Thursday, March 31, 2016

Motherly Advice...8 ways to get things done when you run out of puff....


 What do you do when you just. Can't. Be. Bothered. 

We all have those days where, for whatever reason, we just want to flump. Thanks to my friend L for that particular word. It means to fall or sit down heavily. Similar words include plonk, fall, plop, drop and slump. You get the idea. It's when you just Can't. Be. Bothered.

But of course, the world still turns, washing piles up, meals need preparing, the dog needs walking, the bathtub needs cleaning. Some days, even those tasks can seem insurmountable. All you want to do is flump, and watch TV. Or pretend to yourself that there's a really important craft project that simply must be started today. Avoidance is a great strategy. Not.

I'm not talking the big stuff here. This isn't a treatise on how to declutter a la Marie Kondo, or how to schedule your life in the style of Flylady. Although the advice of these wonderful women works for some, I find that when I'm snowed under, their methods simply make me feel even more overwhelmed.

I've had a few days like this lately. I've had two spells of being ill with a virus, each for four days at a time, and a short school terms with many extra activities thrown in, meaning I was busier than usual playing chauffeur to my teen daughter. Of course when you're busier than usual, and then you get sick and are bedridden for days at a time, things get ugly! Whilst I do what I can to prepare our household for these unforeseen events, it still means that tasks remain incomplete, or not even started. The house starts to look a bit frayed around the edges, clutter reigns supreme, and all of a sudden, the well oiled machine grinds to a screeching halt.

So here's what works for me...perhaps it will help you as well.

1. Accept that you will have these spells. Yes, you'll get sick. Or tired. Or both. You're only human. Do what you can to prepare for these little moments. My essentials list of things to have on hand include:

Just one or two frozen family meals such as Spaghetti sauce, Shepherds Pie, or Meatloaf. Easy to prep ahead and easy to reheat. 

Eggs...eggs can become quiche, omelette, muffins, crepes, hotcakes and so on. Even if you only have eggs, flour, sugar and butter, you can feed the family.

Pantry staples like the flour, butter, sugar, and oil will stand you in good stead.

Fruit and veg. Frozen or tinned will do. Frozen fruit can become smoothies, topping for hotcakes or crepes, and blended fruit/Acai bowls. I just about lived on these when I was sick. You just blend frozen mixed fruit with a stick mixer until it's pureed and top with the Acai. Add some toasted seeds or crushed nuts if you like. Bliss for sore throats and fevers. Frozen peas can be added to a simple risotto, they can be steamed and mashed instead of potato, and a little bowl of buttered peas can be mighty appealing if you haven't been able to eat much. Ditto to the frozen oven baked type chips.

Tissues, toilet paper, sanitary items and toiletries are the things that seem to send you into a spin when you don't have them on hand and find yourself too sick or busy to stop at the supermarket. Stockpile these, or at least always have a spare of each on hand.

Basic family medications such as a painkiller, a cough syrup, menthol chest rub, muscle rub,  something for diarrhea relief, and an electrolyte replacement drink in powder form, such as Gatorade or Powerade are a sensible must have.

2. No matter how tired or sick you are, try your hardest to get out of bed and shower and dress or at least change your pyjamas. Unless you are too ill to even do that (and as it happened I was...twice!), you'll find that it WILL make you feel better and more capable. Or at least, fresher. Not only that, but you won't be hiding under the bed if a friend happens to drop in with emergency supplies of chicken soup.

3. There will be times when you simply can't do everything that you normally do, so use discretion. Laundry is usually a must do, no matter what, around here, as is folding and putting away, which I do straight from the clothesline or clothes dryer. Ironing is not. Washing of dishes is essential. Watering of pot plants is not. Plants will recover when you do. We all have to eat. We don't have to eat gourmet, so simple meals will see your family fed, with the gourmet fare saved for another day when you're at your best. 

4. One of the most valuable things my Mother ever said to me was 'Just do one thing Darling. Then do one thing more. Keep going if you can, but if you can't, at least you've done that'. It's funny though. Once you do one thing, and tell yourself that you only have to do one thing more, you'll often find that you want to do more. I can't explain it. But it works. I promise.

