to jam or not to jam

Nothing beats a classic Aussie Lamington — the soft sponge cake that slightly absorbs it’s chocolate icing around all sides, covered in sweetened coconut flakes. And yes, I fall on the side of JAM tucked in the center! If you’re not convinced, omit that portion of the recipe.

LAMINGTONS WITH JAM

Sponge Cake

10 T. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour                                                                                                                  2 teaspoons baking powder                                                                                             3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk                                                                                                              Raspberry Jam, seedless

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease & flour a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar with the vanilla, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour and salt and fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Add a little more milk if necessary so that the mixture drops easily from a spoon.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30–35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut the cake into two even layers and spread with a thin layer of raspberry jam — enough to hold the layers together but not to ooze out when cut. Press the layers together and cut into 2 inch cubes.

Icing

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4–6 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                                                                                        5 oz. sweetened flaked coconut

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add the boiling water, butter and vanilla, then stir until smooth and shiny.

Spread  a small amount the flaked coconut on a large plate. Dip the sandwiched cake pieces in the chocolate icing then immediately roll in the coconut, using two forks to turn and coat.  Replenish the coconut as needed. Leave on a wire rack to set.

Recipe adapted from Margaret Fulton’s Baking Classics

more cool stamps

Suddenly, I wish I wrote more correspondence that required stamps. Because suddenly, the United States Postal Service is producing all kinds of cool stamps.

Here are a few more to add to your collection produced in past years but still available for purchase online:

The Solar Eclipse — a heat sensitive ink that reveals the moon with the touch of your finger. So f-in cool!! Now I wish I’d had an eclipse party. Good news is these are Forever stamps. Buy some now and use them for the next North American solar eclipse in 2024.

How about these round (!) ball stamps. So cute for a kids party invite or just for your favorite sports fan. I so wish you could buy single balls ’cause I’m kinda partial to tennis myself. But the novelty of any of these balls adorning your mail would be charming regardless the sport.

janice

An oldie but a goodie from 2014 still available online. Nothing beats the flower power of Janice Joplin.

succulent

If succulents are more your thing, here’s another round stamp good for international postage or larger envelopes at $1.15 value.

And whether your taste in entertainment leans towards Star Trek or Disney, there are always some great options available in any given year.

These and other cool stamps are available online here.

And what are my favorite stamps I’ve ever purchased?

These Charles and Ray Eames stamps. Issued in 2008 before forever stamps were introduced. But that’s OK. They’re too cool to mail. I framed them instead.

scratch and post

Available today at your local post office — scratch and sniff stamps with the smell of summer frozen treats!

There’s just one scent for all designs, sadly. But regardless, they’re fun, fruity and oh so summery. Post one to a friend today. Perfect for those letters home from camp!

$10 for a book of ten Forever stamps, until sold out.

ice cream challenge

Today’s Contender:  McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream
Location:  Santa Barbara, CA
Flavor:  Vanilla Bean

This not so boring Vanilla Bean ice cream may just be the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had. I have in fact, tried a few of McConnell’s flavors and think the texture of their ice cream to be exactly what I love  — rich and creamy, smooth beyond compare made with premium, all natural ingredients. Which makes their vanilla bean to die for. Just as the carton says, a perfect accompaniment to pie!  But it’s damn good alone as well.

McConnell’s ice cream is a Santa Barbara, California tradition going back over 70 years. But of late, they have joined the Los Angeles ice cream boom with scoop shops downtown, in Los Feliz and Studio City. You can also find them in nearly every grocery store here in town for those that don’t live on the east side — at the premium price of $9.99/pt.

There may be more trendy ice cream shops everywhere here in LA these days but I’d pick McConnel’s over any of them to be honest.

sale of the century

I know summer is on the way (although you wouldn’t know it here in LA). But despite the fact you won’t wear these clothes for months to come — take advantage of the winter clothing sale at what is undoubtedly the best new fashion brand to come along in ages: ROUCHA.

I am head over heals in love with these clothes.The styling is right up my alley — slightly masculine but with feminine flair. Ultimately mix and matchable in black, navy, brown, grey and the occasional pop of color –  just what we all wear anyway. These are pieces made to be worn every day and work with sneakers or heels, whichever you fancy. I’m of the former variety myself.

The quality is gorgeous. The fit slightly oversized. The look sophisticated casual. And right now nearly everything is on sale up to 50% off.  If they weren’t sold out of a lot of styles in my size, I’d seriously own one of everything right now. I have an entire closet of winter coats from my East Coast days that never get worn here in California. But i am seriously tempted to buy another, knowing that a European trip is in my future late fall. At these prices, how can a girl resist?

