Tuesday 30 January 2024

January Skies in 2024


January is our mid-summer month and, here in Hamilton, is usually the sunniest and one of the driest months of the year.

We average 230 hours of sunshine, a maximum average temperature of 24C (76F) and an average low of 15C (59F).  Rain can be expected around 20% of the time, and relative humidity averages a little over 70%.

Overall, the weather in January can be quite pleasant most of the time.

Some of our local hot-air balloon enthusiasts agree with me, and we have seen this sight out the window on several early mornings this month.

Enjoying a balloon ride soon after dawn

Most of our days have been blue skies with fluffy white clouds, and lately our temperatures have been in the late 20sC but thankfully dropping back into the mid-teens during the night.

Cloud building up on a sunny afternoon

We have also experienced some rain, and even a bit of thunder.  This photo was taken about ten minutes before a torrential downpour.

The sky was much darker than the photo shows

It is not very often I get to see lenticular clouds, so was thrilled to see this one recently.  They usually form over mountainous areas so I am picking it was actually sitting somewhere above National Park, roughly 150km away “as the crow flies.”

I was sitting beneath our umbrella!

January seems to have passed by very quickly, but I feel it has been a productive month.  I have achieved a few things (decluttering, organising etc.) that I have been wanting to do for a long, long time.

Life is good 😊



Sunday 28 January 2024

Butter Spreaders


Several months ago, one of my dinner forks decided to leave its companions and take an adventure all on its own.  I have been waiting for it to come home again but so far it hasn’t yet turned up, so I went and purchased another one.

Sitting beside the loose dinner forks, as part of the same cutlery set, there were butter spreaders.  Now, I know these have probably been around for ages but I have never used one before.

Growing up, we used bone-handled flexible blunt-bladed knives to butter our bread.  The knives I now use are slightly larger and still have the blunt blade but are not flexible.

I’ve been seeing these spreaders in use in several of the Japanese and Korean housewife vlogs I’ve been watching lately (a good activity when the afternoon gets too hot), and a French internet site told me they are specifically designed for evenly spreading butter, jams, pates etc. onto slices of bread, crackers or rusks.

My cutlery set now has seven new additions (counting the fork), and I can report that I love using the spreaders.  They are slightly different to using a knife, but feel good in the hand and the act of applying a spread to the bread felt like a work of art instead of something you do automatically (though no doubt that feeling will change!).

Isn’t it nice to have something different for a change?  It adds a little bit of spark to daily life 😊



Wednesday 24 January 2024

Our Garden In January


The warm humid weather may not have been the best for some of us humans, but the plants have been loving it.  The lawns have been growing well, although they are beginning to dry off now, and the weeds have been having a field day.

The garden often shows off a few bright spots and I thought I might display some of them here.

This nasturtium has done well this year in my tub garden.  It is a non-trailing dwarf named Empress of India.

Most of the grasses have seeded this year.  These are all planted in pots, and they are growing well under son’s tender loving care.

The large potted cyclamen has gone into hibernation for the summer, but a couple of these little ones are still flowering.

The rhubarb is about ready for us to make another small harvest.  I like seeing the lobelia flowering beneath them.

This salmon-coloured geranium has flowered and flowered.

The marigolds have also flowered well.  We often let the seeds set on them as the pet rats find them a tasty treat.

This day lily has been living up to its name, and most days gives us a bright splash of colour.

I couldn’t remember the name of these pretty flowers, but I think they were asters.

Dwarf impatiens brighten up this corner, but, as you can see, the weeds are growing as well as the plants!

Most days I enjoy wandering around looking at the garden (I’m not able to do much work in it now). 

There is always something new to be seen, and a garden can truly be said to be a place of joyous experiences (and, perhaps, sore backs!).

May gardens always bring you pleasure 😊



Sunday 21 January 2024

Half Cup Puddings


I love food!  Eating delicious meals is something I really enjoy.  The trouble is, as I grow older, I’m finding I need to adjust more and more how and what I eat. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I am sometimes using chopsticks to help me eat a bit slower.  I’m also trying to watch the portion sizes that I serve myself. 

