In a Past Life

Lady Moss used to be a stylist. Not that you’d know to look at me, I’m like the plumber with the leaky taps and prefer sweats to skinny jeans, Havianas are my shoe of choice even in winter. But, give me five minutes and I can supermarket sweep you into a brand new wardrobe. I only wish I could write as well as I can dress you because my passion certainly isn’t fashion I just happen to be good at it.

After a Friday Ladies Lunch that ended at 10pm, I was convinced to rethink my position and take on a few makeovers. I won’t say clients because I couldn’t bear to accept money from friends, rather a new rug from a designer friend will go down very nicely indeed. Oh yes.

It got me to thinking about the change in season and my perennial mummy uniform. I simply exchange a black singlet for a long sleeve black top, throw on leggings and occasionally boots. In this town we pull out thongs for a downpour, they dry faster than wellies.

I’ve taken a leaf out of my own style manual and started preparing an outfit the evening before, photographing it for Instagram approval more than once. With the temperature at long last falling below sweltering one can begin to think about layering and even throw on the odd light-weight scarf as the sun begins to drop over the Harbour. The addition of a new pair of heeled lace-ups gets me in the mood for tights and tartan.

If you’re at all inspired to do the same, reach into the depths of your robe for something not seen in awhile and mix it up according to the season you are moving into. Photograph a few outfits as a reference and see how uplifted you feel in the morning rush putting on an outfit as apposed to a uniform.

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Rainy Summer Days

Its been a lovely lead into Autumn this week and the busy homemaking that goes with forced indoors play. Lady Moss has been lighting scented candles in every corner, recreating the spicy smells of Christmas with a few leftover apple, cinnamon and clovey favourites mixed with a few new purchases of Moir Honey Nector. This amalgamation of foody, syrupy goodness has certainly got us all excited about the new season.

Although Sydney is barely affected by the colour changes that go with the descent into winter, our little foursome will soon grab a basket, fill it with soup, scarves and gloves to make our annual trip to Mt Wilson to celebrate the falling leaves and turning dark earth. In the meantime we are enjoying the last of our tomato crop, not that one has time to use them as they are mostly gobbled up on route from garden to kitchen along with the very sparse offerings of the strawberry patch.

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I’ve finally discovered Pinterest although I can’t seem to stop calling it Pin-interest but thats just me. Should anybody besides Mossy be interested in what I have on my bag lust and crafts to make lists,  feel free to take a look at Ladymmoss.

I was inspired by blog.mandylynne.com to create felt sleep masks for Ari’s little friends’ birthday last week. A very tidy hour or two spent cutting felt beside the King as he drew sea monsters and mummy with three legs. As all of my homemade gifts seem to be, these have been well loved already and it truly gladdens my spirit that a little gift made from the heart wins every time over yet another box of lego or plastic tiara.

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I drew these freehand, using the ideas from mandylynne and decided to hot glue the pieces together rather than sew for an invisible finish. I may have blown up my glue gun but that is definitely a story for another time. Such a simple craft to make, Ari and The King have decided they would like to make a pair for themselves. Anything to make littles sleep right?IMG_5373[1]

In other Rainbow Lane news, no I didn’t give up alcohol for a month please…. we made pork dumplings! Yes dumplings! My beloveds and I spent a stormy Sunday afternoon making these from scratch. Dough to Whoa. We used Poh’s recipe and took plenty of photos to share with you all. Fabulously easy and delicious to make they are a great way to get the kids cooking and eating. A very similar consistency to playdough you are killing two birds with one stone by combining cooking and playtime!

And with that reminder of food, Lady Moss is off to refill the wine glass whilst stirring a Beef Ragu in Milk with Polenta that has been merrily bubbling away on the stove these past few delightful hours. Be sure that I’ll let you know if its any good!

In Honour of Those We Love The Most

Be Joyous Dear One. You still have time to make the worlds most Magical Pudding. My Nanna Ruth’s.

In my house growing up, this luscious mix of fruit, sugar, brandy and tuppence was stirred by one and all, wishing as we went. Normally on a frosty country Saturday afternoon in June, the Rothheudt kids would wait in line for their turn to grasp the wooden spoon. Tiny muscles heaving I and my three brothers would merrily tumble that glorious mix, often sticking in a finger for a lick whilst mama’s back was turned. Lady Moss managed to get ours put away five weeks out this year, but really you could do it now with no harm done to flavour whatsoever.

