Thursday, September 15, 2016


I've been on a baking frenzy these past couple of weeks. Cup cakes, orange loaves, bread....and now, I've made soap.

It's the first time I've ever made soap and it was surprisingly easy. 

Much easier and quicker than I thought it would be.

It is a very basic recipe with just four ingredients: water, caustic soda, olive oil and copha. Yep copha

It's from the Mr Home Maker Blog, which I've been reading for a little while now.

The recipe and instructions are here. He can explain the process far better than I. The trick is to get the measurements/proportions right otherwise it just won't work 

These babies are currently drying out in the spare room....

All I can say is it looks like it's going to work out fine

I just have to wait a minimum of six weeks for them to completely dry out. Should be interesting

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday baking with DISH

We humans can be strange creatures. 

In a time when cookbook sales are as strong as ever and television cooking shows are rating their socks off...we build apartments that lack a full functioning know, one with a full stove and sink...not to mention enough storage for crockery and cutlery

Food magazines are also as popular as ever.

I used to be a regular buyer of some of them... but then I started realising I wasn't actually cooking anything from them, just looking at the photographs. I was also having a bit of deja vu when looking through them, with similar recipes showing up across the different titles.

Then I accidentally found DISH.

It's a New Zealand magazine and it's fabulous. In fact, for me, it's probably the best of the lot.

I say I found it by accident because I was just going through a magazine rack one day, trying to find something to browse through while we were away on holidays...and the front cover caught my I flipped through it and found at least four things I would be more than happy to cook.
I bought that edition and the next ...and then started subscribing.

DISH  comes out every two months, so it's not something that's turning up in your letter box every couple of weeks before you've had a chance to get through all the things you want to make in the current edition

I can say I have cooked at least one thing from each of those magazines and they have all turned out well...including today's offering,

It's from the Friday Baking range on the DISH website, put together and photographed by Food Editor Claire Aldous.

(I didn't have any freeze-dried raspberries, so left them off)

Lemon Pistachio Cakes
You'll need: 12 friand or other small cake tins greased and bases lined with baking paper


70 grams pistachio nuts, finely ground
¾ cup instant polenta
⅓ cup self-raising flour
pinch salt
250 grams butter, soft but not melted
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest 2 lemons
4 large eggs
juice 1 lemon
11½ cups frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Combine the pistachio nuts, polenta, flour and salt in a bowl. 

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until very light and pale. Whisk the eggs together in a jug then gradually beat into the butter mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and the lemon juice and gently beat to combine.

Divide the mixture between the tins and smooth the tops. Dot over the frozen raspberries, but don’t press them into the mixture.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the tops are firm and golden.
Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the tins to loosen then remove the cakes and place on a cooling rack.

To serve: Combine 1 cup of icing sugar with 2 to 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to make a runny icing, adding a little more icing sugar or lemon juice if needed. Drizzle the icing off the tip of a teaspoon over each cake.

Top with crumbled freeze-dried raspberries and pistachios if using, then a dusting of icing sugar. Makes 12.

They really are easy to make and even easier to eat!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Sunshine Coast

The sun goes down in Queensland very early in Winter. Here in Melbourne it's still reasonably light around 6pm...but it's a different story up north. By 5pm you feel like it's time for bed.

The days are mild and sometimes pretty warm ...and the night's are cool and lovely. Perfect for sleeping. We slept with the windows wide open every night.

We drove through torrential rain. It was so heavy the windscreen wipers were working overtime but still didn't allow us to see the road ahead. When we finally rang the front door bell it had eased a little...and we were greeted with open arms and a very cold, long drink! I don't think I've ever been so happy to arrive somewhere.

My brother and sister in law moved to the Sunshine Coast some years ago

They bought a small yacht and sailed up the east coast from Western Port Bay...

They lived on their boat on Sydney Harbour for a while - near Birkenhead Point - until deciding the 2000 Olympics were going to make life there more difficult than they wanted it to be. So they sailed north. Settling first at Airlie Beach for a couple of years and then heading south to Buddina on the Sunshine Coast, where they've been ever since. Then last year, tragedy.

The view from the back of their yard is fabulous.

Sunset is glorious from their backyard

Their pool is lovely, but unfortunately it wasn't quite warm enough for a swim

My sister in law still works part time and has a great life on the Sunshine Coast.

