29 April 2015

Banana cake recipe

Hello everyone! Just a short post today to give you the recipe for the banana cake I made this week. This cake usually has walnuts in it but I didn't add them because Hanno is having trouble chewing at the moment. Instead of the nuts, I added large pieces of banana to the batter and when baked, they were creamy and delicious. The chunks of banana lengthen the baking time a little bit, so check the centre with a toothpick before removing it from the oven. As it is in this recipe, the cake would be great for sending to school/work as it has no nuts in it and it would survive a lunch box.

Just a quick word about the liquid in this batter. * I used 100 mls/3.5oz buttermilk but you could also use 50 mls plain yoghurt or sour cream mixed with 50 mls milk, OR 100 mls milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice added to sour the milk, OR you could use plain milk. It will work well with any of those combinations.

  • 125 grams/1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb/baking soda
  • 1½  cups self raising flour
  • 100 mls/3.5 oz buttermilk, or alternative *
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 1 extra banana to add to the batter

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time and beat in. When the eggs have been added,  sift the bicarb and flour together and add it to the batter with the buttermilk and mix it in. Don't over beat it. Finally, add the bananas and fold in with a spoon.

Place the batter into a greased and lined bar tin and add the chopped chunks of banana to the top of the batter.  They'll sink in while the cake is cooking. Bake on 175C/350F for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

This is a lovely fruit cake and I hope that when it cools a little, you cut a slice, make a cup of tea or coffee and sit down to enjoy it.  xx


28 April 2015

What the old folks get up to on a Monday

Along with the slowing down and the occasional aches and pains of ageing, there are also many pleasures. They are too many to count, they change all the time and they're often simple things that aren't noticed or not possible when you're younger and working for a living. Yesterday's particular pleasure was roast lamb for Monday's lunch. What decadence! It's an innocent pleasure, a real part of Australian family life and something to share with you all on this cool Autumn day.

My sister and I grew up knowing two things: mum and dad were always right and, come hell or high water, there would be a roast lunch on Sunday. It could have been pork, chicken or a rolled beef roast but mostly it was lamb. Dad would usually do the cooking on Sunday and mum would help serve and wash up. Along with the meat there would be potatoes, pumpkin, onion, peas, carrots and gravy. Afterwards there was sometimes a dessert of an apple pie or steamed pudding with custard. It was all cooked from scratch and always delicious. We didn't have a lot of money but mum always brought good food.

I like slow cooked lamb so I put the leg in the hot oven around 7am and after 30 minutes reduced the temperature to 160C. It sat there roasting till about 11am when I added potatoes, pumpkin and onion and turned up the heat again.  At 11.30am I removed the lamb, put it on a plate, wrapped it in foil and covered it with a clean tea towel. When the vegetables were cooked, I removed them from the roasting pan, saved the juices for the gravy and started boiling a broccoli head.

I had home made mint sauce in the cupboard so that was added to the plate of steaming roast lamb and vegies. I thought of all those people out there having a sandwich and a cuppa for lunch, all those people eating a burger and chips, and all those who had nothing. I wished I could have shared lunch with anyone who was hungry. We'll be eating this lamb today as lamb curry with rice and I'll give some to Sunny for her tea when she picks up Jamie this afternoon. There is nothing worse than having to cook a meal when you've been on your feet for hours, working. A good curry made with roast lamb should help Sunny unwind after work and know she is loved.

And for dessert?  We're harvesting our backyard oranges at the moment and even though they look a bit green and are marked in places, they're as juicy and sweet as the best orange you're ever likely to buy. In fact these oranges are better than those you buy.  Nothing better on a warmish autumn day than to finish off lunch with an organic orange.

I baked a banana buttermilk cake yesterday as well. It's for morning teas during the week. Usually I add walnuts to a banana cake but as Hanno is still having problems with his teeth, I added thick pieces of banana instead. Delicious! I'll be doing that again.

There is enough leftover lamb for at least two more meals. I think I'll make up all of it into a curry today and then I won't have to cook lunch again until Thursday. Many people think cooking from scratch takes longer, and sometimes it does, but there are ways of saving time too. I would have spent about 15 minutes yesterday peeling vegetables and making gravy. Today it will be another 15 minutes spent preparing the curry. That's not too bad - 30 minutes all up for our main meal over three days. And maybe I'll be able to stretch it even further. :- )  What are your tricks for saving time when you're cooking?


