Monday, February 29, 2016

Sweet earrings....20c a pair...20 seconds to make...

 So you think you don't have time to DIY gifts, or that you're just not that crafty?

These darling little earrings are perfect for you! Of course they're perfect for the more accomplished DIYer too.

The slogan 'believe' can mean anything the wearer wants it to mean. It can be spiritual, motivational, confidence building or sheer fantasy. It knows no boundaries. And it's very 'in' at the moment, and believe me (no pun intended), that is half the battle in gifting DIY so that it's well received.

I whipped up 25 pairs of these in 30 minutes today. Each pair cost a teeny .20c to make, and that includes the pretty pink and silver organza presentation bag!

Note too, that similar 'believe' earrings, sell on Etsy for between $10 and $50, so there's no frugal cringe in gifting these little pretties!

I bought my 'Believe charms' here

The earring wires came from China. I bought them on eBay.


And the gorgeous little presentation bags, were from here.

As always, the wait for these little trinkets from the Asia Pacific region, seems to take forever. But eventually they do arrive, and I've never yet known them not to live up to expectation.

Slide the little charms on the the wires, and that's it. That really truly is it. Pop into the pretty bags, and you have 25 gifts, that look like you've spent far more, for next to nothing, and in next to no time!

 These would suit Mums, Mothers-in-Law, Sisters, Daughters, Friends, Friends of the Mums, Mothers-in-Law, Sister and really. I'm wearing a pair right now.

Go...get's surely somebody's birthday soon!


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Do you crave peace and prettiness in your day?

Sometimes we need something 'just for me'.

We Mums do so much for others, that an escape is a necessity...even if only briefly.

I'm new to Facebook, but I see it has some wonderful potential for 'me time' behind the gossip and memes.

I can see that it can, as my friend Annabel told me some time ago, be a constant stream of loveliness.

That is my aim.

To give you a place where there is nothing but a constant stream of loveliness. A refuge from your day, much as I hope my blog is.

So for you, and for me, I've started Mimi's Tray of Bliss Closed Discussion Group. It's open to you as a follower or newcomer to A Tray of Bliss, and all you have to do, is go here and ask to join. Wait a little while...maybe mere minutes, or maybe a few hours if you're in the Northern Hemisphere and I'm sleeping...and you're done. A constant stream of loveliness, coming your way.

Please join me. I'd love to have you. The more, the merrier.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou #38...

Dear Friends,

Blogger is being VERY naughty this afternoon.

There are these little icons at the top of my 'Post' screen, on the far right, that are frozen in the 'on' position, and as soon as I try to include a photo, the screen freezes. If anyone can tell me what they are (when I hover over them, they say 'left to right' and 'right to left'), I'd appreciate it. I am not clicking on them, they are just highlighting themselves!!!

I will add features if I resolve it, but meanwhile here is the linkup. Features to be included when I resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, you can still visit our featured bloggers for the week by clicking on the links below...

Meg at My Vintage Life 
Nellie at Nellies Cozy Place
Sarah at Hyacinths for the Soul

I'm sorry. An hour later, a complaint to Google, and I'm still none the wiser. Sigh..

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Gelati Bedroom for Easter....

Chocolate Bunnies are a bit passe` when you're sixteen years old, so my daughter has asked for new bedlinen instead. She needed new sheets anyway, so that got the nod from me.

I thought that since it's an Easter themed makeover, we'd go with pastel gelati colours, just like a basket of Easter Eggs or  Vintage Easter Card.

 Here's how her bed currently looks...

 She adores her chenille Candlewick bedspread, but a change is as good as a holiday as the saying goes.

So here's the result, strangely, echoing the colours she already had. She's nothing if not consistent!

Simple, pretty, feminine, and just like a basket of Easter eggs.



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Motherly Advice...The Dining Experience...

If you've been following along for any length of time, you might know I love all things French. 

In terms of furniture, for me this does not necessarily translate to a love of painting everything white. That's just me. I admire that look, but in the glaring sunlight of a Queensland Summer, I prefer something that echoes the cool of a rainforest. That means that here, we have soft Eucalypt grey-green walls, polished wood floors, and lots of antique and wooden furniture, most hand restored by me. 

The chest of drawers above, was given to me by my Mum, when I first moved out of home, 40 years ago. It was a bit of an ugly duckling back then. It had been stained a black sort of nothing colour, and the top was covered in psychedelic pink and brown contact paper.

