Thursday, 30 April 2009

Off to Work

Life Magazine

How quickly life changes! Yesterday I had a job interview at a local university and today I started work.

I am too tired to write more tonight, but I'll give you more details in the next day or two.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

"The Correct Appearance for Various Pies"

Fresh Baked and Delicious Pie Cooling on Metal Rack

"Apple pie should be covered with puff or rough puff pastry, and should not be
ornamented. Brushed with white of egg or water, sprinkled with sugar before
baking. A little castor sugar dusted over it as it goes to the table.

All fruit except apple should be covered with short crust (either plain or
good), not ornamented, brushed with egg white or water; sprinkled with

Rabbit or Mutton Pies should be covered with short crust. They are decorated
with roses and leaves brushed over with egg.

Meat Pies should have a hole made at each end, and in the centre, and if not
to be used till next day, a serving of the crust should be removed and placed on
top to allow the air to get into the contents."

from Everylady's Cook-Book, Edited and Compiled by Miss Drake, 1925.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Moist and Yummy Banana Bread

Whenever we have bananas that have ripened beyond the point where even our six year old will eat them, I make a loaf of banana bread or Gran's banana cake.

The recipe for banana bread comes from Gran's old copy of the American Ladies' Home Journal Cookbook (1960). I know she went on a cruise to America in the 1960s; I wonder if she bought the cookbook while she was over there?

This banana bread keeps beautifully for days in a sealed container -- if it lasts that long, and is a popular lunchbox treat here at our red house.

Anyhow, here's the recipe. I have added my own variations at the end.

Banana Bread

1/3 cup shortening
3/4 C light brown sugar
1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream the shortening with the sugar. Add the mashed bananas and eggs. Sift the flour with the salt and baking soda and add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Stir in the nuts. Bake in a greased loaf pan, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for an hour. Turn out and cool on rack; wrap in aluminium foil. this bread slices better the second day. Yield: 1 loaf

My Tips
  • This recipe is much better if the bananas are very over-ripe
  • I usually omit the salt
  • I use butter instead of shortening.
  • I usually substitute self raising flour for the flour and soda
  • I don't usually include the nuts
  • Cooking time will be about 10 minutes less if you are using a modern fan-forced oven

For more kitchen tips visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday at

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Lots of Links for Creating Beautiful Blogs (and They're All Free!)

As you can tell from the number of times that I have changed the look of my blog, I have yet to find the 'perfect' blog design.

However, there are so many websites now providing free blog backgrounds and free digital scrapbooking that we need never get bored with one design.

Today I thought I'd share some of the best sites I've found for free blogging materials. If you know of others, leave a comment and I'll add them to the list. Please note that these designs are all for Blogger blogs.

Beautiful Backgrounds

These sites all have free backgrounds, mostly for 2-column blogs. All you have to do is add some html to your sidebar; you don't have to fiddle with your template at all. Most of these designers also offer paid services for a more integrated blog design.

The Cutest Blog on the Block: The largest number of free backgrounds in one spot, mostly in bright, cheerful designs

The Background Fairy: I have only just discovered this site and I love it. These designs are perfect for the blogger who wants a subtle, pretty backgrounds that doesn't overwhelm her blog.

Cute and Cool Blog Stuff: Funky and whimsical, an absolute delight.

Aqua Poppy Designs: More bright and beautiful designs, although at present they are all for 2-column blogs

LeeLou Blogs: Lots of free layouts for Blogger blogs

Simply Chic Blog Backgrounds: More pleasing designs. Some of the earlier ones will not cover a widescreen monitor fully, so please check when you install them.

Free Digital Scrapbooking Materials

The easiest way to create a custom blog header is by downloading free scrapbooking materials and using them with a photo-editing program.

Two sites I love are:

Helpful How-Tos

For those who are a little more ambitious, here are some links to making changes to your blog that may involve fiddling with your template. Please save your existing template before trying them.

I did this over the weekend and it's easier than you might think.

In 2007, Jess from Making Home wrote a series on "Redesigning Your Blog" that you may also find helpful.

