Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup

So the weather forecast was not entirely correct. Go figure!!
Saturday was ok, so I managed to ride both of my horses, weed around the fruit trees and give them a little fertiliser. (aka horse poo that I’d picked up.) I then tackled a few of the more mundane household task that I had been putting off. Funny how they don’t magically disappear even when you ignore them….
Sunday was cold and raining. Most people would find this depressing but I found it just perfect for relaxing by the fire reading my book, drinking cups of tea and eating cake. Almond cake with lemon syrup to be precise. With lemons from our very own tree! Recipe below. Hope you enjoy.


4 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g melted butter
1 cup almonds- (1 cup almonds blitzed in the food processor)

Lemon Syrup

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
2 Lemons thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 160C and grease either a large loaf tin or a square cake tin.
Note for young players- a loaf tin works best. The cake takes longer to cook in the square tin and you risk the outer edges drying out.

Lemon syrup; combine the sugar, water and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon slices and simmer for 15 minutes or until they are completely soft. Arrange the slices on the base of your cake tin and then pour in the syrup.
For the cake batter; combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and tripled in volume. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Then gently fold in the butter and almonds.
Spoon batter into the cake tin, smooth over the top and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a platter making sure to collect all of the syrup. Serve as it is or with vanilla ice cream!! 

Wednesday …with a view to the weekend

Is this just the most perfect time of year? Look at the weather forecast for the weekend. PERFECTION.

I’ll be making the most of the beautiful days. The garden is starting to look a bit tired but there is still plenty to do before the winter frost arrive. Weeding and mulching around the citrus trees will be first on the list. Also draping nets over the trees to protect the fruit from the cockatoos. It’s such a shame because the trees look so beautiful when they are loaded with fruit. However nothing breaks your heart more than to see all of the almost ripe fruit laying on the ground. 
The cooler weather also means we light the fire at night. Our nights look a lot like this…

We’ve also been busy preparing the villa for our guest over winter.
Check out the website to see the new photo’s.

What’s on for the weekend?

I love Wednesday. The working week is half done and the weekend is clearly on the horizon. So what have you planned for the weekend?
Autumn in the Hunter Valley is my favourite time of year. The trees have started to change colour,  the days are clear and the temperature is still pleasant enough to be outside. My weekend will certainly involve riding, probably catching up with some friends and defiantly some food & wine. I have a beautiful wood fired oven that I inherited from my Grandmother. It’s the focal point of the kitchen in winter. Cooler weather calls for slow cooked food.  
If you feel like a getaway here are a few suggestion on how to spend your time in the Wollombi Valley.
Stay with us at Valle Laguna for 2 nights, and we’ll give you the 3rd night free.
E-mail us at or visit the website
We have some wonderful options for dining.
 The Great North Trading Post is popular with visitors and locals! They have great food all weekend and live music on Friday nights .
 Mulla Villa is an original 1840 convict built sandstone Magistrate’s house and is quiet the dining experience! They are open for lunch and dinner.
The Wollombi Tavern is not only your typical country but it’s the home Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice. No visit to the valley is complete without a little taste!
Saturday, visit the art exhibition by Guntis Janson ” Paintings from the Studio” at the Wollombi Cultural Centre, Wollombi.  Open weekends 10am to 4pm, from Saturday 16 to Sunday 24 May 2015
Indulge in a little bit of wine tasting at one of the many local vineyards.
My personal favourite are the Stonehurst Methode Champenoise and the Lemoncello liqueur from Wollombi Village Vineyard. 

Happy planning! I guarantee you’ll love our little piece of paradise.


Fashion Friday

This is where we indulge in a little fantasy. We put aside the hum drum daily tasks, and let our mind wander .
Today we’re talking about my current “girl crush” Amal Clooney. The women has style!!

Sure she has the money to buy anything her heart desires, and designers would no doubt be tossing clothes at her from every angle, but she manages to maintain an edginess that is uniquely her own style. I think her style also gives us an insight into her personality. I love the fact that every time I see her in the media I’m gently reminded that there is so much more to her than just looking good in clothes and there might be bigger issues in the world that what she’s wearing. Maybe that’s part of how she uses fashion & the media to her advantage. Her way of taking some of the light off herself and shining it onto the issue of human rights. I can’t imagine anyone who has been privy to the details of human atrocities as she has, could take herself or fashion that seriously. I also don’t think she could care less about what we thought of her fashion choices.

Her work wardrobe it is a no brainer. She sticks with simple suits and beautifully tailored dresses. These are the go to pieces for any professional women. No time wasted trying to work out what goes with what. An assortment of shoes & handbags easily matched to any of the suits or dresses. I very stylish “capsule wardrobe” if you like. This is a women who knows she will be photographed and critiqued from every angle. The only aspect she leaves for discussion is if we personally like the outfit or not. End of story. On with the real business. Human Rights.

