Saturday, February 27, 2010


While our tomatoes sun themselves on our kitchen windowsill I am scratching at a couple of wee patches of peeling skin from my recent sunbathing efforts! Tomatoes have been a bit slow to come on this summer but we are now starting to stash a few so that I can make some relish. I adore a daub of relish with a meaty, home-kill sausage! I did my first relish making last summer and am quite converted to the concept. This is what I wrote this time last year before I had started up my blog....

18 February 2009. Today I made Tomato Relish! Quite momentous for me - my first attempt at 'preserves'. Although my Darling Man and I did bottle some beetroot out of our garden a few months ago. He really likes beetroot and cheese sandwiches.

To prepare myself to 'do something' with the mounting pile of tomatoes for our garden - I read up every recipe for tomato relish in my possession. Deciding it all looked quite manageable I set about making a combination of three of the most appealing and workable recipes. It seems to have turned out rather tasty. The big test will be when my Darling Man comes home and slops some on a cracker and cheese. I was rather heavy-handed with the mustard, curry powder and cayenne pepper so it is quite a 'perky' brew! He will like that. On the jars I have slapped some of the cute 'Cecily' labels that Dean & Erica gave me for Christmas.

The photo doesn't really record the momentous occasion truthfully - it's a set up photo shot taken after all the clean up. In actual fact, I ended up with relish splodges in lots of different places all around my kitchen, by the time I juggled the sterile jars, heavy pot and HOT, sticky relish!!! All things considered I am encouraged and keen to have a go at Plum Jam next.

Re-reading what I wrote last year confirms to me that we ARE having such a different tomato season this year. Last year we had a 'mounting pile' - this year I am counting to see if I have enough for the recipe... that is after we've eaten some fresh in salads and on crackers and sandwiches!

Sharon's Version of Tomato Relish

12 medium tomatoes
6 onions
600mls malt vinegar
500gms sugar
1 Tblspn salt
1/2 Tblspn mustard powder
1/2 Tblspn curry powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
crushed garlic to taste

Cut up tomatoes and onions, cover with vinegar and stand for one hour. Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Then add all other ingredients. Stir well and boil for one hour. Stir occasionally. Thicken with 3 Tblspns of flour mixed to a paste with some vinegar. Bottle and seal.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Nectarines are in season - 'run down your chin' juicy and sweet. I decided that they may go well in a muffin with a bit of strong Vanilla Essence, a few threads of shredded coconut and a sprinkling of chopped white chocolate.

Cafe muffins can often be disappointing - sometimes stodgy or too LARGE like a doorstop or so sweet that the only thing you can taste is the chocolate and not the fruit. I think an excellent muffin is light, and the flavors are individually recognisable and yet combined they enhance the overall 'muffin experience'. I am happy to report that my mornings muffin making was quite satisfactory. The nectarine tasted like it was lightly poached but kept its shape and flavor. The coconut was just a 'hint flavor' and the odd sweet burst of white chocolate and vanilla brought in a little sweet relief.

The cotton/linen serviette is part of a previously un-opened, 'as new' boxed set I picked up recently from a second hand shop. It has a reasonable sized table cloth to match. I love the colours!

The fruit muffin recipe I use is a basic one that allows you to use your own combination of fruit-y, sweet-y flavors. I've tried a few different combination's. I'm sure you have some of your own up your sleeve.

Carey-Lee & Israel's Fruit Muffins

100 gms butter
1 cup milk
4 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 cup of any fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup choc chips (optional)

Melt butter, add egg and beat well. Add milk, fruit and sugar - mix well. Add flour, baking powder and chocolate. Stir but don't over-mix. Cook at 200 deg C for 15 minutes.

