local garment making businesses - some of them long-standing.

I recently bought myself a gorgeous crimson (like the maths blocks we used to have at primary school) or raspberry red, Pure NZ Merino Wool, lightweight cardy. Darling man had sent me off to 'buy myself something nice' since I had been such a lovely wife and nurse and helper and support as he has been recuperating from his op.
However, my new top, sad to say was made in China. Not that I have anything against China. I just feel sad that we send our beautiful Pure NZ Merino Wool to China so they can make stuff real cheap and send it back to us....

Yesterday I picked up a bargain. Oh how I love a bargain! A LINE 7, 50% Wool ,drape-y top for $20 - was $140. Sadly the NZ Made LINE 7 label is in its death throes !

I wonder is there some way NZ can come up with a grand scheme to manufacture our own high quality, gorgeous clothes from our Fine Merino and Pure Virgin Wool? Even if it means we buy less clothes of higher quality. 'Less is more' after all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lollies

I have a sweet tooth! I have lolly memories right back to my preschool days! Chewy, yellow 'Banana Bikes'... a neat cube, wrapped in bright yellow, waxed paper from the wee shop up from our house at Kerepehi. Packets of 4 'Changing Balls' when we holidayed at Uncle Bert & Auntie Vyver's Bach at Whangamata. They were way too hard to bite but as you sucked them they changed colour and flavour!
Later on it was the delight of a 50c mixture and hoping to find a Bubble Gum or two in the bag. I still prefer the old fashioned lollies but I have tried some of our girls 'Sour Worms' or 'Nerds' at times. I can't say that either were my favourite lolly taste experience!
I also remember that Nana Foster always had Minties or McIntosh's Toffees - she called them 'paper lollies' and Nana Main would often have Blackballs or Raspberry Drops which are boiled sweets. All tasty treats... however these days try I keep my lolly consumption to a minimum. Mainly for the sake of my teeth and my figure! Once I start I find it's hard to stop!

Recently I tried this new Caramel Cookie recipe which has half a Jersey Caramel- a great old time lolly - pressed into the top of it! Very tasty. Darling Man took the cookie tin down to share them with his mates at morning coffee on Thursday morning and they gave them the 'thumbs up'. You might enjoy them too. Very chewy & caramel-ly. Hey a wee slither of lolly nestled in a cookie can hardly be harmful!

Caramel Cookies

60 gms butter
2 Tblspns Golden Syrup
2 Tblspns brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
8 soft Caramel Lollies (Maycey's Jersey Caramels)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Place the butter, golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms. Roll into balls and place on baking trays lined with baking paper. Press to flatten and top each with half a caramel lolly. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on trays. Makes 16 cookies.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hand Washing

Mum taught us how to gently hand wash our jerseys and cardys when we were young. She was very particular how we cared for them. I'm sure that was mainly because she had spent hours knitting them!!! I am grateful for many of the things my Mum has taught me. I in turn have taught our girls to hand wash - not often hand-knits in their case but lots of their lovely, delicate clothes benefit from the extra care. It also means they last, looking nice a lot longer.

For woolens use a mild soap based detergent like lovely floaty 'LUX FLAKES' and the water should be about body temp for both wash and rinse. Squeeze rather than rub to clean. To remove as much moisture as possible roll in a towel and squeeze. Dry flat on a drying rack/spread on a towel on a table or hung in such a way that they aren't folded or squished with a peg.

For my hubby's jersey (pictured), that I lovingly stitched, I hung it on one of Mum's old-school jersey hangers and let it dry beautifully in the spring breeze and sunshine. It smells gorgeous! I'm not sure if you can buy those special hangers now. When I was young, we would sometimes use and old pair of stockings, pegged at the neck and sleeve ends if all the hangers were in use. The jersey pattern is style 17 in Patons Book 1266 'Jet Men's'

Apart from the obvious benefit to the clothes, hand-washing is lovely water-play, therapy much like washing the dishes!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Doing Dishes

One of the nice things about 'doing the dishes' the old-fashioned, hands-in-the-sink way is the opportunity for some warm, soapy, bubbly 'water play'. Quite therapeutic actually.
"Washing dishes by hand saves water and gets your dishes back into the cupboard quickly."
NZ House & Garden - 'In the Sink' March 09 Issue pg 113.

