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The horror and the glory

You may, or may not, know that I do like a retro cookbook. I have a vast and fantastic collection thanks to my mum’s collection, which I have posted about previously:

Marvel at the wonder, the glory…and the interesting food photos, people.

There are a couple of twitter accounts which celebrate the wonder and the horror that was the retro cookbook, and regular stories about them (when my friends find these stories, they often tag me in them so I can add to my collection):

Again: marvel at the wonder and the horror. I love it AAAAAALLLLLLLL.

My aunt also has (or shall I say “had”) a glorious cookbook collection, one that I explored when I lived at her house for a while. I have dropped hints over the year that they would find a good home in my collection…

…years passed, and the time came for her to rationalise her house in preparation for a new house. Yes, dear reader, she handed her amazing glorious cook book collection onto me. All of the wonder, all of the horror, all mine. My precious.

It’s a wide ranging collection, from classic Australian cookbooks, to celebrity chefs of the time, to curated cordon bleu cookbooks and more. I’ve taken photos of some of the more amazing recipes and books in the collection.

And I do plan to make recipes from this collection, even if they won’t visually be presented in the same way…or will they? Would you mess with the presentation of the Black Forest Bavarois?

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The 80s called, it says there’s not enough piped cream on this.

On the other hand, not so sure I will make a stuffed cabbage:

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Cabbage leaf rolls fine, stuff cabbage…not so fine?

The books are a fantastic document of food presentation and techniques of the time, including artful platters of fish with grapes on top (Sole Veronique) or piping (Fish in Spinach Sauce):

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Savoury piping is a lost art.

Delia does Sole Veronique differently now. And these days Fish in Spinach sauce comes without the fancy piping and artfully placed toppings.

How could you not marvel at the glory of endives, radishes, and a starburst of white asparagus (probably canned white asparagus)? It is majestic:

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Majestic or Bombastic, To-MAH-To To-May-To.

And then there’s the wonder of some sort of spinach mould, filled with baby potatoes:

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If that was a chocolate cake, and those were chocolate easter eggs I would be like HELLS YEAH HAPPY EASTER. When it’s spinach mould and baby potatoes, my enthusiams are more moderated.

While we are still on the savouries, can I get a holler for the chicken and peanut butter stew…ye satay chicken from ye olden days:

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I plan to make this. You’ve been warned.

And then there’s the variant on beef wellington, which involves stuffing a loin of lamb into a home-made loaf of brioche:

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Note the cold veal pie to the right with the immaculate hard boiled egg in the middle of it. This cookbook is about stuffing foods, into other foods. And I applaud it.

If we leave aside the savouries, there’s always the desserts. Like the Nectarine Cream Mousse, which is now a life goal:

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Who wouldn’t want a jelly mould that’s this fantastical? I ask you!

Then a confection of evaporated milk, lemon jelly and glace cherries, served on a bed of EVEN MORE glace cherries:

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I do like a glace cherry.

While we’re on the subject of mousse, gin and lime mousse anyone?

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An epic of piping.

Then from the Australian Women’s Weekly classics, there’s the children’s cake book. Featuring cakes in shapes and sizes to suit every child…as long as they still make the lollies and chocolates used for decoration. If not, find a suitable alternative or risk making a child cry on their birthday, and no one wants to do that, do they?

Cricket pitch (it’s summer in Australia after all):

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The most boring game on earth, slightly more interesting in cake form. Sorry cricket lovers, I am at best a disinterested party, at worst (when it’s put on the tv in my workplace): a hater.

Soccer pitch (also called football, if you’re not Australian):

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I particularly like the recycled netting used for the goals. Find that in your fruit & veggie compartment if you’re old skool.

Lest we forget, the covers and graphic design of these glorious tomes:

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If the bubble print gets larger on each line, people will know this book is about PARTIES.

Another Australian Women’s Weekly classic, The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits:

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Apparently Beauty is in the eye of AWW, and NOT the beholder. Someone tell Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.

I’ve now got two versions of this glorious Cordon Bleu cooking series, one from my mother and one from my aunt (one appears to be the abridged version):

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They’re slightly different. So I can’t part with either.

And then lastly, the glorious recipe that started it all. Frosted Green Cheese Mould. This is the photo that was my epiphany about retro cookbooks and recipe. If you want to blame anything or anyone, blame Hudson and Halls and THIS:

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Check out the milk glass goblets, the painting and the turquoise stoppered bottle. I have home decor envy.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, you’ve seen this shape earlier in this post: the spinach mould with baby potatoes. Apparently in the 80s everyone was big on the ring shape, with various fillings piled in artfully. And if that’s kale on the right, Hudson and Halls were well ahead of the kale trend of the 2010s. If it’s curly parsley…it’s bang on their era. Perhaps we could update the recipe with kale?

