Friday, March 29, 2013

An Iconic Avalon Beach House

Originally built in the 1950s and newly rebuilt for the 20th century, this home is simply irresistible.  The home's 1517sqm of level land showcases a Japanese inspired garden, a Monet Bridge, a koi pond and a natural watercousre.
The home was featured in House and Garden in '1959' and '1972' and has been finished to a flawless standard for the new era. Offered for sale for only the second time, the rebulid creates a modern coastal abode in the iconic and highly sought after location of Ruskin Rowe in Avalon.  Her open plan features, gorgeous outdoor areas and nooks, sandstone features and light filled airy living spaces create a haven for anyone wanting to live a life in paradise. 
For more, check out her details here.

And for my Australian readers, I am giving away a $100 gift voucher to spend in a fabulous online homewares store, Allissias Attic Design here. The store is full of beautifully inspired French, vintage and Hamptons style pieces, which I know you will love.

Wishing you all a wonderful and safe Easter.
Today I am linked up here
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dairy and Egg Free Banana Muffins and a Vegie Patch Make Over

Dairy Free Banana Muffins
In my quest to cut out unhealthy food, or at least to counter all the rubbish the Beach House Brats are offered when they are out and about,  I have excluded all the store bought sweet treats in their school lunches.  No more chocolate biscuits, muesli bars or flavoured yoghurts loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Coincidentally, we seem to have at least two bananas go close to black per bunch, before we can get to them. The synergy here seems like it's meant to be.  So every few days, I bake a batch of these for school lunches.  They are dairy free and the sweetness comes from the honey, bananas and sultanas.  They are terrific for school lunches, because they are bite size and  there are no nuts, a complete no no at our and most schools these days.  I do wonder why there are so many food allergies with this generation.  It must be awful for those who suffer from it.  It was never like this when were kids and you have to ask, what they are doing to our food?

In an attempt to have some control over what we are eating, we are making changes on the fruit and vegie front as well.  We have replanted our humble vegie patch.  One of the sponsors at the Digital Parents conference I went to last week, Be Natural, came up with the ingenious idea of having us make a pledge, in writing,  to get closer to nature.  Mine was to 'eat more home grown vegetables' and for once, I am sticking with it.  Be Natural offered pallets of free seedlings to help the committed, which was a great idea. I do love a promotion that fills a need.  It makes a nice change.

A vegie patch is a great way to rope the kids in to getting active and learning about life and nature.

This getting healthy thing, has been a theme at the Beach House since I decided I was way too fat, 18 months ago.  Actually I decided I was way too fat about 10 years ago, but actually decided to do something about it 18 months ago.  I have lost 17kg in that time.  You can see how I achieved that here.  I have much more energy now for things like gardening, among other things. It's all self perpetuating really.  Once you change your habits permanently, eating like this becomes a way of life and it is not difficult to sustain.

So here's the before shot of the vegie patch......I actually remembered to take a photo this time.  It was a mess after the Summer harvest.  And there were still a few plants with fruit on them, so I was waiting for them to ripen before I pulled out the plants.   As for setting the garden up, I think Mr Beach House bought the tin border at Bunnings.  They have different sizes, to suit the size of your backyard   We dug it into the ground at one end, so it was level,  in a sunny spot  facing north.  We layered it with about 6 bags of gravel then about 6 bags of good quality soil and 1 bag of cow poo, turned into the soil with a spade.  It is located next to a wall, so we could use it as a point to trellis vines.   Luckily, we have had no problems with radiant heat in high Summer and no plants have been killed.  I certainly wouldn't be positioning it against a western wall, as your plants will get burnt in Summer by the radiant heat.

One thing I have noticed is that all the produce is smaller than the store bought stuff, which does make you wonder what they use to pump it up in size.  One Pink Chair, one of my IG friends, suggested that you need to grow potatoes by seed to get them to be a good size.  So maybe I am just too cynical.  I shall be trying that next crop.

My potatoes may be small,  but my pink hand indicates,  my iron levels are high. And I am loving that long life line.
So here is the cleaned out version of the garden.  I pulled the tomato and cucumber vines to the edge of the garden.  The basil and thyme in the middle were keepers and the pumpkin seedling (centre far right) planted at pre school, by the Beach House Brat, has yet to take off.

