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October 2011
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December 2011

Letter(box) The Devil You Know

I am typing this while I play Youtube videos and listen to Kylie. It is unkind that she is called The Singing Budgie, but I think part of her charm is that she isn't an Adele (see, I do know some modern singers) or a Dusty Springfield. I always feel I can sing along quite happily reaching all the notes. The Pop Princess (!!) has been home to be Hall of Famed.

At the weekend there was a very noisy party over the road, lasting until after midnight, and it was impossible to sleep. On Monday morning my letterbox was missing. I think it had been thrown on the road. I found it, slightly coming apart, on the high nature strip where some kind person had rescued it. I cobbled it together again.

Letter box vandals
I found a flower growing outside the back door. How it has survived Lorelai Gilmore's hole digging I don't know, but it appears to be flourishing.

Pansy I think
This has been the House Of Poorliness, there's a thing going around and I had/have it. Mainly it is a headache, fever and sleepiness. I always know when I am poorly because I can't eat. I have had rice cakes with a schmear of Vegemite and tonight I had pretend fried rice. And a banana. Look at the beautiful banana. It is the first banana of the season. I shared it with Peri and Gilly.

First banana of the year

And so I have been sleeping, almost non-stop, for the last two and a half days. Luckily The Labradors are good sleepers. It hasn't helped that the weather has been sultry for a few days either. I cut up some chicken breast and added it to their breakfast. Peri dives in nose first and unerringly finds all the chicken. Lorelai Gilmore uses her nose to spread her breakfast far and wide so she can eat all the best chicken parts first. Then the rest is hoovered up.

Labradors search for chicken pieces
I managed to finish MrsDrWho's Advent Calendar and delivered it this afternoon. Ta da!! It came with mini chocolate bars for each pocket. I hope it has rustic charm.

Advent 2011
Unfortunately sleeping is not very conducive to cooking, one shouldn't cook whilst asleep: it could be dangerous. So no recipe for Tuesday. Instead, be charmed by Peri and Gilly posing for a close up. Peri's eyes are pretty much better now, she still has an itchy nose. Gilly can fit her whole self into a square photo. She's tiny!!

Peri and Gilly's noses know
While I have been using the internet for the last half hour or so, Google Reader wanted my phone number and then Google Search insisted I upgrade (and I think they are using the term incorrectly in this case) to Google+. I shan't do either. I am sure Google will go on without me. I have lots of blog reading to catch up on. Maybe tomorrow....

And now I shall make a cup of tea, take all my tablets and then a lot more sleep is called for.

Dolly's Begeres

MrsGardyGardener found a dolly at the Op Shop and asked if I would make some clothes. So here is the dolly wearing a dress, cardi etc.

Dolly and cardi Dolly's clothes
When you pick the dolly up she talks and moves her head and limbs. When you lie her down she sighs and (eventually) goes to sleep. Lorelai Gilmore was not sure whether she wanted to like the dolly, or separate the dolly into individual parts.

Gilly and the Dolly Annoying Doll
I don't have a before photo, but the dolly's hair was like a fir bush in a fit. MrsDrWho gave me a great tip and also some conditioner. I slathered it onto the dolly's wet hair and combed it through and rinsed it out: very carefully while dolly was wrapped in a towel so as not to ruin her electronic innards. Now her 'hair' smells lovely and she's back at The GardyGardener's house.

I bought some fabulous 15cm long 4mm dpns. I often knit 8ply socks and mittens and the 20cm needles are very cumbersome. They only cost $13-50-ish, including postage, from the UK.

15cm dpn
Peri and Gilly have been playing in the creek,

Peri and Gilly in the creek
and exercising their ears

Ears ears
and rolling in you don't want to know what.

Labradors rollin rollin rollin
Today I caught up with TinkingBell. We catch up on a semi-irregular car servicing basis. We could chat for Britain!! We talked non-stop from go to whoa. We exchanged early Christmas gifts. I am the proud and joyful owner of some beautifully dyed Knitting by Zen Emerald City wool, enough for a vest, and a Dalek booklight. I expect if you don't like the book you are reading the Dalek will exterminate it for you.

