Friday, July 28, 2006

A Bloggy Tour of Homes

Welcome! This front courtyard is part of the Japanese garden look we are trying to achieve. There's a rumpus (hubby's workshop and sons' gym to the left of the front door. Behind the bamboo blinds is the kitchen, and to the right, out of view, are our two studies, and one son's bedroom.

My blogspace. Well, not much to say about that. But I'd love to replace my workstation which I bought along with my first computer in about 1990. In those days I didn't use the mouse much, and now it's apparent that I don't have enough mouse-moving room.

Dining room, living room on other side of bamboo screen, STILL decorated with Christmas things, yes, in July.

Kitchen, with waiting dirty dishes edited out to left of screen. Two lazy susans in the bottom corners, glad the kitchen design man convinced us to have two rather than one. So easy to get at stuff.

Walk in pantry, taken from the doorway. It extends to the left and right, with shelves on two walls perpendicular to the one you see. Top shelf full of Gourmet magazines. I love my pantry!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Announcing: a Bloggy Tour of Homes

Boomama has organised a Tour of Homes for tomorrow. Everyone is to post 5 photos of their houses: the front door, where they blog, the living area, the kitchen, and the fifth is left up to participants. Sounds like fun! Read more at Boomama's blog, and remember to visit again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A special Monday

Yesterday was a very special Monday for me, as I kept exclaiming to the Man Who Cooks as we drove around Castlemaine and environs. Why was it special? Because it was the first time in about 15 years that I did not have to work on the first day of the semester. The first weeks of each semester are always a very busy time and no one is allowed to take time off then. I no longer have these constraints. After about the third or fourth time of mentioning this gleefully, the MWC said I was not allowed to do this type of celebration again, but then I reminded him that really, the beginning of the FIRST semester is even busier and more frantic, and that I will be celebrating in March even more. He has conceded this, probably knowing that he has no say in the matter.

Thanks to those of you who wished me a happy mini holiday - it probably sounded grander than it was meant to be, but one shouldn't take these things for granted. We had a lovely time up there which, however, could have been diasterous. We were about 40 minutes from home when I asked the MWC if he'd packed the doona (he's in charge of packing the car, you see). Now, as Lee-Ann from Pear Tree Cottage mentioned recently (I thought of you as we passed Kyneton on the highway, Lee-Ann!), it has been mighty cold up in Central Victoria (mighty cold in Melbourne too, but at least there's the central heating). Turns out the MWC had the packing list, but once he'd ticked off all the food, he didn't bother with the rest of the list! Doona was written quite clearly just under the food items. (Just thought I'd point that out.) We weren't going to drive all the way back for it, but fortunately we keep in the shed 4 sleeping bags, and 2 army type blankets from MIL that are very effective. And so they were. We were plenty warm, even though it was cold enough that ice had formed on water in our tea mugs.

P.S. For non-Aussies, doonas are quilts, usually filled with goosedown.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Kitchens, food and the meaning of (family) life

I have always felt that the preparation of food for people you love, and the sharing of that food around the dinner table, is the cornerstone of family life. You are caring for family members as well as having time to communicate with each other. There are many things in modern day life that get in the way of that scenario, but it's worth getting right, and it's not impossible to achieve. Since I've been blogging I've come across so many people who also value those things and it makes me feel so good when I read their posts. In the last couple of days there are two special posts which talk about families, gathering to prepare and eat meals together, etc.:

Lee-Ann at Pear tree cottage, who writes about the women in her family
and shares some corners in her kitchen with us
Alice at A growing delight, who writes about the kitchen, the heart of the house

Thank you, ladies!

We will be spending a couple of days in the country - see you when we get back.

Weekend? what weekend?

This morning I got an email from Alice up at A Growing Delight. Her comment that having a good weekend didn't apply to me anymore struck a chord with me, as it's true that it's no longer something to look forward to any more than any other day, now that I'm retired. I am enjoying my days much more equally, and don't feel I have to cram all the good times into a few precious hours. Mind you, not that I'm letting time slip away, what with bookbinding, reading and baking. The latter is very much appreciated by the Man Who Cooks, (aka the Man Who Loves His Cake) and I remarked to Alice that I think I've baked more in the few weeks since I've been retired than I normally would in 6 months. Here is another recipe - I got it from a Sunday newspaper magazine in 2002. It's been scanned in and OCR'd (optical character recognition) so no need to type it up - I forgot about having that capability on the scanner, fax, copier, printer.