She's decided against moving back to Melbourne to be closer to family. Why would she? She has a life and friends on the Sunshine Coast. Who could blamer her for staying there.

It's been a tough year for her - and our entire family - but  it was lovely being able to catch up and not be worried about shedding a tear while reminiscing....and MONT had a lovely time pottering around in my brother's shed. They had a lot in common - they both love tinkering, modifying and making things.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Designer luggage on a road trip? I don't think so...

No I haven't been stuck in Dubbo for the past few weeks...

I didn't get to see much of Dubbo actually. We arrived at the Endeavour Court Motor Inn just after 5pm....and it turned out to be a good choice.

We chose it because it was on the north side of the city and frankly, we didn't want to do a "U" turn and head back into town and start searching for another place to stay.

David was a great host..and had a chuckle  when I told him he needed to be careful with my "designer" luggage. It was a blue plastic IKEA bag. No, you don't need traditional luggage on a road trip. .

We walked to the Bowling Club for dinner - better known as SPORTIES. All I wanted was a tall glass of something cold and I almost skulled it

It was a buffet dinner - OK, but nothing to write home about. We slept very well that night though

It was still dark and raining steadily when we left Dubbo the following morning...the rain got so hard at times we could hardly see through the windscreen.

We made it to Coonabarabran and then headed to Narrabri and Moree, where we stopped for lunch. Then after a short break and a coffee...we headed for the border and Goondiwindi.

A few of our friends were a little surprised we chose to drive to Queensland instead of flying. Well...Mont had promised to do a few things around the house for my Sister in Law...and we also wanted to see how his new (to him) car would go as far as comfort and fuel efficiency would go.

...and it went great!!

Mont traded in his Toyota work truck for a Ford Ranger. It wasn't a brand new vehicle but didn't have a lot of mileage on the clock and was still "as new" inside.

The main difference for us? We were able to walk normally when we got out of the car without looking like we'd been crippled during the drive.

Our aim was always to get as far as we could without being silly about it. Little did we know we'd make it to our destination that night in torrential rain.

We headed for Toowoomba and arrived there just before 4pm. Then onto Esk, Kilcoy, Beerwah and our final destination, Buddina, in the heaviest downfall I've ever experienced.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

One Night in Dubbo

We left home last Thursday...leaving the cold behind us and headed north....up the Newell past Seymour and Nagambie .. crossing the Murray River into New South Wales and stopping at Tocumwal for some morning tea. I'd packed some things so we didn't have to find a cafe. BUT, our thermos failed us. I poured the coffee and it was stone cold. Not sure if it was the thermos or the fact we'd left it in the boot of the car. It was probably 2 degrees when we left home. No wonder it had gone cold.

After a coffee, we headed towards Jerilderie, past Neranderah and Grong Grong ...then to Forbes and Parkes. The countryside was beautiful, just like the day. It was cold but clear and sunny....for a while.

We didn't really care where we ended that first day. We were making good time, but the heavy rain made the decision for us. Dubbo it was.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hall Table - finished

The little hall table I painted is now finished and back in the hallway

Here it is before the little knobs were put on

I wanted something a little bit different...and found these at Schots Home Emporium in Melbourne. 

Not something I would normally choose, but hey, they're only knobs and if I change my mind down the track, they can always be swapped out for something else

So that's another little job off my to-do list, which is damn long but gradually getting shorter.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A cake with a difference

I was hunting around for a cake recipe recently and came across one for a Red Velvet cake. But when I was looking through the ingredients, realised the only thing that distinguishes it from a regular old cake was red food colouring.

Sure it looks nice, but I wanted something with a bit more substance. and not not just food colouring. So I found this recipe and it's probably the most delicious and fool proof cake I have ever made. In fact it's so easy I've passed it on to a number of friends...and the proof must be in the pudding - or cake - because they've all reported back that they love it.

So here it is...

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

The cast:

425g can beetroot - drained
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
100g dark chocolate - melted
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons bi carb soda


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees or 160 fan forced

Finely chop the drained beetroot in a food processor
In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy, then gradually beat in the oil until well combined

Stir in the cooled, melted chocolate and the chopped beetroot. Then in another bowl, sift together the flour, bicarb and cocoa, then stir into the egg and beetroot batter

Let it sit for at least 5 minutes. This helps the gluten in the flour to relax and will minimize the cake cracking on the top. Also, the batter will be quite runny. Don't panic, it's supposed to be.

