an obsession with sciolari

This all began with a light I missed at auction.  It was a huge opaque white and amber ice glass chandelier, ugly but good ugly and I had never seen anything like it before.  I googled "ice glass chandelier" and before I knew it I was smitten with mid century modern chandeliers.  

I missed the light, I bid a top of $500 and looking back I could have paid triple and still had a bargain, it went for $550.  (Muffled screams of frustration).  I didn't win the auction but I certainly caught the bug: Kalmar the king of ice glass chandeliers; and Sciolari's timeless classics.

I can't understand why these have not been brought back into production.  I would happily buy a replica.  The pieces are sculptural, much more interesting than the majority of modern and expensive offerings out there.
Unfortunately I am not alone in my obsession and these lovely pieces are expensive to buy, probably around $3,500 upwards for a good one.  When you think how sculptural they are, and how unique, that is not as extravagant as it sounds.  A a good painting will cost you at least that.

Gaetano Sciolari designed these amazing modernist masterpieces from the 50's to the 70's, working with large lighting firms like Stilnovo (Milan) and Lightolier (New York) before starting to manufacture his own line.

So here I am trawling the web for a forgotten bargain, like the one I missed out on.  Do you have a treasure you hunt for?  Oh well, happy hunting...  

our biggest morning tea

We had the loveliest Big Morning Tea this morning and I just had to share the star of the show with you all.  A very creative and talented friend made this gorgeous Tea Party cake for us all to share.  Isn't it amazing?  
I am happy to admit when I have been out caked any day of the week, especially when we all get to eat the cakes afterwards.
Details of the gorgeous little girl complete with a bite out of her sandwich, the little doggie with his silver studded collar, jam cakes and tea cups.

I served up my share the love cupcakes and a pink ombre lemon cake with a bircher muesli.  If you want to make your own have a look at my rainbow layer cake secrets when I made Miss J's rainbow layer cake.  Another friend brought an incredible Dutch apple cake which was spiced and sweet and delicious.  It is safe to say none of us went hungry.
Hope you have a morning tea of your own, what could be better than breakfast with friends and raising money for a great cause.  Let me know whats on your menu.

share the love... 2013 big morning tea

In honour of my Auntie Bar, who lost her battle with cancer a few years ago, I am hosting a Big Morning Tea this year.  Its been a big day of baking, and not much blogging, as I prepare cupcakes and a pink ombre layer cake for tomorrow morning.

I will share the layer cake, and a truly amazing cake a dear friend is making later this week.
For now, remember to hold those dear to you tight today, and our thoughts go to all the people and their families who are fighting this battle right now.  

Please feel free to copy and use my "share the love" cupcake topper if you want to make your own cupcakes to help support this event.

This tea is part of the Cancer Councils Biggest Morning Tea series for 2013 and we will be donating all funds from the morning to the Cancer Council.

busy mum's ginger and all spice biscuits

This a recipe straight from the store cupboard.  So when your daughter says, at half past five on a mid-week afternoon, "Mum I need to take some biscuits to school tomorrow for a class party", you can channel your inner Super Mum and say, "Yes dear, lets make them right now" without batting an eyelid or dropping those other ten balls you are juggling.
Its also a great recipe for little children to make because the cookies are formed by rolling a ball, just like playing with play dough.  Fun for everybody, and yummy afterwards too.

- 100g butter
- 100g golden syrup
- 100g light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger & 1 teaspoon of mixed spices
- 225g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

Heat oven to 180 degrees.

Put a stove top pot on your kitchen scales and zero the weight.
Add the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar.
Put the pot on the stove and heat slowly until butter is melted, stir with wooden spoon to combine.
Sift flour, spices and bicarb into the pot and mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended and you have a play dough like consistency (see above left).

Wait for 5 minutes until dough is cool enough to handle.

Now for the fun part.  Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of dough and roll roughly into a ball.  Toddler skills are fine, the balls do not have to be perfect as the dough melts in the oven.  They should all be roughly the same size so that they take the same time to cook.

Place biscuits on a tray with a bit of space between each ball.  I like to use a silicon mat but you can use baking paper.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until cracks appear in the surface and biscuits are golden but not brown (above right).  Take biscuits out of the oven but leave them on the baking tray until they are cool and hard.  Best enjoyed dunked into tea or coffee.

