Wednesday 31 August 2011

The Big Blue Binder . . .

I have this big blue binder that’s very precious to me. I have carried it all the way across Canada and back again. It’s even followed me here, across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s pages are tattered and splattered and careworn with love. The cover of it is starting to peel a bit from the edges now and I am going to have to do something about that. It’s more than a book, it’s a family history. It’s my Big Blue Binder of recipes that I have been collecting and treasuring now for nigh on up to forty years. It might not be worth much to the trained eye, for at first glance it is very ragged, timeworn and nondescript, but to me it is priceless.

I love to sit down and work my way through it, reading and touching each page as I go. Between it’s pages I can see myself evolving through the years as a cook, from those very first tentative baby steps, lacking in skill and knowledge, right on up to the running steps of my later, more competent, and well studied years. There’s simple basic recipes such as Cream of Potato Soup, all the way up to Tomato Onion Soup Au Gratin, and everything in between.

As a child I loved to thumb my way through my mother’s cookery books and magazines. I would drool over all the recipes and wonder what they tasted like, My mother was a very good cook, but she was a plain cook, and somewhat restricted by my father’s tastes, a man who didn’t want her to use anything to season dishes except for salt and pepper, and who had a very narrow and constricted sense of taste back then. I can remember in my teen years my mother branched out into areas such as Italian Spaghetti and Chili Con Carne . . . and my father loved them, but it took her a very long time to convince him that these dishes were actually quite tasty and worth trying out. People are amazed when they hear that I had never eaten Chinese Food until I was almost an adult, nor had I ever eaten a pizza until I was introduced to it by an old boyfriend of mine. I’ve spent the rest of my life making up for it, and those sheltered first years of my life, and the whole journey is reflected on the pages of my big blue binder.

It’s more than recipes though, because on each page is a memory. There are dishes that I tested on my growing family, and young husband all those years ago. There are recipes tried and tasted in the homes of good friends, and then laboriously copied out and taken home to try again. When I read these pages, I am taken back in my mind’s eye to a simpler day, a time when I was my children’s whole world, and I can see their little faces lined up around the table, waiting in great anticipation for whatever I had cooked them for their tea on any given night. There is Anthony’s favourite “Fly Off The Pan Pancakes“, the page all splattered with days gone by, and Doug’s "Saucy Meatballs", Eileen’s "Chicken Fried Rice", Amanda’s "Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares" and Bruce’s "Favourite Browned Meat Stew".

There are the tried and trues, recipes copied from dishes and delights tried out at the homes of friends through the years, that they so generously shared with me and allowed me to pinch and make my own. Recipes such as Mabel’s French Dressing, Mrs. McNevin’s Applesauce Cake and Leona’s Mocha Slices. Each recipe as distinct as the originator, and when I make them today, I never make them without thinking about their authors and remembering times spent with good friends, and all the love and laughter that we shared together. As my eyes scan the words, I can still hear Leona’s voice in my ear, telling me some tale in her distinctive Northern New Brunswick accent, and some of her unique phrases such as being “madder than a wet hen hauling wood.” My pieroghi recipe takes me back to the company of my good friend Esther, and I can remember a cold Albertan winter afternoon, under her tutelage, where she showed me the authentic way that Ukrainians made their pieroghis, and how much fun we had making them together. Esther had had polio as a child and so was not able to walk without the aid of crutches, but I never saw a mountain that she could not climb. Because I lived away from family for most of those years, my friends became, as they do now, family to me, and so every memory and line on those pages is indeed very precious to me.