Here are the links:

Redesign Your Blog #1: DREAM

Last but not least, here is a link to a fantastic series with 31 Ways to Build a Better Blog. Highly recommended!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Wildred Owen on War, Anzac Day, 2009

On Anzac Day 2009, 95 years since the outbreak of World War One, it seems fitting to share the most famous poem of that war, "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.
This poem still has the power to shock and horrify.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
--Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
--My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is a Latin quote from Horace meaning "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Four Kinds of Happiness

Happiness by Brent Mcrae

Over the past year, with all its stresses, uncertainties, and changes, I have been thinking a lot about happiness and what it means. It is so easy to dwell in self-pity and resentment when life changes in ways we can't control. Believe me when I say that I know this first-hand!

Even prayer, if it is self-focused, can fuel the misery. Do you remember how, in On the Banks of Plum Creek Laura and Mary are taught to pray for others, not for themselves? So instead of asking for Christmas presents for themselves, they pray that Pa will get Christmas horses. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with praying for our own needs, but God-focused prayer and prayer for others are essential parts of the mix. (If you have never read the Little House Books, I thoroughly recommend them. Without being preachy they provide great lessons in making the best of hardship and finding happiness in simple things.)

Without being an expert on psychology, I have concluded that there are four different kinds of happiness.

1. Having a happy nature: We all know people like this; nature's born optimists who smile at difficulties, whose boats float smoothly over the sharpest rocks, and who see the best in everyone. We also know others who are the opposite; who are negative and critical, who envy others their good fortune, and whose glasses are always half empty. Most of us fall somewhere in between. And while the Pollyannas of this world can be irritating to those not equally gifted, we can all learn from their attitude.

2. Having happy circumstances: Studies have shown that people in prosperous nations report greater happiness than those struggling in third-world poverty. There is even a "Satisfaction with Life Index" where all the countries in the world are ranked. Most of us think deep down that if our financial problems were taken away and we had as much money as we could want, then we would indeed be happy. But what about all those wealthy heirs and heiresses who ruin themselves with drugs and desperate behaviour? Clearly, money isn't everything, but some money does help.

3. Happiness that sneaks up unawares: Even when life is grey and ordinary, happy moments can strike us unexpectedly. A baby's smile, spring flowers, witnessing a sunrise or sunset, an act of kindness given or received; can all bring a glimpse of happiness. If we learn to foster and encourage those moments and treasure them, then we can bring greater happiness not only to ourselves but to those around us.

4. Happiness that is a choice: Interviews with the long-term happily-married show that the happiest, longest marriages are not those with the most ideal circumstances or the most ideal couples, but those where the partners are loving and forebearing, willing to overlook minor faults and build on their partner's strengths.

This attitude of choosing happiness can be applied to life in general too. Yet misery and passivity can seem a much easier path. However, if we didn't choose our present circumstances (and many of us have suffered setbacks in the last year or two) then we can choose how to approach the future. We can choose to greet each day with a positive attitude, to treat others well, to work hard at whatever tasks befall us, to pray earnestly, and to seek changes that will improve our lives in the future.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add? If so please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your views, even if you completely disagree with me.

What makes you happy?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sunset Over the Sea

How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.

George MacDonald

There are moments when time seems to stand still. When an hour feels like a minute, yet the minutes seem to go on forever.

Easter Sunday was like that. My brother and I sat quietly, watching the sun go down over the Spencer Gulf. We had so little time to spend together, only one short weekend, and we hadn't seen each other since our father's funeral two years ago, yet the time while the sun set felt like a year in a day.

Having been raised on the east coast, I had never seen the sun set over the water before. It was a treasured moment, a taste of eternity.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

What Kind of Happy Are You?

You Are Blissful

You are passionate about life and thrilled with the world.

You aren't just feeling good... you're feeling great. Happiness comes easily to you.

You are a truly radiant person. People feel your warm, jubilant vibes.

You truly make the world a happier place. And a better place too.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Purple Daisies

Despite having been in a vase in the middle of the table for a week now, these cut flowers are as fresh as, well, a daisy.

I am not sure if they belong to the daisy family, but they do have daisies' round, happy faces and golden centres.

My brother gave them to me when he arrived for Easter. They are a cheerful way to remember a happy weekend.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Beach in Autumn

On a sunny afternoon at the beach in autumn,

it's possible to pretend that it's still summer.

