Pastry Perfection

It is bitterly cold here today. Wet. Gloomy. Grey. Cold. It feels like it could snow. Some would say a perfect day in doors by the fire and I just may get some time at home today. I imagine it is the best conditions for cranking up the stove and making and baking – warm, home cooked goodness that feeds the body, mind and soul.

I recently made pasties – a real favourite of mine. I love the fact that you can tweak the inner goodness with a variety of meats, vegetables and spices. Some days our pasties taste like genuine Cornish pasties and other days they have a samosa kinda feel, full of curry, cumin and chilli.

But the real love and perfection of the humble Pastie comes from the pastry. Plain flour, salt, chilled butter, a squeeze of lemon juice all blitzed together in the food processor and then enough cold water so that the “crumb” like flour mixture forms a ball. You must be patient with pastry. It needs to slowly come together and not overworked. It must be rested before it is rolled and shaped. it must be respected and cajoled into doing what it must, encasing the tasty goodness of the mixture. Making good pastry takes practice but it is a skill that every domestic goddess should have mastered. So on this winter’s day, light the fire, make a pot of tea and welcome a morning of baking and playing in the kitchen.

Kuchef ThermoCook Update

Pasta cooked the old fashion way – no Therm Cook!

It would not be fair of me to avoid updating my blogpost about the Aldi Kuchef Thermo Cook. You may recall that we purchased one as a Christmas gift and have been using it ever since. We have made soup, sauces, jam, chutney, curries, sorbet, smoothies. It has been an all purpose work horse and one that the older kids can use easily.

So the mid year recall was somewhat of a surprise. Our only issue had been that on a sustained  high temperature some recipes ( béchamel, curry pastes) tended to ‘catch’ on the inside of the stainless steel jug. This was nothing a good clean could not fix.

Following the recall instructions my handy workhorse aka Thermo Cook was sent back to the manufacturer and replaced. Apparently there had been issues with hot food being expelled from the machine when it was used at high speed – and I suspect someone has been burnt. But my new best kitchen buddy would not work – when assembled and plugged in, there seemed to be a fault.

My days of whipping every green bit of goodness into smoothies for the family, making fabulous no sugar sorbets and trying the wonderful Dulce de leche (decadent caramel) will have to wait. While I have days when I am missing my machine I do not miss the space it fills on my bench top. This is a Western world problem, no?

I wonder if you have had success with the Kuchef version of the Thermomix. The  second model has a new improved base and non stick jug. I would love to hear your Thermo Cook stories.

Happy cooking the old fashioned way…..for now.

Move over Sherlock – I am making my own Mind Palace

Confession. I only recently discovered the BBC series Sherlock. And the adventures of Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) have become family favourites. Sherlock is a quirky modern day man. He is socially awkward, genius and yet he is disarmingly perceptive. You would not want to make the wrong gesture or say an odd word in his presence because it would mean something, to him. He would ‘know’ you.

What I am intrigued by is the concept of the Mind Palace that is used throughout the script. Apparently this is a very real and old notion which assists memorisation and recall. Helmut Sachs has a great blogpost which outlines this idea of creating and using a Mind Palace.

There are so many strategies available to us to develop our ability to learn and remember things. I long to know more…..


This idea resonated with me today. In the Western world we all have so much, yet many of us suffer from FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

If I make a decision to take job X I may miss out on job Y. Each decision and choice we make has a cost, an opportunity cost. But it is sometimes this fear of missing out, of wanting it all and working ever so hard to determine how we can have everything that eventually causes us to fall. Our fear forces us to fail.

FOMO is real. By His grace I can think of countless decisions I have made that have been a blessing but have also meant that I missed out. I chose to say yes to my man and missed a year of possible travel. I chose to say yes to have another baby and missed out on a big career opportunity. I suspect there are smaller things that I encounter each day that also force me to debate X and Y. But I don’t want fear or failure to be the guiding forces. Wise decision making. If you want to know more you can read it/ watch it it here from Tyler David : Wisdom in Decision Making. at the Austin Stone Community Church.