Be careful about watching the biscuits, they go from brown to burned in a flash.  We didn't hear the timer and I went from Super-Mum-with-home-made-biscuits to Normal-Mum-buys-biscuits-from-store-on-way-to-school in the blink of an eye.  

Luckily we had enough for round two.  Sweet as a nut as the saying goes.

natural light and a glimpse of my home

Two of the design features I like most in my own home are the internal courtyard and the generous gallery entrance.  These were elements we knew we wanted and our architects Saville Isaacs incorporated them into the space better than I could have imagined.  The whole area is flooded with natural light all day long, and the courtyard is a cool retreat from summer's heat.
The house was very tidy when these photos were taken (by the lovely Maite Robin for Prebuilt), and I have to say I felt it looked a little empty.  There is still so much detail and texture I want to add.  Like grass cloth wall paper for the wall behind the dining room table, and cabinetry for the wall behind the couch - both on my dream list for right now.
Do you remember the West Elm chandelier that was on my dream list last year?  I couldn't resist it in the end, and I love it above the dining table.  

The oak floors are my favourite finish, neither too rustic nor too polished, they make every thing else sing.
The light filled gallery, our paintings are on an east facing wall, out of the worst of the sun.  Most of the art you can see is my mom's, lucky me to have such a talented artist in the family.

You can just see the kitchen counter peeking out above left, but I will save those photos for another day.

Thank you to Prebuilt (our builders) and Maite Robin for these lovely light filled images (top & bottom two).

Hope this week you love a little, laugh a little, dance a little

Its Monday morning!  Something to move you, make you laugh, and get your feet tapping.

Shadow Dance Group from Britain's got Talent - Might make you shed a tear.
Hands only CPR with Vince JonesJust remember "you only kiss your missus on the lips"
Katie Tunstall's Black Horse and the Cherry Tree - Hard to believe its just her, her guitar and a looping peddle - guess what Miss E wants from Santa!

If you only have time for one make it Vince Jones - so funny.

top ten building tips...when building your dream home

We recently built our own home, something I always dreamed of doing.  We didn't just build, no "surprise!" we had a baby too.  It was a HUGE year.  We learned a lot, we cried a lot, we didn't sleep a lot, but in the end I love my new home and expanded family - a lot!
So when Stocklands asked me to share my top ten building tips I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share my experience with other home builders.  Stocklands are in the business of making your dream of building your own home a reality, so its a perfect combination of their goals and my personal experience.    

1.  Make an inspiration board & study the details
With Pinterest inspiration boards have never been so easy, but go old school with a paper file if that works better for you.  Make a different board for each area of the house: kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry, playroom, whatever you are building.

Once you have pinned all your favourites take a step back and study them all together.  You will start to see a theme running through your selections.  Spot the similarities and study the details and make sure you include these key elements in your final design.  This is a sample of my kitchen board - no surprises that I have a black kitchen island, marble top, wood floors and white walls.

2.  Work with an interior designer or architect in the concept stage
Consult an expert to get your spaces and flow working well before the build starts.  This is an investment well worth making if you want to get it right first time and you want a polished look!  Make your inspiration boards first, they will make it much easier to explain the look and feel you are aiming for.
This is the time to talk about storage and where it should be, light sources, types of lighting, even the position of the light switches.  Be specific about how you plan to use spaces, the flow from indoors to outdoors, and where your north light comes from.
3.  Create a sample pack and take it everywhere
Try decide on all major finishes in the concept stage: floors, bathroom tiles, kitchen joinery colours and countertops.  Collect samples of all items and put them in a box in the back of your car.  As you select other finishes make sure they tie in with the elements you have already decided on.  A limited palette of complimentary materials will give your design good continuity and stronger visual impact.

4.  Make a non-negotiable list
Unless you have a bottomless wallet you are going to have to make budget choices somewhere.  Decide on your non-negotiable list upfront, for me it was my bathroom tiles and wooden floors.  When you need to cut costs make them elsewhere first, this way you end up with the items you really want.