In Form 1 (yr 7) I learnt about washing dishes in Homecraft classes including the order that things ought to be washed in -
Glass & Crystal
Plastics
Crockery & China
Cutlery
Serving Dishes
Pots & Pans
Cooking utensils
Of course back then, we all practiced dish-washing at home anyway, amidst sibling battles over whose turn it was! Have we all become dependent on dishwashers now? I appreciate mine as much as the next person - albeit a vintage model purchased for $60 on Trade Me.
Do we now consider a home incomplete without one - our own or rented?
With the use of dishwashers have we lost something of value besides water play therapy?
What about all the relationship building that occurs between the sink and the tea-towel?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family

Recently we attended my Auntie's 70th birthday party. It was a lovely evening. We especially enjoyed seeing my cousins, some of whom I hadn't caught up with for ages. We talked and laughed and shared about our kids and our joys and sorrows...
Of course we determined that we wouldn't leave it so long before we saw each other again!
Sadly, it usually ends up being at funerals where we see each other. Much nicer to gather for happier celebrations!

The birthday invitation insisted on NO presents which I struggled with because I love giving gifts. However my Auntie has lots of lovely things so I decided to do as I was told and NOT buy a present. Instead, inspired by my Mum's card-making skills, I had this idea to make her a birthday card out of an old family photo of her and my Dad's family when they were all young. A bit of photocopying of some gorgeous old fabric, a stitch or two and a little glue and I managed to satisfy my desire to GIVE.
Auntie was chuffed!

She was also able to help me with remembering some details of a family holiday I shared with them when I was a child - great material to include in my memoirs. She filled in some gaps. Auntie also has photos!
Families are special and our older family members are a rich source of inspiration as well as interesting stories of days gone by. Just as our younger ones are a lively source of enthusiasm and hope for the future!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Simple Pleasures

There's been a lot of talk lately about saving electricity. We've been doing our bit, though not through any conscious effort! We have a little log fire with a wetback. It keeps us cosy and warm and allows us many more hot baths than we would indulge in if we were using electric power to heat our hot water.
It is also possible to cook on our fire, which is a rather novel thing to do from time to time. Especially if you are not in a hurry! We slow cooked our yummy 'home-kill' sausages and then added some veges to the same pan with all the meaty juices (and fat - ha ha).

We must be simple souls because these little acts of domestic life give us a lot of pleasure! The fact that we grow lots of our own veges and collect and saw and split and stack our own firewood adds even more pleasure to these simple daily happenings!

Perhaps we will make a more conscious effort to save electricity in the future - given that it is so pleasurable to have a cosy night in with good, home-grown food and a steaming hot bath!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Home

On TV3 'Sunrise' breaky news I saw one of the Home of the Year Finalists . An amazing $153,000 budget home in Mangere was tailor-made with a lot of imagination, quirky details, personality, use of off-cuts.... competing against houses worth millions! It was described as having 'a real spirit in the place'.

Of course we all know that 'money (spent on a house) is no guarantee of soul'. So what is it that makes a house a home? Someone once said, 'Home is where our story begins.' Another 'Home is where the heart is.' Greg Dixon, in Canvas Magazine in the Weekend Herald (July 11 2009) said, 'My home has been engineered so it serves not only as a dwelling but as, for want of a better way to describe it, the spiritual centre of my world.'

Our own home is nothing extra special but it is ours and it is the place that our family has dwelt the longest after many years of a rather nomadic existence! So it is full of memories...

What is it that makes a house a home?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yay for Eggs!

