Eating From The Garden

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Several sorts of chillis growing in the garden. Above are Numex Twilight Rainbow. They are so pretty but quite feisty!

Gathering cayenne peppers to make chilli jam.

Our son split the peppers and scraped out the seeds, then put the chillis into the food processor.

Processed to a pulp.

Then cooked with apple cider vinegar, sugar, water and pectin, following Nigella’s Chilli Jam recipe.

Pouring the jam into sterilised jars. Strong chilli aroma!

The finished  chilli jam. Very pretty, very strong.

Our son adds the jam to “pep up” lots of dishes.

Picked spinach which I chopped and steamed for dinner, adding it to baby beans and diced bacon. Stirred in a jar of pasta sauce and poured it over tortellini.

Picked some baby beetroot, then oven roasted them for salad.

The roasted beetroot with roasted kumara (sweet potato), cos lettuce, thin slices of Camembert, sage from my Mother’s garden and traditional oil and vinegar dressing. A delicious salad and worth getting stained fingers preparing the beetroot.

Not edible, but also from the garden, the pink and red Pierre de Ronsard roses are in full bloom.

January  is BRAIN TEASER month, so enjoy a cryptic crossword, play a game of cards, complete the quick crossword in the paper or settle to an online strategy game. I find keeping the rats off the tomatoes sufficiently brain teasing. Let me know what is successful, please.

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Christmas Eating, Making and Gifting.

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The Yule Log made by my sister in law. It was part of the Christmas feast we enjoyed in Beverley, about two hours from Perth. It was a lovely day.

Cheese, cherries and chutney, perfect. My husband buys me a china pot of Stilton every Christmas and it is delicious!


We had ten for Boxing Day Lunch and I made HAPPY NEW YEAR Rosemary Laurels.

To make

1. Make a circle from a piece of rosemary and glue the overlapping ends. Secure with a peg until it dries.

2. Print off and cut out your message. I glued a scrap sheet of A4 paper to the back to make it stronger, then cut.

3. Put a dab of glue on each end of the message, press onto laurel.

4. When the glue is dry ( I left it  overnight ) add a piece of ribbon.

These laurels looked pretty and smelt great.


A Gingerbread House Gift. Such a lovely surprise from special friends. Thankyou!


We all like books for Christmas! My mother has gone home, we are living off leftovers, things have been put away and now we have settled to some reading.

This enormous pile belongs to my husband. He is very pleased with it . He haunts second hand book sites online for titles he wants after he’s seen them in the bibliography of other books.

Books about painting Australian flora and fauna, Paris and cooking…..must be my pile.

Louis found Monkey in his stocking and is very pleased with him. Determined to get to the squeak he has already chewed his side seam.


We’ve just had Fruit Cake Day. Very convenient straight after Christmas when so many of us make Christmas Cake. Yesterday was Card Playing Day which is also handy when so many of us  are on holidays. So, cut the cake and deal the cards and enjoy it all today.

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Making Our Gingerbread House

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To begin making the gingerbread dough, I melted the butter and mixed it with sugar and golden syrup. Looks unattractive, smelt wonderful.

The dough coming together.  The recipe is Mary Berry’s from a BBC TV site and includes the templates to make the house.

Ginger was first cultivated in China and was used as medicine. It arrived in Europe via the Silk Road, and the biscuits became so popular in England, it became the staple of Medieval Fairs, spreading to Holland, France and Germany.

Queen Elizabeth Ist had her gingerbread biscuits cut and decorated to represent certain characters in her court, a fashion which quickly became widespread.

Gingerbread Houses originated in Germany during the 16th century and became very popular when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, where the main characters stumble upon a house deep in the forest, decorated entirely in sweets.

To make the house pieces, I divided the dough into five balls and began rolling, before placing the templates on the dough and cutting them out.

The house pieces ready to put in the oven.

Used the leftover dough to make biscuits. They were very popular with the family and visitors.

Made royal icing and began constructing the house, using jars to support pieces until the icing dried.

The decoration was a joint effort and took two days, leaving the icing to dry before doing the next stage.  Aesthetics took second place to fun in this project.

The house is wrapped in cellophane and is on display. We’ll declare it open for eating on Christmas Eve.

As we head towards Christmas Day, commemorating the birth of Jesus, many of us in Australia observe festive traditions, such as singing carols  and lighting candles, visiting family and friends, decorating our houses, cooking special food, wrapping and exchanging gifts and attending church services.