And here's our future dinner in motion, which will be ready to eat in about 2-3 months time.  There are loads of salad leaves, broccoli, carrots, spinach, leeks and spring onions.  I can't wait.  I am out there daily, hose in hand,  loving these things like crazy.  Oh and don't worry about the lawn.  Currently ours is the worst in the street,  but it has Mr Beach House's name all over this Easter weekend.  

Dairy Free Banana Muffins for School Lunches.
You need 2 mini muffin pans for this recipe

2 ripe bananas
4 dessert spoons honey or maple syrup
4 dessert spoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 and a quarter cups wholemeal plain flour(make sure the pack says 'whole wheat')
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sultanas
Oil spray for greasing the mini muffin pans

Preheat oven to 180 C or 375 F
Mash bananas, honey, oil in a large bowl.  Fold in remaining ingredients and mix.  Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into a non stick mini muffin pan.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Make 24 muffins

I had a look at the back of the self raising flour packet and it had heaps of 'numbers' in it.  So I decided to use whole wheat plain flour with my own raising agents.

Here's to your health Beach Dwellers.

If you want to eat healthier treats, you may like my Healthy Chocolate Icecream.

Have you entered the giveaway yet?  I am giving away a $100 gift voucher to spend in a fabulous online homewares store, Allissias Attic Design here. The store is full of beautifully inspired French, vintage and Hamptons style pieces, which I know you will love.

In other news, I have started a Newsletter, apparently the newest 'must have' accoutrement to ones blog.  With the demise of the RSS feed  (Google Reader) and the rumours about the future axing of GFC and Feedburner, you may want to start one too.   Next week, I will be doing a further review of what I learned at DPCON13.  If you want to subscribe to my Newsletter and see what all the fuss is about,  pop your email in the box at the top of my sidebar.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vintage Roadside Shopping.

The next time I need to furnish a house, I think I could just about do it from road side finds.  Talk about open air shopping....the price is right too.

Come on in and have a look at how you can use this kind of stuff for instant style.  All you need is a little imagination.  There are no pretensions here.  I shall be flogging most of this stuff at the next car boot sale I take a space at,  as I really don't have room for another thing in this Beach House, but if I did have space, I think some of these pieces made over, would add style to any room.

These suitcases are a little shabby right now, but a lick of paint would fix that.  I love the rustic old fasteners and the black trim on the trunk.   These old things would be great as a bedside or coffee table once they received a little love with a paint brush or spray can.  

Then there is this old zinc washing tub.  I use this as an ice bucket at parties and one day it may end up planted out with succulents.

Fill this gorgeous vintage zinc bucket with flowers and you have an instant centrepiece for a rustic table.

I shall be planting this old colander up with herbs for my kitchen bench top.

This old box looks like it was the bottom half of a trunk.  The patina is lovely and would look great as a planter with topiaries .

This mirror may be painted with chalkboard paint, next time you see it.  The frame needs a little love too. Then it will be on the market.

And how about this Grant Miller vintage Malibu surf board.  Just right for mounting on a beach house wall, once the wax is scraped off with a razor blade.  Or maybe add some legs to create a bespoke coffee table.

The adirondack chair may be a little Easter project I have in store for Mr Beach House.

This cane chair would be great painted black or white with a blue and white nautical striped cushion, to fill a corner in a beach house..  It would make a lovely chair for a writing desk.  There were 4 of theses by the road, but I could only get one in the back of the car.

And I couldn't believe it when I found this gorgeous vintage cane swivel chair, sitting out on the pavement.  The wicker needs re gluing, but how cool does she look?  She is also Beach House bound, I think .

This table which I think would seat 4, once it has a glass top reinstated, was too cute to drive by

And then there was this one.  A big blow up ball of the world.  We found it on a creek bed, whilst out walking as a family, one wet Sunday afternoon.  The Big Beach House Brat made some manic manouvres in the mud to retrieve it.  
The kids get loads of fun out of this ball each morning before breakfast.

See what I mean.. First, they drive me nuts by throwing it up into a tree on the exact same morning I have it booked in for a photo shoot for a post about road side finds. Cheeky!!!!

Then laugh very hard, as Mr Beach House tries just about everything to get it down.

He finally did, by the way.

If you are not picking stuff up from the side of the road, I can highly recommend it. Think of it as therapy, It's free, it reduces land fill, it can lead to all sorts of happy dancing with rakes and sticks, but most of all, it provides hours of entertainment and in this case, lots of laughter.