In turn TinkingBell is the, I hope, happy and chuffed recipient of a Dalek boxbag (Spoonflower fabric) and a Twelve Days of Christmas Button calendar. For once I remembered to take a photo to show Tinking really did come to visit, usually I forget!!

Dalek box bag 12 days of christmas
And now I am tired and have already had a 2 1/2 hour nap and I am giving Sewing a miss this fortnight.  Yesterday I had my hair cut and went with MrsDrWho for an hour to The BlackSpot of Doolight(tm) to spend vouchers, and tomorrow my car is being serviced. That is enough, I plan to sleep all day on Saturday!!!

Christmas Cooking: Easy Chocolate Fudge

This is my take on Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Fudge. You really can't be having a fudge that must be kept in the freezer when Christmas is in Summer. I am just going right ahead and saying Christmas now. I don't care.

Basically, in 5 or 6 minutes you make a caramel and then, importantly, you allow it to cool down from a bubbling molten lava temperature, and stir in the chocolate. It sets nicely and can be kept in the fridge and safely transported about the place. Within reason.

You can add whatever extras you like: nuts, dried fruits, flavours, and make it your own.

 Easy Chocolate Fudge (that doesn't have to be kept in the freezer)

Makes 12 slices or 24 smaller squares.

  • 1 x 395g tin of condensed milk
  • 350g good dark or milk chocolate
  • 30g butter
  • tspn vanilla extract
  • optional extras: 1 tbspn golden syrup, 1 tbspn brown sugar

Pour the condensed milk into a good microwave proof bowl. I use a glass bowl. Add the butter and the sugar and golden syrup if desired. Microwave for two minutes and then stir very well. It may look lumpy, but with vigorous stirring it becomes smooth.

First Melting
A glass bowl will get very hot, but regardless, the mixture itself is extremely hot, so be very careful.

Microwave again for one minute each time, stirring carefully. Mine took 6 minutes in all.

Now the important part. Wait 5-10 minutes and then add the chocolate and vanilla and anything else you fancy and mix till combined. The chocolate will melt through the mixture.

Pour into a bar tin lined with baking paper and smooth down the top. Really you can use any quadrilateral container. I like my bar tin which is 25 x 7.5 x 4cm. Refrigerate for an hour or so and then turn out and cut with a serrated knife dipped into hot water. I can cut 12 slices or 24 smaller squares.


A bar of fudge
Pop in a cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon, or give a whole boxful to your friends!!!

Fudge in a bag

Now, Bring Us Some Fiddly Puddings.

This week I helped organise some easy craft activities for LSG. We decorate the tables at our HmmHmm Lunch and we usually have a choir from a nearby school to sing carols and generally entertain us, so we send them home with things we've made. Whether they like it of not!!

We made plum puddings from Chocolate Royals, candy cane reindeer and peg angels.

Puds, deer and angels
The men loved making the 36 candy cane reindeer with boogelly eyes, pom pom noses and antlers made from brown pipe cleaners - or chenille sticks according to the BSODL.  Others formed a production line and turned out 36 little plum pudding biscuits with white icing, spearmint leaves and a raspberry, wrapped in cellophane. I designed a little felt dress and wings for the dolly peg angels, who have novelty wool hair and a tinsel pipe cleaner halo. They have a little gold cardboard stand to keep them upright.

Angels and deer
My dental check up went very well, no fillings, no other horrid things and the clean and polish made my teeth shiny and white again.

I also had an appointment with my specialist. Things are OK, some results are higher or lower than we would like, but I tested negative for the important horrible things tests, and I can just keep taking all the drugs and hope things continue to go along nicely.

And that's pretty much taken up all my energy this week. I had unexpected tea and an episode of Farscape at MrsDrWho's house last night. I went to her school this afternoon and we made a list of HmmHmm activities for her class. I am hoping to make these with the children, well, I'll cook a batch and they can decorate. There is not much learning to be gained from watching me mix up some dough and cut out biscuits.