24 April 2015

Weekend reading

The weather is cool here now and it's ideal for working inside and out.  This weekend I'll be finishing up the crafts that will be photographed for the new book. I'm looking forward to it because it's a refreshing and interesting change from writing, which I'm doing today.  I hope your weekend is all you want it to be. What are you doing?


Anzac Day should be quarantined from politicians
Indigenous Australia, a fabulous beast
Secret photos of Sydney
Australia faces battle to maintain living standardsA messy room
Old fashioned
How to make flower fairy lights
Arts And Crafts Activities May Ward Off Dementia, Study Finds  This was posted by Coffeee/Sue on the forum but I thought a few here might like to read it too.  Thanks Sue!

23 April 2015

Getting ready for older old age

Hanno and I have spent a lot of time this year and last fixing, painting, rearranging and fluffing our home to prepare it and ourselves for our older old age. We're in the early stage of old age now, the perfect time to assess what we'll need in the future, what work we want to do and are capable of, and to use that information to prepare our home to keep us safe, warm and content in the years ahead.  We don't want to replace furniture and paint verandahs when we're in our 80s. Soon it will be too late to do this work but it couldn't be done too soon because we wouldn't have know what to do.

We also have to make sure we spend our money wisely. So in the past year and a bit, we've enlarged the chicken coop, replaced an extremely long boundary fence, removed two vegetable garden beds, erected a growing trellis for fruit, had the bathroom floors professionally cleaned, replaced an old bathroom vanity unit and mirror, replaced carpet in our bedroom, replaced an 18 year old air conditioner, removed living room curtains and replaced them with timber blinds, bought a new couch, bought new-to-us outdoor furniture, painted the roof and replaced all the old screws, replaced the front door and security door, decluttered our wardrobes and drawers, and in this last couple of months, tiled a small area of the front verandah, painted the floor and updated my office. And we did it all without going into debt or buying anything on credit, we bought when we could afford it and apart from the bathroom floors, bedroom carpet and the verandah tiling, we did the work ourselves.

Everything was done as we could afford it and when we had the time.

I'm not going to tell you it was easy, at times it was exhausting but now we're at the end of it, I'm so pleased we did it. We both feel we're retained the integrity of our home, it's still an expression of us and not a show piece. This work has been made easier because we've done ongoing maintenance and upkeep all through our lives. But now we have to get it right. Money isn't automatically replaced with our wages every month as it was in the past and it's vital we get the best value for the money we have.

Ongoing home maintenance is essential, not only on a monthly basis with lawn mowing, gutters, cleaning floors, ovens and fridges, but also with a longer view. If you have a plan to replace, renovate and modernise as you progress through the years, you won't come to a point when you have to do it all at once. There will come a time when, like us, you'll have to do the last of the big jobs so you'll remain independent and comfortable in old age, but if you've kept up your maintenance before that point, it will be much easier and cheaper to do those later important renovations.

How do you manage this in your home?


22 April 2015

Time to get serious again

What a grand couple of weeks it's been with my sister Tricia here. I swear we get closer as we get older and at times it was like having another me here. :- ) She helped me with the sewing and crochet for the book and we tossed around ideas about things to add. It's so helpful having a sounding board that you know is sensible, intelligent and creative.  

I wrote last week that Tricia had me select fabric to make some new covers for our outdoor lounge. Well, here it is: green rabbit/hare cushions with blue-grey stripes.  I just love it.  A couple of months ago we had someone in to tile an area near the front door where concrete cancer was creeping in and then Hanno stripped back some older uneven paint and painted the floor a beautiful shade of bluish grey. It's so peaceful and relaxing out there now.

Hanno found some plums at the shops last week and being very partial to plums he bought a few that I made into a plum cake. The batter was very dry and I thought it might not turn out well but the cake was delicious and was eaten in two days (I had one slice). I won't say who had the most cake but it was a man. ;- )

Here is the recipe it used (from Smitten Kitten). If you have no plums, use peaches, apricots or pears, it would be equally delicious. As usual, I made adjustments, the chief one being to reduce the amount of sugar:
  • 1 cup of SR flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 plums, pitted and sliced
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in. Add the dry ingredients and fold in a with a spatula.

Place the batter in a round cake tin, greased with butter and lined on the bottom with baking paper.

Place the sliced plums on top of the batter and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F. The batter is thick and the plums easily stay on the top. 

