Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mumsey's Christmas Cake

This is my own recipe developed from one in an old Edmonds Cook book I got when I first got married. I have changed the fruit quantities and variety, the essences and the way the eggs are prepared and added.

Mumsey’s Christmas Cake

225 g Butter
225 g Brown Sugar
1 Tblsp Mixed Spice
1 dsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Nutmeg
6 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
225 g Flour
½ tsp Baking Powder
1 kg of Mixed Fruit.
125 g Cherries
200 g Dates
1 Tblsp Brandy or brandy essence
1 dsp Almond essence
1 tsp Rum or rum essence

Preheat the oven to 120C to 140C.
Line a 19cm square (at least 6cm deep) cake tin with baking paper and then wrap the outside like a parcel with a double thickness of newspaper leaving the top open and tie with cotton string or cotton but not nylon. A synthetic material will melt in the oven. You could use a different size tin but your cooking time will vary so be aware of that.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and then the yokes in a separate bowl until well mixed.
Mix the fruit with most of the flour, baking powder and salt, saving about 1/3 cup of the flour.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
Beat in the spices and a tablespoon of the flour.
Beat in the yokes a little at a time with a tablespoon of flour with each addition.
Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites a half at a time and the floured fruit. (and any left over flour from the 1/3 cup you had saved)
Lastly add the essences enough to mix and then fill the prepared cake tin. Smooth the top and then gently drop the cake on to the floor to release any bubbles of air.
Bake at 120 to 140C for 3 ½ to 4 hours. Place some folded newspaper on the top of the cake tin for the first hour to stop the top of the cake browning too much.
Allow to cool in the tin.

This cake may be stored for a couple of months before it needs eating wrapped in baking paper and newspaper. Don’t put it in plastic as it will sweat. It may also be frozen. Keeping it for awhile allows the flavours to develop.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

It’s just under a month until Christmas and I feel strangely unpaniced by the thought. I love Christmas and most of my cherubs have the same feeling. It is not so much the presents but the time of family being together and that it is one of the few times in the year that as Christians we can truly celebrate, in this case, the birth of Jesus Christ.
Our home is decorated, presents are bought (but not at great cost), food is prepared and the coming together of family means many memories are made.

I have baked my own Christmas cake and even bought some gifts already. Part of enjoying Christmas is to me, making the time of preparation part of the whole Christmas feel. As I go about baking, decorating, wrapping gifts, writing cards etc, I have carols playing in the background. I don't let the media or what is being said on the radio or television, or what is in the shops govern what I do. This is a time of building our own family traditions. Taking a part of both my husband’s family Christmas and my own we have developed or own unique ways of celebration and built on it.

Food seemed to be a big part of my mother’s family Christmas and I had over the years tried to repeat it in our home but I was exhausted from the efforts and the fridge would bulge with the leftovers we would have to eat for days. Now this can be great for the cook as she gets "time off"!! But, there is a limit as to how much recycled food one wants to eat. I did learn through this that my Grannie was a wonderful woman and really sacrificed her own Christmas days with all the work she did cooking the food that the tables seem to buckle under.

I came to realize that planning was the best way around making it all stress free. This allowed you to see what you needed, how much in size and variety, and so also eliminate the unnecessary extras, which you seemed to think, were important. I am a bit of a “lists” sort of person and have found the Notebook: magazine meal planners fun. Keeping it simple with the foods you like to prepare makes the whole “feeding the family” a joy not a chore. If there are lots of different foods you like, spread them over the three days rather than trying to have everything on Christmas Day. You will only be disappointed when the food you have lovingly prepared gets put back into the fridge or thrown out. It’s the fellowship and tradition that you want family to remember.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

When I have been busy or away and suddenly there is food lying around that needs using up I try to make something with it instead of throwing it out to the hens.
One thing that often happens in our house is that most of our family don't like over ripe bananas, so as soon as they turn colour or get brown specks on them no-body touches them.
I can make banana cake with them or even freeze them whole for a later time but the quick way to use them up is to make these muffins.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups self-raising four
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used chunks)
1/4 tsp salt
100 grams butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup (2-3) mashed bananas (over ripe is best)

Grease 12 medium muffin tins with margarine or butter (I use a paper towel and wipe it on or you could spray with a non-stick spray)
Toss together with a fork in a bowl the first four ingredients.
In a jug melt the butter in a microwave. Add milk, the beaten egg, vanilla and mashed bananas.
Mix with a fork.
Pour the liquids into dry ingredients and gently fold them together about 14 times. It should be lumpy with bits of flour not fully wet.
Fill muffins tins to 3/4 fill.
Bake in preheated oven at 220oC for 12 - 15 minutes until muffins spring back when pressed in the centre.
Allow to stand in tins for 10 minutes then bang and tip out.