Poor Peri has hay fever of some kind and her little eyes are watering and her muzzle is itchy. There's nothing to be done apart from steroids, which have nasty side effects. When it rains the pollen or dust is dampened down and she is much happier. I moisten a cloth and wipe her little eyes. Gilly is as happy as Larry and helpfully licks Peri's face.

Peri and Gilly's cornflour make up

They both managed to get cornflour all over their faces. My phone instruction booklet had some cup of tea spilled on it and the cornflour soaks up the excess moisture. And, if you are a Labrador, it makes for a pleasant tea flavoured make-up.

MrsDrWho and I bought some fabric from the FatQuarterShop. I bought a kind of green jelly roll and some lovely Labrador fabric to make The Labradors a little quilt. I should say another little quilt. It has two Labrador pups running along together and one sleeping on a little green pillow.


I also received a beautiful gift from Jan with a lovely card which made me smile. It has some great patterns and lots of good reading too. The green ribbon is Jan's addition!! It looks as if it belongs on the cover. I really need a green coat next Winter, it's not so cold I really need one, I just fancy one.

Green book
There hasn't been any knitting at all, but Mrs GardyGardener sent me a dolly who needs a knitted cardigan, a dress and underthingies. She found her in an Op Shop for $5 and I have the perfect fabric and matching wool. The Advent Calendar embroideries are all done bar two, and I have recreated the missing ones while wathcing Lie To Me today. I have been putting off watching the last four epsiodes because the show was cancelled, and if I don't watch them, it's still technically, continuing on. I don't like to watch the last episode of Blake's 7 ever either, and I'm keeping the last three episodes of Terminator:The Sarah Connor Chronicles locked on my DVR. If I watch them it will all be over.....

I wonder if I am especially mad??

It's been warm this week, and today it was warm and now it is teemng with rain. Gilly keeps going outside to get wet and then comes to give me a rainy cuddle. Peri is curled up asleep in her chair. All's right with the world.

Tuesday's Letters Eat 41: 'Z' is for Zebra Biscuits

And so here I am at the end of my alphabetical cooking for 2011. It's been fun to wander through the alphabet with you. There have not been 52 recipes, because I was sick at the start of the year and then some letters are just really tricky. This way it leaves some time for Christmas cooking!! (Or requests)

These biscuits are made from dough, half vanilla and half chocolate. The dough is rolled out, cut into smaller pieces and then layered. It is refrigerated and then slices cut across the layers and then zebras, or any other shapes, can be made.

It was a warm day, so the dough took an hour or so to be firm enough to roll into shape, and then I left it overnight to set the layers. I can highly recommend pressing down to make sure the layers meld.

I had to roll my slices to make them a little larger so the zebra (horse) biscuit cutter would fit. I rolled the leftovers together, rolled them out again and made some  B&W crazy biscuits.

The recipe says it makes 18, but that depends on your fine motor control when cutting slices.


Zebra Biscuits  makes 18

  • 1 1/4 cups softened butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 3 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa

Using  a smaller bowl, if you have one, cream the butter and sugars until they are pale, light and fluffy. You can see the change of colour in the photos. Then add the egg and vanilla beat a little more.

Pale and light
Sift the flour into a larger bowl, add the creamed mixture, and oops, I forgot to add the vanilla till now. Then beat on a low speed till the flour is combined, increasing the speed as you go. I brought the dough together with my hands.

Halve the dough and add the cocoa to one half, mixing well to make sure it is chocolate coloured all the way through. Then refrigerate till firm enough to roll out. I kneaded the dough a little before I rolled it.

Cocoa dough
On a large piece of baking paper, draw a square 24 x 24cm, divided into half, and then sixths, each 12 x 8 cm. Place another piece of baking paper on the bench, then the dough and then top with the gridded paper. Roll the dough out to the proper dimensions and then trim to shape. Do this with each dough.

