Monday, August 31, 2015

50 & hands....

These are my hands.
My mothers antique ring worn proudly on my right hand ring finger, as it is, each and every day.
My hands...are not young any more. Their joints ache sometimes. The skin is not smooth and blemish free any longer.
But they can still cradle the head of the second born daughter of my first born son, with love and care...
...and bake and ice and decorate a giant cupcake for her...

....following it with an Owl cake for a special birthday.

My hands can display my daughters worn pointe shoes with pride...

...and spend time with her, making heirloom treasures for our Christmas tree, so that when I am gone from this Earthly existence, she can show them to her own children and say 'I made these with Nanna when I was your age..'

My hands can take the place of my Mothers, in keeping to our family tradition of making our own wedding cakes, and even though I cannot hope to emulate her skill, my brother loves that I've stepped in to be "Mother" on his special day....

And they can apply gold leaf to a spray of faux orchids, to gift to a special friend....

...bringing a smile to a face worn with cares....

They can stroke the hand of a troubled family member and help to carry the burden of their sorrows when they become overwhelming.
They can pet the gentle, elegant head of my little whippet whilst he stares meaningfully into my eyes, soothing us both.
My husband says he married me for my beautiful hands. I massage moisturiser into them several times a day lest he lose interest :-)
My preferred hand cream is L'Occitane. I adore the little metal tubes that are a sensory delight in themselves.
What's yours?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Textile Collage Art.....hearts....

I saw Karen Valentines Textile Art Heart Necklaces on her beautiful blog **My Desert Cottage**
back in March this year. I immediately bought her tutorial, and then got busy with dance costumes for The Divas school dance troupe, and forgot all about making pretty hearts.

Well, with Christmas always on my mind, I knew I wanted to get started on these, so off I went.

I confess I didn't follow Karens instructions exactly (sorry Karen!).

I sort of got all over the shop with the order in which things had to be done, and ended up using the front of the heart as a sort of 3D canvas, adding layers until I was happy, then hand stitching the back of the heart to the front, encasing the stuffing as I went.

I think Karen would forgive me.

 As you can see, mine is very different to Karens' interpretation, but isn't that the beauty of these sorts of projects? You truly can inject a little of yourself into them, and use what you have.
This animal print silk is a tiny scrap leftover from some tribal bustles I've made for The Dancing Daughters current school troupe performance coming up in just two weeks. I know right...who even knew there was such a thing as a tribal bustle. But Google it. You'll be amazed!
I also had some muslin, which I use for making hand dyed facecloths in pretty gelati colours, some header tape leftover also from costumes, and of course thrifted vintage lace and bows, and sequins and tassels galore.
I stayed true to Karen's 'Be Fabulous' theme though, because it's one I love.
I envisage these as necklaces, brooches, pomanders with lavender stitched into them, doorknob hangers, keyrings, bagtags, and of course, Christmas ornaments.
I'm itching to get started on more now!

The link to Karens tutorial can be found by clicking on this link...

I predict these darling little pretties will save me hundreds on gifts this year.

What do you think?


Five Star Frugal #16...with pearls and candy....

Hi everyone, and thankyou all for linking up with Five Star Frugal last week.
Without further ado, here are this weeks features....
Who could possible resist this gorgeous purse makeover, aptly titled The Cinderella Bag from In The Boondocks...
....more pearls, vintage dusty pink ones from Meg at My Vintage Life....
...and finally these scrumptious Sweet & Salty Candied Pecans from Intelligent Domestications, which I can assure you are very more-ish!
Sweet & Salty Candied Pecans Recipe 1342 x 976 at

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Motherly Advice...How to be classy in ten simple steps....

So what IS this idea of 'classy'?

Is it this quote above?

Or this one below?

Me? I think it's a bit of both.

When I was young, we girls were offered an extra-curricular deportment class at school. I didn't take it because I had two sisters and four brothers and money was a bit thin on the ground when it's divided seven ways.

Instead, Mum gave me her own version of deportment lessons. She was an Avon lady of the ilk of Dianne Weist in Edward Scissorhands. She was just about as adorable too.

Here she is, as a seventeen year old bride in 1959....

