Bake a Cake!

Bake a Cake!

Have been trying all day to get things done but nothing seems to be working out for me. I have a horrible back and neck ache yet again and am just tired of life right now (there, I said it!). I had some respite this morning by having a lovely breakfast out with my friends (who always make me feel better) and had some laughs and made plans for future get-togethers.

Now it’s evening and I feel like cake. I haven’t even had dinner yet but cake is taking precedence in my brain (and later on my thighs, hips etc) so I will have to give in to it and get baking. This recipe is an oldie but a goodie – it never fails and everyone should be able to make a half decent cake with these simple ingredients. It’s a recipe you should remember and keep tucked away in the deep, dark recesses of your baking mind. I’m not re-inventing the wheel here but it’s a good stand-by when you can’t be bothered looking through cookbooks or calling your mother for her favourite recipe (oh don’t pretend you don’t do that!).

So, all you need to do is weigh a couple of eggs and then weigh out the same amount of the other ingredients. For example :

2 eggs = 120g

So you need 120g roughly of butter, same of self-raising flour and caster sugar. Cream the sugar and butter together, then add the flour (alternating it with a bit of milk – about 1/2 cup maybe?) and mix it all up. You can add vanilla essence or whatever flavouring you like. I added lemon juice and lemon rind to mine. If you want a chocolate cake, add sifted cocoa during the flour stage and add a bit of extra milk to compensate for the dryness of the cocoa.

Bung it all in a baking-paper lined tin and bake at 180 degrees celcius for approx 25-30 minutes. Easy peasy. You can obviously make this with 1 egg or 3 eggs or whatever, just weigh out the other ingredients as appropriate.

Well, I’d better go make some dinner so I can justify eating the cake…although, does that need justification?

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The Books I Love

The Books I Love

I work in a library. This is not the peaceful sanctuary of quiet contemplation you might think it is (if you are not one who visits libraries very often – and if so, shame on you!). Sometimes it is very noisy and chaotic, with people yelling and throwing stuff . And that’s just the staff room.

This morning, as I processed the returns and issued items to the early morning patrons, I thought about what makes a library a welcoming place. What makes people line up outside in the cold, waiting to rush inside as soon as the doors are opened (a little late this morning, I apologise…I wasn’t watching the clock) and why do people brave the elements to come in and browse our shelves, week in, week out?

To me, it’s because people still love books. I know lots of people who have embraced the new technologies and got themselves one of those E-Readers (my husband, bless him, has two) or download titles to their phones. But I still think the majority of people love an actual book. The feel of the pages, the colours of the illustrations and the texture of the paper as well as the life in those pages – the feeling that someone else has also read and enjoyed the story or information gives a sense of connection. I admit I am somewhat of a Ludite. I don’t get excited about the newest advances in computer technology or any technology particularly. I use it, of course, but I am still drawn to the older, more traditional forms of words and literature. I don’t want to curl up with a Kobo or a Kindle; I want to hold a book in both hands and turn real pages.

Having said all that, I am aware that the e-readers have brought reading back to those who find books too cumbersome and heavy. They are excellent for travellers and public transport users. They fit neatly in a briefcase or a travel bag. They don’t weigh a tonne and you can “pack” more than one book into them, again saving on space and weight. I get it. Doesn’t mean I want to join in just yet.

So, today’s post I dedicate to the books I love best. The titles that have enthralled and entertained me (usually more than once – a good book is always worth revisiting) and given me respite from the real world. Maybe one day I will be reading them on an electronic screen, but for now I prefer them as they are, on my bookshelf, a little bit shabby, a little bit bent or dog-eared, but still the works of art that they are – my books.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – I cannot sum up in words what this book means to me, but I’ll have to try. It’s the book I turn to when I am sad and feel like I have no one to turn to. It makes me cry and smile all at the same time. It makes me sad and hopeful and understood. It would not be overstating it to say this book saved me at a time in my life when I was in serious danger of wanting to just disappear and cease to exist. Now it’s been made into a movie (starring Emma Watson no less!) and I’m not sure if I want to see it brought to life. Some things are better left alone. But I have to admit, I had always thought it would make a great movie, if treated right, so I live in hope that it will become one of my favourite movies too 

