Stink Eye

No one can stink eye like a dog.

Having got up at 6am to feed his Majesty, two carefully prepared bowls of rather tasty food, I poured myself a cup of coffee, grabbed a banana cupcake and retired back to bed. Normally at this point, there is a session of dog worship. He’s allowed on the bed this one time, after I’ve put a cotton bedspread over my precious heirloom quilt. He gets admiration and intensive strokies.

So I settle into bed with coffee and banana cupcake beside me. I call him. He comes bounding in and does a standing leap onto the bed. And then he freezes. The nose swivels. The nose wiffles… and then swings inexorably towards my banana cupcake. He begins to reach for it. I tell him No in a very decided voice. He lies down, reluctantly, still sniffing. I pick up my cupcake and he thrashes upright. Well, OK then. He’s not going to give up. He gets more NO!

He leaps off the bed and hunkers down into his best sphinx position. I dig in. I glance down and I am getting stink eye unto the seventh generation, straight down the barrel of his aristocratic needle nose. Clearly, in his mind banana cupcakes are ALL the property of Mouse Dog, I am now eating his food, and it is beyond the pale. I hold his eyes while I bite into them, asserting my dominance over this tasty, crumbly, bananan-y morsel. He stalks off in outrage, and is currently sulking on his bed. Note to self: do not eat banana cupcakes in front of dog, it is mental cruelty.

Mum 1, Mouse 0.  Mwahahah!

The strange case of the banana cupcakes

It was a complete mystery.

To begin with, we’d smugly imagined we had the only greyhound in existence who didn’t steal food carelessly left within reach for more than 10 seconds. Biscuits, toast, chicken soup and full meals had all survived the ‘needle-nose test’. Foolishly, we congratulated ourselves on having a most unusually angelic hound…

Until today.

As previously mentioned, we have a lot of small, sweet bananas ripening in the garage, and I wanted to use some of them up. So it was a banana bread and cupcake baking session this morning, using my favourite recipe:

Banana bread
2½ cups self-raising flour
3 mashed bananas (or 5 of the small sugar bananas)
¾ cup of soft dark brown sugar
3 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
½ cup sultanas
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F
Mix everything together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl till there is no visible dry flour left. Dollop the batter into cupcake cases or loaf tin(s) and put in the oven – 25 mins for cupcakes, 40 mins or so for loaves. Check with a skewer after 30 mins, and cover loaves with foil after 30 mins if necessary.

We did half and half: one smallish loaf, and a batch of 9 cupcakes. Half a dozen of the latter disappeared with cups of coffee for lunch. I left the remaining three on a plate beside my chair while I did something else for a couple of hours. It didn’t even occur to me to move them… When I came back and thought about photographing them for a post, they were gone. Plate empty. Initially, I suspected the Husband, but he disclaimed all knowledge. I looked at the dog. Innocent expression… lack of dismembered cupcake remains… no bits of paper case…

Eventually, I tracked down the scene of the crime.

A few random crumbs. No other signs, not a shred of paper. Clearly, they were excellent cupcakes!

Of course, he had to eat them on my beautiful rug….

 

In case you’re concerned, I’m not worried about the quantity of chocolate or sultanas he’s ingested. There was only half a cupful of each in one loaf and 9 cupcakes, and while he had three cupcakes and may have an upset tummy for the next day or so, I don’t think the amount is going to be very harmful.

Short stuff

We’ll start with the good stuff.

The bananas are ready!

These little babies are Ducasse or sugar bananas. You cut the stem before they’re fully ripe, or you’ll lose the lot to the possums, birds and fruit bats.  You then hang the stem in a warm, airy place (in this case, our garage), and cut the hands off as they ripen. It’s going to take a while to get through this lot, they’ll ripen fast and we’ll need some help, so I’ve already given some away. Neighbours and family will all be eating bananas for a while.

Now for the not so good.

My 97 year old father is in hospital with a broken femur. They found him quickly after he fell, and surgery was the same day. If all goes well, he’ll be up and walking in the next day or so. We’ll see how that goes, but he’s 18,000kms away and there’s a 10 hour time difference… It’s  hard to just wait for information.

