Friday, July 31, 2009

Back From The Dead

Posted by MANDI at 8:13 PM 0 comments
No, not me!
This time last year my lovely little azalea was withering and dying as it was under attack from the ribbon plant that had overtaken that patch of garden. I don't know what the proper name of the attacking ribbon plant is - it has long variegated leaves, dark green edges and white-yellowy-green down the middle, that resemble a ribbon hence the common (around these parts) name of ribbon plant. It's an insidious little bugger that looks quite pretty until it takes over the garden, spreads further than you could have dreamed, and strangles everything in its way. It's also not especially easy to remove. Brute strength and a good shovel are about the only measures known to work.

During the summer I spent many hours with that shovel digging and digging trying to remove the tuber-like roots and rid one small patch of garden of the plant. It took a good couple of days, and a heck of a lot of pain with some seriously big blisters, and I managed to fill up the trailer but I cleared the area I was trying to salvage, put in some agapanthas and attempted to sweet-talk my azalea. To be honest I didn't hold out too much hope but she (yes, the azalea is a she) held on and even appeared to rally a little. Then she faded and, last I checked, she wasn't looking too good.

Then... we had weeks of rain. Weeks. Of. Rain. Finally the rain cleared and as I wandered down to the clothesline to hang the out the sheets earlier this week I saw this.

She's back from the dead and looking fabulous.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pinching Someone Else's Lazyblogging

Posted by MANDI at 8:31 PM 0 comments
Trish had this up at her place and I decided I'd pinch it. That's some serious lazyblogging!
1. What time did you get up this morning?- 6.02am. The alarm went off at 6 but I really needed that extra two minutes.
2. How do you like your steak?- Cooked till it's dead without a hint of pink.
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?- Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. The reviews haven't been that good but I thought it was great. No, not a ring-in for the book but gets through the story and sets it up nicely for the next one (two!).
4. What is your favorite TV show?- Right now I'm loving Torchwood.
5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you?- Here in the hills. That's why we keep coming back.
6. What did you have for breakfast?- Cup of tea and half a piece of raisin toast. I don't really do breakfast but I try on work days.
7. What is your favorite cuisine?- Is dessert a cuisine?
8. What foods do you dislike?- Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pork, hot/spicy, animal organs.
9. Favorite Place to Eat?- Standing at the kitchen bench?
10. Favorite dressing?- We've got a really nice Avocado and Garlic Dressing from Wild Appetite on the go at the moment and it's really good. Apart from that, whatever.
11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?- Lancer wagon, it's red and about 4 years old. I don't like it much.
12. What are your favorite clothes?- My jeans.
13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?- I've never left Australia so pretty much anywhere that was on offer. I've always wanted to go to Greece. And Santiago.
14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?- Hmmm..... I spent a long time as a 1/2 empty kind a girl but have spent the last few years working hard to become more of a 1/2 full girl. It's a work in progress but I'm really making an effort and getting better at it.
15. Where would you want to retire?- Ummm... way too far away to consider but I guess here in the hills.
16. Favorite time of day?- Around 8pm - kids are asleep and I have a bit of time to breathe.
17. Where were you born?- Perth, Western Australia.
18. What is your favorite sport to watch?- None really, I'll watch the odd bit of footy or cricket if it's on but that's about it.
19. Who do you think will not tag you back?- I'm not going to tag anyone. No pressure.
20. Person you expect to tag you back first?- See above.
21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?- See above, again.
22. Bird watcher?- Nope. I like listening to the kookaburras but could gladly murder the black cockatoos who steal the fruit from my trees.
23. Are you a morning person or a night person?- How about a midday person? I'm not great early or late but do okay smack in the middle.
24. Do you have any pets?- A dog, a few goldfish and a couple of pink and grey galahs. We still need to fix the chook pen then we can have chooks again.
25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?- None that I can think of.
26. What did you want to be when you were little?- A doctor.
27. What is your best childhood memory?- Oh too many. Playing "Monkey Magic' with my best friend, watching the Sunday night Disney movie with my family, going to really crazy places on family holidays, having cliche competitions with my Dad, going 'to town' for lunch and shopping with my mum, nan and little-nan... Sorry, can't narrow that one down.
28. Are you a cat or dog person?- Probably a cat person. I like how they're loners and don't really want anything to do with you when you want to pat them but won't leave you alone when you're trying to do something else. Dogs irritate me with their neediness.
29. Are you married?- Yes. 11 years.
30. Always wear your seat belt?-
Yes. Always.
31. Been in a car accident?- No, touch wood.
32. Any pet peeves?- Can I say people? Or is that a little harsh?
33. Favorite Pizza Toppings?- Basil pesto, char-grilled capsicum, lamb, feta, - not necessarily together.
34. Favorite Flower?- In the garden - camellias. In a vase - tulips
35. Favorite ice cream?- Vanilla
36. Favorite fast food restaurant?- Hungry Jacks
37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?- None. Passed first time thank you!
38. From whom did you get your last email?- Offspring #1's footy coach.
39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?- The Kitchen Store.
40. Do anything spontaneous lately?- Went on a picnic with friends on Sunday. I have a hard time with spontaneous so just ended up really flustered and a bit crazy. Not that I didn't enjoy it but probably not worth the crazy.
41. Like your job?-Generally.
42. Broccoli?- Yes. But please don't cook it till it's grey and squishy.
43. What was your favorite vacation?-
Exmouth a couple of years ago with Hubby and the kids. Loved it!
44. Last person you went out to dinner with?- Hubby. Date night last weekend.
45. What are you listening to right now?- Spicks and Specks on the tv.
46. What is your favorite color?- Pink
47. How many tattoos do you have?- None.
48. How many are you tagging for this quiz?- Nobody, but do it if you want to.
49. What time did you finish this quiz?- 9.08pm
50. Coffee Drinker?- Blech. No. Tea all the way with me. Lots and lots of tea.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Because She Asked Nicely

