We enjoyed two days at Austinmer beach, north of Wollongong, New South Wales. We found the best salads for lunch from a cute place called Shell’s Diner, which I think is worth a visit if you’re ever wanting a very affordable bite to eat at Austinmer...
We also had a day trip to Berry, a quaint rural town south of Sydney, with the perfect first stop as soon as we arrived - a book shop combined with a cafe! Since I love reading and my hubby loves coffee, it suited both of us. (It’s no surprise that I bought two cookbooks – “My Table” by Pete Evans and “Bake & Decorate” by Fiona Cairns).......
I seem to be snapping away with my camera all the time these days, but I love sharing some of the interesting things I see.....
We stopped at picturesque Kiama on the way home, which always brings back great childhood memories of visiting the blow hole....
That night, John made me a lovely dinner – Oysters and a delicious Barbecue Prawn & Spinach Salad....
And I made Apple & Nectarine Crumble for dessert....
John loves any type of fruit crumble with ice cream, so I’ve pretty much perfected my own recipe, just the way he likes it. You might like to give it a try.....
Apple & Nectarine Crumble
4 apples, peeled, cored & chopped
2 nectarines, peeled & chopped
1/3 cup Xylitol (natural sweetener) or castor sugar
½ cup water
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup organic raw sugar
¼ cup plain organic flour
2 tbspns dessicated coconut
75g butter, softened
½ tspn ground cinnamon
Place the apples, nectarines, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a large ovenproof dish.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
To make the topping, place the rolled oats, raw sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon the oat mixture over the fruit and bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is golden and crisp.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
It goes without saying that my husband, John, is the love of my life and my Valentine. His birthday is on the 13th February, the day before Valentine’s Day, so this year, I wanted to show my love by making him some very special cupcakes.After my friend Carla of Chasing Cakes (you really must check out her blog, by the way, at Chasing Cakes: New York - where dreams are made of - Part 1), dedicated her photo of a New York red velvet cupcake to me, I just had to try to make them. Being red, they were a perfect choice to represent love, don’t you think?
So I started searching and found a great recipe on Ryan’s Baking Blog (check it out at Ryan's Baking Blog: Valentine's Day Mini Cupcakes). Since I didn’t have some of the ingredients, I adapted it as below. Just in case my cupcakes didn’t turn out, there was a scrumptious cheesecake on stand-by, which was bought by a friend....
It was off to a good start, but I had to be so careful not to get that red food colouring everywhere....
Then for the decorating....
My representation of love was complete.....
I think Carla will be proud of me (don’t forget to check out her blog post so you know what I mean).....
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
125g unsalted butter
1 cup Self Raising flour
¾ cup Xylitol (natural sweetener) or Caster Sugar
2 ½ tbspns cocoa powder
3 tbspns red or pink rose food colouring
1 tspn vanilla extract
½ cup milk
1 ½ tspns white vinegar
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, add the egg and beat until combined.
In a small bowl, mix together cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla extract until well
combined. Add to the butter mixture and beat well. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so that it is all combined.
Sift the flour. Add half of the milk while mixing on low speed and then add half the flour. Continue to beat until just combined and add the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.
Mix in the white vinegar and beat well for a couple minutes on low.
Fill liners about 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool
completely before frosting/decorating.
Valentine’s themed cupcakes can be used as a symbol of true love.
I’m going to let you in on a secret....I met the love of my life when I was only 15 years old. We were just good friends at first, of course. But it wasn’t too long before we realised we were meant for each other. We were engaged when I was 18 and married when I was 20. We were still babies by today’s marriage standards, at just 20 and 24! But when you’ve hit the love jackpot, why wait?
We didn’t have our first little cherub, Jasmine, until I was 28 and then our second little cherub, Joshua 18 months later. So we had a whole 8 years of marriage to get it all right, before the kids came along!! Haha! Anyone whose married knows that we’ll probably never get it “all right”, and we’ll be tweaking things until “death do us part”! But that’s what makes it so much fun (most of the time)!
The thing that really matters and that we definitely have right, is that we love and cherish each other. This is a legacy we can leave for our kids, which is the very legacy that my parents left me, which I hold dear. My parents were an amazing model of selfless love for each other and their family...priceless!
The most beautiful words about love are found in the Bible. I recall these words first resonating in my heart over 20 years ago, when they were read by one of my brothers at my sister’s wedding service. They go like this:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13, Holy Bible).
Such beautiful words....I don’t think there ever has been, or ever will be, a more eloquent poem about love.
A final thought to ponder is this: If you’ve found love, cherish it!
An amazing modern-day poet/songwriter, Darlene Zschech, shares her thoughts on love beautifully in her song “Everything about You”. It came on the car radio on our way back from Berry, perfectly timed, as I gazed over at the man I love and reminded myself of how blessed I am: