Monday, January 27, 2014

New Linen

I am really very house proud. I love living somewhere comfortable but also attractive and while I wouldn't say I work towards any kind of theme or style, I'm pretty happy that I've created a warm, welcoming home.

That said, it isn't often that we buy new decorator or homewares so when something lovely and new arrives in the house it is quite exciting. This week some glorious new Florence Broadhurst linen arrived courtesy of a great special on Peter's of Kensington. I think it is about 4 years since we had new linen that wasn't plain white sheets, so I couldn't wait to get this on the bed.

S remains unconvinced, I think the move from shades of white to navy blue has somewhat thrown him but I LOVE it. I find myself wandering by the bedroom just to admire it and I love how it makes our bedroom look.

Have you had any exciting homeware purchases recently?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Embracing happiness

I've noticed the hash tags #365gratitude and #100happydays popping up in my Facebook feed and on Instagram a lot at the moment. It is one of those movements where someone's own personal journey has gone viral and many people are joining in.  It all makes me very happy because I know the impact that focusing on happiness can have. I started this blog as a year of happiness and it did change my life.

The change was small, but so very, very important. You see happiness, every day life happiness, is quiet. It is sitting in a ray of sunshine, a perfectly ripe peach, a silly joke that makes you laugh till you cry, it is moments that unless you paid attention to them you could miss so very easily. And that is the change, the gift that my happiness project gave me, it made me mindful.

I seek out those moments in every day and when they happen, I pay attention, I give them my focus and I raise their importance from a moment that could disappear unnoticed to the highlight of my day. And in doing so it makes every day just that bit happier, sunnier and more enjoyable.

With the current prevalence of hashtags about happiness and gratitude I hope that many others will get the benefit that I had and that the world will become just that little more mindful of the happiness that exists in every day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mini Break

I first heard the phrase "mini break" when reading Bridget Jones Diary. Since then I've become a dedicated fan. There is something amazingly refreshing about taking just a couple of days out of your normal routine. There isn't the level of expense and planning that a proper holiday requires, yet it provides a complete change from every day life and the result is just so refreshing.

Last week S and I enjoyed mini break on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast wouldn't be our normal choice, too many people, too humid and being such white, white people, a day on the beach would end in hideous sunburn but we had another reason for going - a birthday party. My Nanna (who isn't my Nanna at all, I adopted her from my best friend) celebrated her 90th birthday.

It meant we got to spend most of  what would normally be a work day being wined and dined. There is nothing quite like a glass of champagne at 3pm on a Thursday when you know all of your colleagues are hard at work.

We walked kilometers each day, wandering through the shops and along the beach - which was excellent given the number of calories we ingested! After a day of celebration with Nanna, the following day S indulged me by taking me to Palazzo Versace for high tea.

It was just enormous! At least 15 items each, including sandwiches, scones and a huge array of sweet treats. Each was small, delicate and intricately crafted. My only real criticism would be that it was a bit overwhelmingly sweet, but it was a gorgeous venue and a fun way to spend a few hours before slowly wandering back, trying to walk off those calories.

It was just two days but they were two fun, refreshing, relaxing days that has stretched the summer holidays out just that bit further.

I will end with some advice from Nanna as recounted by her daughter at the birthday party.

Be kind to your mother
Keep a positive and happy outlook on life
And always have champagne in the fridge - you never know when you will need to celebrate something!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eggplant, chickpea, quinoa and goats feta salad

In the warmer months I could quite happily live on salad. And to be frank I would be pretty much satisfied with a good old garden salad most days but variety is the spice of life and there are so many delicious salads it would be a shame to limit myself.

This one was inspired by seeing a picture of an eggplant salad on pinterest. That salad was completely different and I still intend to try it, but this salad turned out exactly as I wanted. I wanted something substantial that I could have as a work lunch, so it needed the protein and carbohydrate from the chickpeas and quinoa. I particularly love the flavour combination of goats cheese and eggplant but that can get a bit cloying so I added the parsley to freshen it up. And pine nuts - well every salad benefits from a few of these fragrant beauties.

I prefer to cook my chickpeas from dried, I think they have a better texture. But that does require a certain amount of pre-planning so canned is fine. And as with many of my recipes, the quantities are open to interpretation, if you like something more, there is nothing stopping you playing with the amount.

This salad was delicious warm but is also great cold. The flavours meld together beautifully.

What salads are you enjoying this summer?

