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Monday, October 31, 2011

What Lies Beneath...

It never ceases to amaze me just what's lurking beneath the surface of our everyday surroundings. While ripping out our old hot water service last week we found this amazing remnant of floral wallpaper underneath the pelmet of an old sliding door (the romantic in me likes to think it might be from the original 1950s version of the house but of course it could be from a little later) and when we had our fairly revolting 1980s kitchen ripped out we discovered all sorts of goodies including yellow and green striped enamel paint and lots of 1970s faux-tile lino.

The archaeologist in me loves unearthing these reminders of past lives but also shudders at the destruction. There wasn't much I could do about the floor (and let's be honest it wasn't any great loss) but I made them leave the wallpaper which now lives happily behind my new pantry. No-one can see it but I know it's still there which makes me very happy. Thankfully, not all urban archaeolgy ends so brutally. I recently came across this amazing online project The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia 1920-1925 in the New York Times. If you love that period and its eccentric writers, artists, poets and entertainers you will love this site. The door is signed by over 200 bohemian types who frequented Frank Shay's bookshop during the early 1920s and the University have slowly been identifying and linking all the signatories. Like all good 'discovery' stories the door could so easily have benn lost. When the shop closed in 1925 the manager took the door home where it stayed until 1960. It was donated to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas after 'a dealer spotted an ad in the Saturday Review asking 'Want a door?'

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old-fashioned or not...

The tiles went in today and I love them. I chose them against all advice to the contrary (all the tradies told me they'd make a new kitchen look too old fashioned) but the way I see it it's an old house and a totally contemporary kitchen would look out of place. Only three more sleeps until it's all finished!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Surprise lunch...

The other day the kids offered to make me a salad for lunch. Lovely I said thinking that they were playing their favourite game, 'cafes'. About 15 minutes later I wandered into the kitchen only to see Henry cutting up carrots with a sharp paring knife and Isabella cutting up a tomato with a butter knife! Not wanting to rain on their parade (but praying that no fingers were going to end up in the salad) I allowed myself to be shoo-ed away. A few minutes later they brought me a lovely salad of tomatoes, carrots and marinated fetta finished off with french dressing and some basil they picked themselves. It was the best salad I've ever tasted...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Twinkle, twinkle little star...

Over the weekend my little star won her first ever award. Her team placed 2nd in a state aerobics championships and she just couldn't get the smile off her face. Well done baby!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Parties, pancakes and chocolate cake...

Yesterday we celebrated Henry's 5th birthday and although we went to a well known pancake house out for his party we stuck with tradition and made our own cake. It's taken a few years for the lesson to sink in but I know realise that for most kids cake is simply a vehicle for icing and candles. With that in mind I trawled through my recipe folder for a suitably simple recipe. My standby is usually a Chocolate Fudge Cake made with no diary or eggs to cater for any children with allergies but as that wasn't a problem this year I decided to make a variation on Stefano de Pieri's Chocolate and Olive Cake. It's a lovely close-textured, moist cake but nowhere as rich as a chocolate mud or flourless chocolate cake which I think is sometimes a bit much for little ones. Stefano uses drinking chocolate in his recipe which gives the cake a lightness of flavour but as I like a bit more of a chocolate hit I've opted for cocoa.

Here's my version...
EDIT:: I've added metric and imperial measurements for those who prefer them

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake


6 eggs, separated

1 cup (200g/ 7oz) caster sugar

1/2 cup (110ml/ 4 fl oz) olive oil

1 cup (140g/ 5oz) self-raising flour

1/2 cup (50g/ 2 oz) cocoa

50ml (2 fl oz)warm water


1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius and grease and line a 24cm springform pan.

2. In an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup caster sugar on a high speed until light and fluffy.

3. Turn the beater down to medium and add olive oil in a steady stream. Add sifted flour and cocoa and water and beat on a low speed until combined.

4. Wash and dry the beaters thoroughly and in a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup of caster sugar and beat to combine.

5. Using a metal spoon, gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture then pour into prepared pan.

6. Bake for 45-60 mins depending on your oven (check at 40 minutes by inserting a skewer into cake - skewer will come out clean when cake is done).

As you can see I iced my cake and decorated it with white, milk and dark chocolate discs but it is equally good dusted with a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa or crowned with chocolate ganache if you like your cakes a bit more grown up...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The First Time - Silk Scarf

Images via

Many years ago I remember my boss telling me excitedly that he had just had his first martini. He was close to 60 at the time and he told me how glad it made him to think that that even at his age he still had lots of 'first times' to look forward to.

I thought of him again recently when I bought my first silk scarf. I've always had lots of scarves but most of them I've received as gifts - a beautiful black devore one from my sister, a pink pashmina and a graduated pink raw silk one from my mother-in-law, and a wildly coloured cotton one on a black backgound that has been a wardrobe staple since my best friend gave it to me as a 21st present. As a die-hard devotee of the all-black wardrobe scarves have come to the rescue many times allowing me to change the look and feel of an outfit without changing the basic black building blocks.

But a silk scarf is something else. I think I'm in love. The weightlessness, the drape, the 'floatiness' and suprisingly the warmth have all taken me by surprise - I never want to take it off! So here's to 'first times' at any stage of life. May they always be this simple, pleasureable and surprising.