...see what I mean? 4 foot, 11 inches tall and pretty as a picture.

 So she handed over her trusty Avon Representatives manual, and her samples and let me loose. From time to time she would drily comment that I had a 'tide mark' where my thickly applied foundation met my neck or jaw, or that perhaps green eyeshadow and coral lipstick weren't the best combination, but other than that she let me be. I learned. Hours and hours in front of the mirror with glossy magazine models in front of me to copy, and I learned.

But of course she knew that 'deportment' had more to it than 'makeup'. So she lent me her heels to wear around the house and told me to balance a book on the top of my head, imagining a string attaching both head and book, to a thread to the ceiling as I walked. That's a lesson in posture, and walking like a lady if ever there was one.

She told me to look people in the eye when I met them, and to shake their hand firmly. She taught me to introduce people to one another, always older to younger or professional to learner, as appropriate.

I learned to field a compliment graciously ("thankyou, how lovely of you to say so"), and to give one equally graciously that doesn't just sound automatic ("you look so polished today" or "I loved that piece of your speech where you said...").

She taught me that life does not have to be one long series of pleasurable experiences, and that in the long term, the things that seem less pleasurable, are actually the things that make you 'a good person', never mind a 'classy' one. Like visiting with a stressed young Mum and making her a cup of tea and taking the baby for a walk, or hanging out with your cranky Aunt, or spending an hour with that boy who fancies you madly but who really isn't your type. Giving people your time, and expecting nothing in return is a good lesson in altruism. (Altruism...selfless concern for the wellbeing of others).

As for that boy who fancied me madly, well I spent time with him, but I made it clear that we were to be just friends, and that whilst I was flattered by his affections, that there was no future in his undivided attention to me. He accepted that and our friendship gave him the confidence to move on to another young lady who returned his passion. Because Mum also told me that honesty is always the best policy, even when the truth is hard.

Of course the way you dress and conduct yourself is frequently what people think of when you say 'classy'. And that's so complicated isn't it?

I think that there are a couple of golden rules to this bit, no matter your taste, status in life, or fashion preferences.

1. Make sure things fit properly. Ill fitting clothing or shoes, not matter how expensive, are not a good look. Get a tailor or dressmaker to alter things for you if necessary, or learn how to do it yourself. I find the easiest way to alter clothing to fit, is to put it on inside out, and get someone else to do the pinning. It's not rocket science and you can learn to alter just about anything on YouTube. Small shoulder pads (not of the eighties huge vintage), can help a blouse or dress or jacket or coat just sit more neatly. The right length can make pants or skirts just look more elegant, so get to know what the ideal length is for YOU, not as dictated by fashion.

2. Wear good underwear. By which I mean not just 'nice' but again, appropriately fitted and appropriate for the clothing you are wearing. I won't tell you to wear this sort over that sort. I will say that visible underwear, either outside or under your clothing is simply not classy.

3. Wear what suits the occasion. This is even harder nowadays than it once was, when a certain outfit was expected for mornings and afternoons, never mind the movies or the theatre. It seems like anything goes now. For my 15 year old, I've set a couple of general rules of thumb:

Don't wear to the shopping centre or movies or theatre, what you would wear to the beach or the pool.

Leave a little (or a lot preferably) to the imagination.

And the fact that everyone else is wearing is as good a reason as any for you NOT to.

4. Go easy on the accessories. Generally speaking you don't wear earrings, hair accessories, necklace, belt, bracelets and rings, all at the one time. Draw attention to your best features and go simple if in doubt. Pearl studs or simple hoops are the jewellery du jour around here. We do love a bit of gratuitous bling here too though, but if we're bling-ing, we bling one piece, or maximum two pieces, at a time.

5. Learn some table manners beyond using the right knife and fork. Did you know that rattling your spoon around in your tea or coffee cup is really not on and is very bad manners? Or that elbows don't belong on the table, or that you really should put down your fork and knife between bites and learn to savour each mouthful of food? Do you feel comfortable when confronted with multiple plates, glasses and cutlery on a table? Don't wait for a formal occasion to be sprung upon you to learn these things. Set your table beautifully at home and practice every day!