Eggplant, Chickpea, Quinoa and Goats Feta Salad
2 medium eggplant cut into 2cm (approx) cubes
3 tbs olive oil
1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (which is equal to about a can or 1/2 cup dried)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup parsley leaves picked
100g goats feta
100g pine nuts toasted

3 tbs olive oil
1.5 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

Lightly toss the eggplant in olive oil and bake at 180 degrees celcius until golden brown - about 20-30 minutes.

Rinse quinoa thoroughly then boil in about 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes. It is cooked when it becomes translucent and you can see the germ.

Cook chickpeas according to packet or can directions till tender.

In a large bowl combine the warm chickpeas, quinoa and eggplant with the parsley and toasted pine nuts. Crumble feta over, add the dressing and toss to combine.


To make the dressing combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting the little jobs done

Have you seen the quadrant management tool? Where tasks fit into categories of:
Important and Urgent
Important and Not Urgent
Not Important and Urgent
Not Important and Not Urgent

It is one of those devices that you get taught in productivity courses and where you inevitably find that too much time is wasted on not important but urgent tasks and the important but not urgent tasks get neglected.

The principles can be applied to nearly any part of life and so over my break I've been trying to address some of the important but not urgent issues around our house. We have finally fixed the disintegrating fence and peeling paint on the outside of the house.

I've got up and checked the gutters, got rid of the wasp nests and we have finally fixed our screen door.

About 4 years ago my sister's little dog, excited to see our Mum her "Nana" in the house, leaped through our screen door. It looked hilarious, like one of those circus acts where an animal jumps through a hoop covered with paper. But of course the result was a rather large dog shaped whole in our screen door.

Well this week we finally got around to fixing it. All it took was a five minute trip to Bunnings and about 30 minutes of work and we can once again have our sliding door open without letting in all the bugs. And as it is right near the entrance to the house it makes the whole place look that much better.

It really is amazing the difference it makes when those jobs are done. Our whole house looks so much neater and fresher. It is protected from the weather which will save money in the long run and of course we can enjoy fresh air at night without mosquitoes!  This year I really do resolve to do my best to make sure that those important aspects of life be they urgent or not don't get neglected.

Do you have any important but not urgent tasks you have been neglecting? And what are your new year's resolutions.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year and a recipe

Happy New Year! Have you recovered from New Year's Eve yet? After a late night and a fair bit of cocktail consumption we had a very quiet start to 2014. Even the day seemed a bit hungover, the sky was a pale grey, the air cooler, everything just that bit quieter.

The tradition with my group of friends is for a fancy dress party each year. The venue has changed over time but fancy dress continues and people make a HUGE effort. This year's theme was Fairytales so S and I went as Hansel and Gretel. We looked pretty awesome if I do say so myself, but there were amazing costumes from the frog prince, to Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, the Beast, Alice and the Mad Hatter, a complete set of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Hook (Peter was taking being young to the extreme at 8 months) and so many more. As always I'm in awe of the effort my friends put in to such things.

As with many such parties, the invitation asked us to please bring a plate. I was tempted to make a gingerbread house but I doubted it would be eaten. I considered a basket of bread (you know to leave a trail home) but that would have involved leaving the house on NYE. So I went with my go to party snack, savoury pinwheels.

These pinwheels are so easy to make, take next to no time and I usually have all the ingredients on hand in the fridge, freezer and cupboard. Best of all they are really yummy. In fact the plate full of them disappeared within minutes of me setting it down.

All in all it has been a great start to 2014. I hope this year brings you joy, laughter and great happiness.

Savoury Pinwheels
makes about 24
2 sheets of puff pastry
sun-dried tomato pesto
3 rashers bacon - finely chopped
1 small onion - finely diced
Approx. 200g grated mozerella cheese
Approx. 20g grated parmesan cheese
olive oil spray

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (fan forced)

Place the sheets of puff pastry, still on their protective plastic sheets, on the kitchen bench.

Spread all over with the sun-dried tomato pesto, leaving a 1cm border on one side. For two sheets I generally use about half a jar.

Sprinkle all over with the chopped bacon and onion and grated cheeses (you can use spring onion too which looks great with the colour contrast). Make sure you go right to the edges, just leaving the 1cm clear border on just one side. Lightly spray the clear border with olive oil.

Using the protective plastic sheet, roll up the pastry, ending with the clear side. The oil will help the pastry stick together. Try to roll it as tightly as possible and press the clear pastry boarder into the roll to secure it.

Use a sharp non-serrated knife to cut each roll into 1cm slices and place on a baking paper lined oven tray. you should get about 12 from each roll.  Leave a fair bit of space between them as they will puff up and out. They squish a bit when you cut them so just re-form them and put any filling that has fallen out on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown then cool on trays (if you can resist them!).