Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake

Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake – made fancy with maple-butter frosting and a sprinkling of pecan nuts

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” 
~ Gustav Mahler

 

When I need a yummy cake in a hurry this is the first recipe I think of: Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake.

My nana was a plain cook, but her food was delicious. Her Quick Coffee Cake is everything a coffee cake should be – moist, buttery, flavoursome, made with everyday ingredients from the pantry – and it’s simple enough to be whipped up in minutes (plus baking time).

Nana used to make an un-iced version of this cake that my Pa would have with his morning cuppa. If visitors were coming Nana always added a sweet coffee glaze on top, just to fancy things up.

I learned to bake this cake when I was about seven – old enough to reach the kitchen bench and to work the oven without setting the house alight. This cake is a recipe that Gran Heppell  (my paternal great-grandmother) taught Nana when she was just a girl. The recipe lives in my head now after making it so many times, but when I was younger I was also careful to write it down. Just in case.

I’ve given two versions for the icing (frosting for the non-Australians!) Mine is made with maple syrup, because it gives a great complimentary flavour, but Nana’s coffee glaze is delicious too.

 

Ingredients for cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 flat teaspoon instant coffee, dissolved in one teaspoon of boiling water (if you can be bothered – I never am)
  • 3/4 cup  sugar
  • 1/2 cup  milk

Ingredients for icing/frosting:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup OR one to two tablespoons strong hot coffee
  • 1/3 cup pecans – chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
  2. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Add all cake ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor. Mix for three minutes on medium speed.
  4. Spread the batter into your cake tin and smooth the surface.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and then check. Cake is baked if it springs back when touched in the middle, or if a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave a little longer if not quite done.
  6. Remove cake from oven. Cool in tin for five to ten minutes and then place onto a rack to cool completely.
  7. Place cake on serving plate.
  8. To make the icing (frosting) sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the softened butter and either the maple syrup or the coffee. Beat well until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Spread onto the cooled cake. Dipping your knife in hot water will help give a smooth and shiny finish as you spread the icing (frosting) mixture.
  9. If you are making the maple icing, chop some pecan nuts and sprinkle over the icing, pressing them slightly with your clean hand to ensure that they stick to the cake.

 

The Turn In The Road Where My Worries Fall Away

Image from www.stopthesethings.com

“Though a lifetime of listening to the music of the world has passed, even now the tone of the rain on the roof of my home is the sweetest sound I have ever heard.” 
~  Kensi Brianne Smith

 

We’ve been up in Brisbane this past week, and it’s been full on.

I’ve had doctors’ appointments and the sorts of things to attend to that can only be done in the city.

I’ve held space for friends and clients who have suffered tragedy and tempest.

And we’ve been elder caring.

Ben’s mum is old and increasingly frail, although stubbornly independent, bless her. She’s at the age where suddenly she needs help with everything: shopping, cooking, home maintenance, paying bills – all the things she has done so competently for the entirety of her life. But we don’t mind at all. We love her, and she is family.

Still, it’s stressful, and we worry constantly about her.

Yesterday finally we packed up to drive home to the farm.

There is a place we come to, just over the border between Queensland and New South Wales, where I unfailingly begin to unwind and feel better. City and suburbia fall away and at a turn in the road the highway is suddenly blanketed by cane fields and farms with a backdrop of dusky crags.

The tension leaves my body. I sigh audibly. A sense of relief creeps over me.

Many of our friends from the Byron Shire experience the same thing; that falling away of worries as we move into the encircling arms of the ancient volcanic rim that cradles our homes.

How about you? Do you have a place in the journey home where suddenly you feel better too? I’d love to know.

Hugs and love from all of us here at the farm, Nicole xx

A Tale Of Two Dogs…

“After years of having a dog, you know him. You know the meaning of his snuffs and grunts and barks. Every twitch of the ears is a question or statement, every wag of the tail is an exclamation.” 
~  Robert McCammon

 

Once upon a time there was a naughty young pup called Harry. He chewed everything. He was constantly underfoot. He’d bark in your ear and jump on your head to wake you up, just because it was morning and he didn’t want to waste a moment of another Very Good Day.

