Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paper Couture lust

I have just returned from the launch of a stunning paper exhibition - The Painted Flower by the talented and lovely Jo Neville, of Paper Couture fame.  

But wait - its a Staurday - yes people - I am city bound and as as you all know I don't give up my 'escaping to the country' weekends lightly.  This exhibition was a huge draw card and it was well worth it.  My heart sung......!

It's a collaboration with Murobond Paints (where Jo has her studio out the back) and she has made use of their newly released Grey Scale Garden Palette to create paper flowers in all shapes, sizes and hues. 

Stunning - all made with love and so exquisite to look at.  They are works of pure art and anyone who loves paper (like me) needs to go and see the exhibit first hand if they are in Sydney.

The hours she has put into this installation is beyond imagination - they are so intricate and delicate - swoonable.

I couldn't resist and bought two gorgeous bouquets from this selection in the bowl.  One is for me, of course, and one is for a very special gf who is having a birthday this week - she'll love these and they won't wilt!  Perfect!

If you are swooning from paper lust then head out to Murobond Paints on Dickson Avenue in Artamon. The exhibit is on until the end of April.

Be warned - as well as these lovelies, the showroom is full of all sorts of other divine treats that you won't be able to pass up!  I certainly couldn't!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Places to while away the day...

Do you have a favourite, 'always have to sit there' place where you settle into at the end of the day?

I do.

Down in the country this is by far my all-time favourite sifting spot to relax into once I come inside from the garden.

It's the perfect place to put your feet up and get lost in a book. In winter the fire roars and it's one of the cosiest spots in the house.

For the boys, it's here - they take an end each and it's one of the rare times Woody leaves me side - for some reason he has dibs on this couch too - I don't blame him - it's a pretty good place to nestle into.

In summer you'll find me here - it's a cool corner that gets the late afternoon breeze and you can smell the jasmine wafting in through the french doors.

Of course, there is always the verandah - our wine corner which catches the late afternoon sun and then the sunset that comes down over the back meadow and trees.

And - when it's quiet time outside Woody and I pull up one of these - he always sits in the shadow of the lounger - shadow that he is!!!

See what I mean? Say hello to Woody Woo - my stalker shadow - he's never far behind!

It's a good thing he's got the cute factor sorted don't you think?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Woohoo

Woody and I are up with the larks packing up the car so we can hit the road asap!!!!

We're off down to The Old Nursery for a long weekend - back on Monday. (B and Moo have city plans so are staying put).

I cannot wait to get there. It has been a couple of weeks since we were there as we have had loads on in the city. I'm so over the city and miss the garden and country air like nothing else.

The leaves are starting to turn so the colours will be rich and full of autumn promise - this is how things looked just after Easter last year - so beautiful.....

Two gfs are joining us later today so after the obligatory wine wander around the garden and down to the bottom meadow we are going to wander down the lane to the local eatery - The Exeter Studio.

I love that place - and they always have loads of great gf options so I'll be a very happy girl.

Have a great weekend - I plan to!!!!

psssst... Little update on Monday - the gfs had a very fine time on Saturday - I spent the morning pottering in the garden and once the gfs arrived we dressed up, had a little starter wine or two and then ventured off to the Exeter Studio where we had some fabulous food. Stand out dishes that sung.

The sunset was divine - it's such a pretty spot in the country.

Note to self - wear major heels when hanging with Alex! She shrimps me!!!! Ok, I am a shrimp - but this is ridiculous!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ewwww - post camp report

Collected Monty from camp just now - he's been away since Wednesday 7am sharp.

SHARP being the go to word...

See those clothes in the pic.

Was in them on Wed morning.

Still in them today.


"What about swimming", I asked?

"They dried fast - no worries".

"What about sleeping in the tent?".

"Too tired to change - easier to crash in them."

Ewwwwwww. Boys!!! Sorry to the two who had to share the tent!

Next time we won't pack a bag - what's the point?

He had a ball - ohh to be that age again...just for one day!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Foodie Heaven ... Curried Squash, Mushroom and Orange Soup

Just home from girls' lunch with lovely Alex, Francesca and baby Sofia - the cutest, smiliest bubba on this planet.

