Friday, 30 August 2013

some like it hot

Well some like it hot and the weather is endeavouring to please them.  It is hot here today, far too hot for the time of the year, with still one day of winter to go by the calendar.  I had on a 3/4 sleeved cotton top earlier and have changed it to short sleeves with a scooped square neck.  It's beautiful, but unseasonal and it makes me shudder at the thought of summer after 46° here one day last summer.

I have also cooked something hot.  Macadamia chilli brittle with a recipe from an email from   BoxFresh,  my fruit and vegetable supplier. I have cut and pasted the recipe.  The packet of nuts was just slightly over the half cup in recipe so I used it all.

Macadamia & Chilli Brittle 
24 August 2013

Serves: 8
Preparation time: 20 Minutes


  • 1/2 cup coarsley chopped salted macadamia nuts.
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes


Preheat oven to 250°C. Lightly oil a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet, then warm in oven.

Shake the nuts in a sieve to remove any nut powder (this will create a clear brittle).
Cook sugar and water in a deep heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly
with a fork, until melted and pale golden.

Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until golden. Immediately stir in red pepper flakes
and macadamia nuts and cook, stirring, until nuts are golden, about 1 minute.
Quickly pour onto foil, tilting baking sheet to spread brittle evenly before it hardens.
(If caramel hardens too fast, put in a 250 c  oven until warm enough to spread)
Cool brittle on baking sheet on a rack until completely hardened,
then break into large pieces. Brittle may be made 3 days ahead and kept
in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

These are great to add texture to a desert, eye catching and totatlly delicious.
Perfect for parfait, Ice cream or soufflĂ©s.
My toffee is not as golden as I would have liked.  The smoke
alarms here are very finely tuned and while the sugar/water
mix was not burning, the steam set the alarm off.  It was
 going crazy.  I turned on the exhaust fan over stove
and opened doors and windows and it still went on.  So
I turned off the toffee and stirred in the nuts and chilli.  >/c>
It tastes good.
My birthday pizza evening went very well.  A constant supply of pizzas and lots of friends and family.. Two of my ex-husbands cousins gave me a birthday cake.  Flourless chocolate so it was suitable for the coeliac granddaughter.  The only word I can think of to describe it is "decadent."  Very moist, very dark, very yummy, although very difficult to serve.  I had tried to specify no presents, but no one seemsd to have paid attention to that.  A herb garden for  my balcony, some good designer jewellery, some bits and pieces my sister had bought at a tiny secondhand shop in Gladstone in the Flinders Ranges  in SA.  And more.

I've been plugging away on my sister's socks but only slowly.  Otherwise no knitting.

My sister has had bad news in that there is another spot on her lung.  It's now seventeen years since the first diagnosis of breast cancer and that has returned three times.  She had a spot on her lung removed two years ago and  it was exactly the same cancer as all the others with no mutation.  In a way this is good news as it means it is not a secondary.  She said she has never felt such pain as after that operation.    She sees specialist next week for tests only he can order.

My friend has been ill since Easter and has had many tests  done.  The latest from an immunologist have prompted even more.  To my mind they remind me of the tests mum had done when she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, CLL.  I've not mentioned this to him but will if he asks.  That disease is treatable and many live a very long time after diagnosis.  Mum started chemo at 85 and hated it so much she stopped it.  Her blood tests remained fairly normal for many years and she died of a stroke.

However, I had these two pieces of news in half an hour.  I was somewhat shell shocked most of yesterday.  I'm better today and more able to cope.  Both sets of news were unexpected.

I've turned to some basic cooking in an effort to restore normality.  Dinner tonight will be duck breast and vegetables baked with some duck fat I bought yesterday.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

happy birthday to me!

Yesterday was my birthday.  A big one, too big.  Surely there must have been some mistake or I didn't have enough fingers to count on properly or... No, no mistake.  Still it was a good one and there's another instalment of the celebrations on Saturday.

My friend is back from overseas and he took me for a long leisurely lunch.  Nothing fancy but very pleasant.  It was pleasant sitting inside and looking at the sun outside.  What wasn't pleasant was our eventual emergence into the icy blast of a gale which had been blowing all day.

