Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Carrot Cake

A favourite recipe in this house is carrot cake. Its moist, yummy and has lots of healthy stuff in it. When I make carrot cake I generally cook a number of batches at once. Last time I made 7 large cakes and froze 6. They freeze well. The mixture can also be made into large muffins which are great for school. If you are making multiple batches then I suggest you use a food processor for the grating, unless of course you really like grating.

Carrot Cake
1 cup grated apple
2 1/2 cups grated carrot
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup sultanas or currants
2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups flour (wholemeal adds extra fiber, I often use spelt flour)
2 large eggs or 3 small eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons bicarb soda
2 teaspoons cold water

Mix apple, carrot, walnuts, sultanas, sugar, spices, vanilla essence and oil in large bowl. Add lightly beaten eggs. Add flour. Dissolve bicarb in water and add. Mix thoroughly.

Bake at 160C for approx 1 hour 20 minutes if using large loaf pan (check after 1 hour. When a skewer comes out clean its cooked. Large muffins take approx 30 minutes.

Cool and eat as is or ice with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
125g cream cheese
lemon juice
icing sugar (approx 1 cup)

Mix cream cheese and lemon juice until soft and creamy. Add icing sugar until required taste and consistency is reached.

Lots of healthy ingredients.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Monday again, how the weeks fly by. This weekend was a busy one. Our son came home from Uni for the weekend and brought the usual load of washing with him. Its lovely to see him when he comes home and hear of his life at Uni. He left Sunday night with a bag of clean washing and lots of home cooked meals for the coming week.

On Saturday I had to go on a course to update my CPR skills. I am required to hold a first aid certificate for my voluntary work and we have to update our CPR every twelve months. Its amazing how fast that twelve months goes by. Its good to have the skills and a refresher course is valuable but its a nuisance giving up all Sat afternoon. The travel is the worse bit - we spent as much time traveling to the course as at it.

Sunday we celebrated a couple of family birthdays. I finished the skirt for my niece Saturday night, nothing like leaving things to the last minute. I was pleased with the way it turned out but forgot to take a photo. Drats. So far my challenge to make at least half the gifts this year is going well. I did buy my nephew's gift though, he wanted Lego so Lego he got.

Most of our family birthdays are at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. The middle months are relatively birthday free. I'm hoping to use this opportunity to plan ahead and get a start on some Christmas gifts.It would be nice to be organized. We will see how it goes.

I hope you have a great weekend,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Beautiful Autumn Day

Its cold and foggy this morning but the sun is starting to peep through so it will probably be another beautiful autumn day. Autumn here means very cold mornings, beautiful days and cold evenings. Its a wonderful time of the year.

Its been a busy week, I've been out most days with the voluntary position I hold with a youth group. I don't normally have as many appointments in one week, its just a few things have all come at once.

Work has also picked up which is great but I would love to be out in the garden. Time management is one of my biggest issues. If I spend time in one area and catch up then other areas suffer. Balancing between my obligations and my 'want tos' is always tricky. Food on the table and clean clothes to wear are my priorities around the house. The vacuuming can wait.

The priorities for today are to catch up on some work, finish sewing a skirt for a niece, pick up my daughter from her after school class, a quick bit of shopping and prepare for a meeting tonight. Maybe somewhere in there I'll get out into the garden for an hour. I've got a nice big pile of strawberry plants to plant in the garden.

I hope your day goes well for you,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

  • Planted about 20 strawberry plants under the fruit trees, I've still got plenty more to plant.
  • The snails feasted on my last lot of seedlings so planted more cabbage and broccoli seedlings and will hope the snails leave these alone.
Planning for The Future

Meal planning is a bit hit and miss at the moment. We have had a number of nights when one or more of us has had to go out at night. I'm trying to cook a few meals in double quantity and freeze the leftovers. I'm also making frozen meals for my son who is at university.

