April 13, 2014

AUTUMN 2014 || THE LAST OF THE SUMMER HARVEST

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || last of the summer harvest
I AM missing my summer harvest already. This is the last of it. Sigh. There's a little bit of basil left, plenty of parsley to keep us going through to winter and self-seeded rocket that will make it up before the cold really hits. Asparagus and artichokes doing well but not enough for a decent feed yet.
 
Have you harvested all of your summer crop?
What's going in for winter?

April 08, 2014

AUTUMN 2014 || GEM SCONES AND COMMONSENSE COOKERY

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || The Commonsense Cookery Book collection

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || The Commonsense Cookery Book and gem scones

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || a recipe for gem scones
I'VE written about my Commonsense Cookery Book collection before. There's the 1978 versions of books No.1 and No.2. There's a 1964 version, which contains my favourite advertisements and graphics, and my pre-World War II version, dating back to 1939.
 
The books are my go-to for old favourites like pikelets and scones and rock cakes and was where I hunted down a recipe - three actually - for gem cakes this past weekend. I bought a gem cake pan for $4 at an op shop weeks ago and used all three of my Commonsense Cookery Books to work out how to use it. Gem cake pans, or gem irons are, as the name suggests, made of cast iron and mine dates bake to the days of wood-fired stoves - as does my oldest Commonsense Cookery Book.
 
In the 1939 edition, the recipe for gem scones calls for plain flour and lists rising agents, along with a 'gill' of milk. The method fails to mention pans need to be greased and is pretty loose about the oven temperature. "Hot" is all it offers. Back in 1939, any owner of the Commonsense Cookery Book was supposed to know exactly what to do with the listed ingredients and meagre method.
 
The 1964 book uses self-raising flour, but again calls for a "hot" oven. A "greased pan" is described but it's not until the 1970s that more precise descriptions are used, including oven temperatures.
 
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || 100 years of The Commonsense Cookery Book
With three editions, a vintage gem pan and my modern kitchen I did succeed in baking gem scones. They're a lovely little light scone that's just the right size to pop in the mouth, hot or cold, and best served with a steaming cup of tea. I can't find any description of how they're supposed to be eaten but we dolloped jam on top.
 
If you wish to secure your own copy of the Commonsense Cookery Book, you'll have no trouble finding it. It's been in print continuously for the past 100 years, with a centenary edition out this year.
 

April 05, 2014

PIN MY WAY || VINTAGE PILLOW SLIPS

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | Foxs Lane vintage pillow slips
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | #pinmway vintage pillow slipshttp://www.pinterest.com/pin/44262008807784286/I HAVE been scouring the op shops for a vintage single bed cover that's 'just so'. I have a vision and nothing will sway me from it. It's for a room filling up with sugar and spice and all things nice for the little visitors to our house. I haven't found the cover just yet, or the other linens of my imagining, but I know they're out there. In the meantime, I am collecting a rather lovely stash of vintage pillow slips.
 
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | vintage pillow slips
EQUIPMENT
An eagle eye
An op shop, or a few
A fist full of coin
 
WHAT TO DO
Make some time to scour your local op shops. You might want to take an op shopping buddy and make a morning of it. Head to the linens section and rummage.
You'll often find single pillow slips so decide whether you're fussy about not having a matching pair.
Pop your finds into your basket and head to the counter knowing you've got a lovely new pillow slip and you're helping a worthy cause (most op shops fund social services).
Take your slips or linen home, fill a bucket with warm water, add a lid of Napisan and a splash of household bleach and leave to soak overnight.
Rinse and wash on a normal cycle.
Hang to dry, admire on the line, bring in and pull onto your pillow ready for a pretty night's sleep.
#pinmyway image source // Foxs Lane
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March 31, 2014

AUTUMN 2014 || THAI CHICKEN, CASHEW AND BASIL RICE

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | thai chicken cashews and basil rice

NOW, this is an exciting rice recipe.

My thrifted, 1961, Reader's Digest supplement, 60 Exciting Rice Recipes, boasted the gag-worthy Ham 'N' Rice Ring, with accompanying photo of the Spam-speckled, moulded rice dish and spoonful of boiled peas heaped in the middle for further gag inducement. Exciting? Nuh-uh.

