brie with almond & date caramelised sugar

An impressive looking cheese plate that takes minutes to make.  If melty brie with the crunch of caramelised sugar, salty almonds and sweet dates sounds good to you, you are going to love this dish.  I was planning to take some half eaten shots but the cheese was polished off so quickly I never had the chance.  Skip down to see the easy instructions for making your own.

Make it yourself:
  • Place the cheese on the serving dish.
  • Chop toasted almonds and dates and arrange on the cheese (see below).
  • Place a few whole almonds and nuts around the cheese.

  • Place half a cup of caster sugar in a clean dry pan and turn heat on.
  • Watch carefully as sugar melts, do not stir or sugar sticks. 
  • The sugar caramelises from pale to deep brown quite quickly.  Don't walk away while this is happening or the sugar will burn.
  • Once the sugar has achieved a deep brown colour remove from heat and pour over the cheese (below).

Sugar will cool to a hard crust.  If you live in a humid environment the sugar will sweat so only pour on shortly before serving.

Sure to please cheese lovers of all ages.  
I like to serve with a few grapes or juicy blue berries.  Enjoy!

keeping down the weeds... top tips from wes fleming

Spring is in the air, there is a bit of early blossom around, and hopefully the chill air has prepared our dormant plants for a big spring growth.  This year I am determined to keep the weeds and pests down, I have been growing bumper crops of both.  The plants are better established which should help, and I have planted more ground cover throughout the beds.  
I am trying the old newspaper trick - digging over the soil, laying down newspaper which you wet thoroughly, and then covering with a thick layer of mulch.  It should make a thick layer that smothers the weeds, but is permeable to water.  It certainly makes the garden look lovely, neat and tidy, and hopefully it will keep the weeds down and the moisture in as planned.

Pests are a different story though, I needed some help and I am delighted to be able to share some top tips, written especially for Build House Home readers, by Wes Fleming, one of Australia's leading nurserymen.  

Wes Fleming's top tips for dealing with pests in organic gardens:
  • Attract good insects to promote a balanced garden: ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies help control aphids, spider mites, scale insects and caterpillars.  Wes recommends planting marigold, dill, echinacea, sweet alice, coriander, cosmos and Queen Anne's Lace to attract the good insects.
  • Keep bees to promote pollination and for your own supply of honey: (NOTE BY EVA: for urban gardeners this is not just a dream, have a look at The Urban Beehive who offer a hosting service where home owners host hives and share in the honey bounty.)
  • Buy (or make your own) organic pesticides:Most are oil based sprays combined with tea, milk or bi-carb of soda.  (NOTE BY EVA: I am trying a bio oil spray for scale in my hedge, I will let you know how it goes).
  • Have chooks in your garden:they feed on insects and grubs and fertilise naturally with their droppings (NOTE BY EVA: my favourite - a twofer, would love to have chickens)
  • Use green manure:Green manure is cover crops that can be ploughed back into the soil each year to promote health in the garden, a healthy garden will be more pest resistant.

One day I will have to interview Wes about all the Chelsea Flower Show gardens that he has been a part of.  I have been to Chelsea once, it was totally incredible and I would love to go again.  This year I am looking forward to the second Sydney Garden Show - see my video of last years show here.  

But for now its back into the garden, I need a whole lot more mulch and sadly there is a still a lot of weeding to do!!!

diy blanket stitch detail for cushions

I have been admiring cushions with blanket stitch detail in the stores recently.  So when I came across my old velvet cushions in the cupboard I knew I had to give them a quick update.  Blanket stitch is really easy to do, even if you have never sewn before, follow my quick lessons below and you will be adding stitch detail to everything in no time.

You will need: 
  • an embroidery needle
  • wool in a contrasting colour
  • old or new cushion cover with closure in middle of back
  • each cushion took me an hour or so in front of the tv
You cannot do this edge detail in a cushion that has the closure in the edge seam or you will be sewing it closed permanently.

Blanket stitch in 4 easy steps:
  • Start stitching by putting needle through the side seam from the inside of the cushion (I forgot to photograph this step)
  • photo 1 - do first stitch a centimetre down from the edge, and a centimetre from the point where the wool is coming through the seam.  I used the edge of the seam as a guide, stitching just below it so that the fabric wasn't to thick to push the needle through.
  • photo 2 - pull the needle through making sure that it goes through the loop of the remaining wool so that you will 'catch' the wool to create the blanket stitch detail.  See how the needle is on top of the remaining wool in both 1 and 2
  • photo 3 - pull the wool through making sure you have caught the remaining wool.  With your left hand pull the wool across to the left, it makes the stitch cleaner.
  • photo 4 - once the stitch is complete keep the tension in the wool with your left hand as you begin the next stitch.

Its a lovely way to add colour subtly to a room and works especially well where the colour of the wool and cushion fabric have a big contrast.  I love the idea of grey cushions with a very bright blanket stitch detail.

These cushions are going to go on the girls beds in the cottage, nice and cuddly and so much prettier than they were.

how to style a coffee table vignette

This year I am moving things around, trying to do more with what I already have.  I created this tablescape for my outdoor coffee table and thought I would share how it developed.  