The recommended size of one serve of pudding/dessert is half a cup, which doesn’t seem very much but is actually quite adequate.

Dinner just doesn’t seem complete without something sweet to finish with, and I’m afraid fresh fruit doesn’t usually do it for me (even though I enjoy it for breakfast and lunch).

Feeling guilty about what you eat is a terrible way to live, so I am not going to deny myself the pleasure of eating pudding.  I just want to control how much I eat.

And so it was that when I went op/thrift shopping last week, I was delighted to find these two wine glasses that hold half a cup each. 

Don’t you just love the neon blue colour of this blueberry jelly? Although I shudder a little to think what colour it will make my insides!

I only make up half a packet at a time, so I can finish it within two days.  I will have one tonight and the other tomorrow night, and eat them (slowly!) with a small teaspoon.

The other item I was delighted to find was this decorative china plate.  It is one of a 1996 Bradford Exchange issue by artist Lena Liu, and I just loved the whole pretty picture it made.

We continue to have hot weather here, often quite sultry.  Thankfully it is a little cooler in the mornings so I can get things done around the house.

The pets struggle a bit.  Son gives the rats cold ice cubes to gnaw on and they spend a lot of their time sitting on stones and staring out the cage towards any air movement (we often have a fan directed at them).

The cats find the coolest spot they can, usually the concrete beneath the carport in the shade.  They sprawl out with their bellies on the ground, and their fur seems to all be standing up on end (the worst of being a long-haired cat).  We brush them both regularly but they are still shedding hair.

This is Mittens enjoying the deck before the sun began to bake it.

I hope your day is a good one 😊



Thursday 18 January 2024



A lovely way to start the morning is to have a serve of fresh seasonal fruit.

I don’t always get to do this – and sometimes I incorporate the fruit into my cereal – but this morning I enjoyed a delicious bowl of chilled watermelon before my muesli.

The mint garnish was added to make the plate look more appetising, and the green certainly helped the red to look a little brighter.

Chopsticks were the utensils of choice.  I am inclined to eat my food a little too fast, and using chopsticks slowed me down – by quite a lot actually, as I’m not very good using chopsticks!

After cutting the watermelon into cubes I proceeded to use a paring knife to pick out all the pips.

Eating outside and spitting pips out onto the lawn while juice dribbles down your chin can be fun.  I have been known to do this, but not for breakfast.

Breakfast should be a meal, not a messy adventure.  (Funny how we make these rules for ourselves).

I should also mention that I have this thing against pips in watermelon and grapes, but strangely don’t mind them when eating passionfruit (although I can’t crunch them).  My husband used to think I was odd!

Always appreciate the food you eat 😊



Tuesday 16 January 2024

Two From A Teapot


Over the years I have decluttered and decluttered and disposed of endless items, and some of them are a bit like boomerangs and make their way back to me again! 

I seldom regret what goes out the door, and most of them I never think of again, but just occasionally I do miss an item and when I find it again I am powerless to resist adding it back into my collection of stuff.

However, sometimes unexpected items also make their way back to me.  A family member recently moved house and came across a book that had belonged to me as a young child.  Did I want it back again?

I was thrilled.  I had almost forgotten I had owned the book, but still remembered the story and have enjoyed going through it again.

The book was called Two From A Teapot, published in the mid-1950s, and is the story of Tabitha Tabbitail (a kitty) and how two little mice, who lived in a teapot, cared for her when she was ill during one winter.

It is a charming tale and is illustrated with some delightful drawings and pictures.

Sometimes it is rather nice to feel a bit sentimental 😊


Sunday 14 January 2024

Mustard Relish


When I was not long married, and learning to cook by experimenting on my long-suffering husband, my paternal grandmother gave me her recipe for Mustard Pickles.

My mother had a similar recipe that she called Piccalilli.  Between both recipes, and my own changes, I have now arrived at a recipe I call Mustard Relish.

