milk memories from childhood

I have wonderful memories of eating this sweetly spiced, biscuity, wobbly treat as a child on my grandmothers farm.  It takes me back to the High Veld heat, the dappled shade of the wisteria in the courtyard, the plink clinking of the ceramic wood chimes in the breeze of the rain window, and the feel of cool polished slate floors on my bare feet.  Treasured memories of her wonderful home and the magical holidays and spent with her.
A milk tart is much like an Australian vanilla slice, an egg custard pie that should be set firm but still have a wobble in the center.  But for me the vanilla slice can never compete with cinnamon flavoured milk tart.  Milk tart is a very traditional South African dessert and every family has its own favourite version of the recipe.  But none of the recipes I tried have lived up to my memories until I discovered this one by Shades of Cinnamon.  I have to admit that I cheated and bought the pastry cases, but any sweet tart pastry will probably work well.  When I have a little more time I will test out the one at Shades of Cinnamon myself and update this post.

Ingredients for milk tart filling:
  • 4½ cups milk
  • cinnamon stick
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ Tablespoons cornflour
  • 2½ Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 large sweet pastry cases

Recipe for milk tart:
  • Pour milk into a large pot and add the cinnamon stick.
  • Bring milk to the boil slowly, make sure you don't burn the base of the pot and taint the taste.
  • Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick.
  • While milk is boiling beat the eggs, then add the flour, cornflour, sugar and salt and mix well.
  • Once the milk has boiled pour it into the egg mixture and stir well.
  • Pour mixture back into the pot and return to a low heat, stirring continuously until the custard thickens.  You will know its thick enough when you can feel it pulling against your whisk and 
  • Add the butter and vanilla and mix well.
  • Pour into the pastry cases and chill in the fridge until set.  It should be firm but wobble slightly in the center.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.  Milk tart is best served chilled straight from the fridge.

This recipe filled two medium pastry cases and 6 muffin size ones, its a lot of custard!  
I thought I had made far to much but it was all gone by the second day!

I am planning to make it again these school holidays, perhaps even teach Miss E, and I hope you get to enjoy some soon too.   The blog may be slow the next few weeks as I spend time with my family, but I will be back in a few weeks with some amazing projects that we are busy completing.

kitchen eye candy

Now I love blogging, but mostly its lots of hard work and wondering if anybody except your mother and your facebook friends are reading what you post.  But every now and then it is a whole lot of fun.  Last week I was invited to the Best Home Chef finale at the new Winning Appliances showroom in Redfern.  Good food, lots of lovely people, celeb chefs and some serious kitchen eye candy made the event a memorable one.  
But it's the kitchen candy I want to talk about.  The new Winnings showroom is gorgeous, light and bright, with at least 5 dream show kitchens for you to drool over.  If you are thinking of a kitchen upgrade and want some ideas, its a good place to start, I wish it had been built when I was doing my planning.  And its pretty handy that you can look at appliances at the same time.

In the past parking has been a bit of a nightmare in Dank Street but, with parking at the new Aldi and Coles on the corner of Dank and Bourke, it's a whole lot easier now.  If you can't get to the showroom, have a look at the great project gallery on the Winnings website.   I am loving the combination of white and wood in the Bondi kitchen, which is your dream design?

I loved the industrial touches in the show kitchen that Mark Best (bottom right above) cooked in, rusted Tolix stools, gorgeous metal crates hanging above the counter which didn't photograph well, and a collection of industrial pendant lights.   I will have to go back and take some more photo's, it was just to busy to get good shots on the night, and the other kitchens were lovely.

I like that Winnings see themselves as more than a showroom, more than just a retailer, they see themselves as the hub for a community of real home cooks, real people cooking in real kitchens, enjoying food with family and friends.  Sounds good doesn't it.  Pop in and see for yourselves.

This post was not paid for and all opinions (and photographs) are genuine and entirely my own.

great gatsby glam...and top 10 novels

We saw The Great Gatsby the other day, quite spectacular.  The Voice of Reason hated it, I thought it was visually amazing but still not my favourite novel.  I do love the over the top glam of this time though, Hollywood Regency furniture and super glamorous clothes.  If I could I would spend the day in this pink gown, looking like Zsa Zsa Gabor, and dripping with diamonds darling.
It got me thinking about every body's favourite books.  I know what my top ten are (today) but would love to know what is on your list, there must be lots of books I have missed out on that are really fabulous and I will love too.

So  I will start you off with my all time fave reads, but share the love and let me know what your favourite favourites are.  I need a good book list to take me into the school holidays. 
I Claudius - Robert Graves
Possession - AS Byatt
The Power and the Glory - Graham Green
The Book Thief - Marcus Zuzak
Any book by Margaret Atwood, except the Handmaids Tail (yuck!)
Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruis Zafon
The Bone People - Keri Hulm
The whole Rome series - Colleen McCullough (Brilliantly entertaining history, not dry at all)
And of course The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkein if you like fantasy
And of course I would do my reading, with a crystal glass of something close to hand.

| Gown by Chloe |  The Great Gatsby  |  David Austin Roses  |  Zsa Zsa Gabor  |  Antique Diamond Necklace  |

a peek at my house...the master bathroom

One of my favourite rooms in my home, I love the dramatic black walls, and the view of the bath, chandelier and mirror from the bedroom.  I feel like a movie star in a luxe Hollywood pad every time I walk into it.
The walls are flooded with light at sunrise, which in winter is about waking up time, a lovely warm glow to wake up to.  
I would love to make other areas of the house this dramatic too, I was a bit braver in a small space.  I am so pleased that we didn't tile the entire back wall, which is what we were advised to do, and used the mirror instead.  Stick to your guns as I said in my top ten building tips!  And it even has the Voice of Reason tick of approval, romantic but not to feminine!

