Childhood Favourites

When I was in L.A. last year for a writers’ conference, I was really excited to find marble cake stocked in the hotel’s Starbucks pastry cabinet. Marble cake. Bought it. Ate it. Loved it. (And subsequently bought several more slices in various places across California.) I hadn’t eaten marble cake since I was a kid. My mother is more of a savoury cook, but one of the few sweet dishes she used to make was steamed marble cake. There’s a great recipe on the terrific A Swoonful of Sugar blog and it’s very similar to Mum’s recipe. I may try that method one day, but today I opted for the baked version from Taste.com.au. As always, I couldn’t help but tweak the recipe — added an extra egg, substituted cow’s milk with coconut milk, and put in half a cup more cocoa powder. (Next time, I’m putting in even more cocoa!) I omitted the food colouring and the icing. And here’s the result:

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By the way, I hit a new height record with this cake: 10 centimetres!

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Finally, I’ve baked a cake that measures up…

Another childhood fave I’m revisiting is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, a classic horse book first published in 1877. I bought this leather-bound hardcover edition with my pocket money way back on Saturday, September 15, 1984! (I remember because I wrote that on the flyleaf, along with my full name and address in case it got lost.) Aside from the tear-jerking but ultimately uplifting story, I loved the stunning illustrations by Elaine Keenan. The whole book just reinforced my love of horses, riding and writing. There are numerous editions of Black Beauty now — I’d quite like to clear one of my bookshelves and collect a few of them…

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My black beauty with ‘Black Beauty’.

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One of the many gorgeous illustrations by Elaine Keenan.

Fancy Some Fancy Tea?

It’s so important to be surrounded by the right conditions when you’re trying to draft a book. These days, I require low humidity, a temperature of 22C to 23C, cats not sitting anywhere near my lap or keyboard, chocolate, an affogato courtesy of hubby, and an uncluttered brain. I also need the very reasonably priced, very delicious Dilmah Rose with French Vanilla tea*. But today I found that my local supermarket no longer stocks it. Or it has simply run out. Either way, quelle horreur.

So I went across the road to that wonderful tea mecca T2, where I knew they had loose-leaf Madagascan vanilla black tea and also rose bud tea. The total cost was about seven times as much as the Dilmah bags. Gulp. I figure I can get 30 cuppas out of my bulk blend, though…

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T2’s Just Rose + Madagascan Vanilla = Yum.

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Chuck the teas in a basket and brew for three to five minutes.

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Add a splash of cream and a teaspoon full of sugar.
You don’t have to add either, but I take as much luxury as I can get.

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Admire your pretty, fragrant tea, then savour every sip.

Check out these sites on brewing the perfect cuppa:

*I am not sponsored by Dilmah or by any other manufacturer/brand mentioned on this blog. 🙂

Where the Wild Things Grow

Happy 2013! How did you celebrate the New Year?

Piper Bubbles

A cherry tomato plant unexpectedly sprouted in our little courtyard over the holidays, so my husband was inspired to plant a potager garden around it. He added roma tomatoes, rosemary, basil, Vietnamese mint, common mint, lemon balm, a lime tree, a passionfruit vine, geraniums, capsicums, a chilli plant that we’re sure came from Hades via the local nursery, and a row of Kermit-green conifers. With everything blooming, it’s so lovely to write in the courtyard now. My current manuscript is growing as fast as the garden. Can’t say my book is looking as pretty as the geraniums, though. It contains an abundance of manure. But then, it is a first draft. I can polish and prune this thing in autumn.

Possum took exception to a premature avocado that dropped from our old tree yesterday.

An extreme close-up of gaura. We had tons of these plants when we had a much bigger plot of land in Brisbane.

‘Little Shop of Horror’-style geranium buds.

In totally unrelated news, my cats now have a Twitter account and a blog, P & P Furball Factory. I don’t know how they’ll manage to keep it up because they’re not very good typists, and one has terrible syntax. I guess that’s why they’ve decided to make the blog chiefly pictorial — mostly photos of themselves. Check them out and give them a cyber pat!

Drink Up, Cool Down

It’s going to be a 30-degree Sunday, and I should be outside enjoying Sydney’s summer. Instead, I’m indoors and attempting to add another 2,500 words to my latest manuscript. As you can imagine, I’ll need a bit of nutritional help to reach this goal. So far today I’ve consumed a block of Lindt chocolate, had an affogato (husband’s secret recipe), and now I’m drinking this refreshing homemade beverage — my summer special:

IMG_1428Summer Special ingredients:

  • 250mL soda water or mineral water
  • 10 or so mint leaves, slightly bruised to release da flavour
  • Juice of half a lemon or to taste
  • Ice, loads of it

Mix it and drink it. Add sugar if you like, but I think it’s fine unsweetened. I just remembered I have two punnets of strawberries in the fridge and I reckon I could put a chopped-up berry in the next batch. A good splash of gin or vodka would work well too.

Speaking of all things summer, my hubby’s band recently released their latest single, Pictures of Summer. Filmmaker Alex Munt shot the film clip for them in Bondi:

The song is on my playlist for Chapter Seven of my WIP.

What’s on your summer playlist? Do you have a favourite cooling drink?