Not sure when I will get the time to make over any of this stuff,  but it's sure to keep me busy one way or another.
If you would like a piece of the action, you may be interested in this. I am giving away a $100 gift voucher to spend in a fabulous online homewares store, Allissias Attic Design here. The store is full of beautifully inspired French, vintage and Hamptons style pieces, which I know you will love.

Today I am linked up here

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Blogging at the High End: The Remarkables and How They Do It

I have just returned from 2 days at the Digital Parents Conference, which has been inspiring beyond belief. I learned many many things.  All of which I want to share with you, but today I am going to share the experience which resonated with me most.  That was the workshop moderated by Lorraine Murphy from The Remarkables.  Lorraine is a complete professional and during the course of her presentation, it became clear to me why her bloggers talent agency is so successful.

Lorraine's presentation outlined the the Win, Win, Win potential between Brands, Bloggers and Readers.


Lorraine produced a slide from A Nielsen Report called Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, The report, published in April 2012, is fascinating.  You can read it in its entirety here.

The take out message for me, was as follows:

"92% of consumers [surveyed]  globally say they trust 
earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations 
from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising." -Neilson

The Neilson Report also revealed, 70% of those surveyed, believe online reviews are the second most trusted form of receiving brand information.  An increase of 15% in 4 years.

 Neilson surveyed 28,000 people across 56 countries. Of those surveyed,  participants said they viewed television(47%), magazines(47%) and newspaper ads(46%), as trusted forms of advertising   A decline of around 25% for those mediums between 2009 and 2011. 


Lorraine was prepared to share some of the survey results gathered last year, in relation to The Remarkables' stable of bloggers.   Via a bar graph, Lorraine illustrated the reasons why those surveyed read blogs such as Baby Mac and Styling You.

The top reason those surveyed read Baby Mac, is because it "Feels like catching up with a friend".

The top reason those surveyed read Styling You, is because they want "Fashion Advice", but again, "Feels like catching up with a friend" was the third highest reason Nikki's audience visits her blog.

You can draw your own conclusions from the Neilson Report and The Remarkables surveys, but mine are that the power of blogging is evident, it's effective and it's now an important strategic element of the media mix a brand must deploy, as part of a successful marketing plan.

Although the link between reader engagement and actual point of sale transactions requires more research, blogs with an engaged readership, are clearly an effective channel to consumers.


Obviously the trust between a blogger and their readers is paramount.

One of the ways to keep readers engaged, is to offer them something every time they visit your blog.  This might be a recipe, beautiful photography, a giveaway or helpful tips.  It is not about the blogger saying "Look at me!", but rather,  it is about the blogger saying to the reader, "Here's what you are looking for".

  The Remarkables' bloggers will not work with brands that are not a good fit with themselves or their readers.  Blogging about stuff that does not fit with you or your readers, just creates a loss in credibility and is a complete turn off for readers.

Mrs Woog said she rejected a pitch from a brand on a giveaway, because she knew an online colouring in competition would not work with her readers and their kids.  She re pitched to the brand and asked readers to create a name for the new product.  It worked  because it was a good fit with the humourous themes running through her blog.  It allowed her readers to be funny along with her.   The brand was happy, because the giveaway got an overwhelming response.  The readers were happy because they were encouraged to engage in a very creative way and had the chance to win a fabulous kitchen appliance in the giveaway as well.

Trust is also maintained by clearly labelling a sponsored  post at the top of the page.

Interestingly, The Remarkables surveys showed 52% of readers read sponsored content, because they trust the blogger.

44% of readers didn't differentiate between sponsored content and free content.

The Remarkables surveys also revealed that readers understand the need for bloggers to make a living and are fine with sponsored posts, if there is a good balance between free content and sponsored content. Lorraine suggested 4 out of  7 sponsored posts a week would be way too many.  For me,  I think one every month or so is right for my blog.  I would love to be able to do one giveaway per week too.   I am only interested in offering prizes in giveaways I think you would love to have in your home, because I would too.

Lorraine suggested another benefit to blog audiences is that by reading bloggers they relate to, they are hearing from brands that will most likely be relevant and of interest to them.  For example, the famous 'Condom Dress' post on Mrs Woog's blog, which sold out the line at Seed and led to the crashing of their website due to excess traffic.  Engaging with a blogger the reader likes and trusts, means that brand "noise" is somewhat filtered.  Accordingly, readers will hopefully, only be exposed to brands that are relevant to their demographic.  Brands which may be worth knowing about, because they potentially fill a need for the reader.