Talking about Talking

I am fascinated with the art of conversation. You will know that I periodically reflect here about my own adventures into making conversations – when I am bored, tired, disagreeable or being anti social. I have also walked away from exchanges with older women who have made the most amazing inroads into my life through a few moments of questions, answers and comments. I would like to be able to converse well, wouldn’t you?

American TV personality Barbara Walters says this about conversation in How to talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything (1970):

I happen to disagree with the well-entrenched theory that the art of conversation is merely the art of being a good listener. Such advice invites people to be cynical with one another and full of fake; when a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation any more. It is a strained, manipulative game, tiring and perhaps even lonely. Maybe the person doing the talking enjoys himself at the time, but I suspect he’ll have uncomfortable afterthoughts about it; certainly his audience has had a cheerless time.
A conversation, even a brief one, should have all the best features of any functioning human relationships, and that means genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception. Conversation can be such pleasure that it is criminal to exchange comments so stale that neither really listens. 

In our technology saturated modern world the art of conversation is growing stale, as we choose to text and have e-conversations in place of face to face ones. The humble conversation is at risk of dying a sad death, only to be remembered by those older than I. Let’s hope that by listening more and by genuine interest from both parties a real conversation culture will develop. Let’s talk about it some more, hey!

Hooking Up

Hooking up was the focus of a recent dinner time conversation with our big kids. We were hearing about  the party scene, people, parents, alcohol, rules and behaviour. So what exactly is ‘hooking up’? And how might you be hooked into a culture even when you are not participating directly?

According to Adelaide Mena and Caitlin Seery La Ruffa many college students don’t even know what this ‘hooking up’ means. And there is danger, anxiety and alarm surrounding the burgeoning culture to “hook up” with anyone in an alcohol fuelled environment.
The teenagers at dinner could talk about behaviours, attitudes and individuals who embraced this “hooking up” culture. The underage party, permission notes, drinking, supervision and reputations were all up for discussion. So what plays out at a tertiary level?

When somewhat drunkenly bringing someone back to your dorm is the norm, how are bystanders (in a dark, noisy, crowded space) supposed to distinguish good intentions from bad? How can an onlooker see the difference between a young man genuinely seeking to help his friend get back to her room safely and one pretending to be a good friend, only to take advantage of her once there? One of us had the horrible experience—twice—of being witness to a friend’s assault in the very next room and being powerless to do anything, not because of physical inability, but because by all external appearances what was happening looked just like any other weekend night.

The Gospel Coalition offers this piece with links to follow up. In a culture where boys will be boys and girls go wild, we must all be part of the conversation.

I HEART my Room, too

This book has been well loved in recent weeks. We have just had all the kid bedrooms painted. We have been pragmatic about paint colour in our home – every wall now has a lovely lick of Antique White USA and double strength on all the skirting boards, window and trim. The look is light, bright and fresh. Megan Morton, Jason Busch and Penny Shek have produced a lovely Australian take on making kid’s rooms shine. Some of the rooms are striking in their size, shape and design. But mostly it is the clever combination of fabrics, bedding, a great blind, treasures carefully and artfully arranged, stuff well organised and curated that makes the room work. So if you are looking for inspiration for a new kidlet room this could be it.

A word of advice from someone with five children (16- 5 years). The ideas, design love, colour scheme and dreams of children change quickly. So make a point of using your space creatively, organise stuff- less is more. Create a neutral base with a white or even a dark charcoal and allow colour to brighten the room with a great bed cover, cushions, a favourite rug, artwork or lamp. Find a space to sleep in, a space for folded or hanging clothes, a seat for read in or nook for hiding in, a surface for writing, drawing or organising ‘stuff’ and an area of the wall to hang precious images, art and certificates.

Remember you will probably be the one straightening the room up, yes on most days. Make it easy for you and simple for the kids to work in and live and love.