A nothing and everything weekend

9 August 2010
These past few mornings have been a real reminder that Winter is here and most mornings I sit at my computer in woolly slippers and at least three layers.  It's 10C now, yesterday it was 6C at this time, and when I go out to feed the animals, my breath comes streaming from my nostrils.  It's good to see your own breath before you; it's proof of life.  Not that we need such proof, we have our daily tasks to show us every day that life, and the way we have chosen to live it, is full of life affirming actions, organic growth and the constant productive forces that make up a simple life.

Back inside again and I light the heat under the soaked oats already in their pot and waiting to be cooked for breakfast.  We rarely have the same breakfast two mornings in a row.  Saturday it was bacon and eggs, yesterday we had porridge. Some mornings it will be poached eggs on toast, the next, tea and toast.  It depends on what we have too much of or what needs to be eaten.  It's cold inside now, not the coldness of outside, but cold enough to yearn for an open fire.  We have reverse cycle air-conditioning, but I'd rather freeze than use it.  I am hoping that by next Winter we'll have enough money to install a wood burning combustion stove.  In my future, I can see warm days and nights knitting in front of that fire and the thought of it warms me now, just enough.  It also makes me think of Bernadette.

As the day warms up we both move silently towards our tasks for the day.  Hanno is erecting climbing frames for the new cucumbers and beans, digging up sweet potato and fertilising the gardens with blood and bone and seaweed tea.  I am writing, cooking and knitting.  Yes, this is still the jumper I said would be ready for Hanno at the end of June.  I'm just finishing shaping the arms on the front of it, the back is done so I only have the two sleeves to go.  As soon as that is finished I'm onto some other knitting that I'm planning out now.  Actually, we have some big things happening here that I'm not quite ready to tell you about.  Be patient, my friends, all will be revealed soon.  Just know that I'm smiling almost all the time.

I forgot to take photos of the garden until late in the afternoon, so these photos are darker than usual.  You'll be able to see the three mounds where Hanno has planted three zucchinis, there are new bok choy plants as well as beans, tomatoes, lettuces, radishes and cucumbers.  The last of the cabbages was eaten this weekend and now we're getting ready for Spring and Summer.  Life goes on.

I made a loaf of bread for lunch on Saturday but yesterday it was scones - plain and with dates.  We have plenty of our backyard tomatoes for sandwiches at the moment and these simple lunches, with a cup of black tea, fill us until our evening meal.  And that reminds me, Gabrielle is sending me some of her sourdough starter and that should be in the mail today.  What a thoughtful and exciting gift!  Click here to go to her very interesting website, Beechworth Sustainability.  Thank you Gabrielle.

A few days ago Laurienna asked for the apple cake recipe I made last week.  I make up most of my recipes as I go depending on what's in the fridge and pantry, so even though I've probably shared an apple cake recipe with you before, this will be different.  Most cakes are a mixture of butter with sugar, add eggs (one at a time), and when fluffy and light, add the dry ingredients - flour and your flavourings.  I know most cook books say that baking is a science and not to stray from your recipes, but I always do and it generally gives me delicious cakes.  So reduce the sugar or eggs if you want to, add cinnamon (I didn't have any), add more apples, experiment.  Be bold!


Cake filling
2 granny smith apples - peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon butter + cinnamon if you have it
Combine the above and cook in a small saucepan for about five minutes with the lid on.  Remove from heat and cool. When cool, cut up a small handful of pecans.

180 grams/6ozs room temperature butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not vanilla flavouring - throw that out, it's not good for you)
4 eggs at room temperature

2 cups SR flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder OR 2 cups of plain flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder
enough milk to make a thick batter - depending on your flour and the humidity, between ½ - 1 cup.

In a mixing bowl add butter and sugar and cream it.  Creaming is beating the living daylights out of the ingredients to incorporate air.  When you cream butter and sugar, it becomes lighter in colour, and fluffy.

Add vanilla, then add eggs, one at a time.

Take the bowl off the mixer, fold in the flour by hand and a little bit of the milk. When all the flour is mixed in, add more milk until you have a nice thick cake batter.  Add half the mix to a cake tin, I used a round springform tin, then sprinkle on some crushed pecans and the apples.  Cover that layer with the rest of the batter.  Sprinkle pecans on the top.

Bake on 180C/350F for about 35 - 40 minutes or until the cake is brown on the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (with no uncooked batter on it).

