A ‘Renovator’s Delight’ Is Rarely A Good Relationship Choice!

“There is only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best.” 
~  Doris Lessing

 

In Australia we have a term for houses that need a stupid amount of work to make them habitable. We call them Renovator’s Delights, and you can be sure that anything that is advertised as such is sure to be a money pit, no matter how much a Real Estate Agent might tell you otherwise in their eagerness to get you to commit to a sale. These houses have much more than cosmetic flaws that could be easily fixed with a coat of paint or some new handles or light fittings. A Renovator’s Delight hides serious structural flaws that are often not apparent to the rookie buyer. This kind of work is expensive to repair, if it can be repaired at all. A smart buyer would be better off looking for a different investment opportunity.

Sometimes a seller will disguise a Renovator’s Delight with a quick paint job and some landscaping so that it looks visually appealling – they can sell you on ‘the dream’ as long as you don’t dig too deep. This is an even worse situation for a buyer who hasn’t done their homework and organised a complete building inspection because they won’t be prepared for the devastating structural issues they will one day find below that pretty surface.

So what does that have to do with relationships? A lot, actually.

In all my time of guiding, advising and counselling others, especially sensitive and empathic souls and those who identify as ‘spiritual’ or ‘healers’ I’ve seen many good men and women choosing the human equivalent of a Renovator’s Delight in love relationships.

Very few people lead with their faults and flaws in a new relationship. That’s normal. We all want to be thought well of, and to be successful in making a relationship last. And what’s perfect anyway? All of us have idiosyncrasies and quirks. Much of that is also what makes us appealing to others. This truth is evident when you see people buy a home. Oh my goodness, one person will say. I can’t stand all those funny little stained-glass windows. That alone will be enough for them to choose not to buy. Oh my goodness, the next person will say. Look at all those funny little stained-glass windows. I totally love that! After which they will buy the house because those funny little windows really spoke to something in their soul.

Image from Alamy at www.architecturaldigest.com

Sometimes after we’ve lived in a home, loved it and been happy there, disaster strikes. A pipe bursts. There is a fire in the kitchen. Termites eat out a pillar or a roof support. But it’s our home. We love it. So we fix it, or try to. We do the work together with our partner, friends or family, we bring experts in, or in some cases we decide to just accommodate the problem and we learn to live with it. In human terms this can be a sudden illness, a bad decision, a stupid action, a transgression, loss of a job or some other calamity. Our commitment to what has been a good and happy relationship and the love involved allows us to stay together, despite a structural flaw. Importantly, everyone acknowledges that flaw. No-one covers it up or suggests that it isn’t real.

Human Renovator’s Delights in new relationships often know that they have serious flaws but they are not invested in fixing them, and they go to great lengths to hide them. Some trade on these flaws or backstory in order to get or keep attention and to excuse behaviours and beliefs. Some will be honest and tell you they are not good relationship material. They mean it, and they say it to give you an out, but a Lightworker or empath will then feel it is their responsibility to stay, help, and fix things.

Inside all of us is a compass that helps us to see if the person in front of us has quirks that will endear them to us or that we can learn to live with, or if there are serious structural flaws that make this relationship not worth our investment. What’s always needed for sound relationship decisions is time and the ability to tune in to that inner compass.

I have friends and clients going through hard times in relationships right now, and they’re wondering how they ended up where they are – with a lover who cheats or gambles, with a husband who suddenly wants out, with a boss who keeps lying.

They’re hurt, distressed and devastated at what has happened and they’ve asked me the questions: Why did this happen? How did this happen? Why did I not see this coming?

Truly, a wise part of them did see it coming. A wise part of them already knew. All of us have intuition, and instinct. This force within us operates with a vast amount of information – not just our conscious awareness.

When pressed, all of these people eventually admitted that there had been things in their relationship from early on that made them uncomfortable. Or there was a point where things began to change, and that point was a long way from where they are now.

In each situation my clients and friends had intuitively picked up on an energy or behaviour that was out of flow, out of truth – either with the way the other person was presenting themselves within the relationship, or with how their partner’s actions and behaviours conflicted with their own values and beliefs. In each case their intuition  red-flagged something, using those feelings of discomfort and that instinctive knowledge to bring the situation to their conscious attention.

So why didn’t they allow themselves to be guided by that intuition? Quite simply, their mind got in the way. They discounted, excused, second-guessed or validated that discomfort away. They saw what they wanted to see, or needed to see, rather than what was. They gave second chances, chose to believe what they were told, and shoved that discomfort back down where it no longer bothered them. In many instances they convinced themselves that the person could change, or that they could help them heal or find ways to help them overcome the issue. Or, they thought that they’d already invested too much to walk away, or that any relationship was better than being on their own.

In many situations this person’s life then became completely consumed by the relationship and their worries over how to fix it, or whether to stay or go. All of the energy that they could have spent enjoying life, being creative, practicing self-care, building or maintaining other relationships was instead diverted into somehow trying to transform their relationship Renovator’s Delight into something more safe and habitable.

Just like a property that is a Renovator’s Delight sucks all your money, a relationship with a Renovator’s Delight sucks all your time and energy until there’s nothing left for anything or anyone else. (Narcissists and Sociopaths – the kind of Renovator’s Delight that can NEVER be fixed – will actually feed off your energy and then discard you once you’re broken or no longer of value to them.)