5. Get up earlier, and do what has to be done, so that the day ahead is yours. There's a reason that our ancestors rose with the sun. You get more done. It's like finding an extra couple of hours in your day. Now, I'm not an early riser by choice. I hate it. But I LOVE what I achieve by rising early. Today by 9am, I'd done four loads of washing and hung them out, folded two loads, freshened all the flowers in vases that I'd been gifted over Easter by changing water and trimming stems, fed the family breakfast (including my granddaughter), sliced some limes to dry in the sun for potpourri, made cumquat marmalade, poached some apples for apple crumble for dessert, and made a turkey meatloaf, ready for the oven for dinner. I'd made all the beds, put away the spare bedding we'd used for my granddaughter, and watered the potplants. I'd showered, washed my hair, dressed and primped, so that I can now take my daughter and granddaughter to a lovely leafy park nearby, looking respectable, and knowing that we will return to a welcoming home.

6. Now this might sound like an odd one, but there's a strange peace in making your bed, even if you're getting back into it. I've taught my daughter, that if she makes her bed as soon as she rises, no matter what else happens in her day, she returns to a tidy bedroom. For me, if the dishes are done, and the beds are made, the house looks tidy. This lifelong idea was reinforced a couple of years ago when a friend, M, shared this Youtube clip with me...

...which I loved, and I hope you will too. Talk about 'running out of puff', these guys know about that!

7. This one might sound odd, but it works for me. Make time for yourself. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you are the primary caregiver and household manager, and we all know that that position, even to this day, remains unrecognised for the tireless and unending task it truly is. So give yourself a day off, or at least a decent break each day. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I treat my role as seriously as a real job, and that means taking breaks, much as you would in a job external to the home. I take a fifteen minute break morning and afternoon, and a half hour for lunch. While I'm having my cup of tea or my sandwich, I read or enjoy some of my favourite blogs. I deserve it. I work hard!

 8. Learn how to prioritise. Read my method here.

That's about it I think. You'll find your own ways and means, but these are certainly things that make my life run more smoothly, even when things are tough, and energy levels are low.

I hope they help you too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Budgeting and to your strengths...

$32 Strawberries...keep reading and you'll see why!
I often have friends visit, who cannot believe that we live so well on so little.
We eat well, we entertain well, we dress well, our daughter, and our youngest son (we actually have four sons, but the older three are all grown and married) want for little, and we travel overseas every two years or so.
There are many, many blogs out there these days on saving money, living frugally and reducing your carbon footprint.
But most of the families I know personally don't subscribe to them, and wouldn't dream of planting a vege patch or repurposing a pair of jeans into a tote bag. It's all too much trouble. Even if it's for the reward of an overseas trip funded by the bank account, rather than the credit card.
The problem is that upon first viewing, all of these things are 'too much trouble'. It's all a bit of hard yakka, as we say here in Australia.

So you need to start small, like I did. That said, you also need to choose your battles wisely. Can I tell you about some of mine? You might learn a thing or two.
When I commenced my money savings journey in earnest after many years of frittering my hard earned cash away on stuff that only made the retailers wealthy, I had a few false starts.
One of those was soap making.
I am a sucker for scented bath and body products. I never could go past a Body Shop or Bath and Body or Lush, without buying just a couple of things. These coupla things would undoubtedly run into double or triple digits in dollar terms, but what-the-hey....
So one of my early efforts focused on making my own luxuriously scented soaps.
Well after spending about $100 on ingredients and equipment, I was ready. Or so I thought. Measure this, weigh that...oops need something else. Dash out, get missing thing, go back to start. High anxiety, due to many, many warnings on the dangers of inhaling this or spilling that. Get soap made, leave to cure behind lounge, to great grumbling from The Musician Husband. Test at 3 weeks, notice great chunks of caustic soda...toss, start over. Eventually get something useable and nicely rustic, but family refuses to use it as it 'looks funny'. Dole it out as gifts to unsuspecting friends. Experiment over. That said, I did eventually have soapmaking success which you can read about here.

I had greater success with hand and body creams, which was a little more foolproof, but ultimately went back to the pharmaceutical stuff for the face as the face really, really needed it. All good on the body cream though, as well as pillow/linen spray, bubble bath, solid perfume, home made talcum powder, bed powder, and lavender bath bombs.

