Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So - Christmas meal (it's never lunch or dinner - it's somewhere in the middle) is decided. We will nibble on Bar-Bits (see left) along with slices of fresh bread and Mum's bringing her chicken pate (receipe from The Old House at Wickham circa 1972) - then it's boneless roast chicken with waterchestnut stuffing, Nigella's couscous with pomegranate (which my sister-in-law served up on Sunday and it was YUM) and a spinach and walnut salad. Oh and we have to have crispy potatoes with sea-salt and rosemary because Emily said so.
Trad. Christmas Pudding (courtesy of Mum again)with mandatory Hard Sauce and then a cornucopia of sweet things to pick at till we all feel like throwing up - Christmas Cake (made by me - we'll be making it tommorrow), rumballs (ditto) and Crostoli (from Harris Farm) and Magenbrot and other little lebekuchen from Aldi. Oh - and cherries, white peaches and mangoes for anyone who thinks that eating some fruit will make them feel virtuous. Drinks will be Champagne cocktails for me, Mum and Kylie (my sister) to start and then either a white or fruity red according to how people feel - me I think I'll stick to the Champagne! Dad and Steven will no doubt start with a beer and join us at the wine. One of the good things about hosting Christmas is - no worries about drink driving!
Receipes are as follows:
1 box of Cheerios
1 box of Kelloggs Shredded mini wheat
1 box Kelloggs Crispix
bag of mixed nuts
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
Put all the dry cereal, nuts and pretzels into a large baking dish. Cut up the butter into small pats and spread around the dish. Sprinkle the different salts over the top. Bake in a slow oven (150 C) for 1/2 hour or until toasted - stir every 10 minutes or so to bake evenly.
Chicken Liver Pate from The Old House at Wickham
1 lb chicken liver
1/4 lb chicken breast OR pork fillet
4oz smoked bacon
3 cloves garlic
1 chopped onion
Salt and Pepper
1/4 pint of cream
1 glass of sherry or brandy
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon water
Method: Toss the meats and them toss in hot butter. In a separate pan sweat the onions and garlic till translucent. Chop the meats and retain any juices (for a smoother pate you might want to process half or so in the wizz). Put mixture in a large bowl with herbs and seasonings. Mix the eggs, cream and sherry separately. Mix the cornflour and water. Combine the whole. Line a greased casserole dish with the bacon. Fill with mixture and cover with more bacon. Cook in a bain marie for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 300F or 150C
Boneless Chicken with Waterchestnut Stuffing
4 rashers bacon
1 clove garlic
2 small red capsicums (that's bell peppers for those in the US)
Salt and pepper
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2.5 cm piece (1 inch) piece of green ginger (or a big dollop from a jar if you can't get fresh)
6 shallots (that's spring onions if you are English and scallions if your American)
2 sticks celery
250g can waterchestnuts (see asian food aisle in the supermarket)
1 large chicken (or turkey) or 2 smaller chickens
Cut down the backbone of the chook making sure not to go all the way through the carcass. Use a paring knife to remove all the bones except for the wings and the drumsticks. (Bones make great stock by the way!)
Heat the butter in the pan and add the peeled and chopped onions, crushed garlic, peeled and grated ginger, seaded and chopped capsicums, chopped celery and chopped bacon. Saute gently until onion is tender and remove from heat. Place in a bowl breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, chopped shallots, drained and chopped waterchestnuts, lightly beaten eggs and sauted mixture with any of the fat from the pan and mix well. Stuff the carcass of the chicken - sewing it up with needle and thread as you go (use a bright colour it's easier to find) Sew it up completely - turn it up so that the sewn side is facing down in the pan and truss the wings and legs if needed to further keep its shape. Stuffing is enough for a 3kg (6lb) turkey. To serve - let it stand for 15 minutes covered in foil. Prior to serving pull out the cotton thread (make sure you got all of it!) Serving is as easy as cutting into quarters and putting onto the plate. Each chicken generously serves 4.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Now there are many ways to make rumballs - left over Christmas Cake is one of them - this receipe uses wheat-bix (or for the English - weeta-bix and in the US - not sure what you call them but I'm sure you have them on the supermarket shelves). So - if you make them up think of my grandma who's been gone for 20 years this year - but lives on in happy memories like this one.