My muffins pictured had a generous cup of chopped, fresh nectarine, 1/4 cup of shredded coconut and 1/4 cup chopped white chocolate. I also sprinkled a little coconut on each muffin before putting them in the oven which toasted up a treat!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Stitch in Time

You never know what you may be called upon to do when you are looking after children. My Darling Man had to re-stitch Barbie's boob tube - a mending job that would normally fall to me but since I was busy teaching the other two children to knit - my hands were full! I must say, by the way, that I am extremely jealous that he is still able to thread a needle without the aid of glasses! He did a fine repair job and Barbie was soon up and running again. Well, back 'in the game' anyway. Littl-ey toddled off quite happily to resume her play.

The knitting lessons required a slightly longer term commitment - we had several goes at it while our nephew and nieces were with us. We also had a lot of fun in amongst the frustrations. I love the whole concept of the passing on of skills. My Mum is a fabulous knitter - she was originally taught by her aunt. Our own daughter knits cute little jerseys and things for her work-mates babies. She was first taught by my Mum when she was about 4 yrs old. We all have to start somewhere. I am thankful for my Mum's patience in teaching me to knit as well. My niece had a head start because one of her other aunties had already covered the basics with her in a previous school holiday.

My nephew was heartily encouraged for his efforts when we spoke of it at the school office the next day - someone commented that 'back in the day in Scotland knitting was a craft strictly for the men!' Apparently during the Renaissance, men were the only ones who could join knitting guilds, while women took care of spinning.

1855 Shepherd knitting while watching his flock!

Anyway, both my stitching students did very well and are on their way to knitting their first 'peggy square'.
And I love that my bloke-sy, grunty, Darling Man is happy to do things that might normally be designated as 'woman's work'.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


My Dad and his 'cobbers' are pictured here at Dad's 21st Birthday party! When we were children one of those 'cobbers' used to send us a sackful of sweetcorn in late summer all the way from Sunny Gisborne. I think they traveled on the NZ Road Services bus! We would munch away at the sweet, juicy kernels with melted butter dripping down our little chins. To this day I always think of 'Uncle Keith' whenever I eat corn on the cob! He also used to send us lumpy sacks of pumpkins. Beautiful, deep orange, dry but sweet pumpkin that Mum would roast to perfection - YUM! The other 'cobber' drove trucks for Refrigerated Freight Liners and we would look out for him whenever we traveled the Napier-Taupo Road to visit our Nana, and our aunties, uncles and cousins. Dad would say, 'Hey, I wonder if that is Uncle Charlie?'

The really special thing is that these three men here pictured all went to school together and are still friends to this day! They and their wives still get together about every 6 months for a weekend in some interesting place. They have now all moved on from their hardest days of toil to more appropriate retirement activities, although Mum and Dad did pass one of Uncle Keith's lovely pumpkins onto us recently so he is still involved in farming to some extent. Uncle Charlie painstakingly restores old cars into purring things of beauty. And my own lovely Dad (far right) is no longer organising runs for Fonterra Tanker Drivers but now drives City Buses in Rotorua. I feel very proud of my parents and their ability to maintain long term friendships. I also admire their friendliness towards and genuine interest in new acquaintances. They have set us a good example to follow.

All reminiscing aside.... sweet corn is in season - we eat it as often as we can while it's fresh with lots of butter and salt. AND I'm sneaking a bunch of cobs fully clothed in their husks and silky tassels into our freezer to microwave and add to winter soups later on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quiet Mornings

When my Darling Man is catching some zzz's after Night Shift I need to do quiet things so that he can get the best possible sleep. A lot of my most favorite things are 'quiet things'. Knitting being one of them. Sometimes it is a seriously addictive pass-time. Since it's all about the colour for me I find I simply can't put it down! I think to myself - 'I will just do the next colour and see what it will look like...' then 'just the next colour to see how that works in... ' and on it goes. Before I know it I have almost made a hot-water-bottle cover in one quiet morning. Other things I do quietly are reading, crosswords, writing, blogging, painting my toenails.... catching up on my weekend magazines. It's all very pleasant to while away some hours quietly until such a time as my Darling Man emerges from his slumber!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Loving Cambridge

About once a month I accompany my friend on a pleasant little jaunt to Cambridge. We ducked into the main street, triangular cafe to order our coffee and a tasty morsel and tucked ourselves up in the 'corner snug' to enjoy a catch up on life's ups and downs and happenings. The company of a good friend over coffee was a most enjoyable beginning to my lovely time in Cambridge. We meandered up the street and poked our noses in a few shops and the odd dressing room to try on as well. I tried on this gorgeous wee frock from the sale rack at OobyRyn. It was nice on but didn't quite 'grab me' enough to buy it. I have since read that Robyn Brooks, Ooby Ryn's fashion designer also does award winning millinery by special order. So if you are ever in need of a hat....