I whipped up my favourite soup form the good old Moosewood Cookbook - another oldie but goodie that never disappoints.

Sometimes I play around with the herbs etc - this time I added some thyme and it worked a treat.

And it goes like this....

2 medium acorn squash or butternut pumpkin or a mix of squash and kumara
2 1/2 cups water or stock
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium clove garlic -- crushed
good handful of mushrooms -- sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
dash or so cayenne
fresh lemon juice - 1 lemon
slivered toasted almonds -- for garnish
greek yoghurt - for garnish

Cut squash/pumpkin into cubes and roast with some garlic for about half an hour. Once soft mash down for a chunky soup of puree for a smooth one - whether you like rustic or not will determine your approach!

Combine in soup pot with the orange juice.

Heat the butter in a skillet and add the onion, salt and spices. (I always put in heaps more spice to give it a real kick! Taste as you go to make sure of your flavours).

Sauté until the onion is very soft.
(You may need to add a little water if it sticks.)
 Add mushrooms, cover, and cook 10 minutes.

Add the sauté to the squash, scraping the skillet well to salvage all the good stuff.
 Heat everything together very gently.
 Taste to correct seasoning.
 You may want more cayenne or salt or spice
 And, since this is a fairly sweet soup, you may want to spruce it up with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

Serve it up topped with yogurt and toasted almonds.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Foodie Heaven ... B's birthday dinner

It's B's birthday tomorrow and Moo heads off to camp at the crack of dawn so we did presses and a special birthday dinner tonight.

I whipped up B's favourite - Hawaiian-styled macadamia crusted flat head with lemon & mushroom risotto partnered with a very yummy (NZ) wooded chardonnay - Brancott 'O'.

Moo got online and decided on the sweet treat - and he made a scrumptious self-saucing chocolate pudding - teamed with ice cream - an oldie but a goodie!!!!!

No doubt Monts will feast on the bare basics at camp for the next three days - best I have something delish in the wings for Friday night - he'll be ravenous!

As for the crumbed fish ... try this and go straight to heaven!

Flat head fillets
1/2 c ground macadamias
1/4 c gf crispy corn crumbs
i tbsp gf flour
1 tbsps melted butter
1/2 sliced red onion
1 lime in wedges
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
Line a baking dish with foil

Combine the macadamia nuts, corn crumbs, flour, and butter.

Slice the onion up and lay the slices down on the foil to create a bed for the fish.  This gives it a yummy flavour and stops it from sticky to that pesky foil.
Drizzle lime juice over the fish then  season it with salt and pepper.  Pop the fillets on top of the onion bed. 
Sprinkle the nut mixture over the fish and push it into the fish so it creates a crust.
Drizzle some more lime juice over the crust if you like.

Pop it into the oven and cook for 10-13 minutes - depends how you like it of course - I am a less is more kind of girl, B likes it more cooked, M goes with the flow!

Truly divine - and works with any sort of fish - whatever takes your fancy!

Foodie Heaven - Choc Chip Cookies

Moo is off to camp so we baked a swag of his favourite gf chocolate chip cookies to take along. no doubt they'll be demolished before the bus even gets out of the car park - but hey - that's what going on camp is all about.

We have tried and tested many different recipes over time - and can't go past our all-time favourite - found at the Smitten Kitchen The perfect mx of crisp on the outside and gooey in.

Best dough ever,

Dangerously good in fact.

(The 'if you're not careful you won't have any cookies to bake' kind of dangerous).

So here's how to whip them up...

2 cups all-purpose flour (I add in another 1/3 or so when using gf flour as it is so much lighter than nasty wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 grams unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar (hmmm - let me tell you my little secret - if you want to really push those gates to choc chip heaven - then switch the brown for muscovado sugar - wasted here on the boy's bus trip - but a def must have for morning tea with the bffs!).
1/2 cup white sugar (nasty I know - but it makes them sing)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chips - used carob for these ones - so good!

Preheat the oven to 165°C. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

Stir in the chocolate chips using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 6 cms apart.

Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Mmmmmm - these are seriously good - perfectly matched with English or Irish breakfast tea - or go traditional and have a glass of milk!

Thanks Smitten Kitchen - love your work!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Swoon

How exquisite is this beauty? I'm going to work out how to craft one up and then hang it outside the french doors off our bedroom in the garden.

And these are to swoon for. I adore birdcages and birds nests. Not sure what it is about them but am having quite a love affair with them and am building up a collection. I spied a huge one in the city I must have. Just need to knock a few $$ off the asking price as it is beyond greedy. I'll send in the hostage negotiator to wear the owner down! I'd say a half hour of his 'take no prisoners' banter will see her begging him to just take it and leave her in peace!

And I have developed a deep-set love for doilies - yes I know, very odd - but I'm outing myself here and now. And how about this for the Queen of all things doily? My heart stopped when I saw this and I am going to source this beauty and installing it amongst the gum trees at The Old Nursery.

Just some of the collection I am building up - but don't worry - they aren't strewn over the backs of chairs and on every surface we have - that would be truly tragic - and is probably why I loathed them when I was little. Such vile style!! I have a few plans to use mine in a crafty project or two - watch this space! Might even start a new trend?! Hmmmm - we'll see!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sleepy Saturday...

It's raining out, B's away and Moo and I are feeling under par - he's exhausted and I was poorly yesterday and then up most of the night with Woo who is terrified of thunder.

He goes well and truly nuts and all you can do to calm him is hold him tight, poor pooch. He's out to the count and snoring as I write this - exhausted too after battling the demons!

Think a day of napping and quiet is just what we need.

If we rally we might do a bit of crafting and wrapping of presents - it's B's birthday next week so we are making plans. Moo likes to stretch it into birthday week - i don't stop him as i am a fan of to the birthday month myself - the boys get fed up with it by day 8 or so and ignore me! I don't mind - I carry on celebrating anyway. That's what friends and Woo are for after all! Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

(Our) Old Nursery

(Our) Old Nursery in the Southern Highlands has captured our hearts, beyond belief.

It's our weekend and holiday time retreat (plus in a heart beat I'm there during the week when I can - hello homework centre and B doing the late pick up!).

Here, we take stock, working away n the garden and then we retreat to one of the verandahs or garden seats to sup some wine before a feast of local produce - every weekend there is a local farmer's market to visit and stock up on the very best of local home grown produce.

if friends are staying we often follow up with the likes of this renowned (clearly, obviously Kiwi) treat...the pav...

Down here even (maniac, obsessive white fluffster) Woody seems to have taken a degree in chilling 101!

It's an old bulb nursery that has been loved to bits and then some. The overall garden hasn't been too manicured or bullied into submission - there is a wildness and organic feeling about it that is charming.

For as far as your eye can see there are vistas and focal points to go explore.

And secret paths...

There are many surprise elements as well - a treasure trove for the kids (and adults) who come down to stay...

There's always something new to discover, particularly in spring as we have been toiling away to take out lots of under growth to let the light get into bulbs that have been experiencing a hiatus. (Ok - truth - I've directed a lot of this while B has done (most of) the hard graft - but hey - someone has to whip up those foodie feasts and it sure isn't going to be Mr 'tinned tuna on toast?' B!

Autumn heralds a burst of the most amazing colours - everywhere - the place is a sea of colours so brilliant and intense - it simply takes your breath away! Orange, crimson, scarlet, magneta - for as far as the eye can see.

By winter we are in bonfire, slow cooking and red wine mode.

Days are short and cold, the fires are roaring and we spend a lot of time hunkering down, sipping tea and enjoying a shiraz or two.

The house is full of friends and it is a time to finally put your feet up and be at one. It's a sleepy, gently cosy time with the promise of the burst of spring bulbs just around the corner.

And we always have the guard dog on duty to ward off wombats, snakes, possums and other furry friends that lurk about. That's the story Woody, lift your game Lucky!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lovely (loooong) lunches...