I have recipes copied out in my grandmother’s distinctive scrawl, and with Aunt Orabel’s words . . . recipes from the cookbooks of my Aunt Thelma and Aunt Freda. I love the words, and the extra’s written in the margins . . . notes such as “Grammy always heated this” right next to the shortening measure in my grandmother’s Butterscotch Cookie recipe. When I read them I can see my grandmother leaning over the kitchen table, rolling out cookies and the twinkle in her pretty blue eyes . . . and the joy and comfort I felt in knowing that soon I’d be munching on one of them warm, tasty and fresh from the oven . . . and the love. I read the recipe for Aunt Orabel’s Matrimonial Bars, and I can smell the linoleum from her kitchen floor and hear my mother and her talking about family things, and how she always burnt her fingers when frying donuts because she had lost the feeling in the tips of them. Then there is Aunt Freda’s steak casserole, where she notes that she heats a can of gravy on the side . . . and yet another one of hers that has no title, just the ingredients and the notation that she got it from a recipe originally published in the newspaper back home, in October of 1979. An Easter never goes by when I don’t think back and remember my Aunt Thelma’s beautiful Easter breads studded with fruits and covered in delicious sugary icing. These were good cooks, family cooks . . . and these treasured recipes their legacy to me.

There are recipes clipped from out of magazines that took my fancy and that I tried and liked, new family favourites such as Chowder Casserole, Hawaiian Salad, Apple Jonathan and Sesame Beef and Broccoli. All sounding delicious and tasty. Some are quite old fashioned, some are quite modern . . . all are wonderful recipes, and in many ways a time line of cookery throughout the past forty years. I have done small cookbooks for each of my children as they got married, containing their favourites. I even did one for my Eileen when she moved out in to her first apartment. I don’t know if they use them or not, but I expect that they do turn to them from time to time. I hope that they have special memories of the dishes held therein and that they are good memories like the ones I have.

A few years back I catalogued some of the very best of the recipes into a cookbook which I self-published on Lulu Press. You can buy it here. It's very dear though, because of the colour pictures of the food. If I was writing it again I wouldn't put in the coloured photos of the food . . . and I'd probably have sold more. A download is a lot cheaper and just as good I think, maybe even better, because then you can just print and cook as you desire and eventually you would have a Big Blue Binder of your own. I do know that everyone who has ever purchased it has enjoyed it very much, which does my heart good.

As I was thinking about all of this yesterday, my eyes fell upon an old treasure that I had not made in many years, and I had a longing to make it for our supper last night. This was the old way of making macaroni and cheese. It was simple and tasty and always welcome. I’ll try to put it down so you can understand it, for it’s written only as a guideline of what to do, exact amounts having been left out . . . you know how it goes, much knowledge was taken for granted back then, it was expected that a girl would know these things by heart . . .


*Old Fashioned Escalloped Macaroni and Cheese*

Serves 4

Printable Recipe

This is not like macaroni and cheese with a super rich thick sauce, this is old fashioned in both it’s taste and it’s appearance. It is good, plain and simple, every forkful taking you back to a simpler day and time. The leftovers are very good heated up the next day, if anything it tastes even better, but a lot of the old recipes are that way . . .

½ pound of dry macaroni

1 ½ cups of whole milk

½ cup of cream

A knob of butter the size of a walnut

8 ounces of cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

(I used a mixture of medium cheddar and red Leicester cheeses)

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup of soft bread crumbs

Another knob of butter, melted

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the macaroni. Cook according to the package directions and then drain well. Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 190° C/375° F. Butter a 1 litre casserole dish and set aside.

Put the milk, cream and the first knob of butter into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, heating only until the butter melts.

Put the macaroni into the buttered baking dish. Stir in the pieces of cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the milk mixture over all. You should just barely be able to see the milk through the top. Mix the melted butter with the soft bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over all. Bake in the pre-heated oven until bubbly and browned and the cheese is meltingly gooey. Delicious!

Cooking in The English Kitchen this morning another old favourite. Store Cupboard Lasagne Pie

Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Simple Woman's Day book . . .

FOR TODAY, August 30th, 2011...

Outside My Window...

The day looks quite dull and it has been raining through the night. I hope that it will brighten up!! It was fairly dry all weekend, although it has been quite cold. It is only stubborness which keeps me from putting on the heat!

I am thinking...