I was given the flowers.  It's not a good photo, they are actually a deeper colour than shows here, but they are cheery.  I had been planning on buying myself some but as it's something I don't often do at all, I had quite forgotten when I was out.

I have been doing some knitting.  I have finished one sock from  the Wool That Pools.  By clever attention to the placement of the heel, I have managed to split the pooling and have also managed to turn most of it to the back of the leg.  I am just about finished the ribbing on the second sock.  I think I'll give these to my sister whose birthday is next month.

The picture shows the first sock, straight off the needles. No attempt at blocking whatsoever.  There is a very large dark splodge on the back of the sock which takes up almost all the leg.

When I returned from lunch about 4:00 pm, there was a message from a son telling me to "frock up" as we were having dinner out.  Apparently I had said that I was planning on leftovers last night and that offended all three sons as it was my birthday.  Not actually leftovers but a deliberately planned and served second serve of a recipe.

So one son rang around and rang his brothers and we went to a classy Indian place in Strathfield a couple of stops up the rain line.  Youngest son even made it down from the Central Coast.  We enjoyed it, I think the last time I had been there was a couple of days before eldest son's wedding in 1997.  DIL and I had been out picking up some last minute things and needed some food.

We all enjoyed the food and the attentive but unobtrusive service.  I enjoyed not paying for it!    Youngest son gave me some double-walled lattĂ© glasses.  I used one this morning and found it pleasant to hold and to drink from.

Saturday evening sees a larger gathering of family and friends at the pizzeria which was 100 metres down the road from my former home.   We are well known there and the food is always great.  There will be twenty-one adults and five children so Mario has suggested his banquet menu.  I think he uses this so people get a taste of his food and come back.  We are all regularly there but it seemed like a good deal.  Unlimited pizzas delivered  to the two tables at intervals so  they are eaten hot, dessert and coffee for those who want it.  Cost of $24/adult and less for children.

I leave you with two cards.  The first accompanied the gift from friend of a new fountain pen, inks of various colours and two Moleskine notebooks.  I am three months older than he is so will now need to start searching for a card for him.  When opened, the inside says, "Well, at least your mind is still good."

This second was chosen by the DIL who has similar tastes to me.  I wear hearing aids, have done for about ten years now, although probably should have worn them for quite a while before that. This is a none too subtle dig at me and the three boys had all seen it as they bought it at Strathfield.  They were all very amused with it.  I do remember using that excuse from time to time for not hearing something before I got the hearing aids.

There was a candle and a cross she bought from a Benedictine Abbey on the South Coast here which were both lovely.  This morning a gift voucher from Amazon arrived in my inbox, also from them.  A three figure number on it, well over $100.  Amazon vouchers have no time limit on them so I can have a great time shopping with it.

So dinner tonight has only to be heated.  Lovely.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

sunny sunday

It's a lovely winter, August afternoon here today.  Brilliant blue sky, mild in a sheltered position but the wind has an edge to it.  I sat on my balcony in the sun for a while and worked on a new sock. It's some yarn I bought several years ago from the Granny Square in King St, Newtown.  The shop is an offshoot of Morris and Sons, formerly Tapestry Craft.  The yarn is marketed as sock yarn and comes in a 130 gm skein so there is plenty for a cosy length in the leg.  I bought a couple of skeins when I bought this lot.

I'm not feeling the love for this yarn.  I wound it when I bought it and quite liked the soft blues and greys.  I tried knitting it twice and it pooled badly.  It was put away.  I took it out again the other day.  I tried two separate, quite different patterns.  They really did not work with the variegated yarn.  The patterns just didn't show up.  I ripped them out twice.  I am now doing a perfectly plain sock which I intend to give to my sister.  She loved a pair I gave her some years ago.  She's not a knitter so may not know the yarn isn't supposed to pool as it is.  At least, I hope it wasn't deliberately dyed to pool.  I've now done about another three centimetres than shows here and yes, it's definitely pooling.  I'm tired of it and will press on.  A bit like an athlete pushing through the pain barrier, I guess.  If I can keep going long enough, I may no longer notice the pooling.