6. Be genuinely interested in people, in their differences and their commonalities with you. Give the person who is speaking to you, your full attention. Don't be looking around, waiting for a pause in conversation so that you can jump in with your bit. Even if you're not particularly interested in what someone is saying, it's important to them to say it, so give them your undivided attention. Make the other person feel important!

7. Be clean and fresh and smell nice. Bathe daily, brush and floss, carry a lightly scented body spray with you always. In the Summer humidity where I live, I even go so far as to carry a little facecloth and travel soap in a ziplock bag everywhere I go. I know my deodorant can only do so much when it's 39C and humid as all heck. So a discreet visit to the ladies and a quick onceover of the armpits and d├ęcolletage` saves embarrassment. I'd usually follow this up with a spray of the aforementioned lightly scented body spray. If you don't like fake scents, then perhaps carrying a small neutral talcum powder is more your thing (I adore Johnsons Baby Powder and it has the same frangrance notes as my other favourite, Chanel No. 5!). Or in desperation, use some baby wipes to keep the offending areas a little more fragrant!

8. But don't smell like a department store!  I'm a fan of fragrance layering, but this does NOT mean, as I've read of late, wearing several fragrances on top of one another. Anyone that advises you to do this, just wants to sell you more perfume! Layering your favourite perfume means that you can apply it ONCE in the morning, and still smell divine at 5pm. It means having a body wash or soap, a talc, a body moisturiser and an Eau de Parfum in the same fragrance. NOT three or four different ones. If you can manage your shampoo and conditioner in a similar scent, well, perfect. This is not as difficult as it sounds. I buy a Smell-a-like concentrate at Wellington Fragrance here to see their list of smell-a-likes, and add my favourites to home made soap, and neutral Castille shampoo and conditioner, as well as to home made talc (and I'll share how to make that in an upcoming post!). I even add this to my own custom scented fabric softener. Truly!

So your routine for layering your fragrance, would be:

(a) Wash in the shower with a shower pouffe` and just one or two pumps of your body wash or a lather of your soap. Wash and condition your hair if doing so.

(b) Once you're dried off, apply body lotion. Let that absorb while you dry or style your hair.

(c) Apply a light dusting of talcum powder...I have a lovely idea for making talcum puffs here, or you can see Annabels idea on her blog The Bluebirds are Nesting. Annabel has some gorgeous ideas.

(d) Finally, spritz one or two sprays of your favourite perfume into the air in front of you and walk through the cloud of scent.

That's it. No more.

If you hate the smell of deodorant, and some deodorants do seem to make you more 'stinky', then try using the same layering idea, but without the perfume as it will sting your underarms. This method will require re-applying as the day wears on though, particularly in heat and humidity.

9. Don't share every intimate detail of your life with others. I know in todays social media world, that's considered the done thing to share the highs and lows, the breakups and the make-ups. But really. Come on. A little mystery is a good thing. Take a page from Nicole Kidmans book, who when asked about her famous and public breakup with Tom Cruise, simply said 'I'll leave it to Tom to explain'. It irritated everyone enormously at the time, but it did force all interested parties to move on more quickly. Another one that raised a few eyebrows round here, was a recent post on Facebook by a young lady I know quite well, who chose to share very natural photos of the birth of her child. In arty black and white, granted, but still eye poppingly graphic and possibly not what your Nanna would want to see (not that I'm her Nanna, but you know....). Guard your privacy jealously. There's not much that isn't public these days and a classy person, retains a little mystique.

10. If you must answer your phone in a public place, please please please, do so quietly and discreetly, excusing yourself from the table if necessary. Complete the call quickly and return to your meeting or friend without feeling the need to explain. See 9. above. Really...preferable...don't answer the phone. When did we have to become so available??

So they're my top ten. There are lots more that I could share, but I'm thinking your own Mum probably shared most of those with you.

What do you think makes a person classy?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My take on the DIY Morrocan Wedding Blanket....