I painstakingly removed the sticky contact from the top, and then lovingly stripped the ugly black from it's gorgeous wooden bones, finishing it the old fashioned way with hand mixed shellac and a cloth. I can't remember how long it took me to get the depth of colour I wanted, but I do recall it was several coats of shellac. New brass handles were added to grace the front appropriately. And it has remained so ever since.

Forty years later, it sits proudly in my dining room, housing my cutlery, placemats and candles, and various other niceties of a beautifully set table.

A set of vintage cutlery...not all matching but still very pretty, seen above, nestles alongside some French Country themed cutlery... 

..serving spoons beribboned to make them prettier...

...antique serving spoons, below, belonging to my Grandmother, also beribboned, just because I love the way they look nesting in the drawer like that, and pretty porcelain, reuseable placecards.

We use many of these items every day. Why wait for special occasion? Isn't life meant to be special every day? 

There are so many memories wrapped up in my little dining dresser and it's contents. Engagements, Birthdays, Christenings, Christmas, evenings with friends and afternoon with family. Each placemat has been used to cushion a platter of delectables, each serving spoon has scooped a much loved family favourite onto a pretty dinner plate, each candle holder has held more than one twinkling light by which we've held the fine silk strands of family together. It's not about inanimate objects. It's all about the way those objects knit your family and loved ones like a cable.

Dining at home becomes a Dining Experience, when we make the effort to serve it prettily. Anyone can slap a casserole down and spoon it out with a plastic spatula...and there's nothing wrong with that. But we eat with our eyes and our hearts and minds too. Each meal is an opportunity to create a memory. I know I'd rather my daughter have memories of Grandma's silver serving spoons, than a plastic spatula.

Make tonight a Dining Experience at your place. Pretty china, cutlery and napery don't have to cost much to look effective. Thrift shops are a constant source of lovely things, discarded because life is too busy. 

Please.....don't be too busy, to create the memories of a meal served with loving care. It's worth it.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Homespun Year..Peasant Pesto + Marinated Feta...

This Rustic Hand Hewn Peasant Pesto is about to become the new gift de jour for our foodie friends. It's lush aroma, and chunks of nuts and garlic elevate pesto to a whole new level. 

You may recall I mentioned my friend La-La's legendary pesto in my Orchids on your Budget series last Christmas which you can read here

Well, sorry La-La, there's a new Pesto kid on the block, and it's mouthwatering. I do love you still though...

This one came about because we had, as luck would have it, run out of La-La's Legendary Pesto, and we quite fancied some with gluten free fettucine for lunch on Saturday. Sadly, no food processor graces our shelves, as I am determinedly simplifying round here. A hand held Sunbeam Mixmaster serves all needs, and if that fails, well we do it by hand folks!

Thinking laterally, I reasoned that a food processor is just blades, so scanned my kitchen utensils for something other than a knife to make my pesto. 

Cue angelic voices....

Pizza wheel. Yes. Pizza wheel, the thing that you use to swan around pizzas with to slice them quickly and efficiently. It's a blade, it's quick, it had to work, right?

I grabbed the alien like bunches of Basil my son had gifted me, (another lesson in 'grow something'...his is going nuts!), folded them into a neat bundle, and set to work. Whiz the pizza wheel through the bunch of basil to cut it into shorter bundles, turn (as you would a ball of dough for kneading), whiz the wheel through it again. Continue turning the basil, and slicing with the pizza wheel, till you have a lovely mound of still chunky, but finely chopped basil. Yes you could use a knife, but where's the adventure in that, I ask you?

Peel 2 garlic cloves, and bash them with the flat side of a large knife, before likewise, cutting them into finely diced chunks. No garlic press please. It has to be all lumpy and textured for the balance of textures and flavour to be right.

Add a good handful of freshly grated parmesan. I am lucky enough to have a proper parmesan grating thingo like this...

Avanti - Rotary Cheese Grater 
It's called a rotary cheese grater and it is small enough to sit in my utensil drawer, unlike a food processor. I then used this same thingo, to roughly chop a small handful of cashews.

All of that went into a bowl, and I then covered the lot in several glugs of good extra virgin olive oil. A stir, more olive oil, another stir. There should be enough olive oil in there, for it to barely cover the now collapsed basil. Add a pinch of salt if you like, and leave it alone for at least an hour.

Now it's basically ready to use, and use it we did, tossing it with our fettucine, and slurping our way most inelegantly through a dang fine lunch.