Best served while still warm.
But great for lunch boxes too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A glimpse of what was special at Titoki for me

One of the many gardens in the large grounds. This one has a bird house where the three white doves rest if not wondering in the grounds.

A little bridge over a pond that will take you round to a quiet secluded patch.

This pond is one of a few and the fountain had just been fixed the weekend I was there.

This is the view from the deck outside my ranch slider from my room. The chapel is the building on the right which is open everyday for you to sit or listen to music.

This is the room I stayed in with an ensuite off to the right of the photo.

Taking Time to Rest

With all that has been going on over the last few weeks and indeed over this year, I was watching for myself, to make sure I did not end up having a break down as I had five years ago when things like this had happened before. I had learnt from last time that I needed to check for panic attacks, my eating habits and many more things but above all, I needed to look after myself. I had ended up very sick and in a mental health hospital last time, then stayed with friends as I recovered which took ten days, so this time as a prevention, I was encouraged to have some time out for me.
And what an amazing time I had.
I went to the Titoki Healing Centre and was truly blessed. For me I had let the things that are important for me lapse, one being my Bible reading and study. At this retreat I was thoroughly looked after in a caring Christian environment for three days and nights and was able do all I needed and read, sleep and relax.
I also felt encouraged that all I see myself as being ( a wife, mother, grandmother and woman to share with others all the knowledge in these areas) is what God wants me to be and do.
So for you if you are a wife, mother or grandmother than please remember to look after yourself. To do you job properly you need to be nurtured and filled first otherwise you will be of little use for others and so unable to give out to those you love.

I was reminded of the things I enjoy as pampering just me and I encourage you to think about some things for you and buy or put into action what they are.

Examples of what I have on my "list" are:
Lavender body products e.g. Talc, soap and body creams.
Lady Grey tea and a ginger nut first thing in the morning.
A journal to write my thoughts.
A daily walk even if it is just to post a letter.
Time to sit in the sun (or by the fire) with no thoughts of the demands or having to make conversation.
A time slot in the day/week (you will know what amount of time that realistically can be) to do what you love, e.g. reading, writing, drawing, a craft.
A treat just for you (mine is Rose Turkish Delight and I ask my family to give me boxes as gifts)

And remember this is not being selfish or self centered. If you don't look after yourself, who else is? Don't wait for the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, use the harness to get yourself down safely.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Sickness and In Health

If you have followed any of my posts you will have read that last week my husband was admitted to hospital with an overdose. It is not the first time, but still a time of anguish, emotional upheaval and general feeling of being confused and let down. Each time I am challenged to think deeply of what I have as a marriage and relationship with my husband. Mental illness is a part of our lives but it is just one part and not all of it. Like a bubble, along with others, inside the big bubble of who we are.

I will admit that at times I have felt deep down that maybe it would be best for us all if he succeeded, but that is the selfish part of me speaking and I know that is not our destiny. Life was not supposed to be a bed of roses. The thorns are well and truly there and we can either let them dig in or we can prune them away. You won’t know where the thorns are to prune if you don't rest deep enough. It’s like facing the challenge and growing deeper and stronger for doing so.

I have a daily reading from "The Word For Today" that I read and today's was on "Thoughts On Marriage".
I was encouraged by the last paragraph that said

'a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.' Genesis 2:24 (NKJV). This verse is read at almost every wedding. The problem is, most of us don't think about what we're promising. It means breaking all other ties and giving yourself totally to your mate. Rather than working them into your life, it's building your life around them. The word 'cleave' means to stick like glue through bad times and good, and to commit to loving and caring for each other.'

Many times people who don't understand this have suggested it would be best to walk away or seem surprised that I would stay and live with all that is a mental illness. When we marry some use the vows

"to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part,
according to God's holy law.
In the presence of God I make this vow."

and this is now one of those times.
As the above says,
... stick like glue through bad times and good, and (to) commit to loving and caring for each other.'

