Monday, December 31, 2012

Asian Pasta Salad and Happy New Year

Asian Pasta Salad

Happy New Year to all you lovely people

Looking very relaxed and scruffy
I've had a lovely little break.  We managed to borrow the father in law's yacht and have been swanning around Pittwater for a few days.  Not in the yacht, we were too scared to take it off the mooring, lest it break down and we be stuck with a big repair bill,  but we did burn around in our dinghy, visiting wasterside friends and some of our favourite spots.

The cabin boy
We are back home now and I thought I'd drop in to give you the heads up on a great salad, which may be of use to you over the next few weeks.
I first ate this pasta salad many years ago, on a neighbour's vineyard in the Hunter Valley.  Our vineyard has long gone, but this Asian Pasta Salad has become a family staple.  It is impressive, tastes delicious and keeps well for 3-4 days with refrigeration.   It is a terrific one if you don't feel like cooking on these lazy Summer days.  Serve it with BBQ meat or fish of any kind.  Yum.

Asian Pasta Salad
1 (2 serves) packet of fresh egg fettuccine, cooked according to directions, cooled with cold water and drained.
20 mushrooms cut in half and sliced
1 red capsicum/pepper, seeds removed and diced 
2 spring onions diced
1 bunch of coriander leaves chopped.  Retain a few sprigs prior to chopping and reserve as a garnish.
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts ( you can buy them like this). Plus one more tablespoon to garnish.

For the dressing 
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
juice of 1 lemon

Combine salad ingredients.  Mix well.  I use my hands.
Make salad dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl.  Pour over salad several hours prior to serving to allow flavours to develop, mix well.  
This salad served 20 people on Christmas day, as part of a buffet lunch.

Enjoy and happy holidays.  Wishing everyone a fabulous New Year.  My New Years resolution is to say 'yes' to every opportunity which passes my way this year.  Last year it was to get the men in the house to put their dishes straight into the dishwasher and it was a complete fail.  Here's to better luck with this years attempt.  So now I'm off to stack said dishwasher.

Oh and don't forget my Rustoleum paint giveaway here.  If you want to do a few quick projects around the house this year, this one is sooooo for you.  Not many entires yet, so your chances are good.

And thank you so much for the beautiful Christmas comments and emails you sent my way.  They were very very touching.
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas From the Beach House

Just popping by for the last time this year to wish you all a wonderful holiday season.  I have so enjoyed sharing my journey with you this year and following yours, where you have allowed.  As you will know, I find this whole motherhood, marriage, home making thing difficult at times and your kindness and encouragement has helped me more than you will ever know.  Coming here makes me happy, that's all there is to it.  I think this time of year is about taking stock and counting one's blessing.  I am so truly grateful for all that I have.  After a week of birthdays, wedding anniversaries and a major car accident, in which the four of us were involved, but survived pretty much intact, I have so much to be thankful for. 

Please go well into the new year and I am sending my best wishes your way, for a safe and happy Christmas.

And of course I cannot go without saying, if you would like the chance to win a whole suite of paint products to help you on your crafting journey next year, you might want to go here.


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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Rustic Christmas Mantel and a Rust-oleum Paint Giveaway

Hello Hello

It's gift giving time!!!! Gift giving time, from me to you, for all your kindness and support this year.  I have been using a fantastic new paint product and I have touched up the company, Rust-oleum to give me a suite of products to put together as my Christmas giveaway for the blog.  Now I am not someone who enjoys painting.  For me it's about slapping it on, getting it done and back in the house, dressed and ready to use.

 So it was with great pleasure that I discovered the ease with which I can achieve my objective with these Rust-oleum cans. They are quick and simple to use and I think you will agree, the result is rather good.  Our fellow American bloggers have had access to this product for aeons.   The company has however, just arrived  in Australia and are keen to connect with the crafty types amongst us.

For this project I have used the metallic silver, which I just loved, the silver glitter, which after several coats has a lustrous finish.  When using the glitter it's also best to lay your target flat if you are not using the primer, which I didn't, so as to avoid any gravity issues.  I also used the chalk board paint, which is actually the conventional paint on variety, but is the best I have use so far, as it doesn't mark each time you touch it like the last brand I used.

Unfortunately I managed to delete the before shot of this frame before I uploaded it to the computer, but believe me, it was in a terrible state when I bought it for a few bucks at the local Red Cross Shop.  The frame was a tarnished and dusty old gold, which had seen better days.  I deconstructed it, by pulling out the rusty tacks holding it all together on the back.  Disgarded the glass and painted the laminated chipboard scene with chalk board paint.  I sprayed two coats of metallic silver on the frame, and this was the best bit for me, as it just brought a beautiful, if a little chippy plaster frame back to life.........big time.