Working for the Future

Building Community
  • Voluntary work with a local youth organization
Learn a new Skill
  • Struggled through what I thought was a simple knitting pattern, pulled it out three times and then realized I had been over confident and hadn't read the pattern properly! New skill- read the patterns carefully before you begin!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Night with the Mums

This week we celebrated Mothers Day at the youth group I volunteer for. We invited our mums for a night of fun and games. The kids planned the program, cooked the food and made the invitations last week. This week there was much excitement as the mums arrived.

We played games, served supper and had a chat. The kids and mums had a great time. At the end of the evening a number of mums approached me for more game ideas. They had had a wonderful time and wanted to play the games at their children's birthday parties. It seems the at home birthday party is back.

Its probably a sign of the economic times but apparently the 'activity' birthday party is losing favour and kids are rediscovering the fun of at home parties. The hard economic times do have a brighter side - people are rediscovering simple pleasures, that has to be a good thing.

One of the games we played last night is like Pictionary with playdough. Its fun and can be played by anyone.

Divide into teams, any number in the teams, it doesn't matter. One person in each team starts with the playdough. They are given a secret object to make with the playdough. The other teams members must guess what it is. Once the team guesses correctly the playdough is passed to another team member who is given another object to make. The first team to guess all their ojects wins.

Make the objects to guess appropriate to the age group playing. Mix in some simple things with harder to guess objects. Examples include: chair, table, flower, tree, dog, kangaroo, a smile ....

Playdough Recipe
2 cups plain flour
1 cup cooking salt
1 cup of water
food colouring

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Add more flour if the mixture is sticky. You should have a smooth dough. This will keep for weeks in a sealed container in the fridge.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My favourite scone recipe

Years ago, with a new baby in arms (literally), I was lying on the couch, exhausted, watching day time TV. There was a cooking segment on a popular variety show and the recipe they were demonstrating was the easiest scone recipe ever. I liked the idea of easy scones so struggled up and found a pen and copied down the recipe. I've been using it ever since.

Its one of those recipes that never fail. Some batches are better than others but they are never a complete disaster. You can adapt the basic recipe and make fruit and spice, date or whatever takes your fancy. You can literally have these on the table and the dishes done in 30 minutes. I've passed this recipe on to friends and they all agree - its the easiest scone recipe ever.

You can freeze the scones if you like. They defrost well and either 30 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in the oven gives you warm, fresh scones.


Easiest Ever Scones
4 cups SR flour
300mls cream (light cream works fine)
300mls water

Combine all ingredients and mix to a dough. If the dough is still sticky you may need to add more flour. Knead very lightly, roll out, cut into shapes, place on lightly floured baking tray and bake for 12mins at 180C.

These were made with half wholemeal flour and about a teaspoon of mixed spice and a couple of handfuls of dried fruit. Yummy warm from the oven with butter and a hot cup of tea.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Not much has happened in the garden this week. My seedlings are desperate to be planted out but work and family commitments have consumed my time this week.

Planning for The Future

Menu planning
Monday -BBQ
Tuesday - Chicken and corn soup with home made bread
Wednesday -Irish stew
Thursday - Pasta carbonara
Friday- Spaghetti Bolognaise
Saturday- Aunty Beryl's chicken
Sunday -leftovers

Working for the Future
  • More decluttering including cleaning up an old study area that is no longer used to make it into a sewing area for me.
  • Wrote up a list of family birthdays and anniversaries to help plan gift making/giving and card making/giving.

Working for the Community
  • Volunteered for a local youth organization
Learn a New Skill

Sewed my first button hole. The sewing machine did most of the work and it was a little big but at least I did it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mothers' Day

Happy Mothers' Day
I hope all the mothers had a wonderful day yesterday. We went and visited my mother along with the rest of the extended family. We spent a lovely afternoon together drinking coffee and eating cake. My MIL lives interstate so we rang her that evening.