But the lengthening shadows tell us otherwise.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter 2009

An Old Battered Brown Suitcase on a Wooden Floor

I had a "Happy Easter" blog post planned, but it didn't happen. Life and family activities got in the way. Which is just as it should be.

Easter, that most holy, sad-then-joyful time in the Christian calendar has been very busy. My youngest brother and his girlfriend drove all the way from Sydney to spend the weekend with us. A little brother who will drive over 18 hours in each direction to spend one weekend with his big sister, niece and nephews, is truly a wonderful being. His girlfriend is wonderful too.

In addition, some dear friends from Melbourne have been in town and we have enjoyed their company immensely. The children especially liked spending time with a family of their old friends.

We spent the weekend:

eating: way too many chocolate eggs, home-made hot cross buns, and chocolate cake decorated with Easter eggs, and chocolate self-saucing pudding with Cadbury's turkish delight ice cream.

playing: Blokus, Trivial Pursuit, chess and Wii Fit, brought by my brother (and sadly taken home by him too, though he did very generously offer to let us keep it)

walking: through the Adelaide Botanical Gardens and along the Torrens River in glorious autumn sunshine

watching: the sun set over the Spencer Gulf at Henley Beach

I hope you had a happy and joyous Easter too.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Our Red House in the "Independent Weekly"

Cup of Coffee by Various Foreign Newspapers by Eric Kamp

For the last couple of weeks I have had an exciting little secret: "Our Red House" has been invited to feature in a newspaper article!

A few weeks ago, John Harris, who writes the "Technofile" column for the Independent Weekly, asked if he could interview me about my blog.

And yesterday, the paper was published, so now I can tell you about it.

is a link to digital version of the paper. You have to click through to page 31.

And here is a link that will (hopefully) take you straight to the right page. You can zoom in to read the article on the bottom right-hand side. If you can't zoom, try clicking on the article and it should enlarge.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Autumn Easter Decorating

Those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere have it so easy when it comes to Easter decorating. All those sweet bunnies and fluffy chicks belong in Spring, where Easter falls for you.

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, Easter decorating is a little more complicated. We could go for the whole unseasonal bunny/chicks thing. Indeed, our stores are full of these kinds of decorations, along with our Aussie chocolate bilbies.

Another choice is to follow our own seasons and defy the trend.

However, when I did a Google search of "autumn easter decorating australia" I came up with few ideas. Clearly, Easter and autumn don't belong together in the Aussie psyche, despite having always dwelled together.

Easter aside, I did like the idea pictured above for an Autumn candle holder. You can find the instructions here.

I also liked this idea for autumny-coloured Easter cupcakes, without a bunny or chick in sight.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Palm Sunday

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.

And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Sweet Shabbiness

Every month Jen's Cottage of the Month brings a smile to my face, and April's is no exception.

My daughter and I "oohed" and "aahed" over all this prettiness.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Free HTML tutorials

Computer as Envisaged in 1927, Illustration to the Thought Machine by Ammianus Marcellinus by Frank R. Paul
Computer as Envisaged in 1927, Illustration to the Thought Machine by Ammianus Marcellinus

Ever since I began blogging I have wanted to learn html. I even borrowed a copy of HTML 4 For Dummies
from the library but it didn't help much. I guess I'm just too dumb. Or perhaps the ancient edition was the problem.

(For those unfamiliar with html, it's the language that you write a web-page in. Your web browser reads the html and 'Voila!', a web page.)

Although Blogger does most of the html for me, there are times when a greater knowledge of html would be very useful; for example, if I wanted to design my own blog background or increase the number of columns without deleting all my other information.

Just as I was beginning to think that html might be beyond the grasp of lesser blogging mortals such as myself, I read on Life in a Shoe that Kim's young daughters are taking html lessons on the internet.

This, I thought, requires further investigation. I followed the link on Kim's blog and found a website dedicated to teaching all sorts of computer information. It even looks straightforward enough for me, the queen of all Luddites, to understand. Best of all, the tutorials are free.

Here is the link to the html tutorials.

Well, tickle me pink! I'm gonna go learn me some html. Bye for now!

Postscript: My teenage son (and family technology guru) just told me about another useful web tutorial site called It has tutorials for Photoshop and lots of other programs.