Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodnight 2011

Today has been spent preparing the base for our paving, it was hot, dusty, thankless work. Although the whacker bit was exciting to watch. Claudia didn't help there, deciding it would be fun to chase the water spray and generally get in the way.
At one stage we had to stop and watch as a wedge tail eagle got harassed by a pair of forest ravens. Watching them swoop above us is literally awesome, to use an abused adjective.
I'm afraid I wasn't as helpful this afternoon. The crusher dust needed to be screed and I was getting in the way.
Added to the fact we were both hot and hadn't eaten lunch, we were a little tetchy. So to cheer us up I went food shopping and have made Stephanie Alexander's chicken Provençal for our last meal of 2011. It is just simmering away nicely, the smell of chicken, tomatoes and garlic pervading through the hut.
So we bid 2011 a fond farewell. It was a big year for us. We sprung our surprise wedding on our family and friends, I became an aunt for the first time, and we finally moved into our hut.
It is truly lovely at the hut, and we don't take a moment for granted, after a four year wait to get here. Having our own home has been very important to both of us. I feel settled and content, not constantly wishing I was elsewhere, or using up time until we could be here.
Happy New Year to you all. I look forward to sharing another year with you, who knows what chapters we might add to the Hut Chronicles in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Flowers

Thanks for your comments on my last post, Mum's at least speaking to me again! Sorry it was such a long and rambling post. The blogger app on my phone won't let me intersperse the images through the post which is why they're all clumped at the end.
I've lost track of the days this week. Rob has been busily moving FCR gravel around and getting the base right for the pavers.
I'm trying to work out the pattern, which is easier said than done. So instead I painted two gates our favourite blue to match the laundry hut doors. But now it's back to the paver design, maybe a drink will help?
I can't believe it's the end of our 3rd week of holidays, I'll try to make the most of what's left, but I know that I won't be able to help myself and work will start to hover at the edges of my consciousness.
What are your plans for new years eve? Ours is just to have a quiet night in, I'm thinking a roast chook and a bottle of bubbly and maybe some ice-cream afterwards. We rarely make it to midnight! I have started to reflect on all the things that have happened in 2011, but will post about it tomorrow.
The lilies are nearly all flowering, a new one for this week are the royal sunset lily. Rob doesn't like this one, but I do!
More promising is the expansion of the Christmas lily flower buds, they are very beautiful with their creamy trumpet flowers. But a little late for Christmas! I've loved reading about how everyone's celebrations went.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Christmas

All that expectation and excitement and it's all over for another year. Although it was our first Christmas living at the hut, we actually headed up on Saturday morning to Launceston to spend Christmas with Rob's family.

I find the juggling of two families Christmas traditions a little stressful. I actually avoid discussing Christmas arrangements due to people getting miffed. This year Rob's daughter joined us, which is lovely for us, her grandparents and all her cousins. But unfortunately my mother was upset that we wouldn't be seeing them on Christmas day. We do see them all year round though, and were there last year. But I'm afraid as rational as that sounds, it's never enough. I'm not a terribly confrontational person, and I tend to skirt around things that upset me or others. But I have to say that on Thursday things were said about how I live my life (triggered by something my brother said, so it wasn't even my fault), hurts were exposed, and I left in tears. I still struggle with my relationship with my mother, and feel that nothing I do will ever be enough, I will always manage to upset her in some way. I did try to patch up things before we left, but things are a little frosty!

So Friday was spent getting myself back in the mood, the final wrapping of gifts, visiting my sister and seeing my niece open her presents from us (she loved the wrapping more than the dog toy or frilly pants).

Saturday dawned, and we cleaned up the hut, packed the car (this always worries the dogs) and headed off. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, Rob picked up a 5kg piece of aged beef to take for dinner at our friends place on Sunday night. When we picked up Rob's daughter I moved into the back seat with the two dogs. Despite our best efforts we seemed to collate quite a few gifts, by the time we added an eski for the beef, gravlax and ham and our other gear, the boot of the station wagon was full. Nigella and Claudia were not impressed at sharing the back seat with me, and there were all sorts of crazy dog yoga positions before they sorted themselves out.