I managed to finish the gift for my mother on time - just. Saturday was spent finishing it off and cleaning up my sewing mess. I literally had sewing supplies from one end of the house to the other. I now have my own desk to use for my sewing. It will be bliss. I won't have to lug the sewing machine around the house looking for a power point and a table no one is using.

The desk I'm using was once the computer desk. Its in a little nook off the hallway where the kids had a computer set up to use on the internet. It was easy to monitor their internet usage as we frequently wandered past. The kids got older and progressed to computers in their rooms as their homework load increased. The spot in the hallway attracted dust and lots of bits of junk that had no other home.

A quick clean up on Saturday left me with a nice big desk with a power point under the desk and good lighting. Excellent. The only draw back is there is very little natural light. I mainly sew of an evening anyway so that's not too bad.

What did I make my mum - two set of tea towels (dish towels) and a hand towel for the kitchen. I was going to make a second hand towel but ran out of time. Maybe next year I'll be more organized.

A hand towel for the kitchen.
I was planning on embroidering red hearts on the border on the towel but sadly I ran out of red thread.

A set of heart tea towels (dish towels).

A set of cupcake tea towels (dish towels).

Enjoy your day,

Friday, May 8, 2009

After the Fires

Recently we went for a drive up through the fire affected country near us. The Black Spur, a road that winds through the mountains where normally you are surrounded by tall timber and lush tree ferns, is now simply black. The fires roared through this beautiful area. Normally you would only catch a glimpse of the sky through the Black Spur as the trees were so high and close together. Now the trees are black and the landscape far more open.

We kept going up to Marysville. There are black and brown patches on the sides of the mountains. The burnt remains of houses and businesses are evident from the main road. Then there will be a patch of green, untouched by the fires. Once at Marysville the horror of these fires hits again. The main street has been devastated. There is very little left. Even the playground is gone.

The huge trees are blackened and in some places have been removed as they were unsafe. Even the river looks smaller, sadder, it has lost its cheerful bubbling as it wound its way through the town.

Already there is new growth and you know the town will rebuild. It will be beautiful again but its going to be a long, slow process. My heart went out to those that lost everything.

We came home and thought how it could easily have been us. We live in a similar area, mountains, trees and lots of bush. Fires have roared through here before and probably will again. Its a sobering thought.

Devastation along the main street

The hills surrounding Marysville

Signs of new growth

Kepler lookout

Thursday, May 7, 2009

59 T-Shirts

I helped my teenage daughter clean out her wardrobe last week. I had a bet with her that she owned over 50 T-shirts. She loves a new T-shirt. It seems she can't go to a shopping center without coming home with at least one new shirt. I admit they don't cost much individually but when you add it all up its a pretty sum indeed.

So the clean up began. We counted 59 shirts and stopped there. It didn't include those in the wash or a few floating around her floor. We sorted through the huge pile and threw some out and some went in the op shop pile. She kept around 40 which is better but still excessive.

My daughter has now decided to cut down on her spending and save some money. She will need it next year when she goes to university. She'll still buy T-shirts but only a couple a season.

59 t-shirts is a little bit symbolic of our society - we buy because we want it not because we need it. I have been attempting to cut down our spending to necessities for a while now. Its interesting that even my husband is losing his interest in major shopping centers. He used to be a 'lets go and have a look around to see what's new' sort of person. Now when we go to a major shopping center we tend to do what needs to be done and go home.

Our income has fallen significantly over the last few months and may fall further. Cutting back is becoming a necessity. So far the cut backs have been relatively pain free. Its amazing how much money we spent on take away food (usually at a shopping center) and luxury items such as magazines, DVDs and treats from the bakery.

We've stopped buying the magazines and DVDs and I know make our bread. Making bread means no trips to the bakery. Not going to the bakery means not buying the apple scroll for morning tea and the pie for lunch. It adds up pretty quickly and would sometimes cost $30 or more a trip.

I'm off to make some bread for lunch and a tea cake for morning tea. Much cheaper and healthier.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday so I took the chance to spend an hour or so in the garden.