I am thinking about all the people in Eastern US and Canada who have been hammered by this hurricane these past few days. My relatives in Vermont have had it bad with flooding and such, although my elderly cousin is up on a high hill so their home is alright. I don't know about the rest of them. I am assuming no news is good news! As always they are in my prayers! There have been so many bad storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, Tsunami, financial upheavals, etc. over the past several years with increasing ferocity. I wonder . . . do people read the bible and not see a pattern here? Is this not what we have been warned about?? Should we not be getting our affairs in order???

I am thankful for...

The knowledge of the Gospel which tells me the end of the story! And the faith that I have to believe it.

From the kitchen...

Hummingbird Cake, but I think I need to bake some cookies. Todd has lost weight again. He always has a hard time keeping weight on. (I know! It's not fair!) I need to work harder to keep him a bit fatter. He likes to be about 9 1/2 stone and he has dipped to just above 9 which isn't good. He needs feeding up!

I am wearing...

A blue nightie and slippers. I have decided that I have a lot of blue nighties. It is getting to be time to break out the jimjams!

I am creating...

I have stacks and stacks of finished cards sitting in my craft room, all glued and glittered, and bagged and stickered up. I still have to list them in my Etsy Shop. I know, I have been saying that for a few weeks now!

I need to quilt my jelly roll quilt now. I did try to do it by machine, but that isn't going to work. After having to pick out a whole row of machine stitching I have decided to do it by hand.

I made a 2012 calendar using one of my prints. It's about 4 1/2 inches wide by 10 inches long. I can make them using any one of my prints and will be selling them to anyone who is interested, customized to the print they would like and colours they would like.

I am going...

I have a Doctor's appointment today. I've been a bit nervous about something for a while now and am to the point where I need to get it checked out to put my mind at ease. Please keep me in your prayers. Thanks!

I am reading...

Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare – one that takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max. In the aftermath, she throws herself into her career as a music therapist – using music clinically to soothe burn victims in a hospital; to help Alzheimer’s patients connect with the present; to provide solace for hospice patients. When Vanessa – a guidance counselor — asks her to work with a suicidal teen, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then, to Zoe’s surprise, blossoms into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of having a family, again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that were never used by herself and Max.

Meanwhile, Max has found peace at the bottom of a bottle – until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor – Clive Lincoln – has vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” that has threatened traditional family values in America. But this mission becomes personal for Max, when Zoe and her same-sex partner say they want permission to raise his unborn child.

I always like Jodi Picoult's books. They are always a great read no matter what.

I am hoping...

That it doesn't bucket down rain the whole time we are in Cumbria in just two weeks time! The Lakes are known for having the highest rain fall in Britain and autumn here means rain. I have my fingers crossed. If it does tip it down the whole time, well . . . at least we will be away, and that will be good just the same.

I am hearing...

Early morning sounds . . . the clock on the mantle humming as the wheels inside it turn. The odd car as it goes by. Mitzie snuffling as she snoozes, all curled up behind me on the sofa. The tap tapping of the computer keys as I write.
They are morning sounds. The sounds as I hear whilst the house wakes up around me and the day begins.

Around the house...

We have lightened the load yet again down here in the dining room/lounge. We plan on getting some shelving from Ikea when our holiday is over and eventually replacing the two seater sofa with two matching two seater sofas. My dad is talking about coming over next year with his cousin and then my son and his wife are coming next year with their two kiddies and so we need more seating space. One two seater sofa just doesn't cut it. I have my eyes on one from Ikea as well that is not overly expensive, although Todd is not sure if he is up to putting a sofa together, even a two seater one. Does anyone have experience with this and how did it go???

I am looking forward to...

I am hosting a pot luck luncheon for the ladies at church on Thursday. I hope it goes well!!

I am pondering...

I am thinking a lot about life lately and how short it is and about how every day we are given is such a blessing. Each morning I wake up and open my eyes is a bonus, especially after the age of 50. 50 is when so many health problems begin to show up and your odds of not making it increase. I feel quite blessed to be 56 and here's hoping I have at least another 20 years left to make my mark on the world!

