Thursday, June 18, 2009


To take a short break from 'Apple butter mania', I turn today's focus to a more important cause... not martinis or food or naked picnics in the grass.

I spend my career educating people on neuroplasticity and ways to keep our brain exercised and healthy in the hopes of delaying, or possibly preventing, Alzheimer's Disease, other forms of dementia and cognitive decline. Everyday I hear forever life changing stories of the effects of dementia.

These stories come from people who are carers for family members, watched their parents eventual dementia related death or even have been diagnosed with early on-set dementia. Think that dementia doesn't effect you?

With current statistics showing that 1 out of every 3 people over the age of 65 develop dementia, you better believe that it will effect you in one way or another.

Meet Team Hot Dog

'Perth'onality socialite, Sarah Swan
Blogger hunk extraordinaire, Hula Hank and;
Independent brand identity specialist, Julie Hill.

Team Hot Dog... three members.. chances are high that one of us will develop dementia in the future.

This frank and startling reality check is what inspired us to choose to raise money for Alzheimer's (Also, the fact that I work for AAWA may have had a little something to do with it).

You may be asking yourself, "What the hell is a Team Hot Dog?"

On 20 September 2009, my organistaion is hosting the state's first ever Memory Walk. The 2009 Memory Walk will raise much need funds for dementia public awareness, education and support for for families, carers and those how have dementia.

The three of us (Team Hot Dog) have created a "My Hero" page to raise money for this event. You can find it online here:

Ok, so what is with the "Hot Dog" part?

Well, if we exceed our target fundraising goal, Team Hot Dog pledges to complete the walk dressed as GIANT HOT DOGS!!!!!

That is right we will dress as GIANT HOT DOGS, if we exceed our fundraising goal. So tell everyone you know to stop by our Everyday Hero page to 'relish' us with your support and provide much needed help for Dementia Awareness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Due to the popular demand, I hereby share with you an apple butter recipe you can make at home or during a block party. It is almost summer in the US, so you have plenty of time to plan and gather all the ingredients before October!

If you are in Australia, well, you are too late. The apple harvest has just finished for the season. The good news is that you have an entire year to plant apple trees, find a copper kettle and sew your very own bonnet.

If anyone happens to have a bunch of Pennsylvania Dutch people lying around, here is a traditional recipe from 1839.

“Cider for apple butter must be perfectly new from the press, and the sweeter and mellower the apples are of which it is made, the better will the apple butter be.

Boil the cider till reduced to one half its original quantity, and skim it well.

Do not use for this purpose an iron kettle, or the butter will be very dark, and if you use a brass or copper kettle, it must be scoured as clean and bright as possible, before you put the cider into it, and you must not suffer the butter to remain in it a minute longer than is actually necessary to prepare it, or it will imbibe a copperish taste that will render it not only unpleasant, but really unhealthy.

It is best to prepare it late in the fall, when the apples are quite mellow. Select those that have a fine flavor, and will cook tender; pare and quarter them from the cores, and boil them in the cider till perfectly soft, having plenty of cider to cover them well.

If you wish to make it on a small scale, do not remove the apples from the cider when they get soft, but continue to boil them gently in it till the apples and cider form a thick smooth marmalade, which you must stir almost constantly towards the last.

A few minutes before you take it from the fire, flavor it highly with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, and when the seasonings are well intermixed, put it up in jars, tie folded paper over them and keep them in a cool place.

If made in a proper manner, it will keep good more than a year, and will be found very convenient, being always in readiness.

Many people who are in the habit of making apple butter, take it from the fire before it is boiled near enough. Both to keep it well and taste well, it should be boiled long after the apples have become soft, and towards the last, simmered over coals till it gets almost thick enough to slice.

If you wish to make it on a large scale, after you have boiled the first kettle full of apples soft, remove them from the cider, draining them with a perforated ladle that the cider may fall again to the kettle, and put them into a clean tub.