My friend duly went off to her appointment and I was left to my own devices for an hour or so. I love a wander and a fossick in Cambridge - especially in their Second Hand shops! I usually do the rounds while I'm there...
I scored big time! Some cute vintage fabric. Another New Zealand made '70's Coffee mug for my collection. A dainty silver oblong cake plate with a cute handle which I will endow with some suitably dainty baking one day... watch this space! A nice little paisley, silky top that fitted me just fine. I like dear old paisley patterns! A piece of expensive looking upholstery fabric in gorgeous colours to make cushions for my retro chair for a mere two bucks! I usually pop into Kate Fitzpatrick's to drool over their fancy domestic wares. I splashed out a cute wee tea cosy card for my niece's Birthday! Feeling chuffed with my purchases I took a walk up toward the Town Hall to find a now much needed toilet! Back in the days they used to call it 'spending a penny', in Cambridge it costs you 50 cents - money well spent in my opinion!
The architecture and gardens within the town limits are quite beautiful and seemed to look particularly stunning bathed in summer sunshine. I then remembered the HertiageGallery I love to look around there - the artwork is varied and interesting. One day if I come into some money I might just head in there and buy something. Meantime I am happy to enjoy a visual feast of art appreciation for a moment or two and dream about what I would buy if I could!
Yep I love Cambridge - its a special place. My grandparents used to live there so I think about them too and remember quite clearly our browsings in Wright's bookshop and coming away with a colouring book and a new set of un-spoilt, shiny crayons! On other visits to Cambridge with my friend I have spent time thumbing through their lovely books. The town's gift shops are divine too!

I have heard that the Cambridge Farmers Market which is held weekly on a Saturday is well worth checking out as well....

Lovely, lovely - so many things to see and do in a quaint little rural town where most things are within easy walking distance for a happy wanderer!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Plum Duffed It!

We were given some locally grown plums some of which I promptly stewed with a Plum Crumble in mind. But I 'duffed' it! I have now had two attempts at the 'Crumble' and it seems that the harder I try the more success eludes me! I mean to say - how tricky can a Crumble actually be??? I can remember learning to make it for Form 2 (Year 8) cooking for heaven's sakes!

The first attempt failed to crisp and crumble - in fact the topping looked more like buttery porridge! It tasted OK - well we ate it anyway... with milk... like you would with porridge! The second attempt was crisper I guess but the dry, dusty patches let the overall thing down big time. I am not happy! I consider myself a reasonably competent cook and baker of puddings and yet here I find myself stumbling over the basics!

Since we were going to be looking after three darling children for about a week while their parents were overseas I decided to get the heads up from the Aunty who had been looking after them before us. I asked her, 'Any tips... like what do they like to eat for example?' She said, 'Oh, they like basic food... you know stewed fruit.. Crumble!!!' 'Mmmm...' I thought to myself - 'I don't know if they'll be getting any Crumble out of this Aunty!!!' I could probably manage an old fashioned Fruit Sponge Pudding I thought to myself. Turns out that the darling children arrived in time to get a taste of 'Plum Crumble Version Two'. They assured me it was, 'Really Yum!' and that I could make it for them again if I liked!!! Mmmm perhaps it was a little improved by a second spell in the oven to reheat it!!! They also told me that their Dad makes the best crumble! Darling children - I am happy on this matter to be upstaged by 'at home/house Dad' who does a brilliant job! I admit defeat on the Crumble front!