One of my favourite things...

Is doing this daybook. It helps me to slow down and reflect on things. I am always thinking about something anyways, but it is nice to focus and put it down on paper per se.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

Reading lessons, Doctor today, Meetings tomorrow night, Pot Luck Thursday, etc. I seem to fill each week on the calendar to over brimming. I like being busy.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

What little girl doesn't dream of becoming a ballerina one day. I was no different when I was a little girl. I always wanted dance lessons, but there was no money for them in our family coffers. My mother had a book though which had dance lessons inside, for tap and all sorts. I can remember practicing the steps in the book and wanting to be Ginger Rogers. We watched "The Black Swan" the other night on the telly and were left stunned at the end of it. It was quite dark and gave a lot of insight to the life of a ballerina. They must be very focused to get to the pinnacle of success and it involves a lot of sacrifice. Although I thought the film to be very dark, I also thought that there was a lot of truth in it as well . . . . I know that there are a lot of dancers who are obssessive about things such as eating and weight. I saw the Canadian National Ballet perform at Uni when I was there and it was beautiful. Success of any kind takes sacrifice I suppose.

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

~Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

If we never do anything for fear of failure we can never hope to achieve our full potential. I fully believe that. Sure we might fail in the end, but . . . what if we don't??? We must at least try!

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!

My oldest son, Anthony is just like me. He loves to cook. From the time he could walk and carry a wooden spoon he always had his face into every pot I had going and was trying to give it a good old stir. He’s a really good cook too. These were always his favourite pancakes and I’ve named them after him. Hopefully next summer I will be able to cook them for the grandsons!


*Anthony’s Favourite Fly-Off-The-Plate Pancakes*

Family size (must mean at least 4 or five people)

Printable Recipe

This is another oldie from my big blue binder. In the amount area it only says family size so I take it to mean that means a lot, because I had a rather large family. My Anthony loved these and for good reason. They are quite simply delicious. The addition of sour cream gives them a wonderful tenderness. I always made them silver dollar size when I was making these. I think he liked them that way because he could get a whole one into his mouth at one time, you know how boys are! Break out the butter and Maple Syrup, you’re in for a real taste treat today!

2 cups plain flour

¼ tsp salt

2 TBS white sugar

6 tsp baking powder

2 large free range eggs

2 cups milk

5 TBS sour cream

4 TBS melted butter

Oil for frying

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Put the eggs, milk, sour cream and melted butter into a large beaker and whisk them together well. Make a well in themiddle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients all at once. Whisk together vigorously until they make a smooth batter.

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Grease lightly with a little bit of oil, swirling it to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Drop the pancake batter onto the heated pan or griddle in heaping tablespoonfuls. Cook over medium high heat until the surface is coated with small bubbles and the underside is lightly browned before flipping them over to cook and brown the other side. Remove to a plate and keep warm in the oven while you are cooking the rest, using up all the batter. Serve warm with knobs of ice cold butter on top and sweet lashings of Maple Syrup.

These freeze very well. Just pop them between layers of grease proof paper and pop them into a zip lock baggie. You can then take out as many or as few as you want at any given time, warming them up for a few seconds in the microwave.

PS - You can very easily cut this recipe in two if you don't want to make quite so many. I did.

Baking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Hummingbird Cake.

Monday 29 August 2011

Favourite Views of Britain . . .

A few years ago they had a television program over here on the telly called Britain’s Favourite View. On it, famous British celebrities took us to their favourite British View, and we got to visit it with them, as well as the surrounding local areas. They showed four different places every week, and every week we got to vote on which of those was our favourite one. I cannot remember which place in Britian won the program as being Britain's favourite view, but I do remember really enjoying watching it. We are great armchair travellers in this house, but I guess we are also great real time travellers too, having taken in many beautiful areas together over these past almost 11 years! I thought it would be great fun to share with you this morning Todd and my top favourite views of this beautiful country thus far! So here we go!

