Things

I “know” the author through our mutual love of dolls though we have never met. What she says here about things is exactly how I feel. People dont’ seem to value things anymore and it makes me sad to see treasured family items being thrown out with no thought to what they meant to their owner. Several dolls in my collection were given to me by people I care about and that makes them special even if they are not valuable or special in any other way.

Good Woman Going to Waste

Today, I’m making a stand for things. Things as in things – objects, items, material possessions. This is partly because I’m in the very long process of cleaning out my things and those of people no longer here and partly because I’ve read a couple of those inspirational memes that do the rounds every so often. You’ve probably seen them, the ones that say things like ‘use things not people, love people not things’, and ‘the most beautiful things in life are not things, they’re people places, memories and pictures, feelings, moments, smiles and laughter.’

While I absolutely agree that one should not use people, I think that some things are worth loving, and while yes, people, places, memories, pictures, feelings, moments, smiles and laughter are beautiful, things can be too.

We certainly live in a society where far too many people place too much importance on material possessions, but…

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Mark Your Calendars: World Doll Day Toy Drive

I’m reblogging this here as well as on my doll blog in case people who are not familiar with World Doll Day would like to participate. I think it is a great idea. I like the idea that parents and grandparents can choose the children’s Christmas toys as who better would know what they would love.

Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter

It’s that time again! World Doll Day is Saturday, June 10th, 2017. Started by Mildred Seeley in 1986, the day is one of celebration for doll collectors. World Doll Day began with a letter, which is copied below. (Keep reading for information on our first ever World Doll Day Toy Drive!)

World Doll Day Logo

So, you have not heard of World Doll Day? This is not surprising as of an hour ago, I hadn’t conceived the idea. To make it happen. I need cooperation of every doll collector, every magazine editor, doll newsletter, doll shop, library, doll maker, mother, grand­mother, father, grandfather, and all the stray aunts and uncles. The first World Doll Day is the Second Saturday of June 1986. Give a doll to a grownup, child in the family or just a friend. If you don’t have a child to give a doll to – find one…

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In the footsteps of Charles Darwin

I like to read blogs by fellow Tasmanians and thought that you might enjoy this very informative one about the Charles Darwin Trail.

No Visible Means Marketing and Communications

A twelve kilometre stroll along beaches, riverfront, suburban streets and open scrub on Hobart’s Eastern Shore (locally reputed to be the sunnier of the Derwent’s banks and at least a jumper warmer than the city side of the river) allows walkers to retrace the footsteps of the young Charles Darwin. He visited Hobart for about a week during February 1836 during his global circumnavigation aboard the Beagle. During this time, he made observations that would profoundly influence his thinking and contribute to his theories on evolution.

His description of Hobart from the harbour is recognisable:

“The bay should rather be called an estuary, for it receives at its head the waters of the Derwent. Near the mouth there are some extensive basaltic platforms; but higher up the land becomes mountainous, and is covered by a light wood. The lower parts of the hills which skirt the bay are cleared…

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Christmas Cooking- My Favourite Recipes Reblogged – Mince Pies

I thought that I would re-run this post again as it is my favourite recipe for mince pies.

DISCLAIMER

I am not a professional cook. It’s not even really a hobby. The main time of the year that I bake is at Christmas because I love all the traditional British Christmas goodies and I get more pleasure out of making them than buying them as it brings back pleasant memories of past Christmases that I’ve shared with my family.

Mince Pies

I love mince pies and look forward to having them every Christmas. The shops usually start selling them months before Christmas but I like to make my own. I do remember mum teaching me to make these when I was in my early teens and I took charge of making them for our family when I was about fifteen. I don’t think I have ever missed a year. I’ve experimented with various recipes. I used to make them with sweet short crust pastry but I’ve never been a very good pastry cook. When I was first married mum gave me the first Margaret Fulton Cookbook and in it was a recipe for mince pies made with biscuit pastry. I liked it so much I have been using it ever since. Every year my battered old book comes out and I make two dozen mince pies which is enough for Hubby and me and for my sister to have a batch as well. They can be frozen if you want to make them ahead of Christmas.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces (yes this is an old recipe) of butter. I sometimes use cooking margarine instead.
  • 2 ounces (1/3rd cup) castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder To my horror when I came to make these this morning I found I had no baking powder so as hubby was unavailable to go to the shop I substituted bi-carbonate of soda. Baking powder is basically bi-carb (baking soda) with some other salts in it so it will work the same way.
  • 1 jar fruit mince. (The book has a recipe for home-made fruit mince but I’m too lazy to make it.)
  • icing sugar

    image ingredients
    What you will need.