Fill up the kettle with fresh apples, having them pared and sliced from the cores, and having ready a kettle of boiling cider, that is reduced to at least half its original quantity; fill up the kettle of apples with it as often as is necessary.
When you have boiled in this manner as many apples as you wish, put the whole of them in a large kettle, or kettles, with the cider, and simmer it over a bed of coals till it is so thick, that it is with some difficulty you can stir it: it should be stirred almost constantly, with a wooden spaddle, or paddle, or it will be certain to scorch at the bottom or sides of the kettle.

Shortly before you take it from the fire, season it as before directed, and then put it up in jars."

If you are without a spaddle or bed of coals, I have altered the above into a 12 Step recipe:

Step 1. Grab your Golden Girls DVD and put into DVD player. If you are looking for more of a pioneer atmosphere when making apple butter try watching Little House on the Prairie.

Step 2. Take two kilos (about 4.5 pounds) of apples, peel two of them and then sigh “Oh my god, there is no way I am peeling all these apples!” Fortunately, peeling the apples is optional.

Step 3. Quarter the apples and dump them in the slow cooker with ½ cup of apple cider, 3 cups sugar and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then stir to mix. I cannot get apple cider down here, so I used an organic and freshly pressed apple juice, with no added sugar.

Step 4. Put your slow cooker on high and cook apples for three hours.

Step 5. After three hours, turn the slow cooker on low and let cook for another 9 hours or so, stirring occasionally.

Step 6. Now take a small amount of the cooked apples and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Put the processed apple mixture in a bowl and continue until all of the apples and juice are pureed.

Word of caution: When I made a pineapple panna cotta, I pureed the piping hot pineapple mixture and was rewarded by a blender exploding boiling hot pineapple all over my face (Note to Mr Show, JLo and Pumpkin Delight: No jokes please about hot liquids exploding in one’s face). Avoid this horrific experience by blending only a small amount of apples and lifting the lid every few seconds to let the steam escape.

Step 7. Once all of the cooked apples have been pureed, put back into the slow cooker and add more spices. I really enjoy the spicy bite of cinnamon so basically I dumped in an unspecified amount until I was happy with the taste.

Step 8. After the mixture is perfectly seasoned, cook on low for about 2 or 3 more hours, stirring occasionally.

Step 9. When finished, the apple butter should be extremely thick in texture and a deep brown in colour.

Step 10. At this point, you should realise that you failed to obtain any mason jars. Quickly dump out the commercial pasta sauce and strong pickled onions from their jars, thoroughly wash and dry said jars and fill with apple butter.

Step 11. I set the filled jars upside down for about an hour or two and when I turned them over, the lids miraculously sealed! This may work for you, although I cannot guarantee that this technique seals well enough to store outside of the refrigerator.

Step 12. The final step is to proudly announce your culinary achievement to your ungrateful family, who will then refuse to even take one small taste.

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by orchards that produce fruit year round. Peaches, Nectarines, Persimmons, Pears, Apples and let us not forget my own orchard’s specialty: Plums.

My intention is to attempt a butter out of each and every one of these fruits as they are harvested.

Do you think I should start a local apple butter festival?

Monday, June 15, 2009


…or least a slightly-plagiarized-from-the-disappointing-Wikipedia-version-of the complete history of apple butter.

“Apple butter was a popular way of using apples in colonial America.” – Wikipedia

That’s it! That is the total history of apple butter according to Wikipedia.

Further research has led me to discover a few more details. Whilst apple butter is generally accredited to New England, many historians actually believe it was brought over by the Pennsylvania Dutch (you know, the Amish folks) and then further rose to popularity in the Appalachia (you know, the Hillbillies).

Wikipedia goes on to describe apple butter as a “highly concentrated form of apple sauce.” I suppose that yes, whilst apple sauce and apple butter have the same beginnings it is far too simplistic to use such a description. It is like saying a ‘red wine jus’ is just a highly concentrated form of your favourite merlot.

Apple sauce is lumpy and runny and falls off your spoon if you check your watch whilst eating it.

Apple butter is smooth and spreads thick over toast. When you take that first bite, one should taste crisp autumn mornings and hay rides through the changing trees.

Traditionally, the preparation of apple butter was a weekend long community event. It all started early in the morning when the men would harvest several bushels of apples and then, as far as I could find, their work was done.