Is there anyone out there with a 'never fail' working Crumble recipe - as in one that you have made recently and it turned out fantastic! I'd love to have it and your tips for good crumble making to go with it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Daily Dose

Recognising the need for a daily dose of vitamin C to give a power boost to my iron tablets has given me a fresh appreciation for our faithful grapefruit tree. For many a year its abundant fruit has lain unnoticed and largely unappreciated by moi. The odd diligent soul (from a generation 'afore mine) has scored a bagful to make Marmalade and passed us on a jar or two to enjoy but I have ignored them to my peril!!! I was completely ignorant of what I was missing! However this summer we have been ferreting away its sweet, health giving juices into the freezer in ice-block portions that can be melted in a little water at our convenience. We figure we will have vitamin C aplenty to last us until our Mandarin tree is laden with ripe fruit.

My Nana used to give us children grapefruit halves that were sprinkled with sugar for our breaky when we stayed with her in the school holidays. We would scoop out the fruit, a segment at a time and screw up our little faces due to the tart, sharp flavour. We endured it under fascinated sufferance. It HAD to be good for us we concluded! And good for us it jolly well was! An American writer Michael Pollan says: 'Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise.' Now there's a good tip! I try to gently convince our adult children to take some grapefruit when they call in - insisting on it's sweet juicy-ness but so far they have politely declined. Unfortunately, grapefruit has a bit of a reputation to live down with some, as a 'nasty taste experience'. Well, I do declare I am now quite sold on the fruit! Before the grapefruit we had our own sweet, juicy oranges which have only just finished. Our baby lemon tree is struggling... but they are all lovingly tended by my Darling man so we know what they are being fed and what they are exposed to so we have a personal guarantee of the quality of the fruit. Anyway, I am lately thankful for the daily dose of vitamin C our citrus trees provide us with.

I am challenged by my reading of American author Barbara Kingsolver - 'Animal,Vegetable, Miracle - Our Year of Seasonal Eating' at the moment and trying to do the 'utilise and eat the fruit that is in season' thing a bit more these days. Kingsolver says - "Respecting the dignity of a spectacular food means enjoying it at its best." And "Waiting for foods to come into season means tasting them when they're good..." I am wondering if anyone knows of a similar sort of book based on seasonal eating in New Zealand?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Terror of Togs

Togs can be the most terrifying things! Firstly, there's the terror of being able to buy some that you feel comfortable enough to wear in public. They look harmless and workable enough on the rack. However you head for the harshly lit changing room to struggle and stretch and smooth them onto yourself and you quickly realise they were just as terrifying as you thought they might be! And 'NO - they are just not the one'. You rush to get them OFF as quickly as possible before the store attendant's cherry voice alerts you to a possible invasion of your more private of privacy-s!!!!

After finally purchasing something that 'could work' / you think you can manage to step out in public in and not feel too self conscious.... well reasonably sure you won't spill out anywhere at least. You head on down to the public pools to do your swimming for exercise' routine. Swimming IS great, low impact exercise for those of us more mature women who want to keep fit! But you do need to wear togs!

Then, just when you are starting to feel comfortable and relaxed in your swimwear - the terrifying togs suddenly become comfortable and relaxed as well!!!! The Lycra gives way, due to over exposure to chlorine and that now familiar pair of togs is no longer holding you firm - ESPECIALLY once they are wet! All looked well and good in the changing room as you gave a quick glance in the mirror on the way out into the public eye. Alas, as you emerge from the pool, via the steps and you realise that your togs are now gravitationally challenged. They lag behind you and sag in a most unattractive fashion around your mid regions! Blow - that means I am going to have to go through the whole tog buying routine all over again!

Oh the terror of togs! I still remember the feel of the togs I am wearing in that photo when I was nearly 3 yrs old. They were a sturdy, stiff-ish cotton drill (before the days of Lycra) with perky ruffles and rows of shearing elastic to make them firm around the torso. They were red and white. The wee chap (yes that's a boy) beside me is niftily clad in rompers which was quite acceptable for boys back in the days. S i g h, oh if only wearing togs were that simply solved these days......
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