The cake is baked when it's golden and smells cooked or when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Serve warm but it keeps well and will be just as good the following day.

I drove Tricia to the airport to fly back to Sydney yesterday afternoon and we were both nervous because the weather there was atrocious. She arrived late but she was safe. And now we're back to what we call normal. I'm still busy writing but I've reached the halfway point now. The visit with my sister felt like a holiday for me and I feel refreshed and ready for whatever is ahead. So after a brief period of laughter, frequent cups of tea and lots of talking, it's time to get serious again. Let's go!


17 April 2015

Weekend reading

This is my desk, and yes, it's usually untidy.

It's been a wonderful week here full of life and family. A birthday always makes me look back and look forward to think about where I am and what needs changing. Often I write those musings in my blog but this year there was no time. Here are my musings from 2013, I hope you enjoy the read.  Did you have a good week too? Let's relax over the weekend and get stuck in again next week.  xx

Ethical clothing
Small town clothing building projects
Australia is still the world most expensive country to live in
Americans spending billions to subsidise the working poor
How to build a brick oven
Why should cancer make me want to knit?
A beginners guide to knitting

16 April 2015

A fine day for my birthday

 Sunny's sushi buffet.

We had a lovely day yesterday. It was my birthday and, as usual, I was made feel like the queen of Sheba.  Sunny and Kerry invited us all over for lunch and when we arrived Sunny had their new home looking beautiful and some delicious food waiting to be eaten. She did up two huge sushi platters for us as well as Korean fried chicken and some tofu-like acorn squares. The acorn from an oak tree had been dried and cooked into this delicious side dish.  Sunny is such a fine chef, whatever she cooks is superb.

Tricia sewing the covers.

After lunch Hanno, Tricia and I went to Spotlight to pick up a few extras for our sewing bee today. We're sewing for the new book, I hope you like what we're making, I think you will. This book is full of practical projects that suit simple lives. So today Hanno is out all day and Tricia and I are about to set up for sewing. I hope to get a few hours of writing in later. We'll be eating leftovers today so the food is taken care of, now we just have to get a wriggle on and start our fabric work.

Every year I do a birthday photo. This is from yesterday, after lunch.

I got a few spectacular birthday gifts this year and I want to talk about two of them. Tricia took me to the shops and asked me to pick out some fabric to cover the seating and cushions on the front verandah. Then she made them up!  It's looks absolutely fabulous. I'll show you some photos soon.  And the other gift was from Hanno, who gave me a French ironing press. If you've been reading here for a while, you'll know I hate ironing. Well, this press is so easy, I've been enjoying ironing! Wonder of wonders.  I'll write about it next week.

I have the best family. Every year on my birthday I marvel at how lucky I am to have the family I'm in the middle of. They see me at my worst and still there is love, appreciation and warmth. I'm one lucky woman.


13 April 2015

A pictorial of the past few days

It's calm in our home, even with four people here. Yesterday we had Jamie for the day and my sister Tricia is staying with us for a couple of weeks.  The routine is held together by meal times and cups of tea. Isn't that a lovely way to live a day?  This morning, just after breakfast, Hanno, Tricia and Jamie drove down to the coast to the Caloundra markets. They said it was mostly knick-knacks for tourists and there were no fruit and vegetables. They did come back with a very good loaf of rye bread with seeds though. We had a slice each with our lunch which was corned beef hash - using up the leftovers from Saturday's lunch.

Looking towards the chicken coop and creek from the house. From left those trees are : native fig, pecan, Eureka lemon and Washington orange.
Some of the ladies leaving the coop for their early morning stroll.

Jamie with two new cushions sewn by Tricia, the cushion queen. She added homemade bobbles.

Tricia knitting and watching a Norwegian cooking program.

Tricia and I have been working on crafts for the new book although she has done much more than I have.  Most of the time I've been at my laptop, fan on, door closed, writing.  But even though I've been closed away, I can feel the calmness in our home. We are working, relaxing, reading, crafting, cooking and baking, but the rhythm here is quiet and peaceful. It makes such a difference to work in a tranquil home.

Above and below: preparing and then painting the front verandah.  It's all finished now and it looks fabulous.

Chocolate buttermilk cake.
Someone's sewing equipment above, and below, one of many stacks of fabric.

I'm really pleased to tell you the book is half finished. It's all going along quite well with only a few brain freezes in my department. If it keeps going this way, it will all be finished on time in mid-June. Thank you for your continued visits, even with fewer posts. I hope you read through the archives because I've been told more than once that there are real treasures there.