1 Tin of Condensed Milk
1 cup dessicated coconut
8 wheat bix (crushed)
1 cup finely chopped mixed fruit
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 generous (!) tablespoons of dark rum
Mix altogether - leave in the fridge for a few hours. Take small balls and roll in coconut or chocolate sprinkes to finish. Store in the fridge if you live in the southern hempisphere!
Now all time favourite Christmas carol? Well hands down for me is "O Holy Night" - having searched You Tube for appropriate renditions - I can't really go past Celine Dion. Not usually a fan of Celine - but her voice does it justice in this version and the diva voice theatricals are kept to a bare minimum. There is a version that I sometimes hear being played in the shops - I have a sneaking suspicion it's Mariah Carey - it reduces me to tears for all the wrong reasons - there are so many trills and vocal aeronauticals it is truly appalling. Anyhoo - here's my all time favourite Christmas Carol - what's yours?
Friday, December 19, 2008
I'd been wanting to get a new wreath for the front door - maybe even two as it's a double door. I used some beautiful Vandoros ribbon from Idyll Pleasures (how convenient to shop there (lol)) and created these beauties. Even my 15 year old was impressed! "I'm not going to lie to you Mum - they are seriously impressive."
So - what do you think?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My personal all time favourite is a movie that came out in 1983 when I was living in New York. I think it went straight to cable (which is where I saw it) but I loved it then and I love it now (I even bought the video when MGM released it a few years ago). It is called "A Christmas Story" and is a charming tale about a young boy living in the 1940's whose greatest Christmas aspiration is to own a Red Rider BB Gun. He is thwarted at every turn by his mother, teacher and even Santa who tell him - "You'll shoot your eye out!"
This movie has given us a family saying "Quickly - I whipped up some tears".
I love this movie - it's narrated in the style of "The Wonder Years" if you remember that tv show from a few years back. Funny scenes include the dad winning a truly atrocious leg lamp, a boy getting his tongue stuck to a frozen lamp post and my personal favourite the "Oh Fudge!" scene where Ralphie helps his dad change a tyre (in the freezing snow) only to drop all the lug nuts and drop the "Queen Mother of all swear words".
So what's your favourite? Others naturally include It's a Wonderful Life
or maybe the Grinch?
Miracle on 34th street - the Natalie Wood version
and also the modern one with Mara Wilson (aka "Matilda")
what about the Little Drummer Boy ?
or maybe Frosty The Snowman?
or Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer?
Or maybe A Christmas Carol?
Then there are Christmas scenes in movies like "Little Women"
So what about you - what are your favourites?
Monday, November 17, 2008
Found this handy website for those who want to make US/British conversions for receipes.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Hmm - also knitted a bag in fluffy yarn and also made some button necklaces (quick and easy - thanks to Kellee for showing us how).
My major project has been to start a blog about my great great grandfather - William Robertson. He started writing poetry and stories in his 70s - very fascinating. I've been helping my dad on his family tree.
He didn't really know his own father (long story) so finding family and making connections has been something of a journey of discovery and I think he is secretly chuffed to find out his great grandfather was a writer (as was his grandfather). As he said, "well it explains the poetic gene" - to which I wittly replied, "oh - good on you fat head!"
But my dad has always been good at writing (he's not talkative - too introverted for that). He wrote to my (maternal) grandfather to ask permission to marry Mum (because Dad was at sea and wasn't able to do it in person).
My grandpa was Police Commissioner in New Guinea after the war and he summoned my mother to come and see him. He had a great sense of humour and so he said very sternly to my mother, "this man is not a seaman at all." Mum got worried thinking he was about to tell her he'd had her fiance investigated and found some dark secret about him! My grandpa went on, "no - he most definitely is not. He's a bloody poet!"
Funny! Anyway - Dad's great grandfather William self published two books of poetry called "The Mountain Muse" and "Echoes of the Mountain Muse" - I have started blogging the stories and poems and adding additional information in on the topics and research and so on. It's right up my genealogical/ history alley! Take a look here.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Sashi commented on my last post which was made a million years ago (thanks Sashi). I was gone so long I wonder if everyone thought I'd died?
Someone who did almost die was my cat Rumple. She was ravished by a randy chocolate siamese cat who bit her on her beautiful fluffy tail (where I couldn't see it). Long story short she developed an abscess on her tail and then had pus forming on her chest. If she'd been any closer to death - she'd have been dead! So an oxygen tank, drip, intravenous antibiotics an X-ray and a chest tap later - she survived but definitely used up all of her nine lives. Probably my most favourite bit (not) was when she came home and I had to give her not one, not two but three different pills twice a day. Lord have mercy!