There were a few mildly titillating nods to the grand rice eating populations of Asia with a 'Bengal Rice Curry' - the exotic ingredients being curry powder and an apple - and a double page of Chinese dishes that would have made any rural Chinese takeaway a little nervous about what the good folks of their town could now cook at home. Again, the 'exciting' exotic ingredients extended to soy sauce and pineapple, with the curry powder making an appearance again in a 'Chinese Style Curry' - don't ask, just assume cornflour makes an appearance.

Now, my own Thai flavours are none too fancy, but thank goodness things have moved on a bit and we can now get interesting and sometimes exciting ingredients from most suburban supermarkets. And, should you be hunting for a quick and easy TV dinner, here it is. Happy fast, 'exciting' weekday cooking to you all.


INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 medium brown onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 red bird eye red chillies, seeds removed and chopped finely
1 tablespoon brown sugar, or finely grated tab of palm sugar
500g chicken thighs, cubed
1 small red capsicum, cut into strips
two handfuls green beans, topped and tailed and cut into similar size lengths as the capsicum
150g unsalted, whole cashews
4 cups cooked long grain or jasmine rice (about 1 1/3cup dry rice)
20ml fish sauce
20ml soy sauce
shake of oyster sauce
Good size handful of torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you have it but I used ordinary basil

WHAT TO DO
Cook the rice and leave to drain and cool a little.
Prepare all other ingredients ready to be tossed into your stir fry,
In a wok, or frying pan, heat the oil. Toss in the onion, chillies and garlic and fry off until the onion is soft.
Add the sugar and dissolve.
Add the chicken and stir fry until browned.
Add the capsicum, beans and cashews and stir fry until vegetables are glossy.
Add the rice and toss through all ingredients.
Add the sauces all at once and again toss through all ingredients.
Add the basil and toss once more.
Serve, and enjoy with a cold beer.



March 30, 2014

AUTUMN 2014 || MARCH... I'VE DONE IT

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | tulips in vienna
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | cafe culture in vienna
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com | building details in vienna

IT'S been a topsy turvy month. An overseas work trip (don't go skipping ahead to see where) was a highlight but added pressure to finish things at the office and home. Needless to say, there has been plenty to do in the weeks since I've been back, and the last days of March have found me trying to calibrate and plan for the month ahead. There are a couple of volunteer projects, an autumn garden to prepare, planned autumn crafts, Easter, and, fingers crossed, a wee break at the end of the month.

I READ: Can you claim listening to a book as reading? I will. I listened to the final chapters of The Book Thief while walking the dog yesterday.

I WENT TO: Vienna. Yup. The work trip was to Vienna.

I LISTENED TO: After a podcast hiatus, I'm back on the 'walking and listening' bandwagon. Some people listen to pumping music to get their heart rate up while walking. I tend to ramble along listening to people spill forth with ideas. My most recent ramble was to Costa Georgiadis talking to Margaret Throsby on ABC RN's Midday

I ATE: You saw that I went to Vienna, right? (I know, I thought I'd just let that one sit there for a moment). When you're in Vienna you have to eat Austrian food. That means strudel, Wiener melange coffee, Sachertorte, beautiful breads, you name it. If it was baked, I ate it. Seriously, cake is a food group in Austria.

I SAW: Hours and hours and hours and hours on a plane means you're at the mercy of the in-flight entertainment. I have never watched so much film and television in one sitting but I did get to catch up on several years worth of movie going. I saw Blue Jasmine, Gravity, August: Osage County and the entire current season of Dowton Abbey. My pick was definitely August: Osage County.

I MADE: It home. Honestly, there's no place like home.


March 27, 2014

AUTUMN 2014 || WHO SAID RICE COULDN'T EXCITE?

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || 60 Exciting Rice Recipes cover

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || 60 Exciting Rice Recipes inside spread
HOW'S your week going? Resorted to TV dinners yet?
 