The boys would gather firewood to heat the large copper kettles and then, as far as I could find, their work was done.

The mothers peeled and sliced the apples. These were still the days when knives were used instead of peelers. My mother used to peel apples this way and told me that whatever letter the discarded apple peel most resembled was the first initial of the person whom you will marry.

I reckon that when the women were busy cutting off their fingers from peeling the apples while the men were lounging in hammocks, the women were secretly checking out the letters made by the peels to see who they should have actually married.

The cut apples were then thrown into the heated copper kettles while the girls took turns stirring with large wooden paddles and gossiping about Helga’s new bonnet.

It was important that the apples be stirred constantly or else they would burn and the whole town would take the girl in charge and put her in a stock and throw cream pies at her face.

The women would then spice the mixture with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Requiring to be stewed all day, I imagine the aroma filled the town air with sweet incense comforting the souls.

When the sky was overcome by the colours of the setting sun, the apple butter was done and all the men got off their hammocks to come down to the copper pot for the first taste.

In October, many “historic” towns around the US have apple butter festivals where they roll out the copper kettles and throw a party. There was a big festival in a country town close to where I grew up.

They had two big events a year, one when the maple syrup was harvested and the other when it was time to make apple butter. My memories of apple butter come from when my family attended this festival. Memories so strong that, despite not having apple butter for at least twenty years, I still fantasize about it.

A few weeks ago when the kids came home from a walk through the bush loaded with apples they had picked from the neighbouring orchard, apple butter nostalgia took the best of me.

I pulled out my copper kettle (a.k.a. the slow cooker) and set out to peeling the apples with a knife (a.k.a. the peeler) and gossiping about Helga’s new bonnet (a.k.a. watching Golden Girls).

Sixteen hours later, the apples morphed into a deep golden brown butter with a slight hint of red. It was so thick it could be cut with a knife and the smell of cinnamon filled the kitchen.

I was so excited and proud to share this memory with those I love, however the three jars still sit unopened in the refrigerator because those I love are too afraid to try it. Those I love that smother bread with the foul Aussie tradition that is Vegemite won’t spread their toast with the sweet memories of my childhood.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I used jars labeled “Strong Pickled Onions”?

Friday, June 12, 2009

DEAR __________________,

Dear Everyone,

It has been a very long time since we last got together like this. I just bought a few bottles of peach vodka from the liquor wholesalers on the first floor of my office building. Can interest you in peach martini?

Dear JLO,

Yes, living the Aussie life down here. With the exception that I have never worn a hat with corks hanging off the brim and three drag queens driving a lavender bus have never knocked on my door.

Other than that, red soil? Check. Snakes? Check. Cockatoos? Check. Kangaroos? Check. Bottle of shiraz? Double check.

You know what would make it a true Aussie life? If you travelled down under and gave a performance of your 80s dance repertoire to the music of Men at Work!!!!!!!!

Dear Grandma J,

First let me say that I have heard you loud and clear regaring the comment font size being very very very small. I have never known how to fix the problem before but I have taken a quick internet course of CSS coding and went to the comment template and changed to a larger font... Just for you!

I am glad to see that you are enjoying your new unit! The landscaping is wonderful. Very minimalist.

More pressing are you questions about kangaroos. First I need to make a group announcement here. Pardon me. >>>>

Dear All,

I hate to interrupt your peach martinis, however I feel it is my duty to confess that my post on Mr and Mrs Rufus (Red Kangaroo) appearing nightly in my front paddocks was a complete lie.

I rang the very friendly folks at Perth Hills National Parks Visitors Centre who informed me that the nightly visitors are actually Western Grey Kangaroos.

Red Kangaroos are further north and inland where is it more arid.

You may now continue you martinis and dancing The Worm.


So Grandma J, kangaroos are more shy in temperament and tend to bounce away if they sense a human presence. There are a few places around town that you can go to feed and pet tame kangaroos. I do have a picture of myself snuggling a kangaroo many years ago. I will find it and post it for you.

The different types of roos don't interbreed. I thought I could make that statement into a longer paragraph, but nope. I think that says it all.