Preparation 5-10 mins (yeah, right, it takes longer than that, but not much)
Cooking 50 mins

250g butter, softened
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup Greek yoghurt
½ cup semolina
2 ½ cups self-raising flour, sifted Note: an all-important 2 was left off this ingredient, thanks to Jude for pointing this out. It should be 2 ½ cups of self-raising flour. Sorry!

orange syrup
3 oranges, zested in strips and juiced
½ cup water
½ cup liquid honey

1. Preheat oven to 175ÂșC. Grease and flour a 22cm ring-mould cake tin.

2. Cream butter, orange zest and sugar until pale. Beat in orange juice and eggs. Stir in Greek yoghurt, add semolina and sifted flour. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

3. For syrup, place orange zest and juice, water and honey in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes to form a syrup. Pour hot syrup over cooled cake.

Looks a treat too! I used a bundt pan which makes cakes look special.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Patrick White - a writer worth reading

In the early 1970s when I knew I was going to be migrating with my Aussie husband to Australia, I started to arm myself with information about the place. Back then people did not know a hell of a lot about Australia. You've all heard the stories about people mixing up Australia and Austria? When I introduced my husband to my uncle he asked Mel what language he spoke at home. Yes, that really happened, and probably still does.

Anyway, in those days the Australian consulate in San Francisco had an information service which included a library, and in addition to books about Australia I would borrow as many fiction works by Australian authors as I could get through. I liked what I read, and have ever since preferred reading the fiction of Australia to that of other countries. One of my favorite authors has always been Patrick White, and I've probably read most of his novels. But that would be a few years ago now, and I am due for a reread, especially his The tree of man, which I regard as a kind of secular biblical epic.

It appears however that the work of Patrick White, Australia's only Nobel prize winner for literature, is no longer read widely, and not even valued amongst contemporary publishers. Briefly, The Australian newspaper recently sent some chapters from White's work to various publishers who all rejected it. You can read more about it here, but whatever the case, do yourself a favor and read some Patrick White novels soon. You might even want to join the Patrick White read-a-thon at the Sarsaparilla blog. My recommendations, in addition to The tree of man:
Riders in the chariot
The Aunt's story
The eye of the storm
A fringe of leaves

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another Wednesday come and gone

Somehow, today seemed to just go by, slowly (I like that bit!) and without a huge amount accomplished. I think I have bookbinder's block - I'm so distracted by all the ideas I've seen in books and at workshops that I flit from one thing to another. I also need a few more supplies that will enable me to carry out particular projects from beginning to end. It's sometimes daunting to cut into the beautiful fabric and papers too.

Before I retired, a wasted Wednesday, my day off, would have made me unhappy with myself, and then I would have to wait until the weekend (busy with other things) or the following Wednesday to get stuff done. Now I have tomorrow to go out and get those supplies and get stuck into it. In the meantime I got up on the step ladder and cleaned the rangehood, and the top of the oven and fridge. That feels better - but I would have rather made a book! And I remembered to sit down in my chair in the sun, and read a while.

Yesterday was by contrast a very productive day, and I also tried out a new spaghetti and meatball recipe and made delicious butterscotch brownies (recipe thanks to Sue at Susie's Place - easy to make too). My sons have given it their seal of approval, which means I'll have to bake again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sandwich tins? Round?

This is something sure to cause some comment amongst both Australian and American readers. Yesterday Kali sent me a recipe for cinnamon tea cake, which I made today and can thoroughly recommend. It's quick to make, and nice and light. The recipe is below.

However, I'm just wondering about the term "sandwich tin", and why it would be round? Does anyone know? I didn't have something as small as 18 cm so I used a bread loaf tin and baked it for only 25 minutes instead of 30. Another thing I noticed when I first starting using Australian recipes is that self-raising flour is much more widely used than in the U.S.

Cinnamon tea cake

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
vanilla essence (about a capful)
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
extra melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

Sift the flour with the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and the nutmeg. Beat the egg white until stiff. Add the egg yolk and mix in. Gradually beat in the 1/2 cup of sugar. Slowly stir in the milk and vanilla essence. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, with the melted butter.

Spoon into a greased 18cm (7 in) round sandwich tin and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. While still hot, brush the top with extra melted butter and sprinkle with the teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with the tablespoon of sugar.

Serve warm or cold, with butter.

From: The Australian Heritage Cookbook
ISBN 1 74045 492 8

Tried n true kitchen gadget

Guess what's hidden behind this cabinet door...

Well, there's a Kenwood Chef which we've had since the 70s, but that's not the subject of this post.

It's the wonderful slide away shelf that allows me to lift up the Kenwood into just the right height, and afterwards store it back out of the way. The Man Who Cooks bought this in the U.S. just before we were about to leave for Australia. It has been installed in the 3 houses we've lived in over the years, and I wouldn't be without it!

Oh, and the Kenwood Chef is a winner too.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Can't believe we made these books!

