Tuesday, 19 April 2016

a fancy oval chalkboard

This is the story of a makeover which didn't quite work the way I planned.

I was given this oval frame in three pieces. Its some kind of resin, not timber, so I had no idea how I would fix it.

I let it sit around for a couple of years while I pondered.

In the end I decided that cutting some thin MDF to fit inside the frame and using trusty liquid nails might be the way to go.

Well, it wasn't.

Not really.

Its holding together okay but I wasn't able to clamp it properly, so the joins aren't as good as I hoped.

They're visible. Really visible.

Oh well. Not to worry.

I got out some silver paint (I thought I had gold but didn't) and rubbed it on to try and disguise the cracks where the liquid nails was showing through. Silver looks better than liquid nails any day! I think I'll get some gold and finish it in gold at some later date.

I hung it in our entry/pantry for our shopping lists. Its not perfect, but its different, and for me a change is as good as a holiday.

It replaces a plain long oblong chalkboard I've had for years. 'Cause even a pantry deserves a bit of flashy!


PS Please forgive the awful photo of our yucky pantry/entry... Its taupe and dark and gloomy (as opposed to the bright fun kitchen) and I like covering our fridge in magnets!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

russian honey cake

Yes. Its another food post. 

I can't explain it, but maybe its cause once you cook once, you get the urge to do it again. And unlike most of the time, this time I didn't sit down and let the feeling pass.

When mom visited early in the year I took her to a cafe in Richmond and we had this russian honey cake. The taste was so familiar, so wonderful... I just had to have it again.

Even if I had to make it myself.

And that's saying something!

So I looked it up online. Its called medovik apparently, and its a popular russian cake. Contrary to how it looks with all those layers, its not that hard to make. This is pretty much how it looked when I had it:

This is the photo from the page of the recipe I followed:

Now I would never, ever attempt a layer cake normally, but this one is made of large biscuit (or cookie) layers. Not sponge cake. ie, easier. I mean, I can make cookies, right?

This is my cake:

Again, not quite as nice as in the pictures. But it tasted GREAT. 

And that's not just my opinion. I had guinea pigs taste testers at dinner last night.

So, anyway, I'll include the recipe I used below, but if you want the proper recipe, click on the images above. I will try the other recipe next time I make it, its similar and looks like it might be easier. 

Russian Honey Cake - Medovik
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons honey (this time I stuck with the amount stated)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour (we just call it plain flour here)
Cream Filling (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 190C or 375F depending on where you live. Cut five sheets of baking paper, I did not cut them into circles as the recipe said, I mean, why bother? You cut the dough into circles, the paper can be triangles if you want. 
In a small bowl, combine sugar and eggs.
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add honey, egg-sugar mixture, and baking powder; stir constantly until well blended and foamy the recipe says. It didn't get really foamy, but there was a slight foaminess about the edges...

Remove from heat.
Stir in flour until dough is not sticky. I did have to add a bit more flour and I did work it by hand on the bench in order to make it unsticky enough to roll out. I had to cause the dough kept sticking to my rolling pin.
Divide the dough into five more or less equal blobs. Cover the blobs with plastic wrap to keep them warm. No idea why this is important, but it is.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll one blob into a more or less round shape about 1/4-inch thick. I found it was easier to roll the dough out straight onto the baking paper and not try to lift it up. I mean, its really quite thin even when its thicker than it should be... Once it was rolled out I used the base of a springform cake tin to cut it into circles. 

I used the offcuts to patch any edges that didn't quite reach the edge, and all leftover bits were baked as well for the crumb topping. 

Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until just barely golden but not brown. Remove from oven and cool. 

Repeat for the other four blobs of dough.

I had to keep a close eye on them as they baked cause our oven (despite being fan forced) doesn't bake evenly. I also baked them one at a time to be safe.
The recipe says you should prepare the filling at this stage. I prepared it before I did the dough/baking. I mean, it said you needed to let it cool so why would you prepare it last? 

But in case you want to make it at this point, here it is now. Otherwise, do it first like I did.

Caramel-Cream Filling
1 and a bit can sweetened condensed milk (the recipe said 14oz, our cans are 12oz so I put in a bit extra. Maybe a little more than a bit extra... of course I had to use a conversion thingy to figure that out cause we work in grams, not ounces
3 eggs, beaten 
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter
In a saucepan big enough for the job, over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, eggs, honey, and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; boil until the mixture thickens. Or that's what you'd want ideally. My mixture seemed pretty thick to begin with and at some stage I decided it was thick enough stopped. 
Remove from heat and let cool.

I used the springform tin to put my cake together cause I thought it would be easier. I cut a bit of baking paper for the bottom so it wouldn't stick. Alternate the layers of biscuit circles and filling. I used the crushed offcuts sprinkled on top to finish it off.
Put it in the fridge and leave it for at least 8 hours. I left it for 24 since it was dessert for the next night.