This brand came to me in my Instagram feed. And boy am I happy about that. It a brand with serious pedigree and serious chops. Clothes that will last a lifetime and never go out of style. Even at full price … worth every penny!

Sale ends June 3, 2018

 

new & notable in melbourne

Just a quick stay in Melbourne this trip, I didn’t have time for a whole lot of new but made a point of getting to some of the places I’ve been dying to get to for awhile. Melbourne never disappoints!

NEW

The Hub General Store:  Down a back street in Collingwood there’s a charming little brick building that houses a million and one basic treasures from around the world. Need a scrub brush? A bar of soap? A bunch of clothespins? How about a loaf of freshly baked bread and a jar of local creamed honey? Or maple syrup from America? A children’s book or miniature stuffed animal? A notebook and a pen or pencil perhpas?  You get the gist.

Piled high and a bit of a treasure hunt, the every day is elevated to the sublime. And before you get to those everyday treasures, there’s a small gallery in front where invited artists treat visitors with a different sort of sensory experience. When I was there the gallery was overstuffed with big, round, white balloons — a stark contrast to the slowly deflating black balloons creeping up and around the exterior facade. Simple objects raised to the level of art.

36 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

Higher Ground:  The new CBD restaurant brought to you by the same folks that own Kettle Black. It’s another beautiful space with unique all day dining. Located in an old power station just across the way from the Southern Cross station, it has soaring ceilings and various seating arrangements from traditional tables, to common tables and cozy lounge areas across multiple floors. Look for their signature beautiful brunch dishes like this polenta porridge offering

and some unusual and interesting fare. Expect a wait even on a weekday. But worth it.

650 Little Burke Street, CBD

NOTABLE

Lune Croissanterie:  Not new but certainly notable, Lune might just be a national treasure if that can be said of a bakery in Australia that specializes in signature French pastries. Proclaimed as being the best croissants in the world by The New York Times no less, the lines can snake out the door and around the block to purchase croissants that can cost upwards of $12+ each. Open from 7:30 AM until sold out most days, get there early, stand in line and make sure whatever concoction of a croissant you indulge in, your box of goodies (yes, you will purchase many because each looks better than the next) includes at least one classic ham & gruyere — it’s buttery, crunchy, salty and cheesy goodness not to be missed.

119 Rose Street, Fitzroy

Meatsmith:  This absolutely fabulous (and beautiful) butchery is from my favorite local chef, Andrew McConnell, where you can get the best cuts of meat from local farmers, Australian wines, spectacular condiments in simple glass jars (they make great gifts!) and other specialty grocery items. But I am here to tell you about the house made lasagna.

If you need a heat and serve meal, this one is sublime. Ready in just 30 minutes, it’s rich, meaty, creamy, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of red — or maybe that’s the other way around. At any rate, it will only set you back $22 and serves 2-3. My recommendation — leave it in the oven a bit longer to crisp the top to a crunchy charred finish. (My little heat and serve disaster actually turned out to make it that much better!)

273 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Bobbie Burns Shiraz:  No it’s not a place in Melbourne. But If you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine to pair with your lasagna, consider this 2013 vintage from Victorian winery Campbells

I am not a wine connoisseur but I do know what I like. I found this smooth and easy to drink. I liked it so much I came home and bought 6 bottles here in America. And don’t be fooled by the twist top bottle — it’s an Aussie thing.

 

for your shopping pleasure

These days when you have to supply your own shopping bag at the market, why not make it beautiful and functional? Tyvek and leather 3D shopping bag by Milk Designs comes in two sizes and two colors.  $29.50

paradise found

I was going to tell you all about my return visit to Gaia Retreat. But with these images need I tell you about the amazing food? The to die for spa treatments? The private tree house spot where you can have a soak in a rose petal and coconut milk bath? The friendly staff that knows your name, likes and dislikes? The friendly neighbors who stop to say hello on your walk into town, who know you are being looked after but just want to be sure? The most charming little 8-ish building town you have ever seen that once upon a time had only a restaurant and now is an unsuspecting tourist enclave with world class shopping? The friendly shop owner who offers you a ride back to the spa on a 90 degree day after you have sweat over all their goods and merchandise? The lovely herbal tea maker in nearby Byron Bay who goes out of her way to deliver tea to you to take home to the States?

I think not. Just sit back and enjoy the view. (shhhh, I’m told they put it on just for the tourists willing to get up at 6:30 am)Gaia Retreat & Spa, Brooklet NSW, Australia