It is still early days but we are on the road of recovery again and learning new ways to stand strong.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

When things are tough and you need food quick

We have had a crisis the last few days. My husband has a mental illness of depression. This has been under control for the last few years with medication, acceptance, a job with less expectations and new tactics to manage the illness when it starts to make its presence known. Unfortunately my husband felt he could go with out his medication with out telling anyone and thinking he could manage it on his own. But this was not successful and the depression kicked in and he took an overdose last Thursday. This has been a major time of disruption, confusion and stress for the rest of the family both at home and for those living away now.

I have been traveling the 50 or so kms to visit him and some members of family while the younger teenagers have wanted to stay at home.

Mental illness is hard to understand even when you live with it in the family and we all accept and relate to it in our own ways. It is a part of us as a family so we can not sweep it under the mat or hide from it.

Today I came home from being away for 24 hours and I saw we needed something nutritious, filling and quick to make up for the picky feeding the teenagers had eaten while I was away. I was also extremely emotionally and physically tired.
Opening the cupboard I could see a can of baked beans. That was the fibre and protein we needed. I gathered some fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, some flavourings from the cupboard and produced the quick meal below that was quiet delicious!!!

More than Baked Beans

When you need something nutritious and quick this was cooked in less than 15 minutes. This feed two.

olive oil
1 x 420gr tin of baked beans
one medium onion, peeled
two carrots
two leaves of silver beet
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1 DSP Worcester sauce
ground pepper.
Croutons (see note below)

Heat a pan on medium heat.
Add a dollop of olive oil.
Slice the onion in half, end to end, and then cut each half lengthwise into about 6 segments.
Slice the carrots thinly diagonally. If they are fat cut in half lengthwise first.
Cut stalk off silver beet leaves from just below the leaf. (discard stalk or chop very thinly).Roll both leaves up loosely, cut in half lengthwise and then slice widthways thinly.
Add onions to the pan and stir fry for a few minutes.
Add carrots (and sliverbeet stalks if using) and let cook for another few minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick or burn.
Add the silver beet and stir in.
Stir in tin of baked beans and heat through.
Stir in Worcester sauce, parsley and a good grind of pepper.
Serve on plates with a sprinkle of croutons on top.

Note: I made the croutons for this using two pieces of left over toast that one of the cherubs had cooked and just left in the toaster!! I reheated them in the toaster and they were crisp, dry and hot. All I had to do then was slice them into centimetre cubes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sorting the Bills

I have made it a routine to sort and pay the bills either by cheque or loading them on-line on a Tuesday. The main income is paid in on a Wednesday night so I can start posting etc on a Wednesday with everything sorted the day before.
I have spent about one and a half hours today sorting a large box of papers. For a month or so things have been so busy with a wedding and just getting over it all and demands, that all the mail seemed to get chucked in this box. You know, magazines, flyers, bills, statements, receipts, newsletters and things to be read or filed. It was getting so bad I was almost too scared to look in it in case there were over dues or something.

I have never been this bad with sorting and paying bills and being on top of the paper work.
It tends to fall on me to look after all "office work" so I knew there was no sense in asking anyone else to help.

I am so thankful I had a system in place before I started.
After sorting everything into piles (and thankfully nothing was behind!!)I was able to get through everything except some of the reading.
I have ring files for statements and after I have checked it all out I filed some receipts (in case you need to return something) in a file. The rest got biffed.
I file away tax papers in a tax folder.
Main item receipts eg rates, insurances, registrations and annual subscriptions are kept in a clear file and replaced each time they are paid.

For the weekly paying of bills and other smaller things I like to refer too, (donation envelopes, buisness letters and such) I have a box the size of a shoe box. Bills etc are all put together in a rubber band and kept in the box along with a little bag I call my "mobile office". This contains all the things needed to write letters, bills and post etc so I don't have to go hunting around the house for stationary, that maybe being borrowed on a long term basis by other members of our house!!! The bag is a plastic bag that pillowslips came in and it has a zip but you could use a pencil case or what ever.

My Mobile Office

Note paper
Note pads
Address labels
Glue stick
Rubber bands
Paper clips
Stapler with spare staples

The whole issue of being on time for bills etc is very important for us as we run a tight budget with main bills sorted to be paid at particular times through out the year, so in my mind I knew what was due but didn't like being behind. It felt so good to finish it all and not have the stress of not knowing what was overdue. With the system already in place it actually didn't take quite as long as I had thought.

Putting some kind of system in place over a period of time makes the process of getting a job done much calmer. It becomes a routine and a lot less like a chore.

