The Perfect Date Squares

I find these slices irresistible.
Dates in the middle of perfection.
I tried a combination of recipes (ie Joy of Baking and Ricardo’s Cuisine) .
This is what I ended up and I’m keeping it for life.
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Filling:
3 cups (720 ml) (400 grams) pitted dried dates
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon

Oatmeal Crisp:
2 cups (480 ml) (200 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup crushed walnuts or pecan nuts
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (160 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Date Filling:

Place the pitted dates and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (about 5 – 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter (or use a non stick cooking spray) a 9 inch (23 cm) square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.

Oatmeal Crisp:
In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, walnuts and baking powder. Add the butter and stir to combine.

Press about 2/3 of the mixture onto the base of the prepared pan.

Spread the date filling evenly over the oatmeal crisp. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the top of the dates, press down gently to compact. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once the squares have cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator at least one hour or until firm enough to cut easily into squares.

My Guy

The Captain hardly asks for anything for himself. We’re opposites, you see.
For his birthday, all he wanted were: (1) a date and (2) homemade Chinese dishes.
These are too easy to give.
So we had lunch at DOC Expresso along Lyons St. It was our first time there.
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I didn’t really find the food exceptional but what I liked was being with the Captain minus the kids in the City. We walked around Melbourne Uni and had a good time talking about our babyccinos.
It’s nice to have that time with him away from our typical, busy lives.
I love how he’s aging gorgeously.
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I cooked him authentic Chinese dishes on his actual birthday. I used recipes from Every Grain of Rice (by Fuchsia Dunlop) cookbook. I think it’s a knockout.

Pretty Nina Meets (Puffing) Billy

It never appealed to me to ride a slow, loud, steam-engine train.
My idea of fun is going for a scenic, long drive or a quiet morning in the library or eating at one of Melbourne’s cafe.
It will take a lot to change my ideas.
I mean ALOT!
Until Nina asked for a Puffing Billy ride for her 6th birthday.
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What??!!
We have to pay over $100 for a family fare! What’s so fun about noisy, outdated trains?
Nina managed the cost part by calling her Tita Ann to foot the bill. And you know my sister can’t say NO to her nieces and nephews.
I can’t say NO to her either because it’s her birthday wish.
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Off we went with their cousin, Clare.
I brought 2 books to read in case I get bored.
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I must say, I was swept away with the ride.
I forgot time, food and my books. I just wanted the ride to stretch as long as possible.
Everything I saw was idyllic. Life in the country. Peaceful farmlands. Roaring hills. Skyrocketing trees. Vintage houses.
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My utterly delighted children.
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It was pure bliss!
I wanted to go back. Next time just with the Captain. On a date.
I thought it was awfully romantic.

Beatrix: Always in My Mind

I have never loved a bakery as much Beatrix at North Melbourne. The Captain and I stumbled upon this gem on our 10th year anniversary.
I can’t stop thinking about it since then.
I don’t know if it’s the selection of absolutely delicious cakes or the great coffee or the homey ambiance that pulled me into it.
On the Feast Day of St Josemaria, the Captain dropped me off at the bakery to have some ME- time. I decided to tag along my two lovely introverts, Pio and Nina.
We had a cherry – chocolate layered cake and the calamity biscuit (filled with marshmallow and jam). We were all in 7th heaven.
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I told them that we will start a bakery like Beatrix when they are a bit older.

That was enough to hype them up!

An Apple a Day…

Never really gave a whole apple before to a one year old.
I either sliced or at least peeled it.
I guess when it’s your sixth child, you get to be lazier or busier.
Whatever excuse sounds better.
He seemed to enjoy it though.
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Kiko has been flu free for 2 weeks now. He is back to his amazing appetite.
I cannot thank God enough for his good health.

Falling Cloudberries’ Splendid Carrot Cake

For Maria Jose
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I never baked this cake and got disappointed.
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My family enjoys it. Friends like it. My father loves it.
Although I don’t like carrot cake that much, I will whip this any time if someone asks me to.
It is absolutely delicious yet very easy to make.
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Ingredients:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g caster sugar
185ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
400g carrots, peeled and grated
55g chopped walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting:
180g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
180g cream cheese
3 drops vanilla extractPreheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas4. Grease and flour a 24 cm springform tin or bundt pan. Whisk eggs and sugar until creamy, then whisk in the oil. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Add this to the eggs and whisk. Add the carrots and nuts and mix together. Scrape into tin and bake for an hour.

For the icing whip the butter and icing sugar together until its stiff. Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. Spread over cooled cake.

Real Boys Work

I want my boys to be respectful.

I want my boys to be hardworking.

I want my boys to be motivated.

I want my boys to be dreamers.

I want my boys to be creative.

I want my boys to be big-hearted.

I want my boys to be learned.

I want my boys to be God-loving.

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I want them to be like their Dad.

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It all begins at home, I think.

It’s start with a little responsibility and progresses to harder ones as they can handle more.

I want them to value work.

I want them to realize that they can do anything as long as they put their heart and mind into it.

 

It’s Another Baby…

Naturally the boys want another boy and the girls have been praying for another girl.
As for me, a girl would be nice to balance off the numbers somehow. We currently have 4 boys and 2 girls. But I find that my girls are difficult to feed and a tad too chatty. Boys are the opposite. They are a joy to feed are not too dramatic. Although they want to climb every chair, every table, every mountain….
So we are having another baby BOY!
God has made His choice.
Now we just have to come up with a name.
Miguel?
Jose?
Francisco?

Earthly Pleasure

I live for pleasure.

For sure.

So on the last day of the Harkies’ Term 2, we decided to celebrate with a homemade cake at the school despite the rainy and cold weather.20160617_115128

Before having our afternoon tea, my homeschooled kids and I explored around Belgrave. I love this place. Everything is centrally located. The church is a step away from the library which is right next door to a nice cafe.

Earthly Pleasure

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Now I know where to unwind next time we are in Belgrave.

 

I was definitely pleased.

 

Fitzroy Garden: We’ve Finally Met

We had vague plans of what to do last Sunday:
Hear Mass at the city
Have a picnic at a park
Drink great local coffee
So we heard Mass at St Mary’s Star of the Sea and met up with a family friend visiting from Singapore.
We had no clue where to go after that until we found ourselves parking next to the Parliament House. We walked a bit. And a bit more until we saw this grand garden right before us.
Just what we need for a picnic.
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We were looking for a picnic spot until we were drawn to this observatory.
Too hungry, we decided to eat at the closest bench we found. Mat on the floor. Lunch was unpacked.
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Ducks and birds were all around.
Then something pulled us to this old cottage house.
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The kids wanted to see the Fairy Tree right in front of the Tudor Village so we moved on.
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Fitzroy Garden is beautiful even in the midst of winter.
It is probably the best garden I’ve seen in Melbourne.
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We left soon and found myself trying these Sicilian pastries with my babyccinos.
What can I say?
It was one of the best winter weekends ever.