But it was the overwhelming success of my home made Limoncello which actually caused me to wonder if I'd missed my calling as a Grand Brewer. Maybe my family and friends are all just hopeless imbibers of exotic liqueurs, and they would have loved it not matter what!
I had similar epiphanies with my vege patch. Plant strawberries, get one strawberry, give up. Try again. Get 4 strawberries this time...calculate how much I spent on wicker planters, potting mix, wet granule thingoes, strawberry runners and fertiliser. Decide $32 per strawberry is false economy, and give up.
Tomatoes...same. I do have some tomatoes on a tomato plant in my front yard right now. But for the life of me, I can't make the tomato plant stand up with the blessed tomatoes on the thing. I've planted them in a posh tomato planter with it's own add-a-ring tower to guide the tomato. The tomato plant ignored it and grew off on it's own tangent, falling over and breaking at regular intervals. I've staked them, they fall over, I've tied them to a palm tree, they broke off. I don't know. Maybe fruit-ish things are not for me. The Musician Husband just kept asking me why I don't buy the tomatoes for $2.99 a kilo. A fair question. 'They taste better' simply garnered a raised eyebrow.
I've had better success with leafy things. I've got a lovely nasturtium happening and we do eat it in place of Rocket which we love. I also have a Wild Rocket, some asparagus, a finger eggplant and some chilli. All A-Ok. But I am the only one who eats those things and it's not like I'm saving a bomb by not having to buy them.
I've decided that people who make a success of this kind of lifestyle deserve a medal, really. Honestly they must do nothing else. I admire them and all, but it's just not for me. I can't for the life of me, understand how they grow enough strawberries, or use the oversupply of tomatoes and zucchinis.
And I'm not being derisive, I am just asking myself the question.

Cutting my own hair was another strategy. Armed with detailed instructions from a reputable money saving website and a sharp pair of scissors, I hacked my way to a visit to my hairdresser. I had to. It looked awful. I think my hairdresser is still chuckling to herself over that one.

Have I mentioned the breadmaker and the slow cooker? Both wonderful inventions. Did I also mention that the average temperature where I live is around 27 Celsius almost year round, except when it rises into the high 30's right around Christmas? Yes we have our chilly moments...they last about six weeks. Have you ever tried to have a slow cooker and a breadmaker on the go when the ambient temperature is in the 30's? That's a minimum of around 86 Fahrenheit. No way. We eat cold food when it's hot and hot food when it's cold. It just makes sense. So overall...useability factor...about 3 out of 10. We'll stick with yummy Poached Chicken Breast, thanks very much.
These days, I've accepted my limitations and my money saving strategies are more about cooking from scratch, shopping from my own wardrobe and online before even crossing the threshold of a retailer of any kind, making gorgeous gifts and preserves, and ensuring that my pantry is well stocked for quiet times in our business.
I don't spend on gym memberships when I can walk for free, I don't join weight loss programmes when I can Google how to eat sensibly complete with menu plans and recipes, I don't sit in stinky nail salons to get my nails looking nice when I can have a quiet moment in my own back yard painting my nails over a cuppa, I don't buy books or magazines when I can join the library or search the net, and I don't buy my children experiential gifts...I give them the gift of my own experience. I reduce my carbon footprint by walking for exercise rather than driving to the aforementioned gym and buying local where I can. I recycle, repurpose and buy pre-loved wherever possible.
So if you want to, as my blog title suggests, live a life of which your Nanna would be proud, look at where your hard earned cash goes. Make savings in those areas where you are humanly able, where your own strengths lie, and don't worry about what the rest of the world is doing. The important thing is to make small changes where you can. There is a Chinese proverb that says 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Amen to that.
Unless you're prepared to practice till perfect, don't make soap when you can make soup. Don't grow finger eggplant when you don't eat them, no matter how prolifically they grow. And don't plant strawberries in a $30 wicker basket. The birds and wildlife will still get to them before you do, no matter what they're planted in.

Take it from one who knows ;-)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Motherly Advice...10 simple ideas to make ironing more pleasurable...