And my eye infection is back, with a vengeance, and now it’s in both eyes. I have stronger antibiotics. If that doesn’t do the trick, the next stage is a bit alarming: CT scan, hospital, intravenous antibiotics. So I’m strongly favouring the antibiotics doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. It’s been 12 days since this nonsense started, and instead of just one site of infection I now have three. I feel like I’ve been punched in the eyes, and it’s not nice.

I’m not having a good time right now. These things are sent to try us…

Jelly roll

Not the fabric kind, just for a change!

On Wednesday, I picked over and halved 2 kilos (nearly 4½ pounds) of cumquats, covered them with water, and simmered them for 2 hours till tender. I then put them in a muslin cloth, first in a colander over a bowl, and then tied into a bag, hanging over the bowl, for the juice to drip out. I didn’t get a whole lot, as these cumquats are tiny and not very juicy, but what there was had a powerful zing and perfume.

Thursday morning I weighed the juice and did the pectin test. Plenty of pectin from the pith and pips in the fruit. Then I added an equal weight of white sugar (no need for jam sugar with extra pectin), put it in a pan and slowly brought it to the boil. I then simmered it slowly, skimming the froth that came to the surface, until the temperature reached 105°C/221°F. Then I tested for set, dropping a blob onto a saucer I’d had in the freezer. That went back into the fridge for a couple of minutes. Once it was cool, I pushed a finger through the blob. If it wrinkles and leaves a clear track, the jelly is ready. I had to give it another 5 minutes, but then it was done, and I decanted the jelly with a ladle and wide-neck preserving funnel into two hot, sterilised jars and quickly screwed on the lids. After about 15 minutes, the ‘button’ on the lids sucked down, and I knew I had a good vacuum.

And that was it. From 2kg/4½ pounds fruit and about 700g/25 ounces sugar I got 800g/28 ounces jelly, one full 500g jar and one three quarters full.

It’s not a large return on the investment of time, but the jelly is delicious, beautifully set, and the fruit was free, so I’ll probably do it again some time.

Many thanks to Elizabeth for her friend Elgar’s recipe, which was simple and very clear.

I only have about 300g fruit left – I had to pick out ones which were squishy or going mouldy. I’m tempted to get a bottle of vodka and steep the remaining fruit in it. It worked a treat with the limoncello I made a few months ago, and the flavour will be very different.

Cumquat jelly on hot toast this morning for breakfast. Yummmmmm!

Orange and black

No, I’m not planning a Halloween quilt. Bear with me.

First, the orange. I’ve been given a shopping bag full of beautiful cumquats (or kumquats, if you prefer). The neighbours have a tree full of these tiny orange jewels, and the smell of them is intoxicating. I’ve always loved cumquat marmalade, about the only marmalade I do love, and I’d like to make some. But oh, the labour of cutting up and de-pithing and -pipping these tiny things.

They really are very, very, very small. So my question is, does any-one have a recipe for cumquat marmalade that doesn’t involve picking all that stuff out? Can I just cut up the fruit, leave in the pips and skim them off at the end? I’ll do it ‘properly’ if I have to, but the idea of standing at the bench for what will probably be hours is not enticing.

And now for a bit of black. His Lordship the Mouse is settling in nicely. We have the routine established, and it involves me getting up sharpish at 6am to give him breakfast.

I’d sleep in if I could, but a cold wet nose in the ear is a marvellous alarm clock. After he’s engulfed his breakfast, I let him out to, um, commune with nature for a minute or two, after which he comes screeching back up the back yard at greyhound slow gallop, and then he goes back to bed (his bed) for another hour or so while I catch up with emails and the blog. At 7am, I shower, dress, make the Husband’s sandwich with ‘help’ from Mouse, and around 8am I get a call to say the Husband is 20 minutes away, so it’s time to clip on Mouse’s harness and lead, pocket some treats and the zapper for the garage door, and off we go. Mouse is now used to Big Girl the truck, so we hand over the sandwich when the Husband pulls up at the bottom of the hill, and then go for a walk so he can check out all the smells and disdainfully ignore all the dogs stuck in houses and yards who bark at him as we pass.

And then he spends most of the rest of the day sleeping. And yes, he does ‘roach’, or sleep with all his legs in the air…

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Figs, Fries and Sunny Skies

We’re heading homewards.

