Saturday, 17 March 2012

My first ever blogging award!

A little while ago, Greer at Typically Red passed on the Liebster Award to me. I was absolutely delighted when I read her post. Thank you Greer.

Her blog would definitely be among my top picks for this award. Greer wins me over with her honesty, gorgeous pictures and especially her way with food. She's just inspired me to make my own ricotta.

I must now pass the torch to my top picks*:

A Great Balancing Act. Melissa and I have a lot in common – mother of two boys with a chocolate labrador. I warmed to her instantly. Her blog is cosy, real and I love going there.

Tricia at Little Eco Footprints is always teaching me something, and I'm constantly inspired. She writes about things that are important to me: how to play, grow, eat, create, be with nature and nest. This is where I started when I was planning Luca's 4th birthday party, and it's where I discovered the place to buy real milk.

Joy is The Travelling Nutritionist. Joy and I have been friends long before I even knew what a blog was. We met on a work jolly on a beautiful farm in Hampshire, England and we hit it off straight away. Joy is lots of things. She is a food writer, a food stylist and qualified nutritionist. She's mad about sport. Wait. She's just mad. And I miss her and our work jollies. Try her chocolate and salted caramel tart.

All very different blogs, but they all have me rushing over when there's a new post.

Incidentally, don't forget to enter my giveaway. Open to residents in Australia and the UK. There have hardly been any entries, so you'll be in with a good chance! (At this rate, I'll be keeping the books.)

*The Liebster is for blogs of less than 200 followers, and these are the rules that I've copied from Greer's blog:

1. Thank the giver and link back to her/him.
2. Reveal your top picks and leave a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love too!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Book ledges, fun with Grandma and pooch's birthday

Don't you love this way of displaying books?

Image via here

Image via here

Luca's book collection is resembling a small village library, and they no longer fit in the Ikea baskets we bought a couple of years ago. Plus with Kian in his room every minute of the day, his books are getting trashed.

I came across this tutorial and got to work straight away. Well, alright, I got to work nagging he-who-works-with-the-wood. For those of you who'd like a bit more detail, I do know he had a 150mm x 19mm plank of wood and put it through his table saw to get two different widths, plus he had a 40mm x 19mm length to use as the lip.

We chose to glue and screw to make it stronger (and because I'm an instant gratification kind of gal, and I didn't want to wait around for glue to dry).

Whilst it may look like I know what I'm doing here, I really didn't. Graeme only let me do one or two.

After a quick sand...

I gave them an initial prime with a dollop of the pale blue colour I wanted, followed by a proper coat of paint.

(Really isn't fun to have the one table in the house used for Luca's craft, three meals a day, my little projects and household paperwork. It's driving me mad.)

Graeme wanted to fill the screws, but I was happy with them as they were.

Ta da!!!! What do you think?

I just love them. Course, two was hardly going to fix the problem. But it's a start. Two for Kian next.

Yes, yes, I know Ikea have very smart $10 picture ledges, but Ikea is quite a distance away. I hate driving, I hate traffic, and I'd much rather stay at home and clear the table umpteen times between licks of paint.

Speaking of Ikea, look what I picked up in a garage sale at the weekend for $5 each! They were initially meant for the boys. One each. But I'm not sure now. I think I like them too much. 

Mum is here for a month. It's already going so quickly. With family living overseas, there's usually a period of adjustment, getting used to each other again. But the boys behaved like Grandma lives just around the corner. Instant cuddles, kisses and conversation. For that I'm grateful. 

Cuddles with Kian...

And baking with Luca...

Luca making butterfly cakes for Sydney's 6th birthday. She enjoyed every last crumb. Plus the bone he bought for her. Plus the fish that Graeme caught that morning. One spoilt little doggie.

Happy birthday pooch.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My first ever GIVEAWAY!

Remember my great find?

Well, I'm giving it away. 

Yep, The Accidental Foodie is up for grabs. I very almost scrapped this, because I decided I wanted to keep it after all. But then I realised this makes it an even better giveaway. Something worth giving away. 

And if interiors is your thing, you'll want to win Sensual Home, written by founding editor of British Elle Decoration, Ilse Crawford.

The Accidental Foodie

The Accidental Foodie

Sensual Home

Sensual Home

To enter, all you have to do is:
  • Become a follower of Finding a place called Home and leave me a lovely comment with your book preference;

That will give you one entry, but for extra chances to win, you.... could.... I don't know.... let's see....
  • Shout about it on Facebook
  • Write your own post about this
(and then tell me about it)

The books are in as new condition and there will be two winners. Oh, and if you don't have a blog, please leave your email address with your comment so I can contact you if you're one of the two lucky winners. And don't forget to tell me which book you'd like to win.

OK, I'd better publish this quickly before I change my mind again about keeping the food book.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Greer from Typically Red and Bron from Maxabella Loves!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Easy midweek family meals

I believe in food cooked from scratch. I believe in good ingredients. Those two things bring me so much joy and so I really do believe in the cliché that food is one of life's greatest pleasures.

That said, I still get stumped on what to cook occasionally. I don't spend enough time planning meals, so I do a lot of 'open the fridge/freezer doors and stare blankly for a few minutes', trying to create meals in my head with what we also have in the garden and cupboard.

Often, the blank stare achieves nothing more than a bolognese.

Sometimes though, much like when you come up with an absolute corker in Scrabble, my eyes light up as I realise I have the makings of something very nice for dinner.

A little while ago, I had some free-range chicken mince in the freezer. I did my blank stare and then discovered bacon in the fridge (I always have bacon in the fridge now that I can buy free-range!). 

I made some patties using the chicken mince, lemon zest, softened shallots, and some parsley and thyme from the garden. 