Method:

  • Cream butter and sugar well
  • Add  the egg and beat well
  • Sift flour with baking powder and stir into the mixture.

If you are lucky enough to have a food processor or mixer with a dough hook go ahead and use them. I don’t have either so I mix with my old Sunbeam hand mixer which I remember getting for my mum when I was about thirteen. There is a story to that but I’ll save it for another day. I mix the flour in with a knife and then with my fingers. This may be why I don’t make pastry too often. Still I’m better off than my grandmother. She did all her mixing with a wooden spoon or a fork. This Fork.

image bowl of butter and sugar
Cream butter and sugar
image creaming butter and sugar
creaming the butter and sugar
image adding flour to bowl
add the sifted flour and baking powder

After mixing the pastry you knead it lightly on a floured board. At this point Margaret Fulton says chill the pastry for one hour but I have to admit I skip this step. I used to do it but I found the pastry even harder to handle chilled so now I just get on with it. I should mention that Margaret Fulton is an Australian and the recipes in the book are probably designed for Australian conditions so maybe if you are in a cool climate the chilling is not so essential. As I said, I’m not a chef. So chill or don’t chill as you please. If my dough is crumbly I sometimes add a tablespoon of cold water  to the mixture too. I didn’t today though.

Roll out your pastry thinly and cut rounds to fit your patty pans. If you don’t have biscuit cutters a small glass is fine for this. Cut the same number of smaller circles for the tops. I digress from Margaret here and cut all mine the same size.

image pastry making
Roll thinly and cut rounds
  • Place your larger rounds, or just half of them if you made them all the same size, in greased patty tins and moisten the edges with beaten egg.
  • Fill each pie with 1 heaped teaspoon of fruit mince. I like the English-made Robertson’s Fruit Mince best. I’ve tried other brands but you can’t beat this one in my opinion. One jar of it will make 15-20 pies, that’s what the jar says and it is true. Of course if you don’t like them really fruity it  will go a lot further.
  • Make a small slit in each pastry top or cut centre with a small star-shaped cutter and put into place on top of the fruit mince. Press edges together to seal the pastry.
  • Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
image fill with fruit mince
Fill with fruit mince

Cook in a moderate oven, 350 Fahrenheit. I do them at about 175 Celsius for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Depending on how thinly you roll your pastry and the size of your patty tins you should get between 12-20 mince pies from this mixture. I tend to roll mine quite thick and I still usually get about 15.

image ready to bake mince pies
Glaze with beaten egg and bake
image mince pies
Mince Pies

Don’t forget to make a wish when you eat your first one for the year. We did a lot of wishing on things in our family.

 

More Mince Pies

 

 

Christmas Cooking – My Favourite Recipes Reblogged – Rich Fruit Cake

This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe. I love rich fruit cake so I will probably make one this year. I’m not so good at cake decorating so I usually top mine with nuts but it is a very good cake to ice and decorate not just for Christmas but would probably work nicely as a wedding cake too as it keeps well.

Christmas Cake

This rich fruit cake is very easy to make and although I like to make it ahead you don’t really have to. It’s just as nice if you make it the night before Christmas, but do allow sufficient time for baking. I first found it in the Australian Women’s Weekly (published monthly) of November 2006 and I have been using it ever since. The measurements are in metric and I have included a couple of conversion charts as links for readers overseas.

Fruit Cake Recipe
Fruit Cake Recipe

Night Before Quick Mix Christmas Cake

Sizes:

The mixture will make either:

  • one large cake in a 22cm round or 19cm square deep cake tin
  • two smaller ones in either a 17cm round or 15cm square tins
  • four small cakes in 12.5cm round or 9.5 cm square tins

Ingredients:

image ingredients for Christmas Cake
Ingredients for Christmas Cake
  • 475 gram jar of fruit mince
  • 750 grams dried mixed fruit
  • 125 ml/  1/2 cup sweet sherry
  • 250 grams butter/cooking margarine, melted and cooled
  • 200 grams/ 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs beaten lightly
  • 300 grams/2 cups plain flour
  • 150 grams/ 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • blanched  whole almonds, pecans, Macadamia and walnuts to decorate

Note: If you don’t have sherry you  can use brandy or rum or for a non alcoholic cake use 2 tablespoons of  brandy or run essence combined with 1/3 cup of orange juice.