Have you seen these gorgeous Moroccan Wedding Blankets?
I've loved them since forever. Now, of course they're all over Pinterest and eBay, and never available for much less than $600. Okay, so I love them, but not enough to spend $600 on one. I'd rather a nice pair of shoes or!
So I fished out this IKEA blanket that I've had for years. It's sort of a Berber look thing anyway, and completely plain except for that self check in the fabric.
Having seen Annabels beautiful crocheted Faux Moroccan blanket over at The Bluebirds are Nesting, I just knew I could produce something that was close. Unfortunately I do not have the patience or Annabels skill, so crochet was out of the question. Or a least a whole crocheted blanket was!
I finally decided that the Blanket above at the top of my post, and the one at the bottom of this post, were my favourites. I love the slim shaggy trim, interspersed with lots of sequins, over some of the other variations I've seen, so here I am.
Now the shaggy trim, I decided I would crochet, having sourced some of that shaggy yarn for a scarf project for The Diva. I chose a soft, cream-bordering-on-ballet-pink. You know me. I'm mad for pink. Especially that pink of satin ballet shoes.
Then I simply crocheted one long strand of chain, and then crocheted double chain into that, to form the fringe. This I am stitching in rows, across my blanket. I decided that looked better on my bed, than the usual horizontal rows on proper Moroccan Wedding Blankets.
I then chose a range of pastel sequins, some round ballet pink ones, larger round mother of pearl ones, oval shaped lavender ones and some crystals, and these I am laboriously stitching to my blanket one by one. It's tedious, but I set myself a target once a week and spend an hour or so on it. I can't do any more than that as the blanket is so huge, it has to stay on the bed, and I have to stand over it, or kneel on the floor to stitch each individual sequin.
I'm really happy with the way it's coming along though, and it's looking very much how I intended. I want it much more heavily sequinned than this though, so it's going to be a labour of love over several months if not a year, I think.

As you can see by this bottom picture, I have a long way to go!
I think it will be a project of which I'll be very proud in the end though.

It's not usually in my nature to persevere with large projects, but I love the idea of this blanket here, so much, that I think I can do it this time. It's amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it!
It also goes to show that in creating something unique, it pays to build upon your existing skills. Annabels blanket is crocheted with lavish trims. Mine is embellishing an existing blanket with thousands of hand applied sequins and crocheted shaggy fringe.
Here are some other ways you could recreate your own Moroccan Wedding Blanket:
Made a bed scarf out of sequinned and beaded tulle and lay it across a simple neutral bed cover.
Change it up and add lace, frills, ribbon or braid as you preferences dictate. Don't get locked in to what you think it 'should' be.
Use an ivory coloured sheet as a base cover, and layer it with an Antique lace bedspread or tablecloth, and some sequinned scatter cushions for a similar look without all the hard work.
Applique` vintage doilies and upholsterers fringe across a cream vintage blanket.
To preserve the 'wedding' idea, make a coverlet from recycled wedding dresses. The thrift stores have these for ridiculous prices and it's the best way to get lots of gorgeous fabric for a project as big as this. Re-use any lace, beaded trim, or brocade, in the embellishing of your blanket.
And accept, that this will NOT be an overnight project!
What have you spent, months or perhaps years on to finish?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

50 & and clean...

I'm 55. I've been told I look good 'for my age'. I always wonder what people mean when they say that, but I take it as a compliment!
I've always looked after myself though, so I guess this is the age where you see that paying off.
So when I heard that Arborvitae were seeking the more mature blogger with aches and pains to sample their product, I put on my big girl pants and put my hand up. Much as I dislike being older, anything that eases the path to ageing with grace, has to be a good thing, right?

I read up on the benefits of the product, which it's claimed can reduce the impact of chronic inflammation at cellular level. This is turn, can strengthen the immune system, and assist in the removal of free radicals. We all know that those nasty little beggars contribute to we older folk, not looking or feeling our best.

So, two mega bottles of this magic potion arrived on my doorstep post haste, and I unwrapped and sniffed at them with both trepidation and curiosity. They emanated a sweetish, not unpleasant scent, and an experimental taste revealed something far more pleasant that the Wheat Grass Shots of which I was so convinced held the secret of youth and good health, a year or three ago. Sort of green, but with a true natural honeyed flavour.
We set off overseas for four weeks, meaning my own home trial had to wait for my return. But as soon as I saw those bottles in the fridge, I set about making sure I took my twice daily dose.

