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.

 

The Owl and the Banshee

Banshee by OmniscientNerd

Banshee by OmniscientNerd

“Fairies in Ireland are sometimes as big as we are, sometimes bigger, and sometimes, as I have been told, about three feet high.” 
~ W.B. Yeats

 

As I have been writing my Kimberley memoir, tumbling words onto the page at all hours of the day and night, I find myself I need to talk again about owls, and also about fairies.  I present this information to you only as story, as interesting background.

Although it might be more…

In modern times we often think of fairies as tiny winged creatures, flitting through the flowers and amusing animals and children. But once, fairies were considered to be a race all their own, some larger than humans, some human sized and similar in form, and some quite small, perhaps just a few feet high. They were closely associated with nature and the supernatural, and were considered to have ‘magical’ powers.

Fairies are woven through my family tree.  Really.  When you track back into ancient Irish, Norse and Scottish genealogies the lines start to become blurred between legend, mythology and fact. This is especially true once you start to weave in the fairy folk to these earlier branches of the family tree.  It was once accepted that fairies walked among us, lived in certain places, and married into the lines of the Ancient Norse, Irish and Scottish Kings, from whom I am descended.

It is also believed that some from the ancient family lines, whose blood shares fairy energy, reincarnate over and over, maintaining the ability to connect with the ‘fey’ – the fairies and other creatures of those ancient times – creatures not human, and in their own way, magical.

Each of the great ancient families of Ireland has their own Banshee.  Banshee is Gaelic for “fairy woman”.  Bean = woman, sidhe (pronounced shee) = fairy.  In Irish mythology, the appearance of a banshee foretells impending death in the family. She may appear as a pale old woman with long hair who keens and wails – the banshee scream. She may also be a beautiful woman.  In Norse and Scottish mythology, (whose ancestral lines complete my own) banshees are also given attention, and are believed linked to specific families.

For some of the ancient families an owl or a raven will also appear to herald a death, or as a portend of a coming event of significance.

Image from Flickr

Image from Flickr

In 1776, some of my family line, a party of young people, went to a friend’s house for the evening while the father of one of the girls, Harrison Ross Lewin of Fortfergus, was in Dublin on business – a journey that necessitated five days travel and many stops. The young people walked to their friend’s house and spent a pleasant evening.

Here is their story, as recounted by Thomas Johnson Westropp in his book  A Folklore Survey of County Clare.  

As the party returned under bright moonlight, they were startled by loud keening and wailing from the direction of an old church ruin. When they drew closer to the ruins they all clearly saw a little old woman with long white hair and a dark cloak running to and fro on the top of the side wall, clapping her hands and wailing.

The young men, leaving the girls together on the road, sent some of their number to watch each end of the building, and the remainder entered and climbed up on the wall. The apparition vanished as they approached the church, and, after a careful search, could not be found.

The party, thoroughly frightened, hurried home, and found their mother in even greater terror. She had been sitting in the window when a great raven flapped three times at the glass, and, while she told them, the bird again flew against the window.

Some days later, news arrived from Dublin that Ross Lewin had died suddenly on the very evening of the apparition and omen.”

Both Banshees and Owl visitations are well documented in my family history. Indeed my maternal grandmother saw an owl before her own mother passed, and shortly after the passing of some of her beloved aunts.

My mother, sister and I were also visited by owls shortly before or just after my maternal grandmother died.

Owls sometimes come heralding change or the opening up of metaphysical skills and abilities.

Why am I sharing this information with you? What might it have to do with my time in the Kimberley?

It’s all about the stories.

I promise you, although these various strands – the Owl and the Orchard Man, the Kimberley Owls, the spirit lady from my family tree might seem so impossibly far from each other, eventually all of these puzzle pieces begin to fit together.

Puzzle_Pieces_by_nighty_stock♥ I would also like to publicly acknowledge and thank my sister, Simone, for her tireless work, endless dedication, countless hours and exacting research in her ongoing investigation of our family tree.

 

In Search of Greener Pastures…

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“I think we are bound to, and by, nature. We may want to deny this connection and try to believe we control the external world, but every time there’s a snowstorm or drought, we know our fate is tied to the world around us.”~ Alice Hoffman

There’s not a lick of moisture in the air out here. Every day huge road trains filled with decks of cattle roar past, raising clouds of dust in their wake. Out west, up north, they’re all talking drought. While the cattle still have some condition they’re being trucked out for sale in southern markets or adjisted to anywhere that has enough feed. Just in case it doesn’t rain. Just in case things get worse. Stay worse…

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There’s movement in the long paddock too. That’s what they call the traditional stock routes throughout inland Australia, that have been used to walk cattle and sheep between waterholes and stations for generations.