Preparations:

Read the instructions before you go any further. One or two of these things need to cool before you can use them and planning ahead saves time.  Melt the butter and heat the fruit first. While you are waiting for them to cool you can prepare the baking tin as follows:

Line the tin with two layers of brown paper and two layers of baking paper. Extend the paper 5cm above the top of the tin. I have never seen brown paper being sold by the roll around here so getting brown paper is a bit of a problem. Usually my hoarding instinct saves me and if I get anything wrapped in brown paper during the course of the year I save it. A couple of years ago I was volunteering at our local radio station and one of the sponsors sent round some goods to be used as raffle prizes in brown paper bags. After the bags were no longer needed I asked if I could have them so  I have a good supply of brown paper for the next couple of years. If you really can’t get any brown paper just use extra baking paper instead.

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or if you have a fan forced oven 120 Celsius is fine.

Method:

image fruit soaking
Soaking the fruit

Combine the dried fruit, fruit mince and sherry in a large microwave safe bowl and heat it, covered, on HIGH (100%) for 4 minutes, stirring once. Cool, uncovered, for half an hour.

Stir in the cooled, melted butter and sugar until combined. By the way if you don’t have dark brown sugar I’ve done it with light and it turns out fine.

Stir in the eggs and the sifted dry ingredients.

Spread mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.

image uncooked fruit cake
Cake about to go into the oven

In my recipe you can then decorate the top with nuts before putting it into the oven. If you prefer not to have nuts skip this step and you can ice the cake later.

Cooking Times:

This may vary according to your oven of course.

  • For 1 large cake 3 1/2 – 4 hours
  • For 2 medium-sized cakes 2 – 2 1/2 hours
  • For 4 small cakes 1 3/4 – 2 hours

Remove cake from the oven and brush it with more sherry. Cover the hot cake with foil and wrap it in a large towel. Leave it to cool in the tin overnight.

image fruit cake with nuts
Fruit cake decorated with nuts.
image fruit cake
After cooling overnight in the tin the cake is turned out.

 

Christmas Cooking – My Favourite Recipes Reblogged

Christmas pudding decorated with skimmia rathe...
Christmas pudding decorated with skimmia rather than holly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, here we are well into November and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas puddings again. I still intend to make one this year even though it will probably be two or three smaller puddings rather than a large one. I first posted this recipe in 2013 along with several other Christmas recipes that I like to make every year.

It doesn’t have to be made as far in advance as this and if you intend to make an alcohol free version you should probably leave it for a couple more weeks although as I explain you can freeze it. It needs a long cooking time so by doing it ahead you can pick a time when it is convenient to have it on the stove top for several hours rather than rushing to get it done later.

 Christmas Pudding

I usually start thinking about Christmas cooking in November. Not that we have a big celebration any more but I love the traditional Christmas Puddings, fruit cake and mince pies and as well as making them for us I also make them for my sister and to give as gifts to friends. I was taught that the earlier you prepared Christmas Pudding the better. They keep well and as they take a long time to cook it’s nice to have it all done and just have to reheat it on Christmas Day.

In a way it’s  labour of love. When I was a child my grandmother and later my mother would make the Christmas Pudding. They would be cooked with silver coins or little charms inside and the adults would always make sure that the children found one in their bowl. We continued the tradition when we moved from England to Australia even though the summer weather is often too hot to be eating a boiled or steamed pudding let alone cooking one. Australian decimal coins are made of an alloy, not silver and  you can’t cook them in the pudding. Mum would slip five cent pieces into the bowls when she served it instead. I can’t remember when I took over the making of the puddings. Mum never really enjoyed cooking that much and as she got older and found the hot summers tiring I started to do it instead.

We have used a few different recipes, the ones we used to use were made with suet. Traditionally you boil the pudding  in a floured cloth which always makes me think of Bob Cratchit‘s Christmas in Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. However, they can also be steamed in a basin or  pudding steamer and that’s what we have always done.

A Word About Weight’s and Measures

The recipe I’m going to share with you today originally came from an Australian Women’s Weekly magazine that I bought several years ago now. It had a Christmas cooking section which I liked so much that I use some of the recipes every year. I will give the measurements in metric weights and measures but will put in cup equivalents where I can and mention any substitutes that I’ve used as a variation. Here is a helpful link to convert metric to imperial weights. http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/369/weights+measurement+charts#cup

A friend of mine who is a very good cook says that if you are following a recipe which someone has given you it is always better to weigh the ingredients as cup measurements can be inaccurate. That’s why your aunty Maude’s fruit cake recipe may not come out the same way when you try it. The cup she uses might be an old china tea-cup she always uses for cooking not your nice new metric 250ml measuring cup. My friend also says that even the way you add dry ingredients can make a difference. Do you pour them in straight from the cup or do you spoon them in gradually? So this recipe and the ones that I’ll post in the weeks leading up to Christmas will tell you what I do. Hopefully it will work for you too!

