Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Kitchen Tips for Apples

Apples by Van Riswick

As it is apple season here in southern Australia, I thought I would share some kitchen tips involving them.

If you can think of any I have missed, do leave a comment!

Kitchen Tips

Apples release ethylene gas which helps other fruit to ripen.


  • don't store apples near bananas as they will ripen too quickly (unless you want them to ripen quickly, of course!)

  • do pop an apple into a paper bag with fruit that you are trying to ripen

Apples inhibit the growth of shoots on potatoes.


  • store apples with potatoes if you don't want them to shoot

  • store them apart if you are trying to get your potatoes to shoot so as to plant them

  • I have read that apples and potatoes are poor companion plants in the garden, so if you want a good crop of spuds, grow them away from your apple or crabapple trees.

Other Tips:

  • a slice of apple will help hardened brown sugar to soften

  • cooked apple puree (applesauce) can be used instead of oil in some cake recipes

  • if you are using raw apples in a salad, dip them in orange or lemon juice to stop them browning

How to Make Apple Sauce for Roast Pork

3 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

pinch salt

squeeze lemon juice

1 tsp butter

Cook all ingredients, stirring, until apple is soft. Beat or puree until smooth. Serve hot with roast pork.

Kate xxx

Monday, 28 April 2008

Tempting Tatjana and Mom's World

Let me share with you one of my favourite roses; a hybrid tea called "Tatjana".

I wish my photos could do it justice. The petals are the deepest, most velvety red with a tinge of black. The perfume is wonderful and quite strong, and the blooms are large and on long stems perfect for cutting.

Many of my plants struggled over our hot, dry summer but are just now beginning to flower again, towards the end of autumn. This last display before the grey of winter is wonderful, and as I said in my last post, really lifts the spirits.
Another thing that lifts my spirits is a set of photos on Flickr called "Mom's World". I discovered it after it was mentioned at Soulemama and have been back to visit several times.

At "Mom's World" you will find exquisite black and white photography from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s showing domestic scenes and family life. The photographer is a beauty resembling Lauren Bacall and her husband could pass for a cross between Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

Everything in this photo-set is a delight: the fashions, the architecture and interiors, the photogenic family, and the commentary.


Kate xxx

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Azaleas In Bloom

For most of the year, azaleas are rather ordinary shrubs with little to recommend them -- or so it seems.

For suddenly, in spring or autumn, or both, they develop buds and before you know it they have so many flowers you can barely see the leaves.

Here are some of the azaleas now blooming in our front garden. My spirits are lifted every time I look at them.

Tips for Growing Azaleas
  1. A slightly acid soil: azaleas prefer a soil with a pH between 4.3 and 5.5. Melbourne naturally has a slightly acid soil so they grow well here
  2. Don't water with hard water: hard water is unsuitable for azaleas as it will turn the soil from acid to alkaline
  3. Light not clay soils
  4. Shade or semi-shade: azaleas do well under trees or in areas too shady for other flowering plants
  5. Pruning: azaleas are usually pruned after the spring flush of flowers and growth. Tip pruning encourages more flowers and compact growth
  6. Watering: all the gardening books say that azaleas are shallow-rooted and need constantly damp soil. However, ours have survived with very little water for years, and while they are not thriving, they are refusing to die. Mulching certainly helps them.
  7. Feeding: azaleas do well on natural leafmould and other organic matter that slowly breaks down in the soil
  8. Size: there are tall, medium and dwarf varieties of azaleas.

    Kate xxx

Friday, 25 April 2008

Anzac Day

This morning my daughter, her friend and I rose at 4 am and caught a bus into the city to attend the Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Anzac Day is a public holiday to remember fallen servicemen and women. Memorial services and marches are held all over the country.

"Anzac" stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The original Anzacs fought with great tenacity in Winston Churchill's misguided and doomed Gallipoli campaign of World War I, in which 10700 Australians and New Zealanders died. The Gallipoli landing took place on April 25, 1915, and April 25 was named Anzac Day in 1916.

It was awe-inspiring and humbling to stand in the dark amongst a crowd of tens of thousands, listening to the last post and the male choir, and hearing stories of war.

As a wife, daughter and mother of three sons, I think how terrible it must be to live in a country at war, and how long those years must have felt for those on the home front. I have even greater sympathy for the sweet boys, some innocently seeking adventure, others conscripted into horrors beyond their wildest imaginings, who went off to fight in other lands, often with very little training or preparation.

Here are some of the things we saw after the sun rose.

This cenotaph commemorates the battles in which the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) participated in World War II.

All the flags flew at half- mast as we remembered those who died, and are still dying, at war.

the Eternal Flame

A stone trough in memory of horses who died at war. Nearly 1 million horses died during World War One.