I am wondering if Amelia has made our girls some of her delicious cupcakes yet... they are now in Oyes, France with their cousins. A great little cook, she treated us with some when we were there. They have a ready supply of fresh, free range eggs from an elderly neighbor, affectionately called 'Madame Paris' who is very happy to get cakes in return! Sounds like a good deal to me. On both counts! We are glad to have a friend who sells us her lovely free range eggs. She loves her chooks and looks after them extremely well!
This week on TV3 'Sunrise' Breaky news programme an 'eggs-pert' said that 'an egg a day is OK'. "The egg is not only a good source of protein, it also contains a nutrient called choline which is essential to developing fetuses..." 

Amelia's Cup Cakes

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
125 gms unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
2/3 cup of caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the over to 180 deg C. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, milk and mix, either with an electric beater or a wooden spoon till smooth.
Arrange cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin and spoon the mixture into cases. Bake 17 - 20 minutes or until golden brown. leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Ice or serve with whipped cream and strawberries and raspberries.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cosy Gift 3

Today I learned about 'Operation Cover Up'- Kiwis making blankets for orphan children in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. It all started in 2000 with Liz from Taupo who wanted to provide blankets for her sponsored child in Moldova. She contacted some friends..... and now many Kiwis are knitting loving stitches for children who suffer innocently from the conditions where they live. The project has spread to cities and towns all over NZ. I understand that recently the 50,000-th blanket was sent!!!!

Knit or crochet a square or a whole blanket, donate wool or money for wool. They send all sorts of other helpful things their way too.
Apparently scarves are needed - now that sounds like a bit of me! So if you are looking for knitting that will keep you clicking purposefully and you want to know how to help with these 'cosy gifts' or find out who your local co-ordinator is phone Liz Clarke 07 378 9171 or Maureen Braun 03 327 6413. If you live in Te Awamutu, the 'Courier' office is a drop off place for wool donations and also where you can get some wool to knit/crochet a blanket or a square and get the specs on size to make it.
'Having a bed covered by warm blankets brings more than warmth to these children.... although abandoned by parents due to poverty of the family, they are loved by someone far away. The distance means nothing as the blanket is a tangible means of conveying your love.'
pg 20 Overcomers 2009.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Zesty Lemon

There is nothing to equal the zesty, zingy flavour of lemon. Citrus fruit is plentiful and at its best/juiciest about now. If you are into seasonal eating - eat it at this time of year and get some extra health benefits to boot! Add coconut (for texture) to zingy lemon and you have a winner in my books! My Mum and I share a love of any thing coconut-y.

I've tasted a few versions of the 'Lemon Loaf' but this recipe of my Mum's is exceptional! It has well and truly earned its place in our family recipe book.



Lemon Syrup Loaf


1/2 cup coconut
125 gm butter
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
Syrup-
1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup sugar

Combine coconut and milk then set aside. Cream butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder & salt into creamed mixture. Add coconut mixture then fold until completely combined. Pour mixture into a greased and lined, 22cm loaf tin. Bake at 180 deg C for about 3/4 to 1 hr or until loaf springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool slightly.
Place 1/4 cup of lemon juice & 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Spoon syrup over warm cake while still in tin. Leave until cold.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cosy Gift 2

I love what I call 'winter lakes' - ones that look just as gorgeous in the winter as in summer. This morning we had a very enjoyable walk around Lake Ngaroto. Our darling doggy enjoyed it too - lots of sploshing and slashing and slopping about the wetlands. Thankfully we just missed out on getting VERY wet ourselves as there was a huge downpour just as we reached our car!!!
While we enjoy the delights of winter two of our girls are now 'summering' in the South of France. They have another cosy gift to deliver, this time to my sister. She will probably think a scarf is a mad gift at this time of year but I'm sure she will appreciate all its merino cosy-ness once the European winter strikes!! The synthetic 'fleck' adds a bit of humour and sparkle!
This is a great time of year to snaffle away a few yarn bargains in readiness for next winter when things cool down and the urge to 'knit and nestle in' hits and the new season wool prices are high. Always good to have something on hand to get clicking!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cosy Gift