Squaring up the dough
Stack the doughs, alternating the vanilla and chocolate, and then press together, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Dough layers
Preheat the oven to 190*C and line biscuit trays with baking paper. Using a sharp knife, slice down through the layers and lay the dough flat. Roll out a little larger if necessary. Cut out the shapes, place them on the tray and then bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough and the size of the shape you use. The biscuits are cooked when they are golden around the edges. Remove from the tray and cool on a rack.

Cutting out the zebras
(Cue music) Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Equus Zebras. Their ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no biscuit has gone before........

 Zebras in Space

Tom's Just-Right Garden

I just love Tom's Midnight Garden. I didn't read it when I was a child, but when I was at College/Uni. My teacher training was a bit unusual. I went to the TCAE for a year or so, and then College moved to the Uni campus in town. We kept our College tutor and lecturers and had classes in both places. In the end it was the better College course with the bonus of a widely recognised Uni degree. I digress, as usual. So, at College we read loads of children's literature as part of English as a Language. I don't know how I missed reading Tom's Midnight Garden, The Chocolate War, The Eighteenth Emergency, Stig of the Dump, The Machine Gunners, The Silver Sword, and I am David, for example, before then*. I still find Children's or YA fiction is often of a much higher quality than Adult fiction.

Back to the garden. Once again the Befores :

Became the almost matching photos of The Afters:

Courtesy of the wonderful Uncle and Auntie Dutch. The garden, and I use that term loosely, had been OK until the last three weeks or so when we had quite a lot of rain and very warm weather. The weeds went wild.

Peri and Gilly had a lovely time all day, from about 9am till 2pm. There was a lot of paddle pool play. Gilly has a special lying down action to get the maximum wetness. Peri just likes to cool her feet.

Gilly and Peri in their pool
You can see all the leaves that later disappeared!!! I can't garden but I did cook some sticky gingerbread cake, raspberry brownies, sausage rolls and some filo pastry quiches which I sent home with my grateful thanks. The Dutches are fabulous to give up their time to help clean up our garden!! I was worn out and I didn't really do anything other than go up and down the stairs and sit and chat.

There has been an awful lot of sleeping since then and a lot more to come. I must be up and about in the morning because tomorrow I am off for my annual dental check up. I hope I just need to have my teeth cleaned and nothing else...

Peri and Gilly love the newly cleared spaces.

Gilly and Peri this morning
The Advent Calendar embroider is going reasonably well, though a sequinned 7, and another below 10 number, is missing. It's Gilly. I caught her tearing a hole in the 6-10 bag once and thought I'd saved it. Obviously not.

Number 7 come in your time is up
The new Colette Sewing Handbook arrived this week. It has five patterns included: three dresses, a  scalloped skirt and a wafty blouse/top.

Colette book Skirt and top Dress and patterns

I really like the way the spiral binding allows the book to lie flat. It's much easier to use.

Peri and Gilly are asleep and I think that's an excellent idea. Maybe I should have some lunch. Maybe just a snack because I'm going to MrsDrWho's for tea. Snack, then nap I think.

*I am so old that some of them were only published while I was at College. So old..........

Tuesday's Letters Eat 40: 'Y' is for Yoghurt Icy-poles or Pops

In the warmer weather (31*C on Sunday)  a cook's thoughts turn to ice. Frozen something or other any way.

Frozen yoghurt.

MoldsI bought a cute set of six green icy-pole molds and away I went. Quite a few of the recipes called for caster sugar, but I substituted some local honey. In all the excitement I am not sure if I used four or five thirds of a cup, but each of the molds held one third precisely, including the gap for freezing expansion.

You can use the fruit you like, or that is in season. I'm thinking banana!!!

I'm also thinking about just using fresh fruit whizzed up in the blender. I see a lot of home-made icy-poles in my future this Summer.