The Willow Man

A number of years back, we were on our way down from Chester to Devon for a few days break, when on the right hand side of the car this amazing vision appeared in a field, along side of the M5 near Brigwater. A complete and striding man, racing across the field, made completely from willow. I was totally amazed and enthralled. Standing approximately 12 meters high it is possibly the largest willow sculpture in the world. It sure got my attention, and I fell in love with him immediately. It was at once intriguing and a bit frightening at the same time I suppose, but also very beautiful. I was totally entranced!

Llangollen, Wales

Nestled within the beautiful Dee valley in North East Wales, lies the small town of Llangollen. An ancient market town on the banks of the River Dee, Llangollen lies under the watchful gaze of Dinas Bran Castle. Todd and I often drive there on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and just walk around, stopping of course for refreshments at one of the lovely tea shops. (Impossible to resist!) It is such a beautiful little town and I fell in love with it from the very first time I visited. Aside from it’s lovely little streets and shops it is home to the International Musical Eisteddfod every July. It also has a wonderful steam railway that you can take a tour on if you are so desiring. It’s just a special place and it holds a corner of my heart.

Clovelly, Devon

About nine years ago when we went down to Devon, we went to this wonderful little village. It had been raining the whole time we were in Devon, and despite that, I was still in awe of the county’s breathtaking beauty. Devon is probably one of the most beautiful counties I have ever seen. Fortunately on the day we were at Clovelly, the sun shone down upon us in abundance, at least for the first part of our visit. Set into a steep Devon hillside, Clovelly is one of the most famous villages in the world. The single cobbled high street winds it’s way down the hillside, through whitewashed cottages festooned with beautiful hanging baskets of flowers. Every nook and cranny is full to the brim with it's quaint and pristine beauty. It was quite simply gorgeous, and let me tell you . . . just to walk down it’s high street and back up again was a workout of gargantuan proportions! Not to mention, the heavens opened and it started raining cats and dogs on our way back up to the top. We were totally soaked through to the bone, by the time we got back up to the visitors centre, and had to completely change our clothing, but it was worth it!

The Lake District

From the minute our car rounded the bend on the roadway towards Lake Ullswater, I was completely enthralled and utterly in love. I had never seen such beauty . (and as an airforce brat of long standing, I have been to quite a few places in the world) It was completely charming. The Lake District, also known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a rural area in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes and its mountains (or fells), and also its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets. The central and most-visited part of thearea is contained in the Lake District National Park — one of fourteen National Parks in the United Kingdom. It lies entirely within Cumbria, and is one of England's few mountainous regions. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park. I actually fell in love with the whole of Cumbria while we were there, and it was very easy to see what inspired Wordsworth to pen his sonnets and prose. We are going back for the third time in just two weeks now and I can't wait! Bring on the Sticky Toffee Puddings and the Cumberland Sausages!!

Long Meg and Her Daughters

The first time we holidayed up in Cumbria, one of the fascinating things we discovered while we were there was an ancient stone circle called Long Meg and her Daughters. We had to drive for what seemed like miles and miles into the middle of nowhere, and it seemed we'd never get there, but when we finally did, we were totally amazed by what we saw. (Can you see her face in this the largest stone?) Second only in size to Stone Henge, this stone circle lies in the wilds of Cumbria next to a field full of softly lowing cattle and hidden down a long country lane, amidst hedgerows and brambles. I think Keats said it well:

“Old Meg she was a Gipsy,

And liv'd upon the Moors:

Her bed it was the brown heath turf

And her house was out of doors.

Her apples were swart blackberries,

Her currants pods o' broom;

Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,

Her book a churchyard tomb.