The first thing I noticed, was that the jet lag usually so evident after a long haul flight home to Australia from Europe, didn't seem to hit me so hard. I was able to get on with my day, without that overwhelming tiredness that sees you just about falling asleep mid sentence for a week or so.

Then I noticed that my craving for a mid afternoon cuppa had disappeared. I was suddenly happy to have my dose of Arborvitae, a piece of fruit and a big glass of water. Ditto to the one I'd usually have after dinner, with a sugary biscuit.

Within a fortnight, chronic pain in my shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and hips, all a relic of caring for a totally physically dependent disabled son (who is now 24!), and the creep of middle age, had eased enormously, and has now all but disappeared.

Possibly due to the reduction of teas laced with sugar, and fewer naughty cookies, my complexion looks less red, and some surface veins on my chin and around my nose, have retreated significantly. I guess that could also and most likely is, the anti-inflammatory ingredients doing their work.

I've been taking the Arborvitae and continuing my usual walking programme, supplemented with a diet free of processed food, little red meat, and high in fresh fruit and vegetables for four weeks now. I feel more lively and less tired, I have been sleeping more soundly due to my increased activity levels brought on by my new found energy, and most importantly, I'm not battling fatigue brought on by Winter aches and pains in my joints.

It's easy to be a cynic, but the only thing that I've added to my usual routine, is the Arborvitae, so I'd have to say it's a resounding success.

I'm one happy customer.

If you'd like to trial Arborvitae for yourself (and I highly recommend the experiment) you can buy two one litre bottles at the special price of $99 (RRP $69.95 each) if you use my link.
That's a saving of $40 on the usual price. I've been taking 30mls twice daily, so my initial two bottles would yield over a months supply at that dosage. That's less than $2 a day. For general well being you'd just take 30mls a day, and for more severe chronic conditions, the recommendation is 50mls twice daily. Whichever way you go, it's a small price to pay for an increase in vitality, and energy, and a reduction in pain and it's associated fatigue.

I've always been one to believe in looking after the body I've been given. I'd like to think that if I treat it well, it will look after me for several decades to come. I think Arborvitae can help me do that.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Motherly Advice...The Dragon of Domestic Violence

Yes it's a scary topic this one. Not one that many want to tackle, but you're here and you've asked the question (and in truth a few of you have), so let's deal with it as best we can.
I'm guessing you are at a crossroads in your life. Many of us find ourselves at
these crossroads from time to time.
I know you've come to me for advice, so I will do my best.
After all, I have been where you are. Back when I was very young, I stood at this very same crossroads at which you now pause, hesitant and afraid.
I've been asked for this same advice by a few friends over the years. Some listened, some didn't. That I can't help. But I know my words changed their thinking forever, and perhaps it can help you too.

First of all, you have to set aside your preconceived notions of 'who this happens to'. It happens to people from all walks of life with all levels of education. I had a Business degree and a job as a Management Consultant, with my own business on the side.

You also have to adjust your idea of what Domestic Violence is. It isn't always physical. It can be emotional and psychological or frequently all three.

I was smart, pretty, well spoken, well dressed....a 'nice' girl if you like. 'He' was a dashingly handsome, greatly admired athlete from a long line of greatly admired athletes. It looked like a match made in heaven. He was sweet and charming and totally captured me. 'Captured' being the operative word. The first six months were like a dream. Gifts. Rose petals on the bed and bubble baths with champagne. Lavish gifts and heartfelt declarations of undying love. We moved in together.

Then he started to not 'like' my friends or my family, so I would find ways to avoid having them around to keep him happy. He would find ways to keep me snuggling in bed in the mornings so I was frequently late for work. He would make a 'game' of hiding my car keys so I could not go to an appointment or a social engagement, and then chastise me for not being fun any more when I got cross.

The last straw for me, after less than a year, was when he locked me in the bedroom to prevent me going to work. It was an old fashioned door with a real key and lock, and he had the key.

And so....I came to my own crossroads. When this man was good, he was charming and sweet and adorable. When he wasn't....well....he became the Dragon.