Let me introduce you to Hudson and Halls, TV chefs from New Zealand who made it big in the UK. FYI: They were actually a couple, and were known for the quote “are we gay – well we’re certainly merry”. Love ’em:

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When I grow up, I want to have a trifle bowl that I fill with Iceberg Lettuce, just like Hudson and Halls.

There’s a documentary about them: Hudson and Halls: A Love Story.

 

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Happy StyleMAS 2016

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With the new tree topper

This year’s StyleMAS was a little subdued, one of the housemates was ill when I was setting it up so my heart wasn’t in it this year.

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Pretties from the side, with the old tree topper

The colour theme this year was matt white porcelain and lime green.

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Silhouetted pretties

I bought a new tree topper to go with this theme after I’d decorated the tree, so you have a couple of photos with the old snowflake tree topper and a couple with the new star tree topper.

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With a couple of fancy presents under the tree.

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Let’s talk about lists…

house-1059We need to talk about lists. And I don’t just mean your wishlists on Amazon, ASOS, Modcloth, eBay or umm….anywhere else (and trust me: I most definitely am not judging you if you have more lists, elsewhere. I fully support your desire to dream.) We need to talk about lists of things to do.

As you’ve probably guessed already: I may be the tiniest bit ambitious with my aims, some might even say: I am a little bit of an overachiever.But hey: I try not to support shaming, regardless whether it’s body shaming, ambition shaming or other.

I acknowledge I have big aims, set myself big goals and an excited when I live up to them. Sometimes the goals change, sometimes they are a little bit longer in the post before they arrive, but I always have a list of things to do: personally, professionally, creatively, house-related, shopping list, wishlist, posts I want to write…

…you name it, I probably have a list for it.

You don’t see all mys lists, and why should you? This is a house blog, I am letting you into a certain part of my life, but it is with restriction. If you know me and/or if I share this with you: it’s still only part of the puzzle. And there are as many puzzles as there are facets to anyone’s personality, obvs 😉

But while I was on holidays in November and December, I had a couple of realisations about lists.

Realisations that had been in the post for a while, but that I finally had time to think about and – fyi I hate this word used in this context but… – I had to “process”:

  • Sometimes my lists don’t contain all that I want to achieve in that area, because the things to do are on another of my lists elsewhere. And this also applies with what I communicate to others (including you)
  • I need to stop and smell the roses and celebrate ticking items off one/some of my lists

Interestingly: this blog came about because of 3 things:

  1. I needed to keep family overseas in the loop about the house, without repeating myself and boring them with every conversation’
  2. I wanted to stop and smell the roses, big and small
  3. I wanted to celebrate the goals I’d kicked on my lists

You probably already have an idea that I am ambitious in terms of lists. You just need to look at the Houseolutions I set myself every year to get an idea of that:

Overachiever? I don’t know where you get that idea 😉

But seriously: this post isn’t about the lists I tell you about, it’s about some of the ones I don’t: because I want to acknowledge I expect a lot from myself.

So let’s start with the holiday list:

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Holiday List

In 6.5 weeks, I managed to tick 7 things off it (8 if I can remember what AAB was: at the moment I am drawing a blank, but I am very pleased it’s crossed through).

Not on that list:

  • Cleaning my dad’s kitchen and sorting stuff out at his house (let alone the second, post-holiday task where I cleaned his whole house)
  • Watching 3.5 seasons of Nashville (okay: that’s not house related, but it was fun)

Then there’s another list, immediate things I want to do in each area of my house, broken down room-by-room. I have keep this list for about 4 years: this one is probably the 13th version of it…and since I spilt soya sauce on it (top right), there’s about to be a 14th version of this list.

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Another, other list.

Plus there’s my fortnightly shopping and bunnings list, so many lists. It’s actually interesting to collate them all and look at achievements across all the different lists: sometimes it feels like where I kick a goal on one, there are several other lists that still need items to be ticked off.

 

 

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Celebrating the little things

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From the side.

Sometimes you need to stop and celebrate the little things. Like the blue ginger jar I got from Great Aunt Eileen’s house in Tamworth, NSW, and how it goes so well with the blue glass jars I bought in my 20s and only recently bought over from DIY Dad’s house.

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Reflection.

Wonder at the beauty of the reflections of the blue glass and wireframe basket, that you can see on the top of the glass dining table. And how, even though it’s shining hot and bright outside, it’s calm and peaceful inside.

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Dehipstamaticised

Celebrate that life looks good with filters, and without.

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Champagne glass eye view

So I had two functions across two different weekends at mine, a high tea with the ladies and morning tea baby shower with workmates.

But I was thrifty about it: you’ll note each function is decorated with the same bunch of flowers. White lisianthus and small green chrysanthemums. When I was getting ready for the baby shower, I cut off another inch of the plant stalks, refreshed their water and got rid of any manky leaves and flowers.