Her Brothers were the craggy hills,

Her Sisters larchen trees--

Alone with her great family

She liv'd as she did please. “

The Lighthouse at Beachy Head

Beachy Head is the most famous part of the Eastbourne Downland. Rising 162 metres (530 feet) above the sea below, it is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. The main reason for Beachy Head's popularity is the wonderful panoramic view which can be seen from the cliff top. If you look east you can see the beaches and town of Eastbourne, the Pier and the Harbour, and then on to Pevensey Bay and Hastings and, on an exceptionally clear day, Dungeness in Kent, nearly 40 miles away. One of the most stunning views from the cliffs is the lighthouse.

It is said that as early as 1670 a light shone to guide passing vessels from the top of the cliffs at Beachy Head. In 1902 under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer-in-Chief, the present lighthouse was brought into service, sited about 165 metres seawards from the base of the cliffs. It took two years to complete and involved building a coffer-dam and a cableway from the top of the cliffs to carry materials down to the site. 3,660 tons of Cornish granite were used in the construction of the tower. It is quite simply amazing to see and on a clear day with the waves crashing at it’s feet, I would call it truly stunning.

Scotney Castle and Gardens

Scotney Castle and Gardens were not very far from where we lived down in Kent. We often went of a Saturday and wandered around the gardens. We never ever tired of it no matter how often we saw it. It was beautiful and peaceful and a wonderful place to walk. I loved the Castle, even though it was largely a ruin. The gardens were beautiful, no matter the time of year that you went . . . and parts of the main house are now open for viewing as well. I always thought it was a very lovely spot to visit. Beautiful really.

This was an early spring view from the Sitting room window of the Manor where I used to work down south, Brenchley manor. The gardens were some of the loveliest that I have ever seen. We were surrounded by beauty there, and the gardens were breathtaking no matter the time of year. This was one of my favourite views looking down onto the Elizabethan Lover's Knot Garden at the front, just behind the ancient Stone Gate that stood along the front drive. This gate was one of the oldest existing examples of stone masonry work in the UK, having been comissioned by an acquaintance of Michaelangelo. It certainly was a marvel to be sure!

To have been able to live and work amongst such beauty was a special blessing and experience. We live a completely different life now though . . . no lessed blessed or beautiful I think . . . it's beautiful and blessed in different ways . . . Chester City is certainly a beautiful place to visit and view . . . and really . . . you can make everywhere you are a beautiful and special place can you not??? I like to think that wherever I am at any given moment is my favourite view! This is such a beautiful country and there is beauty all around us here, in every corner and hidden nook!!

So there you have it, some of my favourite views of Britain that I have been blessed to take in during my eleven years over here. God willing there will be many, many more!

Here’s another tasty dish for a zucchini loving friend. They say variety is the spice of life and this delicious dish certainly is different, and spicy too!



Serves 6

Printable Recipe

This is a Tex Mex dish and a great way to use up some of that glut of courgettes we all have in our gardens this time of year. Courgettes are one of those lovely vegetables that gladly take on the flavour of anything you cook them with. I don’t think there’s anything that you can’t do with them, from tasty and savoury casseroles to delicious moist cakes and breads. This is just another way to showcase their incredible versatility!

1 onion, peeled and chopped

4 tsp olive oil

4 medium courgettes, unpeeled and cubed

½ cup seeded and chopped green chillies

2 cups sweet corn kernels

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup whole milk

½ cup grated medium cheddar cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. When it is just shimmering add the onion and sauté it until it is softly translucent, stirring the whole time. Add the courgettes and chillies. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook, stirring from time to time for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are just crispy tender, but still retaining their lovely green colour.

Add the corn and seasonings and cook for about 5 minutes longer.

Finally add the milk and the cheese, stirring constantly to help prevent the cheese from sticking, cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately. I could eat the whole pan myself and nothing else!

There's a delicious Croissant Brunch Bake over in The English Kitchen this morning!

Sunday 28 August 2011

The Sunday Drive

As a child growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s we sometimes went on what was termed a Sunday Drive. Everyone turned out in their best finery . . . and sitting in the car while we, as a family, went for a drive. Not to anywhere in particular, but just for a drive . . . to take in the local scenery, to relax, to get an ice cream, to visit my Aunt Freda and her family or some other relative. When we were younger, we used to enjoy those occasions, but once we got to be teenagers we really thought we had better things to do . . .

