Holiday break...

School holidays are on us again and I will be taking a break to spend time with my family.  While I am away I plan to read a book to review, the first of a new monthly post that I am planning to add in association with Random House.

And I will be getting excited about the Blogster Awards in the first week of October!!!!
I am delighted to have been nominated in the lifestyle category for this years awards, especially since the prize is a mentorship with Inside Out magazine.  You can pop along here and vote for me by clicking on the Like button.  
Inside Out may be doing a little promo on the finalists on their blog next week, I will keep you posted!

{Vignette above from my kitchen counter}

I will also be working on some long overdue diy projects, I am almost through making an amazing pull out pants rack with my amazing Kreg.  

There will be lots coming up soon, there is nothing like a break to stimulate a whole lot of fresh ideas!  

home made chocolate machine required

My granny's home made coffee ice cream was the favourite dessert of my childhood, and remains my favourite ice cream today.  Cooked in a country kitchen decades before the advent of home ice cream machines, you won't believe just how luscious and creamy the results are, or how simple it is to make.  And you read right, you don't need a machine.

Last year I created a Christmas spice version - very yummy - but it never occurred to me to make a chocolate version until a friend suggested it the other day.  I literally flew out the house in my rush to get the ingredients and give it a try.  The results were (even if I say so myself) pretty spectacular.  But don't take my word for it - give it a try yourself!
{Ingredients} Makes around a litre
  • 250ml cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons of drinking cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 packet of Maltesers

{Making the ice cream}  Prep time 20 minutes tops
  • Separate eggs and place egg whites in fridge.  There must be no yolk in the whites or they will not stiffen properly.
  • Dissolve the cocoa powder in a small amount of boiled water, just enough so that it is all dissolved and there are no lumps.
  • Pour cocoa powder and condensed milk into a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.
  • Whip cream in a separate bowl until it forms stiff peaks, don't turn it into butter.
  • Fold the cream gently into the condensed milk and cocoa mixture with a whisk.  
  • Beat egg whites until they are glossy and forming very stiff peaks.  You should be able to hold the bowl over your head without the egg whites falling out.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the condensed milk and cream mixture.
  • Pour into a freezer safe dish or bowl.  I like to use a glass loaf pan, a pie dish is to shallow.
  • Drop Maltesers onto the ice cream, let them sink down on their own.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
{Top Tips}
  • Use a whisk to fold the ingredients together, its the best way to mix the ingredients well without losing the air in the cream and egg whites.
  • Clean your beater well between whipping the cream and the egg whites, it needs to be totally clean otherwise the egg whites don't stiffen as well as they should.
  • I think Maltesers were the perfect chocolate to add but you could add choc chips or flakes.
  • Recipe doubles easily, no matter how much I make it always gets eaten up!

People are always asking me for the original ice cream recipe and I always give it to them.  They are often surprised, thinking I would like to keep it a family secret, but my thinking is that every time it gets passed on it keeps the memory of my Granny Pauline alive.  So make it for your family and friends and raise a spoonful of it in Pauline's memory, enjoy, and please pass it on yourself.

family road trip survival kit

With the school holidays almost here I am thinking of road trips and how best to survive them.  Its all in the planning, lots of stops and lots of distractions.   With distraction in mind I have put together a road trip kit that will keep kids occupied by something other than the iPad.  They are really pretty too, I do love stationary!
  • Twist It crayons - my absolute favourite crayons.  No more broken halves and they seem to be lovely and soft for drawing.  {Available at Officeworks}
  • A note book for each child - for drawing or doodling, sticking and pasting
  • A cute pencil case for keeping the pencils together  {notebook & case from kikki.K}

  • Road trip bingo - great fun to play and keeps kids engaged with the passing scenery {I got mine at Ikke - watch out for their website which will be up soon}
  • Usborne activity books - fabulous puzzle and colouring books that have the right one for every age.  I have these at home and both my kids love them {Usborne}
  • Tote bag to keep all the travel kit inside. {tote bag and pencils from kikki.K}

  • On road trips with my grandparents as a child we would play a word game with the number plates of cars we passed.  The rules are to make a word with all the letters in the number plate, better if the letters are in order, and the shortest word wins.  Lots of fun and we play it still.