Another day I will show you the walk in robes that join the bedroom and bathroom, they are black stained oak and really add to the glam feel, but they are hard to photograph!

little letters of gratitude ...

I am dreaming of hosting a party with flowers like these incredible ones from Amy Osaba.  You know I would love to have you over.   Love the words floating above the flowers, would be lovely with a favourite line of poetry, or a great quote.  
Its a while since I posted some little letters, thought it would be a good intention to start the week with.

Little letters of gratitude...
Dear Miss J, I hope rainbow cake, a polka dot dress and being sung happy birthday always makes you happy
Dear opportunity, it sure is nice to hear you knocking
Dear readers, thanks for reading and commenting, you make my day
Dear friends, thanks for coming to the Biggest Morning tea and helping to raise money for such a good cause.
Dear Couch to 5K app you got me through it, back to fit after far to long
Dear Courtney at Click it up a Notch you just opened up the world of manual photography for me.  I always got to the word F-stop and stopped myself, but your basic tutorial showed me how.  This blog is going to look so much better!
Dear rain, thankyou for coming back.  The watertanks were empty and the garden was getting thirsty.
Dear liveFashionable, thank you for the lovely Genet scarf, I loved working with you and I love the scarf too.

Please feel free to share your little letters of gratitude too.

entrance cupboard with a place for everything...our first ikea hack

Our hallway storage was a mess.  Hats and coats jostled for peg space, a  messy jumble of shoes and a basket stuffed full of school and sports bags  - not a good look at the front door.  Time to make a change.  What do you think of our solution?

The brief:
- narrow space 140cm wide by 40cm deep
- must store: shoes, coats, hats, school bags, handbag, sports bags, hats and keys

The solution
After an intensive few evenings studying the Ikea catalogue (a favourite pastime) I discovered that the PAX cupboard system comes in a narrow 37cm deep version - perfect depth.  It is available in 50cm or 100cm widths.  Our space is 140cm wide so using a 100cm cabinet left us 40cm over.
I consulted the Voice of Reason who agreed we could make floating shelves for the left over space.I decided to put two 50cm cabinets on either side with floating shelves in the middle.  Having the shelves in the center gives the design a more bespoke feel. 
Inside you can see lots and lots of space for shoes, bags, hats and coats.  Outside it would be minimal with baskets for texture and storage, and a display niche for art or flowers.

Installing the cabinets
So far so good.  Off to Ikea to buy the cabinets.  Have you ever noticed that diy's never show how many trips you make to get supplies?  I got all the cabinets but the shoe rack and coat hooks were out of stock.  Another trip will have to be made soon.
The hardest part of shopping for large items at Ikea is getting them onto your trolley and into the car.  Thank you to the kind people who took pity on my feebleness and helped out.

Back home it took a day to assemble the cupboards.  I removed the skirting boards and cut them down to size so that they could be fitted back in once the cabinets were installed.  We attached the cabinets to the walls at the top for extra strength.

Attaching battens for the floating shelves
Here is where the Voice of Reason came up with a very clever trip.  
The problem with Ikea cabinets is they are made of cheap board, often as you screw into them the cabinets rip up a little, not good for build strength or looks.  VOR decided not to screw the battens to the cabinet, but to bolt them to the side using a snap off screw.  Snap off screws are used to attach door knobs to cabinets, available at and good hardware store.

This has several advantages:
- drilling through the cabinet instead of screwing through it is less likely to split the cabinet board
- threading the snap off screw from inside the cabinet leaves the flat head inside, smooth & neat
- tightening the batten to the cabinet with a nut, creates a firm strong base for the shelf
- no pointy bits left over as you snap off the excess screw whatever the thickness of your wood

Note that the battens are shorter than the cabinet width.  They have been measured so that when the shelves are attached the front lip butts up to the cabinet front for a really built in look.  To measure: width of cabinet - width of wood used for lip = length of batten.Making the floating shelves
The Voice of Reason made shelves to fit the space with a lip to create the floating effect.  
There are several ways you could do this but he joined the lip to the shelf with dowels and then filled and sanded the joints for a perfect finish.  With paint the joins are totally invisible.  I could have done this with pocket screws if I had had the Kreg jig (watch this space Kreg jig coming soon).
Finally we attached the shelves to the battens with small wood screws, stood back and admired our handiwork.  I am so delighted with it, it looks custom and expensive and we did it ourselves!
Most satisfying job we have done yet and certainly turned $600 of Ikea cabinetry into an expensive looking bespoke item that totally fills the brief.  Once the interior fittings are back in stock I will be able to show you the soon to be amazingly organised interior, but even without them this project has made a huge difference.  The hall is easy to keep tidy, I can always find my keys, and I spend far less time shouting at the family to tidy up.  