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The Twelve Jobs Before Christmas

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  1. Write Christmas cards. I really enjoy receiving cards from family and friends here and in the east and overseas and hearing their news and finding out what their children are doing. I know lots of people send an email now, but I love personal, hand written news in a card.

2. Making trays of shortbread to put into gift boxes. These little sweet treats go into cellophane packs which are sealed and put into the boxes I’ve already made. Then a ribbon and a card. Done. Delicious.

3. Fresh linen on the guestroom bed and everything ready for my mother arriving for Christmas.

4. Cherries mean Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. Start eating them now!

5. Hang the stockings in the sitting room and begin filling them. Louis, our dog, sniffs his several times a day.

6. Decorate the fountain in the portico. Looks pretty.

7. Get in supplies of champagne and other Christmas drinks.

8. Hang a wreath on the front door. The string of lights comes on at night.

9. Watching series two of The Crown. So good, so added Her Majesty to the decorations. Try the Tattler magazine site for these.

10. Massive clean out of the fridge so there’s room for the Christmas cooking.

11. Start eating Christmas cake. This one has been drizzled with brandy several times since it was made. And it’s nearly gone.

12. TO DO lists! Do you have lists of food shopping, of cooking, of house jobs and also presents which still need to be bought? And wrapped.

Today is International Tea Day. Celebrated since 2005, the aim is to draw attention to the impact of the global tea trade on workers and growers and has been linked to fair trade goals. And you thought it was about enjoying a nice cup of tea!

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Making the Christmas Cake

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Every year in October I get out the family Christmas Cake recipe and make a list of what I need to buy. I soak the dried fruit in brandy until the first week of December when I make the cake.

We invert the jar regularly and slowly most of the brandy is absorbed.

I make two cakes as we are all keen Christmas Cake eaters and I love serving it to visitors during the festive season. I use half the soaked fruit in each cake. The other ingredients are  eggs, milk, butter, raw sugar, ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground ginger, essence of almond, pure vanilla, some salt and some bi carb soda. Add sieved plain flour and then some of the brandy strained off the dried fruit and mix.

Blanched almonds for the decoration. Pour hot water over the almonds and minutes later the skins will peel off.

Cherries for decorating the top, too. I wash the syrup off so they don’t sink to the bottom of the batter.

Everyone stirs the cake and makes a wish.

The cakes ready for baking. They take about three and a half hours to cook in a slow oven.

Christmas Cakes. I’ll drizzle the remaining brandy over them for the next two weeks. They smell very, very good.

Today is Lost and Found Day. The idea is to encourage you to return anything you’ve found or to make an extra effort to find something you have lost. Did you know Napoleon Bonaparte opened the first Lost and Found Office, in Paris?

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Moving to the Country

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We spent Sunday in the country where my brother and sister in law have bought a property. Beverley was one of the early areas to be settled by Europeans in Western Australia and is 140 km east  of Perth. It took less than two hours to drive there. I’ve been imaging a couple of donkeys in the paddock behind the house, my brother thinks a unicorn would be better.

There’s an impressive range of goods and services, sporting opportunities, medical and aged care and a District High School available in Beverley.

The local airfield is home to the Beverley Soaring Society, the second biggest gliding club in Australia. Really interesting to watch and looks like great fun.

Delicious marinated beef salad for lunch. My sister in law has a great chook ( chicken) run and has already planned the vegetable garden. There’s a very old fig tree, an apple tree and grape vines. They have a big concrete rainwater tank to water the garden. Lucky!

Great street art in the main street of Beverley which is in the area known as the Wheatbelt, so surrounded by wheat and sheep farms.

The Kookaburra, an iconic Australian bird with a laugh-like call is related to kingfishers. Looks so good on the side of this building.

A red brick building in the main street of Beverley with an ubiquitous jacaranda tree. Country towns exhibit a wide range of building styles, including colonial, Art Deco and modern. Many of the older buildings, such as banks, post offices, town halls and churches are restored and maintained.

These towns also feature wide main streets, old buildings, strip shopping and many sporting opportunities.

Buildings in York, a nearby town.

Magnolia season. This is a Magnolia Grandifloria, a large very attractive tree which blooms from early November. It has a lemon scent and smells very nice. We took six with us to Beverley so they can plant an avenue of magnolias along the drive.

Also jacaranda season, so clouds of purple blooms with matching carpets of fallen petals underneath. These trees are very common and very pretty.

Today is Systems Engineer Day. They make an enormous contribution to the world every day, working on numerous complex projects such as spaceship design, computer chip development, robotics, software integration and even bridge design.

