Before the madness, tea…

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.” 
~  William Ewart Gladstone

 

In the middle of all of this editing and birthday excitement we’ve also been dealing with madness of another kind this last little while.

Ben’s elderly mum, a staunchly independent woman in her early nineties, is needing more and more help to stay in her home. Which is where she wants to stay!

The family has rallied around; bringing her food, taking her to doctors’ appointments, paying bills and managing her household, proving company and care. But things are changing quickly. Suddenly I feel like I need to check in on her every day. Will she remember to take her medication? Is she eating? Is she safe? Is she okay emotionally?

It’s a place many families suddenly find themselves in.

And we live far away for most of each month, although we’ve radically modified that recently to be able to keep a better eye on her.

This morning I’m sitting with a cup of tea, thinking about what to do next, and how best to support my mother-in-law. It’s comforting to know that all of her family are thinking about that too, and we’ll find a way, together, to navigate this next stage of her life, but it’s a sad and worrying time.

Meanwhile, my Melbourne Breakfast Tea hasn’t quite fixed everything, but my goodness it helps.

Sending much love to you and your families, Nicole  xoxo

Vanilla Cake with Passionfruit Glaze

“Through enjoyment we endure.” 
~ Florence Ditlow

 

Looking for an easy, moist and yummy vanilla cake? My Nana Cody used to make this simple cake every school holidays when we were children. The only thing that ever varied was the flavour of icing she’d add to the top. It’s pretty much a foolproof recipe, which is one of the many reasons for loving this cake. Plus, it’s DELICIOUS!!!

When Nana married, my Gran (great grandmother!) passed her copy of Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery and a notebook full of family recipes and household hints to Nana help her manage as a new wife. By the time I came along decades later both books had been very well used. The notebook was food-stained and stuffed with cuttings from magazines and recipes jotted down onto the backs of envelopes or notepaper from thoughtful friends. This Vanilla Cake from Nana’s notebook had an extra page beside it on which Gran Heppell had written several variations and suggestions for serving:

  • Serve plain and fresh with hot tea for workers or a slice with first tea before breakfast.
  • Good plain for an upset stomach. Crumb and add to milk for fussy children.
  • Split in half. Spread jam over bottom of cake and then a generous serve of whipped cream. Replace lid and dust with icing sugar to serve.
  • Fill with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream slightly sweetened and vanilla added. Dust top of cake.
  • Fill with lemon curd and a layer of whipped cream. Dust top.
  • For a marble cake split mixture into three bowls. Add pink colouring to one, and a teaspoon or two of cocoa to the second until a good colour is obtained. Add each colour in spoonfuls to greased cake pan and swirl together slightly with a knife blade.
  • Make a buttercream and add to it the pulp of one or two passionfruit. Fill sponge with buttercream and ice with a glaze to which more passionfruit has been added.

I wrote those notes carefully into my own kitchen notebook and have made many many variations of this cake ever since. It is always a good and easy cake to make, which never fails. Yesterday we had a farm full of visitors and workers, so I whipped the cake up in the morning, ready for smoko. By dinner there were only crumbs left in the cake tin!

Here’s Nana’s Mrs Beeton’s which is now mine!

Vanilla Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125 grams of soft butter
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

Cake 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. Place the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer in the order given above. Wet ingredients must go in last!
  4. Mix at low speed for one minute or until combined.
  5. Beat at high speed for three to four minutes until batter is pale and creamy and smooth.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed.
  7. Cool cake completely before filling or icing as required.

NB: Failure to adhere to ingredient order and placing flour in mixing bowl last may result in a cloud of flour covering you and/or the kitchen. You have been warned! And yes, I totally forgot and look what happened. 

To split the cake for filling use a large serrated knife and cut horizontally through the middle of the cake. Gently lift the top and place aside on a tea-towel or clean plate while adding filling to the bottom half of the cake.

Passionfruit Buttercream Ingredients:

  • 125 grams softened butter
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • Pulp and juice of one to two passionfruit

Method:

  1. Beat butter until whipped and creamy
  2. Gradually add icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. After the first 1/2 cup of icing sugar add a little passionfruit pulp. Beat well and then continue adding sugar, alternating with passionfruit. When the icing is very thick and creamy spoon onto the bottom layer of cake and replace top half of cake.

Passionfruit Glaze Icing Ingredients:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • the juice and pulp of one to two passionfruit

Method:

  1. To make the icing (frosting) sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the softened butter and the pulp of one passionfruit. Beat well until the mixture is stiff and glossy. If mixture is too stiff add extra passionfruit until the correct consistency is reached.
  2. Spread onto the top of the cooled cake. Dipping your knife in hot water will help give a smooth and shiny finish as you spread the icing (frosting) mixture.

Serve with a nice cup of tea, in the company of friends.

Or eat it all yourself. It’s up to you, really! 😀

Much love, Nicole xx

PS – Have you noticed how much Rufous seems to end up in all my food shots? He’s so like our old dog Bert it’s uncanny!

 

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… 🙂