Brownie Bake-Off

Brownie Bake-Off

A group of librarian friends in Sydney are having a brownie bake-off.  Recipes are being tweaked, samples scrutinised and ingredient lists zealously protected.  I’m unable to eat chocolate any more due to my renal condition (it’s a cruel universe indeed that forbids the all-healing goodness of chocolate) but I am known for my brownies.  I used to bake them a lot – for every family gathering, craft sale, birthdays and just-because days.  I haven’t made them for over a year now – it’s no fun whipping up a batch of these little beauties unless you can dip into the batter and help yourself to the baked finished product.

However, I am happy to share the recipe with all of you. It’s a fool-proof one and never fails me.  Give it a try – you’ll be glad you did (and so will anyone else whom you deem lucky enough to sample it).  Just be warned though – you WILL have to make these again and again.



125g butter
200g brown sugar
2 eggs
5 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
3 tsp cherry brandy essence (or vanilla essence)*
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 bars of Cherry Ripe, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (can use pecans or almonds or mixture of nuts)

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Over low heat, melt butter in a medium sized saucepan.  Remove from heat and mix in cocoa powder, sugar, essence and eggs.  Sift flour and baking powder and add to mixture with chopped nuts and Cherry Ripe.  Stir until combined.

Pour into a 20cm square cake tin, lined with baking powder.

Bake for approx 25 minutes.  Do not over-bake. Check at 20 minutes – brownies are better undercooked.  A skewer inserted into the middle should come out just clean.  Let cool in tin and then dust with icing sugar before cutting into squares.  

* Cherry Brandy Essence is available in the Cake/Baking section of the supermarket.  It’s not essential but it does amp up the flavour!  Substitute real Cherry Brandy if you like – experiment!



Old Friends (Bookends)

Old Friends (Bookends)

Old friends, old friends

Sat on their park bench like bookends…

Listening to Simon & Garfunkel this afternoon suddenly gave me a bright idea.  I had a stack of old metal bookends I was given this week from a friend at another library I used to work at.  The library is moving / downsizing / digitising so no longer needed the hundreds of bookends they had.  I snapped them up, not really having any plans for them other than they might come in handy down the track.  I have a million books and they are all jam-packed into bookshelves – not really any room for bookends and besides, these ones are pretty dull and ugly.

So I decided to jazz them up a bit and make them something I would be happy to display and use in my home.  I’ve got loads of scrapbooking paper and some of it I just haven’t been inspired to use for anything up ’til now.  I chose a nice Webster’sPages Robin’s Nest sheet – nice shabby chic blues and florals – and, after giving each bookend a quick rub down with some coarse sandpaper, I drew around them with a pencil onto the paper.

I then carefully cut the shapes out, keeping as close to the drawn line as possible.
I scored the paper cut-out lightly at the point where the booked “bends” to allow for easier application once the glue was on.  Next, I slapped on a thin coat of PVA glue onto the bookend.  The paper was then smoothed into place over the glue and rubbed to get rid of any air bubbles or crookedness!  I left them to dry for an hour or so and then trimmed the edges as needed (hey, nobody’s perfect, right?).  If I was more energetic (and less lazy) I would have varnished or sealed them to make them more long lasting.  But as a quick fix-up, I think they look pretty good.

Yay!  I accomplished something today!  And I upcycled and made something pretty!

Ten Random Things (and a bit)

Ten Random Things (and a bit)

Having a tidy up day today.  I figure if I’m going to get anything done I should make a space in which to do it.  That means finding my craft table underneath all the rubble that sits on top of it. And throwing stuff out (which I am not good at) and finding homes for things (which I am even worse at).  Because I’m messy and disorganised.  That’s one thing about me; here’s a few other random facts:

