|My mother...circa 1938|
|Graham and me...early 1948|
For me, February is a month filled with memories...bittersweet memories.
17th February is the birth date of my late mother, Elma Flora Hay. 28th February is the birth date of my late brother, Graham.
Graham snuck into February...with a roar, no doubt...managing, by the skin of his baby gums, to leap over a Leap Year.
My mother and brother unfortunately passed away in their mid-fifties. Mum was only 54; and, Graham, 56...far too young.
Birthdays were fun-filled days when I was a kid. Our celebrations weren’t overboard, extravagant celebrations like some we read about today where an embarrassing amount of money is lavished on outlandish parties. We didn’t have money to splash around, but, somehow, my brother and I missed out on little.
Clowns weren’t required to be in attendance at our parties. My brother and I regularly acted like clowns, or were entertained by the clowns when the circus came to town. Like clockwork, Wirth’s, Bullen’s and Ashton’s circuses visited Gympie every year, setting up the Big Top at Nelson’s Reserve. When the circus came to town, we were among the excited crowds gathered together to watch the circus folk set up. In awe, we watched as they unveiled the animal cages while nonchalant elephants crazed nearby. Front row, ring-side seats awaited us in the evening. One year an elephant escaped when the animals were being off-loaded from the train. To our surprise, and enjoyment, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw an elephant wandering along the street at the upper end of the one in which we lived! That definitely was not an everyday occurrence!
Also, it wasn’t necessary for my brother, or me, to run away to join the circus. We created our own at home
Our tiny family unit...Nana, Mum, Graham and me...didn’t have money to throw around willy-nilly, but as I said above, we never went without. We always had clean clothes on our back; shoes on our feet, food on the
table and in our cupboards. There was no car in the garage (no garage, either), no telephone, and no fridge. Our ice chest did a sturdy job of keeping food cold. Come Christmas, Easter and birthdays all the special treats imaginable were laid out for us to enjoy. Good table manners were a must.
One of my friends whose surname coincidentally was “Friend”, was ever-present at our birthday parties. She never failed to leave her table manners at home. Without regard for others, she’d greedily reach across the table, not caring who she reached in front of, to grab the largest, colourfully-decorated fairy cake before anyone close to it had a chance. Like our turkey in the backyard fowl house, she’d gobble it down without a second glance. The out-of-reach fairy cakes weren’t her only targets. Nothing was out of her reach.
Graham’s and my Christmas and birthday presents were many. Books played major roles in our bounty. We received four or five books each as part of our gifts. We always found a copy of the annual Coles Funny Picture Book, with the rainbow on its cover, in our loaded Christmas stockings/pillowcases.
Naturally, throughout our childhood years (and beyond) Graham and I fought like cat and dog as many siblings do. Nevertheless, we loved each other. He was “there” for me, and vice versa.
During my teenage years he kept a big brother, eagle-eyed, beady eye on me, warning off would-be suitors...or admirers. (Being crafty, I found a way around his surveillance, of course...knitting, crocheting and quilting had nothing to do with it).
Like our red-haired mother (a prime example of the reputation gained by fiery red-heads), Graham, although not a red-head...he had dark brown hair...was as fiery as Elma, our mum. He inherited our mother’s slightly wicked, fun sense of humour, too.
Having a sense of humour, and being able to look on the bright side of life, even when burdensome dark clouds hovered perilously assisted greatly...among the good and bad times; the happy and sad times...bittersweet memories....
Chocolate Fairy Cakes: Preheat oven 190C. Line 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. Sift 280g S.R. flour, 1/3c cocoa and 1/2c caster sugar into bowl. Lightly beat 4 eggs; add eggs, along with 250g melted butter, 1-1/3rd c milk and 200g melted dark chocolate, to dry mixture; mix until combined; then spoon into cupcake foils. Bake 10-15mins. When cool, spread each with Ganache: Melt 200g dark chocolate and 1/2c cream together; remove from heat; cool. Pipe/swirl over top of fairy cakes.
Rainbow Cupcakes: Preheat oven 180C. Beat 85g softened butter with 100g caster sugar; add 1 egg. In another mixing bowl, mix together 130g plain flour, 1tsp vanilla, 1tsp baking powder and pinch of salt; then stir in half of dry mixture into wet mixture; add 45ml milk; beat. Add other half of dry mixture and another 45ml milk; beat until batter is smooth and well combined. Fill 6 cupcake cases 3/4 full; bake 20–25mins. Remove from oven; cool 30mins before decorating. Once cooled, remove a teaspoon of cake from the middle and push half a strawberry into the hole (or a whole strawberry if it is small). Frosting: Beat 25g softened butter with 110g cream cheese until smooth; add 50g icing sugar and 50g mascarpone. Beat until it’s very smooth. Divide mixture between 5 bowls; add a few drops of blue, pink, purple, yellow and green food colouring to each bowl. Mix in each colour well with a soft spatula. Fill the one piping bag with all the colours. Once cupcakes have cooled, make rainbows on top with the multi-coloured frosting in the piping bag.