 'Woman Ironing'  Armand Desire Gautier (French 1825-1894)

I didn't always like ironing. I avoided it for many years, and still do to a large extent. However, about once a month, I find myself with a basket of pretties that are enhanced with a bit of an iron, be they frills and flounces on clothing or linen, or simply items that look better, pressed. So here's some ways I make that task go more smoothly and enjoyably.

1. First and foremost, have a decent ironing board with padding beneath the cover, and comfortable shoes to relieve fatigue. I'm assuming that like me, you prefer to get the ironing over and done with in one fell swoop, so that makes sense to me. And don't feel guilty for investing in tasks to make your job easier. You deserve it!

2. Secondly, do treat yourself (that sounds odd, but having good equipment to perform your household tasks IS a treat of sorts) to a decent iron. One that feels light in your hand, preferably cordless....this is the twenty first century after all...and a decent steam and spray function.

3. Start with the most delicate items, ironed on a lower temperature, and move upwards to the more substantial items requiring the higher temperatures.

4. Make sure you have plenty of coathangers! I have been buying six velvet covered hangers a week for ages. An investment of just $6 a week, now means we can use these exclusively. They take up less space in the wardrobe, and the clothing does not slip from them. An ironing stand also means that you can hang as you go, and put everything away at the end.

5. Put a little of your favourite fabric softener into a spray bottle and use it as ironing aid.

Not only will it make your clothes and ironing area smell beautiful, but it'll make the ironing easier.

6. Alternatively, add a teaspoonful of Lectric Soda and a few drops of your favourite essential oil to a spray bottle of water. It'll perform the same task.

7. Have some music playing. Use your iPod or other techno gadget, or just have a battery operated radio in your ironing area. Sing along. Singing always makes the task go quicker.

8. Iron near a window, where the breeze can blow over you and you can enjoy the view outside, no matter what it is. I'm equally at peace looking at rainforest, water, the backyard, or a city skyline. My favourite ironing view though, is my front garden, so I iron near the window that best shows off my roses and hydrangeas.

9. Set up your favorite movie or TV series, and iron while you watch. The time will fly!

10. Take pleasure in knowing that no matter what the item is, it will always look better ironed! Even the most threadbare, vintage, or aged clothing and linens are shown to their best advantage, when fresh, and pressed.

Ironing won't necessarily become something to look forward to, but it can be enjoyable when tackled with enthusiasm, preparation and pride.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today? 

Sharing at...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou #42...
Welcome to Five Star Frou-Frou and Happy Easter!
I'm putting the linky up early, so that we may all honour Good Friday in an appropriate manner.
On this most Blessed weekend of the calendar, I've chosen the links that I felt best represented the feeling of the season, from non-traditional eggs, to meaningful treats and beautiful handcrafted cards.
Not a chocolate in sight, but these pretty floral eggs above, to me speak of Spring, rebirth, and fresh new starts. Thanks to Janet for sharing this tutorial. I think it's one of my most favourites ever, and I've used it to make gorgeous floral embellished eggs for my Granddaughters and Daughters-in-Law.
ChelC, at Inside the Fox Den, who always has clever ideas, shared her families recipe for Resurrection Rolls. You will love the story attached to these.
 And finally, Linda from Paper Seedlings shared her gorgeous hand crafted cards. For some reason these reminded me of the leadlight windows in my childhood church, and sitting in my best finery on Easter morning, wondering how much longer it would be before we could return home to eat chocolate...naughty, I know. But I was only 7 years old.
Thankyou all, and please visit our features and make them feel special.

DIY Gifts & Celebrations...Easter Bunny footprints...

 Here's comes Peter Cottontail, hopping round the Bunny trail, Hippity-Hoppity Easters on it's way! And here's the bunny footprints to prove it!

These cute little mouthfuls of crisp butter cookie, are so easy to make, and unlike many cookie cutter style doughs, this one does not require chilling. Did I hear an 'amen' to the last minute Easter gift?

To be honest, these were supposed to be Easter Egg shapes, and I was experimenting for the first time with the Line and Flood method of cookie icing as blogged by Biscuiteers here.