I still remember many of my wishes, fervently uttered under a heady cloud of brandy and spice and I am glad to speak them still. Happiness for my family, health for my brother and that he never spend a Christmas in hospital and would Santa please remember I wanted twin My Little Ponies. Strangely enough I always ended my request with a whispered Amen, a habit that has remained a constant presence and comfort to me, more still as a mother.

This special recipe fills me with much joy to share Dear Reader. Please see it as a gift to cherish, from me to you. I proudly carry my Grandmothers name, her cake making ability, her obsession for absolute quality in shoes and her greatest lesson, strength. She has taught me that, no matter the heft of the burden, I can always dig deeper and find more courage to hold steady.

I recount this recipe in ounces for that is how it has been handed down to me:

8oz sultanas

8oz currants

4 oz dates chopped

4oz raisins

1 cup water

1/2 cup (very loosely measured) brandy

1/2 cup brown sugar

4oz butter

1tsp bicarb

You will also need at least one other to share the load, for no other reason that noone should be alone at Christmas.

Day One:

Wash and dry fruit, place in a tray and liberally drizzle with brandy. Leave this for at least 24 hours.

Day Two or Three (depending on the size of your brandy hangover):

Place fruit, sugar, butter and water in a pot over medium heat.

Stir until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 8 minutes.

Remove from the stove and stir in bicarb. In front of an audience of Littles is best for an impromptu science lesson.

Leave this to cool.

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Day Three:

1 egg

1 cup plain flour

1 cup self raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine the dry ingredients and whisked egg into the luscious fruit mixture.

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Gather your family, friends, neighbours, courier around to each make a wish as they stir. If you can get your hands on a few vintage tuppence they make a thoughtful addition and a nod to the past.

Feel free to add another generous slug of brandy should you like. Lady Moss likes to. Very much.

We use a porcelain pudding bain in Rainbow Lane, mostly for sentimental value but you could use anything that will snugly fit your mixture and allow it to steam. Cover well with baking paper, two layers of foil and tie with kitchen string.

Place in a large, deep pot and fill to 2/3 with water. Steam this four hours long before placing at the back of your fridge to sit and ripen until Christmas. Try to abstain from opening the wrapping a pinch for a smell. Ha I dare you.

On the day you serve, (assuming you could wait til Christmas) steam for a further two hours before you gather all around to cheer as you yet again drench in brandy and set alight your creation.

To serve, pour over good quality cream, custard or Hard Sauce which simply put, is butter, icing sugar and brandy amalgamated into a mass of heavenly goodness when spooned on top of a hot pudding.

Amen.

 

Very Busy and Important Elf Work

The days are rushing past now in a flurry of activity and pre-Christmas fun, much like the swirling snowflakes in Ari’s snow-globe and we are happily swept up in it.

Busy crafting, baking, wrapping and twining, we are strangely enough, also trying new recipes that require hours of preparation and time spent communally stirring the pot as if we cannot bear to be dragged away from the stove right now.

Last week it was Heston Blumenthal or as Ari affectionately calls her idol “That Crazy Heston” and his Perfect Spaghetti Bolognaese. A triumph of exquisite flavour, with such length and breadth on the palette that it could be tasted a minute after swallowing each delicious bite! It was of course well toasted with corresponding wines from generous friends and finished with Uncle Jamie’s Mulled Wine.

If you only create one new thing this December make it this recipe. Spicy and sweet with a deep crimson hue, its Christmas in a glass, or bottled if you need last minute gift ideas.

A very simple process of creating a red wine sugar syrup before adding a few decent bottles of red, it was a welcome reprieve from the intensity that is a Heston recipe. I couldn’t get/be bothered with clementines and so used green apples instead – they worked a treat.

In a pot place the peel of two green apples, one lemon and one lime. Add 200 grams of caster sugar, 6 whole cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 3 fresh bay leaves, 8-10 grates of nutmeg, 1 vanilla pod halved, seeds scraped and a partridge in a pear tree.

Pour over your half decent chianti or red wine, just enough to cover and boil until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has taken on a syrupy consistency, about ten minutes. This will give you the flavour base to then add the rest of your two bottles of wine and 2 star anise. Simmer very gently for about five minutes just enough to heat through but not cook off the alcohol, clearly that would be wrong.

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Sorry there isn’t a picture of the finished product. I was too busy ooohhing and aaahhing over it….

