Remember when I said I was going to blog at least once a fortnight, and that it wouldn’t be that hard, because once upon a time I used to be able to blog four or five times a week? Yeah that.

How are you all? Good, I hope. It’s been seven weeks (not that I’ve been counting with increasingly escalating guilt) and winter is pretty much over, the trees are in bloom, the days are getting warmer, and daylight savings is just around the corner.

I’ve been busily head-down-bum-up at work, plus we had my darling sister to visit for a couple of weeks. That’s really the only excuse I have for myself though. Life. It gets in the way, y’know?

I’ve been unreasonably tired lately, too. I live for afternoon naps on the weekend, and early nights during the week. Possibly I’m turning into a cat. I’m really feeling this retro t-shirt which I bought from Teepublic a couple of months ago. Achieve Your Dreams, it says (the dream in question to be curled up asleep in bed)

At forty, I’m probably a bit too grown-up to be wearing novelty t-shirts, but stuff it. I bought this (and a second one featuring a nerd-tastic She-Ra that appeals to the 80’s child in me) ostensibly to wear during yoga, then promptly decided they needed to go into regular rotation.

Teamed with one of the always-excellent Breathtaking Tiger Lilies skirts from Modcloth (seriously, I want this skirt in every colour) it’s a casual, but still elegant look that doesn’t make me feel like I’m cosplaying a 12 year old.

I’m quite on board with TeePublic, actually – the site is full of fun designs, and it’s reasonably size-inclusive (the “curvy” range goes up to a size 28). I like that you get to pick what style and colour you want your t-shirt to be in. I bought the Dreams t-shirt in the tri-blend in the 2XL, and it’s snug, but the fabric’s soft and stretchy enough that it doesn’t cling. The arms aren’t baggy at all, which is a pet hate of mine. I got the She-Read tee in the slouchy style, again in the 2XL, and it’s probably just this side of too big, but I like the batwing sleeves, and slightly cropped and curved waistband.

So, apart from napping, working, and not writing on the blog, I’ve been doing some sewing (I learned how to make panties) and a bit of experimenting in the kitchen.

The lemon tree that I gave the Mister for his birthday a couple of years ago recovered beautifully from being razed by possums (twice) and actually put out some big juicy fruit. I’ve been hoarding them like a crazy person, saving them for Very Special Lemon Curd, and Very Special Lemon Slice, and after I discovered a big, prolific lavender bush down the road, Very Special Lemon and Lavender Cordial.

I think I’ve raved about how easy it is to make cordial, and why you should never buy the shop stuff again, but I thought you might like to try this recipe. It’s herby and not too sweet, and really refreshing, and you could add it to a cocktail as a mixer if you were so inclined, but I usually just add a splash to fizzy water.

Mint, Lemon & Lavender Cordial

Look, honestly it’s pretty straightforward. You need a lemon, about 12 lavender buds, 3/4 of a cup of sugar, 750ml water, and a handful of mint.

Start by giving the lavender a good rinse, then remove the heads. Zest the lemon, being careful not to get too much of the bitter pith.

Add the sugar and the water to a saucepan over low heat and stir it until the sugar is dissolved. Then increase the heat until the syrup begins to boil.

Once it’s boiling, take it off the heat and tip in the lavender and the lemon zest

Then give the mint leaves a good scrunch, and add those too.

Now pop a lid on the whole thing and go off and have a nap for an hour or something while the lavender steeps. Once the hour’s up, juice the zested lemon, and add it to the mix.

Next you’ll want to get some muslin, or a really fine sieve, and filter the mint, lavender and lemon zest out of the cordial.

Pour the strained syrup into a very clean bottle, and pop it in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of months (apparently – I always finish mine within a week or so)


Strawberry Balsamic Jam


Strawberries are hilariously cheap in Melbourne at the moment, and the scent of them seems to follow me around whenever I visit the greengrocers or the market so I’ve been buying them by the punnet-load for jam-making.

My Mum’s an amazing preserves-maker. My whole life she’s been making plum jelly, marmalade, preserved peaches, bottled apricots and brandy cherries. Me? I make strawberry jam.

For years now I’ve been using the same incredibly basic recipe – Strawberries, lemon juice, sugar – but this year I thought I’d try something a little different, and see if I could develop a recipe a little more complex in flavours.

This was the result and I’m happy to report that it’s the best jam I’ve made yet.

Strawberry-Balsamic Jam

1.25kg sugar / 1.5kg strawberries / juice of one lemon / vanilla bean / balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees celsius (275 fahrenheit) then put the sugar into a big heatproof pot and warm in the oven for 10 minutes or so. Pop a little saucer into the freezer at the same time.


2. Remove the crowns from the strawberries and chop them into bits. The bigger the bits, the chunkier the jam.


3. Add the strawberries to the warm sugar and put it on the stove on a low heat. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and half a cup of water and stir through. If you like you can cut a strip of the peel off the lemon and add it too – it’ll help the jam set.


4. Now cut the vanilla pod in half, and slice it open. Add it to the pot.


5. Keep stirring, and when the sugar’s all dissolved into the juices add a good slosh of balsamic vinegar. Honestly, how much you add is up to personal preference. I added maybe three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the mix, but start small and taste as you go – you don’t want your jam to end up tasting like salad dressing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA6. Crank the heat up a little and get the pot bubbling away. Keep an eye on it, giving it a stir from time to time to make sure it doesn’t catch or boil over. Occasionally you might like to skim off the foam that rises to the top with a big metal spoon.


7. While the jam’s cooking you can prep your jars – give them a really good scrub, then rinse them clean and pop them in the (hopefully) still warm oven. You don’t want to pour molten jam into cold glass because you run the risk of shattering the jars – that’s why you should warm them up first!


8. How long the jam takes to set will be dependent on how much natural pectin there is in the fruit. I usually find that mine takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour. At about about 30 minutes mark start testing by dropping a spoonful of jam onto the cold saucer in the freezer and shutting the door. After 60 seconds to cool it should reach the consistency of jam (i.e. if you draw your finger through the puddle the two divided sides should stay separate). Once you’ve hit that point take the jam off the stove, and fish out the vanilla bean and the lemon rind (if you used it.

9. Give the jam fifteen minutes to settle, then start pouring it into jars and sealing them. They’ll keep for up to twelve months unless you’ve got a lot of friends, family, and in-laws you can share with!


Personally I like my strawberry jam on fresh, home-made crumpets. YUM!