5.  Use the same fittings throughout 
Choose the same taps for all your bathrooms, use the same floor finishes throughout the house,  apply a consistent colour palette in all your finishes.  Continuity will make your house feel well designed, and buying in bulk is a good opportunity to negotiate a good price.

6.  Make your cash work harder
- Shop around for the best prices, locally and online.
- Never get less than three quotes for any job or item.
- Ask for discounts when you buy, tell the retailer you are building and could be coming back for more supplies.  
- Shop at auctions for really good deals, we bought solar panels with installation for a great price on Grays Online

7.  Ask for recommendations
All our best trades, our builder, and many of our suppliers were recommended by people who had also built or rennovated.  There is no substitute for a personal reference.
This also applies to the many professionals you will need certificates from like engineers, certifiers, garden designers & traffic authorities.

8.  Plan, plan and plan some more
Graph paper just became your best friend.  Draw out your rooms, measure the furniture and draw them onto your floor plan.  Do elevations of the kitchen and built in joinery.  Its not hard, you just need a ruler, graph paper and your measurements.  Your builder will think you are crazy but you will get a preview of what the space will look like, and it will help you to be very specific about what you want. 

With a detailed plan there is no room for error, you know what you are getting and the builder knows exactly what to do.  You want to get it right the first time, undoing building work costs time and money and is the fastest way to go over budget and over schedule.
When I designed the bathrooms I specified everything from the exact position of the taps to the starting point in the tile pattern, the end result was just as I planned it.

9.  Stick to your guns
If I had a dollar for every time a trade or supplier told me "it can't be done that way" I would be a millionaire.  Trades like to do what is easiest and what they know best.  This often does not tie up with the image you saw in a glossy magazine.
A friend gave me sage advice, "if you make the choice you can live with it being your mistake, if you were talked into something you didn't want the end result will frustrate you for ever".

10.  Read your contract in detail before you sign it
Make sure your building contract is very detailed, it needs to include specifics of every fitting and finish choice, the electrics and plumbing plans down to the position of every light switch and plug point, and labour for every aspect of the job.  You want to be sure the quote includes everything you want.  This is your final opportunity to check that your budget is on target.  If you have planned well there shouldn't be to many surprises.

Take your time and make sure each line item is right before you sign.  Once you have signed every change is called a variation, and you are charged an adminstration cost for every variation made.  This is a very preventable cost you can keep to a minimum.

Building is a huge investment in capital, time and emotional energy and it is absolutely worth taking the time to get things right the first time.
It really doesn't matter how big or small your build is, what matters is that you are happy with the end result.

This post is 100% me but was brought to you in partnership with Stockland.  If you are looking for inspiration for your dream home, take a look at Stockland’s land packages or browse around for land sales in NSW, Victoria, Queensland or Western Australia.

a little auction luck...

The trick to auctions is patience, and a little luck ofcourse, but mostly patience.  I have been waiting for a year for the right verandah table to pop up and finally it did.  I ended up paying a little more than I planned but it is solid oak and a perfect fit, and I love the greyed off colour of the wood.  It looks all kinds of gorgeous against the black shadowclad walls.

I bought the seagrass basket as a gift for a friend but I couldn't resist having it on the table for an afternoon.  These lovely baskets are from Pond, I may have to pop back and get one for just me.

All images by Eva of Build House Home
I love auctions, something I inherited from my grandfather apparently, and I love a bargain.  I am still bemoaning the ice glass chandelier that got away last year, but this time luck was in my corner.  Now all we need is for the right benches to come up too.  

Art for kids rooms

Now that Miss J is two its almost time for her to move from her cot to a big girl bed, and perhaps its time to change her room up a little too.  I want to keep the white on white neutral base and maybe change up the colour with some art.  Love these pieces, not to sweet, not to pink, just right for a small size girl.
Animal Planet Print by Rocket Ink.  A selection of animals from around the world, and I am loving the coral and navy.  This is absolutely my favourite!!

Star map by Stellavie, available in both Northern & Southern Hemisphere and in black & gold, or white & gold.  Lovely. 
Vintage safari inspired poster prints from Pottery Barn, unfortunately not available at the moment, hopefully they will come back in.  I may have a go at making that giraffe myself.

Nursery art prints by honeycup on Etsy  (above & below)

Aren't they all lovely!

a little bit of tailoring...