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – Perhaps this one seems like a strange choice but I loved the writing. The characters are so real and human. It scared the heck out of me but still I wanted to keep reading because I cared about the characters. The follow-up “Legion” is perhaps even better and gets right inside your head.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – An easy and obvious choice. I have read this book so many times I’ve lost count and still I lose myself in it every time. I want every man to be like Atticus Finch (and am usually disappointed). If you too enjoyed the book, you should read “Mockingbird : a portrait of Harper Lee” by Charles J. Shields. It gives the reader insight into Lee’s life and childhood – much of which is reflected in her novel in almost identical detail.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Still one of the funniest books ever. It makes me laugh out loud so I have learnt not to read it whilst alone on public transport or in doctor’s offices. It’s portrayal of the brutality and lunacy of war is spot-on. Again, I just love the language and dialogue in it – the flow and rhythm of the words and the ridiculousness of the situations that the characters get themselves in to.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Worthy of the hype surrounding it, this book is one you want to hug to yourself. The story is, at times, heart-breaking and a tear jerker – you find yourself caring about the characters so much it is hard to leave them when the book is over.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
– I have to admit to not always falling in love with Ms Morrison’s books. Shame on me, I know. I’ve tried hard with most of them, given up on some of them but absolutely loved The Bluest Eye. It’s shocking and heartbreaking and just beautiful, even when it’s being ugly and cruel.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall – I picked this title up at one of those “MAMMOTH BOOK SALE!!!” events for a couple of dollars. I hadn’t heard of it, or the author, before, but it sounded interesting so I gave it a go. I was rewarded many times over. It’s just such a great book! The tale of a orphaned half-Apache boy who goes from one traumatic experience to another (starting with being run over by the mailman when he is 7 years old) and meets a host of crazy characters along the way. It goes from heartbreaking to hilarious and all the emotions in between. It has a “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” feel about it with perhaps a few more redeeming qualities and a gentleness that envelops the whole story from beginning to end.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg – Everyone has seen the movie, right? It’s great, but the book is even better and makes me cry (that’s pretty easy to do – I cry at everything). It’s colourful and wonderful and the characters are so believable and real. I’d recommended pretty much any of Fannie Flagg’s books – they’re all pretty awesome 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – I have read this one over and over again. It is laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully written. Recently orphaned Flora Poste visits her relatives the Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm where she discovers a crazy bunch of relatives all in desperate need of “organising” and sorting out by Flora who very quickly does just that. It’s beautiful and eccentric and wonderful. Two very well-bred thumbs up 

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende – Now, I know what you’re thinking…this is a kid’s book! It was a rubbish movie! It’s silly and childish and lame! But wait, I say, there’s much more to it than that. The first movie in the series actually is only a fraction of the full story (hence the sequals that were even worse than the original and pretty much no one even bothered to watch) and although I have to admit I love that movie (oh come on, who doesn’t cheer at the end when Bastian is flying around on Falkor and getting everything he could wish for?), the book is so much better. It’s not even really a book for children at all (although it generally sits in the junior fiction section of most libraries). Sure, it has fantasy/fairy tale themes and all that but it has so much more underneath. Scratch the surface and you will find the story of a boy just wanting to connect with his equally lost father and who both need to remember the special person in their life that they have both lost (ie Bastian’s mother) and share their sorrow instead of avoiding it and each other. It’s just an awesome story and very emotive and heart-rending with lots of adventure and excitement along the way.

So that’s just a few of the books I would recommend reading. There’s lots I left out and I’m sure there’s more than a few I’ve forgotten to add (and will kick myself for later). What are your favourite books? Do you read them over and over again, or are you the “read ’em once and then move on” type? Do you keep them neatly shelved, alphabetised and orderly, or are they piled up on your floor in haphazard stacks, threatening to collapse at any moment under their own weight? Either way, I think it’s nice to have books around, don’t you?

Getting there…

Getting there…

Well, I have been working hard trying to get some things made for my Design Team position and have managed to make three cards.  Pathetic effort really but I do take forever to make things because I am picky about every detail.  It’s been an interesting challenge, having to make things using colours I don’t normally go for.  So here’s my first lot of cards that I’ll be offering to the shop, using the Echo Park “Sweet Day” range…what do you think?

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Fancy Fennel

Fancy Fennel

Every weekend my hubby and I go to our local fresh food market, The Swansea Street Markets for all our fruit and veg.  We got tired of the sad produce available in the major supermarkets – it’s always a bit limp or too small for too large a price tag.  A lot of the time, the fruit and veg is imported which seems just wrong when it is perfectly simple to just have what is in season, and, preferably locally grown.  Lemons from California (when you live in Western Australia) for $1.00 each?  I don’t think so!

So anyway, we always try and get a large quantity of lovely fruit and veg which is easy enough for us, being vegetarians.  Roderick also benefits – my hubby often says it seems like the majority of produce in our basket is for the “pig” – and we can get inspired to cook lots of lovely new, tasty dishes.

This weekend we added a bulb of fennel (or aniseed, if you like) to our basket.  I’d seen it roasted before and have had it in salads but had never cooked it before myself.  So we decided to have some yummy caramelised fennel with our salad last night.  Here’s what I did (please excuse not so fancy or pretty pictures – my mind was not on the job and I almost forgot to photograph the fennel bulb at all as you can probably tell from the “reconstructed” specimen below…):

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Take one bulb of fennel –

Remove the outer layer and stalks.  Reserve feathery fennel leaves for garnish (or give them to your grateful guinea pig – you know which option I chose).  Rinse under running water to get rid of any gritty bits.  Cut bulb into 6-8 wedges (depending on size).