Playroom storage solution...could this be the final design?

The playroom is a mess and it drives me crazy!  It probably drives you spare too!!  We just don't have enough storage and at the end of the day toys are crammed into boxes and the single cupboard and the room just can't be properly tidied.  Playroom storage was on my new years to do list and I haven't managed to resolve it yet.  But I may be a step closer, I think I have the final, revised, redesigned, could it really be the final, design at last.
I would love it to look something like the picture below, but really this is not a design for a family with children and all the toys and craft supplies that come with them.  

I like this one too, the TV looks almost decorative but those open shelves would just be too untidy with toys and its a little traditional for our house.
I like the clean and slightly asymmetric lines of this modern version, and the TV is behind doors which is a bonus, but there are books and special objects on display.

I still love this playroom on Weekday Carnival, one of the best Ikea hacks ever (below).  Hard to believe its Ikea kitchen cabinets put together in a giant puzzle. 

And this library style Ikea hack (below) on Apartment Therapy is another favourite.   They are all very simple, very white, and very uncluttered.
So this is what I have come up with at last.  Cupboards will be clean white with no trim or detailing. There is space for books to be on display, a counter top and wall space on the left where we can display art or family photos, and a whole lot of storage, a lot of it out of the reach of Miss J's sticky little fingers.
What do you think?  Could this be the final one?

| Source unknown  |  via Coastal Living  | via Arch Daily  |  Weekday Carnival  |  Apartment Therapy |  drawings by Eva of Build House Home|

liveFashionable Genet my house

I have posted about the wonderful fashionABLE business before.  An Ethiopian business that empowers women by training them as skilled weavers making gorgeous scarves, see my original post here.  Well this lovely scarf arrived in the post last week, just in time for a few chill winters days in Sydney.  It is a striking black and white design, the winning design from the Alt SLC competion in which 2 of my designs were also finalists, and I though it looked perfect on the oak table on the verandah.

This scarf was woven by Genet and, as with each scarf woven, she has attached a hand written note with a thank you for what she is now ABLE to do through her role at fashionABLE, read more of her story here.

If you read one thing online today make it some of these womens amazing stories of courage and hope, you will be inspired and moved.  fashionABLE aims to create a sustainable business that will help these and other women change their lives forever, so stop by and look at their lovely designs, and warm your heart and your body this winter with a fashionABLE scarf of your own.

sunshine goodness at half time

As I opened the crate of Australian oranges on my front door step this morning, saw the lovely orange globes and caught the sweet zing of citrus, memories from my school sports days rushed in.  The smell of dusty fields on athletics days, the click of ball on wood on the hockey pitch, the rubbery smell of the netball courts, and sweet sweet orange juice soothing our dry throats at half time.  

Our half time oranges had a sprinkle of salt on them, does anybody else remember salted oranges?  My family thinks that is just crazy talk, but its similar to the salt and sweet flavour in energy drinks and rehydrates, and they love those.  

How could I have forgotten they are such a perfect half time snack, a natural sweet thirst quencher, stuffed with a vitamins, and easy to prepare, pack and eat.  Plus it will boost our immunity now that winters flu's and colds are upon us.  They even pass the fussy parent diet test: gluten free, no peanuts, and no processed sugars.  A super snack solution!

Succulent story...

A little obsessed again, it started with this gorgeous grey cabinet and succulents and then moved to moody dark spaces with lots of contrast.  Makes me realise I want more of these colours in my home, layers of greys and greens.

A glimpse into an eclectic family home via a favourite blog of mine - The Pretty Blog.  I love the lime succulents and the subtle shades of gray.
| Photography by Yolande Marx for The Pretty Blog |
A dramatic dark bedroom full of textures I love: the rustic wood wall, black walls and ceiling and my favourite mud chandelier.  Succulents again, this one in a mini cork pot which is also a fridge magnet.  Cute idea but not sure the succulents would be happy for long.
| Bedroom source unknown |Alissa Rose om Etsy |
I love all these succulent tones and textures.  Silver, jade, quartz and gold in a wrap bracelet.
Echeveria wedding favours in turned spalted ivy pots.  I would love to take one of these home.  And a frosted glass door which mutes the colours of crockery and reminds me of sea glass.  
| Lovocracy | Tricia Newell on Etsy | House & Leisure |
A snippet of aloe peeks out of the vintage cutlery box on my kitchen counter.

Hmmm... think it might be time for things to move around a bit at my house...

bright and white and bright with white

A collection of bright and lovely things - bright white, or just bright - to go with the lovely bright winters day we are having.  Have a happy and bright day!

A little story about the candle, Sniff designs candle fragrances with strong memory connections, this one is from the cotton sheets drying in the hot sun, love the idea.
My favourite memory scents are epoxy resin and wood shavings, takes me straight back to my grandfathers workshop, and the dry dusty smell of parched winter grass on the highveldt.

What are your strongest memory scents?