My first month in the new home

Time to do an update on life at the end of the Peninsula. Has it really been 5 weeks since I moved here? Well, before we plunge in to more details, let me just say that I still love being in my new unit, and pinch myself regularly to remind myself that the move is behind me now, and the worst of the packing and unpacking and setting up home is passed. Best of all, I had what felt like a clean slate, to make my own impression on the place and to set up a garden of sorts.

Here are a few glimpses of the setting. The living room lacks the delicious green chaise lounge sofa which is held up in delivery by COVID-19 in other places. So we are using camp chairs and my one comfy leather chair to provide an impression of living room.

It’s compact, but just the right size for me. I have my studio nearly set up perfectly, and what feels like an immense bedroom, but I came from a king single bed before, so anything would feel bigger.

Yesterday I decided to do something about the lack of privacy. At the back there is a small area for hanging washing out between garage and house, which now has my chiminea, seat and worm farm. I have used some old pots and purchased new ones, to allow for a range of vegetables to grow against the garage wall. They love the sun and seem to be doing well.

It’s the front porch that’s been a problem. I have a friendly neighbour, who is right THERE, if you know what I mean. And the old guy who had this place before me, sat all day out the front waving at everyone who passed by, and so I receive a lot of waves and comments, which shows just how friendly everyone is. However, there are times I just want to sit unnoticed, and read a book or listen to an audio. So I’ve moved my main chair to the corner, and bought some more pots to block the access to my space. Apparently the plants I’ve chosen will rise up and obscure the view more. Might even lavish myself and get a trellis and pop it along the front. Watch this space.

Spring is a great time to move – everything feels fresh and colourful, and the days are getting longer. I received an invitation to the 14th annual street Christmas party the other day, and look forward to meeting the neighbours properly.

I’m finally able to stop and do other things than decorating and shopping for the house as well. For instance, my clever sewing sister made me a sunhat just now. (No, don’t ask, she isn’t taking orders for these). She made a draft using calico or similar, to see if the pattern would fit, and used it as a draft for her own hat. And then I got to keep the original, and dyed it green this morning FINALLY, a hat that is broad, can be squashed into luggage, and is wide enough for a fat head.

I’m about to plunge into making some preserves for Christmas this afternoon. Now that I’ve worked out how the oven heats up, and which elements on top work the best, I’m feeling more confident cooking on it.

Last Friday straight after work, I borrowed my sister’s camping van, and went out to enjoy the night with friends, at Piha on the west coast of Auckland. Perfect weather, and so good to get away and sit around chatting in the dark after a good meal at the local surf club. I’ll leave you with a few of the sublime images from that holiday.

So much water under the bridge . . . but I’m back

Can’t believe it was June that I last posted. Obviously life has been too exciting and busy to find time to sit down and type any of my thoughts up. Who knew? I’ll try and make up for it in the coming weeks.

Today, I want to talk about . . .


The last piece of a delectable moist fruity icing covered slice of Christmas cake

Yeah, see that pic above. THAT is the quintessential item I am talking about, and I am totally baffled by the current bad press it has received. When I went to the USA in 1996 I was stunned to discover this worthy item was not regarded with the esteem it has received for years in my part of the world. I still don’t get it. Any connoisseur of edible items would place this among a number of tasty treats, because if a proper fruit cake does essential things well, they are 1) richness 2) moistness 3) complexity 4) aroma 5) flavour. What’s not to like?

There you see, clasped in my hand, is a square of such delectable dense flavours and textures, that only a cup of Earl Grey tea sipped alongside it is worthy. On top of the varied fruity contribution inside the dark body of the cake, is a layer of almond marzipan and a topping of royal icing. The cake itself is redolent of brandy, which has been generously added before baking. The whole sensation of a bite of this gourmand delight, is that of a festival. A rejoicing of flavours. A waltz of wonder.

And yet. And yet, I hear it is scorned by a whole body of people. It is repellant to an entire nation. It is an INSULT to give it. I think back to my trips to the supermarket in Georgia, where I went to purchase a proper fruit cake and instead, aisle upon aisle of something called ‘butter cake’ but not made with butter. Cakes resembling polystyrene sugar mounds covered in frosting, so sweet and so lacking in flavour and texture, and leaving an oily aftertaste clinging to the insides of my mouth long after the sugar went down. All the same except for the colour and artificial flavour. If they had cream in between the layers, it was that dreadful ‘non-cream’ called Dairy Whip. (Let me hasten to add, I knew a few excellent American cooks who would have made their own cakes with alacrity. I’m talking about what I found in the bakery aisle.)

Maybe it is something to do with familiarity and what you grew used to growing up. We always baked from scratch at home, and for birthdays, still do. That means getting that rich yellow butter and softening it, and whipping it with some sugar, until creamed. Then adding gradually eggs and flour and the other ingredients, and then a long process of cooking, and then icing it. (Making up the icing from icing sugar, butter, and flavouring). Somehow the effort that goes in comes out in the eating. Birthday cakes used to be fruit cakes too, but gradually have come to embrace a wide range of delectable possibilities from cheese cakes to carrot cake. BUT Christmas cake has always been a fruit cake, and best of all, is one made by oneself, in ones own oven, drenched in brandy or rum, full of soaked dried fruit, and made a few weeks/months before Christmas, to ‘mature’.

For as long as I live, I shall endeavour to keep the legend of the dense, rich, dark fruit cake alive and enjoyed. And just to boost its ratings, I am adding some pics here, for my own pleasure, if not yours.