Rob and I ordered our first ever Christmas ham. Mount Gnomon farm pork is delicious and truly free range. We picked up our shoulder ham from the freight company depot on the way (a surreal experience really- a massive warehouse full of supermarket milk, I was bit worried that my little ham would get lost).
We always enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve dinner with Rob's parents, usually a bottle of champagne followed by a stuffed duck ballotine with new potatoes and asparagus. Dessert was simply lovely fresh raspberries and ice-cream.

Rob's daughter, although 16, still loves presents, and traditionally asks to open one on Christmas Eve. She opened a present from Rob's mother, a lovely pair of pajamas. Rob and I slept out in the living room with the little tree swamped with gifts, and two snuggle dogs.
I woke up really early, but had to wait til after breakfast and people to wake up to open the presents.
Rob is always terribly smug about guessing what I've bought, and although he did know about the scythe and the Birkenstock clogs, he only guessed that he would get a t-shirt. His favourite are created by Hiiragi, with funny robot cartoons on them. But I also found a soft grey shirt on etsy with a fox walking through a forest. My favourite for him was a gift box of 6 teas from T2, including Chocolate and Pu-erh. But he didn't mind the chocolate almonds, Cook and the Chef DVD box sets and the Martha Stewart cookie book either!
Rob's daughter loved all hers but especially the gift voucher for drivers lessons (perhaps more of a present for Rob and her mother!)
Santa was kind to me, although did have a bit of a laugh. Rob went shopping on Friday morning without me, and came back with a large box that he hid. He seemed excited by it, although also nervous.
I opened a few that I knew first, a chocolate nougat, my Birki clogs, and some cherry vinegar. I actually had two "wear" presents; a pair of white linen pants that I had picked out, but the other was a pair of my favourite track pants, a singlet and a long dress all from Bonds. My book was the complete notes by Bill Bryson, and my "watch" was the last series of Inspector Rex (a favourite in our household as you can imagine!)
Finally it came down to my two "want" presents. Rob could barely contain himself, "open the big one". The mystery one. I opened it up and it was a deluxe window cleaning kit! I had been grumbling about how hard it is to clean the windows at the hut BUT I didn't expect that for Christmas! Don't worry I have a sense of humour, and besides he redeemed himself with a gorgeous Moroccan lantern.
Rob's parents spoilt us also with thoughtful gifts, and delicious ones too!

With the gift giving over we got ready to head down the Tamar for Christmas lunch at Rob's sisters house. It overlooks the Batman bridge. Now you think we eat well, combine Rob's family and we eat like kings and queens. Firstly we had drinks and seafood out on the deck, this included crayfish, our trout gravlax with freshly baked rye bread and blini, garlic mussels, and a cheese tart. That probably would have been enough really. But main course included rare roast beef, a cold duck ballotine, our baked ham (Rob glazed it with quince jelly, orange zest, brown sugar and mustard), salad nicoise with poached salmon, fresh asparagus, mango salad, green salad, baked zucchini (with cheese, breadcrumbs and prosciutto) and new potatoes.
All of the food was beautiful, and extremely delicious, but Rob and I were quite proud of our shoulder ham, it was so silky, not too salty, and everybody commented on it.
After a much needed break, wandering around their new garden and a mini nap in the hammock by the water (with the dogs of course), dessert was served.
A traditional steamed pudding with cream, ice-cream and custard, a Buche de Noel with the cutest little meringue mushrooms, and mango sorbet with raspberries. Rob's father brought out a special bottle of dessert wine, a 1972 Chateau Coutet.
I would have loved to have found a couch and fallen asleep, but we got back in the car and drove to Bridport for Christmas dinner with our friend and his sons. We had a slight hiccup when we discovered his oven wasn't working, which would have been a sad waste of the beef. Not that Rob and I were really starving! So Rob sliced the roast into thick rib eye steaks and grilled them on a mini-weber instead.
With a simple salad it was more than adequate!
Yesterday we drove home, keen to get back to our hut. Maybe next year we'll be able to stay home, or host Christmas there. As much as I love the big family thing, it would be lovely not to be dashing from one place to the next and just be able to relax a bit.
Right now we're enjoying the second half of our holiday, and the second Christmas cake!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Flowers & Merry Christmas

My friend bought me the most gorgeous bunch of proteas & calla lilies on Tuesday.
I know I grow them, but it's always nice to receive a bunch, Rob would rather buy me a pot plant, and I always like them, but sometimes a girl just wants flowers, right?

