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16 March 2009

Balloons, babies and birthdays

My friend Bernadette called in on Friday afternoon and while we sat, talking, on the front verandah something caught my eye. I looked to the road and a bunch of pink balloons was making it's way along the street. Our next door neighbour on one side, Angie, was taking the balloons to our next door neighbours on the other side, Rachel and Jude. Their baby had been born!

The next morning, I packaged up a simple little gift - two pure cotton washcloths and some soap, and Hanno and I visited next door. New parents often look a bit bleary-eyed, and Rachel and Jude were no exception. Rachel said hello, then disappeared, returning again with a tiny bundle of pinkness. "This is Jayda," she said, "would you like to hold her?" You all know the answer to that question. ; - )

We sat talking about Jayda's fast arrival (they got to the hospital with only 15 minutes to spare), and all the while I held that beautiful baby girl she slept, made funny faces and reminded me, once again, that new life always brings with it such potential. I wondered how the world would change in Jayda's lifetime and made a silent wish that she would live a long and happy life surrounded by family and friends. I will be over 80 when Jayda is old enough to leave home and if she is still living next door to us then I'm sure I'll remember the day I first held her.

It was my step-son Jens' birthday on Saturday. He and his wife Cathy live on the other side of our town, so early Saturday morning I made him a birthday cake. Cathy was at work so when we arrived Jens made us a cup of tea, sliced the cake and we had a lovely visit with him. Hanno asked me to make him the same cake, and I have to admit is was delicious, so I'll share the recipe with you. I wanted to use some of the walnuts Hanno cracked last week and as Jens loves apple cake, I combined the two.


Add these dry ingredients to your mixing bowl:
4 cups self raising flour OR 4 cups plain flour + 4 teaspoons of baking powder.
1 cup of brown sugar - the recipe called for a cup of brown sugar and a cup of white sugar but I thought that was too much. I only used the cup of brown. If you like very sweet cake, add the second cup.
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a smaller bowl add your wet ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup of olive oil
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract OR 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup of milk OR buttermilk OR whey

Mix the wet ingredients together and add them to the dry ingredients. Turn on the mixer and start mixing. You will probably need to add more milk, but mix the batter first before you add it. The amount of milk you need will depend on the weather and your flour. You want a well mixed batter, firmish but not too runny. Mix for about two minutes.

When you're happy with the batter, add 1 cup of crushed walnuts and 1 cup of pre-stewed OR canned apples and mix them in with your spoon or spatula. Then add the batter to a well greased and lined cake tin. Cook in a medium oven 175C (350F) until golden brown and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean.

While the cake is still hot, brush the top with a small amount of butter and sprinkle on a mixture of ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of white sugar.

When I make this cake for Hanno, I'm going to use butter instead of oil. I think it would also be great using bananas instead of apples.

The rest of our weekend was quiet, taken up with gentle chores, chasing chickens, knitting, writing, gardening and cups of tea on the front verandah. The vegetable garden is beginning to take shape and once again I can see the potential of it to feed us for another year. The soil is teaming with life, seedlings have been planted, natural fertilisers added and the plants are slowly taking on their own life. Thank you Hanno for all that work. I'll take some photos and do a post about it during the week.

I'm at work today and tomorrow and I look forward to all that will bring. I have a couple of meetings first up with some interesting people, a committee meeting later this afternoon and a meeting with politicians tomorrow (there's an election on). In between all that a million other things will happen. It makes me feel good to be part of such a vibrant and wonderful community. I hope you make your week all it can be.


  1. ooh first reader! up bright and early here in Woodford (NSW)... am loving your blog so much.. cannot wait to start my chores this morning.
    have a wonderful day!
    ps - I have my baby grandson staying with us for a week or so..his parents too. busy, busy. - love the gift idea for the new babe..

  2. Can't wait to try the cake~ looks delicious! I have been knitting dish cloths like crazy and enjoying it so much. Thank you for the idea to give them as baby gifts. I usually give hand made flannel baby blankets, but the soft wash cloths would be great also :)

    I have been reading through all of your archives...what a lovely time I am having~ gathering tid bits here and there and sipping my cup of tea. After reading a few posts the other day, I found "this energy" and proceeded to iron four shirts, sweep the back patio, bake bread, and declutter my kitchen hutch. Can I please share something with you??? Last night I made chicken and rice soup with biscuits from scratch. Not only did I make the broth etc... but I used left over rice from our chicken stir fry last week!!!! I had put the leftover rice in the freezer and it was perfect in the soup!!! My husband was so pleased. He is new to this simple/frugal way of life! I was just so tickled, I wanted to share. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging this simple mama! :)

  3. Thank you Miss R. Enjoy your week with your baby.

    Laura, I loved reading your comment. Great work on the chicken and rice soup! I hope you enjoy the week ahead.

