Garden · recipes

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

We have just a few beetroot left in our veggie garden, which I have let become overrun with nasturtiums and violas, both of which attract beneficial insects to the garden. Both the violas and nasturtiums have come up through self-seeding and are a welcome addition to the garden until winter frosts kill off the nasturtiums in the next few weeks.

I planted enough beetroot to last us through the summer and autumn. We have enjoyed them in salads and sandwiches, in burgers and on pizzas, and roasted with other veggies. I have bottled enough to keep us going through the rest of the year, but I couldn’t let them all go without making one last cake! The beetroot gives the cake a lovely texture and flavour, as well as a red tinge.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

1 large beetroot (about 250g)
3 eggs
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat together the eggs and sugar. Peel and grate the uncooked beetroot. Mix the oil, vanilla, and grated beetroot into the eggs and sugar until well combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa, then add to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Pour the batter into a paper-lined cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool, then spread with icing.

Icing

2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
3 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, softened
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients and mix until smooth and a spreadable consistency.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Art journal · Mixed-media · Nature

Autumn Journal Page

As we near the end of autumn, I thought I would make a page in my art journal celebrating the season using pressed leaves from our garden and from my parents’ garden. There are so many pretty colours from the different trees, creepers and shrubs.

For the background I used some of the free artist papers from Somerset Studio magazine. I glued on the leaves, then applied a coat of mod podge to the top of the leaves to seal and protect them as they are very brittle once dried. The photos are from recent walks, and I added an autumn poem that I wrote several years ago.

Floating, falling, drifting, swirling,
downward, sideways, high and low.
Spirited, lively, playful, carefree,
crisp and breezy, to and fro.
Amber, auburn, chestnut, copper,
old gold, russet, nut brown, mocha.
A colourful carpet of leaves everywhere;
farewell summer,
autumn is here!

We were surprised, on a recent walk, to see a mother duck with ten little ducklings swimming down the stream. It is the wrong time of year for ducks to be breeding and we can only assume it is a result of a very mild autumn, and hope that they all survived.

Nature

Autumn Walks

I love going for walks at this time of the year when the trees are cloaked in beautiful shades of reds and oranges and golds, and the ground beneath is a colourful carpet of crisp autumn leaves.

These are some of the beautiful trees at Park Island, one of our favourite walking spots.

This white-faced heron is a frequent visitor to the stream at Park Island.

Finn and I go for a walk through Plantation Reserve most mornings, usually a great meeting spot for other dog walkers, although on this particular morning I chose a quiet time so I could take some photos of the trees.

I love to pick up little treasures on our walks and display them on a nature shelf that I have in my studio at home.

Autumn leaves
Tiny birds nests and feathers
Treasures from the beach
Seed pods
Other interesting things

It seems I can never go home empty-handed; there are always so many interesting things to find!

Flowers · Garden · Mixed-media · Nature

Beautiful Bees

In celebration of Earth Day I’d like to shine a light on the tiny creatures that are so vital to our very existence – honeybees and bumblebees. Sadly, worldwide bee populations are in decline, which is why we need to protect them and encourage them into our gardens. We can make our gardens bee friendly by planting flowers with open petals, planting colourful flowers with lots of blues and purples and yellows, providing a source of water so the bees don’t get dehydrated, planting native plants, and creating nesting habitats for them.

A few of the plants that bees love include alyssum, daisies, asters, bergamot bee balm, lavender, rosemary, cosmos, echinacea, borage, anise hyssop, and salvia.

These are a few of the beautiful bees and bumblebees that have visited our garden over the summer.

I painted this canvas of a furry bumblebee for my dear friend, Erica, who has just retired and is looking forward to having more time to spend with nature in her lovely garden.

Happy Earth Day!

Foraging · Nature

Foraging for Walnuts

Every autumn, in April, we enjoy going foraging for walnuts. There are a couple of places where we take Finn walking that we know have big old walnut trees, which are off the beaten track and where the walnuts lie on the ground untouched.