#opshopscore // 60 Exciting Rice Recipes
(a 1961 Rice Marketing Board supplement to Reader's Digest),
$1, Long Jetty junk shop
 

March 23, 2014

PIN MY WAY || MAKE A HAPPY DAYS SUN

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/44262008812247518/
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinmyway make a happy days sun
 I HAVE four Pinterest boards, two of which are inspiration for things I'd like to make and do and things I'd like to cook and eat.

I figured pinning was one thing, but actually 'making and doing' and 'cooking and eating' were another thing entirely so I am pulling out some of these pins and having a crack at them myself.
 
Pin My Way, or #pinmyway for those who like the idea and might want to play along, is my real life making of the things I've pinned.
 
This happy sun was modified for a Girl Guide project, teaching Junior Guides - members aged between seven and 10 - about the organisation's values. Girl Guides promise to live by a code, including the idea that they "be friendly to others". The sun's rays detach and at the start of each day, or week, as the sun comes up - a lovely golden orb in the sky - the girls add a peg for each time they added a little ray of sunshine to another person's day. For those who used to be a Girl Guide or Scout it's similar to the idea of a Good Turn. Lots of rays, and that's a lot of kindness and happiness lighting up the world.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinmyway hang a happy days sun
EQUIPMENT
Paper plates
Yellow paint
Crepe paper cut into streamers and cut again into 30-40cm lengths, or streamers cut into similar lengths
Wooden pegs
Felt tip pens
Paintbrushes
Scissors
Glue
 
WHAT TO DO
Cut the paper plates into halves, and give one half to each person making a sun.
Paint one side of the paper plate half yellow and allow to dry.
Paint wooden pegs yellow and allow to dry.
Cut lengths of the streamers and glue to the back of the paper plate so they hang down from the cut half. Allow to dry.
Draw a happy face onto the right side of the paper plate.
Attach your pegs, or rays, for each act of kindness you do for someone else.

#pinmyway image source // A Little Delightful


March 01, 2014

SUMMER 2014 || FEBRUARY... I'VE DONE IT

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || cable knit mug warmer

OH, this little blogging space. If there was someone who could break all the unwritten, and possibly written, laws of blogging, it would be me. What's a month, or so, between friends? Here, I'll put the kettle on and we can catch up.

My poor excuse for not being online is that I've been busy enjoying time offline. The Festival of 40 reached its zenith this past week and I was determined to squeeze in as many memorable moments with friends and family as possible - and it was worth it. I am one truly lucky 40-year-old woman, with glorious, generous, funny, zany, wonderfully wise people in my life, as noted against all I did this past month.

I READ: A friend and work colleague share books we like and think should be read more widely, including her most recent selection for me: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The main character, the young Francie, is hard to leave on each reading, even more so as she drifts from her own plain-speaking, all-seeing early 20th Century childhood into adult life and a changing world.

I WENT TO: Sydney. I know. I'm there every day for work, right? But this time, instead of commuting back up to the Central Coast on the Friday evening, I stayed for a weekend and spent time shopping and eating and catching up with some of my favourite people. I splurged and booked into the Grace Hotel, spent a day shopping with a girlfriend in Paddington, met my partner in the afternoon and pottered around in the city before jumping on a train out to Newtown for an early feed at our favourite Greek restaurant, Steki Taverna. The next day, we met a bunch of friends for lunch and a Sunday afternoon of lounging about in the back of Paddington Inn. A perfect 'stay-cation'.

I LISTENED TO: I am listening to The Book Thief as an audio book. Maybe I've been spoiled by A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (see above) but I am just not feeling the love everyone else has felt for this book. No spoilers, I'm halfway through.

I ATE: God, what won't I eat at the moment. If I don't stop soon, the two dresses I bought myself as a 40th birthday present ain't gunna fit.

Anyhoot, expanding waistline aside, the salt and pepper squid at La Buvette, in Potts Point, was declared one of the best I'd tasted. More so, my dining companion concurred and for her this is a big call; she's a connoisseur of all the best dining spots in Sydney.

A day later in Paddington we were refuelling at Micky's Café after a girly morning of shopping and felt a similar passion for the polenta chips with gorgonzola.