Pour the mixture into a 25cm cake pan that's been lined with baking paper.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes - check with a skewer to see if the centre is cooked.
When it is, cool the cake slightly in the pan before removing it

For the frosting:

I haven't actually measured this when I've made it, so these measurements are approximate.

Put about 3/4 cup of cream into a heat proof container and microwave for about 30 seconds until it's hot. Put about 100g  chocolate melts into the cream and stire until it's melted. Then put 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar in and stir until it's all combined. I then pour the icing mixture over the cooled cake and let it set.

All you have to do now is eat and enjoy

You can play around with the recipe a bit. Sometimes, I've added half a jar of drained cherries just for something different.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Painting and restoring

I've been keeping myself busy getting a few things done around the house.

The mirror and the decorative side panels from that old wardrobe have been sanded back and given a few coats of Danish oil...and I have to say they look and feel fabulous. More on them later.

I've also spent some time painting an old hall table

It's been handed down and around a number of times, ending up with me about ten years ago.

.I don't know what it was coated in but it was all flaky and awful and  had a terrible smell when it got wet. So it was time for a spruce-up

First, a really good sand and then a coat of tinted undercoat

Then the first top coat 

The sheen on it is lovely, considering I used ordinary low sheen wall paint. It's the same paint/colour I used on an old chest of drawers and my pine filing cabinet.

Once the paint is cured I'll put the new handles on

I got a bit carried away and even gave my kitchen stool the once over

Although to be honest, it needs another coat. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recycling and Repurposing

Years another life and another Victorian town I had a lovely little cottage that I had renovated and lived in for almost ten years.

Then I got a job offer interstate ... so instead of selling up and moving on, I rented out my little cottage...and it's been rented ever since.

Unfortunately though some of the old furniture that was left in the house has deteriorated to a point it's no longer useful. 

The main piece in point - this old wardrobe

Back in 2009 we had to do a major repair at the house as a floor in one of the bedrooms had rotted and was very "spongy". I wrote about it back then herehere and here.

This old wardrobe was sort of OK back in 2009...a bit wobbly but served a purpose. Not any more.

It was falling apart so instead of breaking up the three sections and throwing it in a skip, MONT decided to take it apart and save the most important pieces: the mirrored door and the side decorative panels, which are really lovely!

To cut to the chase here... we've been looking for a mirror for our bedroom for over a year now - we see something we like but then don't follow through for one reason or another. Then  I had a bit of a light bulb moment this morning. Use the mirror from this old robe for the bedroom!

It's now being sanded and cleaned up so it can be hung on our bedroom wall. I'll post a pic when it's done.

It's so good to be back!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Back in the Saddle....kinda

We're having a break from Number 10 and spending a couple of weeks at our usual campsite at the beach where we're trying to regroup and relax.

It's a great place on the Bellarine Peninsular...MONT goes fishing when the weather permits and I sit and read and sleep and generally veg out.

2015 was not a good year for our family. We're hoping 2016 is going to be less eventful, although it hasn't started well, with someone hitting my (parked) car. Not a lot of damage, but as always in these cases, I'll be the one who is inconvenienced while it's being repaired.

Still, I guess if that's the worst that happens then I'm not doing too bad.

I've never been one for New Years resolutions. I've never been able to understand the importance of making a promise to yourself on January 1st, when you could've done the same thing on September 16...or July, no resolutions for me, but there have been some changes recently

I resigned from my full-time job in November and am now officially a part-timer and will work two days a week. A better work-life balance, as they say in the classics. There are so many things I want to do and working full-time wasn't allowing me to do them, at least not to the standard I wanted to.

The events of last year also gave us a bit of a wake up call, so MONT and I have changed a few things regarding our health and fitness. Nothing drastic...we're not training for marathons or triathlons, but we are making a point of being a bit more active

I plan to get back into "blogging" and start posting more regularly. I may not have been a regular "poster" these past few months, but I have been a regular reader of other peoples' blogs, so I haven't disappeared altogether.

So there you have it. I'm back. Sorta kinda.