Basically you use a Royal Icing in a bottle with a fine nozzle, to outline your shape, then thin the icing a little to 'flood' the inner shape, with the outline containing the icing cleverly.

Well, for a first timer, this was all a bit daunting. Not only that, but I had five birthdays this week, three of which required lavish lace trimmed pillowcases and hand made cards and paper. It's also the end of term, my daughter was in the Talent Quest finals and had exams, and I've somehow become head of a Steerage Committee to gain funding for a new Performing Arts Complex at her school. Can I hear a 'how the heck did that happen?' from the!

So I cheated. Yes, me. I do it occasionally. I went to a specialty kitchen store to spend $3 on a small egg shaped cookie cutter, and left with a bottle of ready prepared 'Cookie Icing' as well. Nozzle and all. It called to me. What can I say?

First I baked the cookies. They looked cute even like this, and I could envisage decorating them just with tinted sugar if all went pear shaped....or egg shaped in this case.

But a promise is a promise, even if only to oneself, so I was compelled to try this Line and Flood thing, no matter the outcome. The bottle of icing was heated on 50% power for 20 seconds to make it runny, as instructed on the bottle. To my mind, this made it a bit too runny and the outlines were not as controlled and fine as I would have liked, as you see below.

They were set aside for 5 minutes to harden, and the remainder of the icing was watered down slightly (with about a half a teaspoon of water and a few drops of vanilla essence) and tinted a delicate pink, which I then used to 'flood'. That bit was easy. Squeeze a tiny bit of runny icing inside the outline, turn the cookie quickly to fill, and set aside. After each dozen or so, I stopped and added pearl pink cachous as decorations. It's these I think that inspired my friend to exclaim 'they're bunny footprints!', and so they now are. The pink pearl cachous, placed more strategically, would certainly look like little foot pads. Nonetheless, they're a pretty effect even like this.

Here's the cookie recipe I used. This makes 70-80 little cookies.


100gms (3 1/2ozs) softened butter
100gms (3 1/2 ozs) superfine white sugar
1 egg, beaten
275gms (10 ozs) plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


I suggest using one of the Biscuiteer recipes as my expertise doesn't yet extend to that, having used one out of a! Feel free to take the same shortcut. It certainly made my life easier for a $6.95 investment!


Pearl pink cake decorating cachous


Preheat the oven to 170C/340F fan forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until well combined.

Beat in the egg and vanilla, a little at a time. 

STIR in the flour (don't use your beaters!), until the mixture forms a soft dough.

Line your bench with a large sheet of baking (parchment) paper, and tear off a second piece around the same size. Put the dough on the bottom sheet, and top with the second sheet to prevent the dough sticking to your rolling pin. Roll to about 1cm or 1/2 an inch thick.

Use the egg shaped cutter to cut as many cookies as possible, reforming a dough ball and re-rolling it as required. Place the cookies onto lined trays.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, until firm and barely golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Using your nozzled container, quickly and as deftly as you can manage, outline your cookie shapes, and set them aside to harden for five minutes.

Thin your icing as instructed, adding a drop of colour if you wish, and squeeze a little runny icing inside each outline, swirling it to fill the space. 

Add pearl cachous to decorate.

They're now ready to be packaged in your preferred manner.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou #41...

This weeks features include Mary's gorgeous Shabby Chic Wreath... 

Jes's adorable series featuring Mrs Tiggywinkle who is sharing her household maintenance tips...
...and one of Nellies gorgeous thankful posts that always have a feel good factor of 10/10!
Thankyou everyone for linking last week and welcome to this weeks linkup.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Travels....The pretty seaside village of Talmont...France...

The sleepy windswept coastal village of Talmont in South Western France, knows how to please the eye, the soul, and the heart.

Not for them, the grand buildings and ornate lamps of the big cities.

Just simple white and ecru, accented with the blue of the ocean, and the soft green of the native flora.

A visit here is a salve for the soul of the weary traveller. Perched on the sea, in South Western France, it's a little off the beaten track, but well worth a visit.

There are markets here on the weekends, but as a weekday visitor, we were privileged to wander the tiny streets, unencumbered by crowds.

