Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Blogger

Song of the Magpie

This morning,  for the last few hours, I’ve had a magpie sitting in the drizzly damp outside my window, singing its little heart out. I love the sound. It’s so joyful and melodious. You can listen to a magpie singing here.  You probably need to put up with an advert at the start, but this is similar to what I’m hearing.

If you can’t access the video of the magpie singing, click here:

I always feel a maggie singing in the morning is a good omen for the day.

Australian MagpieAustralian magpies are quite different to the European ones — I think the early colonizers called them magpies because they were black and white, like British magpies. This photo is by Jack McCracken on Unsplash

Do you have a favorite birdsong?

Baking gifts

Last night I attended the first of this years “Christmas” gatherings. It was an “end of year” dinner for a small group of friends. There are quite a few coming up in the next weeks and some of them have Kris Kringle arrangements, where you have to bring a wrapped $10 present, and it’s a lucky dip as to who gets what.  

This year my plan is to bake for the KKs. There’s not a lot you can get for $10 —often it’s just “stuff” you don’t really need or want, and in the past I’ve wasted a lot of time wandering through shops unable to find anything I like.  

My godmother (who came to us every year for Christmas and Easter) always used to bring a tin containing her home-made biscuits. They were yummy and we always looked forward to eating them. So this year I’m following her example and buying pretty tins or boxes and filling them with home-baked cookies (or biscuits as we call them here.) 

Yesterday my KK was a tin of acetani biscuits, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. I’m also planning to make either Melting Moments  (pictured above) or Yo-Yo biscuits. They’re small, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits sandwiched together with some kind of icing mix — my favorites are lemon and passionfruit. Yo-Yos and Melting Moments are very similar — the main difference is that the Yo-Yo ingredients  include custard powder. The photo above is from this site, which has the recipe.

I also made my first batch of Christmas Crack, which I make every year, and I took several small bags along to last night’s dinner — one for each person. Basically it’s a buttery toffee, baked over a layer of salted crackers, then topped with a layer of chocolate, and finally sprinkled with toasted flaked or slivered almonds. 

It’s delicious and quite easy to make and these days a lot of my friends expect it. There is no reason why it needs to be a Christmas recipe, but it’s now become one  of my annual traditions. 

There are recipes all over the web, but you can find mine here, along with a few other recipes for food I give at Christmas.

I also have a yen to make Garibaldi biscuits, which I’ve never made before.  They’re popular in the UK, Australia and NZ. They’re flat, with a thin layer of sweet pastry, a layer of currants and another layer of pastry. When I was a kid, we used to call them “squashed fly biscuits” but despite the name, they’re yummy. The photo on the right is from this site, which also gives the recipe.

I’m very fond of currants and I also have a yen to make Eccles cakes, which I’ve eaten but never baked myself. I’ll probably try this recipe, which looks quite straightforward. There are more on the web, including this one that looked great, but it recommends that you render lard, and make your own candied peel. I might make the candied peel, but don’t think I’d bother rendering lard. But who knows? If I make that recipe (sans lard) I’ll let you know, because it does look excellent.

I really enjoy baking, but I hardly ever do it, because if I bake, I know I’ll end up eating more biscuits than I usually allow myself (which is generally none), so it’s lovely to have an opportunity to bake things, try one or two, and give the rest away.

What about you — do you bake things or make gifts for the festive season? And which of the above biscuits would you prefer to receive?

A dog walks in . . .

I’m in the middle of going over a scene I wrote some weeks ago, when suddenly a dog wandered into it. He was quite insistent too, quietly moving in, claiming his place in the story. I’m not quite sure what he’s going to do, but he’s arrived and he has a very definite personality.

I know a lot of people like dogs in stories — I do too, but I’ll only include them if they have a part to play in the story, and it seems this one does—or thinks he does. We shall see.

I had a pretty clear image of what kind of dog he was—large, grey, scruffy and with a solemn, lugubrious expression, so I did a search and well, you can see what popped out at me. Actually, there’s a better photo here, but I’m not prepared to pay $20 to show it to you, so you can just click on the link and see it,

His name, it appears, is Hamish.