Amongst it all, Lady Moss found the time to create a dazzlingly pink winter wonderland village of gingerbread for Ari’s teachers. We cooked all from scratch this year and will happily do the same again next year its just that delicious and easy to work with using the Sweetopia recipe.

Lady Moss took a day to complete each stage and although I felt for awhile my life was gingerbread, the outcome was five dreamy wee cottages and one romantic renovators delight. One finds that Royal Icing (recipe also from Sweetopia) and cellophane cover a multitude of sins that we look forward to creating dozens more next year. Before you mutter certifiable, remember I prefer to think of it as low down on the OCD scale.

I’m sure you’ll agree they did turn out to be rather quaint.

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Not Always a Curse.

There are many thoughts that come to mind when a parent is asked to describe how they feel about their child. The list is an endless variation of love, amazement, frustration, fear and so many more. I wonder if many mothers can add Envy to that list. For that is how I feel on a daily basis about my Ari.

Its a strange concept, to be in awe of ones own child but ’tis the truth of it and the number one emotion that overtakes me when I am near her. She makes me want a second chance at youth so desperately, that sometimes I can’t breathe with the disappointment that is me when I’m standing next to something so pure and perfect.

This infinitely old soul who at five is so much kinder than I ever was at that age, let alone now, when I know deep down, that any part of me that is truly good is a result of her. A child so full of wisdom, to tell her mother that it doesn’t matter how we feel about someone mummy its what we do for them that lets them see. 

Trust me Dear Reader when I tell you, I know about a mother’s Love. He is walking around all golden curls and plump thighs giggling maniacally while I write. This is different. What I see in Ari is a radiance, a light that shines so bright that one day I know with everything that I am, that its incandescent spirit will set the world on fire.

I watch her as an onlooker. Just a shadow of my dreams I am now, observing this young girl standing on a spotless beach. Not a mark on the sand in front of her, just a path, occasionally shifted by plump waves before it settles back all pristine white again.

A born leader, she settles disputes in the playground with a sweetness and diplomacy sadly never seen on the world stage. And yet this girl, this changeling babe flung into our world at the hands of some naughty imp one wild night in February gathers followers to her like a forgotten piper from a fairytale. I’ve seen it. Adult and child alike unable to resist her enigma. Ten year old boys dropping their games to protect her innocent arms from the tears of a rose bush.

She is a gift. And I will stand behind her to shoulder the burden of protecting and nourishing her pure light against a world that will fire at will to try and crush her. But I know oh yes I do that it will not succeed. She has a gift.

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Endless Summer Salads

I’d never completely understood the utter satisfaction that comes from growing my own food until now. Although, I can’t think of a time where there hasn’t been a garden in my life, its been bred into me you could say, I never really took pleasure in growing veges. My parents have always had the grandest roses and some of my earliest memories were of getting out of the Sunday gardening by pretending to be ill. I’d sit by the window to watch and listen to them chatter as they raked and sheared but Lady Moss is never too proud to admit to a bit of a lazy streak.

Moving out of home I began the habit immediately of having some greenery about me. Even if it was just a little window box of parched violets it was something alive. Sometimes barely.

Even now I am astounded when I realise I have quite the green thumb and can keep many wondrous plants happy and thriving. I’ve stuck primarily to a constant herb supply and floral abundance but it was this Spring that I stopped waiting for the perfect vegetable plot and started my very own Greek garden out the back.

I chatter to my babies as I wander around inspecting them each morning and it is this I’m sure and not the perfect growing conditions we have had of late that has encouraged their speedy growth. Not only for my own pleasure of course, but the wonder of children watching a yellow flower bud turn into a tiny green podlet before expanding into a bright, bold tomato! If only they would ripen immediately and we could eat straight from the vine. Soon I say to them. Soon.

The intense flavour that comes from fresh cut Rocket is a meal in itself and I laugh when I pick a stem and chew it joyously like some food critic checking its crisp peppery taste before bringing it to table. Meals are so easy when you know there are already two ingredients to hand! Tonight we are indulging in fresh, homemade pizza with rocket, basil and oregano from our garden. Hopefully soon that list will include my tomatoes. If the bushes heaving with yellow buds are anything to go by, picking the ripe fruit will be a relief to the plant come high summer!

And so I encourage you to dig and to grow. Even if like me, its just a few recycled pots sitting in direct sunshine ready for the wet summer we are due to have. Little seedlings planted into organic potting mix and chook poo, watered each day with wine in hand and all of a sudden you have yourself a salad!

Let me introduce you to my garden of delights!