After a final delicious meal in Cairns at the Botanic Gardens – which are, by the way, magnificent – it was time to up sticks and wagons roll, turning our faces reluctantly southwards again.

We have the process of breaking camp by heart now, and once the alarm goes off at 7am, we slip into well-oiled routines, each with our own jobs to do. By lunchtime we were back in Cardwell. This time, I’d opted to forego a crab sandwich in favour of visiting the Pie Cart (anyone seeing a pattern here?).

We ate our steaming hot beefy lovelies at a picnic bench under the old candlenut trees in the park. The trees are beautiful, very old and bent, with deeply fissured bark, glossy oval leaves and hundreds of green candlenuts hanging on stalks. They’re amazing fruit, providing all sorts of uses, and the trees themselves are magnificent.

Onwards through the rain, though we came into Townsville dry, to find they’d allocated us the powered site with the best en suite shower in the entire park. Yeah, baby, power showers! Today we met fellow blogger Manic Mum for lunch at The Ville Resort-Casino at the Marina in Townsville to sample a delicacy whose fame has spread far and wide.

No. Not fries.

Doughnut Fries!!

That’s not potato, it’s cinnamon-spiced doughnut dough, cut into sticks and deep fried. It’s then laid on a bed of chocolate sauce (not tomato sauce as you might have thought), and sprinkled with white chocolate flakes (not shaved Parmesan) and a couple of slices of strawberry. Yup, that last item might have thrown you a bit.

I have to say, they were absolutely, gobsmackingly delicious.

And this is where they were being served.

And yes, that’s Magnetic Island in the background. Just out of idle curiosity, we asked how much it would cost to stay there for a night. Oh, only $260…? We’ll stick to the caravan park. Anyway, I’d call that a pretty good send-off on the last full day of our holiday. We tootled back to Miz Lizzie along The Strand, prime beachfront real estate lined with massive old Moreton Bay Figs. The one below had a multiple trunk about 7 metres across.

Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 7am again, and we’ll swing into action for the last leg, Townsville to home. Yes, lunch will be at Jochheim’s in Bowen again. I’ll be going on a pie and chocolate exclusion diet when I get home, so I need to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves!

Signing off till we’re back. It’s been a blast having y’all along 🙂

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Lovely Lavish Loot!

As promised, then, here are the acquisitions of the past two days.

Firstly, the chocolate. I think we’ve been quite modest, really, when you consider that two of those packages are for the kind neighbours who are keeping an eye on the house and taking in our mail.

From top left to bottom right, we have milk chocolate coated coffee beans, latte flavoured milk chocolate, dark chocolate gingers, more milk chocolate coated coffee beans, dark chocolate cranberry & pistacho bar, milk chocolate salted caramel bar, and milk chocolate cranberry & pistachio bar.

Here is a current portrait of Miz Lizzie.

And here is her Mini-Me, a totally gorgeous clock with extremely funky hands and a swinging pendulum. It now hangs on the locker door above the sink, and ticks very quietly, not loud enough to be annoying while we’re trying to sleep. We saw it in the Coffee Works gift shop, where (despite the fairly substantial price ticket) buying it was a no-brainer. It’s made by a US company called Allen Designs, and they make a fair range of clock designs, something to suit everyone, I’d say.

To the point, in fact, that the Husband has ordered me a second one.

Well, no prizes for guessing where it’ll hang when it arrives. (They’re not paying me anything for this link, I’m telling you about them because you’ve got to share a good thing. Go ahead and browse. I’ll be here when you get back in an hour or two…)

And finally, I got my toes titivated. The previous pedi was getting a bit weatherbeaten, and I like to do the Husband credit when we’re prancing eagerly into a shop to Buy Stuff. I don’t normally indulge, and my toenails are habitually bare, but in holiday season you have to make a bit of an effort, don’t you?

I’ve told the Husband that in return for the clock loveliness, a holiday present for him is called for.

He initially pretended he wanted for nothing, but his eyes lit up like anything when, working on information previously received as they say in the detective stories, I suggested a rattle-gun (aka a cordless torque wrench) might be acceptable.

So there’ll be a trip to the DIY store soon. That’s a promise.