We had it with a bit of cream and my opinion is that its better with coffee or tea during the day than after a full meal at dinner time. It was too rich for after dinner.

It worked great for breakfast though!

The delicate flavour of the honey and the caramel flavour of the filling is just yummy.


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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

quick pasta and cheese danish

Tonight I cooked dinner and made dessert.

Yeah, I surprised myself too.

We have a visitor. He's the friend who built our deck. You can see why I'd want to spoil him.

His favourite meal is carbonara so I make it every time he comes over... thankfully its an easy meal. But the way I cook its not always the same. I get imaginative with my cooking at times.

Usually I make it with bacon and mushrooms but I've been known to make it with chicken, avocado, sun dried tomatoes or snow peas.

Mainly it depends on what I have in the fridge at the time.

Tonight I found I had cream and bacon. That's it.

Time to improvise.

I had some tiny cherry tomatoes from our garden and I've got a pot of parsley on the porch. It turned out pretty good, even if I do say so myself. If you want the recipe for a quickie carbonara see the end of this post.

Dessert was one I found at a link party - Cheese Danish Squares.

Those were my danish squares. More like road kill danish oblongs really.

These are Ava's danish squares:

Now take another look at mine:



Well... in my defense, they tasted great!

If you like a lot of lemon, which, luckily, I do. Cause I'm incapable of following a recipe without 'improving' or 'adapting' it. 

Firstly we don't have ready made crescent roll dough in Australia so I used puff pastry. That was a necessary swap, but I went a step further...

In this case the recipe calls for one teaspoon of lemon. Really? One teaspoon? How much lemon flavour can one teaspoon impart?

I had a lemon. I squeezed it. I put in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. I tasted it... it could take a bit more lemon... so I put in the rest.

Result... nice. 

Very very lemony cream cheese puff pastry danish.

If you want to make them, follow Ava's recipe. You can, however, follow my recipe for carbonara a la whatever's in the frige.

What's in the fridge carbonara

1 packet of farfalle (pasta bows, cause if you're gonna step outside the square, why be boring?)
As many rashers of bacon as you want 
1 small/medium container cream (whatever kind you prefer)
Some cherry tomatoes
Some fresh parsley
One egg
Parmesan. Lots of it.

Start the water boiling with a teaspoon of salt in it. Trust me. I never used to add salt to my water and its so much nicer with.

Chop up the bacon and brown it in a frying pan. 

Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on the size. We had some pretty stunted tomatoes so I only had to cut them in half.

Roughly chop the parsley, leaving a couple of sprigs for decoration, cause, you know, we like to do things properly round here!

Once the bacon is browned, add the cream and let it warm up. Add the tomatoes and chopped parsley and bring it to a gentle simmer. Don't boil. The world will end if it boils.

Meanwhile, the pasta should be ready. Providing you actually put it in once the water boiled. 

Test pasta readiness by fishing a bit out and eating it. If its chewy in the middle, cook it a bit longer. Don't let it overcook. Mushy pasta will cause the world the end.

In a bowl, beat the egg with a fork.

Drain the pasta, then put it back into the saucepan. Pour the beaten egg over it and mix it through. It will cook onto the pasta. I have no idea why this step is important, but it is.

Pour the creamy bacon and whatever sauce over the pasta and mix it through.

Serve with a heavy handed sprinkle of parmesan and a sprig of parsley.



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Sunday, 10 April 2016

where we're at

Literally or philosophically? Maybe a bit of both!


Either way, I thought it was time to catch you up on stuff around here.

Everyone is well - dogs, horses, geese, ducks, chickens... us. Although one chicken is looking half plucked. Its autumn... I know they go through a molting phase, but she's a step above being in a roasting pan by the looks of her.

Meanwhile, we're down one rooster. We did have two - one was a home bred boy. He's disappeared. Either he was run off by his dad or he met a sticky end. I haven't found any evidence to suggest which.

Without rain there's no grass so we've been hard feeding the horses a few months now. There's no hay to be found anywhere and, if you can find it, it costs more than gold.

Here's Waldo, sharing his breakfast with the chickens. I give Wally a wide berth... after the time he bit me I'm very wary of his teeth.

Dancer, on the other hand, is a real smoocher. We love that girl! 

We have a new female goose. She arrived one day and paired up with one of the boys. That now makes us the proud owners of 3 couples. I really am afraid of what will happen when they decide to have more babies. We got lucky last year. One of the girls lay 20 or so eggs but didn't sit on them long enough to hatch them.

Next year when they lay eggs I think I'll skulk around stealing them!

Our dam has never been so low. Its spring fed and it's always been full. This summer its more mud puddle than dam. I think we either stuffed up the spring when we had it dug out or the spring has dried up. The dam never seemed to bounce back from being dug out, the water has been like brown soup since... then again, with the lack of rain around here, maybe the spring has just packed it in.