Yoghurt Icy-poles: Raspberry and Passionfruit   Makes 9

  • 1 1/3 cups plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar ( I used honey)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • pulp of 4 passionfruit

Measure the yoghurt and sugar into a bowl and then mix in the fruit.

That's it.

Making the pops
Spoon or pour the mixture into the molds and then freeze for at least 4 hours.

Into the freezer
The trickiest part is de-molding the 'pops'. I twirled it under the hot water from the recently boiled kettle and it released quite quickly. 

And here it is, in all its icy-pole glory!!!

Yoghurt 'pop'

All's Fair In Love And Craft

The plan was to leave for The Craft Fair early, maybe 8-15 to be there by 9am. MrsDrWho's Mother thought 10am was early enough. I woke up at 7-30am and 8-15am. Then I finally woke up at 9-34am. Even though I live in TIny Town, it still takes fifteen minutes to drive to MrsDrWho's mum's house. I raced about like a half asleep mad thing: showered, fed dogs, dressed, found two of the shoes I needed - one is always missing in our house- and in the end I had to ring MrsDrWho and say I was running late. I was seventeen minutes late. Thank goodness for understanding friends!!

I realised on Saturday that all my bag are either handbag or backpack styles. Neither is really good for me at The Craft Fair and so I sewed myself a bag. I am pretty pleased with it, and it only cost $6-50 for the main fabric and all the quilting fabric colours. It's The Osoberry Bag and I scaled it down by two thirds.

Berry nice bag
The striped fabric makes two outer pockets and there's a pocket each for my phone and camera inside. I added a button for some extra security and the cute patchwork strips on the handle because I was running out of the green upholstery fabric. Unbuttoned it holds a very large amount, so much in fact that it was too heavy for me. It was the perfect bag to take, the extra stitching on the base and back make it really sturdy. Next time I might make the strap a little narrower.

I didn't buy many things. I did want a pair of earrings, but none called out to me other than those that were way beyond my budget!! I bought a hand made horse biscuit cutter, some lovely peppermint lip balm that is also good for the temples if you have a headache and it all natural, and some tea for The GardyGardener's HmmHmm present.

Things I bought
The Dutches went to The Fair on Friday and told me to watch out for a spice stall. I did. You tasted the spice mixes on a cube of bread dipped into olive oil, and then the spice mix. I bought three hot mixes, and Butter Chicken. They were on special, 4 for $20. It is a HmmHmm gift from MrsDrWho: thank you!!!

Spice mixes
I bought a couple things from the T Towel Gallery. It is screen printing on hemp or linen. They don't have a website, and I don't do FB, so here's an idea of what you can buy:

Wombat apron
That's a wombat tumbling all over an apron.

We spent almost three hours and went to the three main venues. We ate Devonshire tea in the nicely cool old theatre - it was very hot and even hotter inside the other venues.  I had my traditional home made raspberry ice cream in a waffle cone and then home we went. I was so tired, I couldn't get to sleep. Again.

Peri and Gilly stayed home all day and there had been paddle pool fun!! Peri has grubby, wet legs and I am not sure about Lorelai Gilmore's expression in the picture: Peepo!!

Labradors on steps
I am very tired, I think I'm warding off a cold and even though it is Spring Clean Monday I am going to sit on the couch and watch some TV and maybe embroider. I can't nap, because I won't sleep tonight and that's the reason I slept in yesterday. Ahhhhh!!

I Love, I Love My Calendar Whirl.

Yes, I am on an Advent Calendar whirl. When the Calendar Countdown book arrived from the Library, I immediately started sewing. I made the little squares, found the embellishments and cut out the applique. Because I have been Craft Spring Cleaning I could lay my hands on all the things I needed straight away, I only had to buy the gold coloured fabric. I made a teeny tiny copy of the finished item and cut it into five by five strips and put everything I needed for said five squares in a little ziplock bag. Five times. So I can just pull out a bag and take it with me when I go out, or sit on the couch and watch TV, and stitch away.