These two statues form the Driver and Wipers (Ypres) Memorial


Yellow roses in a garden on the eastern side of the Shrine.

The traditional food for Anzac Day is Anzac biscuits. It is very important to call them biscuits, not cookies.

Here is the recipe that I always use though I understand that coconut was first used as an ingredient in 1927, long after WWI. These biscuits are best slightly undercooked so that they are slightly chewy.

ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 c coconut
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup sugar
4 oz (125 g) butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter and golden syrup together. Mix soda with boiling water, add to butter mixture (it will foam up), stir into dry ingredients. Spoon dessertspoonfuls of mixture onto a greased tray; allow room for spreading. Bake for 20 minutes in a slow oven (250-300F). Cool on trays. Makes 2-3 dozen depending on size.
Kate xxx

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Early to Bed

Tonight I will be going to bed much earlier than usual. Tomorrow morning I have to get up at 4.00 am.

Why am I getting up at that indecent hour?

Well, tomorrow is Anzac Day, and I am taking my daughter and her friend to attend the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne city. We have to catch a 4.45 am bus to attend the 6.30 am service. My daughter and her friend are both scouts and will be wearing their uniforms. I will be wearing the warmest clothes I can find as it will be cold.

Tomorrow (once I have come home and had a nap, that is,) I will do a longer post with photos from the dawn service and a recipe for Anzac biscuits.

Sweet dreams,

Kate xxx
image is from www.allposters.com

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Decorating with Camellias

On the northern side of our house is a sheltered little courtyard edged with camellias. They are overshadowed by the house next door and the roof over the courtyard. They are never watered and rarely fertilised, yet this year, after a long, hot summer, their display is finer than ever.

The camellias are underplanted with hydrangeas which flower over summer, so the courtyard has blossoms for much of the year. I feel indebted to whichever previous owner of this garden had the forethought to plant in this way.

Today I decided to bring some of the camellias indoors.

Camellias are not great flowers for vases because they tend to have short stems and heavy flowers which can droop. They do look lovely grouped in a series of small vases, each holding one or three flowers; flower arrangements look best with odd numbers of blooms.

My favourite way to present camellias, however, is not in vases but floating gracefully in a bowl of water as a table centrepiece.

A single, perfect bloom looks lovely in small bowl and makes an elegant finger bowl for a dinner party. A single, floating flower is also a pretty touch on a bathroom counter.

You could also try a larger bowl with a mixture of different varieties, or one single colour, depending on the effect you want to achieve.

Pretty, huh?

Kate xxx

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Ten Reasons Why I Like To Blog

The beautiful Kristen has tagged me for a meme in which I have to give ten reasons why I like to blog. As I still haven't put new batteries in my camera, this seems like a good post for today.

Ten Reasons Why I Like to Blog
  1. Through blogging I can have regular contact with friends all over the world, such as Megs in Seattle. I have also re-established contact with some old friends through blogging, such as Jenny at Bits and Pieces. I love seeing their photos because it helps me to imagine their lives and to feel closer to them
  2. I have had the great honour and privilege to discover kindred spirits all over the world through blogging.
  3. Blogging is a wonderful creative outlet.
  4. While I am still no technological genius, I have learnt quite a few new technical skills from blogging.
  5. I have been inspired by so many other bloggers, from those who share similar interests to me, to those who have broadened my horizons considerably.
  6. I am a big stickybeak and love peeking inside others' homes.
  7. I find the comments on my blog to be a great source of encouragement. Very few other forms of writing offer such positive feedback.
  8. Blogging enables me to share things that are dear to my heart.
  9. Blogging shows me constantly that in every ordinary life there is somebody extraordinary.
  10. Finally ... blogging is fun!

The people I tag are:

Shimmy Mom

Poppies and Daisies (Poppy Black)


A Scrapbook of Inspiration (Karen Harvey Cox)

Cluttercut (Daharja)

Mrs Mordecai

Friday, 18 April 2008

Stamp Collecting

As a child I was a keen stamp collector. My father gave me my first postage stamp when I was seven, and from then I was hooked.

For several years all my pocket money went either on stamps for my collection, or Trixie Belden books. Every time a letter arrived at our house, I cut out the stamp and soaked it, before peeling the paper from the envelope away and drying it on a paper towel.

On rainy days I could be found organising and swapping stamps with my brother or one of the other children who lived nearby. Organising and swapping could occupy us for hours and was a thoroughly absorbing pastime. We also read and swapped books about stamp-collecting.