As a gift, you'd scoop this, all fragrant and lush, into a little jar, attaching a rustic looking bamboo spoon or ceramic scoop to the side with twine.

So that one takes about ten minutes. NO more, I promise.

The marinated feta takes under two minutes, no worries, and once tried, you will be addicted.

Imagine the effect, an oil bath, scented with aromatics like thyme, garlic and chilli, has on a humble cube of feta cheese. The cheese becomes infused with the flavour of the herbs, and the oil turns a cube of salty stuff, into a thing of beauty that melts in the mouth.

All you do is cube some firm feta..I just use a Danish one that comes in a packet at the need to be fussy because the oil and herbs are going to do their thang for you.

Pop into a clean recycled jar, pour oil to cover (you can use any oil, even plain old vegetable, but  olive oil is yummy after all the feta is gone, as a salad drizzle), add a teaspoon or two of dried thyme (or a sprig of fresh if you have it), a whole red chilli, and two whole, peeled garlic cloves. Seal firmly.

Now all you do is rotate this gently twice a day for a week, and it's ready. Well, it's really ready the next day, but the longer you leave it, the better the flavour will be.

Now either of these items easily sell for big bucks in delicatessens, and gourmet aisles at the supermarket. A tiny jar of marinated feta will relieve you of around $12 here, and the pesto...a good one...that much again if not twice that much.

My little jar of pesto cost mere cents, and the marinated feta about $4 for a jar twice the size of the one selling at the supermarket for $12.

Not only that, but these two luxury foods will have us feeling like kings for the next week, and that can't be beat.

Pop these into a basket with some good quality fettucine and some crackers and you have a gift to please any foodie, male or female. They'll be your slave for life.

Give it a try. You won't regret it.

Oh, I might have lied about the slave for life thing. But they will love you.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Insourcing value in the home...

 I've come to realise that adding value to my role in the home, means finding as many ways as I can of recreating what others find so enticing in The Outsourced World. The Outsourced World, means those things that we spend our hard earned money on, that given the time in our day, and a little practice, we could actually be generating for ourselves at a much reduced cost. 

That can mean anything from finding ways to clean everything from the house and car, to the dog and the lounge suite more effectively and efficiently, to creating cafe style meals, gifts, celebration cakes, clothing, redecorating or even taking family portraits (how much do they cost to outsource after all!) and creating our own artworks to decorate our walls.

This morning I've cleaned our light beige microfibre lounge, with nothing more than a bucket of soapy water and a couple of old tea towels used along with some elbow grease. It took me about 45 minutes, and they look fantastic. The fellow who quoted me $650 to perform the same task, admitted that this was all he used, so I thought why not me, rather than him, and save that money!

Doggie got a bath too, saving $35.

Another way, as I've discovered, is to grow something. Anything. I grow a sweet little ivy, that grows from the smallest cutting into a lush and prolific vine to train over any shape. Nothing kills it, and I've gifted many ivy topiaries in the last decade. What a beautiful gift they make any time of year, but especially at Christmas. My one tiny ivy plant has yielded well over one hundred gifts in the last decade, with very little effort other than remembering to snip a cutting and stick it in some potting mix! Over the coming year, this little ivy will generate gifts to the value of at least $500.

 In more recent times, my husband, darling that he is, has planted me a veritable orchard of fruit trees which will, in years to come, bless me with more produce than I can poke a proverbial stick at, as well as lavender and rosebushes. Most of these are only 4-6 months old, but as you see from my first photo, above, we are already harvesting, albeit, in very modest quantities.

Those four little cumquats you see above, were enough to make a breakfast marmalade for two, which we enjoyed enormously this morning. I can't wait to be able to make larger quantities of this, along with cumquat cordial, and liqueur, which I think is going to be mouthwateringly delicious.

 The Kaffir Limes, the trees of which are really grown for their glossy fragrant leaves to use in Thai recipes, and which are not good eating really, were sliced, some sun dried, some microwave dried (an experiment to see which worked best...both methods were excellent), and will be used to make lavish potpourri, along with the lavender, rose petals and some added aromatics like cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans. The tree is compact, grows easily in most climates, and fruits and produces foliage at a most satisfying rate. They also make the most amazing natural citrus cleaner!

Similar marmalades sell for up to $20 for a small jar, so I'll call my experimental serving, a value of $5. I'll value the dried Kaffir lime slices at their value as potpourri, which I know is going to be well over $50 for a custom made fresh version.