Part of the reason for changing the name was that my husband and I preferred ours to be spreadable.  Neither of us were that keen on chunky pickles dolloped on our dinner plate.

We also had preferences when it came to the vegetables we used.  Over the years, after much testing and trialling, we settled on a mostly cauliflower relish, with onions and green beans.  It was what we liked the most.

The end result of all our experimentation was finely chopped vegetables in a mustard sauce that goes really well with tasty cheese on a cracker or in a sandwich.

Early one morning this last week, I utilised a large cauliflower from the greengrocer and made Mustard Relish for myself (son is not that keen on it).  It is only a small recipe, as there is only me to eat it!

Preparing vegetables for the Relish

Waiting two hours for the brining stage

The end result


Total time taken: 3 hours 45 minutes      

Prepare the vegetables:  peel 2 large onions and cut into fine dice.  Top and tail 100g green beans and cut into ¼ inch slices.  Weigh them and make weight up to 1kg with cauliflower florets (about half a cauliflower).  Cut flower part off floret into small chunks and dice the stalk part.  Add to the onions and beans.  Making everything small helps the relish to be more spreadable, instead of being chunky.

Sprinkle with 2 tsp plain salt and mix well.  Lightly cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to sit on the bench for 2 hours (or overnight), before transferring the vegetables (do not rinse them) into a preserving saucepan.

Add 1 cup white sugar, 2 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp ground turmeric, ½ tsp ground cloves, and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper.  Add enough white vinegar to just about cover the vegetables (about 4 cups).

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour, stirring often.

Mix about 2 Tbsp cornflour with a little extra vinegar and use it to thicken the mixture (use more or less cornflour to obtain the consistency desired). 

Remove from heat and spoon relish into hot sterile jars.  This recipe filled four 300ml jars.

Screw on the lid, if using pop-top lids, or else let the relish cool completely before covering it with melted paraffin wax and a lid.

Delicious on a Cheese Scone

Bon Appetit 😊



Friday 12 January 2024

Breakfast On The Deck


We had a pretty sunset last night.  I sat outside on the deck (again!) and watched as the clouds changed through the oranges and red colours and finally became dark (the colours were more intense than what has shown up in my photo).

Mittens sat in the grass garden and watched me.

Breakfast this morning was taken on the deck at 7am, with the sun peeping above the neighbour’s roof and the temperature sitting at a very pleasant 17 degrees Celsius.

Today I had rolled oats (straight from the packet) with chia seeds, a fresh plum (it was meant to be two, but one had gone rotten), milky yoghurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

My tea was Lady Grey, with no milk or sugar.

Most mornings I have a chewable vitamin C tablet, as it seems to work well with my constitution. 

The other object on the tray contains the last remnants of my latest block of comb honey.  It is an expensive treat (this one cost me $28), so I have only been having 1 teaspoon of it each morning.  Delicious!

I hope your day will be a happy one 😊




Thursday 11 January 2024

In The Cool Of The Evening


How pleasant it is to sit outside in the evening after a hot sultry day.  Not that we get as hot or as sultry as some places around the world, but it is enough heat and humidity to sap all the energy out of me.

I am rising early in the mornings to get done what must be done, and then the rest of the day is spent seeking the coolest spot in the house and finding something non-energetic to do.

As the temperature cools down again in the evening, I love being able to sit outside on the deck with a tall glass of chilled water and watch the night close in. 

Our solar fairy lights never all come on at once (we have four separate strands), so I sit and watch them too as they flicker on.

Most of the birds have settled down for the night, but there is always the odd one twitting and flitting around. 

A kind of hush seems to fall across the human world, with no lawnmowers going, no happy children playing next door, no noisy traffic zooming up and down our road – I guess they are all having dinner or watching television.

Of course, the mosquitos also enjoy the evening!  I have two citronella candles that I light and sit on the deck beside me, and they seem to work at keeping most of them away (for some reason, mozzies think my blood is delicious).

