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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eat Your Vegies...

Image via The Kitchen Maid

Recently I've come across some outrageously, delicious looking, sweet recipes using vegetables. Who could resist things like the Spicy Parsnip and Pecan Cakes from The Kitchen Maid or the Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Frosting from The Nearsighted Owl? If that's not enough, just in time for Halloween, there's this spicy, sweet Pumpkin Pie I saw over at Petits Plaisir de la Vie.

I love my vegies anyway and would be just as happy eating this delicious dish from Cooking A Storm In A Teacup but we all know people (big and small) who need a little leg up with their vegetable intake don't we?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spoilt rotten...

Originally uploaded to Flickr by Theresa Thompson

Yesterday was my birthday and I had a lovely quiet day at home playing lego with Henry, reading and having a little nanna nap. Not that exciting for a birthday but as we tend to celebrate birthdays over a few days rather than just on the big day I felt free to do whatever I wanted. I think it's a lovely way to do things and as we all have October/ November birthdays it pretty much guarantees days full of happy celebrations from now until Christmas!

Birthday celebrations started Friday night when I got home from work to find two lovely cumquat trees in half-barrel tubs on the verandah. Saturday we had dinner at a great local restaurant (they are few and far between in out neck of the wood). We had Red Snapper with celeriac remoulade and grilled asparagus; chicken roasted with fresh thyme and served with a quinoa salad; slow cooked lamb meatballs and homemade dips and breads. For dessert we had caramelised popcorn sticks with chocolate amaretti dipping sauce and an amazing creation called a 'Ginger Wagon Wheel' which consisted of two pieces of chocolate-edged gingerbread sandwiched with fluffy marshmellow and a shock of glace ginger paste in the centre - sensational. No kids menu, starched white napkins and great coffee. When we got home I was given this book:

On Monday my friends at work took me out for afternoon tea with homemade banana cake and last night we celebrated again with chocolate ripple cake and more books. I've been coverting these for a while now...

You can have a bit of a look inside 'Recipes From An Italian Summer' here and Tessa Kiros' new book here. Talk about spoilt rotten...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Melbourne Reef

Image via Style Wilderness

Have you seen this amazing feat of crochet? It's called the Melbourne Reef and it's been created using a thing called hyperbolic crochet (very mathmatical). I noticed that kootoyoo has been at it too. It's hard to believe that this thing of beauty and diversity is made from scraps of wool, recycled plastic bags and old video and audio cassettes isn't it? If it's captured your imagination like it has mine I suggest you pop over to Style Wilderness to see more amazing photographs and find out more about this mind-bending blend of maths and handicraft.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Five Faves - the Swinging Sixties

Pip from Meet Me At Mikes is doing a musical Five Faves so I thought I'd sing along. Over the past year I've been working on an online Australian music timeline so I've spent lots of time listening to music from the 1950s onwards (pretty sweet job I know). Here are five of my all-time favourite 60s songs (not Australian I know - except the Easybeats - but my research takes me far and wide)!

God Only Knows - The Beachboys
Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats
No Milk Today - Herman's Hermits
Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks I Call Your Name - Mamas and the Papas

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In My Pantry...

My friend Deb over at Cooking Up A Storm In A Teacup has kindly invited me to take part in her meme, Orderliness and Harmony. In anticpation (and because I'm on a bit of a Spring cleaning binge) I had a bit of a poke around and threw out a few things that were past their use-by date (always the same things rice flour, custard powder and yeast). I'm certainly not into aen-like simplicity but even though it looks like everything is crammed in but I know exactly where everything is to make all my favourite foods - a very comforting thought.

1. Nigella Lawson keeps a secret stash of pigs ears in her freezer that she deep-fries for a crispy, solitary snack. Do you have anything similarly sordid in yours?

Well no, not really, but one of the things I love about Nigella is her willingness to expose her unbridled gluttony to the world. I have been known to partake in one of Nigella's other snacks (small handfuls of freshly grated parmesan baked in the oven until crisp) but my freezer is quite small and holds few surprises. Once you add some soup, casserole, chicken breasts, beef mince, frozen fish, icecream, raspberries, blueberries and icypoles it won't accept much more.
2. What foods would I always find in your fridge and why?
Eggs, parmesan, marinated feta, broccoli , tomatoes and bacon. There are other things but these are the universal family favourites - a mixture of fancy and commonplace. I also have a ridicuously large number of sauces and condiments. I try not to use too much bacon but we all love it so! I've never been much of an egg eater but the kids really love them scrambled, boiled, fried and hard-boiled and after many years avoiding them I've come around to their way of thinking. The parmesan and feta are their to turn simple into special and broccoli is the only green vegetable we all agree on (I'm a big fan of green beans too.)