I hope you are well and if you're in Australia, that school holidays are treating you kindly. My plan for the coming week is to keep writing and cooking but I do have to make some laundry liquid and some four ingredient soap. I'll probably do that on Tuesday. What will you be doing in the coming week?


10 April 2015

Weekend reading

We're spending some beautiful autumn days with my sister who is visiting us. The humidity evaporated, there has been plenty of talking and tea on the verandah, and cool nights have given us restful sleeps. I just love autumn. Today's menu will be pumpkin and sweet potato soup with our second lot of raspberry and lemon mascapone Napoleons for dessert. What are you cooking this weekend?

Eggs and tofu recipes
Overpopulation, overconsumption, in pictures
Slow TV
Saving money on the homestead
Crochet mug cosy tutorial
Crochet cat nest pattern
Knitting classic mittens pattern
Hand quilting
Sweet passion fruit tarts recipe
Caring people into change - this is not my usual subject matter here, so read it first before you decide to show it to your family
Tutorial garden cart/toy box DIY
Incredible pencil drawings


7 April 2015

Me and my sister - 1

I have only one sibling, my sister Tricia. She is flying up from the Blue Mountains today to spend a couple of weeks here with us. I'm really looking forward to it. We'll be talking, drinking tea, sewing, talking, knitting, eating good food and talking. In that little photo above, I'm the one with the blonde hair. My fuzzy wuzzy top was pink and Tricia's was blue although I think we disagreed on those colours the last time we saw this photo.

When we were younger, we were as different as two sisters can be but over the years we've grown as close as two peas in a pod. Now we  talk on the phone almost every day and spend as much time as we can with each other. After a lifetime of excellent health, Tricia has spent the last year with an illness that has just been diagnosed in the last couple of weeks. So this visit she'll be resting (and talking) and we'll be able to look after her for a little while. She and I will also be sewing a few things for the book. We're both looking forward to that.

I'll post a few sneak peaks of what we're up to, but expect us to be surrounded by fabric or holding needles. And talking.


3 April 2015

Weekend reading

Easter is usually the last chance people have to camp out before the cold weather starts here. Camping is big where I live, especially over the Easter weekend. For the rest of us who stay home and sleep in real beds, I know the Easter bunny will find us but I'm not so sure about the campers.

Sunny and Jamie fly home tomorrow and I'm dying to see them both. We might see them tomorrow, but if not they'll be here with Kerry on Sunday for Easter lunch. Good times!

I hope you have a great Easter break. Take it easy, put your feet up and relax. I'll see you again next week, when my sister will be here.  :- )

Cross over apron pattern and tutorial
When apps are driven by the market, there’s only one winner. It’s not you …
How to use pins the right way
Underground Hybrid Self Watering Rain Gutter Style Grow System
Faux cheesecake - dairy-free
A simple life is a good life - five reminders from the Amish
In depth companion planting guide
Emissions links to respiratory illnesses double in Australia

2 April 2015

Raspberry and lemon marscapone Napoleons

If you want a delicious dessert that looks good but doesn't take much time or effort to put together, try this one. I made it for Hanno the other day because he'd been helping me so much. It was a very small thank you that he loved. When he went back to do the shopping yesterday, he bought another container of marscapone. A little hint maybe?

Raspberry and lemon marscapone Napoleons 
Makes 4 large or 8 small Napoleans
  • One sheet frozen puff pastry
  • Egg wash
  • 200 grams marscapone
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how lemony you like it
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
  • 100 grams cream, approximately
  • Punnet of raspberries
  1. For the large ones, cut the pastry into eight pieces and place on a baking tray. Cover the pastry with egg wash and place in a hot over, preheated to 200C/395F
  2. Bake the pastry for about 10 minutes or until it's puffy and golden.
  3. Take out of the oven and cool.
  4. In a small bowl, add marscapone, lemon juice and sugar, and whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the marscapone is light and fluffy.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it forms soft peaks.
  6. When the pastry is cold, cover one slice of pastry with marscapone. That is the base.
  7. Take another piece of pastry and cover it with cream. That is the top.
  8. Place the cream topped slice on top of the marscapone slice.
  9. Decorate the top with raspberries.
If you don't eat all the pastry it can be crisped up the following day by placing it a hot oven for five minutes.

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