Monday, June 28, 2010

She wore red velvet

Image from

I read a couple of American blogs and I have been intrigued for some time by mention of red velvet cake. It sounded so decadent. What could it be? So I googled 'easy red velvet cake' on the weekend and I made one. The result, I have to say, was very, very encouraging. This is the recipe I followed:

1 cake mix (they suggest butter or vanilla cake mix, I went with chocolate)

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil (I used butter)

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 oz. red food colouring

3 eggs

Combine. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about an hour. It's a very liquid mixture so it takes a while in the oven.

Apparently it is a traditional cake of America's South and it can be made I believe from scratch rather than by using a cake mix. Also, it is usually served with cream cheese frosting but I went with chocolate instead.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I want one!

Love these badges that Sefarina has made - And - very cool - she's giving them away! Go take a look.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Taste of Honey

Like my favourite pop culture icon Morrissey (lead singer of the Smiths), I have always been attracted to the 'kitchen sink' British dramas of the 1950s and 60s. So called because these books, plays and films were realistic to the point of including even the drab kitchen sink, they appeal to me because they focus on people just trying to lead their lives even when that life may not be infused with glamour, adventure or sweeping romance. I was first introduced to them through Stan Barstow's "A Kind of Loving" trilogy of books.

How people make their way along life's path is a constant source of fascination for me because how I myself have done and am doing just that has taken up a lot of my own brain-space over the years. This clip is the perfect combination - the music is "Hand in Glove" by the Smiths and the film is "A Taste of Honey" starring Rita Tushingham. The film was taken from a book of the same title by Shelagh Delaney. The song speaks, for me at least, of finding moments of happiness wherever you can - finding the diamond in the dustbin, looking for just a taste of honey - even though those moments may be fleeting. And this also sums up the 'kitchen sink' genre in my eyes.

I have tracked down "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" with Albert Finney and "A Taste of Honey" on DVD so I think I know what I'll be watching on the wet and cold weekend that awaits us...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

She's the girl with the high-heeled feet

Image from
We have recently acquired season 3 of Mad Men so I am once more in love with all things vintage. So much so that I have resolved once and for all to learn to sew properly on my lovely-but-largely-untouched sewing machine and make some of my own vintage outfits. I love to trawl the vintage pages of Etsy for goodies but those who are seeking the...ahem...larger items of clothing don't have much luck unless they are prepared to pay considerable sums. Which leads me to wonder how larger women clothed themselves in the 1950s and 1960s. Certainly more women would have known how to sew and dressmakers were used far more widely than they are today but then one realises the horrible truth...they wore girdles, as did almost every other woman after either the perfect 50s hourglass shape or the 60s pencil thin. Well, no girdle for me I'm afraid, I am just going to have to adapt my love for vintage to what works for me. And this in itself makes an interesting point about our own era as compared with the 1950s - I can choose not to wear a girdle. I can choose not to be a particular shape. Or am I deluding myself? Has the girdle simply been replaced today with other feminine constraints?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From Grossmutter with Love

With winter comes baking and lots of it. I have made two gems recently out of Recipes from My Grossmutter: A Collection of Recipes from Hahndorf Women of Today and Yesterday. Hahndorf is a town in South Australia, just outside of its capital, Adelaide. A lot of German immigrants settled there in the nineteenth century and it still makes much of its German heritage (read more here: So first there is the basic cake recipe. Having tried and loved 'the basic', I have since added mixed peel to make it a orange cake, mixed fruit to make it a fruit cake, chocolate etc. It turns out beautifully every time:
Sift together 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, pinch salt. Add 1 cup sugar, stir sugar & flour together. Add few drops vanilla essence & 2 unbeaten eggs, melt 4 ozs. butter. Add to above mixture plus 1/2 cup milk. Stir all together. I have been baking it at 180 degrees celsius.
And then there's the Bumblebees:
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup dates
1 cup coconut
1/2 tin condensed milk (I used the whole tin - it's a pretty dry recipe)
Mix all ingredients with condensed milk. Takes teaspoons of mixture, shape and roll in coconut. Bake in a moderate oven until light brown.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This blanket of snow

Apologies for my absence of late. Various things have come together to get in the way of blogging. My computer died and so we had all the slow tedium of organising and setting up a replacement. Then we discovered that the new camera software was not working on the new computer so all of the photos I had been taking for the blog were not uploading. Added to these techie woes, it is in the depths of winter here and cold. Not cold I realise by European standards but as cold a winter as we've had for some time. So now I have a chest infection to top things off! But enough whimpering. Winter is a part of the year's cycle and we have to make the best of it somehow. If only I had a fraggle to knit me a blanket...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today I Saw

I have been following Jill's "Today I Saw" project over at for some months now. Sadly it's now come to an end. But Jill is organising a postcard swap so that everyone else can now have their own little moment of Today I Saw observational magic. I for one have signed up. Check it out!