And so this was my story too. No bruises. No midnight hospital visits. But certainly lots of pain, and damage nonetheless. Lots of 'why me'? To that there is no answer unfortunately.

And's my best advice, and I hope the analogy helps you.

On one side of this crossroads, is a path leading to a pretty house with a sign on the gate.
Inside the kids are laughing, music is
playing and a cake is in the oven, while dinner bubbles away. There's
you, serene and happy, doing what you love best and planning the next
exciting chapter in your life. You have friends who love you, a job you
adore, and children who are happy and well adjusted. Perhaps one is
getting ready to study medicine, one maybe to be a teacher, and one
has high hopes of becoming a professional musician.
What a beautiful and tempting life that is.

On the other is a path leading to a house enveloped in gloom.
One room is bathed in light and there is laughing. but it is stifled and stilted.
The family gather to this room for comfort, as often as they can, for in
the other rooms lurks a slumbering dragon. The family knows that the
dragon lives there and they do whatever they can to placate the dragon
lest it harms or eats you, the Mother. The dragon rules the roost.
The family (you and your children) feed the dragon, soothe it, tame
it as best they can, but underneath the truth is a dragon will always be
a dragon, no matter how well fed, well tended, well soothed, well housed
it is.
Sooner or later the dragon will get angry about something. It will perhaps not kill you, the Mother,
but it will find another way to hurt or maim or frighten you, so that it
can rule absolutely. You know this.
But the dragon has beguiling eyes, scales that
glint with mesmerizing colour and sheen, warm breath to envelope the
home when it's cold, and a hunting instinct that feeds the family and
shelters it from external harm. The family, and particularly you, the
Mother, love the dragon for it's hunting and sheltering instinct, but
underneath, the dragon will always be a dragon and cannot be tamed.
The dragon can also be admired and well thought of by people who are similarly mesmerized, because dragons have a way of hypnotising everyone with whom they come into contact.  
So you continue to live in fear and awe of the dragon, despite it's constant
threat. Even though you know that you are not a Gothic Princess and that the Dragon is really not your knight in shining armour.
The children who live here will scamper away as soon as they are
humanly able so as to escape this constant threat. They will not return,
or will only do so infrequently for their fear of the dragon is so great
that even to visit you, might mean confronting the dragon.
In time, they
will marry and have families of their own. In each of their homes,
will be a dragon, slumbering and waiting for it's dragon eggs to hatch, and
inhabit your children's homes.
And so the cycle will continue.
Which path will you choose? Which house will you and your children
Will you flee from the dragon, and prevent it laying it's
dragon eggs in your children's and grandchildren's homes?

Will you choose freedom and a full life?

Or will you choose a life for yourself and your children and perhaps
even your grandchildren, that bows and scrapes forever to a slumbering

How long before your 'slumbering dragon' hurts or disables you, either physically, emotionally or metaphorically?
What if you end up in a wheelchair and can no longer protect yourself or
your children? What if next time, and there will be a next time, he
ensures that you no longer have the option of flight. A permanent disabling event that prevents you
from working to support yourself, or having the independent mobility to
escape, will take many options from you.

Whilst your fear of the dragon, outweighs your fear of death or disability or even simple emotional paralysis,
nothing will change.

You need to fear the impact of your death or disability or emotional paralysis, on your children
and loved ones more than you fear him.

You know what you have to do.
I know what I did. And I never looked back. Now I am the woman in the fairy tale cottage, with the well educated, contented family. I made my choice. It was hard. Very hard. But I have no regrets.
Not one.
You won't either.

Monday, August 17, 2015

This weeks Insourcing #15....

I was very pleased with my insourcing this week. Who needs to go to showy designer stores and posh delicatessens for the good things in life. Not, no, no. And you don't have to either. Don't pay someone else to make your life special, when you can do it yourself!
I used my stash of butchers paper to make gift wrap for several upcoming events. Butchers paper, a thick Nikko pen, and big loopy handwriting is so effective for any occasion, and just looks so classy...add some neutral double satin ribbon and a hand glittered card for something extra special..