We loved the single geranium, the French lavender, the climbing rose, used with restraint to embellish the humble homes here. The residents of Talmont work with their harsh oceanfront conditions and display a commendable minimalism in their external presentation of their pretty cottages.

An odd treat, was a visit to the tiny cemetery that occupies the prime oceanfront view in the village.

Nestled inside rock walls, in front of their sweet chapel, who could resist wandering and absorbing the loving care with which these tiny memorials are maintained. 

 Can you imagine a prettier spot to be laid to rest?

 Each memorial features numerous loving tributes carved from stone, or fashioned from ceramic with messages of commemoration and affection...

This one says ....

"Songbird, if you fly over the falls, sing your sweetest song"...

A truly moving and memorable stop for us. 

Perhaps when my time comes, I too, could be laid to rest in pretty Talmont...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ancient Post Revival...5 Ways to use Trays in Home Decor...

I just realised that I've been blogging for nearly six years! Goodness!

Granted, it's been a bit of a half hearted attempt for much of that time, but clearly I've been trying a bit harder lately and my focus has changed significantly. I hope it shows. 

If you've been with me all that time, then thankyou. If you've only joined me recently, then I'll be reviving and updating more Ancient Posts over the coming months. Some of them are a bit funny, but blogging was in it's infancy back then! 

So please enjoy my Ancient Post Revival from October 2010...

If you've ever admired those pretty trays in Home decor stores, or even the thrift store, but thought you were not really a breakfast in bed kinda person, then here are five ways to use trays, that have nothing to do with breakfast! 

They're a beautiful way to 'frame' a vignette of candles and flowers, as you see above. This tray is actually a mirror, repurposed as a platter for my Chrysanthemums and candles. I love how they reflect prettily and that the ornate edge of the mirror acts as a way to draw your attention to the arrangement. It wouldn't be nearly as pretty without the tray!

I have a lovely Roccoco style ceramic platter with side handles that is more of a tray too. It displays my feminine accoutrements in the bathroom. If you're wondering about the teapot in the bathroom, I use it to water my ferns...isn't it gorgeous?

This vintage silver tray with sweet little feel, holds a group of vintage decanters. The contents of the decanters are used in cooking! I particularly adore the Eiffel Tower one...a special souvenir. I think the brandy inside was really awful but it did nicely for the Christmas!

This one with it's little ornamental handles acts as a holder for glasses and placecards for the Dining Room. This makes all the pretties for my dinner setting, easy to pick up and carry to the table.

 I bought this one for it's unusual decoration. It's all inlaid mother of pearl shell and hand painted. It's quite unusual and eyecatching, and this photo doesn't really do it justice. I have it on my bedroom desk, just as a thing of beauty to admire. I found it in a thrift store, at the bottom of a pile of very ordinary stainless steel platters, so I tell you, it's good to dig around in those places! It was a whole .50c!

How alluring, to imagine sailing past the hills glowing with pearly colour, and off into the stormy twilight on that little sailboat. Who can conceive what mer-creatures and treasures may be lurking in the shallow waters edge....


And do not do this sweet tray, justice. It's a pretty lakeside grazing scene. The lambs are all glittered, as are the birds and the blue mountains. It's quite unique and another thrift store find for .20c.

Once upon a time, trays were quite the done thing. Breakfasts were delivered on them, tea enjoyed from them, coffee served to guests on a lavishly set tray. Whatever happened to such a lovely tradition?

Do you have any tales of thrifted or gifted trays?

I'd love to hear them...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou #40....linkup and features.... 

This weeks features include some advice from Thistlewood Farm on how to get the French Farmhouse Look...

 The cutest ever St Patricks Day tree from Debbie Dabble...

....and MacnCheese Muffins from Julies Lifestyle...

My apologies for the late start and features. I have had a family crisis that needed my attention. That, I am afraid, had to take priority.

On with the party...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Very Special DIY Gifts...The Modern Girls Decoupage...

So you thought that Decoupage` was all about Victoriana images and antique music, didn't you.

Here's my Modern French twist on Decoupage` Baubles.

Aren't they fab?

These were Christmas baubles that had seen better days, and I was about to toss them, as you do, when I had this idea. Note too, that I've since successfully used polystyrene balls to achieve the same result.