I wrapped the patties in the 'streaky' bits of bacon (or just streaky bacon, if you're English!) and baked in a hottish oven for 20 mins or so.

Now, before you scroll to the bottom to find the recipe, wait. There isn't one. You see, I don't really like recipes. In fact, I don't actually believe in recipes very much. Not for this type of thing anyway.

I've written hundreds of recipes, and edited dozens of cookery books, and I find recipes just mostly get in the way. 

They get in the way of cooking. And they bore me.

If I say 1 tsp of thyme leaves, I'm implying that 2 tsp will make it all go horribly wrong. Which it won't. 

Obviously, I follow cake recipes and the like because there is an element of science involved. But the more cooking I do, and the older (and the more impatient I get), I want to add what I want. I just want a vague idea of what goes in, and I make up the rest. It's so much more relaxing that way. Rather than traipsing up and down the kitchen checking your recipe and freaking out when you realise you haven't got as much as the recipe dictates, you add a dash of this and a dash of that. 

That's how my mum cooks.

And maybe, MAYBE, that's a load of twaddle. It could just be I've seen so many recipes that I just don't want to type out precise tsp and grams. Either way, you're not going to get a recipe. (But you get very good pictures!)

Chicken and herb patties

And last night, I was stumped again. The fridge and cupboards are crying out to be filled. I flicked through a book, saw the word 'pancake' and fritters came to mind.

A bag of corn in the freezer. A red pepper (capsicum) and avocados need to be eaten, and there's spring onions in the garden.

I will give you a vague recipe here, but it's just a basic batter. Beat together 100g self-raising flour, 2 eggs and around 100ml milk. Season, then add whatever you fancy. In my case, chopped basil and some corn, along with diced red pepper and sliced spring onion, both of which I'd softened in olive oil beforehand. Then just gently cook spoonfuls of the batter in a pan with some oil.

Corn and red pepper fritters

I cut the fritters into fingers for the boys and they had them with some sliced avocado drizzled with a bit of lime.

There. Two really good meals that you can rustle up and have on the table in less than half an hour.

Would love to know if you make this.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Woweee... Luca's 4th birthday

I hadn't gone away. Just that I'm still recovering. No, not booze recovering - I only had a couple of glasses of bubbly. Recovering from organising a birthday party.

Who knew they could be so exhausting? The planning, the making, the cooking, the hosting, the clearing up.

Would I do it all over again? 

Let's see....

Once the pompoms and number wreath were made, it was time to stitch together those strips to make hanging garlands.  

I did watch the DVD that came with the sewing machine, but we were pushed for time, so Graeme put his old sewing lessons into practice. 

They were so easy to do! Amazing results. They're going to be the decoration I always make from now on for any party. Can you imagine the possibilities for Christmas? A New Year's Eve party? 

Here's the tutorial

Next, the party bags. I desperately wanted to make bags out of Luca's paintings we've been collecting since his last birthday. I was thrilled to find this: a recipe for DIY gift bags!

Punched holes using a shell hole puncher and used orange yarn for handles. (Well, there was so much leftover since the blessed lanterns were a failure!)

Then we got to work on filling them. Cut milk cartons in half, painted them orange, poked holes in the bottom for drainage, and filled them with soil once they were dry.

Cut up orange crepe and tissue paper and wrapped sunflower seeds, and gingerbread biscuits. And for a bit of craft for the kids, we punched out butterflies in orange paper to make a pretty border. Then tied everything up in string and yarn.

They looked adorable - although next time if I'm filling a paper bag with a pound of soil, I might use more than yarn for handles!

We hung pompoms along paths into 'the deep dark wood', which was a great hit with all the kids who ran along looking for the next one to guide them. Hung garlands from trees. Oh, did I mention we also managed to make some bunting with some of the card? Why haven't I owned a sewing machine sooner????

And used this idea to create our very own obstacle course. Strangely enough, Graeme had lots of orange rope that he used to use for scuba diving, so this came in very handy. 

Luca called it a spider's web.

And yes, I even hung those pathetic lanterns, which had completely unravelled that morning, so we managed to make more of the 'web'.

Something to keep the toddlers amused next. A cardboard box wrapped in sticky tape, and a basket full of leaves, flowers, twigs, seed pods and bark. Didn't last as long as I'd hoped as Luca wanted to play with the box!

Pass the parcel. Very interesting trying to explain to a bunch of 2, 3 and 4 yr olds that you only unwrap a layer when the music stops. Why did it seem so much simpler when we were kids?


The food. 

A crab cake. A fudgey dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache. Made by me. Decorated by Luca and Graeme. Luca was thrilled with it.

Cheese and fruit sticks. Very popular with Luca and his friends.

Sausage rolls. Very popular with the parents.

Sesame squash on sticks (not as popular as I'd hoped) and pizza snails (almost all gone). I decided to adopt the less theme with everything, including the food. I had planned on zucchini and corn fritters, and some mini sandwiches, but I kept getting told to keep it simple. My own voice told me that a children's party was not the same as entertaining adults; while food is central to the latter, it most certainly isn't for the former.

So would I do it again?

Yes. Definitely. I had a ball. I really did.

I didn't care that my sticking corner wasn't as successful as I'd planned. I didn't care that no one really liked my sticky sesame squash bites, and I didn't care that the rowdy boys all took turns to beat the pompoms down one by one.

It was so much fun. 

And after everyone had left, we cranked up Justine Clark's The Witches' Ball and danced barefoot in the grass.

Sssshh, don't tell the ranger we had bubbly in the wetlands

Happy birthday my gorgeous little boy. 

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I would love it if you could vote for me in the Top 25 Creative Mom Blogs.