Yum, yum, finger buns!

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When I was a kid, one of my favourite things to buy from the school canteen (or the “tuckie” as we used to call it) was a sticky, sweet, pink-iced finger bun. Back then, they were about 20 cents, which is a lot of money when you are six!

We have recently discovered one of those old-school, no-frills bakeries, selling all the treats that remind me of my childhood:- meringues, custard tarts, vanilla slices and….fingerbuns! At $1.80 each, the cost adds up when buying 3 at a time, so I thought I would give them a go myself.

I found this recipe in my daughter’s Frankie magazine, and made a couple of changes. They are pretty simple to make. The trickiest part is the kneading, which is both soothing and a workout! I’m glad I got a couple of photos, as they did not last long.

Ingredients

For the dough

150ml whole milk

2 1/3 cups plain flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp dried yeast

1 tsp bread improver (heaped)

2 tbsp soft butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the icing

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp milk

Tiny drop of pink food colouring

Method

Heat the milk in the microwave until lukewarm (about 30 secs)

Stir together flour, caster sugar, salt, yeast and bread improver in a large bowl. Add the warmed milk, butter and egg, and stir to make a soft, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is springy and elastic. Place into a clean, lightly greased large bowl, and cover with a clean tea-towel. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This takes about an hour.

Turn the oven to 200 degrees celcius and line a tray with baking paper.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a long, fat cigar shape. Put the shaped rolls on the prepared tray, leaving about two finger spaces between them. Cover loosely with the clean tea towel and let rise for another 15 minutes, then bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove to a rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, add the milk and food colouring gradually to the icing sugar, until it forms a thick, smooth, glossy paste. Spread a generous amount on each bun. At this point, you can also sprinkle the buns with desiccated coconut or 100s and 1000s. Leave to set. (You may need to stand guard and swat away little fingers, as I did)

Makes 12 finger buns.

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The Christmas Table

Every year, around October, I start to think about how I would like our table to look on Christmas Day. I love thinking about colours, the place cards, the treat that I put on each persons place. I try to create an atmosphere that ensures that each person who sits at our Christmas table feels special and loved, and excited about the day.

In 2010 I went with an icy blue and silver look. I made personalised baubles for everyone, which were very quick and easy to do, but looked gorgeous. I just used a thin brush dipped in pva glue to write the names, and then shook fine blue glitter over the glue.

In 2011, I chose a cheery green, red and white colour scheme. I sewed up felt stockings for everyone, and placed a few fun treats inside, such as wind up toys, lip gloss, and chocolates.


2012 had a natural theme. I created a table runner using hessian bags that I bought from Bunnings, the kids and I scavenged some pine cones from the nearby golf course, and gingerbread angels lay on each persons plate. I really loved this look.

In 2013, my aim was to not buy anything new for the table setting. I limited myself to things I already had around the house and greenery that I found in the garden. I always cover my placements in gift wrap so that they match the table (Thanks Mum for that idea!), and luckily I had lots left over from previous years.

  Last year, I did a kind of Scandinavian/ foresty/ fairytale look. My Ikea hanging star light was once again put to good use, as were the green cuttings from the garden.

    This year, I am thinking of using a lot of glass, gold, copper and creams, and having an antique look to the place settings. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I always set the table on the 24th, so I have plenty of time to fiddle about with things. 

Even though I love planning and decorating our table for Christmas, I know that the most important thing is that we are all there, family and friends, together on Christmas Day. That’s what makes it special.

The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

margaret olley

Have you ever read Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’? I read this wonderful book out loud to my children last year. Every evening, we would sit on one of their beds, snuggled together, one of them brushing my hair (so nice!), as we laughed and cried over the tales of the March sisters. They talk about the characters now as if they are old friends. When we had finished the final chapter, we celebrated by watching the 1949 movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O’Brien. I wanted to wait until we had finished reading so that they could form their own images in their minds of what the characters looked like.

One of my favourite parts is when Meg and Mr Brooke marry and move in to their “tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front”. I love the descriptions of this small, simple home that is filled with love. Meg’s family and friends all help with the cleaning, arranging, decorating and furnishing of the home, each taking on tasks that they are particularly skilled in. Everyone seems so invested in making this little home as cosy and as beautiful as possible for the young newlyweds, and when Meg’s mother asks “Does it seem like home, and do you feel as if you should be happy here?”, Meg replies “Yes, Mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, and so happy that I can’t talk about it,” with a look that was far better than words’.

I think we can put this into practice in our own homes. For example, making the bed is quite a dull task. I can either pull the covers up and be done with it. Or, I can think about the person who will be sleeping in this bed, about how much I love them, and how I want them to have a good nights sleep. Then I will make sure that the sheets are smooth, that the pillows are plumped up, that the cushions are arranged in a way that looks inviting and cosy. The person who sleeps in this bed will feel cared for, cherished and loved.

Here is an excerpt from the book:-

“There were no marble-topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

I don’t think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave lost any of its beauty because John put up the bracket it stood upon, that any upholsterer could have draped the plain muslin curtains more gracefully than Amy’s artistic hand, or that any store-room was ever better provided with good wishes, merry words, and happy hopes than that in which Jo and her mother put away Meg’s few boxes, barrels, and bundles, and I am morally certain that the spandy new kitchen never could have looked so cozy and neat if Hannah had not arranged every pot and pan a dozen times over, and laid the fire all ready for lighting the minute `Mis. Brooke came home’. I also doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece bags, for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.

People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose, for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought.”