I downloaded and printed out vintage French poster images by Rene Gruau, a graphic artist and fashion illustrator I admire, and also found some fabulous vintage advertisements for Dior, The Lido, Vogue and others.

Here are just a couple that I used. If you Google 'vintage French posters' you'll find lots of gorgeous stuff.

So, knowing nothing about the 'proper' way to decoupage`, I cut my images into all sorts of triangle shapes so that they'd be easier to apply to round surfaces. Then I simply painted my bauble with Royal Coat, (a bottle of which I'd had in my craft cupboard for about ten years from my previous flirtation with Victoriana images and wooden boxes), and started applying them.

I didn't worry about creases, preferring to see them as part of the charm of the bauble.

So here's what I started with....

And here's how it looked finished...

These are the reverse sides of the first picture in this post.

Two coats of Royal Coat to finish and they were done.

I thought about spraying them with glitter, as I do adore a bit o' bling, but decided against it, preferring the vintage look.

The best thing about these, is they don't have to be stored after Christmas. Not being an obviously Christmassy montage`, means you can display them in a glass bowl, all year round, injecting a bit of French Frou-Frou, into your day...



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nannas' Recipes in 4 Sentences....Chicken 3 ways...

My Nanna, and probably yours too, was a great cook. She was European, and used many ingredients that were not common in Australia back in the 1960s.

I loved her shady kitchen with it's enormous windows, overlooking the garden. She grew figs, bananas, strawberries by the mile...a week with Nanna was a treat to be anticipated and savoured on every level. 

If I have one shining memory of her, and she passed away 45 years ago, it's of being enveloped in her warm embrace, breathing the scent of rosemary and vanilla, and always coming away with a bit of flour dust on my cheeks. To say she influenced me, and continues to do so, is an understatement.

She was often asked for her recipes, and she would recite them in her quaint European accent, so that the person asking, could note them down on a scrap of paper, or the back of an envelope. Sometimes a pencil and paper were not at hand, so instructions had to be very brief in order to be remembered.

Now we have to have it all spelled out in black and white or we are lost. Or maybe not. 

I think we're smarter than that, and I'm resurrecting the Recipe in 4 Sentences. You'll see some already at the top of my page here, and I'll be adding to those regularly.

To get us started, here are three favourite Chicken recipes, that I think you're going to love....

Poached Chicken Breasts...Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a high simmer, and add a bouquet garni. Add 3 chicken breast fillets, or a whole small hen, return to a high simmer (not a rolling boil), cover the saucepan and switch the hotplate off, removing the pan from the heat source. Allow the chicken to poach for 20-30 minutes without lifting the lid. Slice into a breast after 20 minutes and if it's cooked through to the middle it's ready to be served.

Chicken Ragout....Bake 8 chicken thighs for 40 minutes at 200C, in a large baking dish, with one pound (500gms) of diced tomatoes, 2 stalks diced celery, 1 diced capsicum and a chopped onion. Add 2 stock cubes, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and a teaspoon each of basil and thyme. Serve with pasta and a crisp garden salad.

Balsamic Chicken Breasts...Marinate 4 chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise to yield 8 thinner fillets, in Balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of brown sugar for four hours. Pan fry over a medium heat, and serve with slivered green spring onions, crisp roasted potatoes and fresh baby peas.

For more recipes in 4 sentences, and others that are longer but worth it...see my dedicated recipe page here.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Insourcing value in the home...

 This week I'd like to float the idea, that being a full time stay at home parent, means that you can do far more than just cook from scratch, wash the dog, and bake for school lunches.

Yes you can do all of that, for sure, but it's all about having the time and the energy, to source what your family needs, not just for today, but for future events, both anticipated and unforeseen. 
 I'll have more on that in a moment. 

But first of all, look at this stunning dress.....

This was an impulse buy for my daughters Senior Formal next year. Yes. Next year. 

Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting recently called this the Pre-Emptive Strike, where you plan well ahead for events both within and beyond your control. I like that. 

I like to think of it as "transferring tomorrows need into todays budget", so that you can do something about it in a timely fashion, when it best suits you. We do a lot of transferring tomorrows need into todays budget. Both financially and timewise, it saves a LOT of stress.