I have finally finished one of the day bed loose covers for our outdoor seating area.  I am very pleased with the sharp tailored black, and very happy with the piping and fit.  Much easier to do than I thought it would be.  We use this corner daily because it catches lovely winter sunlight, and we are having a gloriously sunny winter.
The black makes the cushions pop, especially the kelim ones, and it looks lovely with the black exterior walls.  More photo's of that when the second cushion is done too.

Not so happy with the way the cushion closes thought, I will write a full tutorial once I have found a better solution for the second cushion.  But I thought I should take a picture on day one, before the sticky hands of Miss E & Miss J get to it.

Coffee anybody?

build house home gets a make over

Did you notice the little changes in my layout?  They are subtle but I like the new look, let me know what you think of it.  See if you can spot the differences below.  

found vignettes

I just discovered a new blog, Plateful of Love, and I am slightly obsessed with this image of their lounge.  Love the little knitted pillow!!  And the chairs too.
You know I can't resist skulls and horns, and I like the way this table is positioned in the center of the room and used for display.  Would love to see the rest of the space.

Plateful of Love |  Horn vignette | Table display by Steven Gambrel

rainbow layer cake secrets

Seriously - you can also be the rainbow cake queen.  If I can ice that thing believe me you can too.  I can bake, a little, Green's cake mix is my fave (oops the secret is out), but icing has always been beyond me.  I was determined to do better for Miss J's 2nd birthday rainbow party and the look on her face made all the effort worth it!!  Scroll down to get the skinny.

You need lots of time but its not difficult - this cake took me all day to complete

The cake
This is the easy part.  All you need is:
- your best sponge cake recipe, or in my case three boxes of Greens Lemon Cake mix
- food colouring
- cake tins with cutter bar (see this one)

You are going to make three cakes.   Split each cake batter in two and add colour.
If you have enough cake tins you can make them all at once.  I only have two so I have to do three batches.

- make sure the cake tin is well buttered, you want the layers to come out easily.
- let the layers cool completely before you try and remove them from the tin.
- once cool use a bread knife to trim the top of the cakes so they are reasonably flat.  Mine are always a little rounded in the middle.

The assembly and icing technique
I have always battled with putting the layers together, I needed skewers to stop the layers sliding off each other and my icing always let me down.
This time I followed this icing recipe and assembly technique by Rachael from Made from Scratch.  I used her butter cream icing and her technique and the results were seriously impressive.  One of the nicest icings I have ever made too. 

As Rachael says it is all about patience and allowing each layer to cool and set before you use it.
It seems like a lot of effort but adding a crumb coat layer by layer, and setting in the fridge in between, creates a really sturdy cake and a brilliant base for your icing.  No skewers required!

- I added a little lemon to my icing and left off the poppy seed step.
- for this 6 layer cake I needed two batches of icing, it was a huge cake!

OK rainbow cake queens, have fun and let me know how you go.  The collective oohing and aahing is going to make all your effort worth while.

Images by Eva of Build House Home

kitchen clean up and recipe collection.

I am having one of those clear out days that usually means I am about to get a cold.  I don't know why, my body seems to go into clean over drive just before I get sick.  Well at least the house gets a tidy.  I have been sorting through the pantry and getting rid of everything that is stale and past its sell date.  There is a satisfying row of clean glass storage jars as proof that something has been achieved.

I have also been inspired by the Monday Morning Cooking Club demo to get my recipes in order.  Earlier this year I made a family kitchen note book with Blurb, its been a huge success and we have added quite a few new family favourites for the year.  Now I am going to copy all the recipes scribbles that I had been storing in a rather sticky plastic folder, sticky because it had stock spilled on it one evening as I looked for a recipe.  I have been rediscovering some old favourites like: Norma Flannagan's baked lemon pudding, Laura's famous baklava, Heather's fabulous creme brulee, and my granny's pecan nut ball biscuits.  Watch this space you may see some of them featured right here.

We picked our first olive harvest and are finally getting to use our lovely ceramic olive jar from Bendigo Pottery that we were given several years ago.  I have never pickled olives before, we will see how it goes.   
So as usual its busy busy busy at our house, hope you are happy and busy too, have a lovely weekend.