I went to the Southern Highlands again yesterday.  It was beautiful.  Very crisp and quite chilly, but clear.  I took a cottage pie as my contribution to lunch.  I went to the local shopping centre up the road. The area is a centre of a large Italian group and there are lots of shops which cater for them.  I went into what looked like an old style butcher's shop and asked for skirt steak which my mum always used for her famous pies.  He not only knew exactly what I wanted but could cut me some straight from the carcase.  I cooked it slowly with mushrooms, red wine, crushed tomatoes and onions and garlic and leeks.  On Friday I cooked a pie of potato and mashed it for the topping.  It was very well received indeed.

As it was chilly, I wore my new Shibui socks and the bright red new shoes to match.  Very happy feet  which were warm all day, even outside.

There does not seem to be much change in my son's condition.  He can't really see that two weeks of the super strong antibiotics have made a difference.  However, as the surgeon has now given him scripts for these to last the next three months, it will obviously not be a rapid recovery.  Even at that, it may not be the answer.  He's having more intense blood tests to see what can be identified.  All that has change is that the move to France has been indefinitely postponed and more than likely cancelled.  For that I am deeply grateful and relieved.  I did not think it was the  right thing for them to be doing, although I would have been happy for them to travel abroad for 12-18 months.  However, I found the thought of his being away in the condition he's in with no real in depth knowledge of French to be very disturbing.

Now to something different.  I charted the insertion pattern I put into the Shibui socks.  As you can see, it's only six stitches to do.  Just slot in where you want it in socks .  I used four needles with 16 stitches on each and the insertion in the middle of each needle.  That distributed the lace evenly around the leg.  Remember if you are knitting in the round that rows 2,4 with be knit.  If you are knitting flat, rows 2,4 will be purl.  It's an extremely easy pattern but it looks good when done.

Monday, 5 August 2013

zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-a or happy feet

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-a, plenty of sunshine heading my way...  It's a lovely day here, too mild for early August but beautiful all the same.

I have finished my Shibui sock yarn socks and am currently wearing them.  Chinese red is just that.  As red as Chinese lacquer ware.  They feel good on my feet, although it's not cold today.  It's a very, very bright colour but it makes me smile when I look down on my feet.  Happy feet .

The socks fit well and are comfortable.  They were quick to knit on 2.5 mm dpns.  I think that some speed came from the four row pattern I used from a stitch dictionary.  Actually only two rows of the four were a pattern, the other two were plain knit.  I always made sure I did a complete set of four rows so things went quickly. The yarn knits very evenly.

Whatever, happy feet here again.

More happy feet here too.  I went shopping and found these in  Target.  Perfectly useful for around the house wear, or shopping or BBQs or similar.  One pair bright red, I see a bit of a theme here.  The other a soft vaguely pinky orange colour with a tiny wedge of a heel.  Quite inexpensive from Target.

I needed some cheering up  and I think the socks and shoes might just have started me feeling more cheerful.

Years ago my mother used to give me a lanolin based handcream which she would buy at the souvenir shop at the scenic railway at Katoomba.  It was very good and I appreciated it.  I've seen people, pretty well all from USA say they are allergic to lanolin.  I have always found that hard to believe, although they must have been allergic to something for them to complain.  I think that there may have been impurities in it or if they were spinning, the wool may not have been cleaned properly.  Whatever, it produced some reaction in them.  I've never had the problem and can nostalgically remember Mum's tube of lanolin for sore lips when I was a child.

The Sydney Morning Herald had a review the other day of a new product called Lanolips.  For cuticles, lips, dry spots.  I had just been looking at several cuticles on my hands with little tears in them which were slow healing in the cold weather.  When I was at the shops this morning I went to Priceline, one of the stockists of this product.  I bought some.  When I took it to the counter, the cashier fossicked  in a plastic bag under the counter and brought out  the pink tube and another in a a very scary mauve.  A freebie.  The cream feels good on my lips and will last for ages as it requires only the tiniest smear to spread on lips.  Even with the price nearing $18, it will be economical.

ETA:  I did a bit of research.  It is the wool alcohols in lanolin which may cause problems for some people.  Wool alcohols?  I'd never heard of them before.