    Any road trip secrets to share?  

    I like to think Ikea got the idea from me

    Spotted this desk and children's work space layout in the hot off the press 2014 Ikea catalogue.
    Looks a little familiar, me thinks Ikea stylists might be looking in the pages of this little blog for inspiration.  This is Ikea's directly below, scroll down to see mine or check out the original post Where Miss J & I work which I posted in March 2013. 
    The workspace Miss E, Miss J and I share in the family room.  How is that for a similarity! 

    Don't worry Ikea, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  It is possible that I saw a similar layout in a previous catalogue, but I am notching this score up to me.

    Australian Garden Show 2013...highlights & inspirations

    Some favourite bits from last weeks Australian Garden Show, see my tour of the show here

    Suspended by Brendan Moar (above & below) was my favourite.  It had an amazing dream like quality with the black walls and hanging plants.  Loved this little leafy corner with the silvery leaves and stem against the black walls.

    Next favourite was this garden called "The Hive" by Katie Burgess.  Loved the layering of plant colours, the honeycomb fence with bamboo homes for insects, the largely edible plant selection.

    Sydney Gardenesque by Myles Baldwin (below) was beautiful and achievable.  Loved the encaustic tiles with the sandstone, and the slightly old fashioned planting.

    What I am taking from the show:

    • My garden needs more vertical interest.  We should definitely build some kind of shade providing gazebo on the deck next to the pool.
    • I need to plant more edible plants - everywhere
    • Have to plant Dietes Robinsonia - a dietes with a huge white iris flower, just gorgeous.
    • We need more dappled light from screens or creepers - looks lovely and provides warm shade in this hot climate.
    • Need to build a cubby house for the girls from slatted wood - this could be a giant project for the Kreg jig this summer!

    A mini spring declutter - store, sell, donate or recycle

    While I have that spring has spring feeling I am going to do a spot of decluttering.
    I like to do little declutters during the year to tidy those dumping grounds that accumulate stuff every few months.  If you don't leave it to long they don't get to big to tackle.

    This is just a small declutter to make space for a spring season freshen up, my aim is to declutter and tidy ten things:
    • Recycle the jam jars I have been saving for a spot of jam making which hasn't happened in 18 months.
    • Sort through the bottom pantry drawers, whose contents have not been touched since we moved in, and store, donate or sell.
    • Throw away all single socks!!
    • Move winter coats from the entrance hall cupboard to bedroom cupboards.
    • Sort the children's summer's shoes from last year and throw away, store or donate.
    • Sort out my desk drawers: cull the business cards gathered over the past year, put the sunnies at the front of the draw again, tidy the stationary and buy new pens.
    • Ruthlessly cull the magazine and catalogue pile teetering half hidden behind the couch.
    • Bin all the mostly used wintery scented candles dotted around the house.
    • Move the medicine bottles that seem to have taken up residence in the kitchen drawer back to the bathroom medicine cabinet.  Throw away any items past their sell by date first!
    • Turn out the over stuffed dress up box and bin anything broken or too small.

    Each task won't take to long to do so I can stay motivated and actually get them all done!   Once I have these under my belt I can tackle our wardrobes, but that is a post for another day!
    That's the desk drawers sorted.  I made rough dividers from some left over thick card - not the prettiest but they do the trick.  One down nine to go!

    Australian Garden Show Sydney 2013

    I had the great pleasure of going to the media preview and opening day of the very first Australian Garden Show.  This is a little bit of the Chelsea Flower Show right here, but full of Australia's top garden design talent.  

    Its fab!  The show gardens are Chelsea quality, and if you are in Sydney you should get yourself down there right away.  We are having the perfect spring weather and I cannot think of a nicer way to spend the day than wondering through Centennial Park being wowed by the amazing gardens on display.  Or visit at night when the gardens are lit up to create a magical evening wonderland.

    My wonderful web video producer Suzannah Cowley has caught the flavour of the show with some amazing imagery, and done a wonderful job of making a novice like me look good on camera.  We also managed a quick interview with Indira Naidoo (The Edible Balcony) who gave us some great tips on how and why we should ALL grow our own veg.