When you consider that gift wrap and a beautiful card can be $5 to $30 on it's own, factoring in wrap, ribbon, gift topper, and card, that's a considerable saving! This weekend alone, that saved me about $50! Butchers paper is purchased by weight from party supply warehouses. Mine was about $30 for a stack 15cms thick, and I've been using for two years and it's still going strong. This saves me literally hundreds over a year of gifting, so I'm going to call that saving on future purchases, $100. I'm sure it's more than that, but that will do. All up $150 that I've saved myself there.

I sourced two gifts of body wash, shower pouffe`, and rose and lavender potpourri from my stairwell stash...

...and slid those inside blank brown paper gift bags, tied with wide lace and embellished with a diamante buckle...saving on bought gifts....possibly $60 or more, but lets call it $60.

I made a gluten free crepe stack 'cake' for my girlfriends for an afternoon tea. Crepe stack cakes are brilliant when you don't feel like cake but want something yum to serve to friends. This one was layered with fresh lemon juice and caster sugar, had double cream on the side, and was served with both tea and champagne. The girls loved it muchly. I've also done these layered with jam and cream, nutella, cinnamon and honey greek yoghurt, or banana and drizzled honey with ricotta cheese. They're always a hit, and make something simple, a little more posh. Saving on high tea in the city....gosh....$150 I think!

I made some many-fruit jam from the odds and ends of the fruit bowl. Just equal parts (by weight) of fruit and sugar. So yum. This gave me two more gifts, wrapped in boxes, and packed with home made miniature pastry cases and tinned whipped cream (I know...rotten stuff...but Weight Watchers says it's okay, so that's good enough for me and easier to gift than normal cream!!) for my girlfriends to take home to make their 'own' fresh jam tarts to impress their families. Saving on deli made treats for the girls to take home...another $60.
The Musician Husband and I ate at home on a rare Saturday night alone, and saved $200 on a proposed excursion to the Gold Class cinema. We bought some movies instead and enjoyed them in our cozy home, feet up, glass of wine close by. Saving after movies and wine were purchased...$100.
I replenished my herb garden. I use an astounding amount of basil and coriander and if I had to keep buying it, I'd be looking at $25 a week in herbs alone. My herb pots save me enormously, every single week. Saving this week $15.
So this weeks efforts have realistically saved me shelling out $535 to somebody else, to do what I am very capable of doing myself.
What did you do this week that kept money in your pocket?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Going Gracefully Grey...progress...

So I first started talking about going gracefully grey years ago. I first posted about it on A Tray of Bliss back in April 2014.
Everyone thought I was mad of course.
But now, it's trendy to be grey. Young people are dying their hair grey. Strange but true! I always knew there'd come a day when we silver haired lovelies would be seen as trendsetters.
Here's where I was in April 2014.
Above the first pic in this post, is what I am aiming for.
And here is where I am now....with some Ash Blonde foils interspersed with my own silver hair, and darkest chocolate brown underneath....

What do you think?
I'm very happy with it and it's been worth the angst. Honest.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Real Dance Mums #4....A Ballet Tango?

(Image courtesy BYU Ballet)
So The Divas Ballet exam this year was a bit of a big deal.
No longer the little pretty dances and character skirts of her younger days.
This years' variation at the end of the exam, was a Tango.
Now I was a bit taken aback when she told me this. A Tango? Really? Not really very Royal Academy of Dance, now, is it? Very sort of good girl/bad girl in a way.
But, oh my. When I saw her dance it, my mind was very quickly changed. This was RAD? Well it sure is RAD as in 'radical', but it's not Royal Academy of Dance. Scarcely traditional, and a bit....well....saucy really!
I can't share The Divas version, because she's a bit shy. But this sweet ballerina below does a lovely version, and if you squint and imagine a taller, red haired young lady with very long legs doing the same dance, you'd come close!
I'm so glad she's hung in there for the interesting part of her dance education. So many students abandon dance classes in favour of part time jobs and a social life in their teens.
Our girl gets the thrill of learning how to really dance.

And it's beautiful to watch.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Motherly Advice....home baking is good for the soul....

Hi come in, come in. Let me give you a big hug. Gosh you look nice today.