I made some Anthropologie snow domes, using salt as the snow in the base, in some old fruit preserving jars  once used by my grandmother, to actually preserve fruit.  I must try it one day. 

I decorated some miniature Christmas trees my mum bought me 20 years ago at Franklins, when I was flatting and couldn't have cared less if I had a Christmas tree in my apartment or not.  The galvanised buckets were thrifted and different sizes, which was fine.

I decorated the trees with some glammed up decorations I bought last year, with a little Rust-oleum glitter, which came up nicely after 3 or 4 coats.  It's their newest product.

To add texture to the mantel I started with a layer of Layton pines from the garden, which seem to last for a week or more out of water, even in these hot Summer temps.  And added some twinkly snow flake lights for another layer.  I have gone all rustic this Christmas with neutral and metallic.  Colour is definitely not getting much of a run here this year.  But I have to say it's a change from last years coastal blue and I am loving it.  If you would like a chance to win these great, easy to use products valued at around $120, to help you on your crafting journey next year, you need to do 2 things.

1. To validate your entry, 'Like' Rust-oleumAU on Facebook here and whilst you are there, say hello and spread some Christmas cheer. 

2. Follow Desire Empire on one or more of the following platforms:
Google Friends Connect (over in my side bar)
Instagram @desireempire

Leave a  separate comment for each follow, even if you have for some time.

Sharing this to each of your social media platforms will constitute another entry.  Leave me a separate comment for each share.  

And good luck

Giveaway Terms and Conditions
You MUST enter on the BLOG by leaving a comment here.
This competition is open to entrants living in Australia only.
This competition is open from now until 11 January 2013 12pm Australian EST.
The winner will be announced on this blog, Face Book and Twitter and I will contact you, as long as you have left a valid means.  As it's holiday time, the winner will have 14 days to respond, otherwise the prize will be redrawn.

The product is available at paint stockists around Australia.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner was Elements at Home.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meringue Birds Nests with Mascarpone and A Strawberry Coulis An Easy Christmas Dessert

Meringue Birds Nests with Mascarpone and A Strawberry Coulis 

Busy? Of course you are!!! Me two!!!!!  We have 2 birthdays at the Beach  House here today. Oh and a bit of advice.  If you are trying to have a baby,  do not try in March, like we did,  You end up with a little  bundle of Christmas joy, who just about grinds you into the ground at this time of year for many years to come, over birthday issues,   Mr Beach House is also born on this day.  Couldn't have planned that one if we tried.  That is one thing (errhmm among many) I have in common with my mother in law, being silly enough to make out and follow though on a hot night in March.....Just plain crazy if you ask me.    

I am also trying to get a Christmas Mantel together before Christmas,  It will be a miracle if I can pull it off before the 25th, but I am giving it a red hot go?  I'll be posting that soon, along with a fantastic paint giveaway, as my Christmas present to you, but first I just had to post this simple dessert, that may be of some assistance to you over the next few days and weeks.  It's red, it's Christmassy and it is oh so easy and isn't that just what we need right now, something that is eeeeeeeeesay?!!!!!  Please dear God....just one thing!!!!

Meringue Birds Nests with Mascarpone and A Strawberry Coulis

2 punnets of strawberries hulled.  Reserve 3-4 strawberries for a garnish and cut them into strips.
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
250g / 8oz tub of mascarpone
12 meringue birds nests (available at supermarkets)

To make the coulis
Blend strawberries and then strain through a sieve to remove the seeds if this is important to you.  It was to me.  Just push through the sieve with a spoon and scrape the bottom of the sieve to keep the coulis flowing.  

Add sugar and vanilla to the strawberry mixture and stir to combine.

Put the mascarpone into a bowl.

Pour half the strawberry mixture into the mascarpone and twirl it around with a chop stick, or the like, to give it a marble effect.

Place a heaped teaspoon of mascarpone mixture onto your birds nests.

 Dress each birds nest with 2 strips of reserved strawberry and drizzle each one with the remaining coulis.

I put these on a platter and allow guest to serve themselves by hand. But they need to be eaten with cake forks. The recipe makes 12.