But then Harry grew up. Now he’s a calm and considerate dog, with great cattle handling skills and excellent manners, especially at the beach or when dining out at cafes.

Enter the new young brother. Rufous. Undeniably cute, but a total ratbag.

A hole-digging, slipper-destroying, house-chewing food devotee.

He’s chewed through an entire chair, eaten a hole in the side of my bed, destroyed three pairs of slippers – all mine, and has now taken to biting the heads off my daisies and flinging them around like snow, just as they are all coming into flower.

And did I mention how much he loves digging massive holes in the new lawn, or taking one shoe for a walk out into the middle of a paddock and then leaving it there?

Here he is, hiding, after eating the meat I’d put out on the bench for Ben to barbeque for our dinner. We ate eggs on toast instead!

Look at those eyes. It’s impossible to stay mad at him! I’m sure that Rufous will grow into a good boy one day too, and probably too soon. For all his naughtiness we adore him, and gee he makes us laugh.

Most of all, I love watching Rufous and Harry play. These two brothers are having the best adventures here at the farm.

Life is good, and filled with love.

I’m sending some of that love your way today. Hugs a million, Nicole <3 xoxo

A Morning Dose Of Happiness!

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
~ Lemony Snicket

 

Something wonderful happened to me yesterday morning!

I woke up with energy. After months of being unwell it was a precious gift. So we did something with all of that feel-good. We took an early morning drive down to the beach for a walk and then some breakfast.

Byron was golden with the early morning light. The sun was warm, the water too, and Ben and I walked hand in hand as Cafe Dog frolicked in the shallows. Meanwhile young Rufous was home having a big puppy sleep-in. He is still so excitable on beach walks, and seeing it was my first in a very long time, and being still weak as I recover from my recent illness, we left him napping – and he didn’t mind at all!

As we walked I found just the right beach rock. It felt good in my hand so I asked permission of the beach, and the Elders and the nature spirits, and I brought it home with me. I have a lovely little collection of Byron Bay beach rocks here that I have gathered over the past twenty years, just waiting for a special project I have in mind for them. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

After our sunshiney walk we headed into a favourite haunt – Dip Cafe at Byron Bay. If you get a chance, do pop in! They have a fabulous $15 French Specials menu right now, as well as their regular delicious repast. I can highly recommend the savoury crepes, which I had for breakfast. So good. 🙂

How about you, dear friend? What acts of self-nurture and care are you taking for yourself this week? Please be good to yourself and live from kindness. For yourself and for others.

I’m slowly recovering, and grateful to be back to my regular morning meditations and blog writing sessions.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole <3 xoxo

Rufous, napping on the day bed. And yes, he’s managed to thoroughly coat himself and the day bed in mud!!!

Ben and Harry racing ahead while I stop to admire every shell and rock strewn before me…

Follow the paw prints!

A lovely beach rock, just waiting for me…

This one felt so good in my hand – a perfect meditation stone.

Delicious savoury crepes from Dip Cafe, Byron Bay

Cafe Dog, just waiting for a bite of something to fall from the sky…

Extra Links for You!

I’ve been singing the praises of Dip Cafe for a while now. Want to know more about the magic? This post pretty much sums it up: Magic – Byron Bay Style

Have you met Rufous yet? Find out more about our latest pup here: Meet Rufous – Brother to Harry Dog

And details on Harry, our Cafe Dog here: Harry – Cafe Dog!

For The Love Of A Small Dog…

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
~ Charles M. Schulz

 

This small red bundle of energy who we now know as Rufous Dog only came into our lives on Monday, but what a difference his presence has already made.

Harry hasn’t stopped smiling. He now has a playmate, a buddy, a brother. They play together for hours each morning and afternoon, wrestling and playing chasey.