So apart from feline near death experiences what else have I been up to? Enjoying the freedom of not owning a shop anymore, catching up with girlfriends and lots of veging out which has to stop really. I've also been working as a volunteer with a refugee family which has been an eye opening and interesting experience.
Tommorrow I am teaching a needlefelting class to a group of wet felters - dry felting and three dimensional techniques will be new to them - so that's exciting.
I've also got a gig next Saturday with a Spinning and Weaving group too up in the Gosford area. This has motivated me to get the needles out and add a few new samples to my repertoire - so watch this space!
Monday, May 19, 2008
Well a month and a bit has gone past. The move went well (even though it was raining) and we are mostly out of boxes. I have painted precisely one wall (in the breakfast room - because I swore I was not going to unpack and repack the buffet and hutch containing the "good china" one more time). Anyway - the colour (Clotted Cream - Dulux) is better than the poo brown that was there - so I am inspired to continue (even though my legs ache from climbing up and down on the chair to paint - who needs a stairmaster?)
I am debating painting the skirting boards because they are all stained at the moment. I want to - but if I start I won't be able to change my mind - so need to know I'll see it through to the end. I can't seem to make my mind up about anything at the moment. I quite like the slate - colours are fantastic in it when the sun hits the floor - but it doesn't quite gel with the pale look I was aspiring to. But it does hide the dirt wonderfully well which is another tick in it's favour. Hmm. More cogitating on the whole question really.
The other great question is drawers for the bedrooms. You wouldn't think it was so ruddy hard to find decent drawers - the only alternatives seem to be crappy MDF or thick chunky pine. I am hoping the antique fairies will help me find some - but people don't seem to relinquish chests of drawers and tallboys like they do other items of furniture. Plus I need lots (three kids and husband).
I have had a chance to do something creative - I recently took a class with Bobbi Oliver (who by mysterious happenstance was featured in the same Patchwork and Stitching magazine that had my Picket Fence quilt on the cover). She is a doll artist who works in Super Sculpey. We made two heads - one a half face to make a pin with (or similar) and the other a full head. Mine turned out quite well - a bit of a character. I took Mum to the class too as a bit of a mother's day present (couldn't think what else to give her) and she had a great time. She makes porcelain dolls with Lis Jones - so doing a sculpt was a bit of fun for her I think. The next day (Sunday) was Mother's Day. My eldest sister was down from Queensland (unbeknownst to Mum) - so we had lunch at my place and Mum got a big suprise to see her there. I made homemade mini lemon meringue pies (bought the pie casings thinking I might lash out and make Neenish tarts again - but then came to my senses). They turned out a treat and I should have taken a photo - but the Robertson family (ably assisted by the Butel mutations) are not shy of a good feed - and they all went too fast for me to photograph anything other than a few measly crumbs. But trust me - they tasted good!!!
Friday, April 11, 2008
I totally fell in love with this site when I first saw it and its lovely "movie". The movie is available on youtube but you might also like to watch the higher resolution version on their own website. The music is by a Norwegian musician called Martine Lund Hoel. Isn't the world wide web a wonderful thing some days?
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
Still recovering from a rather horrible cough and totally wiped out every day from working and doing the rest of life you know - the whole wife/mummy gig? I am sick of waiting to move - I now want it over and done with.
I found this totally fabulous bed at www.brocadehome.com - isn't it divinity? I love it - and I also love the venetian glass mirror behind it too (and the chandelier for that matter). It's an American website - so won't be ordering one any time soon unfortunately - although I reckon I could get a really big jar of Lumiere paint and transform an old bed somehow??
Oh well - a girl can dream!
I do have a silver dream that turned into reality - my new Mazda 3 Neo Sports. I chose silver (has an black trim inside). After 13 years tootling round in my previous one - it's nice to have an updated car - with CD player, ipod dock, electric windows and central locking (yay!) - better not fall asleep in it!
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Oh - that Sam-I-Am, that Sam-I-Am. I do not like that Sam-I-Am.