Ingredients:

image ingredients
Here are the ingredients for the Christmas Pudding.
  •  4 cups/750 grams mixed fruit
  • 1 1/3 cups /185 grams seeded dried dates chopped coarsely
  • 1 1/4 cups /185 grams raisins chopped coarsely
  • 1 1/2 cups/375ml water
  • 3/4 cup/165 grams caster sugar
  • 1 cup/200 grams firmly packed brown sugar
  • 250g butter chopped ( I sometimes use cooking margarine for this instead)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 3 eggs beaten lightly
  • 1/4 cup/60ml dark rum OR 1 tablespoon rum or brandy essence with 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 3 cups/210 grams firmly packed white breadcrumbs ( If I don’t have white bread I use whatever I have on hand)
  • 1 3/4 cups/260 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

#Note: cup means 250ml Australian metric sizes

For the steaming method you will also need the following:

  • Pudding basin or steamer
  • baking paper or greaseproof paper
  • aluminium foil
  • kitchen string
  • scissors
  • large pan for boiling water.
  • largest mixing bowl you have
  • wooden spoon

Sizes:

This recipe can make one large pudding in an 8 cup/ 2 litre basin or you could make smaller ones. The suggested sizes are 2x 5 cup/1.25 litre basins or 10x 1 cup/250ml moulds. I don’t  have enough bowls in those sizes so I use what I have and alter the cooking times accordingly. This year I used one very small bowl, a slightly larger one and a medium-sized one which I didn’t quite manage to fill. It makes working out the cooking times a bit tricky but I’ve been doing it for long enough now.

My thrifty mum and grandma would alter recipes according to what they had in the house and I do the same. If you want to leave out dates and put in currants, sultanas or extra raisins instead it’s fine.  Nothing bad will happen I promise! Now, to business.

Method:

combining the sugars, fruit, butter and water
combining the sugars, fruit, butter and water

Combine the fruit, sugars, butter and water in a large pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 8 minutes.
Stir in bi-carb soda. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. During this time I usually make my breadcrumbs and prepare my bowls if I haven’t already done so.

image bread crumbs made in blender
making breadcrumbs

Add the combined eggs and rum, then the breadcrumbs, sifted flour and spices. I sift my flour twice, once when I put it on the scales and again when I add it to the pudding. Mix well. At this point my mother and grandmother would invite anyone in the household to take a turn in stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon. Each of us would stir the pudding three times while making a wish. I still make a wish whenever I do this.

image eggs and rum
Mixing rum with the eggs
image pouring eggs and rum into mixture
pouring eggs and rum into mixture
image mixture
Don’t forget to make a wish.

If you haven’t already done so grease the pudding basin or pudding steamer and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and top with a sheet of baking paper and a sheet of aluminium foil which has had a pleat folded into it. Secure the cover with string, or if you are using a steamer with a lid you can just seal it. I usually tie a string across the top of the bowl too as it makes it easier to lift out of the boiling water without hurting yourself.

image pudding basins prepared for steaming.
Prepared pudding basins

Place the basin or steamer into a large pan filled with enough boiling water to come about half way up the side of the basin. You may have to experiment a bit with this. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and boil for the following times:

  • 8 cup/2 litre – 6 hours
  • 2×5 cup/1.25 litre – 4 hours
  • 10x 1 cup/250ml – 2 hours in a shallow pan, an electric frying pan is suggested for this.
image puddings steaming on stove top
puddings steaming on stove top

If you have a different size you may have to “guesstimate”. I’m doing my two small ones for 3 hours and the medium one for 4 hours. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the pans while they are cooking and replenish with more boiling water to maintain the water level. I don’t recommend the tall stock pot in the picture above as it is too tall and narrow. However it is all I had available at the time. Something like the one in front works much better.

This pudding keeps for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. It can also be frozen and reheated later. If you freeze it thaw it out in the fridge for about 3 days for the largest size. You can reheat it in the microwave, either as individual serves, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 1 minute per serve, or the entire pudding. We generally turn it out of the bowl and stand it on a serving plate then microwave it on medium for about 15 minutes for the large size or until hot.

If you want to be very traditional you can pour brandy over the pudding before serving it and set it alight. You are bound to get a few “Oohs” and “Aahs.” The pudding can be served with the traditional brandy custard or as we do with thick cream and or custard. Australians often serve it with ice cream too and why not?

I don’t have a photo of the finished pudding about to be served but it should look something like this.

Christmas Pudding being flamed. Brandy has bee...
Christmas Pudding being flamed. Brandy has been set alight and poured over it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)