Look at this! Hard cover books with hinges that Annie and I made at Barb's workshop. Covered in fabric brought back from Beijing, chopstick used as decoration near spine. We are happy campers! Can't wait for the next workshop in August. I think I could spend my whole retirement sitting in Barb's cosy work room, making beautiful things from paper. Oh, we made beautiful paper too!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Problems losing comments?

I'm wondering if other people are having trouble posting comments to this blog or other blogs? A few people have said their comments keep disappearing, or notifying emails bounce back. Is this a Blogger thing, or is it my ISP? A test post would be appreciated - you don't even have to be witty.

If you can't upload a comment, my email is vforbes at netspace dot net dot au

Monday, July 10, 2006

New kitchen gadget

Not to be outdone by Tanya over at the Purple Giraffe with her new washing machine, I must show off my new appliance, my very first electric kettle . When I was living in the U.S., pre 1974, I don't ever remember coming across these, but it's a very common appliance in the Australian kitchen.

So why am I blogging about it? Well, electric kettles have long been on my banned gadgets list, along with microwaves and mobile phones. Our current conventional kettle is a wreck: blackened from having stove spatters burnt onto it (do not send cleaning tips please), and the whistle cap broken from having been dropped, so that it not only looks yuk but also no longer whistles, a disaster-in-waiting (if I'm forgetting the days of the week, how am I going to remember that I put on the kettle a few minutes ago?).

But the Man Who Cooks convinced me that an electric kettle would be an improvement over the conventional one. It won't take up any more space than our current kettle (a big objection to new gadgets), and it does not sit on a stove so can't get burnt black; it shuts itself off automatically and it boils water much faster than a conventional kettle. OK, already, I'm convinced, but that's the thing: I need to be convinced that buying something new is necessary and will offer an improvement over what we already have. I am a reluctant consumer.

Electric kettles are a mainstay of even the most budget of hotel and motel rooms in Australia, where coffee, tea and sugar are supplied, as well as milk in a small fridge in the room. I was amazed to see that when arriving in Australia, don't know if that's done in other countries. It's very convenient, and can save money too as it means we have the ability to make a simple bread and cheese breakfast. But we always bring our own coffee - both of us are Coffee Nazis.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Time and the seasons

Can it be that after only a couple of weeks of retirement I often lose track of the day of the week? The time of day also does not seem so important, certainly I don't have to rush in the morning. I do have my 4 aerobics classes a week, so that gives the week a nice structure.

What about the seasons, and here I don't mean the summer etc variety. Working in the education sector, the year is already divided up for you into semesters and various breaks in between. You get into the rhythm of the year depending on what point the academic year has reached. Will something else come along to replace that? Is it necessary? I do feel my working years went by quickly because there were so many markers throughout the year. If only retirement would mean a slowing in the passage of years, but somehow I don't think that will be.

My main motto is: Try to have some fun every day.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Della's retirement perspective

Here's someone else's take on retirement. Della has a Turning Sixty website, with the subtitle "To everything there is a season". How true that is. It takes self-knowledge to identify that you've entered a new season, what will suit it, and the courage to go with it. A site like Della's addresses a number of issues relevant to people of a certain age (to paraphrase a Tina Turner lyric, and now THERE'S a role model!) and makes for good reading. There are also some forums to participate in. How wonderful that the advent of blogging, and the internet in general, enables us to get together in cyberspace and share ideas and experiences.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Taking my sons to the zoo - never too old!

Going to the zoo is something I do regularly, being a member of Friends of the Zoo, but today I had the pleasant surprise of having my sons kindly accept my invitation to accompany me. They are of the age where it's not the coolest thing to go to the zoo, especially with your mother, but we enjoyed each other's company while watching the antics of the young orangutan and admiring the beauty of the various felines.

There were many young families there, the day being sunny and not too wintery. I was pleased that I didn't see what I've seen all too often during past visits: mothers talking constantly on their mobile phones and ignoring their children, not watching children's reactions to the animals, answering their questions or interacting with them. This is prime quality time with children, and what an opportunity is lost when a parent's eyes are glazed over as she talks with friends or intently reads the oh-so-important text messages coming through.

OK, Blogger working now...

Those pelicans are quite large when up close! They were a bit aggressive too.
The young orangutan put on a great show. The older one can be seen in the background hiding under a light blue skirt.

There are the boys looking at the young orangutan which got a round of applause when it reached the top of the pole.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Christmas in July

I've just been over at Lee-Ann's Pear Tree Cottage where she has written about Christmas in July too. Very lovely decorations, go have a look.

But MY Christmas in July is a bit of confession: our Christmas decorations are STILL UP, I don't even see them any more! Really must remove them from the bamboo screen, but maybe I should wait until we recreate the Christmas dinner we had, weather now is much better for it. Now that's a good excuse, isn't it.