Haven't heard from Sam since I pointed that one out. The resolution appears that the only way to fix the problem is to wipe the whole computer and lose all my data which is not a very acceptable result to me. They do this really clever thing now where they partition the hard disk and set aside a portion that allows you to recover if your PC fails. This is very clever and saves the fifty cents it would cost them to provide you with the software ON DISK. The problem is when you are in a position such as the one I am in - you have to wipe out the entire PC to get it to work again because you don't have any disks to boot from. Brilliant!
Did I mention I hate that Sam-I-Am?
So now I am on my husband's old laptop which runs Mozilla Firefox. I use to use Microsoft Internet Explorer (call me a weird but I actually quite like using it as I've had problems with Mozilla Firefox).
I am now horrified to learn that my blog is a great big mess when I look at it in Firefox with things all over the place. Quelle horreur! I shall attempt to fix it up - but if you are looking at it in Explorer and it goes haywire in that let me know won't you - you know like you'd tell someone that their skirt is tucked up in their undies before they leave the ladies restroom?
So it's been a fun couple of days - I've lost every photo from my PC (family ones - the kids - argh) although fortunately I have a few on this blog so I will have to screen scrape them off even though they will be low res).
Had a couple of virtual visitors to the new house - Judi and Erica (friends from the doll world although I do also know Erica in "real" life) and Jodi who has a wonderful blog called Cote de Texas. She is an uber doyenne of stylish decorating with fab taste in everything. I left a comment on a post in her blog - so she popped in for a visit. Kind of wish she'd waited till I'd done something about the brick walls, pink paint and green carpet - feeling like a bit of an Aussie dag (which I am but - well - you know).
So that's it for now - autumn has come to Sydney early -it's cool and crisp today - beautiful and sunny - that terrible February humidity didn't come for once (yay!) No doubt we'll get a couple more hot ones in the mix - but it's kind of exciting to know that summer's over.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Here's another shot across the deck - you can see all the bushland we own - it's nice and peaceful and yes - we'll be repainting the railings!
There are lots of birds that live in the gum trees - so it will be nice to sit out and enjoy the privacy (or as Claire calls it Privatsy).
The kids are looking forward to having their own rumpus room (complete with bar - won't be hiding the booze down there!) It should be easy enough to run water into the space to make it a wet bar - maybe even a kitchenette! The vertical blinds and the brick walls are another thing that will be going - I hate both with an equal passion - can't stand that Australian colonial look with brick walls, pine furniture or brown leather couches - brown, brown, brown and drab, drab, drab. (Sorry - getting a bit passionate there!) Here's the family room and the peach walls, vertical drapes and the tiffany light shades are going as is the slate tile. It's going to be so much brighter and paler!
Here's the formal lounge - yes the pink walls and green carpet will take a bullet as well as those very unattractive light fittings and curtains. I am tempted to put built in display/bookshelves on either sides of the open fire - not sure if there is enough depth there - I'd like to use the power to the unattractive sconces to have illuminated cabinets.
Sitting above the formal lounge is the master bedroom with equally tasteful light fittings and curtains and paint and carpet with the addition of a wallpaper dado. See - this makes it easy - you just think - bullet - it's a no brainer. I do like the double doors though I'll be painting the wood stained door trims white too.
Last but not least - the kitchen. In it's day I'd say that it was the top-of the line on offer - look at the granite benchtop - it's at least 2 inches thick. It's a bit heavy looking and ultimately I think I'll install a new kitchen based around my choice of appliances (I loathe Smeg with a passion - anyone with me on that?) I think the current oven is a Westinghouse - so I might actually be able to cook with it. In the interim I may well paint the cupboard doors white to lighten the mood a little and maybe change the doorknobs. The slate floor may stay till I decide exactly what I am doing in this space. There is a breakfast room and the family room in a straight line from this kitchen - if possible I'd like to take out the walls and open it up into one large communal space - but that will largely depend on whether the walls are supporting walls or not and implications of beams etc. to span the space.
Well that's it for now folks - my life will shortly be about nothing else but packing boxes.
Just to add to the general merriment - we also bought the new house last week - here it is from the front. The tree ferns will be the first thing to go as they block the light into the front windows - I shall either sell them or move them into the bush at the back. We will also get the roof restored - repointed, cleaned, sealed and re-sprayed an get a soft wash and high pressure hose done on the driveway (we were so impressed by what a difference it made to our house!) I am also thinking of repainting the bluewall and trims - but can't decide on a colour - so it may stay the same for a while as I contemplate!