Our two eldest daughters are in France at the moment. They are staying with Dean & Erica's French daughter (AFS) and being spoilt by Marion's family as we speak!
We have sent them off with a gift for Marion who became very much a part of our family when she was here in NZ.
I made her a scarf out of beautiful NZ Wool that had been hand-dyed by a local woman around the corner from our house!
Woolrae Studio 534 Kihikihi Rd, Te Awamutu. NZ.
I had walked past the sign countless times and kept meaning to pop in on a Saturday for a browse... eventually I did and was pleasantly surprised!
Isn't it great when you discover local, backyard artists who produce stuff that's a bit unique and passionately, lovingly handmade-y! I love it!

We wanted to give Marion something that was authentically NZ-y and it was extra special to be able to knit loving thoughts of her into every stitch! She's off to Switzerland to begin her Tertiary studies soon so we are hoping the scarf helps to keep her cosy.

A scarf is a great micro-knitting project for a beginner, especially when you use triple knit/chunky wool and size 7 needles! It means you see it grow real quick and you have something to show for your efforts in no time at all. Buy online OR try your local wool shop OR maybe even a backyard fibre artist!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ladies a Plate

While we're on the topic of home baking.. this morning I heard on the news that 'Ladies, A Plate - Traditional Home Baking' by Alexa Johnston won a Montana Book Award. Yay! She deserves it.

She has done some fabulous research bringing us a lovely, warm history of NZ home baking. Each of the recipes included have been tested in her own kitchen. The book is beautifully set out, gorgeous pictures, stories behind the recipes - a pleasure to read. AND it is very practical and instructive for any novice home baker. Well done Alexa!

My Mum and Dad gave me a copy for my birthday early this year - a treasured gift. My Mum knows all about 'ladies a plate' and is still 'making plates to take' to all manner of gatherings long after her years of filling the cake tins for our family are over! AND Dad still gets affectionately scolded for sampling the goods before 'the plate' disappears out the door! Mum also bakes his favourite things for his lunch box and delights us all with her home baked treats when our family gathers. Thanks Mum for all the delicious baking AND the fantastic example you have set for us too xo. Yay for home baking!

Monday, July 27, 2009

ANZAC Biscuits

Sometimes a time honoured, family recipe is called for. My Darling Man has been recovering from shoulder surgery. His shoulder is healing beautifully but his stomach has taken a huge hit!
So as he ventures back into eating normal food again, my baking has gone back to basics. One of his (late) Mum's recipes - in her lovely handwriting. It comes from the days of baking with basic ingredients already in the larder. It fits the bill perfectly!
While I bake I enjoy a warm emotional connection with my lovely mother in law.
I think of her and all the baking she did over the years for her family (10 kids). Darling Man is double-y comforted remembering his Mum as he dunks his ANZAC biccy! Classic comfort food.

ANZAC Biscuits.

Melt together -
125gms butter
2TBspn Golden Syrup

Meanwhile mix the following dry ingrediants together in a bowl -
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut

Mix 1 tsp baking soda with 2 Tspns boiling water and add to melted ingrediants and then mix together with dry ingredients. Roll into small balls and flatten with a fork.
Bake 150degC until golden - about 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cosy - ness


One of the scrummiest of cosy experiences I had recently was when we turned up at a family dinner. The kitchen was warm and buzzing with Davieth's Mum Maartje making home-made pizza. It was her adult son's choice for his birthday dinner. Dough and flour and toppings and cheese all over the table - guests crammed in a snuggling space, gorgeous foody/winey smells and everyone talking at once. The cat and darling doggy adding their own havoc to the domestic scene. Lots of light and love and laughs and hugs and... well - heart-warming cosy-ness!
Another kind of cosy-ness is a hot water bottle on a cold night OR day for that matter. I enjoy working with colours when I am knitting. I'm not so good with patterns - I seem to get myself into a tangle and end up with the wrong number of stitches which then makes it difficult to proceed! Texture in wool doesn't seem to please me the same way that colour does! I also love that hotty covers are so 'old-school' and that brings its own comfort.
They are really fun to knit and quite easy for a beginner. Paton's Book 2108 'The Big Book of Small Projects has all sorts of hottie cover patterns along with many other knitted things. Buy online or even better, go to your local wool shop and enjoy a browse and the delicious anticipation of creating something cosy with needles and yarn!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making Do