I have had the marble tray for years and have never managed to style it up quite how it looked in the store.  This vignette is working much better than the tray on its own, and it was quick and inexpensive to achieve.  I already had the small glass vase and marble flower plate, I only added a larger size glass vase (a steal at $16) and bought the succulent at a street market.   You can see below how it started out and how I built it up.

Two vases, one taller and wider (both from my favourite variety store), and the gorgeous succulent to add colour and texture.  The flower plate has been in my bathroom with a candle on it, but is far prettier here. 

It's still evolving, I think the candle is to pale, perhaps another succulent?  But overall I am really enjoying the effect.  Especially like that the succulent will be happy in the winter sunlight and won't need to be replaced for months.

So pleased that I moved all these things around and tried something new.  Turns out that a change was all that tray needed to go from flat to fantastic.  

living room update...the new couch is finally here

After months of waiting, an the first couch being delivered with the chaise on the wrong side, the new couch is finally here.   Its amazing how different this room feels, so much larger even though the couch is pretty huge.  My new favourite space is the end of the chaise next to the fire, every body in the family has their favourite spot and its plenty big enough for all of us to stretch out on.  Success!  And I was really nervous that it wasn't going to work.

Today the coffee table has white wax flowers on it, in my white makeover vase (see diy here) and copper candlestick (still to do a diy for this one).  Soft and pretty, would prefer tulips really but the tulips were all too far opened for me to buy.

I have moved the cat painting that was on the back wall to behind the dining table, much better, but now this space is crying out for something else.  I may have to try my hand at making something myself.
I still can't believe the transformation, the space finally makes sense (see how it was below).  But I do think it needs some of that green back.  A home is never finished is it, just an ever evolving space.
The best change is that when we had people over recently, everybody sat in the living room.  Before they would sit at the table or the kitchen counter.  And with the fab new couch there was space for everybody!!

Have a lovely weekend everybody

inspired by scandi summer houses

So we are the proud owners of a small, and ugly, cottage in the country.  We want to give it a small make over (small budget but big ideas) and get it ready for holidays and weekends.  I am thinking that perhaps if we painted the outside black with white trim it might transform from ugly duckling to Scandi summer house.  I love the simplicity of the colours and the way they sit in the greenery.  Black never looks dirty and the white trim brightens things up, well you know how I love the Scandi details.  
Wouldn't we all love a dining room like this one (see the rest of this Danish cabin here).  The black and white continues from outside to the interior but flips around, white walls with black accents.  On right black timber cladding is at the heart of this traditional Scandi look.
Green brings the colour scheme to life, detail of the Black Barn retreat in Hawkesbay, and outdoor area.  Porters Paints Palm Beach Black will get you that look.

At left: another gorgeous Danish summer house, complete with sod roof, (top right) detail of a sunny outdoor spot, and another sod roof beaty.

My grandparents owned a small home in the Netherlands and I although I never saw it I like to think it was something like one of these.

Perfect colours: Dulux Lexicon Quarter White, Porters Paint Palm Beach Black, fresh greenery outdoors

pretty pretty things

Some lovely things I have spotted recently.  Loving these soft colours, the mix of textures, the muted metallics, the sense of calm they create.  Perhaps its the rough ride that my day job has given me these past few months but I find I am needing the feeling of calm in at least one space in my home.  Enjoy...

Images from top: 

1. Bedroom detail from The Veda House Blog.  Veda House is a new find for me, a gorgeous blog of shoots by photographer and stylist Cassie.  Well worth stopping by.  This bedroom was from a collaboration with Caitlin Wilson textiles.  See more detail of the gorgeous pillow below.

2. Detail of a flower shoot on the West Elm blog.  A gorgeous post on how to take photo's of flowers, and you know how much I love flowers!  Worth a visit to see the rest of the pics too.

3. Love this kitchen via kk living, photo by All Over Press Norway.  Clean white cupboards, a gorgeous old table, wooden floors, a bit of crystal and a kilim rug.  All my favourite things...

4. At left a detail of a gorgeous kitchen styled by Home Beautiful Magazine, designed by architects Robson Rak.  Textures again, marble and wood, I love this space.  At right a pretty as can be nursery with colour swatch rug.  I love this space, pink but not too pink, neutral but not boring.  In a crazy instance of synchronicity this is a detail of a different house designed by Robson Rak, with design by Made by Cohen.

5. And lastly below another look at those gorgeous fabrics by Caitlin Wilson that feature in the bedroom detail.  I would love to add them to my bedroom scheme.  And at right a rather amazing gold finish cow hide available from Citta Designs.  Pricey but pretty pretty!

make over delight...ugly to pretty with spray paint

This little beauty was discovered in the mark down bin at Freedom, but that was before it got a make-over.  The shape was really good and reminded me of the white Scandi style vessels that have been so popular this season, but the terracotta was ugly!  Popped into Bunnings on the way home, bought some white spray paint, and that very evening that ugly vase was reborn a swan.


  • Use an old cardboard box as a spraying booth.
  • Stand the vase on a small wood offcut so that the spray doesn't pool at the base.  (You can always spray the base separately.)

A lovely addition to a white on white display I am trying to build.
And that's why I can never pass up a quick look at the mark down table.