Image:- Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers (1995) by Margaret Olley

Pumpkin Soup

The morning air is crisp and cool, the magpies are chortling in the big gumtree outside and I’m in the kitchen making pumpkin soup. I love Sundays like this. I’m using a whole butternut pumpkin that my dad bought at the Kangaroo Valley farmers market when we were there last week. I’ll take it over for lunch when we visit my mum and dad later on.oil on veges

I use this recipe from Donna Hay. The thing that makes this recipe so marvellous is the roasting of the vegetables- no having to hack away at difficult-to-cut pumpkin. You just slide it out of the skin and into the blender.

roast veges

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Look at all that lovely, roasty goodness!
sproutsI found two little sprouting seeds inside the otherwise-perfectly-fine pumpkin. They looked too full of potential to throw away, so I’ve planted them outside, underneath my tomatoes that are just about finished. We’ll see what happens.

planted seeds

You can just about see them here. They look like two little white worms.

cucumber

While we’re out here, check out my cucumber!! I’ve never grown cucumbers before, and I’m almost reluctant to pick it. 

soupHere is the finished product. Mine wasn’t as thick as I like it this time, so I added a few potatoes, which worked perfectly. Next time I’ll remember to pour in the chicken stock a bit at a time.

Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. It’s the last day of the school holidays tomorrow, so we might go and see Cinderella.  I think I’m more excited about that than the kids!

Do you have a good recipe for pumpkin soup?

Ever grown cucumbers?

Garage Sale Goodies

Well, I struck garage sale gold this morning. I hadn’t even planned to go, but with an hour to spare, I decided to have a quick look on Gumtree to see if there were any sales close by, and luckily for me there were two, one in the street behind our house, and the other a five minute drive away.

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These cotton reels were just some of the sewing supplies I picked up. I don’t think I will ever need to visit Spotlight again! It was like travelling through time as I looked at these treasures – baby layette patterns from the early 1900s, buttons from the 40s…the lady who had owned these had obviously been a very keen seamstress.
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These buttons remind me of the dresses and cardigans that my Nanny (grandmother) used to make for me. She always used to add specially chosen buttons to match the clothes that she had lovingly made. blue jug blue dish This Depression-ware dish sparkles like a jewel.greendishA green glass Pyrex dish with a lid that will be great for cooking vegetables in the microwave.cornishjug This Cornishware jug was only $2. Lots of crazing, but no chips.

Looks great on my dresser.hookandeyes ribbons These very old reels of ribbon are fascinating. Obviously chosen very carefully by their original owner, and probably quite expensive to purchase back then. I wonder why she never used them?dinnersetA gorgeous dinner set. I also bought the matching serving platter.Will be perfect for Christmas lunch.pot A little Bakelite (I think?) trinket box.rikrak An old biscuit tin filled with bias binding, rick rack, etc…..garden poem I have put this framed poem on my desk. It is very soothing to read.patternsLook how well worn these old patterns are.

I had such a lovely time when I got home, rummaging through all my treasures. It was like Christmas morning. Nothing cost more than a couple of dollars, so I feel that I have kept to my thrifty principles. (Well, only just!)

I think the ladies who had owned these items would be happy to know that they had ended up with someone who would love and appreciate them.

Moments in Time

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Happy Easter everyone!!

We have been having such a relaxing time of it these school holidays. After a few days away at Kangaroo Valley, we are now home again and have been very busy doing nothing much at all.

There has already been much chocolate eaten (I keep promising myself that after Easter I will start eating better!) and I suspect there will be lots more consumed before the weekend is over.

We went for a walk yesterday, to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. The kids and Barry kicked the soccer ball, while Molly the dog and I kept a more leisurely pace, and watched the birds diving for fish in the water.

Every now and then, one small, warm hand would find it’s way into mine, and a little person would chat away to me about this and that.  I drink up these moments, realising how fleeting these early years are. When they were very little, it seemed that we would never emerge from baby/ toddlerhood. I was so consumed in the day-to-day, that it didn’t occur to me that one day we would leave this stage, never to return. I now make a point of savouring the little things- tying shoelaces, brushing hair, listening to rambling tales about their day, tucking them into bed, because what seems permanent now, is merely just a moment in time.

While walking, we were also looking for ‘the perfect branch’. One that had fallen from the tree, just the right size, spreading twigs- perfect for our Easter tree. Just when I was about to give up, I saw it, and it now stands on my kitchen dresser, festooned with ribbons, tiny birds, and coloured eggs. It makes my heart sing every time I look at it. It is just so pretty!!

Do you decorate an Easter tree?

Do you sometimes wish that you could slow down time?

Are you planning on eating too much chocolate this weekend?

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Be careful what you wish for.

 

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I saw her as I was waiting in line at the health insurance office. Her hair was longish and dark, like mine, but hers fell in gorgeous waves and her fringe softly framed her pretty face. She was wearing a beautifully fine cream knitted sweater with a grey knee length tweed skirt, and leather wedges that looked both comfy and cool. I could not stop staring at her. I had a bad case of  outfit envy. And hair envy. And life envy.

I was feeling particularly frazzled and frumpy that day. ‘I bet she has it all together’, I thought. She has probably just dropped her perfect kids off at their perfect school, now she is out doing some shopping in her perfect outfit before going home to her perfect house. I basically invented a whole life for this woman, based on her (super stylish) appearance.

Then it was my turn to come up to the counter. As I did, I overheard her speaking to the lady behind the desk. She was discussing the amounts she had paid for her various IVF treatments. I suddenly saw her in a whole different light.

She was just a woman, like me. With struggles and challenges, like me.

I was reminded, in that moment, of all the things I have to be grateful for. That nobody’s life is perfect.

And as we walked out of the door, I gave my son’s hand an extra tight squeeze.

Image via The Paris Apartment