Chocolate Chippie Biscuits

This is another Manual Training recipe. (1960's school cooking) I have lost the recipe but have made it so many times I can just make it from memory (well it might be memory or just made up as I go along, but it works!!!!) And to be honest the ones in the photo are a little over cooked. It's a biscuit that changes colour quickly so watch it near the end of cooking time.


125g butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBSP condensed milk (Try not to eat too much of that while you are spooning it out!)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 - 1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 C
Soften the butter and sugar (I use the microwave for about 20 seconds - you don't want it to melt)
Cream the butter, sugar and condensed milk until it is light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla.
Slowly beat in the flour and baking powder. Just add the first cup.
Add the chocolate chips. If the mixture is still too sticky to roll in your hands add some more flour but just about a tablespoon at a time. You don't want the mixture to go crumbly.
Roll into balls (I actually weighed one so you would know how big they are and it was 20gr).
Place on a baking paper lined tray (or lightly greased) a few centimetres apart and press down with a fork. If the fork gets stuck to the biscuit dip the fork in some plain flour.)
Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes but watch them. You just want them to turn slightly golden around the edges.
Cool on a rack.

American Chocolate Brownie

This recipe if from a folder of recipes by mail (yes I have done that sort of thing too!!!). My son doesn't like nuts in things (along with a whole lot of other things) so I omit the walnuts, but it is supposed to have them in. It only lasts a couple of days in our house. (It gets eaten not having time to go off) We call it American Chocolate Brownie but the recipe is titled just Chocolate Brownies.


2 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar (250g)
125g butter
1/3 cup cocoa (40g)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup self-raising flour (60g)
1/4 cup dark choc' bits (50g) (I use chocolate chips)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (50g) (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a 20 cm square tin.
Beat in the mixer (or by hand, but with a mixer it makes it lighter) the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. (while that is happening)
Melt butter and cocoa until just combined in the microwave or on a stove top.
Beat the butter and cocoa into the eggs and add the vanilla.
Fold in the flour and chocolate (and walnuts if using) and pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 40 minutes and sprinkle with icing sugar while still warm.

You could make this as a desert served with whipped cream. Yum!!

Home Blessing Hour

Home blessing hour you may be saying, what is this??
It is a "flylady" thing Finally Loving Yourself. Check out her web site.
She helps you to organise yourselves, home and lives through routines and great self boosting ways.
I have been using her systems adapted to suit me (it is an American site) for three years now. She helped me to learn to de clutter and alter/make my routines.

One of her routines is the Home Blessing Hour. (HBH)
Once a week on a Monday I go around the house and do a basic clean. It is supposed to take one hour but I spend a bit longer sometimes - well most but I know its done in at least an hour and a half.
Its a good feeling to know these basic things are done each week. Flylady also works on a different "zone" in the house each new week so you are always on top of the cleaning.

Home Blessing Hour
Change sheets on beds
Sort recycling (recycling day every second Tuesday)
Empty rubbish bins (rubbish day Tuesdays)
Clean mirrors and door windows
Dust with a feather duster
Polish wooden furniture
Clean fireplace (In the winter)

I have always done a main wash on a Monday so this suited well.
I do all the towels and bath mats if they haven't been done this day too.
Surprisingly enough it tends to be fine on a Monday even in the winter most of the times so I very really have baskets of washing piling up, nor do I use the dryer much at all. Having had five children and only used cloth nappies it was just part of my day to do two or three loads each day.
We had lines in the garage for nappies and sheets, and an old wooden fold out clothes horse that I still use. I also try to fold the washing as I take it off the line - saves double handling.

Getting the rubbish and recycling sorted and out, helps to stop build ups of clutter.

A quick whiz around the house with a feather duster gets rid of most of the surface dust as well as in-between things or items up high e.g. pictures, light shades, with out having to move things. I use an ostrich feather duster (like my mother used) available from Mitre 10 or Mega stores. A good clean of the surfaces is done at different times when I do a zone.

Doing mirrors and door windows just makes the place feel brighter and so does polishing my "real" wooden tables.

The vacuming and mopping is just a quick surface clean (I vacum again later in the week) and thorough floor cleans are done at zone weeks too.

If you do join Flylady be aware that you get emails each day (up to about 6) but you don't have to read them and just be in control with your mouse and click them away, but they are good to remind you until you are confident in the routines you want to stick to. She also has a forum you can join.

It's good to "bless" the house on Monday after everyone has been home in the weekend and when it's finished I sit and relax with a cuppa not having to look at mess!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peanut Brownies

This is a very old Manual Training recipe (cooking at school in the late 1960's). It is another family favourite with the added treat of a sprinkle of sugar on the top. This recipe makes about 2 dozen biscuits. I make it in my Kenwood mixer so I can just add the ingredients while it is beating all the time.


