Friday, July 29, 2011

Of Pressed Flowers, Windswept Butterflies and Raspberry Cake

I am loving collecting framed, pressed flowers from op-shops. I was a bit down on them until quite recently, when I regarded them as a short footstep away from sticking googly-eyes on gumnuts. But I now realise they're actually really beautiful. I love pressed flowers actually - isn't it wonderful when one falls out of a book and you're reminded of a moment you would otherwise have forgotten.

When we were in Ribe (Denmark), we drove to the coast and visited the Wadden Sea nature centre. It was chock-full of schoolkids but, despite this, it was really interesting. The landscape in the area quite flat and stark as you look out to sea, and the colours muted. We wanted to take one of the buses which goes across the sea when the tide is low to one of the islands just off the coast but we had missed the last one for the day and took a walk instead. Was it windy! Oh my. But somehow this plucky little butterfly was hanging on. Local Danish artist Lars Bollerslev has done lots of wonderful paintings of the area. I bought some postcard reproductions of them at the nature centre and have just now put them up on our living room wall. His website - - is well worth a look.


Friday is rapidly becoming cake day. Today I will attempt Raspberry Cake from New Australian Cookery for dinner with my parents tonight.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Thrifting

I have had some great fun op-shopping (or thrifting if you prefer) of late. This great 50s souvenir tea-towel from the Gold Coast for one (I have included just a panel of it here).

I am totally making this guy from The Complete Book of Handicrafts, bought this very day for $1! I love his purple nose.

This is so pretty and I am in the mood to do a bit of cross-stitching at the moment.

And to think this was in the bargain bin for $1!

I also bought a copy of Geraldine Brooks' March for just $3 - I have been meaning to read it for so long, having so enjoyed Year of Wonders.

Have you found any goodies on the thrift trail lately?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Image from

So cold here at the moment! It was 3 degrees when I got up this morning and, in our un-central-heated house, I am currently wearing 4 layers, 2 pairs of socks and 1 pair of leg-warmers. Oh my.


In the time honoured tradition of the household, however, we are keeping warm by eating. I made a suprisingly good ricey thing last night with boiled rice (then pan fried in olive oil) with pan fried capsicum, mushroom, purple onion and tomato with a generous helping of dried oregano. What do you cook with rice?


Getting into the Wonders of the Universe tv series with Brian Cox. Last night he examined the idea that we are all stardust - that is, that everything is composed of particles from exploded stars. I have always been uninspired and quite depressed by such a notion but he explained it so well and, in fact, so beautifully, that I have completely changed my mind. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I have now successfully made the Basic Soda Bread I mentioned a couple of posts ago twice. So I feel safe to share the recipe with you!

450g flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

125-250ml buttermilk

Combine all dry ingredients then gradually add buttermilk. On a floured surface knead the dough into a flat round loaf shape, about 20 centimetres in diameter. Cut a large cross shape into the top of the dough. Place on a baking sheet (and baking tray!) and bake for about 35 minutes at 220 degrees celsius.

It is so good. We've been having it warm with just a little butter. No need for any fancy toppings! The bread speaks for itself. I found the recipe in The Complete Australian Homemaker (1976).


The Mocha Cake from The Barbara Pym Cookbook that I made on Friday night was rather a disappointment - pleasant enough but not a really strong coffee taste and the cake itself just wouldn't rise. The Daffodil Cake from New Australian Cookery Illustrated (1950s?) that I made on Saturday was altogether more successful - I think the addition of walnuts were the key to what otherwise could have been a similarly bland cake.

I bake a lot in the winter. Is it some sort of primal way of providing for the household, of stocking up against the chill? Or is it just a good way of staying warm, in front of the oven?

What's been going on in your kitchen?


In more sad news, the death of Amy Winehouse on the weekend. I was never an enormous fan of her's but I certainly enjoyed Back to Black. There has been some really cruel commentary since she has passed away but I do agree with what many others have said that addiction is not an affectation but an illness. Whatever you think, there's no denying that this is one great song -

Monday, July 25, 2011


One of the many extraordinarily human statues by Gustav Vigeland in Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo.

A moment of quiet reflection today for the horrible events in Norway on Friday. I am astonished and so saddened that such barbaric things could happen in places we were in so recently and, more importantly, in places that were so peaceful and beautiful.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday on my mind

Nom, nom, nom...a bee has his way with some pollen in the Botanical Gardens, Oslo.

Some serious op-shopping planned for this weekend...not one but two op-shop stops (!) planned tomorrow. I tell myself that I need to do it to re-stock my Etsy shop - it's work really, it's business - but over the last week I have thrifted far more stuff for myself than than shop...


I am reading Robert Rankin's bizarrely enjoyable The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse and I am about to start Lucky Jim, on librarygirl's ( recommendation.


Planning to make the mocha cake from The Barbara Pym Cookbook later today since we are having dinner with my parents tonight.