You see, when you're not rushed all the time with mini emergencies thrust upon you by needing to work full time, you can sit with the aforementioned daughter, looking at what she's pinned on Pinterest for this lavish occasion. You can also start searching waaaaaay ahead of time, for that perfect gown, not to mention the accessories to compliment it. This is not to be sneezed at, as Senior Formal is big business, with many families lashing out on expensive bouffant dresses, even more bouffant hair, and limousines to rival those transporting a celebrity.

I happened to be passing a Bridal wear store that was closing down a week or two ago. On impulse, and bearing in mind the lavish jewel encrusted gowns my lovely one was pinning, I stopped. You know. Just in case I could transfer tomorrows need into todays budget.

And there it was. The very style of dress she'd pinned over and over again. Slim, elegant, shimmering, and with the most fabulous jewel embellished neckline, bodice and back detail. It had the fishtail finish with a small train at the back too, was beautifully lined and finished, and in the most glorious colour to compliment her complexion.

With trepidation, I fumbled for the price tag. $699 was crossed out, and $299 scrawled in it's place. But wait...that too had a huge X, and next to it was written $99. Hang on though. It's on a rack that says $49. A quick check with the staff, and I was out of there, with dress of the daughters dreams in a bag, for just $49. We could not have purchased the fabric, zipper and jewelled trim for that!

Very happy daughter, very happy me. It's not an 'insourced' item as such as I did not make it with my own fair hands. However in terms of my value to the family on that one purchase, and by transferring tomorrows need into todays budget, I'm going to call it a completely justified savings value of $650.
 Next on the insourcing list is afternoon tea for my gluten free teen. Teens get hungry. Especially really active teens who dance four days a week. Often she'll request hot chips, I guess for the carbs, and always looks longingly at the gravy, which of course is off limits, as gravy is usually made with wheat flour. It goes without saying too, that I cringe at spending $5 on chips at a takeaway, knowing full well they're deep fried, and not the healthiest thing. I've solved this by coming up with a strategy of always having fat 'healthy style' frozen chips on hand to cook in the oven, and making a quick gluten free gravy, seen above, drizzled temptingly over her chips. Here's the recipe in four sentences...

Quick Gluten Free Peppered Garlic Gravy

Add one stock cube, a pinch each of dried garlic and onion, and a grind of pepper to 100mls of boiling water in a microwave safe jug, stirring to dissolve the stock cube. In a separate jug or cup, combine 3 heaped teaspoons of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of cold water, stirring to a paste. Add more boiling water to the stock cube mix to make it up to 250mls, then add the cornflour mix, combining well. Add a drizzle of milk and a dribble of soy sauce to add creaminess and colour, and microwave on HIGH for 60 seconds, stirring every 20 seconds. 

Easy, and creamy smooth and delicious over chips, chicken, meat or pastrygoods. Gluten free gravy mix is ridiculously expensive so I'll call that a savings value of $20 on gravy mix, and an equal value, easily, of $20 on a weeks worth of bought afternoon snacks.

Heart shaped baking is not limited to Valentines Day around here, and I made a lovely Bacon and Cheese crustless Quiche that fed us for lunch on Sunday and for my daughters school lunch for the rest of the week. We'll call that a value of $30 on a similar purchased quiche.
I finished two books I was reading (I always have two or three on the go), and thought about treating myself to some more from Booktopia, but decided to put my wants on a Mothers Day list instead, and resurrected some old favourites. That's a value of at least $50.

 And I finished another cloud soft snuggle rug in softest pastel pink for my other granddaughter. I've made two now, and these will be Easter gifts, along with a softie bunny face, and a crocheted snood for my darlings. Snoods are quite the rage for the little ones this Winter here, as evidenced by their presence in the designer Department Stores. I'm making ones like this....

 ....too cute, huh?

I'm going to call those last two savings not just on Easter Egg gifts, but also on Winter woollies, and make it a $200 value. 

That's a total value of $970, and I haven't counted all my usual tasks of cleaning, grooming and beautifying of self, daughter and dog, and garden and home maintenance.

That's a pretty dashed good week.

How was your week? Tell me all...