It seems to me that Sunday is the perfect day for baking.  When I was a girl it was common to smell the roasting legs of lamb and apple cakes wafting through the air on Sunday.  Nowadays it doesn't happen much and I wonder what our neighbours think when they smell cakes, bread and meat being cooking at our place.  Maybe they don't sense the invisible nature of it. I guess most people now aren't used to taking in the natural environment and noticing different aromas that surround them.

At the end of our day we had a simple dinner of crumbed fish from the local fish co-op, coleslaw made from the last backyard cabbage and spicy potato wedges made with our home grown potatoes, still in their jackets.  A glass of water each helped wash it all down.  There was a little apple cake still there but neither of us wanted any dessert.

It still amazes and delights me, even after all this time, that our weekends, once filled with more public and expensive entertainment and leisure, now satisfy and nurture us with their productivity and involvement in ordinary activities and work.  We made a choice many years ago to leave what is superfluous to our needs behind.  We have not yet regretted that decision; I doubt we ever will.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that this week will be a good one for all of us.   Take care, friends.


  1. Thank you for sharing this look into your weekend. Thanks for the apple cake recipe also.

  2. I can just smell that bread baking! I love the smell of baked bread {or cookies} wafting throughout the house on any day:)

  3. Mmmm - that apple cake looks soooo yummy!
    With you mentioning Sunday roasts it reminded me of a little idea I had. I saw a large leg of lamb in the grocery store the other day for about $25, and I got to remembering how as children we used to have roast lamb for Sunday lunch, and then the cold meat for dinners on the following days, and I got to thinking about trying it out and seeing how far I can make it go. It used to be such a tradition every week with not just my mother, but my grandmothers as well. I wonder, with today's prices, if it would be just as thrifty now as it was then. I might try it.
    Have a good day. It's a rather chilly one here.

  4. Oooo, I liked the look of that cake to be sure. I think about your breath in the cold and I relish it, when it is 90 out and I have to come inside to cool down from chores outside. Pretty soon it will be turnaround time and I will be breathing cold air! Kit

  5. "We made a choice many years ago to leave what is superfluous to our needs behind. We have not yet regretted that decision; I doubt we ever will."

    I would really like your permission to quote these words, with credit to you, of course.

    A visit to your blog always leaves me uplifted and stronger. Thank you.

  6. No - baking is an art not a science. It requires love and creativity. Recipe are just guides. Well that is what I teach my cooking classes

  7. Hello Rhonda~No wonder both your boys are wonderful chefs, with you to guide them!
    I love the simplicity of description while telling us of your mealtimes and tea. Just as some people think putting words together is a science, they may call baking a science, but we who do it know that the love with which it is done is the Art of it.

  8. That was very enjoyable to read. I'm looking forward to hearing about the new happenings...and the new header is lovely.

  9. Rachel, yes, buy it. That was a common way of providing good quality, tasty meals in my youth. We had the roasted leg on Sunday for lunch, in the evening on toasted sandwiches for tea. Next day it was lamb curry with a lot of vegetables and the following, whatever was leftover, was put through the hand-grind mincer for shepherd's pie, topped with golden mashed potato. All for four people. Let me know how many meals you get from one leg.

    Thank you Rebecca. It's fine to use the quote.

    Carolyn and Melissa, thank you.

  10. HI Rhonda...
    I keep forgetting your seasons are different than in the USA. We're still in the middle of summer here in Oregon :) :) :)
    My dad and I have been spending more time cooking meals from scratch. It takes lots more time...BUT it's worth it. Today I cooked dinner...just a simple recipe for skillet hash from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook. My dad and I talked while I cooked. It was great fun and more than worth the extra effort!!!

    That apple cake looks yummy and so do those scones!!!! I think any person who gets invited to your house for tea is lucky indeed :) :) Have a lovely week. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  11. This post reminded me of weekends when I was a child. My Mum would usually cook a small joint of meat, or sometimes a chicken, and also a rice pudding for dessert, making use of all the space in the oven. Then we would do as Rachel mentions and eat the meat throughout the week making it go as far as we possibly could. I remember chewing on the bone when all the meat was gone!