Yes, the house does smell good, doesn't it? It's that Vanilla Cake. You know, the one that you just mix all together in one bowl, and throw in the oven. Yes, it's my favourite too. Well except for the slow bake chocolate one...hehehe!

Here, I'm about to make another one, so you can help me...

Now remember, you have to use real butter for this one or it just won't be the same.

So you cut up that 4 ounces of butter...well 125 grams in our lingo...yes, just into cubes, that's it. It makes it easier to mix. Here, use Nanna's old bowl to mix it in. Yes, I love it too. I don't know why they make all the mixing bowls so wide and shallow these days. This one is so much better with it's tall cone shape, isn't it?

Now grab that Vanilla Extract. Yes, the one in the green and black bottle. The Vanilla Essence is okay too, but the Extract is so much headier in smell...different aren't they? The Essence sort of smells like chemicals, and the Extract is sheer heaven...

Would you mind grabbing the sugar up there in the big glass jar. You're taller than me and it'll save me getting the step ladder out. Yes the caster sugar. I do make this cake with normal sugar too, but I just happen to have the finer white stuff, so let's use it. Yep measure out a cup and a quarter, and into the bowl. Ta.

Here, I took the eggs out of the fridge ahead of time, so just crack all three into the bowl, and add a cup and a half of plain flour. Yep I'm using gluten free flour for this one, it makes no difference. You'd use your normal flour at home of course. Just add the baking powder and bicarb in all at once too Hon. Yep.

Now the half a cup of milk and just use the little electric beater on low to mix it all until the butter is all smooth. Awesome.

So I've greased and lined my favourite little cake tin. See it's red on the outside? I think it was Nannas. And the ovens all ready to go at 160C (320F), so in the batter goes, and just pop it in the oven. we've got an hour and a quarter, so lets go outside in the sunshine and wiggle our toes in the grass with a cuppa.

Yes I know....baking makes me feel good too. I used to bake with my Mum and Nanna, you know. It was just the best bonding time. Of course it saves money as well, but there's just something about a home baked cake that says love to me. It's such an Earthy and simple thing to do and there's worse things for kids to grow up with than memories of Mum baking! My most enduring memory of Nanna is of her standing in her tiny kitchen with her one single bench, beating eggs into cake batter with flour on her sweet cheeks, and her apron over her ample bosom. Hugs and kisses were part of the process, with her exhorting me to 'be now careful mit de spoon Darlink...' She was European remember and always retained a little of her accent. Yes, I still miss her, but what a lovely memory. Of course Mum was a great frugal cook, and she taught me how to make those whisper thin crepes, and aren't they the best thing ever...

Here, I'll write that Vanilla Cake recipe down for you...

...or you can print it off from here later if you like..

One Bowl Vanilla Cake

 125gms softened butter, cut into cubes (must be butter for this one, or it won't taste the same)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar (caster sugar is best, but any will do)
3 large eggs (although I've made it with just two and it still turned out)
1 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
 1 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 160C.

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin or loaf tin.

Beat all the ingredients together on low until combined. Then beat on medium until the mixture is smooth and changes to a paler colour.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 1/4 hours.

Allow to cool in tin, then invert and turn right way up for icing.


Okay, so all done...always smells gorgeous, doesn't it. And the house smells like that for two days after...yes truly!

Now just grab me that jar of edible rose petals? Yes I know...they seem expensive, but you get soooo many! I think I've had that lot for about two years and they're still going!

So just a light dust of icing sugar, then a sprinkle of rose petals.

There. It's a picture, isn't it? And tastes good too!

Now I'm going to pop this one into Nannas old biscuit tin for you to take home, okay?

You'd pay $7 a slice for that one at the cake shop, and we just made the whole cake for $ have to laugh, don't you!

Alright Sweetheart. Yes, you go, I know how busy you are. I'll see you next week.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Recipes in four sentences....Herby Cheese Spread (Boursin copy)...

Combine 250gms of Light Cream Cheese with 250gms Ricotta. Add half a small onion, grated, and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. Finally, add two finely chopped sprigs fresh Dill, and a little salt and pepper and beat well. Serve on crackers, spread on toast or with fresh carrot sticks.