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So Singapore

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A fish fillet arranged on a sliced, roasted potato. Pretty, delicious. Like so many modern Asian cities, it is very easy to eat well in Singapore, from Hawker stalls to five star restaurants. This one had a view over Marina Bay, now the financial centre of Singapore. In the 19th century it was where the British and Chinese settlers established their businesses.

Singapore is a thriving, bustling city. If you’ve already done the night zoo, the bird park, breakfast with the animals, Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa, there’s many gardens to visit, art galleries  and museums, historical buildings and breathtaking new ones, plus masses of shopping opportunities and, of course, eating! We like the bum boat trip from Clarke Quay because you really can see how things have evolved in older areas.

The buildings go up, up, up.

Restored shop houses.

It’s hot and humid in Singapore. Cooling down treats.

Loved the parquetry in our hotel  and the room full of balloons. It was my birthday!

My husband ate his own weight in satay sticks at Lau Pa Sat Festival Pavilion across the road from our hotel.

Corridor, old Supreme Court, now the National Gallery.

This is the new National Gallery of Singapore, opened in 2015. It houses the largest collection of South East Asian art, consisting of over 8 000 artworks. The building is fabulous. There is a modern, central section amalgamating the original Supreme Court and the Town Hall. Clever, interesting and eye catching, the gallery offers guided tours of the building, featuring the history, the public selection of the  French architect who designed the connection of the two buildings and many other points of interest. Allow two hours plus time to look at each gallery.

From the roof terrace of the gallery showing the very old, St Andrew’s Cathedral, and the new towers of Singapore.

Abalone, prawn and fish balls on spicy noodles, served with a bowl of clear soup.

A Paris moment in Singapore: coffee and passionfruit macaroons.

I was scared stiff by the prices here, too.

Some interesting furniture in our hotel. Quite funny watching people sit on  the settee. Mainly appealed to children.

Amazing carpaccio of Hokkaido Sea Scallops, tarama (fish roe), chive oil and grated yuzu ( a tart citrus).

This tiramisu had banana bread, creme de cacao, mascarpone and cocoa nibs, plus fresh raspberries on top.

Hotel flowers. Very beautiful.

These babushka dolls in our hotel room represent the major ethnic groups in Singapore. Purple represents Indian, 9.1%, the green represent Malay, 13.3% and red represents Chinese, 74.2%.

Street art explaining Singapore’s history.

To the roof top bar for grapefruit martinis, well, because we’d never had them before!

I had dim sum for breakfast every day and this night, dim sum for dinner, too. Freshly made and steamed, it is irresistible! Food hall cuisine.

Tomorrow is World Petroleum Day. Petroleum is not just used in our cars, but is also the key ingredient in plastics, detergents, rubber, fertilizers, pesticides, paint, photographic processes, make-up, candles and many medicines. The supply of petroleum is finite, so Petroleum Day gives us the opportunity to consider alternatives.

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In The Southern Hemisphere …..Spring Means Open Gardens

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Open Gardens allow entrance to some of the finest private gardens and occurs only once or twice a year. The entrance fee is usually directed to the owner’s preferred charity. Each is a wonderful opportunity to see gardens that are often behind houses  you’d never get to visit. Generally the owners have spent months getting their garden ready for inspection. Often they are in the garden when it is open to the public and can identify plants and ideal growing conditions and talk about the evolution of their garden. The city garden above was calm and green and peaceful. Beautiful.

The rest of the gardens featured were on the Ferguson Valley Open Garden Trail through Boyanup, Lowden and the Ferguson Valley. We were blessed with lovely weather, good pub food and interesting gardens.

The gardens are in rural areas and were various sizes but all bigger than a suburban block in the city. Several fronted lakes or river beds . They were all great to visit.

The gardens varied in age, with one evolving over the past ten years and others being much older and added onto at various times.

The older gardens grew mostly European plants, some were a blend of both European and native Australian plants, like this bottle brush flower.

Roses grow so well in this region. Not photographed but all the gardens had vegetable gardens, mostly in raised beds. There is very good soil in this locale and the gardens are green and lush.

Some of these gardens were on a grand scale, some were gardens which had just grown to fill the available space.  Scent and colour everywhere. Most of the gardens had plants for sale, many had Devonshire teas. (Coffee and tea, scones with jam and cream) All enjoy gorgeous vistas across rural countryside.

There’s a mix of native West Australian plants and traditional imported garden plants.

Beautiful banksia, related to proteas.