Toss wedges in olive oil, salt and garlic.  Put into an overproof dish.  I lined my baking pan with baking paper for easy cleanup.

Bake in the oven for approx 30-40 mins.  Keep an eye on it and turn when necessary.  My oven is pretty cruddy so if yours is top-notch the cooking time may be less.  In the meantime make up a salad or whatever you’re having for dinner…

Fennel should go nice and caramelised and golden.  Cook more or less as necessary and depending on the quality of your oven!

Very Yummy. I’m not a big fan of liquorice/aniseed flavours, but the baking really mellowed the fennel out and made it sweet and delicious. Give it a try! Just take better photos than I did 🙂

It’s Nice Just to be Nominated…

It’s Nice Just to be Nominated…

Well, it is another cold and wet day here in, ahem, sunny Perth but my morning has been brightened by being nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Thank you to Bethany Taylor from Hello Delicious for nominating me!  Nice to know there’s people out there reading my ramblings…nice, and a little bit daunting. You should definitely check out Bethany’s blog – lots of yummy things on there to bake and try.

There are some rules that I have to follow in order to participate in this little award:

-Thank the person/people who nominated me and link back to them in my post.
-Share seven possibly unknown things about myself.
-Nominate 10 to 15 bloggers I admire. (That one might be a little bit harder…not because I don’t think there are lots of awesome bloggers out there, but because I am new to this and don’t have a huge list of favourites already.  I don’t want to trawl the internet just for blogs just so I can make up a list.  It seems a bit dishonest.  So I’ll list as many as I can, ones that I DO look at regularly)
-Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know and link back to them.

So, here goes the seven possibly unknown things about myself………

  1. I love Cheerios.  I know, it’s sad.  I’m 38 and I should be talking about the joys of stone ground oatmeal and psyllium husks or something.  But I love
    Cheerios.  It makes getting out of bed in the morning worthwhile.  They’re just, well, cheery!
  2.   When I was sick in hospital with meningitis, I hallucinated quite a bit.  The walls of the I.C.U. turned into golden fields of wheat and there was a large white horse running around.  Also, when the walls weren’t turning into farm produce, they were covered in beautiful poems & graffiti.  Weird.  But, given my propensity for having nightmares, I think these visions were not too bad in the scheme of things.
  3. I have very small feet.  This means much of my shoe collection was bought in the children’s department of Target.  It also means I have to look very closely at all details and patterns on the shoes, in case I inadvertently buy a pair with Barbie or Bratz emblazoned on them.  It has happened.
  4. I don’t like the Twilight series, books or films.  I’m sorry.
  5. I can swim but can’t dive or jump into water without holding my nose.  I can’t do that breathing-out-through-the-nose-so-water-doesn’t-get-up-it thing.
  6. I can’t sew.  Well, I can hand stitch or embroider the hell out of something, but machine sewing?  Forget it.  I bought myself a sewing machine last year and have used it twice.  I will, one day, overcome this lack of skill and make some clothes that people will rave about.  Maybe.
  7. I have had the same best friend for 31 years.

So, who do I nominate for this award?  Let’s see….I like :

Cinnamon and Apple

Dianne Faw

Trumatter

Handmade Charlotte

Looby Lu

Rummage

Allsorts

Yellow Owl Workshop

Samantha Hughes

Counting Your Blessings

So many clever and creative people out there.  AND they find time to blog, which I think deserves an award in itself.  So gold star and a chocolate watch (as my cousin would say) to everyone, whether you’re on my list or not.  And thank you again Bethany Taylor of Hello Delicious.

Because it really is nice just to be nominated 🙂

Sweet Paper Dreams

Sweet Paper Dreams

Ah paper…is it just me that loves all things paper ,stationery or supply-like?  I love notepads and stickers and pens and sheets of card and notebooks.  I guess they go along with two of my loves which are writing and crafting.  So, today, when I ventured into Inspired Crafts to pick up my first pack of papers and embellishments (as part of their Design team), I may have gotten a little bit sidetracked.  I can’t go into any kind of craft shop and not have look around, now can I?  But I restrained myself and only picked up a few bits and pieces to help me along with the papers I was given (as if I don’t have enough of my own already – but I didn’t want to use too much stuff that they didn’t sell in the store as it would confuse and irritate people if they liked something I had used and it wasn’t available for purchase).  So, now it’s down to work.  I have everything I need to create some pretty little cards and tags and off-the-page pieces (haven’t decided exactly what yet) so there’s no excuse…

The paper is from Echo Park’s “Sweet Day” range and it is sweet indeed, with lots of pastel tones and cute images.  If I can’t whip up something delightful with these, there is something seriously wrong with me!  (Ok, so there’s lots wrong with me but this is neither the time nor the place…) I’m working outside my usual colour palette but it’s nice to have a change and try something new.  And this lot is a great place to start!

 

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