  12. Knitting plans...and news tucked close to your heart, not ready to tell...
    Always reminds me of just about bursting to tell people that I was pregnant..........but of course I always waited a little bit before...as you do.
    We had a simple weekend here too Rhonda, hooking up our two huge rainwater tanks to the garage...wow what a relief and joy that is...especially now listening to the rain here in SA, and cooking. Two loaves of breakfast bread, one of white for dinner with home cooked pasta sauce, chicken stock for the weeks ahead to be frozen, an orange cake, ( your recipe, its a hit with the husband) and a batch of biscuits for lunch boxes this week...
    Phew..........I was tired last night....
    Have a lovely week Rhonda, x

  13. I so enjoyed reading about your happy weekend. Mine is not quite over. We are renovating our house so I feel it has been a bit of a challenge to have a simple, stress free weekend. However, the construction will come to an end and the end result will be worth all the inconvience. One of my favorite smells is the aroma of baked goods (all kinds). I believe I will end our hectic weekend by baking some little treat for the family for hanging in there (hubby is doing all the construction work himself and is learning as he goes) and then we will have a wonderful last memory of this slightly stressful weekend. Thanks for letting the idea formulate in my mind! I hadn't even thought about how much that would brighten our day until reading your post!

  14. That cake looks amazing...
    And maybe, just maybe are you knitting baby jumpers....?

  15. I always wonder the same thing - what do people think when they smell my cooking and baking? Living where we do we get cooking smells wafting in the windows from nearby buildings or apartments often - so I assume our aromas travel as well. It can be fun to walk in the building when I come home and smell someone's dinner cooking - but the best is when I walk down our hallway and realize that it's coming from my apartment!

  16. Good morning Rhonda,

    How pleasant it was to have a break from my home duties and after having a cuppa with my big fellow his Mum and my Dad who live with us, I wandered in wash the cups and read your lovely blog. Todays writings made me feel so good. You have the happy nack of making life seem very calming and that's what most of your readers would be aiming for. Have a great week.

    Blessings Gail

  17. It's hard to believe winter is upon you now! The apple cake looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  18. Sounds like the perfect weekend...and sourdough starter sounds like the perfect gift! I would be absolutely lost without my starter as it kick starts so many of my recipes now...I have even thought about how I will manage it when going away on holidays. Yesterday was spent making 20 sourdough rolls and sourdough apple/cinnamon buns...happy tummys.

  19. I love smelling people's cooking when I walk past their houses! Smell is such a powerful sense that can transport us to particular times and places, and food definitely does that for me :-) Part of my love for slow-cooked meals is the lovely scent that fills the house while it's cooking away. Bliss!

  20. Reading your blog, as you return to the ways of days past, puts me right in the middle of a book I read when I was in grade school. I don't remember the title,wish I could, but I get the same feeling of being there, as I did with that book. They endured plagues of locusts or grasshoppers as we know them,destroying their long awaited crops, and many other tragedies of that day, but reading your blog brings the feelings I felt reading the story, all over again. It's a good feeling though, of being right there, doing just what you are doing.

  21. hi
    well written ,I love to read about your day and how you make the most of it...
    I read your blog very regularly (say every single day) and just feel good just reading it..
    I am like you while baking cakes i do add or subtract which makes no difference i try to make my cakes more healthy by using wheat flour and oil instead of butter and they really come out well I always feel we are feeding the family healthy stuff so why look at the texture and colour which is a little different with wheat flour..
    Everyday you teach me a lot and i am thankful

  22. I loved this post. I was just thinking the other day how so many people I know do not keep a pantry stocked with staples like I was taught to do. To me it is just natural to baking supplies and basic ingredients at the ready.

    And I do remember roasted leg of lamb with mint jelly from my childhood!

  23. So you soak your oats and cook them in the same liquid? You don't drain and rinse them and then cook them? I have done both and I don't noticea difference, and I can't find any diffinative reason to soak them, drain them and rinse them and then use new water to cook them, seems a bit wasteful if there is no science behind it.

  24. Rhonda, I have made your apple cake and SO love it! I wanted to share something I tried - I "greased" the inside of the pans with butter, which I then sprinkled with sugar before putting the batter in. This gave a lovely light crust around the outside. Instead of thinly slicing the apples I used a box grater and shredded them on the largest side. Once they were all grated I squeezed some of the juice out (into a cup - oh what a lovely juice!) and placed the shredded apple in the center. I generously sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar (sometimes some walnuts added) the apples in the center came out almost like a pudding! This is such a wonderful recipe! Thank you so much for sharing it!


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