Now as you were...... let the Christmas craziness continue. Here's my Christmas page if you need some ideas.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Garlic Prawn, Baby Spinach, Asparagus, Avocado and Dill Appetisers

Garlic Prawn, Baby Spinach, Asparagus, Avocado and Dill Appetisers

Good morning Beach Dwellers
I seem to remember that this time last year, this blog was all about food and it appears to be a repeat performance this time around. If you want an easy starter for Christmas day or any other party for that matter, then you are sooooo in the right place.  This is inspired by one of those supermarket magazines published for the season.  I absolutely love them, as they are full of easy and quick ideas, but I am all about flavour, so I have jooshed this one up a bit from the original.

You could make a conventional salad out of this one, but I threaded the ingredients onto vintage forks and scattered them around a cake plate.  And waited for my guests to go oooooh.  

Garlic Prawn, Baby Spinach, Asparagus, Avocado and Dill Appetisers

This recipe makes enough for 12 forks, but just make as many as you like by adding more prawns etc.

12 green prawns shelled
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon of oil for frying
1 teaspoon butter

1 large avocado but into 12, 3 cm / 1 inch slices
1 bunch of asparagus cooked and diced 12, into 3 cm/1 inch pieces
24 small or 12 large baby spinach leaves
1-2 tablespoons dill torn
2 tablespoons olive oil 
red wine vinegar, white would be fine too
12 forks

In a pan, melt butter and oil over a medium heat.
Add garlic and fry for a minute, being careful not to burn it.
Toss in prawns and cook until they turn orange.
Remove prawns and make the dressing with the the pan juices by adding 2 table spoons of olive oil and one of red wine vinegar. Tilt the pan and whisk with a fork to combine.
Meanwhile thread the other ingredients onto the forks.  If you are using large spinach leaves double them over.  If small use 2 leaves.
Next thread the prawns, then the avocado and the asparagus.
Place on a serving plate and drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with torn dill.
Then wait for your guest to go oooooh.

My guests loved these, but I definitely drank too much.  I put the Beach House Brat down at 10 o'clock and lay down with her for what I thought was 5 minutes, so she would not resist.  Mr Beach House came looking for me after 20 minutes and I was fast asleep.  I woke up and went back to the party.  What a useless hostess.  Maybe it was just one party too many, shame it was my own.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Aldi Ginger Bread House

Aldi Ginger Bread House

Just a quicky from me today.  I wasn't going to post this one, but I had some facebook requests to post the 'how to' on this cute little ginger bread house, so thought I'd throw it into the weekend mix and change it up a bit from the regular beautiful beach houses I usually post.   Putting this one together, would be a good way to entertain the kids for half an hour in the Christmas holidays as well. 

This is not a sponsored post, but I will be listing two brands that I love and used in the making of this little sweetie.  Aldi is up first.  That place is growing on me big time.  It is value for money and I find myself shopping there and putting more Aldi products on my list each time. It's different and they didn't have cumin or mascarpone when I was there last week, which they should have, so you still can't do your whole shop there, but what they do have is good quality and fairly priced. This ginger bread kit is an Aldi one and I'm pretty sure they still had them for sale late last week. All the people and decorations are included, you just have to glue it all together with your frosting.

It goes together very easily.  You have to make your own frosting, which is 250g of icing sugar, mixed with one egg white or water.  Being a lover of 'easy', I used water and it worked fine.   Just be sure not to put in too water much at first.  Just drizzle it in so your frosting stays stiff and add more if required.  Add the juice of half a lemon so as to make it even stickier, taking into account this will make your frosting runnier too.

The next product which I am loving is the Ikea piping bag.  If you have been around for a while, you know I am a fan of piping, it just cuts down on the mess.  I often use a clip lock plastic bag, which I did for this house last year, as I didn't have a piping bag, but if you can get your hands on the Ikea one, it works well and  is easy to wash out and dry. It is also better than the clip lock bag, as it gives a great texture to the 'snow'.  The piping kit comes with a whole lot of other stuff to decorate your cakes as well, which I haven't used yet, so can't comment.

You will also need some extra icing sugar to dust as 'snow'.  I just put it in a sifter and shook over the top and I think it just finishes it off beautifully.

So there you go, a sweet little house that my kids are falling over themselves to eat. This is definitely becoming a tradition at the Beach House and one that we are all really enjoying.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Moroccan Eggplant Salad on a Blue and White Table

Moroccan Eggplant Salad

Hi Beach Dwellers
I've been getting ready for a little shin ding at the Beach House this evening and in an attempt to move the crowds away from the island bench, I have laid a blue and white table.....lucky table. 

Mr Beach House couldn't care less where we have it.  He said this morning, "Lets do it outside" and we probably will, but for now the table is set up within the security of the dry dining room. 

