Friday, November 29, 2013


FRIDAY is cake-bake day at my place.

The small rituals of baking are very soothing;  warming the oven, beating the sugar and butter in a small bowl, adding the fresh eggs from Gidget and the girls then transferring the mixture to a larger bowl.

Sifting in the flour and cocoa alternatively with the milk, then using the spatula to ensure every ingredient is evenly combines.

Pouring the mixture int a well greased and baking-paper line tin or individual patty pans.

Then when they come out of the oven the whole kitchen smells like home.

Thank goodness for Fridays!

Most of these will come into work with me for my colleagues to enjoy for morning tea.

Here's the recipe

Alison's chocolate butter cakes

185g butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup of mil
2 cups sifted SR flour
1/2 cup sifted cocoa

  1. Preheat oven to 180
  2. Prepare greased cake tin or put patty tins in tray
  3. Cream butter and sugar in small bowl
  4. Add eggs
  5. Transfer mixture to large bowl
  6. Add flour and cocoa alternatively with milk - you may need to add a little more milk
  7. Pour into tins / pans
  8. Bake for 15-25 minutes depending on your oven
  9. when cakes spring back to you touch they are ready
  10. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


SEVEN Mix masters is the limit.


Yesterday a work colleague plonked a box down on my desk.

It contained a great old mix-master he'd found at an op-shop, still bearing the price tag for the princely sum of eight dollars.


This is the second mix-master someone from work has found for me. 

It's also the only one with a plastic bowl - so practical as it will bounce rather than shatter if I drop it.

Tonight I shall use to whip the butter and sugar for a chocolate cake - it's the perfect size for creaming these ingredients.

But cycling home last night with the booty in my backpack I have decided this is it - seven is enough for any keen cook.

Monday, November 25, 2013


BAKING a new recipe which is vastly different from my usual cake repertoire is always fun.
I'm working my way through the wonderful Merle Parrish's new cookbook Merle's Country Show Baking: and Other Favourites and everything I have baked has looked just as the recipes did in the book - amazing!
I did substitute full cream coconut milk for low-fat as I bought the wrong can but it still rose and tasted good.
The cakes were for the opening of the new Bellbrae Fire Station and our
guests seemed to enjoy them at the morning tea which was nice.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


PESTS. Grubs, non-beneficial insects and fungal diseseases all equal trouble.
Call them what you will but these tetchy troublemakers are at large all over the garden at the moment.

Luckily, Peter Cundall has come up with some excellent solutions.

In my garden I love seeing the chooks scratch around and eat those aphids, scurrying caterpillars and grubs.

If only they could climb trees and eat black spot on the roses!

Here the girls are hard at work tearing up grass
where I wanted to put in a new vegetable bed.

So far I have planted an apple tree and a lemon tree as well as inheriting another citrus and a plum which was discovered when i removed kilos of ivy from a shed wall.

As Sir Cundall advises, now is the time to check your fruit trees for insects and any fungal growth. He said it is important to collect coddling moth cases and ensure your clear up and removal of weeds and lawn clippings near fruit trees is carried out to ensure you don't spread diseases or insects.

Any infected growth such as fruit or leaves should be removed and thrown out in the rubbish, not put through the compost.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


WHAT is it with citrus trees?

One day they are lush and green and bursting with fruit, the next they are sulking, their yellowed leaves dropping and drooping like all get-out.

After enduring one of my inherited with the new garden lemon trees not looking healthy, I moved it on the weekend to a sunnier spot.

It's a little more windy at the rear of the yard but it certainly gets more sunshine and there's more space than it's former position where it was very close to fence.

After giving it a good water and feed, it's now looking a bit more robust, so fingers crossed.

But the other lemon tree in a big tub is not happy - dropping it's mottled leaves all over.

If it does not buck up then it's out.

I've discovered over the years you can spend too much time, money and energy on plants that don't and won't perform.

Growing lemons is a wonderful treat - nothign like picking one the night before you plan to have pancakes for breakfast or to add to your peppermint or black tea.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


TALKING the road less travelled is a great way to discover different plants for your garden.

It’s also a lovely way to make your commute to the office a lot more interesting.

This morning I skipped the main road to work and instead meandered down a blue-stone laneway, attracted by the bright roses growing over a fence.

I don’t know the varieties but they were gorgeous.


So I took these images and I’ll go through my rose directory tonight and see if I can identify them.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


BAKING first thing in the morning is always fun.
While the rest of the world is snoozing and dawn is breaking, I love listening to the radio while beating fresh eggs from the chooks, triple-sifting flour and hunting out the vanilla-bean infused castor sugar.
This morning I tried out Danish honeycakes from Merle's Country Show Baking and Other Favourites by that CWA stalwart Merle Parish.
Now I never saw her on TV but as soon as I read about her cookbook, I was enchanted. True to form, it combines practical good sense baking tips with some really gorgeous recipes.
As you can see, the Danish Honeycake looks pretty close to Merles, which has made my day! In fact I baked two cakes - one for morning tea at work today and one for after fire brigade training tonight.
Tomorrow I'll be trying the pear and raspberry muffins! I'll keep you posted...

Monday, November 11, 2013


AFTER a fantastic weekend of sunshine with a little rain, the vegetable patch and flower beds are finally looking a little tidier.

Digging out the bamboo along the back fence has been an exercise in gritted-teeth determination but after about 10 hours with a mattock,12 wheelbarrow loads of the blasted roots ans stalks have been ceremoniously taken to the tip.
Worth every penny of the $18.80 boot load fee - I think there were four loads.

The canes have been retained and stripped of leaves, are drying nicely to be used to support the beans and peas.

Next there is just a few dozen to dig out behind the chook shed, but out of sight, out of mind.

As a reward for all that work, I trundled off to the local nursery and bought two red passion fruits and three miniature gardenias, the later for the front vestibule which comprises 3m-4m between the security and front doors.
Now when I dash past their beautiful scent makes me smile.

A friend came over with his lawnmower and happily cut the lawns while i went through three pairs of gloves pulling out weeds and sawing off dead wood form various trees.

Check out the excellent Sustainable Gardening Victoria advice for what else to do this month...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New egg labels

Designing new egg labels is one of the fun things about raising your own chooks. Now we have moved from Jan Juc to Geelong, I needed to update the hen's ID.
Gidget’s Cluckingham Palace
Fresh laid free range eggs from the happy hens: 
 Gidget, Layne. Ledger, Laura and Hilda.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ROSES all the way

ROSES are blooming all over my garden and many of the neighbours at the moment.

On my early morning run today I was distracted by the many beautiful gardens chock-a-block with gorgeous blooms.

While many gardens are full of the perennial favourite Iceberg, I'm delighted that lots of other green-thumbs are keen to grow perfumed varieties in a rainbow of hues.

By the chook house I have planted a much-loved bush rose, Sonia Rykeil, which is going - pardon the pun - bananas and will soon offer much-needed shade to the hens over summer while perfuming that part of the garden.

Sonia Rykeil roses in full bloom.
I know it's important to plant natives which keep the local birds and bees happy, but a few roses planted about really warm my heart and soul.
They also brighten my kitchen - at the moment there's a lovely bouquet of yellow Graeme Thomas roses (bred by veteran rose expert) David Austin and they bring a breath of sunshine inside.
Near the compost bins and grapevines, another tea rose, Pierre De Ronsard is making its way up a pillar.
Now I am trying to decide which climbing roses to grow along the back fence - it's a wonderful time in the garden.