All our shopping is done, even Rob's scythe from the USA turned up today, just in time. That's going to be fun to wrap!!
Most of our presents have been delivered, so today for us can be a bit relaxed. Our contribution for Xmas lunch is an ocean trout gravlax (we started that on Tuesday) and a baked free range shoulder ham. We're picking it up on the way to Rob's parents tomorrow. Rob has decided to base the glaze on quince jelly.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends with lots of food, laughter, sparkling bubbles to drink, and Santa is generous!

Thank you for all your lovely comments this year on my blog, it's been lovely to get to know you.

P.S. I have been looking for a couple of sets of angel wings for these two, but failed, so just went for Santa hats. But couldn't keep them on both of them long enough for a group shot!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

The smell of toasted hazelnuts is Christmas to me

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A delivery

Today we had friends down to the hut for lunch: our standard Lebanese feast, followed by a chocolate pavlova with raspberries.

But in the final rush to get things together, an important delivery occurred.
Our pavers, well 80% of them.
Some have got these intricate patterns on them we're calling fossils. We've got some hard work ahead of us in the next 3 weeks! Rob has been making up a little paper version to work out the right pattern, and couldn't resist playing with the real thing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Menu

Being on holidays is good, we've been able to eat when it suits us, although that has been quite late some nights.
The Weber has been back in action for roast lamb shanks, and a Tarragon roast chicken. We had a chicken salad the next night (our lettuce is big enough to harvest). Other nights we've just had simple food, steamed broccoli on soba noodles, or fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes & basil with bread. We also headed to Cygnet yesterday, picking up some veggies and a sirloin roast.
Today we've been snacking on cold roast beef on toast, we cut the Guinness Christmas cake so have been eating it with tea, and we picked up some mince pies from Jackman & McRoss (we scoffed 3 each in the car!)
Rob made some shortbread, and we made some fruit mince together. I just popped a chocolate pavlova in the oven too, as some friends are coming for lunch.
We've also been making ice-cream with last weeks bargain, vanilla with some alpine strawberries. Also we're in the middle of an ice-cream cake for a birthday party on Wednesday.
Both Rob and I are enjoying our break and are nearly ready for Christmas. Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Flowers

Our fence is progressing, although unwinding 200m of tangled high tensile wire took all morning, I had to hold ends whilst Rob unwound the mixed up loops. It was like the worst puzzle you can imagine, anyway it's done!

I've been rearranging lilies in the garden beds, grouping them by colour. Although we actually planted two beds with box cuttings for the edge of my beds and another with garlic and shallots so I can't quite put them in their final places. It's getting there and I've dug out a big plan I made of it all, it will be a like a colour wheel. I'm starting to get excited about buying some other plants in the new year.

So a few pics of the yellow lily that started this week and another of those purple zantedescias.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Long days,
Warm evenings,
Beach walks and sandy feet,
The smell of eucalyptus, made volatile in the heat,
Gin and tonic,
My birthday,
Lebanese food,
Cricket on the radio,
Linen clothing,
Hay season.

But most importantly summer =
Pavlova with softly whipped cream and fresh fruit. Our first at the hut.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...summer hut

I'm not sure I'm clever enough to link to Faith, Hope & a whole lotta love on this iPhone app, but I'm playing along all the same!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A hut day