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Here to Save the Day!

You can admit it here, to me Dear Reader, that you are stressed about Christmas. Aren’t you. Yes. Well its ok, its alright, Lady Moss is here, Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

We have been inundated with rain this November, which delights me! It not only gets Lady Moss into the Christmas spirit but it allows one to put aside a number of crafty creations using materials I already have in the cupboard.

The two I’m going to show you today are internet favourites, Martha Stewart’s Candy Cane Mice and Salt Dough Decorations.

You see, Lady Moss isn’t here to reinvent the wheel, particularly at this time of year, there are already decent mulled wine recipes out there wouldn’t you agree? We simply do our research throughout the year, bookmark several projects in advance and when the time comes its an easy matter of recreating in a stylish manner.

The Candy Cane Mice are fantastic as a class present or a sweet little post package for friends far away. A simple matter of googling dear Martha’s template, cutting from your choice of felt and following the directions. We whipped forty ahem yes forty up in a couple of hours, or in a bottle of Pinot Noir if that is how you mark time.

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A favourite craft in Rainbow Lane is to make Salt Dough Decorations. Being an avid reader of this blog as I’m sure you all are, you would remember the Easter Eggs we made last year. I decided to craft an obscene amount of decorative beauties to bunch together with ribbon and give as gifts.

There are many many recipes out in Google land. The basic premise is:

1 1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup salt

1 tbs vegetable oil

2/3 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients together, make a well in the center before mixing the wet. Bring the mix together with a fork, transfer onto the table and begin kneading your frustrations out with an epic arm workout. The more you knead, the more malleable the dough will be which gives far better results.

Use flour on the rolling surface if necessary but your dough really shouldn’t be wet enough to warrant it. Once you’ve achieved your desired thickness use cookie cutters to create ornaments. The Littles pressed their hands into several rounds I cut using a bowl as a template. Keep the dough under clingfilm and use in one session as it doesn’t last well.

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Lay the shapes onto baking paper covered trays and place into a 100 degree C heated oven. I keep mine at this low temperature as I’ve had experiences with my dough bubbling which is caused by high heat. Not such a great look on a designer Christmas Tree non?

IMG_3415I bake mine for several hours (read 6) before cooling on racks. They need to be rock hard and shatter should you drop them as apposed to simply thudding to a dull end on your floor.

A fantastic way to decorate is to paint each coat before returning to the oven for another heat through. This seemed to bond the dough with its paint and glitter giving a gorgeous finish. In fact Mossy commented that they looked rather French and believe me when I tell you he does not give compliments lightly. Unless he meant Shabby Chic in which case I’m not quite sure which way he was swinging…..

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Could You Be?

Walking home under the street lights I am never lonely.

I am ever accompanied by all the memories, new and old of the sandstone around me. The snatches of conversation I hear as I wander past, not knowing if they are from my time or another.

Tonight is extra special. One of those cottages I can sense calling to me. Its drowsy awakenings as it realises I am here. Listening. Hoping. Dreaming.

Old Mother Hubbard

when I grow up, I want to be one of those mothers that never suffer from an empty pantry. Instead of shelves heaving with staples, crispers bursting with all manner of colourful meal ingredients, my cupboards are bare.

I blame my mother and her impeccable organising skills, which she passed on to me. If it isn’t on a list I cannot/will not buy it. Grocery shopping is a chore, one that I take little pleasure in, unless of course its Haberfield on a Saturday where I am quite happy to empty the contents of our bank account on artisan bread, cheese, wine and all manner of delectable goodies. The rest of the time however, its a snatch and grab. I practically run around the store mimicking some contestant from Supermarket Sweep in my need to get in and out.

It all sounds fabulously cohesive in theory, until four days later, contents of our store cupboard depleted I am left with little desire to cook and zero ingredients should inspiration strike. Which is usually when I fall back on my perfect supper for two, four or ten.

Caramelised Onion Tart with Goats Fetta

I’m pretty sure I could walk into any home and find puff pastry in the freezer, onions in a bowl, balsamic and olive oil in the pantry, thyme on the window sill, which is all you will need for this recipe. Goats cheese/fetta optional.

I like to use red onions as they are sweeter and caramelise a good deal faster than the brown ones. You really ought to keep a stock of them handy for Lady Hunts Salsa, last minute tomato salads and this recipe of course.

Simply warm up a generous slug of extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. When I say warm, I mean a slow to medium heat, you do not want any change of colour with the onions, only translucent is acceptable here.