3. Do you have a standby, never-fail recipe that you like to have the ingedients on hand for unexpected guests?
My favourite standby recipe is Honey-Roasted Sweet Potato and Bacon Risotto. In my experience a lot of people seem to be afraid of making risotto. I'm not sure why as I've always found it very easy and satisfying to make. I think the secret is realising that the rice should still have a little bite to it so you don't over-cook it. I roast the sweet potato tossed in honey while the rice is cooking and I also fry off the bacon separately then add them both towards the end of cooking. I find it can all get a bit too salty if you fry the bacon off with the onion at the beginning of the recipe.

4. What is your favourite comfort food?
It would have to be something warm. Revenge may be a dish best served cold but as far as I'm concerned that's about the only thing that is. There's something about cold food that leaves me, well, cold (although I am going to make an effort to improve my salad repertoire this Summer). Comfort food for me would be something lovely and warm served in a bowl - Lamb Shank and Barley Soup, risotto, tuna pasta, beef casserole on a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes - something like that. If I did have to nominate a coldish food dish I'd say something very simple like sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil on hot buttered toast (see how I got the hot in there?).

5. Do you have a chocolate drawer or secret hoard of sweet or savoury snacks?
You mean there are people who don't?! I'm going for quality not quantity these days and favour Green and Black's Maya Gold, dark chocolate flvoured with orange and spices. I'm also partial to Lindt's mint, orange or ginger chocolate blocks and I'd never say no to a Mint Slice. They're all kept on the very top shelf of the pantry so even I have to do some exercise to access them!

6. What's inside your store cupboard? I wonder if like me you too squirrel things away like a little mammal preparing for a hard winter? Or maybe you favour zen-like sparsity. Don't you just love nosing inside someone else's cupboards?
Another thing I love about Nigella is that she frequently takes us into her enormous walk-in pantry for a squiz. I'd love to have a walk-in pantry a la Nigella but what I have is one big cupboard. In it keep all the things I need to make all our regular favourites - tins of tuna, cans of diced tomatoes, chickpeas and beans and bottles of pasta sauce also rice (basmati, arborio, brown and sushi), pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, risoni), couscous, polenta, stock, onions, garlic and potaotoes. I keep spreads in here too (Vegemite, Marmite, peanut butter, honey and Nutella) and all manner of liquid potions (Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, mirin, sushi vinegar etc) as well as things I use rarely but like to have on hand like orange blossom water and rosewater.

One whole shelf is, of course, dedicated to dry foodstuffs for baking... sugar, flour, rolled oats, coconut, dried fruits, seed and nuts. We also have an indecently large variety of breakfast cereals that perch on top of said cupboard. Zen-like sparsity? I think not but not incedible extravagance either.

So there you go a quick trip into my pantry. What's in your pantry? Do you keep your fruit and vegetables in the fridge or the pantry? What's the weirdest thing you've got in stock? I'll be tagging some friends soon to share the contents of their pantry with us too so stay tuned...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Kindred spirits are not as scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world'.

Anne to Marilla in 'Anne of Green Gables'

I'm more than happy to agree with Anne when it comes to kindred spirits (as blogging teaches me everyday) but I'm not sure I'm as comfortable with the idea of multiple soulmates wandering around out there! Check out this new song by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby. Don't be fooled by the catchy tune - this song packs a punch. You can find out more about the Folds/ Hornby project here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Image via

Have you been following this story? This exquisite Roman bronze ceremonial helmet with full face mask was found on farmland in the hamlet of Crosby Garrett in Cumbria earlier this year. Until recently it has been on display at the local Tullie House museum just near Hadrian's Wall. When the owner decided to sell the helmet, Tullie House undertook a fundraising campaign asking people throughout the country to donate to a fund designed to keep the helmet in Cumbria. The estimated asking price at the Christie's auction was 300,000 pounds. Within weeks the museum had raised a staggering 1.7 million pounds much of which was made up of small donations by members of the public.