 I used to be a climate change sceptic, but with this being the weirdest Summer of three weird Summers in a row, I am now persuaded the scientists might just be onto something,  Felt like we had temps as cold as July here in Sydney on Monday.   We haven't had a burning hot Summer in Sydney now for the third year on the trot and I am a little worried.  But I am not here to talk about climate change.  I am here to talk about other things a little closer to my heart.

You may remember some of my friends on my personal facebook account and on this blog for that matter, were anti my Christmas ladder. Well some of them have been invited over to meet her in person this evening.  Doubt I'll be able to convince the traditionalists amongst them, but as an only child, I am used to going it alone and being a voice in the wilderness.  I embrace it actually.

I love her and although apart from the advent calendar, it doesn't really look a bit like Christmas round here at the moment,  I am happy with that for a change.  I am going to do a mantel this weekend, so we shall see if we can't make it a little more Christmasy by Monday.

So with my table here, I have my new tablecloth.  Declaring here that Jen from Coast and Country Homewares sent it over as a thank you for the giveaway I recently ran for her. I chose the pattern and I have to say I absolutely love it.   How sweet that girl is.  Everything else is from my garden or cupboard.   The table runner is just some elephant ears, which were growing under the house.  Gardenias and agapanthus shoved in old bottles.  Napkins from a sale I bought ages ago, tied with variant ribbon and a little shell popped in the middle for some coastal zing.

 Like most of you guys, the budget here is as tight as the proverbial fish's whatsit at this time of year and with the 2 men of the house both born on the same date next week and a wedding anniversary a few days later (what the hell were we thinking?), we are financially full on here.

And as for the menu for tonight, that's a simple affair, as always 

Ham sliced from the bone
For make your own baguettes with capsicum relish  hommus and a

Warm Moroccan Eggplant Salad

3 eggplants sliced into rounds 2cm/ 1inch thick and halved
Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon of olive oil for frying
1 can tomatoes
1 tablespoon cumin
3 dessert spoons of pitted Kalamata olives
1 heaped dessert spoon diced preserved lemon (available at the supermarket)
Juice of one lemon
salt and pepper taste

Preheat oven to 180C/375F place eggplant onto  lined baking trays and spray with olive oil and lightly salt. This step can be done the day before to save time. Bake for 30-40 minutes until it is soft.  You could also fry this, but baking cuts down on the fat content.
Place a pan over a moderate heat add oil, tomatoes cumin and toss together for a minute. Add eggplant, preserved lemon and half the lemon juice and parsley.  Stir to combine until eggplant is warmed through.
Toss in the olives.
Serve warm or at room temperature dressed with the reserved lemon juice.

For dessert we are having Strawberries in Mascarpone on Meringue Birds Nests.  A relatively simple menu don't you think, washed down with a few bubbles and my standard rose.   If I don't forget to shoot the birds' nests, I shall post the recipe.

Have a great weekend. 
For more tablescape inspiration go here.
And to the lovely people that leave comments here.  I have switched on 'comment moderator' as I am being spammed.  What tossers those SEO junkies are!!!!!!
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Doilies at Christmas Time and an Easy Cookie Dough Recipe

As you know I have a running love affair with doilies.  A little love affair is rather nice once in a while, especially if it is with something as inane as these sweet little things.  Today I am pressing them into biscuit dough and wrapping them around baubles to make vintage Christmas ornaments. 

Doilies are something I often associate with my Grandparents' neighbours.  During the Great Depression my grandparents got some new neighbours.  The man of the house was the chief of the Ambulance Service in Victoria and he gave my long suffering grandfather a job driving an ambulance, who up until that stage had only been able to work for the dole cutting railway sleepers, one week in every four.  You only got paid one week in four as well.  The other three weeks were spent scratching around giving piano lessons, as he was also a well known musician of the day in Victoria. 
 The families became firm friends.  When they were 21, the daughters sailed to Europe and travelled together for over 18 months in the 1950's.  The Raven's daughter became my mum's bridesmaid.

Mrs Raven, as she was always known to us, used to make the most beautiful lace doilies and that little one up there, which I have wrapped around the ornament was made by her, probably 50 years ago.  It is of the finest quality and so very beautifully made.  It is very special and when mum gave it to me she said "Be careful with that one, Mrs Raven made it."
  So this year it is part of an ornament on my coastal Christmas ladder.  And here's to the Raven family, who helped mine out in times of trouble.  Kind of what Christmas is about really.