I have to say I was very impressed with Lorraine.  She was prepared to share alot and it was appreciated by all the attendees of her workshop.

Lorraine revealed her fee schedule, which is a sliding scale based on unique visits. 

For those who don't know, the total 'unique' visits to your blog represents the actual number of eyeballs viewing your blog.  The number of pages readers view once they are there, is known as 'page views'.

The Remarkables minimum fee charged to the client for a sponsored post is $1500 for a blogger with 5000 uniques per month.  This increases to $6000 for the bloggers with the biggest number of 'uniques'.

Lorraine is clearly working hard for her bloggers and clients.  She also revealed that in the early days of the business, she contacted many PR's and brands and got very little traction in relation to agencies willing to pay for sponsored posts. This is now changing. She revealed that the budget for a blogger out reach event is often around $30,000.  This is where say 30 bloggers are invited to an event to liaise with the brand and learn about its products.  In addition to setting up the event, there may be an allocation in that budget to fly in and accommodate bloggers and  also to pay for childcare. This strategy can get expensive for the PR company, with little of the budget left over to pay bloggers for posting.  Bloggers are not under any obligation to blog about the brand if they are invited to theses events.  According to Lorraine, brands were finding that in some cases, only a small percentage of bloggers actually did blog about the event and/or the brand.  

 Lorraine said this business model is changing.  Brands are more interested in working with a smaller number of bloggers who are a good fit with their brand and sponsoring their posts.  That is, paying them in cash.  Her business now has so many enquiries, that she has had to take on another employee just to deal with all the interest from brands and PR agencies.

I queried with Lorraine the perception that the primary function of a PR company, was all about getting free publicity for a brand.  I suggested this was the reason PRs don't want to pay bloggers.  She said that used to be the case, but not any more.  PR's and brands are slowly realising they need to pay bloggers to get the level of engagement they are looking for.


The fact that The Remarkables have lots of new enquires about working with bloggers, inspired me.  It was here that I decided to throw my hat into the ring.  At the end of the talk, I waited to speak to Lorraine.  I wrote my current 'uniques' on the back of my card......a movable feast depending on which product you use...... but I am no shrinking violet and thought what the hell, I've got nothing to lose.  I handed her my card and the following exchange ensued:

 Lorraine: "Ah yes Desire Empire, I've heard of you, hello!"

Me: "Yes that's probably because you have already rejected me once before!" with a laugh.  

 Lorraine: "Oh no, that's because when you contacted us, we had enough work to service our existing bloggers, but that's changing."

Me: "Really?"....with a questioning tone

  I am all for putting it out there and seeing how the cards fall.  I've had plenty of rejection in my life and it hasn't killed me yet, it has made me a better, kinder person and definitely a more interesting one.
There is alot of debate out there about The Remarkables, but I embrace their business model.  Even if I never become part of their team, I respect the agency greatly, because it is leading the way for those who follow.

Blogging at the level I and many others blog at, is not sustainable without some kind of fair remuneration.  There is a lot of work involved. I love it and am passionate about it, but there comes a point to draw a line in the sand.  For those readers who cannot accept that bloggers get paid to write about things they like and love, they need to understand that if it was not for this, my blog  and many other blogs would have been taken off air years/months ago.

I have always said that blogging would be a great job if you were independently wealthy and could swan around to lovely events shmoozing with corporates and people who liked the same things as you. Or take delivery of gorgeous products from corporates who are hoping you will blog about them.  Unfortunately mortgages, food, and utility bills need to be paid.  There needs to be some sustainable level of remuneration for bloggers.  Journalists are a different kettle of fish, because they are paid by their employers Fairfax, New Ltd, Consolidated Press or Conde Nast etc to attend events and recommend products they love in their writing.  With the growth and development of online media the old PR model  (ie. free publicity via product placement and product launches)  is not sustainable in the long term,  particularly for bloggers.   I believe the growth of sponsored posts will free bloggers up to improve the quality of their content overall.   Fair remuneration for bloggers is an essential element required to maintain the diversity and integrity in this extremely exciting burgeoning industry, which I am so proud to be a part of.