Posted by MANDI at 8:15 PM 0 comments
Offspring #2 came home from daycare the other day telling me all about a very beautiful birthday cake that one of the other little girls had bought in to share. For the first couple of days I all really got was that it was a cake and that it was very beautiful and that #2 would very much like one when it was her birthday. Gradually more details were made available. The first piece of information to break through was that the cake was pink. Well that was a no-brainer - anything pink is very beautiful in #2's world. Then I was told that it also had white and chocolate in it. I queried the chocolate part. Was it chocolate like chocolate frogs or chocolate like a chocolate cake? Apparently it was like in a chocolate cake. Then came the final clue. The colours in the cake were all "messied up". AHA - a marble cake. I could see the appeal for three year olds. Lots of lovely colours swirled through each slice of cake and everyone's slice being just a little bit different to the other kids in the group.

Today she woke up and asked if we could please make a cake just like her friends. And, since I had many house-hold chores I didn't want to do, I promptly agreed that we could. Unfortunately the chores couldn't be ignored entirely so we didn't get to the cake-making until late afternoon but that worked out rather well after all. The cake was still warm when we finished dinner and it was decided that a slice of warm cake and a scoop of ice-cream would be the perfect way to end the meal. I'll see what I can do about icing the rest of the cake tomorrow!

Marble Cake
from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook (2006 edition)

125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons boiling water
red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush a deep 20cm cake tin with a little melted butter and line the base with baking paper. Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Beat the eggs lightly, and add to the creamed mixture gradually. Sift the flour and salt and fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Divide the mixture into 3 portions.

Sift the cocoa and blend in the boiling water. Stir this into one portion of the cake mixture. To the other portion, add a few drops of red food colouring to colour it pink. The third portion is left plain. Drop the mixture by tablespoons into the prepared tin, alternately pink, plain and chocolate. Run a knife through gently a few times to marble the mixture. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls.

Posted by MANDI at 8:17 PM 4 comments
Well the Cheesymite Scrolls from a few days ago were a big hit. Offspring #1 has happily taken them for lunch each day and... actually eaten them! Hubby was also mighty impressed with them and insisted that they be included in his lunch box each day too.