I’ve been watching a big mob of cattle moving between Barcaldine and Longreach. The drovers, their horses and dogs, their support crews – easing these huge numbers of stock along the droving routes.

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How can I not be reminded of my grandfather, himself the son of a drover? My grandfather and his dad would have walked and ridden this same land, slept under these same wide skies as they pushed sheep and cattle from one place to another.

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As I sat in the main street of Longreach the other morning, sipping a latte outside the Lazy Sheep Cafe and thinking of Ceddie (Cedric Nurcombe, my adored maternal grandfather) and how much he had loved horses – a stage coach thundered down the main street. It was utterly surprising. The sort of moment where you suck your breath in and hold it. The coach went all the way to the end of Eagle Street, turned around and came back, before disappearing from view. You could smell the sweat of the horses, hear the thudding clip-clop of the massive draft-horse shoes and the rattle of the wheels on the road, the pretty jingle of the harnesses. It was as if we’d stepped back a hundred years.

I was unexpectedly moved to tears. It felt as if Ceddie was sitting right beside me, reminding me of what his life had looked like. Reminding me that I am on the right track with my own life, as I turn away from what’s not working, and look for alternatives to help me thrive.

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So here I am. Feeling the measure of my family’s history. Achy-hearted and missing my grandfather’s wisdoms and gentle humour. Wishing I’d thought to ask more questions while he was still alive.

My skin’s red from the sun, and dry from the parched air. I’m weathering like leather in this harsh landscape.

And if I’m honest, as much as I’m loving my time in the bush I’m more than a little homesick now for the verdant paddocks of Possum Creek, the deep pooled rivers, the sweet creeks and the broad sweep of ocean which encircles the coast I call home. I’m missing my local farmers’ markets and our abundance of fruits and vegetables, our opulent selection of fresh produce.

This coming drought reminds me of all the times I battled on too long, held out when I should have put my hand up for help or looked sooner for alternatives. Makes me reflect on the current changes I’m making in my life. Finally I’m learning to plan better, think more strategically, be bolder in my decisions. I’m actively seeking a life with less struggle and more flow.

There’s dust in my veins, and a part of me anchored here. A  compass point that keeps calling me back to red dirt, golden grass and blue skies. But in times of scarcity all of us who wish to thrive turn our hearts to more abundant pastures. We look to move hardship to ease. We’re forever seeking green…

Someone to watch over me…

A light in the darkness by crywolf

A light in the darkness by crywolf96

“It is the custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.” 

~ J.M. Barrie

Remember, I was telling you about the lady who came and sat on my sister’s bed when we were little? Back when I was four, and Simone was two and a half?

I felt quite afraid those nights when my sister was sick. Her skin and hair was sticky with sweat. She was so hot, and she tossed and turned and whimpered in her sleep.

Each night after the world was asleep the beautiful lady surrounded by the silver-blue light would come to our room.  Each night she would comfort my sister, sing to her, and talk to her in her low, sweet voice. She spoke the funny language that I found out much, much later was French.

At the end of one of these visits, when I sensed she was about to leave, I asked her why she was visiting.

“I am her Mummy,” she said to me somehow. “Her Mummy from another time. When a mother loves her child, the love lasts forever.”

She touched my hand. It made me feel so warm inside. “We are family,” she said.  “Remember that.  Family means love forever. There is always someone watching over you.”

She kissed me on the forehead. “One day you will remember…”

And then she was gone.

At the darkest times of my life I have recounted that conversation. After my grandmothers passed away, Marga in 2011 and then Nana late last year, I finally understood what that meant – to have someone watching over you. I felt it in my heart.

As my sister and I research our family tree, and connect into previous generations and our more ancient lines, I feel the weight of this love more and more.

For all of you – those who already feel loved, and those who feel lost or alone – let me reassure you. There is family stretching far back, whose lives are braided through with yours over and over again.

Some call it family, some call it ancestors, some call it soul group. It really doesn’t matter by what name we know it.  All that matters is this – the magic in this world is love. It’s the energy that follows us, sustains us, and lifts us up. It’s all around us, even when we can’t see it.  Even if we choose to believe it’s not there.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of that magic with you…

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Alice’s Lifelong Invisible Friend

Image from Meltys

Image from Meltys

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery The Little Prince

Alice is the oldest person to have ever sought out my services as a psychic.  She came to see me late last year, at age 98, driven to my house by her grand-daughter Donna.