The last couple of weeks we have had some beautiful autumn weather, perfect for foraging. On a day that was warm and still and sunny, we took our bags and headed for the river. Away from civilization, we were surrounded by trees, birdsong, bees, dragonflies, and fantails.

It was clear from the dense undergrowth and foliage that not many people had come down this way.

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We discovered a crabapple tree on our walk.

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Big old walnut tree

When we reached the walnut trees we had to search beneath the undergrowth for the nuts, however there were plenty to be found, and Finn was keen to help! We filled our bags and left plenty for the next forager to find.

Several chatty fantails accompanied us on our walk, flitting from branch to branch. They rarely stay still for more than a moment at a time, so it is very hard to photograph them, but Nick managed to capture these ones.

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Then it was down to the river for Finn to have a swim.

Now I have to wait a few weeks for the walnuts to dry before I can make my favourite caramel date and walnut cake!

 

Art · Floriography · Flowers · Mixed-media · Nature · Uncategorized

More Floriography

Here are a few more pages from my floriography book.

I found this little forget-me-not poem in one of the old books of poetry I picked up for a dollar from the school book fair, and thought it was perfect for adding to my page with forget-me-nots from my garden.

This is a page that I did in my art journal a while ago.

I have collected a few books over the years on ‘The Language of Flowers’ and find it interesting that most of the flower meanings have remained consistent over time, their interpretations drawn from myth and history. However, there are a few that differ from book to book. It would be interesting to get hold of an original one from the Victorian era to compare with the modern books.

I love that Olive Dunn, in her book ‘Delights of Floral Language,’ has started her own floral language list with no sinister meanings, as she found some of the meanings repellent in the old books.

I believe that flowers speak to us with their colour, beauty, uniqueness, and their life force, touching each of us in different ways. I think that all flowers are beautiful, but I know that, for me, certain flowers evoke a particular emotion or bring to mind certain words. I am drawn to them by their colour, associations, or folklore, and the joy that they add to my life. I’m sure that if each of us were to compile our own personal ‘language of flowers’ list, they might make for some interesting reading and comparisons!

 

 

Art · Art journal · Mixed-media

The Skylark and the Rainbow

I recently signed up for the online mixed-media workshop 21 Secrets: The Great Outdoors, one of the many fabulous workshops run by Dirty Footprints Studio. It is a self-paced course that you can dip into whenever you have some free time in which eleven artists, each with with their own unique style, demonstrate fun projects. I am enjoying spending time with each of the artists, learning new techniques and gaining inspiration, and all centred around my favourite subject of nature.

One of my favourite workshops so far has been Laly Mille’s art journaling lesson The Poetic Botanist. A couple of weeks ago I went to the annual book sale at one of our local high schools and picked up some old, falling apart poetry books for a dollar each. The pages were perfect to use on my journal layout. Slipped inside one of the books was an old sheet of notepaper with a wonderful image of a rose, the exact sort of image I had been looking for to use as the focal image on my page.

My journal page was created with collaged book pages and sheet music, image transfers from old botanical books, paint, ink, washi tape, and a pressed rose from my mother’s garden.

I picked out random words from the collaged book pages, as well as some from my box of words, and wrote a little story that I journaled around the layout. Some of it is partially hidden, so I have typed it out below.

The Skylark and the Rainbow

Once upon a time a free-spirited skylark saw a rainbow in the sky and, forgetting the lessons of nature, he believed he could reach it.

Singing away, he felt the summer breeze on his wings as happiness carried him on his journey.

The higher he flew, the more distant the rainbow grew until it faded away into the parting clouds, replaced by rays of golden sunshine.

When the rainbow was gone, the skylark returned home, not feeling sadness at his failure to reach it, but instead remembering the little moments of joy that had filled his heart and soul as he made the journey towards the colourful ribbon in the sky.

Have a happy day on your journey towards your rainbow!