I think "The Sunday Drive" used to be somewhat of an institution in North America. Many people went for a drive on Sunday afternoons, a lot just to go and visit relatives, a lot just for the sake of driving, and most just to relax after church, and a big dinner and what had probably been a long and hectic week.

I can remember my dad grumbling about the “Sunday Drivers” that he would sometimes get stuck behind, any day of the week. That is what he called them. You know the ones . . . they drive slowly down the road, much slower than your patience can take. They are in no rush. They are just taking in their surroundings and enjoying the ride. My dad was always quite an impatient driver. He always wanted to get from point A to point B in the fastest manner possible. There was no stopping along the way, no smelling of the roses.

As for myself, I am in no rush to get anywhere. I normally leave in quite enough time for anything or any appointment, to get there well within the time that I should show up, and in fact, I am usually fifteen minutes to half an hour early for everything. I cannot stand being late. That means that I usually have lots of time to sit and stare, lots of time along the way to take in the scenery and enjoy myself, lots of time to be one of those irritating “Sunday Drivers.”

I reckon there is nothing on earth worth rushing so much for, that you put your own life at risk . . . not to mention the lives of others. I cannot understand these people that have the need to pass everything possible in front of them. I do understand that when there is a particularly slow vehicle in the road, one does need to pass, like an incredibly slow moving tractor or some such, but basically . . . I just don’t get the idea of passing. I am a “Sunday Driver.” Nine times out of ten, when someone has gone to great risk to pass us on the roadway, when we reach the intersection or roundabout down the road, they end up just in front of us anyways . . . their haste not having gotten them very far ahead at all. Traffic on our roadways over here is so thick and busy, that it really makes no sense to pass and attempt to rush to get anywhere. Why add all that stress and agro to your life??? It’s so un-necessary. Just leave a little bit earlier for everything and you won’t have to be in such a rush.

Life is a bit like that actually. People rush about in their madness to get ahead, to reach the front of the queue. In their quest, they forget to take in the scenery along the way and to enjoy the ride. Me, I like to smell the roses along the pathway and listen to the birds, take in that beautiful sunset, or that incredible sunrise. I’ll get there in the end, but I’ll have well enjoyed the journey I took to get there. Yes folks, I’m “Sunday Driving” through life . . .

We had a pretty good picnic at our church yesterday, even though it rained buckets off and on all afternoon. We just took the whole thing indoors. It actually wasn't a very good day for the picnic anyways . . . it being the last Bank Holiday weekend this side of Christmas and the last long weekend of the children's summer holidays!! There was a pretty poor turnout, but those that did show up seemed to have a good time!

It was an opportunity for us to use the pretty Picnic Basket I got for my Birthday. I do love it so, but then I felt a bit silly having it . . . there were a few comments about my "posh" picnic basket and I was made to feel a bit self conscious about it. I only wanted it because I fell absolutely in love with it . . . that's what Birthday Presents should be . . . something that you absolutely adore . . . and when I saw this basket I had such romantic notions about it . . . in truth is rather heavy even before you get any food into it, but I still love it all the same!

That meant though that I didn't really get anything cooked much yesterday . . . and so I am sharing with you something from my old Marie's Muses blog today. It's a bit of information that I reckon most people might find pretty handy to know!

*How To Cook The Perfect Steak*

Printable Instructions

When one has gone to the expense of buying a beautiful steak, there is nothing worse, no greater sacrilege than to ruin it by cooking it improperly. There are a few basic steps for cooking the perfect steak.

First of all, one must use the right cut. There are some steaks that are meant for braising (round and chuck come to mind here). You cannot simply fry these. You must braise them for a long period of time in a small amount of liquid in order for them to be tender. These are the cheaper cuts, and that is why they are cheaper. If you want a steak for grilling or frying, you must choose the right kind of steak. At those times you will want to choose a rib eye, or a tenderloin or sirloin.