I am so excited because I can see that the cumquats and Kaffir limes alone, are going to generate so many lovely things to use in my own home, as well as many to gift to others. And then we have figs, mulberries, lemons, mandarins, oranges, blueberries, olives and loquats all yet to grow and be harvested and used. My mind almost won't sleep with the possibilities!

And don't think just in terms of using the produce and fruits of your garden in the obvious ways. I take photos of my roses as they bloom, enhance them and pretty them up with Picasa, and print them out to use as postcards, gift tags, and to embellish my home made greeting cards. I made 15 greeting cards with this image over the weekend, embossing the edges in gold, and finishing them with lemon organza ribbon. Even at $2 for a cheap card, which is not nearly as lovely, I've generated $30 in value.

 Seeing possibilities in an almost empty refrigerator, rather than eating out when things look boring in the pantry and fridge is another way we can all generate value in the home.

I have been challenging myself to just stretch the shopping day to two days later, to ensure I use every possible item before shopping. So instead of shopping last Friday (which was my birthday!), I'm shopping today.

Over the weekend, I still managed a lavish breakfast casserole...

 ...and gluten free Roast Lamb Pies...

This would have easily saved us $150 in eating out for those two meals, for the three of us.

That's a value generated in both real and potential savings of $1420 this week!

It's amazing what you can do, with very little other than imagination and effort, isn't it? 

Have a good, hard think, and let me know what YOUR value in the home was last week. I'd love to hear what you've been up to.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Homespun Year...Super duper easy peasy toffees!

 Everyone loves toffees.

Well, except for those who have, for whatever reason, given up the joys of a little sweetness in their day. But I guess you replace that with sweet joys of other kinds.

I grew up in an era where you could *shock horror* buy a toffee from the school canteen for one cent. Yes, it's true. It was allowed. They were an inexpensive treat, loved by Mums and School Canteens alike for their simplicity of preparation, and minimal ingredients.

These days for some reason, we've been fooled into thinking you need a candy thermometer, exotic ingredients and a science degree, to make toffee. Well that can't be true because I've been making them since I was ten years old (I was a very responsible ten year old who grew up at the kitchen bench, mind you!).

Toffees, my way, need just three ingredients.

1 cup white sugar
3/4  cup water
1 tablespoon white vinegar

You also need: 

Cupcake papers or chocolate papers to pour the toffee in to OR baking paper and craft sticks, where you can pour the toffee making circles, and turn it into lollipops. 

A small heatproof glass jug into which to pour the toffee to make it easier to transfer into the papers.

Cake sprinkles, metallic cake cachous as pictured here, hundreds and thousands or even coconut, if you want to put something in them to make them more fun. 

Put your liners into muffin pans. I used miniature muffin pans and mini chocolate papers to make these ones. Drop in a few sprinkles or whatever, and set them aside.

Then you just:

Put the ingredients in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly over high temperature, till the sugar dissolves, which takes about five minutes. 

Turn it down to a medium heat, and let it bubble away for about 15 minutes. 

Now the way I test for whether it's ready, without a candy thermometer, is to have a glass of iced water close by. I dip a teaspoon into the bubbling toffee (careful, a sugar burn is very painful...I've never had one though, because I've used that rare thing called 'common sense'!), then put the teaspoon into the iced water for about a minute. Take the teaspoon out and test the toffee with your teeth. If it's chewy, let it simmer for another couple of minutes and test again. If it's hard, it's ready.

I can tell by how the bubbles look, whether my toffee is done. Usually all the froth has subsided, and the bubbles look a little like this.

At this stage, you can add a little food colouring to make coloured toffees if you wish.

 Carefully pour this into your glass jug, and immediately use the jug to pour into your waiting papers. Alternatively pour onto the baking paper, using a spoon to form a round, and push the craft sticks into the liquid toffee, to form a stick.

Set them aside at room temperature to go hard, and enjoy! That's it!

In other news, thankyou for all your lovely birthday wishes for my birthday last week.

I'm a lucky girl, who not only is being treated to the ballet this coming Tuesday, but who also received lovely books, lovely jewels, and a lovely new camera. Thankyou lovely family :)

 I'm putting my feet up with aforementioned book today, having already prepared healthy veges for a stir fry for lunch.

 The garden has been entertaining us with a wild display of coloured bromeliads the last few weeks, so I thought I'd share....