As a curator myself I would say the museum's representatives went along to the auction quietly confident. Imagine their dismay when the bidding soared past their best offer and the helmet was whisked away by an anonymous phone bidder for 2 million pounds? What a crushing blow for the people of Cumbria (and the rest of the country) who had tried so hard to keep the helmet where it was used in Roman times and where it lay in wait for hundreds of years until a man with a metal detector came along. Life just isn't fair sometimes is it?

The Circle of Life...

Originally uploaded to Flickr bybill barber

On Friday I found out a friend has a family member in palliative care so I baked something nice for them - ridiculous I know but in the face of death everything seems a little ridiculous...

On Sunday I went to my youngest sister Rachel's wedding. It was a balmy Spring day by the beach and the bride and groom looked blissfully happy especially when they announced that another baby was on the way...

Today I'm waiting with bated breath for a call to say that my sister Angela has had her baby. They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes so the arrival of babies is always a welcome respite...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Songs I Can't Get Out of My Head - The Night Last Night

I heard this song on TripleJ last week (you can hear Ronson here interviewed by Richard Kingsmill) and I can't get it out of my head. Not the best quality video but as it's only a new song there's not much out there yet. Mark Ronson is best known as a turntablist and producer of such people as Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Robby Williams and his new album 'Record Collection' draws on the talents of many of his famous friends.

PS: If you've received this post by email and can't see the clip just click on either the title of the post or the 'Bird With The Golden Seed' banner at the top of the email to go straight to the blog to view.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The dark side...

I've gone over to the dark side... Not only am I crocheting instead of knitting but I'm using acrylic yarn. I've always been aware of a bit of an 'us' and 'them' thing between knitters and crocheters although hopefully there's not too many knitters in the world like the crazy couple in this hilarious clip. Many knitters - and I include myself in this - also have a bit of thing about using acrylic yarn (too squeeky, doesn't always wash and wear well) but the very talented Sarah London and Lucy from Attic24 have convinced me that the world won't stop turning if I indulge in a little acrylic stitchery.

Armed with this new confidence I headed down to Spotlight to buy some cheap and cheerful acrylic yarn. Acrylic yarn comes in a seemingly infinite range of colours and at between $2-$5 for a 100gram ball it's a steal. It's very difficult to find truly colour-saturated wool and when you do you often need to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay for it. So far so good. These are the colours we bought although we didn't end up using the yellow.

The blanket I made is Lucy's Granny Stripe Blanket made from continuous rows of treble stitch clusters. It's dead easy and grows incredibly quickly. I've made mine a bit smaller than Lucy's -more a large lap blanket than the double bed size she made. It only took a couple of hours a night while watching TV (box set of 'Bones') and voila, two weeks later I had this...

I haven't sewn in the ends yet or crocheted a border but it's already in high demand in the living room. I'm not used to buying such large balls of yarn (I'm used to wool in what now seem small 25gm balls) so I have oodles left for further projects...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Swirly Scarf

Thanks for all your great comments about growing blueberries! I think you should all go out and buy one or two and we can grow them together, comparing notes as we go. As I mentioned in my reply comments, the tag on the plant said that one bush can supply 3-4 kg in a good season - that's a lot of blueberries! I'll keep you posted about our successes/ failures and hopefully by mid-summer we will all have blueberries coming out our ears -or not.

On another subject entirely some time ago I mentioned that I wanted to crochet this swirly scarf - well here it is elegantly modelled by Isabella. As it is the first thing I've ever really crocheted (apart from edging on knitted pieces) I'm really thrilled with the result.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Four Simple Goals Update

At the beginning of September I pledged to complete Four Simple Goals by the end of the year. I've been a bit slow getting started but this weekend I finally cracked Goal no. 4 - ressurect the vegie garden. Taking advantage of this weekend's glorious Spring weather weekend we traipsed off to Bunnings to buy some seedlings, seed raising mix and compost. I wanted to plant an edible garden so we only bought things we love to eat - tomatoes (Grosse Lisse, Sweet Cherry and Roma), strawberries, blueberries, rocket and dwarf lemon and orange trees. We also planted lettuce and beetroot seeds and added mint and parsley to our herb garden. The kids had a great time planting the seeds in yoghurt pots they'd been saving all week and I'm very excited about the possibility of keeping us in blueberries over Summer. Have you ever grown blueberries before? Any tips?