If the situation doesn't improve I think the geese might move out. Not sure if that'll make me sad or glad. I love them, but they're pretty deadly on any plants I try to get growing where they can reach.

I mean the horses are bad enough, but now I had to rethink all the fencing. Not just tall and strong for the horses, also shorter and closer for the geese!

Wayne built a cute bonfire pile in the middle paddock. Won't be long now and he'll be out there roasting marshmallows. If he liked them. And if people actually roasted marshmallows in Australia.

It looks like a forest fairy home, complete with a door. I suggested we could do a rain dance one night under a full moon. The neighbours would enjoy that.

Providing we keep our clothes on.

Meanwhile, Wayne and I are doing a regular radio show at our local community radio station. It was my idea, I have a ton of cds and some vinyl from my rockabilly/rock'n'roll days and I thought it'd be a great opportunity to listen to and share my music. So far we're really enjoying it.

Turns out Wayne is a closet radio announcer! Who knew? He's a natural.

You can stream it online if you're out of range, so look us up - TYGA FM 98.9 - 12-2pm on Sundays.

Other than that, I think I may have mentioned I've lost my mojo in terms of creativity lately. I just don't have the motivation. Or energy. Or desire.

My get up and go has got up and gone.

One of the only things I dragged myself out to do last weekend was put up three old mirrors in the mud room. We now have someplace to check ourselves before we walk out the door. Surely that's a good thing.

When I feel flat like this I have to remember - we've done so much to this place since we moved in. All I have to do is look at the old photos to appreciate that.

And darn... I have to remove the Xmas bow from the front door.

I told you I've been 'off' lately.

Sometimes its ok to just watch TV, read books and rest. Its ok to do nothing for a while.

At least that's what I tell myself. I'm almost convinced.


Sunday, 3 April 2016

our junky garden

In the last week I've managed to get a bit of work done in the garden. Not on my own... I had some help otherwise I'd be lying on the couch moaning in pain right now.

One thing I did by myself was move these broken old chairs into the front garden bed. Partly to stop the dogs from digging, partly as garden art. I got these chairs at the tip shop ages ago. The guy there thought I was going to fix and restore them. I had no such notions. I only bought them as garden art.

There used to be a gorgeous burgundy penstemon growing where the chair (below) is but the dogs dug it up and killed it. I have another one in there now but till it grows up enough to grow through the chair like the one above, I have an old jam saucepan sitting on it.

The birdcage is protecting a newly planted daisy.

I love my junky garden art.

Close to the front door the old washing machine drum which used to hold lettuce now has sweet peas in it. I'm using the broken windmill as a climbing trellis for them when they grow.

I do have plans to restore the windmill.

If you're wondering about the springs... dog barrier.

Need I say more?

I found this little chair at the tip shop a couple of weeks ago. I had planned to fix it up but for now its holding some of my succulents on the front porch.

AND.... (drumroll)

I bought a maple!

Its a japanese maple, no idea what type exactly. I had one of these in Melbourne many years ago and I sure hope this does well. Till now we've had no trees in the house yard and that's just wrong. This is tree no. 1.

I dressed it up with a few junky planters so it wouldn't feel so alone on the side of the woodshed. The soil there sucks, but we dug a deep hole and filled it with soil, fertilizer and manure. Fingers crossed.

I did plant some trees just outside the yard - one canadian maple which bit the dust, one orange tree which was eaten by the geese, three birches near the dam of which one survived. The others were eaten by the geese. Seven birches near the water tanks, and five pussy willows, all of which have survived and are growing despite having been pruned back by the horses on numerous occasions.

Meanwhile, you may have noticed the tyres around the maple... We've now added tyres down lower in front of the new drainage ditch, creating an extended garden area. For now I've got some spring bulbs in the tyres closest to the maple but need more plants to fill the other tyres.

I bought a new camellia which I put in a container on the side of the house. Advice of a friend: put it in a container in the spot you think you want it to live, that way you don't have to dig a hole and plant it till you know if it likes it there.

Excellent advice.

Procrastination 101.

The white banksia rose I moved twice and almost killed has come back. Its now in a pot in the spot I intend to plant it eventually. I like this way of gardening. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

Other than that, I got this old singer from the tip shop. The base is broken but I'd love to find a way to grow a plant around it. Same with the typewriter. I got them both with the plan of making them into garden art. I can put a small pot into the centre of the typewriter, something which will grow up and hang down over the keys a bit. The sewing machine... maybe I can remove the base and sit it in a container and grow a plant around it...

There's still more to do, but isn't there always? I've spread sugar cane mulch, got the vegetable garden cleaned out of weeds and attacked the weeds. Again. We're coming in to winter here so I won't be doing an awful lot to the garden till spring. I just wanted it to look tidy.


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