Her casual wardrobe shows a more fun side. I think she has a really cool style. More rock chic that human rights lawyer that’s for sure….

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Another Job for Winter

There is nothing I love more in winter than sitting in front of the fire and gazing into the flames. The  warmth seems to reach into every corner of the room. What I dont love is the extra work that it creates. Aside from the work involved in collecting and stacking the fire wood, there is the monotonous task of cleaning it out each day and re-setting it.
I’m not sure if it’s the type of wood that is being burnt or the effect of a slow smouldering fire that causes the glass to turn black. Whatever it is, it’s a nightmare to clean. Over the years I’ve tried many different methods of cleaning it off. Hot soapy water, Gumption, vinegar & bi carb soda. None really worked that well and they all made a huge mess. Then out of the blue my Mum gave me the secret recipe. In my world this is what’s known as a “Game Changer”.

Take a few pieces of newspaper, scrunch them up then dampen them slightly with plain old water. Dip it into the cold ash at the bottom of the fire. Using a circular motion wipe the inside of the glass. Hey Presto! The ash makes a fine abrasive paste that takes off the burnt on black soot.

 It might take a few pieces of paper to get it totally clean, but I just throw them into the fire and they dry out by the time you need to re light the fire. If you do this at the first sign of discoloration then it’s a 2 second job.



Week Of Wild Weather

Wow! Can we just take a moment to reflect on this week of crazy weather? I mean really enough already.

Monday & Tuesday saw us flooded out of the farm. The creeks came up so quickly. I feel nobody was really prepared for this flood. Previously when we’ve had flood warnings or the creeks are “up” and they predict more heavy rain you assume that flooding is likely so you get yourself prepared. Add wind gust of over 100klm per hour and its serious stuff.  Come Friday the water levels had dropped so we were able to get into the farm to asses any damage. Luckily there was no damage to the house or villas, and we only had a few trees down across the fire trails. Others in the Hunter Valley were not so lucky. Tragically 4 people were killed in flood waters and may people lost their homes.
Due to the widespread damage across the region it took 7 days for the power to be restored.

Saturday afternoon brought the second wave of freaky weather in the form of a hail storm. Sydney was hit the worst, but we got a light covering of hail that made the paddocks look like a winter wonderland.

Some of these photos are mine, others I’ve taken from the Wollombi Fire & Flood Face Book page. The FB page is run by volunteers who do the most amazing job in keeping people connected in times of crisis. Community spirit at its best!

Old is new again.

What’s that old saying?…”the more things change the more they stay the same”.

A few years ago we were offered an old vacuum cleaner. At first I said no. We already had a vacuum that we left in the shed along with a host of cleaning stuff for the villas. If I needed a vacuum for the house I’d just walk up and get it. Then I had second thoughts. We only have carpet in the bedrooms so I didn’t need it that often. The vacuum was in perfect working order, and it had all the extra attachment even one called a “Power Head”. Perfect for all that 60’s shag pile carpet! So then I relented and said yes. It would be handy to have in the house. Trent was not so convinced, but as ever he was very supportive. He even managed to find a new connector for the hose on e-bay. Seriously is their nothing you can’t buy in e-bay?
I nick named her Betty Draper.

The first few times I did the vacuuming with Betty, it was a bit of a laugh. I could imagine house proud women of the 1950’s being totally in awe of Betty. After a few uses I could also see why housewives of the 1950 loved a “Bex and a good lie down”! Betty wasn’t actually that old, probably a child of the ’70’s more than the ’50’s but never the less, Betty was hard work. None of the extra piece were ever on hand when I needed them so I was forever walking back to the last room to retrieve the missing bit. The power head attachment was fantastic but it required an extra cord to be plugged into the vacuum for it to work. She was big, noisy and cumbersome but I persevered because she was free and it wasn’t like I was using her that often. But then I was. Our love affair went downhill fast.

Enter her replacement. I named her Ruby. Because she’s red. Original name I know.

Ruby Meile is compact, quiet and whooshes around behind me like a ghost. All of the attachment are hidden on board, and she has 3 power head options. Realistically I’m never going to be THAT type of house proud person, so the additional 2 are still in the box. I didn’t pay extra for them, they just came with the vacuum. I wonder if Betty’s attachments were optional extras?
I guess the bit that made me laugh was the fact that even though Betty still did the job, I wanted Ruby.  She was easier to lug around, smaller and with whiz bang air filters, defiantly better for my health…We women can justify anything can’t we?
I had succumbed to consumerism and clever marketing. Much like Betty’s original owner I suspect.  I could have persevered with Betty until the very end, but seriously vacuuming is a dull thankless job at the best of times. Why prolong the pain?