  1. I cry every time I watch the Sound of Music.  I’m fine until I get to the Edelweiss bit and then I’m history.  When they’re all singing it at the Folk festival and they have to leave the stage and try and escape the baddies – gah!  I just dissolve into a messy puddle of sad.
  2. I am related to Gypsy Jem Mace, the English boxing champion.  Several elder members of my family believe us to be descended from actual gypsies but this, for the most part, is nonsense.
  3. I don’t like liquorice.
  4. I don’t like mangoes.  They are gross and smell like rotting fruit to me.
  5. As a child I was terrified of werewolves.  Warren Zevon has a lot to answer for.
  6. When I was 11, I had to write the end of year school play for our class.  I spent a whole 2 weeks on it and was very proud of myself when we performed it at the Christmas assembly.  Until the next day when, instead of thanking me and congratulating me on a job well done, my teacher commented that I read my lines too fast and maybe I could do better next time.  I have never gotten over it.
  7. I share a secret language with my brother.  It contains words like “Boonah!” and “Yupchub!” and is completely meaningless.  We don’t even understand it ourselves.  But we don’t tell anyone else that.
  8. I am overly-sentimental about inanimate objects.  I still have a heart-shaped paper clip a boy I liked gave me when I was in grade 6.  That’s 27 years ago.  Whilst cleaning out a cupboard at my Mum’s house recently I discovered my “treasure box”.  It contained some baby teeth (mine), the revolting remains of my orthodontic braces, some nail clippings (from a pet rabbit I had), a flea collar (my cat’s), a splinter that had been removed from my foot when I was a kid, and a duck feather.  I once won an art competition in Primary School, aged 10.  I won a box of crayons.  I didn’t open or use the crayons until I was in my thirties.
  9. When I was 9 I announced that I was going to move to England and become the next Enid Blyton.  Surprisingly, this did not happen.
  10. I once wrote a book report on “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoyevsky.  I didn’t read the book but still got a C+.


    So that’s it.  There’s other random facts but they’re for another time.  Maybe when I need an excuse to have a break from tidying up again.


Bloomin’ cold…

Bloomin’ cold…

It is still freezing cold here.  The weather reports say there’s more frosty conditions to come and looks like even Spring will be colder than usual.  Yuck.  Today is bright and sunny with blue skies and not a cloud to be seen, but still it is double-quilt-and-blanky-weather, especially indoors.  So, as much as possible I’m going to stay outside.  That means gardening (or at least walking around thinking about gardening, then giving up and just sitting with a cup of tea looking at the flowers…) and taking stock of what lovely blossomy things are in bloom at this time of year.  I do love pansies and other annuals, geraniums and even my poor roses which continue to struggle through the cold weather and my neglect.  So, for want of something more interesting to blog about today, here is another trip through the garden (and some shots from Mum’s – I’m cheating today. I wish my garden was like hers).  I hope the blooms brighten your day.  Bring on the sun!




















Lavender Sugar Cookies

Lavender Sugar Cookies

After yesterday’s attempt at, well, nothing in the end, I gave up and did what I always do when I can’t get my act together – bake.  And besides, baking is still a form of creating, right?  I make just as much mess in the kitchen as I do in the craft room, so I figure it counts.  My hubby just complains less when there’s food at the end of the mess.

These biscuits are really easy to make and taste delicious.  If you don’t have a food processor, just cream the butter and sugar together by hand and mix in the other ingredients.  It works well either way.


100g Unsalted Butter – cubed

75g Caster Sugar + extra for sprinkling

175g Self Raising Flour

2 TBS chopped Lavender Flowers (dried or fresh)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and “whizz” up until you get a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.

Add the flour and flowers and pulse again.  Add some water (about 1-2 tablespoons) until a smooth, workable dough forms.

Remove from processor and knead on a floured board or counter top.  Roll out to about 5mm thickness. Cut out into desired shapes and place on a tray lined with baking paper.  Sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake for approx 15-20 minutes until slightly golden.  Cool on wire rack and enjoy with a nice cup of tea.  Get hubby to do dishes (this is a very important step).

Makes about 20 cookies depending on size!