In fact, the boys in the house liked them so much they asked me to make more. Now. And because both of my boys are incredibly loved (and incredibly spoilt!) I whipped up another batch for them today. I have to admit that I tried to do them very quickly this morning and used the wrong flour so they flopped spectacularly but I did them again this afternoon, properly, and have lunches for this week all sewn up.

I also made some cinnamon scrolls using the same dough recipe and a butter, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon filling. They could be a little sweeter - maybe extra sugar in the dough - and a little more cinnamon-y but I'll work on that next time. Yes. There will be a next time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Date Night

Posted by MANDI at 1:44 PM 4 comments
It's date night in our house and I'm so excited. The kids are having a sleepover at Nan and Pop's while Hubby and I head out to a movie and dinner. I've been looking forward to it all week. Several hours of uninterrupted time with Hubby, a movie I can watch from beginning to end without having to take anyone out to the toilet (like, say, Offspring #2 who needed to go three times during Ice Age 3 a couple of weeks ago!), not having to cut-up, cool-down or otherwise fiddle with anyone's dinner, lingering at the restaurant over a last glass of wine without anyone whining, and dining at a restaurant that doesn't start with Mc or Hungry! You can see why I've been looking forward to it all week.
We're dropping the kids off later this afternoon and then heading down the hill to catch an early session of the new Harry Potter film. Then off to dinner, where I will order neither chicken or pasta - because I pretty much always order chicken or pasta and I'm really going to try hard to choose something else - with a nice bottle of wine and some conversation that has nothing to do with our children. Lovely.
Okay, we probably will talk about the kids but they won't be the sole topic of conversation.
Like I said. Lovely.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Pie

Posted by MANDI at 9:03 PM 4 comments
The weather here in sunny old Perth has been anything but for the past few weeks. We've had more rain that we know what to do with and freezing cold temps (well, freezing cold for us!) so naturally enough we've turned to some hearty winter meals to warm us up a little. This pie turned out to hit the spot very nicely - warm, filling and something the whole family enjoyed. Gotta love that! Even better, it did us two meals with a little extra for lunches for Hubby and I.

A couple of tips to keep in mind: Give yourself enough time to let the filling cool in the fridge as per step 2. Let the pie sit for 10 minutes before you serve it - it lets the filling set slightly so that when you cut it the filling doesn't spill out everywhere. I found this out the hard way.

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie
from Super Food Ideas Best Ever Winter Warmers

40g butter
2 leeks, trimmed, halved, washed, sliced
150g ham steaks, diced
1 kg chicken thigh fillets, cubed
1/4 cup plain flour
1 cup light thickened cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 sheets frozen ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, partially thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add leek and ham. Cook for 3 minutes or until leek is soft. Add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until browned.
2. Sprinkle flour over chicken mixture. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Slowly add cream, stirring. Add mustard. Stir to combine. Return to heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Refrigerate until cold.
3. Preheat oven and baking tray to 200C. Grease and line a 22cm (base) springform pan.
4. Use 2 sheets of pastry to line base and sides of pan. Spoon chicken mixture into pastry. Use remaining pastry to cover filling. Cut a small cross in the centre for steam to escape. Fold pastry around sides of pan over pastry lid. Press to seal. Brush with egg. Place on baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180C. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden. Stand for 10 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tempting Little Tastebuds

Posted by MANDI at 4:14 PM 4 comments
Early last term Offspring #1 began bringing home his school lunches uneaten. I wasn't too worried initially. Maybe he'd had a full-on day? Maybe he just wasn't hungry? I figured he'd get over it and go back to demolishing his lunch as per usual. Except... I was wrong. I tried to question him in a totally subtle mum-type way (ie like a bulldozer) but came up blank. School was fine. He had lots of friends. Lunch was fine. He liked what I was making for lunches. No-one was being mean to him. He just didn't want to eat his lunch. I set his Dad onto him and he gradually, as Dads do, drew the answer out of him. It took him too long to eat his sandwich and then he didn't get enough time to play, or he was still eating and his friends had finished and gone off to play. He'd decided that rather than miss out on playing he'd miss out on eating.