'Making Do' in the 1970's when I was a teenager meant inserting a strip of interesting fabric to lengthen a pair of jeans because my legs grew at a rate that the budget for new jeans could not keep pace with! Me and my friend Maggie Bain pictured here says it all really!
In her FABULOUS book 'Thrift To Fantasy' Rosemary McLeod addresses this old-fashioned value - "Because women worked with textiles they naturally turned to using them in thrifty and ingenious ways as a response to the need to economise." Pg 219.
My Mum tells me that when I was little she made me a toy box from a cardboard box, covered in wallpaper and decorated it with pictures from old magazines. What does 'making do' mean today?
Waikato Times 'Your Weekend' Magazine reports on May 16th 09 in an article - 'Recession 101' - "Tight economic times mean a steep learning curve for the 'lucky' generation Y. How are they coping with their first recession?"
How will Generation Y who have mostly had it all laid on respond to the recession? What will 'making do' mean for them I wonder to myself? They are a creative bunch... techno savvy... how will they respond?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lovely Leeks!

My husband is definitely the chief gardener and I am his humble assistant. When I read NZ Gardener's Weekly email and got inspired to grow leeks and he saw how teeny the seedlings were he didn't fancy himself the fiddle of planting them. I put my hand up and offered to do it proclaiming that the promise of Leek and Potato Soup would make them worth the trouble. A slow and tedious job it turned out to be - tweezers may have been a helpful tool!
However, we are now harvesting them and making gorgeous soup - a recipe from my flatting days. AND it adds to the taste knowing the leeks have been lovingly planted by moi! I may even attempt a French Leek Tart of some description in time! (The celery we grew wasn't quite so good - a little too damp here in the Waikato in winter I think!)

Vichyssoise Soup

3 or 4 leeks
3 or 4 stalks of celery
2 cups diced potato
1 onion
1 Maggi Chicken Soup (or Stock) & water to mix
1 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper
2 Tbspns butter
Trim leeks, cutting off green tops. Chop leeks & onions. Saute in butter until slightly brown. Add chopped celery, potato, chicken soup dissolved in water. Add salt & pepper and enough water to cover veges. Bring slowly to the boil, simmer 3/4 hr with lid on. Put in blender/kitchen whizz or mash and enjoy a few lumps! Add milk or 1/2 cup cream - reheat gently but do not boil.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Return to Domesticity

Recently I watched a slot on 60 minutes - “Housewife Superstar” by Ellen Fanning (TV3 Mon 22nd June 09). I felt deeply moved! Here were all these ‘20-something Mums’ choosing to stay at home and raise their own children AND they’re proud to say, ‘I’m a housewife.’ It seems that there is a new wave of women who don’t ‘want it all’ and they don’t want to ‘turn into their own frazzled, working Mothers’ either. This sounds like the 50’s reborn! Is there more to retro than clothes and furniture? Is there a new generation who are rejecting feminist ideals because they are sick of the struggle and juggle of trying to raise children AND have a high powered career?

Australian Women’s Weekly ran an article in April 2009 ‘A Return to Domestic Bliss’ by Louise Mackay. ‘… it appears that women of all ages are heeding another call….. harking back to simpler times of home, hearth and heart, where the back garden was more than a manicured lawn and the occasional topiary tree and the kitchen was the bustling epicentre of family activity.’
I am enjoying being a housewife again after years of my own struggle and juggle. Our children are all grown up now so I am seriously indulging myself in all the delights of domesticity again… along with developing my passion for writing and family history. Our girls call me the ‘Domestic Goddess’ and so this blog is born. I hope my musings will inspire others to enjoy domestic life to the full – whether working outside the home or not!
 
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