 

Tune in for a moment. What’s your intuition been telling you? How much of your time is wrapped up in this relationship? Are you both emotionally invested in solving problems and making things work? Is there any action or is it all talk and broken promises? Is it worth it?

A friend of mine recently sold a Renovator’s Delight after finally accepting (ten years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later) that she was never going to make it what she needed it to be. A new couple bought the house and then promptly demolished it to leave a clean canvas for their dream home. After my friend got over the shock she bought herself a brand new apartment with everything she needs – all in full working order. She couldn’t be happier.

The energies this week, and this month, support big decisions and coming into alignment with your values and inner core. Maybe it’s time for you to make a change.

You might also find these resources useful:

Using Your Internal Compass to Navigate Life

Understanding Intuition and Gut Instinct

or this program of eight free exercises designed to help you connect to and work with intuition, energy and the metaphysical:

Strengthening Your Intuition – A program of Exercises

Biggest hugs and love to you, Nicole  xx

 

 

Fanny’s Whist Cake – A simple and delicious treat!

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” 
~  Ray Bradbury

On Wednesday we mustered and did cattle work here at the farm. It’s always incumbent upon me to provide cake for smoko when the workers break for a cup of tea, and I have a host of favourite recipes to choose from. But our friend and her little boy were visiting later in the day. Eli loves cake, but mum was hoping it might be low sugar, so I decided to go through my old recipe folders and there I found a recipe I’d never made, one that was copied from my Nana Cody. My beloved Nana passed away in 2012, but she’s still a strong presence in my life – especially in the kitchen! Nana was always good for recipes and simple life wisdoms. This particular recipe was called Fanny’s Whist Cake. It was lower in sugar than most other recipes and seemed worth making. Well, I thought, why not?

The name of the cake was quite curious. First I googled Whist Cake but there is no such thing. There is a card game called Whist though – it’s a simple trick taking game that was a popular parlour game in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Perhaps it was a cake that Fanny liked to bake and take to her Whist games? Seems logical to me.

But who was Fanny? If she had been a friend of Nana’s I didn’t recall her ever being mentioned. I rang my sister, who is the family’s genealogy sleuth. Fanny Wheaton, Simone declared. She was Nana’s (our Dad’s mum, Joyce Cody, nee Heppell) grandmother. So that makes Fanny Wheaton my second great-grandmother. Here’s a photo of Fanny, circa 1915, courtesy of Jon Heppell who uploaded it to Ancestry.com. She’s the lady in black in the middle of the picture, holding the baby. Nana’s parents are Doris Minta Parish & her husband Frederick William Heppell, Fanny’s son (back row, right). Isn’t it wonderful to think that I am now baking her recipe, one that she was making over one hundred years ago!

So, is a cake made to a recipe that’s easily over 100 years old any good? My word it is! It’s a light and buttery cake, made interesting with the addition of dried fruit and a simple cinnamon-spiced crumb topping. It is quite firm to slice. We found it excellent served plain with a cup of tea, and our young friend Eli found it even better served with lashings of vanilla ice-cream.

I don’t think it will have very good keeping qualities so I advise that it is best served on the day it is made. We did eat the last of it the following day and found it a little drier, but still acceptable and very good buttered!

I hope you enjoy Fanny’s Whist Cake as much as we did. I’ll certainly be making it again.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter (115g or 1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup sugar ( 170g)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour (300g)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins – 88g)
  • 1/4 cup sliced glace cherries (40g)
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup warmed milk (58ml)

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped (30g)
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar (30g)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour (20g)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder ( 12g)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to moderately slow (160 degrees Celsius or 325 Fahrenheit)
  2. Grease and paper line a 20cm round baking tin
  3. Make the crumble first by rubbing the butter, sugar flour and spice together with your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Note: Make sure the butter is cold!
  4. Warm milk (Warm, not boiling!)
  5. Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy – sugar is dissolved
  6. Add eggs one at a time, beating slowly after each to combine
  7. Add pinch of salt
  8. Alternate the flour and milk in small amounts, gently folding in to the mixture.
  9. Add the dried fruit and fold through.
  10. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
  11. sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter
  12. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until top is golden and cake springs back when lightly pressed in centre.
  13. Cool.
  14. Best served on same day.

 

It’s a day of Family First for me!

“I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching–they are your family.” 
~  Jim Butcher

 

Ben drove us to the city yesterday so I could finally have some decent internet connection. We’d planned a million things for the next few days but suddenly that’s all changed.

Just as we arrived at our front gate we had a phone call to say that Ben’s mum was vomiting, confused and about to be transported by ambulance to hospital.

And Rufous our young pup has taken a tumble and hurt his back leg, which now requires a vet visit.

So last night and today and perhaps the days ahead for us will be family first. Ben’s mum is 92 and frail. I need to pop around to her home early this morning to clean. We need to take Rufous to the vet. We need to go up to the hospital. We need to be with our family.

Hugs yours today, okay? Or give them a call. Whether they are blood-relatives or animal friends or people who’ve come to mean as much to you. We’re all each other has, and in the end, we’re all that matter.

Much love to you, Nicole  xx

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