I just received an email from a local scrapbooking store.  I had applied to be a part of their design team for the next 6 months.  This would involve making “samples” and examples of cards and scrapbooking pages for display around the shop.  I hadn’t heard back from them so I figured I hadn’t been picked as a successful applicant.  Not so!  Today they let me know that I had indeed been selected and that they want me on their team.  I had to send in some examples of my cards (the main paper-craft that I do currently) and they are shown below in the slideshow.

This isn’t a paid job.  Basically I will get sent a pack of paper and embellishments every month that I get to play with and make samples for the store.  Fun!  I hope I can do it.  I’m not always good under pressure but I thought this would be a good opportunity to improve my skills (such as they are) and also work to a deadline.  Not sure of all the details at present – I have to email back for an information pack – but I am hoping this will be good for me and help me to get organised and motivated and maybe end the creative rut I’ve been in.  I think I also have to occasionally lend a hand in the store during special events, which is a bit scarier, but I guess I’ll find all that out later.

Anyway, it is, as I said, an opportunity and I am trying to take more risks in life and JUST DO IT when it comes to things that might be a little bit intimidating.  Wish me luck!


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Cats, Cookies and the Country

Cats, Cookies and the Country

I had to go down to my Mum’s today.  She lives about 45 minutes drive away.  I wish she lived closer but in a lot of ways I’m still glad that I get to visit her out “in the country” and get away from the city and suburbs.  I miss living in the more open space with trees all around and a big backyard.  With kangaroos in the backyard (less exciting to Mum because they keep eating her roses but she stills loves them and is now using the “roo poo” to fertilise the garden and fruit trees!) and horses in the next-door neighbours’ paddock.  I grew up there, lived there for over 30 years before I moved out (I was a late bloomer ok?) and it’s still what I call home.

When I walked in the door I was immediately greeted by the smell of baking cookies.  Yum!  Is there any better smell in the world?  These Oat Cookies are very simple to make and always delicious.  Not exactly low-fat but, well, you can’t have everything, right?


Makes about 12

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1/2 Cup Plain Flour

1/2 Cup Raw Sugar

1 Egg (lightly beaten)

125g Butter

Melt Butter over a low heat in a medium sized saucepan.  Take off heat once melted and add sugar.  Mix to combine and dissolve sugar a little.  Add other ingredients and stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Bake in 180 degree celsius oven for approximately 20 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.  Eat and enjoy!

My duties today included taking my/Mum’s cat Alexander to the vets.  He’s 15 years old and beautiful, with the softest black coat.  He just needed a vaccination today, otherwise he is in perfect health.  The vet commented on how shiny he is and what good condition he is in for his age.  All our animals live to be pretty ancient.  Our other cat, Bronte (the crabby tabby)  is 19 this year and though starting to look a bit, well, geriatric, she is still pretty feisty and healthy and her yearly check up showed her to be fit as a fiddle and with the constitution of a cat many years her junior.  Anyway, Alexander (or Boyo as he is nicknamed) was very well behaved at the vets and didn’t mind the needles at all.  He came home again as though nothing had happened.

Mum and I picked some oranges from her poor little neglected tree.  It doesn’t get any attention, water, fertiliser or pruning.  Most of the time Mum forgets it is even there (it’s down the back in the paddock).  This year she was rewarded with a tree full of fruit – not nasty, sour, bug-infested fruit that you would expect from such a poor specimen, but lovely, juicy, sweet oranges.  It doesn’t really make sense but there they are.  They don’t look all that flash but they are really tasty and full of juice.  I can’t eat them (no oranges for me on a renal diet!) but boy, did they smell yummy!

We were helped along by lots of buzzing bees…they were out in force as it was a sunny day with plenty of wildflowers to choose from in bloom.  They seem to particularly like the wild daisies that grow everywhere (look closely and you can see one of the little buzzy bees in this next picture…).

All in all, a lovely day.  Now I have to go home to my own neglected garden and do some pruning and weeding…bye for now.  Hope you had a “fruitful” day  🙂