While your oil is heating begin working on your onions. I do this by chopping the ends off, slicing through the middle and removing the outer skins. You then have a flat  surface to slice the onions as thinly as possible rather than the heavy handed BBQ rings my husband adores. For one piece of store bought puff pastry you will need about 2 red onions.

Gently and ever so slowly cook your onions adding thyme leaves for flavour, pepper and salt. You want the onions to be completely translucent before adding a tablespoon of balsamic or Vino Cotto should you have it.

Your oven should be very hot as you preheated it to 200 degrees C earlier. At this point spray an oven tray with oil and lay your defrosted puff sheet on it. Pop it into the oven for about five minutes. Keep a very close eye on it you only want it to puff up slightly and start to turn a nice beige. Pull it out immediately and heap your onion mix onto it. Place it back in the oven and lower the heat to 180 degrees C. Again it should only need five minutes, you want your edges nicely browned and crisp. By precooking your pastry slightly it prevents it from staying raw underneath the onions.

While the tart is warm I love to crumble goats fetta over it, cut into smaller squares and plate with a peppery rocket salad. I have served this at picnics, cocktail evenings, as an entree and of course as a fallback dinner. Its always been delightfully received.

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A Dash of Cream

A couple of little projects to see you through the weekend today dear reader. We seem to be surrounded by cream these days, on the hob, around the home and in our craft projects.

We were called to action last weekend, when returning home what should we find standing alone, abandoned by the side of the road on our little peninsula? The most darling wee chair crying out for a spa treatment. Whilst it awaits its exfoliation, splash of limewash and reupholstry, it is happily occupied in a corner of Rainbow Lane with its new cushion friend.

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Colour has been all but banished from Rainbow Lane and replaced instead with calm overtones of white, cream, grey marle and the rare splash of botanical green. Muted pinks make the cut with fresh flowers appearing every Friday morning curtsey of Mossy.

After months of bright red linens and chair covers, vintage toys strewn as if left mid play and the general untidiness of children, Lady Moss has reclaimed our space layering heavy glass candles on every spare surface and throwing sheepskin rugs around in careless abandon.

We soon felt that a new floor covering was in order. Something soft and scrunchy to rub soft (clean!) toes against while enjoying our current obsession with soft white wine.

Tshirt yarn is having its moment in the spotlight and after much trawling, Lady Moss found several great tutorials on how to cut up old tops or in our case one large bolt of jersey fabric. You can find them here: http://www.relevedesign.com/how-to-cut-continuous-t-shirt-yarn/ and here: http://www.petalstopicots.com/2012/03/green-crocheting-making-fabric-into-yarn Coming together far faster than one would think, these are a fantastic craft to get cracking on and finished during the winter months and set aside for Christmas.

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Simply create your yarn, find a pattern you like and set to work, it really is a lovely project.

For my foodie readers a gorgeous recipe for you, simple but comforting, the best kind of supper after a long week:

Creamy Leeks with Cannellini Beans and Butter. Lots of butter.

As a side to serve four people grab a large leek, tin of cannellini beans, two cloves garlic and some cooking butter.

Bring the butter to a foam and rain in your beautiful sliced leeks, salt and pepper. Keep the heat on low and soften the leeks before adding garlic to prevent browning.

Splash in a good cup of white wine before refilling your own glass. Take a deep sigh of contentment and allow those melting flavours to envelope you in their warmth. Allow the wine to cook down slightly before adding your drained beans.

Pop the lid on, transfer the pan to the lowest hob and give it 10 minutes to bring all the ingredients together in a delightful mush. At this point I like to get out my potato masher and give everything a good squashing.

I serve this to The Littles in heaping spoons on crusty toast straight from the oven and would highly recommend as an after weekend sport lunch to warm the toes of any soccer player. For Mossy and myself its served next to the best piece of steak I can find, caramelised to perfection on the outside, juicy and rare, within. This is a meal for romance, for Friday nights after Littles have gone off to dreamland, cream and butter mingling with rich juices on the plate. Hearty enough for vegetarians, I would serve the leeks with a peppery salad and crunchy French beans.

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And with that I am off Dear One. To fill my pantry in readiness for my lovely Ari and her arrival home for the weekend, to snuggle with The King and refrain from taking a bite out of his most delicious toes before he realises it is much safer to wear slippers around the house when Mama is nearby. Enjoy your days of freedom and we will see each other again soon.