Now, please don't judge me, but the very same day I backed up with a chocolate selection from Kakawa, in Gaffa Gallery, choosing a peanut praline and strawberry jelly bar to share and a single strawberry cream of pureed strawberry and white chocolate. It's true, if I don't stop now, nothing in my wardrobe will fit.

I SAW: Does my ridiculous obsession with the BBC's Sherlock count? Hmm, probably not. What about the return of the Dr Blake Mysteries? No. Hmm. Downton Abbey? Away from the idiot box, I saw a lot of my friends and family. There were birthdays - we have a run of them in February and March - lunch and dinner dates, coffee dates, play dates, even real-life romantic dates (and they're as rare as hen's teeth).

I MADE: There's nothing to boast of here but I did manage to pull apart a cupboard of craft supplies and purge a lot of broken down, and just plain broken, bits and pieces. That's something, right?

Cable-knit mug warmer, pictured // A beautiful gift from Miss Poppet Hill

February 02, 2014

SUMMER 2014 || PINNING THINGS PARTY

IT'S my birthday later this month and there are a couple of casual things planned. I turn 40 and it seems like a thing to celebrate, so I am hoping to get around to see as many of my favourite people as I can. I also want celebrations to be low stress, no fuss and come as you are. Drinks, dinners out, dinners in, camping, an afternoon in the garden, a breakfast or lunch or afternoon tea with the family. I think I am going to like being 40.
 
THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: Hand printed cards using wooden blocks. A perfect idea for invitation cards and a nod to my long ago youth.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Basil buttercream. I'll be trying this one out before my birthday just in case it's a bit ick. It could be a bit ick, right?

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: What says trying to hold on to your youth more than leopard print Jellybean sandals? That said, they are flat shoes: I am getting on, after all.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I'm not one for a proper party dress. I have plenty of not-so-proper ones that should be relegated to the dress up box. Hey, what's a little purple tulle and silver flocking between friends? Paper doll party dresses and these ones for lining up on the wall are probably a safer bet than my usual wardrobe malfunctions.

January 30, 2014

SUMMER 2014 || JANUARY... I'VE DONE IT

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || summer feasting
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || summer table setting
THE first day of 2014 and it was spent around a table of food, with local friends and not so local friends passing through. I love to set a table and know people will walk through the door and settle themselves around it and share stories and plates and ask for recipes and walk around the garden and take home a cutting or a few seed heads for their own patch of soil. It's a lovely way to start a year.

I READ: Two beautiful old books (circa 1950s and circa 1960s) about the Girl Guide movement. Both were really the writer's thoughts on the essence of Guiding and both spoke about this idea of service and self-sacrifice and courage in the face of adversity. As I read them I wondered whether we still have those things. I've been pondering it as I revisited our outgoing Governor General's Boyer Lecture series and heard the incoming Governor General speak of a call to service - and not of the military kind. I've pondered it as I've heard news reports talk of the "Good Samaritan" - a term I found repeated across one particularly awful New Year news story and have quizzed colleagues and respected peers about since.

I WENT TO: My friend Mandy's new house. Her own, beautiful 'posh' house. We drank tea, pondered the gorgeous open space she has for a garden and I coveted all her 1950s art, art glass and kitchenalia. This girl is the business, I tell you.

I LISTENED TO: Oh please, don't get me started. I bought a new iPod - it's a long story and has to do with a lost transfer cord. My dodgy PC didn't recognise it, I transferred my library to my less dodgy Mac, I lost files... oh, I could go on. I've just finished sorting it all out and can never replace my Mac or this iPod every again. Sheesh, and I am supposed to be the family tech geek.

I ATE: A Sydney Festival Fast Feast offering from Red Lantern on Riley. According to one of my dining companions, it was a bargain offering. I wasn't so much fussed on the Fast Festival Feast deal - which are always good - but the fact it meant I could try a restaurant I'd had on my dining bucket list for some time. It was a bonus to walk up to Gelato Messina after dinner for a sweet treat.

I SAW: Honestly nothing. There was much talk about seeing many a movie title over the Christmas break but I am woefully behind in my movie and DVD viewing and I hold no hope for catching up. Do I care? Nup.

I MADE: I am making, though it's taking forever, the Point of View Vest. Have you made it? Did you finish it?
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