125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP cocoa
1/2 cup peanuts
extra sugar for sprinkling, (about a heaped tsp)

Preheat the oven to 180 C
Soften the butter and sugar (I use the microwave for about 20 seconds - you don't want it to melt)
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the egg and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients, mixing well. I hold back the last 1/2 of flour and add it as it's needed. Most times I actually have to add another 1/2 cup extra. Do this after you have added the peanuts. You want the mixture to be moist enough to mould into balls, not sticky but not crumbly either.
Add the peanuts.
Mix well ( if you are doing this in the mixer you don't want to do this for much or it will break all the peanuts up) and roll into balls (about a TBSP of mixture).
Place on a baking paper lined tray (or lightly greased). Press down with a fork to about 6 or 7 mm thick.
Bake for 20 minutes until the biscuit "bounces" back when lightly pressed with a finger.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the top while they are still hot.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.


My Husband loves these. He calls them "Fiona's Gingernuts" and sings the old Griffins gingernut song. "Fiona's Gingernuts are so spicy, made from her own recipe. There are no gingernuts taste quite the same, ask for Fiona's ginger nuts by name"!
I use an Alison Holst recipe but add a bit more flavour!!

Makes about a dozen medium size biscuits (I use two trays)


100gr butter
1 household TBSP golden syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 180 C
Melt butter, golden syrup and sugar in the microwave or a pan on the stove but remove from heat as soon as the butter has melted (stir a bit in the microwave and definitely on the stove - it melts quicker and you won't burn the bottom of the pan)
Add ginger, allspice, vanilla and stir. Add egg and stir quickly so it doesn't start to cook. You may have to cool the mixture a bit, before you add the egg, for a few minutes if it got to hot at the beginning.
Sift in the flour and baking soda. Mixing well. (I tend to hold the last half cup or so of flour and add it after I have given the rest a good mix. Each time the recipe seems to need a different amount of flour as it will depend on the egg size, how melted it is etc)
Roll into balls (add a bit more flour if it is too sticky) about a dessert spoon of mixture and place on baking paper lined trays. (or lightly greased). The mixture will flatten and spread while cooking so there is no need to flatten them but you must allow plenty of room. That is why I use two trays and only put about 16 on one tray.
Bake for about 10 minutes until golden (Watch for the colour you want but don't burn them) If you want to save time cook both trays at a time swapping them around half way through cooking.
Leave to cool a little on the tray and then cool on wire rack. Keep in air tight container.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When Enough is Enough

I slept in this morning but still managed to get to church on time.

The vicar challenged us to consider how rich we are in the blessings we already have and to see it as enough. He then asked when is enough enough and how long will we keep striving for more - shifting the goal posts and never being satisfied. It made me think of one of the reasons why I started this blog.

My husband has suffered from depression due to a sub-arachnoid aneurysm (brain haemorrhage) 25 years ago and over the last ten years he has attempter suicide on three occasions and considered it another three, so we have had our income halved, tried to live on the sickness benefit and ACC on one occasion, and we have had to consider what we have is enough
It is not something that you come to over night but when the going gets tough and you see you do have a roof over your head, clothes and a fire to keep you warm, basic food in the cupboards and a loving family, you soon see the blessing in that. They are all things to be grateful for.

It is making what we do have matter and be enough, that has made me go back to all the home-making ideas I know

As well as sorting the house to a reasonable state of tidiness!! (cleaning will be tomorrow) I have darned a large hole in my husbands work jumper, baking four things for lunches and ironed all the clothes for work/college tomorrow.

I used to get frustrated that this all ended up on a Sunday, my "day of rest", but it certainly saved all the hassles of the Monday morning back to work and school,over the years as everything was ready so I have resigned to it and count Fridays as my day!!

Who is Mumsey?

I am a 54 year old mother of five cherubs (children) aged 19 to 33. Two are married and I have three grandsons and two grand-daughters. My husband and I have been married for 35 years.
[edited September 2013]
I have often been told I have a lot to offer to both the young and old. My cherubs who live away from home often ring, txt or email for advice.

You see I am a home maker at heart although I work part time in our church office. My mother and grandmothers taught me a lot of what I know and I realise that for many, especially in these times, they do not or have not had this privilege.

So to pass this on to whoever wants it or just to jolly you along I have decided to start a blog.