It was really interesting to see what other people had planted, especially in shaded or windy areas and to see how they made the most of available water supplies.

Today is Sesame Street Day, established in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the program. Sesame Street was devised to promote literacy in the USA and has been declared amazingly successful.


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The Kitchen Renovation

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Eleven years ago when we built our house we chose vinyl wrap doors. They were sturdy and clean in appearance for about five or six years when occasionally the edge of the wrap started to flick up. One drawer top edge actually tore. One cupboard door was discoloured. We had a problem.

We contacted the builder who gave us the original cabinet maker’s contact information and replacement cabinet doors and drawer fronts were measured up and installed, including soft close hinges. Character Cabinets have done a marvellous job. The workmen were tidy and thorough and very pleasant.

We re-used the carcasses as the layout worked well. Three adults can work in the kitchen at one time.

At the same time our range hood exhaust fan developed a dreadful noise when it was turned off. Trying to reduce waste and landfill, we had the motor replaced. A new one would have cost about the same!

The laundry cupboard doors and drawer fronts were also replaced. Again, we kept the same design as the space dictated where units were placed to best use the room. Soft close hinges and we reused the drawer pulls.

Really like these soft grey porcelain knobs so we reused them, too. They are comfortable to grip and pull and wipe clean. They are a traditional design which suits the profile on the the drawers and cupboards.

The en suite has new drawer fronts and cupboard doors plus soft close hinges. Again, no change in the layout as it was dictated by the size of the room. I deliberately didn’t “style” the photos so it’s easy to focus on the cabinetry.

Our experience replacing the cupboards and drawers was so easy due to the quality of Character Cabinets who are in Armadale, Western Australia. The replacements totally seal the doors and drawer fronts so they can’t lift or chip. They look just like the old ones, which was our goal. We avoided a massive job!

Today is Sandwich Day, which is pretty easy to celebrate! The word itself is attributed to John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. A keen card player, he didn’t want to stop playing to eat and apparently directed his cook to put his meat between two pieces of bread. It was a great success and the sandwich was born. Well, that’s one theory. Eat up!

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What I Pack To Go Overseas

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I’ve written in a journal every day for years. I glue in photos, ticket, maps, draw pictures and generally keep records. Each evening I like to sit and reflect on the events of the day. I blogged about covering the journal, marbling the inside lining papers and making the elastic hold-alls for pens and papers.


I can’t see outdoors during daylight without sunglasses, can’t read without reading glasses and have found so many uses for ziplock bags! I use then for packing wet swimsuits, controlling chargers, securely carrying shampoo and conditioner bottles in my toilet bag and they’re good for day packs of nuts and crackers. I’ve seen really glamorous jewelry rolls but put my necklaces in ziplock bags, too.


Big and warm, this pashmina has been used to keep the three of us snug on ferries, as an extra blanket, a curtain to reduce glare, a knee rug on flights but mostly as a scarf.

I need magnifying glasses for reading and twice these have broken, once early in a flight and another time, at our destination. I read a lot when we’re away, especially on long flights. I was able to buy replacement fold-up glasses at Changi Airport and the other pair were replaced at an optometrist, but only after lots of difficulties so now I carry these fold-up glasses in their hard carry case as emergency back up supplies.


I have a pencil case mostly for journal entries. It has

  • pens
  • pencils and an eraser (useful for crosswords)
  • highlighter pen (great for marking routes on maps)
  • scissors ( just make sure your scissors are in your luggage, not carry on bags)
  • mini glue stick


Great for freshening hands when we’re out and about, for all those WCs without paper towels, for cleaning up spills on clothing and general clean ups. I refill a collection of small bottles from a one litre bottle before we travel as they are easier to carry in my handbag.

I also buy small spray bottles of my perfume to reduce baggage weight.


My normally dry skin totally dehydrates on flights, especially long ones from Australia. I liberally apply lip balm, lots of moisturiser plus I drink plenty of water en route and then use a moisturising mask when we arrive.

Other basics include a small SEWING KIT in a plastic box and nylon SHOPPING BAGS that which are tiny when folded into the cover and huge when you pull then out. Many shops don’t provide plastic carry bags for shopping.

Today is World Teachers Day which is celebrated in more than 100 countries world wide. The day was declared by UNESCO in 1994 to recognise the role played by teachers in society. Internationally, World Teachers Day is celebrated 5th of October but this falls during school holidays in Australia, so we celebrate on the last Friday of October each year. If you can read this, thank a teacher.

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