Here's around the back - it's a big block - 1910m2 but mostly it's bush - no garden to take care of which I am feeling slightly ambivalent about. Part of me wanted to buy an acreage and put in some totally splendiferous garden (probably had something to do with seeing a show on the ABC about Sissinghurst - but in reality I am not an upper-class English heiress with a husband interested in garden design - so I am probably having myself on - (you know - just a bit). However - I do have a genetic predisposition for gardening - my grandmother's grandfather was a self educated man who worked at various times as either a groom or a gardner. Apparently he use to go around the Botanic Gardens and point out all the incorrect classifications on the various plants to the gardeners.
Dad's side of the family has an even more impressive gardening history - his great grandfather was head gardener at several big estates in Scotland - he even worked at the Archbishop's Palace in Armagh, Northern Ireland. This is pretty funny as Dad's gardening ambitions have only ever stretched as far as mowing the lawns (and then having a nice refreshing beer soon after).
I remember one time when the grass was about knee high and Mum begged him to at least mow a path to the washing line. Which is exactly what he did - once around the Hills Hoist and back again. She was not amused.
We of course thought it was hysterical - until I saw Muriel's Wedding some years later (which is the most poignant and tragic comedy ever). Remember the scene where the mother had asked and asked for someone to mow the backyard so she could hang the washing out? She ends up committing suicide and when Muriel returns home the backyard is a smoking ruin as her mother set fire to it - evidently she was not amused either.
OK - wow that went off on a tangent didn't it? So I will do another post showing the rest of the new house and I will jot down other notes to myself about things I want to change.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
This is a video of Claire (my youngest) being interviewed after church for a video presentation at the annual dinner that kicks off the year.
It's a moment in time which captures her compassion for others so well. The little girl she mentions, Sophie Delezio really captured Claire's attention - I think because she has come through so much for one so young and also because of her unfailingly sweet smile despite life's difficulties. Whenever Claire has a whinge about her hair not behaving or (God help me) her thighs being too "jiggly" I ask her if she thinks Sophie whinges about the way she looks. It's snaps her out of it quick smart!
Monday, January 07, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
2008 looks like it's going to be a big year. First off the husband wants to move house - which sounds fine if you say it really quickly but that entails:
a) getting your own house in order so that it looks somewhat more desireable than a "renovate or detonate" proposition
b) keeping your own house actually in order so that it's ready for inspection at the drop of a hat - this is hard when two parents are working and the three kids are at home - eating (plate? what's a plate?) drinking - (coaster? what's a coaster?) and going for swims (think wet cossies and towels dumped in sodden piles along with several changes of clothes a day.
c) keeping the garden in order - it's summer and a reasonably wet one at that - so all the plants (and more especially the weeds) are growing like mad to make up for the last three summers when it was so hot and so dry they weren't allowed to do anything above barely survive).
d) finding a house where one would like to live - we've found a couple but they are in a different area so would entail changing schools for all three kids. I don't even want to go there!
Maybe it would be easier to get a divorce -hmmmm.
Now you may well be thinking why not just renovate, detonate, put on an addition etc. to deliver what we want? Well - that's all very sensible but as we have had gee - I don't know - at least 1 million iterations of this question the one thing we know about ourselves is that we are not knockdown rebuilders, renovators or anything else like that - mate - we can barely maintain!
So we will search for the perfect place and hope we eventually find it. We did see this place - but someone bought it three days before Christmas. Who buys a house three days before Christmas I ask you? We're also thinking about this place - but it may well go before we get our act together.
So how did I spend my one week of the year off?
Steven is a great starter ( I call him the gusher) - he is however totally crap at finishing- anything. So he started painting the laundry, the outside bathroom and the inside bathroom ceiling with great gusto. I of course finished them all - you know those boring fiddly bits where ceiling meets wall, second coats - that sort of unimportant stuff which requires going up and down the ladder a thousand times? I also repainted our bedroom and took down the curtains and washed them, stripped the bed and washed all the linen including the quilt and dusted and mopped every nook and cranny.
Basically I've come back to work for a rest.
Now apart from all the moaning the exciting thing is that lovely Patti Culea has asked me to do a project for her new book. A great honour and the timing is pretty snappy which suits me as the longer I have to procrastinate then that's exactly what I do. Mind you the inner critic is having a lovely time with me - but I think I've got an idea that will work - knowing me the overachieving perfectionist will do at least two different ones - you know - just in case.
Better go and extract my digit!