Have a beautiful Sunday everyone.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou and life... 
Welcome to this weeks edition of Five Star Frou-Frou.
Valentines Day brought some beautiful links and I thank you all. I had a terrible time choosing features this week, so that can only be a good thing, right? The standard of everyones' posts was absolutely fabulous. 
In the end, how could I go past Rita from Panopoly's recounting of her Fathers love letters to her Mother during the war. Heartwarming doesn't begin to describe this post. I defy you not to cry. Please click on the image above to take you there.
Valentine's Day Corsages by A Chat Over Coffee.png 
Leigh at A Chat over Coffee also brought tears to my eyes with her tutorial on silk corsages that she distributes to the widows and widowers in her church congregation on Valentines Day. Just beautiful.
And finally, Annabel's beautiful pink, heart shaped soaps, embedded with rosebuds, were perfect for Valentines gift giving. You have to see what else Annabel got up to as well. Stunning!
Thankyou again to everyone for linking up. I honestly would have loved to give everyone a feature this week!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

50 & to wear your grey hair with attitude...

A topknot with a French themed floral tiara? 

Why not?

If you're brave enough to go grey, you're brave enough to do it with panache.

I'm not afraid of anyone or anything any more, so why wouldn't I wear a Carmen Miranda-esque tiara to do my grocery shopping?

Mind you, I paired it with one of my rare dresses...a cute little black swing shaped number...pearl earrings, and pink jelly sandals. No fruit anywhere else! 

Top knot achieved by hitching a high ponytail, winding loosely anti clockwise, and pinning casually. A few stray hairs are fine. Hairspray pointless here in the heat and humidity too!

Oversized black sunnies, vivid pink lipstick, and a minimalist wallet were the only other accessories.

I had a fun day. People smiled at me, two little girls told me I looked beautiful, and the checkout lady wanted to know where I'd got my glam hair accessory.

Don't be shy. Wear something fun tomorrow. You're dead a long time ;-)

Tiara a Christmas gift, purchased, so I'm told, from Kitten D'Amour.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Homespun Year..two cute cakes..Disney Frozen and Hidden Rainbow...

If you've never tried to bake and decorate a cake for a four year old, you haven't lived...said with tongue firmly in cheek.

I dabble in a bit of cake decorating now and again, mostly for my daughter and granddaughters. 

Each year, they ask for something that usually, at first glance, appears beyond my capability. But hey. Google and Pinterest and Bloggers are your friend, right? 

So when my now four year old Granddaughter requested not one, but two cakes...a Frozen (as in the Disney animated film, not icecream) cake, and a rainbow cake, I had my work cut out for me!

I found Chica & Jo on Pinterest, and pretty much slavisly copied their idea for the Frozen cake. Thankyou ladies.
I was very happy with the result, pictured above and below, but I wished I'd added a touch more blue to the toffee and buttercream. It should have been turquoise, but it turned out more 'mint'. It's okay. My darling girl was thrilled to bits anyway. Lit with candles, it was an absolute picture!
It's a four layer vanilla butter cake, sandwiched with buttercream, and iced with the same. The snowflakes, I made freehand with melted white chocolate. I just spooned melted buds into a ziplock bag, snipped off a teen corner, and drew fairly substantial squiggles to form the star/snowflake shapes. They were left to harden on baking paper, and carefully applied to the buttercream icing once done.

The staircase was sourced at a Cake Decorating Supplier. These are traditionally used for those gigantic wedding cakes where the layers are connected by the stairs, much like bridges. It was under $15.

The toffee 'Ice Palace' was formed by making a traditional sugar-water toffee, tinting it, and pouring into a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Once hardened, I carefully broke it into long pointed shards, arranging them like Elsas Ice Palace on the top of the cake. I painted them with silver edible pearl dust to give them some shimmer.

An Elsa figurine finished the cake, and it certainly looked very 'Disney'!

Cake number two was meant to be a very sedate affair as you see here.

A pretty, but fairly plain looking ivory iced cake, dusted with edible gold glitter (thankyou to my lovely friend Annabel for the edible glitter and the vellum wrapped around the cake!), tied with lemon organza ribbon, and topped with some dried Colombian roses.

But inside....a surprise!

This was done by dividing the cake batter into four bowls, and tinting each a different electric colour. The four colours were then added in layers to the prepared cake tin, as below, and baked as normal.

 The urge to cut into the cake to see the result was overwhelming but I!

 My Little Miss was thrilled with both cakes, and again, it just goes to show, that a cake baked by a beloved parent, grandparent, sister, brother, or other person of significance, will be loved with all it's imperfections! It doesn't have to be perfect, to be memorable.

You can do it too!