After she was settled, and her family had gone off for a drive to give her some privacy, Alice gravely informed me that she needed some spiritual advice before she died. Could I work with someone who had already lived their life and was right at the end of their time here?

“Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “Let’s just do what I would ordinarily do in one of my sessions, and we’ll see what comes up.”

We sat at the table where I work, and I held Alice’s frail hands in mine, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and offered up a prayer for the Highest Good. Then I sat quietly for a moment

It is wonderful to work with the elderly, and anyone drawing close to the end of their time here on earth.  Their lives stretch out richly before them, and the connection to the spiritual world is always strong and immediate.

Immediately I got a name, ‘Agnes’, and sensed that she was one of Alice’s guides. It was the most powerful and immediate connection, as if Agnes was right here beside us.

When I opened my eyes and looked up at Alice, so that we could begin our session, her soft grey eyes held mine. There was a bright curiosity there.

I explained how I start my session, with the prayer and the connection, and that I then opened myself up to any first impressions.  I told her about Agnes, and how strong her presence was.

Then we sat for over an hour, as I shared information about Alice’s aura, and why she had chosen to come to this life.  We discussed love and family, and I was able to give her clarity about some of the incidents and relationships that she was still trying to come to terms with after nearly a century of life.

Finally, as the session was coming to an end, Alice became quite teary, and told me she had a terrible confession. I couldn’t imagine what it could be – Alice has led a good life, filled with caring for others, kindness and love.

“I have an imaginary friend,” she whispered through her tears. “She’s been my friend since I was little. I’m always talking to her, and sometimes at night in my room, after everyone else is asleep, she comes to visit me, and she sits on my bed.”

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I didn’t say anything, just reached across so I could hold her hand.

She laughed. “I must be a bit funny in the head,” she said. “And there’s one other thing… My whole life I have felt lonely on the inside, like something precious is missing. I have no right to feel like this.  My parents were very loving, and I had tremendous brothers. I had a happy marriage and my own two girls and their families have been very good to me. And I had plenty of friends, although, of course, they are all gone now.”

“And your sister,” I prompted. “You must have been very close to your sister.”

Alice looked at me strangely, and the energy between us suddenly became very uncomfortable. “I never had a sister,” she said crankily. “You’re very much mistaken.”

We moved back to safer ground, and I answered the last of her questions, and then her grand-daughter arrived back at my house and Alice and I said goodbye.

Alice’s grand-daughter knocked on my door last night, to let me know that the old lady had died peacefully in her sleep on the weekend. Donna had sat with her grandmother for the last few days of her life, and Alice had been conscious and lucid til the last.  Alice was insistent that Donna contact me after her death.

Donna had a large envelope with her, and she took out the contents to show me. In it were photocopies of some old documents. One was the death certificate of Alice’s mother.  It clearly showed that she had given birth to three sons and then after a gap of six years, two twin girls, Alice and Agnes.

My skin prickled with recognition. Agnes… The presence I had felt so strongly in the room with us that day.

There was also a death certificate for Agnes, who had died at age four from scarlet fever.  The family had lived in a small town in Outback Queensland. Donna had discovered that her great grandmother and Agnes were buried in a family plot in that small town.  She was now planning to go out there to find their graves.

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Alice had told Donna all about her session with me on the drive back to her nursing home, and Donna had then diligently visited the State Archives to see what she could learn of her family history.

She had found the information weeks before her grandmother passed away, and Donna told me it had given her grandmother much peace.

Alice’s family had never spoken of Agnes, and Alice had grown up believing that Agnes truly was imaginary. She had learned from a very early age not to speak of Agnes, but had maintained that love and connection with her twin sister for her whole life.

We both cried, and hugged, and as she left, Donna withdrew another small envelope from her bag. “This is for you, from Gran,” she said.

I opened it after she left. In a spidery hand, Alice had written me a short note. In part, it said Thank you for restoring the missing part of my heart.

Last night I lay in bed and thought of my own beautiful grandparents who have now all passed away, and some dear friends whose lives ended too early.  I felt the weight of all their love. And it made me smile to think of Alice and Agnes, together again, and catching up on a lifetime’s worth of being apart.

Love truly is a force powerful beyond all we can imagine.