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Baby shower all set up

I couldn’t be bothered doing a lot of washing up for the baby shower, so I used bamboo cutlery that I bought from Eco Toys. I bought the cutlery last year, for my birthday party (along with bamboo plates and biodegradable paper cups) and I still have plenty of supplies left: the idea being to be able to use sustainable, renewable, compostable and/or recyclable items when I have BBQs, parties and etc and I don’t want to do a lot of washing up.

After a party catering for 25+ people, 4+ BBQs, a baby shower and a couple of other events – it’s working pretty well so far. And not enormously different in terms of cost compared to the non-sustainable, non-recyclable plastic forks, spoons and cups sent to landfill every year. I just bought in bulk to justify postage (and I bought from a reputable supplier).

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All set up for the Baby Shower

I did have to use porcelain side plates instead of bamboo plates, as everyone was seated in the lounge and resting their plates on their laps.

For the Downton-esque ladies high tea there were only 4 ladies, plus a mini me (4.5 of us), with the Editor-In-Waiting bringing her 2 year old daughter. So easier to clean up from – you might recognise some of the decorations from Getting out the best silver.

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Champagne eye view, with some height thanks to a portrait orientation.

See The things you can do with Crostini for the recipes of the different crostini featured at both the morning tea and high tea.

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Victoria Sponge cake filled with whipped cream and home-made mulberry jam and home-made mulberry syrup.

One interesting fact about the difference between high tea and afternoon tea, is although now high tea has been claimed as refined and classy exercise, it actually originated with the Victorian working classes while afternoon tea was the province of the wealthy upper and middle classes:

The drinking of tea not only became a social event for the upper classes, it altered the time and manner in which they took tea. Afternoon Tea became the bridge between meals because many wouldn’t eat their evening meal until maybe 8pm. As such, Afternoon Tea became a ‘mini meal’ in itself.

This was all well and good for the upper classes, but the working classes ran to a different schedule and a different budget. Tea was still quite expensive at the time and the working classes could not afford to waste it on anything other than necessities. A wearied factory worker wouldn’t arrive home until six in the evening, and when he did, he was famished! Thus, in the industrial areas of the UK (northern England and southern Scotland), the working classes evening meal evolved: high tea.

So while Afternoon Tea was largely a social event for their upper class counterparts, high tea was a necessary meal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This traditional high tea still exists for some parts of the North and Scotland.

What is high tea?

Meanwhile, afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. It evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm.

Afternoon Tea is a meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes. Interestingly, scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the twentieth century.

What is afternoon tea?

Other sources indicate additional differences: High Tea had cooked food and was served at the dining table with people seated at the dining table, while Afternoon Tea was served in the parlour and eaten while seated on the more comfortable lounging chairs.

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High Tea: seated at the dining table, featuring cooked savoury items.

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I am an aunt now

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This is a bit of belated news, as of 11 July 2015: I am an aunt.

As part of the presents I bought my little blister (sister – we’ve called each other Big Blister and Little Blister ever since we went to a pantomine: Cinderella iirc), I got her a new copy of the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia (NMAA) cookbook: NMAA Cooks. It’s a book our mum had and used quite a bit. Her copy was so well-used, its cover fell off recently and there are some pages missing.

I have that copy, but clearly wanted to get little blister a version that could stand up to ongoing wear and tear, especially given – based on the age of mum’s copy – it will be in little blister’s life for a while.

That was actually more of a mission than I’d planned, as part of some change management the NMAA had taken down their online store, so I had to stalk copies on eBay.

My little blister is currently visiting WA: I gave her the new copy and we took a photo of her copy and mum’s original copy.

Now there are two generations of NMAA Cooks in the family – that’s kind of nice.

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Smugness at stealing the middle of the bed. Smugness.

Her Majesty, Madame Mim, hasn’t been on the blog for a while. Since the last time I “properly” updated the blog (June), she’s had a couple of traumas. Namely the removal of 3 teeth.

And in case you wondered: there is a tooth fairy for cats, but s/he pays out direct to the vet. With each tooth costing roughly $333.33 AUD. Cat teeth are like cat years, they manage to cram more into the same period as humans. She lost her upper canines, so no more little cat fangs there. She still dribbles when you pat her…

Speaking of cat years: HM is actually 17-18 years old. That makes her ~84 according to the useful chart at the vet tooth fairy. And she’s still got (most) of her teeth.

It’s not many 84 year olds you see climbing up on window sills:

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All hail the great mid century styled vessel.

She does this occasionally: sometimes I find her on the mantlepiece, where she’s jumped up to from a window still. Other times I find her on great aunt Eileen’s buffet (where she had to jump from the floor).

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Looking for the weekend.

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