I did not know that the school mascot is Killeen, TX is a kangaroo. Does he wear a pair of boxing gloves?

Dear Mr Show,

I think that is so cool you learned how to speak Navajo and even your own family didn't know... or did they?

Did you know that I can speak Cherokee?

Actually, I can only say the number '6'.

You did mention about the increased font size, I don't believe you have ever mentioned it before. It must be something new since you turned 40?

Dear Mom #1,

I sincerely hope that you are alright after that tree jumped out in front of your truck. How very inconsiderate of it.

There is a Roo Repellent, it is called a shotgun.

I would never use such repellent, of course. The kangaroo are not a nuisance to me and I encourage them to come around more often... and bring their friends (as long as their friend are not The Adders).

In Hillary Clinton's autobiography, she mentions that when her and Bill made a visit to a high ranking politician or the Governor General (the Queen's representative) in Australia, they were looking over his land and the HRP and/or GG made a comment to her that they heard Bill was allergic to kangaroos and they did their best to get rid of them all for the visit.

Dear Pumpkin Delight,

I cannot wait until you make your confession and tell us the truth. I was hoping that one of your truths or lies was that you were pregnant.

Roos over Adders any day!

Dear Queen of Phrump,

You are my inspiration to want to become a better writer.

I thought jackrabbits were only myth!

BTW, I was watching one of those Las Vegas cop shows and they featured your very own kingdom. Apparently you have quite a few murderous Trekkies as your neighbours.

Can I get anyone else another martini? Who was supposed to bring the food?


XX Hula Hank

Sunday, June 7, 2009


...As in Macropus Rufus, or as their friends call them Mr & Mrs Red Kangaroo.

Red Kangaroos are, as I am sure you are already aware, native to most of Australia with the exception of the rain forest and certain places in the south. Their cousins Grey Kangaroo (Eastern and Western) and Antilopine Kangaroo take up residency in those areas.

As wikipedia describes, their legs work like snapping rubber bands allowing them to travel over 30 ft in one bounce. I have never been able to find out how high they can jump, most people just say "really high."

Every night a mob of Red Kangaroos emerge from the national forest, breaking through our boundary fence and come to graze in our paddocks.

The darkness of the night does allow for easy viewing. Often you will suddenly hear a "thud... thud... thud" and you know it is a kangaroo bouncing along its way... or it's an alien looking to make a fresh abduction.

A couple times we grabbed a bright torch (flashlight) and quietly walked down the driveway listening for any thump or rustle when we switch on the torch and the kangaroo takes the spotlight.

I can hear what you are saying, won't Mr & Mrs Kangaroo get scared and punch us with boxing gloves?

Well technically they rest on their tails and then kick out, but I have not yet seen a pair of boxing gloves... maybe they keep them in their pouch next to their baby?

Now I must make a disclaimer, I don't really know if the evening visitors are actually Red Kangaroos or Western Grey Kangaroos. Maybe I should have worked that out before telling you all about them?

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Only four posts in May.

It has been a very busy and sometimes trying month.

The electricity is still out in the office, going on five weeks in the dark. It mostly affects my office and the woman in the office next to mine. We were both having a chat the other day and discovered that we both feel tired, cranky, uninspired and fatigued.

Our counselling team diagnosed us as having S.A.D. which stands for Seasonal something-or-rather Disorder or Depression... I wasn't really paying attention, I was too busy crying in the corner.

I was lured out of the corner and thrown on a plane to give a speech at a fantastic conference in Adelaide.

When I say "fantastic" I really mean "drunken" but I am sure you have already made that assumption.

South Australia, the state which Adelaide is the capital city of, is known for its wines and produce. In fact, my idol Maggie Beer is based here as well as another cook I love called Dorinda who is probably more known for her red lipstick.

I spent the first night drinking many glasses of rose champagne and eating fresh oysters.

The next day, after giving my speech, I was given a bottle of Shiraz, which was immediately consumed while eating chocolate frogs.

I thought that I could share with you the photographs of everything I saw in Adelaide.

My hotel room:

What happened to my right eye?

The view from the window of the Convention Centre:

That's all.