In conclusion, to answer the question about what's in it for bloggers.  It's about working in a job you are passionate about.  It's about connecting with like minded people, who like the same things as you do and for those savvy enough, it's about trying to make a few bucks to pay those bills, which never seem to stop coming.


Speaking of sponsored posts.  I am giving away a $100 gift voucher to spend in a fabulous online homewares store, Allissias Attic Design here. The store is full of beautifully inspired French, vintage and Hamptons style pieces.  You really don't want to miss this one.   It's a good fit with my blog I promise and you my lovely readers, will hopefully love it too. 

If it's more blogging tips you want, have a look here

So what do you think?  If you have something constructive to say, lets have the conversation? 
  It's controversial but all respectful views are most welcome.
Today I am linked up here
Sunday Showcase
Coastal Charm
Table Top Tuesday
Dream to Reality
Wow Us Wednesday
Transformation Thursday
With Some Grace
Feathered Nest Friday
Say G'Day Saturday
Show and Tell Friday
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Allissias Attic Design Homewares Giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by Allissias Attic Design

I was delighted when Julie contacted me to run a giveaway and promote her beautiful online store and Design service.  Julie is a little like me you see.  She began her design career buying and selling properties and completing small and extensive renovations on them. It seems we both have a passion for that kind of work.   Unfortunately for me, that's where the similarities end.  After her building and renovation experience, design became such a passion for Julie, she went on to study and complete formal qualifications in design and has been working in the industry for 15 years.

To compliment her design business, Julie has set up a stunning online store.  There is so much eye candy over there, I lost an hour browsing through all the beautiful pieces.  There is a  certain French, vintage element to the mix of furniture and homewares on offer.  So many of the pieces would be perfect for the Beach House as well.  I am currently thinking about some pendant lights over my kitchen island bench and these would be just right.

Maine Pendant Light

Whether designing new homes from scratch, renovating or just looking for a beautiful piece to complement your home, Julie's focus is on maximising enjoyment of your interior space. The priority for clients of Allissias Attic Design is to turn a client's dream for their home into a reality.

 Have a look at some of the gorgeous pieces on offer in the store.  The turquoise and black contrast in this bookcase is just so on trend right now.

Jacques Bookcase Black with turquoise interior Love this one.

I adore this embossed mirror

Amiee Wall Mirror with Decorative Detail
When you are on the website, you can use the 'zoom in' function, which allows you to see the texture of furniture, fabrics and homewares which are of interest to you.

Afffari Bell Shaped Jar in 4 different sizes

Bodine French Chair in Velvet

There are so many beautiful pieces to choose from.  You could furnish a whole home from this lovely store.

Timber chest and matching coffee table
Historire Metal Box Display set of 3

Here are some of the things former clients have had to say about Allissias Attic Design:

"The armoire is amazing and the signs and pewter items I purchased for Christmas gifts had the most amazing response from my family and friends. Thanks so much for rushing it all to me." _ Suzanne Parmelia WA

and this

Hi Julie
I really love my new French bookcase with drawers, thank you Julie for your hlep and quick service.  I love this store and will be returning quite often to see what new things you have.
Thank you again" - Rose Ipswich

There are many more comments like this, attesting to the fab products in the online store and to the superior level of customer service provided by Allissias Attic Design, which you can see here.

So now for the GIVEAWAY.

Today Allissias Attic Design is offering readers of Desire Empire the chance to win a $100 gift voucher to spend in the online store.

To enter you will need to:

 Go over to Allissias Attic Design and tell me in the comments, which piece is your favorite.  Your choice must be one of the pieces I have not mentioned here.

Additional entries will be given for liking Allissias Attic Design on Face Book,  and Twitter    Be sure and spread the love and let them know where you came from. Please leave a separate comment for each additional entry.

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

Please do not put links to the product you like in the comments section.  Thank you 

Giveaway Terms and Conditions
You MUST enter the giveaway on this BLOG by leaving a comment here. You do not need to have a Blogger account.  Just sign in as anonymous and leave an email address.
This competition is open to entrants living in Australia only.
This competition is open from now and will run for 2 weeks until 5 April 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.  The winner will have 7 days to respond, otherwise the prize will be redrawn.

Best of luck to you all.

This giveaway is now closed congratulations to the winner Kellie Anderson.  Please contact me within 7 days so I can pass your details on to Julie.

Today am linked up here
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