What have you got planned?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A piece of toast, a British sitcom and thou

You know of old my slightly peculiar obsession with 60s/70s British sitcoms. Well, it hasn't diminished. Morrissey, lead singer of the Smiths (who it could also be said I have a slightly peculiar obsession with), once said words to the effect that there is little quite so nice as watching an old movie on tv on a cold afternoon, armed with a warm piece of toast. And so it was yesterday, a cold winter's day, that I watched an old ep of "Doctor in the House" on You tube while eating Tuesday night's leftover meatloaf on toast. The early episodes were the best, I think, and perhaps this is at least partially because, as I noticed with surprise, they were written by John Cleese. I'd love to show you a clip but Blogger is being naughty again so here's the link if you're so inclined (and suitable equipped with some toast):

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Of Stave Churches and Siberian Dumplings

The altar of the Stave church at the Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo.

Wood carvings surrounding one of the four doorways.

When you visit Europe you see a lot of churches. Initially you think 'Oh, aren't these beautiful!' and of course they are beautiful but after a dozen or so, you do get a little bit of church-lag (very similar to museum-lag). So when we went to the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo - another wonderful open-air museum (the museums in Scandinavia are on the whole extraordinarily well done) - the promise of a Stave church was greeted with a little bit of ho-hum on my part. Until I saw it. First, they are so distinctive. Wooden throughout there is not a marble altar or plaster cherub to be seen. Second, they are often decorated with very beautiful and symbolically rich wood carvings. Third, the one in Oslo had the most incredibly serene and simply still air to it. My photo doesn't do it justice but it was mostly dark save for a little candlelight and natural light, what brightness there was emanated from the wood panelling and wall paintings themselves - as though the very building itself had become imbibed with the spirit of the place over so many centuries.


The best food we ate while we were away was in Bergen, which, incidentally, was also our favourite stop on the trip for spectacular landscape and hiking. For three nights running, we ate at a tiny, walk-too-fast-past-and-you'll-miss-it Russian cafe called Det lune hjørnet (Steinkjellergaten 2, 5003 Bergen). The woman running the cafe was so friendly and warm and the food was just so good and incredibly cheap given the prices we had been paying elsewhere. We feasted on blini with meat and pickled vegetables, pelmeni (Siberian dumplings) and pancakes served with sour cream and homemade jam (apple, strawberry and plum). It was comfort food of the very best sort! By the third night, after another long day of walking, it was like sitting down to a warm, edible hug! If you ever go to Bergen, you have to go there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday musings

Has anyone noticed that Blogger is being a bit difficult at the moment? Or is it me? I have tried to write this post about five times over the course of the day. I wanted to post a clip of Sandie Shaw singing the Smiths song "Jeane" because I am listening to it non-stop at the moment and it just will not post. Ah well. Check it out for yourself on You Tube if you like :)


Made some delicious Irish soda bread on the weekend which was so easy. I never thought of myself as a bread making person. I always thought it was super tricky. But...soda bread has no yeast. This is the secret. Yeast is scary - you have to warm it and watch and do all sorts of things that I generally can't be bothered doing. And my lovely husband made pumpkin pie from one of the many pumpkins he's grown in the garden. Good baking weekend. How about you?


Does anyone know what to do with rosehips? I have lots of them on my old rose bush in the front yard and it has recently dawned on me that you can eat (or drink) rosehips. But how...?

Friday, July 15, 2011

To Ribe

The Norns, the weavers of fate, greeted us at the entrance.

The great Lord and Lady in the atmospheric half-light of the long house.

"Yeah, yeah. I do a lap of the field and then I come back to you. I get it."

A view from one of the huts onto a herb garden.

One of the beautifully painted walls in the long house.

One of the sweet little huts. I could move right in, but how would I blog??

Goosey, Goosey Gander, where shall I wander?

A quiet, simple moment in the long house. It was so peaceful and again made me wonder what we have really gained in modern life...

Next stop in Denmark was Ribe, in Southern Jutland. It's Denmark's oldest town and there is much made of the Viking past here. Having read up on Norse mythology before we left Australia, this was more than fine with me. The Ribe Viking Centre, slightly out of the town itself, was absolutely great and as an open-air museum, it did really give me a sense of what life in a Viking village may have been like (until we got to the cafe and the gift shop, of course!) Seriously, the traditional long house was wonderfully atmospheric to walk through and we absolutely loved wandering amongst all the farm animals pottering around! I was amused, though, when we went to the falconry display and the falcon...left. He taunted the falconer for a while, flying in great sweeping loops around our heads and then he was off into the forest!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Northern lights

I have heard a lot about the 'Scandinavian light' - that is, the different glow that the sun seems to cast on things in such Northern climes. And I really think it's true - probably even more so in the winter. Certainly I see a suggestion of it in this photograph I took in natural light on the windowsill of our accomodation in Copenhagen. A gentle, pure white light.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All a tremulous heart requires

Often while on holidays, surprising things happen. Now, I knew there was water between Germany and Denmark. But I had not really thought through how we would cross it. I just took it as read that we would. But as our train chugged along from Hamburg, I was rather surprised to be told our train would be driven onto a ferry, we would get out of the train and onto the ferry, make the crossing and then continue on to Copenhagen on the train. There is nothing like this in Australia. If you go to Tasmania, you fly or take the ferry. No trains. No train and ferry combos. And the ferry? I was expecting some utilitarian vessel which would take us over the water in practical and spartan surroundings. Uh, no. Restaurants. Shops. Lounges. All very interesting!