Do you have a favourite way of ending a hot summer’s day?

Margaret 😊


Monday 8 January 2024

A Family Celebration


My eldest son has turned 50 years old!  How did that happen?  It seems like yesterday when he was just a babe in arms and I was a new mother trying to work out how to do everything.

It doesn’t help that I can remember quite clearly celebrating my own half-century sojourn in this world.  Time certainly has a way of moving on, regardless, it seems, of what we do or don’t do in our lives.

We celebrated with a quiet family dinner, cooked by his daughter.

Followed by the obligatory homemade birthday cake (carrot cake with cream cheese icing).

As I write this, on a Monday afternoon, the weather here is quite sultry.  Every fan in the house is going and all the windows and outside doors are wide open to catch the slightest hint of breeze.

The forecast is for our temperatures to be in the late 20s (Celsius) this week.  Thankfully the mornings are cooler and I can get most of my housework done then, before I blob-out for the rest of the afternoon!

Have a happy day 😊



Friday 5 January 2024

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


It is many, many years since I last made a Pineapple Upside Down Cake so cooking this one was a bit of an experiment.  I am happy with how it turned out – and the ones who ate it, were happy too!

I recently purchased a 10.25 inch Lodge cast iron skillet and read that Upside Down Cakes were particularly good when cooked in one, and that was enough prompt to get me to try it.

Turning it out of the pan was a mission though, as I don’t own a heat-proof plate large enough to cover the top of the skillet.  That problem was solved by utilising a ceramic tile that is usually used as a hot saucepan placemat (well washed, of course), and then using two egg slices to carefully lift the cake onto the serving plate.

It may have turned out a little dark, as I ran out of brown sugar and had to use some muscavado

This is the recipe I used:


Drain a 420g can of pineapple rings (it contains 8 rings and I needed 7) and make the juice up to 3/4 cup with water (if there is not enough juice present).  Place 2oz butter into the cast iron skillet and pop it into the preheating oven.  When the butter has melted, remove from the oven and add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, stirring so that the base is evenly covered.  Arrange 7 pineapple rings in the bottom and place a glace cherry in the centre of each.  Set the pan aside while making the cake batter.

Sift together 6oz flour and 2 tsp baking powder and set aside.  Cream 6oz butter with 4oz white sugar, then beat in 2 eggs and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence.  Mix together with the dry ingredients – the mixture should be just pourable, so if it is too stiff then add a little milk.

Pour the batter over the pineapple in the skillet, spreading out with a spoon so the top surface is even.  Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and will spring back when lightly touched in the centre.  Remove pan from oven and allow to cool down for 10 minutes (watch where you place it, the skillet is very hot). 

Run a blunt knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it, then place a plate face down on top of the pan.  Using oven mitts, hold them closely together and quickly turn over.  Remove the pan.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake can be served warm as a dessert, with whipped cream or icecream on the side, but is also nice eaten cold.

I have also read that you can make this using other fruit, and would be interested to hear if anyone has ever done this and how it turned out.

May all your puddings be good ones 😊


Tuesday 2 January 2024

The Wind In The Willows


Ratty and Toad.  Mole and Badger.  How can one not love these little creatures in Kenneth Grahame’s adorable children's classic, “The Wind in the Willows”?

There are many books that publish this tale, or parts of it, but I was thrilled when I received this unabridged version.  It is many years since I have read the whole story – and I doubt many youngsters today would understand some of the archaic language!

It is only a small book, barely larger than a photograph, but it is light to handle and the print is easy to read.  I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my old friends in this edition, put out as a Collectable Classic by Flame Tree Publishing.

Our weather today is sunny and fairly calm, a bit different to the gales we were punished with yesterday.  But apart from the slamming of a couple of windows (which thankfully didn’t smash) we had an enjoyable day doing very little.

Our comfrey is growing well (almost too well!) and the bees are loving the flowers.

I even had time yesterday to create this in my journal.

Happy Holidays everyone 😊