Mrs Raven didn't make this one, but it sure does make a pretty pattern in cookie dough.  You need to press it very well into the dough, all the time making sure it doesn't flatten the dough too much, as your cookies will be too thin and break up once cooked.

Easy Cookie Dough Recipe 

225g/ 8oz softened butter
140g/ 5oz caster sugar
280g/10 oz plain flour sifted, plus extra for your bench top
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat your oven to 180C/375F
Cream butter and sugar
Mix in the egg
Add flour and vanilla
Mix well to combine.
Turn out onto a well floured bench top and kneed into a ball.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll out on a well floured bench top to a similar shape as your doily. Make it about 1cm /1/2 inch thick. Also put flour on your rolling pin.
Place the doily over your dough and press in using the rolling pin
Remove the doily and cut out your shapes.
Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

Your cookies should come out with a pretty pattern like this.

As for the little doily ornament, at first I tried to wrap the ornament with a large doily, but there was lots of over lap and it did  not look as neat as this saucer sized ornament wrapped around the bottom half the bauble.  The main thing here, is to make sure you centre the bauble so it looks even at the top.  I like the contrasting textures of the glitter and lace.  Tie it up with twine and you have a sweet little number for your tree, with a whole lot of meaning.

Hope your week is going well.  I'm off to make a batch of strawberry santas for the playgroup Christmas party. That Christmas crazy feeling sure is alive and well at the Beach House this year.

The winner of the Coast and Country Homewares tablecloth is DONNA ROBERTS, congratulations, please contact me by Monday 17.12.12

If you would like to look at my Christmas page for some other easy budget ideas go here.
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No Minimalist Here
House of Hepworths
Transformation Thursday
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Sunday Showcase
Metamorphosis Monday
Take a Look Tuesday
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Monday, December 10, 2012

A Rustic Christmas Star

Are you the kind of parent who leaves your preschooler at kids' birthday parties?  I never used to with my first, but now I see it as an opportunity to steal away for 2 hours and get a few things achieved, without all the hoo ha that goes along with dragging a little one around.  My little girl is very confident and with the benefit of an older brother, who has introduced her to the ways of the kiddo world much earlier than he ever was, I feel very confident too, that she is more than able to fend for herself.  However I do draw the line at beach parties.  There is no way I would leave my 4 year old at a party here.  Even with the best intentions, there are too many risks, not to watch her like a hawk.

So what so you do after the polite chit chat amongst the other mums has been exhausted and your little one is following a fairy around on a treasure hunt with a face full of corn chips?  I shall tell you.  You walk around under the gum trees looking for sticks equal in length and diameter that's what.  I'm sure there would have been other more interesting things to do BB....... that's before blogging, but it seems now, any spare moment is spent thinking about the next post.  The funny thing is, as I was stuffing the sticks into the Beach House Brat's beach bag, a new on the scene mum asked me what they were for.  I showed her a rough outline of the star I was going to make with them and said it was for my blog.  

"Your blog?" she said.  "I'm a social media advisor to corporates."  So I found myself chatting to her for the next half an hour about some of the more interesting social media campaigns which had gone wrong for some corporates and how some of them just don't get it.  The potential there is amazing and very interesting and another post in itself.

So when I got the sticks and an over tired but very happy Beach House Brat home,  I fiddled around with them and here's the result.  A very low cost, environmentally friendly rustic Christmas star.  The how to is below, but before I launch into that, I think these would look great tied with Nordic style red ribbon or bakers twine.  I think you could also make smaller ones with tooth picks and bakers' twine.  You could also stick shells or rosemary to it.  You could make a huge one from driftwood for your front door, depending on your decorating theme. 

So you will need 5 sticks, roughly the same size and diameter.  Mine were 25cm.   You will also need some twine. 

Make the first 2 into the shape of the letter "A"

For the cross bar of the "A", you will need to weave it over and under.  At first, I made the mistake of just laying it across like this and the finished product was just not as sturdy.

Don't do it like this.  Weave the cross bar over and under for strength.

It will still work if you don't weave it over and under as you can see here, but it is not as strong.

For the remaining 2 sticks of the star, place them like so, making sure the ends overlap and cross.

Tie them off with your twine of choice (about 15cm) and trim up once you've tied it.

This one may replace the star on my Christmas ladder

Or it may be hung from my chandelier or be placed on the mantel.  I'm not sure as yet.

Right now it is on the ladder and looks right at home with all the other twinkly bits.

Your in Christmas Chaos.  And if you want some help with that, don't forget to check out my Christmas Page here.
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