Hmm Hmm calendar
The Dog Car has gone to the great car yard in the sky. It was winched onto the truck and then off it went, into the wide blue yonder. It was a very good car, it chauffeured five dogs. It was full of dog hair. Vale Dog Car.

Vale dog car
Although it is still Spring here for another 25 days, the first Blow Flies of Summer have arrived and they have been buzzing around inside the house. I don't like spraying flyspray everywhere and so I bought a $10 net curtain and hung it over the back door.  Peri could only come in from the sides and if the dog door was open she couldn't really come in at all. Gilly came in and out willy-nilly just to show Peri how clever she was. So, I cut some strips about a quarter of the way up from the hem and then knotted the ends and then Peri came in and out just as cleverly as Gilly did. Gilly has taken her quilt outside. Peri does it too, they wear them like a cloak and jump off the bed and walk outside, trailing their little quilts!!

Through the curtain
Peri and Gilly wear collars now on their walks. The look very beautiful without their harnesses.

Peri wearing her collar

Gilly wearing her collar
Donna Hay's Brownie #3 has been a complete success. I have made the recipe three times and it is fabulous. It is an interesting recipe: first the cream, butter, chocolate and brown sugar are melted together and plain flour and eggs are mixed in another bowl and then everything is combined. They are slighly more puddingy then brownie-y. I made little muffin sized brownies topped with, or not (as I pleased), raspberries. They are cooked really slowly and then served with chocolate ganache and cream. They come highly recommended by chocolate fanciers I know!!!

Brownie #3
The Craft Fair started yesterday and continues on to Monday. I may be going for a lightning fast visit with MrsDrWho and her mum. I think a couple of hours is just the right amount.

That is, if MrsDrWho isn't getting a cat off the roof. Caramello is a naughty cat!!

And now, we can all go to bed. The may have been a little napping this afternoon, so I want to make sure I sleep soundly. I find insomnia very, very frustrating. Labradors can sleep anywhere, any time, any how. In fact, they're sleeping right now!!!

Tuesday's Letters Eat 39: 'X' is for Xavier Soup

Best laid plans... There was going to be another 'W' last week, and then there just wasn't. And so to 'X': Zuppa di Xavier or Xavier Soup. Named for Francis Xavier. I am not certain if the soup is eaten on a special day, but you'd certainly need some time to make the proper version. Mine is not the proper version. I cheated and used some nice, prepared chicken stock. I enhanced it with some extra flavours. I only made one third of the dumpling mixture and I stopped at 80 pea-sized dumplings. I think the whole mixture might run to 400 or 500.

Xavier Soup   serves 4

  • 1 litre of good chicken stock
  • optional extras: chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic
  • 2 tspn cornflour
  • 2 tbspn cold water
  • chopped parsley


  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 80g butter
  • 100ml cream
  • 1/2 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk extra

To make the dumplings, put the cheese, flour and butter in a saucepan over a low heat and mix until the butter melts and a dough is formed. Remove from the heat.

Starting dumplings
Add the cream a tablespoon at a time, aiming for a thick custard consistency. Add the egg, extra yolk, pepper and nutmeg and whisk well.

Almost dumplings
Place in a piping bag, or a ziplock bag with the end snipped off, and pipe pea-sized dumplings onto baking paper. Leave to set for 30 minutes or so.

Ta da-umplings
While the dumplings are standing, you may enhanced the chicken stock by adding the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery and simmering for 30 minutes.

Enhancing stock
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Add extra water, if needed, to bring it back to the 1 litre mark and return to the heat. Mix the cornflour and cold water so it is smooth, add to the stock, bring back to the boil and mix for one minute. Set aside.

Thickening the soup
Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil and then add the dumplings. Mine 'set' , but I did roll them to a nice pea shape. It didn't really seem to matter. Boil for 5 minute and then remove.

Dumplings done
Pour the hot soup into the dish, add the dumplings and some finely chopped parsley. It is a delicately flavoured soup, a bit posh really. Not something for a hearty meal, but I think if you added some diced chicken it would be more substantial.

Xavier souppe