  4. So Beautiful are newborns!
    And the gift is delightful and practicle unlike many baby gifts .
    The cake will be one I will definately try.
    It is a huge cake!

  5. I love the cake Rhonda..and with fresh walnuts too! Thank you for the recipe.
    The baby gift is useful and pretty. I too wouldn't have minded holding a newborn, they are so sweet and precious.
    I am knitting away on the squares, on my 4th now and am using a different pattern for far. I may run out of

  6. It's still Sunday the 15th here in Melbourne, Florida, how cool is that? Your cake looks delicious. I'm gonna have to try it.


  7. My husband loves apple cake, so I'll definitely have to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing! It looks delicious!

  8. I would love to try this cake, it looks delicious! I have a question about what size cake pan you used though. In the US, a cake pan (for layer cakes) are about 8 inches across and about 1 1/2 inches tall and hold about 16 ounces of batter - enough for one layer. Your cake looks much bigger than that! Can you tell me about how large is your cake pan?

  9. The cake recipe sounds delcious. I have a couple of bananas that look like they ripe for baking, I may try the substitution you mentioned.

    I wanted to let you know that I am doing it!! Knitting that is. I am so very happy with myself. I am still learning and my hand and finger tips are a little sore, but I am setting a goal of a least two squares by the end of this week:-) Thanks so much for the knit along and inspiration.


  10. Thank you so much for sharing such a good recipe for what is obviously a most delicious cake! Goodness, I must tell you that your blog inspires me like you cannot imagine! You have blessed us with so much useful information for living more meaningful, frugal lives. Thank you!

  11. Hi Rhonda, thanks for that recipe. I have some plums to use today so shall make a slight change to your ingredients and let you know how it goes.

    I have become a serial baker! Yesterday after the loaf was made, I made a second batch of dough for rolls. They were pronounced "the best ever" by Tony. (He does have a lot of blarney in him though the Irish is generations back).

  12. Hi Rhonda

    You must have read my mind! I was looking for a cake/banana bread recipe to use up some overripe bananas and will have to give yours a try - looks delish! BTW wanted to say thank you for the dog food recipe. My dog has been off her food yesterday and this morning so I made her some up with some chicken mince I had in the freezer - it was very enthusiastically recieved!

  13. I went and rated your blog today and rated you right up there with nadia comaneci, solid 10.

    I am going to make that cake, it looks terrific. Did you bake it in a dutch oven?

  14. The cake looks delicious and is my favourite style of recipe, open to interpretation. Lucky you being able to cradle a lovely, sweet newborn.

  15. PS The plums worked very well indeed.

  16. that recipe sounds wonderful. Do you think if I substituted apple sauce it would be close enough to the same.? I have a jar I need to use up.

  17. Am dying to try that recipe. Love the 'new baby' card - is that your handiwork, Rhonda ?
    Twan Potgieter
    South Africa

  18. Oh my! That cake looks mighty yummy! Could I possibly use some apples that I peel and dice or does it have to be canned apples??
    Ran out of canned apples and apples won't be available to can until August or Sept. in my area.
    Just got an e-mail from Laura in Utah and she is a grandma again. A sweet baby girl weighing in just under 6 pounds. I'm awaiting her reply as to when the newborn will be at "grammie's" so I can visit and give the new little one a squeeze and a little gift. Have a wonderful week and thanks for your great blog with all the good tips and info.
    Hugs, Aunt Bea

  19. Hello everyone.

    Terry, the cake pan I used is 8" x 2.3", that is standard cake pan in Australia. I do admit the cake is huge. Had it been for us, I would have cut it in two and frozen half of it.

    You're going well with your knitting, Rhonda, keep at it

    Wow Don, the perfect Nadia 10. Thank you. I bake the cake in a cake pan, the dimensions are above.

    Treasia, when using fresh apples, cut them up and soften them in a saucepan with a little bit of water added before letting them cool down and to add to your cake mix.

    Hello Twan dear, yes, I drew the baby card.

    Aunt Bea, see the comment I made for Treasia above. You just need to soften the apples a little before adding.

  20. Oh Rhonda, your turn will come! I got to hold a baby girl during the week and I couldn't help myself just stroking her tiny head and silky hair and adoring the way she searched for her mother's face.

    Lisa x
    (p.s. 3 x 1st prize, & 4 x 2nd prize at the local show!)

  21. What a wonderful gift idea! I am just making a hat and scarf set for friends of ours that are expecting their 3rd child in October. It will come in handy at that time of the year when the temps drop so low. Thanks for posting the recipe for the Walnut Cake! It looks delish and I will have to make it soon!


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