Sorry for such a rushed post yesterday. We actually got up to a lot the last couple of days, I just didn't have time to relax and write.
On Friday I went on a mystery tour to the venue for our office Christmas lunch. We hopped on a water taxi and headed out on an extended cruise, eventually pulling into Bellerive. It was actually a novelty to see all the houses from the water, some of us enjoyed picking out houses we'd love to live in, or the ones that were eyesores. We even saw a dolphin. Anyway once on land we were led around the bay to the Rosny Bowls Club! After exchanging presents (random pick from a table) I got some gingerbread and two cookie cutters to add to my collection- a fish and an octopus (we work in marine science). After lunch, some lovely ladies came over to show us how to bowl, and we spent a fairly relaxing hour bowling and drinking beer in the heat. It did feel like I'd stepped onto the set of the movie Crackerjack, a very Australian feeling. Especially with the occasional roar from the crowd at the test match across the bay. Our fun ended with the beginning of the thunderstorm. It stopped long enough for us to wander back to the jetty, then it bucketed down as we headed back across the river. A pleasant way to finish up the work year for me, being my last day.
Over the weekend Rob and I started to unwind, I visited the market (art, craft & design) at the Masonic lodge on both days, managing to cross off a few last gifts, and pick up a few more little red decorations for our tree (birds and crochet hearts). Rob and I spent the afternoon weeding in the garden listening to the cricket.
Sunday we picked up Rob's daughter and headed to Me Wah for yum cha. I admit we're quite greedy, trying no less than 6 types of steamed dumplings, as well as two beef dishes, a fried radish dish AND eggplant stuffed with seafood. All washed down with the endless pu'er tea (a red tea, described as the burgundy of tea!) We hadn't been in ages and I think we'll have to head there whenever there's a market on. We did a quick tour of the market and picked up a few more gifts.
On Monday I visited my sister and niece, Maisy has grown so much, and is so interactive now, smiles and laughs. After lying on the carpet and playing and then munching on some white choc and raspberry muffins I'd brought along I headed home via the cat centre op shop, picking up those bargains I showed you yesterday. I'm still excited about the Donvier ice-cream maker!
The last two days have been spent doing a little baking and playing around with the fence, interspersed with tea and biscuits, or lunch. It's so nice just to 'be' at the hut together. I think Nigella & Claudia enjoy it too!
Well that was a bit longer than I thought, dinner is nearly ready, roast lamb and vegetables, with vanilla ice-cream and freshly picked alpine strawberries for dessert.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday's Menu

Monday's menu: salads, pancakes, yum cha and Guinness cake.

Op Shop bargains, an ice-cream maker $3 and a new cup $1 Photobucket

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Flowers

Super quick, about to head off on a mystery work Christmas lunch.

New cream lilies from the hut. The window you can see in the last pic is our bedroom, I love looking out to the flower garden, and can't wait to see it develop.




Thursday, December 8, 2011

Speculaas recipe

I've had a few requests to share the recipe I used for the Speculaas biscuits I made on Sunday.
It was Margaret Fulton's from her Christmas book (which I picked up for $10 at Coles last year after Christmas, love a bargain).

3 cups plain flour, plus extra for kneading.
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used freshly grated)
1/2 teaspoon ground aniseed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or white pepper (I used pepper)
250g butter
1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons rum or brandy
1 egg white, beaten
125g slivered blanched almonds, for decoration
Golden syrup (my addition) see recipe below.

Preheat oven to 190degC. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed, salt and ginger or pepper together in a bowl. Beat the butter until creamy in a large bowl, then add the brown sugar gradually (well actually I just creamed the butter and sugar together cause I didn't read this step very carefully!). Beat until light and fluffy then stir in the rum or brandy.
Gradually add the flour and spices to the creamed mixture, stirring until combined, then form the dough into a ball. Unfortunately my dough was too dry so I added golden syrup until it came together.
Knead the dough on a board sprinkled with flour. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 5mm thick. With a sharp knife or cutter, cut the dough into 6 x 3cm rectangles. Lay on greased baking trays, brush with the egg white and decorate with slivered almonds. Bake for 12 minutes or until they are brown and firm. Cool and store in an airtight container.
Makes about 40.

I did find an old issue of Gourmet Traveller that also had a recipe, they played around with the spice mix (adding ground green cardamom pods, and star anise in place of the aniseed). They also recommend popping the mix in the fridge overnight to allow the spices to mellow and really permeate all the way through the dough. You could even leave it up to 3 days! Traditionally the Speculaas are imprinted with images of St Nicholas or Sinterklaas with a special wooden mould- but apparently they are hard to come by in Australia.
They were quite easy, and nice and crisp and spicy. Perfect with a cold glass of milk.
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