How divine is this image? As soon as we bought The Old Nursery I started pinning images of how I wanted it to look and feel inside and out... and this was the first image I ever pinned.

It's all about the promise of good memories being made in our garden - with lots of friends sitting out around tables spending the afternoon enjoying great food and wine and enjoying one another's company.

How pretty is this image? There is something about being outdoors and styling and feasting - on a small or large scale ... it's restful and far more enjoyable than being inside. I love images of long lunch parties - they are a promise of good times to look forward to with people who make your heart sing.

This is gorgeous too...a perfect afternoon tea spot for the girls...and Woody Woo too (he's one of the girls after all!)

As we head into autumn I'm dreaming up plans for one or two mid-winterish lunches outdoors set not too close but close enough to a roaring bonfire. Toasted marshmallows will be the 'go to' dessert this autumn/winter!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A moment of silence

We've had yet another little guy take his last lap of the tank.

Harley (news to me they have names) was in permanent backstroke mode last night so Moo performed the rites (good thing he is at a catholic school - he had the prayer down pat).

Moo and Woo spent some time 'talking' about the good times the three of them had together (Woo just licked Moo's feet - as he does) and then the ceremonial wooooooosh of the flush signalled Harley taking his last dive.

Our track record is telling me it is time to quit while we are ahead ... but then what do we do with the fancy smancy tank B and Moo went and purchased at Xmas?

Can still hear myself saying 'just get a bigger bowl'. Not them - they came back with the porsche of all tanks - Moo's coercive way to make sure goldfish get to play a big part in our lives.

Sadly it is a short life the rate we are going - Harley is #4 in the school to depart.

Think once the others do their last laps I might fill it up with oyster shells and can it an art installation.

You can only live through so many of these ceremonies.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Loving these beauties

One is a recent (Xmas) esty purchase - the other a market acquisition, on Saturday, but both are from Ness @ Marley and Lockyer. Love them both and they are so happy to be back together again - plus there are some other Ness creations scattered about various places - I do love her work!

See check these out...

I did manage to drag myself away from the market and hit the road to head south to enjoy the peace and calm of The Old Nursery. (Our slice of country paradise which we adore in Exeter, NSW.)

There is nothing like driving into the property and stopping the car to just sit for a bit and take in the quiet and see what has bloomed in the garden while we have toiled in the city. It is the stuff of heaven.

You feel at one with the country and with this very special garden.

You relax, breathe the clear air and then ... #$#@, wot the?

Friggin weeds - why can't the rabbits and possums eat them rather than my herbs and other tasty green sprigs that they seem to prefer? Weeds are for eating too you know. It's proven. I read somewhere you can wilt the weeds down and eat them in a salad.

How about wilted sticky weed with honeysuckle, periwinkle and an ivy chaser! Eww. Ick. Barf....!

Have a good hard look at what's on your plate next time you sit down to the table down south - could be an interesting array of greens, served alongside fried wombat and rabbit stew.

Yumbo scrumbo!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend woohoo

In a few sweet hours this will (hopefully) be us on our way back down to the country - major doubt clouds are hovering over the plan - but I am crossing fingers and hoping it will all come together.

I've been missing getting down to the garden at E. Moo's rehearsals have cut into our cunning 'every weekend away' plans - but that all comes to an end in a couple of weeks and then we can get back into the country swing of things.

Before we do anything this morning I am popping into the Boutique Markets at Fox Studios (sorry, I refuse to call it the Entertainment Quarter as the place doesn't scream 'fun factor' in any shape or form, ever!)

I digress. The BM will change all that today. Full of Australia's most creative inspiring people - I am beyond excited to get there, see what's been created and meet some of the folk I have become cyber chums with. And there's a swag of them.

So, it's not all bad. And this time it'll be my fault if we don't get away - it'll depend on how caught up in craft world I get (and we know I like to talk plus the talking guru himself Moo is coming with me - he can talk to a tree that kid - so we'll be lucky to get away before they boot us out!!!!!)

Never to mind - Plan B today is the French Film Festival if we don't escape the big smoke.

It's a hard life isn't it?!!! There's def nothing nasty about this weekend!!!