    I will do a longer post next week with a little more detail on my favourites.  But for now, take the kids, they can pot up a strawberry and hold a chicken, and head down there for some serious inspiration.  

    Make sure you catch my personal favourites:

    Spring refresh for your home

    The change of seasons always makes me want to change things up a bit around the home.  Spring has arrived early this year and this gorgeous weather is getting me thinking of ways to freshen up our home for the summer season ahead.  Sometimes just making a few little changes gives your home a whole new energy.

    Photo courtesy of TheHome
    I would like to refresh some old faithfuls, and I would love to add a touch of this seasons zesty yellow, tangerine or pinks.  I am going to be keeping my eye on the daily sales at The Home, designer finds without the big price tags, and this is what I will be shopping for.
    • New bath towels - white and thirsty please
    • Murchison Hume hand soaps and household cleaners - doing a big spring clean is much more fun with beautifully scented and packaged products.  White grapefruit is my personal fave.
    • 1200 thread count pure cotton pillow cases 
    • A few colourful pillows for Miss E's bedroom and a new quilt cover to take her from little girl to tween.  I love the Prue Trollope ones in The Home's spring look above but will need Miss E's approval first.
    • Recover the badly worn wing back rocking chair in Miss J's room.  I am loving the Pluto chair by Andrew Martin (above).  I will be keeping an eye out for that sale on The Home because I priced up recovering my chair and it is expensive.
    • A few new vases - no matter how many I have I never seem to have just the right shape.  I will be looking out for something slightly geometric in shape this year.
    • New beach towels - stripey and French inspired 

    Its worth popping into The Home to see what is on sale this week, or better yet subscribe and let them send you an email.  Its always great to snag a bargain!

    This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are as usual entirely my own.

    how to create a rustic spring bouquet

    I am delighted to share some tips and tricks I learned at a floral workshop presented by Antonia Georgas of Ruby Slipper Floral Design.  To celebrate the start of spring, and all the lovely flowers available, Antonia taught us "straussing" - the art of making a bunch of flowers in your hand.  I am delighted with how mine turned out and will definitely be using this technique again!  Skip down if you want to find out how or just enjoy the pictures of my lovely bunch on my kitchen bench top.

    How to make your own rustic spring bouquet.

    Selecting your flowers:
    Antonia recommends using 1 primary flower, 2 supporting flowers, and a filler.
    In our bunches she selected ranunculas (primary), jonquils and Japanese anenome (supporting), and pieris (filler).
    Getting ready:

    • Strip stems of leaves, twigs and older blooms. 
    • Lay the stripped flowers in bunches by type on the table.
    • They need to be ready to use and easy to get to as you will only have one hand free once you begin.

    The Straussing technique:

    • Start with a stem of your primary flower and lay it across the palm of your left hand (swap hands if you are left handed).
    • Next select a supporting flower and lay that across the first stem with the flower slightly to the left of the first stem so that its stem crosses the first one from left to right.
    • Continue adding flower stems, alternating the varieties as you go, but make sure each stem is added across the bunch at a slight diagonal from left to right.  This achieves the diagonal stem effect you can see in my photos.
    • Vary the height of the flowers to create a looser look.  It looks a little strange in the beginning but will make sense as the bunch grows.  I raised every 5th or 6th stem I added so that the flower was higher than the previous one.
    • Turn the bouquet in your hand slightly as you go.  Holding all the flowers in one hand feels awkward at first but gets easier as you go.
    • Once you are satisfied with your bunch tie the stems securely with twine and trim the stems to an equal length.
    • I snipped the twine once I had put my bouquet in a vase and made the arrangement slightly looser, personal preference really.

    There is really no wrong way, with such a lovely combination of flowers your bunch is sure to turn out just lovely.
    If my description doesn't make sense why not do your own workshop with Antonia at her store in Paddington.   I will be back for more, next time I want to learn how to use succulents.  

    Top Tip

    • Keep water in vases clean by adding a spoon of sugar to the vase before filling with water.

    I have tried to show my bunch from every side so you can see how lovely it looks from every angle.  I think it is one of the prettiest bunches I have ever arranged myself and I will definitely use this technique again.  

    Thanks Antonia, it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.