This cake, consumed in a cafe at the Tivoli, was covered in molten (and melting) chocolate. It was horrible. Just kidding! And the hot chocolate? Well. None of this namby-pamby-break-it-to-you-gently sweet stuff. This hot chocolate was serious, with just the right touch of bitterness. Lovely.

I don't do rides but I'm happy to watch other people nauseate themselves...


And sometimes on holidays you do things that you wouldn't normally do. For me, one of those things was going to the Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen ( It is in fact much more than an amusement park (oops, I sound like an ad for it). There are restaurants, shops, a lovely aquarium and a really terrific exhibition about the Titanic (though I did wonder about the Titanic souvenir t-shirts...who wears that??) It really seemed to be the place to go in Copenhagen for locals and tourists alike - far more so than, say, Luna Park here.

Holidays. You just don't know, do you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Green tour of Europe: Part 1

One thing that I did take a lot of photos of while we were away is plants. So beautiful in their variety and also good practice for the amateur photographer wielding a macro lens! I couldn't resist one more photo of the German forests...

A delicate rose growing behind one of the large cathedrals in Heidelberg...

And something not quite so cultivated but no less beautiful, spotted while out walking. Is it an elderflower?


I was so sad to see when we returned home, though, that the people living in the house behind ours had cut down a large and beautiful hawthorn tree in our absence. It was often covered in lovely red berries and attracted a wide assortment of birds, most particularly white cockatoos. Unless a tree is about to smash through your roof, I can never understand why people chop trees down. It seems like the ungrateful return of a wonderful gift.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Holiday Tales: Germany

The light in the forest in Germany seemed to be completely different to the light I would later see in Scandinavia.

Beautiful Fachwerk buildings...if this one ever comes on the market, someone should let me know :)

One way leads to the Mediterranean, the other to Scandinavia! A country road in Germany.

As always when travelling in Europe, I was struck by the charm of the many beautiful little villages, especially in Germany with its gorgeous half-timbered Fachwerk style. I would love to live in one of these little houses - so very uniquely beautiful and (and this is the historian speaking!) so important to preserve these living time capsules.

The other thing that I love about these villages is their incredible proximity to the forest - you can just walk out your back door and into such lovely countryside! I have to say I love the European countryside...but I am now going to make a concerted effort to love the Australian countryside more and get out there and do some bushwalking more regularly. We went on so many beautiful walks while we were away - I want to keep it going here (though maybe when it's not raining and 4 degrees!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back Home

Why I fell in love with Norway in one photo...the quiet, mysterious stillness of the forests of Mt Floyen, Bergen.

This beautiful little heart is carved into the wall of a hut at Oslo's open-air Norwegian Folk Museum.

Hello! I am back from my six week holiday in Europe with my dear, sweet husband and getting used once more to the more familiar surroundings of the Yellow Wood! I have got beyond the just-back-from-the-holiday stage of home seeming like a bit of a novelty but it has certainly been a week of settling in. I would like to say I am glad to be home and of course all holidays must come to an end or they wouldn't really be special, magical holiday things but just, well, every day stuff, but we have returned to some very cold weather and we did have a lovely time overseas so it is a little hard not to be wistful...

On the up side though, the holiday did give me lots of good thinking time as holidays always do and I have clarified a few things in my own mind as to what I'll be up to for the next little while.

But! The Holiday. Well, first stop when we left Australia was Singapore which was as gorgeously tropical as ever. We were only there for a short time on our way to Europe so I'll come back
to that in a couple of days time, when I tell you about our week there on the way home. First European stop was Germany, where we were kindly hosted for a few days by my penpal Bodecea and her partner. Next on the list was our first foray into Scandinavia - Denmark. We stayed in the beautiful capital, Copenhagen, and then moved onto the oldest town in Denmark, Ribe. From there we took the train and the ferry to Sweden, stopping in Gothenburg, and then to our main destination of Norway. Oslo was our first Norwegian port of call and then to the beautiful, beautiful Bergen. I am still dreaming about Bergen! We spent another week in Oslo then and...our time was nearly up! Back to Singapore and then back home.

I've got lots of beautiful photos to show you (yes, it's the cyber equivalent of a slide night) and lots of travellers' tales to tell you. So, next post...Germany and Denmark!