Some children collected first day covers, which were new mint editions of stamps in a little folder, but these were expensive so I never owned any. In fact, I rather looked down my nose at first-day covers as they removed the excitement of discovery that was so much part of collecting stamps. In any case, I developed a sizeable collection in other ways.

Sometimes I ordered stamps from a catalogue. These were usually theme stamps, such as flowers or horses, so I never knew exactly what I would receive. The most beautiful, big stamps in the world seemed to come from the communist countries, such at "Magyar Posta" (Hungarian Post), or NOYTA CCCP (the USSR). From Mongolia I had a selection of beautiful horse stamps that reflected my 11-year-old pony obsession.

When family members travelled overseas they sent letters with foreign stamps, and would sometimes bring home extras for my collection. This is how I got my Papua New Guinea sea slug collection; a family of cousins lived there for several years in the 1970s.

My most recent stamps are from the late 1980s, when I was in my late teens, but I think my interest had waned a few years before that.

There is probably not one valuable stamp in any of my four albums, but they bring me such happy memories.

Today I brought my stamp albums out for the first time in many years. My daughter is keen to earn a collector's badge at Scouts, so I am giving her some stamps to get a collection started. I offered her my entire collection but she wants to start all by herself.

I am looking forward to putting envelopes aside for her, and teaching her how to soak and dry the stamps.

Did you have any collections as a child? I wonder if many children have collections like this any more.

I am sorry there are no photos with this post; my camera batteries have died. If you would like to see some pictures I can show some next time I post.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.
Kate xxx

photos are from www.allposters.com and the internet

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Another Britain's "You've Got Talent" Triumph

I have been deeply impressed with several clips I have seen of competitors in the past few seasons of Britain's "You've Got Talent".

However, I think 13 year old Andrew Johnston may well take the cake.

Shy and trembling with nerves, he says he is bullied at school and always has been, but he doesn't want to just hang out on the streets; he wants to make something of his life. His dream is to sing on a stage.

His performance is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful things I have ever heard.

Kate xxx

Gran's Apple Tea Cake

Today I got out my silver teapot,

and some of my prettiest teacups and saucers,

because tonight I am hosting my book group in my home.

We have gathered monthly for the past seven years. The host is responsible for providing wine and nibblies to be consumed during our discussion, and cake, tea and coffee afterwards.

Tonight we are discussing Geraldine Brooks' latest book, The People of the Book.

I do enjoy the opportunity to use some of my good china, and I know my guests enjoy it too.

For supper I have made an apple teacake using my grandmother's recipe.

Here is the recipe in Gran's own words, as she narrated it to my cousin many years ago. I could almost hear her voice as I made the cake.

Gran's Apple Tea Cake

4 oz (125 g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 oz (60 g) butter
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3 oz (90 g) brown sugar
1 egg
4 tblsp milk (80ml)
1 peeled apple, grated
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp caster sugar (I used plain white sugar)

Cream butter and brown sugar. The brown sugar is what makes it so nice, it has a sort of malty flavour. Add the egg. Sift the flour and salt and add it alternately with the milk. Put in a 7 inch greased sandwich (round) cake tin and put the grated apple on top with the cinnamon and caster sugar. Bake it in a moderate oven (180 C, 350 F) for 30 minutes. You can split and butter if you want. It's also nice as a dessert with cream.

Kate xxx

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Colour of Autumn is ... RED

red against grey

As autumn advances and the days grow colder and greyer, nature surprises us with some of the most vivid colours to be seen all year.

While spring is a pastel season, autumn goes out with fire. Here are some of the reds that I have observed over the past week or two.

red geraniums

red becoming brown in the trees

pineapple sage flowering at last

a chilli in the garden

and, of course, rhubarb and apples

It is cold and drizzly outside, but inside our red house we are warm and snug.

I can smell the cinnamon from the apple and rhubarb crumble in the oven. Crumbles are such lovely, simple, warming desserts for the cooler seasons. You can use any type of poached fruit, although with apple and rhubarb I don't pre-cook.

These quantities are all approximate as this really is the type of dessert that you can just toss together.

Apple and Rhubarb Crumble

4-6 apples, peeled and sliced thinly

1-2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup brown sugar (approx.)


60 g (2 oz) soft butter

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup coconut

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to about350 F/180 C.
Combine fruit and 1/2 cup brown sugar in an ovenproof dish. Mix brown sugar through the fruit so that the fruit is coated liberally. Use more sugar if you are using alot of rhubarb as it is quite sour.

Combine dry topping ingredients and rub in butter. Sprinkle over the top of the fruit.

Put your dish on an oven tray and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until fruit is well cooked and bubbling. If the topping is over-browning, cover your dish with foil.

Enjoy hot with thick cream, custard or ice cream.

Kate xxx