This was not a solution I was happy about and I've spent the last few months coming up with lunches that are both tempting enough that he really wants to eat them and small enough that they can be bolted down super-quickly. I've had some success with the pizza muffins - the normal ones are too big but making mini muffins from the mix worked nicely. One mini-muffin equals about one 7-year-old's hugest possible mouthful so two muffins can be eaten without fear of missing out. Meatballs were an unexpected winner as well, for much the same reason.

With school back today I knew I had to come up with another lunch idea and was considering a ham and cheese scroll recipe from the ugly binder. I was multi-tasking - looking at recipes and checking emails, face-book and twitter - and when I stumbled across a link to Cheesymite Scrolls on twitter I had to check it out. It looked simple and was soon baking in the oven. Both kids have taste-tested and declared it a two-thumbs up winner and Offspring #1 has enthusiastically agreed that they would be great for lunch. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he'll actually eat it when it's in his lunch box.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Layers of Loveliness

Posted by MANDI at 11:43 AM 2 comments
This recipe has been floating around in the ugly binder for a couple of years and every so often I look at it and decide that I'll give it a go another time. That time finally arrived over the weekend when we had my parents round for dinner. I wanted to try something new for dessert and this seemed to fit the bill nicely.

The cake was a heap easier to make and assemble than I'd expected and it also tasted seriously good as well as looking like I'd spent hours slaving over it. It was a big hit with all of us and I'm planning to make it again as soon as I can find an excuse to. It's obviously a 'cheat's version' with the tin of caramel and if you wanted to spend hours more putting this together so you could feel fabulously superior for making every part of it from scratch go right ahead. For my money, and bearing in mind that I've burnt every batch of caramel I've tried to make in the last 12 or so months, this is spot on.

A couple of pointers that I'll keep in mind for next time: try not to make the bottom layer too thick or you end up with a big chunk of cake , do assemble this ahead of time so that the flavours have time to soak through a little but, pull it out of the fridge ahead of serving so it has a chance to get back to room temperature and you can get the full power of the flavours in the cake.

Banana Caramel Layer Cake
Australian Women's Weekly, March 2007
Banana Cake
185g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups mashed banana (3 medium over-ripe bananas)
2 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup milk.

To Assemble
3/4 cup thickened cream
380g can caramel Top 'n' Fill*
1 large banana, sliced thinly

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180C. Grease and lightly flour an 8-cup (24cm) bundt pan.
2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time; beat until just combined, then beat in mashed banana. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Stir in sifted flour and soda, then stir in milk. Spread mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked when tested. Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool. Allow cake to cool completely.
5. Cut cool cake into 3 layers. Spread base of cake with one-third of the caramel, top with about two-thirds of the cream and banana slices. Repeat with next layer using half the remaining the caramel and all the remaining cream and banana slices. Replace top of cake.
6. In a small bowl, whisk remaining caramel with approximately 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Drizzle cake with caramel mixture.

*Top 'n' Fill is a very thick caramel filling available in supermarkets. It's usually near the tins of sweetened condensed milk.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Normal Transmission Will Resume Shortly

Posted by MANDI at 4:53 PM 2 comments
I promise!

We've had a busy few weeks with coughs and colds, school holidays, the follow up to Offspring #1's birthday and life in general.

#1 had a fun birthday party with his school-friends and, in keeping with the new birthday cake rules as laid down by me, had a number 7 cake with the decoration of his choosing. He selected an airport runway and I did my best to meet his expectations. Luckily, he has very low expectations when it come to my cake decorating skills!

We've done lots of baking and I have a bunch of new recipes to share with you. Here are a couple of the highlights - a banana caramel layer cake I made for last night's dessert and some new choc chip cookies.

We've had some wild and woolly winter weather. You already saw the tree that fell on the woodshed a month or so ago. Here's the tree that fell on the boat, trailer and caravan just a few days ago. It came right out of the ground, roots and all, and landed across all three. Luckily there wasn't any real damage and even luckier that Hubby's car wasn't parked in it's normal spot - right where the trailer was!

And the camellia tree has just started blooming. It has literally hundreds of flower buds but just two flowers so far. It's one of my favourite things in the garden so I can pretty much guarantee you'll be seeing more of it.


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