Seedling planted out:
Silver Beet - 5 colour

Tomatoes - There were still the odd tomatoes lurking beneath the mess. These were picked and the green tomatoes picked to make pickles. The green zebra bush is covered in tomatoes and still growing well. It must be more frost hardy.

Beans - Blue Lake - the old vines were removed and the pods harvested for next years seeds. They are drying on a tray inside.

Parsnip- fresh parsnips smell wonderful, nothing like store bought ones. I found a huge one lurking under the celery so its going to go into my favourite soup.

Celery - still going strong.

Planning for The Future
Decided this house will be far too big for the two of us. Both our kids are planning to live in at university so there is the very real chance there will be just the two of us here next year. We will do some maintenance on this house but nothing too major. We will plan to sell in the next couple of years.

Working for the Future
  • Helped teenage daughter clean out her wardrobe
  • Bought carrots and onions in bulk
  • Burnt off some of the leaves and debris we had collected over the winter

Working for the Community
  • Hosted Australia's Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council
  • Volunteered for a local youth organization

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another weekend gone

Another weekend gone. They seem to slip by so quickly. Our son was home again for the weekend. He brought his usual bag of washing. The house was full of text books and promotional material he had collected at an industry expo. Nearly every show bag he collected contained a drink bottle. Water bottles seem to be the promoters dream. How many does one person need though?

I spent most of Saturday volunteering at a local community event. We raise funds for cancer research. This year was disappointing as we only raised a third of what we normally do. We suspect it is a flow on from the economic crisis - families have less to spend on non-essentials. Although I would have like to raise more money for a good cause, it was still a worthwhile day. It was lovely and sunny and I caught up with people I don't often see.

Sunday I was hoping to get out into the garden. I have seedling who desperately need to be planted out. Unexpected visitors arrived so the afternoon was spent in front of the fire chatting and eating afternoon tea. The seedlings will have to wait.

I've started my sewing for Mothers Day. Things are progressing reasonably well. I need to get most of it cut out today so I can finish the embroidery by Thursday. that gives me a couple of days to sew everything together and a day to panic if things don't work out.

At the beginning of the year I decided to try and make over half of our gifts to friends and family this year. So far I've managed quite well but there are a lot of birthdays in April and May and I'm falling behind a little. I think planning is the secret, you need to plan ahead and keep working steadily all year. I will have to start planning for Christmas soon. Forward planning also lets you buy the materials when you see them on special. There is a lovely soft yarn I would really like to knit a poncho for a niece. Her birthday is in July so I still have a couple of months. I'm hoping the yarn will be on special in time for her birthday.

I hope you had a good weekend,

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tea Towel and Pot Holder Swap - Finished!

Its been cold and wet. The wet part is good, our state is still desperately dry, but the cold part has been a bit of a shock. We never seem prepared for the beautiful sunny days to turn cold and dreary. By the end of winter I crave the sun. Then summer comes and we all complain about the heat. Never satisfied are we?

My days have been filled with work. I have a current contract for a job the client wants finished yesterday. Not a lot else has happened except lots of time in front of a computer screen. Its nearly finished though so then life can return to normal. With the current economic climate we are just grateful for the work.

I did find the time to finish and post off my tea towel and pot holder swap. I'm quite pleased with the result. I hope my swap partner likes them. I'm thinking about making another set for my mum for Mother's Day. Its a little over a week away so time could be an issue. It is tempting to give it a go.

Today I'm taking a few hours off from the computer and doing some jobs around the house. The kitchen is a mess, there is laundry to be done and the carpet really needs a vacuum. I feel better when the house is organized. It will be nice to have some order return to the chaos.

I'm out tomorrow. I'm volunteering at a local fair. We are raising funds for the Cancer Council by hosting Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. I organize the morning tea every year but this year the plans have been a little rushed. I'm sure it will all come together. Hopefully the weather will be nice and we will get a big turn out of local people.

I hope you have a great weekend,