Secondly you must cook a steak properly. Overcooking a steak, quite simply, makes it tough. Steak is a muscle after all. When it hits the heat of the pan, it tenses up, like any muscle would. The trick is to cook it only to your desired preference and then to take it out of the pan before it is done all the way through, giving it a few minutes to rest and relax before tucking in. You should only ever turn a steak once while cooking it.

The followings are guides to cooking times and touch testing. You can very easily learn if a steak is cooked to your desired doneness simply by feeling the steak with the back of your tongs and by it’s appearance. Remember to leave a few minutes for resting before serving.

Heat a heavy skillet until it is fairly hot. Add some butter to the pan and swirl it a round until it is beginning to foam. Add the steak and cook as follows:


Cook each side for 2 minutes, turning only once. This will give you a steak which is internally very red, moist and with red juices. It will be very soft to the touch.


Cook each side for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, turning only once before pink beads of moisture appear on the top of the surface of each side. It will be a lighter red colour inside, moist with pink juices. It will be soft to the touch, and yet somewhat springy.


Cook for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once. It will be internally pink red in colour, moist with clear to pink juices. It should be firm and springy to the touch.


Cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and cook for a further 4 to 6 minutes. It will look a stone grey colour inside, and be dry and clear with no sign of any pink juices. It should feel very firm to the touch.

And there you have it, the perfect steak, done perfectly to your own liking. A good steak needs no real embellishment except for a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. I like to have fried mushrooms and sometimes onions with mine.

I'm sharing my favourite end of summer Desserts over in The English Kitchen today! It's a delicious round up of eight of my absolute favourite weaknesses!

Saturday 27 August 2011

Poetry Saturday . . . The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world thinks you king for a day,

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn't your father, your mother, or wife

Whose judgement upon you must pass;

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back from the glass.

You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum

And think you're a wonderful guy;

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him straight in the eye.

He's the fellow to please, never mind the rest;

For he's with you clear to the end.

and you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test,

If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass;

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you've cheated the man in the glass.

~author unknown

in-teg-ri-ty - noun

  • adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
  • the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
  • a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
  • who you are, when nobody's watching.
Keep your promises, act consistently, say what you believe and believe what you say.

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” ~ John D MacDonald

I got this poem from a book Lura sent me for my Birthday, called Best Loved Poems of the LDS People. I love it . . . the book, my friend and this poem.

I had some overripe bananas on the counter yesterday that needed using up. Actually they had been staring me in the face for a few days but yesterday was the first chance I had to do anything with them. If this isn’t the “best” banana cake you have ever eaten, I’ll eat my hat!


*Moist Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting*

Makes one 9 X 13 cake

Serves 16

Printable Recipe

This is one of those little gems that actually tastes better as each day goes by, becoming even moister and more flavourful with time. I would call it exceptional. This is a great recipe to make when your bananas go all black on the outside and you feel like throwing them away!

¾ cup butter, softened

2 1/8 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla essence

3 cups plain flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ cups buttermilk

2 tsp lemon juice

1 ½ cups mashed very ripe banana


½ cup butter, softened

1 (250g) package of cream cheese

3 ½ cups sifted icing sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla essence

Walnut halves for garnishing

Pre-heat the oven to 150*C/300*F (yes, this is correct. I know it sounds a bit low, but it bakes beautifully, trust me) Lightly butter and flour a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and set it aside.

Mash the bananas in a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

Whisk the flour, soda and salt together in another bowl and set that aside as well.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, alternately with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Finally, stir in the banana mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for approximately one hour , or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched with your fingertips in the centre.

Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and the cheese together with an electric hand mixer, until fluffy and smooth. Beat in the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and of the correct spreading consistency. You may need more or less icing sugar. Sometimes I need more. Spread the frosting on the completely cooled cake and place the walnut halves evenly over top. Cut into squares to serve.

Over in The English Kitchen today, deliciously scrummy Blueberry Streusel Muffins!