My husband Ben’s happy too. Rufous is a lovely boy, he’s easy to train, and Harry (who in the way of cattle dogs bonding to one person is truly Ben’s dog) is also finally happy again after weeks of awful fretting and grieving for the loss of our precious Bert.

Rufous has even come on a Cafe outing and managed to behave reasonably well. Here they are at a cafe yesterday morning. Harry is staring at Ben. Rufous at me.

I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, truth be told. This small dog has made me his important person. This has never happened before. All of our dogs have been Ben’s dogs. All Daddy’s boys, although I know they loved me too. But Rufous has decided he is mine.

When we go somewhere as a family Rufous checks to see if I am coming. If I’m slow he comes back and waits for me. If I don’t go he doesn’t either. He parks himself at my feet and stares up at me with these big soft eyes. Everywhere I go, apart from morning and afternoon dog playtime, Rufous is right behind me.

He even sleeps between my office chair and the wall or under my desk while I am working, one paw always touching me if he can.

It’s a love explosion in our house right now. Which kind of makes up for the newly chewed shoes… 🙂

Meet Rufous – Brother to Harry Dog!

“ Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” ~  Marc Brown

A little over a week ago I mentioned in a blog post that we had just begun to think about getting a new baby brother or sister for Harry Dog, who has been mourning the loss of Bert.

Only a few hours later my friend Monique posted some pictures to my Facebook page of a young red cattle dog pup who had just been rescued that very day and who was in need of a forever home. It wasn’t the kind of thing that Monique would normally do, but she felt compelled to share.

I took one look at that puppy’s face and knew we had to try to bring him home. I immediately contacted Janine who was fostering the pup and who had posted the pictures, and then Sharon who runs Australian Cattle Dog Rescue. Many messages and phone calls later and it all looked like this dog could be ours. Just as soon as he had been vet checked and desexed.

On Monday we finally brought him home. I’m still not well, currently treating the tummy bug we picked up from our last overseas trip and now dealing with a resurgence of the nasty antibiotic-resistant superbug urinary tract infection I’d hoped that I’d actually beaten. I was too unwell to travel, so our friend Carly went with Harry and Ben on a nearly five-hour drive (and then back again in the same day!) to meet this rescue pup and see if he could be a good fit for our family. Of course he was! So now we have Rufous at home with us, and he is just a delight.

He loves cuddles and being close to everyone, and he’s simply the best of mates with Harry. They run around like mad things and then collapse in a heap together and nap.

Rufous even went on his very first cafe outing yesterday morning and was very well-behaved and happy!

It’s wonderful to have a puppy at home, and even better is the smile on Harry’s face. He hasn’t stopped smiling since we found him a new brother. <3

He Can’t Take His Eyes Off Me!

“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”
~ Rudyard Kipling; The Jungle Book

 

Finally we are home.

Harry Dog was overjoyed to see us when we arrived back at the farm, and has not let us out of his sight ever since.

When I took a walk in the garden yesterday afternoon, to check on how things have fared since we’ve been gone, Harry followed me everywhere.

He kept staring at me with this look in his eyes.

Don’t leave me again, Mum.

He has gone backwards and forwards between Ben and I since the moment we first walked through the door, nudging us with his nose and licking us madly. When he sits beside us he sits right on top of us, pressing his body against any part of us he can reach.

This morning Harry was right on my feet as I meditated, but now he’s at the door, looking back at me.

Come on, Mum. Come on, Dad. Cafe time!

I’m sure you understand. I can’t write more. It’s been weeks since Harry had a walk on the beach and breakfast at his favourite cafe. We can’t keep him waiting.

Cafe Dog must have his outing! I’m still on a limited diet, but that’s not important. Family time and our old routines, that’s what matters today.

And soon, we think, it will be time to find a new puppy brother or sister for Harry. Even though he was well taken care of I don’t ever want Harry to be alone and without family again.

See you tomorrow!

Biggest love and hugs from Nicole and her happy dog, Harry! <3 xoxo