Friday, August 30, 2013

Due to family health reasons and an up coming much needed holiday, I need to stop blogging for a while.  I have fallen in a heap and need to regroup.

I am generally a happy person and hope to be back soon, but don't have the will to create content right now.

Hope to see you soon.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Spring has Sprung

One of the best things about living at the bottom of the planet here in Australia, is certainly the climate.  We are a millions miles away from care, but Spring has sprung and it is still Winter Down Under. That is certainly something to be thankful for. We are through the worst of it and yesterday it was shorts and t shirt weather.  My garden is full of beautiful self sown freesias and the fragrance is truly uplifting.  

We did this yesterday and after a hell week with an unwell child, it was such a pleasure to be out amongst it again.

I hope to bring you all the details of yet another beautiful walk on Sydney's Northern Beaches later.  This one involves great biking facilities as well.  In the meantime, I have added a button at the top of my sidebar with lots of great ideas on where to eat, play and shop in my corner of  Australia on the beaches.  With Spring coming on, you may want to check it out.

The Avalon Spring fete will also be on on Sunday 8 September at the local public school on Old Barrenjoey Road.  As one of the largest primary schools in NSW, that's a great one for the diary.  A good fun day out for kids and adults too, if you fancy making the trip.

In other news, I am giving away a cocktail maker set here for Desire Empire Newsletter subscribers in Australia.  It will be drawn tomorrow and hopefully to the winner by Fathers' Day.

Have a great week Beach Dwellers.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

Today I am linked up here
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Avalon Beach House in Black and White

This black and white beach house with a touch of chrome, has been beautifully renovated with quality finishes and loads of style.  On a large level block, within an easy walk of Avalon Village and the beach,  this is living in paradise at it's best.  I will be visiting this property tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing her in the flesh.  For anyone else interested in a date with destiny, go here for more.

Have a fabulous weekend Beach Dwellers.

Don't forget to enter my cocktail shaker/maker giveaway here.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

Today I am linked up here
Weekend Wrap Up
Sunday Showcase
Metamorphosis Monday
Inspire Me Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesday
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sydney, a Sky Writer, a Bit of Sparkle and a Giveaway

I was recently invited to a lovely event.  This is clearly how the other half live, but it was heavenly to be treated for a day and break out of the usual routine.

I am about the most punctual person in the world.  I don't know why, but I fret if I am going to be five minutes late.  The unfortunate down side to that, is I am often 15 minutes early, which is ridiculous, but there you have it.

This day happened to be the actual birthday of the Littlest Beach House Brat, so she accompanied me and had her own babysitter, complete with fun activities, whilst mummy did lunch. She had a lovely birthday and what follows, is one of the reasons why.  As we were early, we stepped out onto the balcony to take in the view.  And I have to say Sydney, you are tops on a beautiful day.

The Sydney Opera House

The Conservatorium of Music and the Harbour

The Botanical Gardens and the State Library
And then it happened

When ever we see an aeroplane with a jet stream, the kids think it's Santa Claus, checking up to see who is behaving.  And although this wasn't Santa Claus, boy was it the gift that kept on giving.  I thought it was going to say happy birthday, but it just got better and better.

I mean what are the chances of this happening on your daughter's 5th birthday?  

And of course she thought it was just for her.  My little girl was very hard to get, so it did seem fitting for this milestone of a birthday.  My mum suggested later, that it was my dad calling from heaven.

Whatever it was, it made our day.

Miracle over and it was down to business.  The serious business of learning about the first refrigerator in Australia to dispense sparkling water.  This Samsung French Door Refrigerator, to be released on September 1, is high end stuff people and would come in very handy for parties.

 The soda stream canister resides in the door there on the left, allowing sparkling water to be dispensed right next to the still water. 

And what is sparkling water without a cocktail I ask you?  This is where things got interesting.  Our spunky resident cocktail maker for the day, instructed us in the art of making beautiful fruit cocktails.  Vodka was on the menu, but as I had to get back for school pickup and after some wine with lunch, I stuck to the mocktail variety.

He was most endearing and helpful, but you know you are getting old, when the cocktail waiter is young enough to be your son.

It was really fun and times have certainly changed since I mixed cocktails behind the bar in Perisher for the 1990 ski season.

and although the equipment is still the same,

the garnishes and ingredients have changed somewhat. 

I sat next to a very engaging PR girl at lunch.  She enthralled me with all her career plans and how far she had come to date.  She was interesting and very sweet.   I couldn't help comparing myself to her when I was 23.  I had an economics degree, but was still mixing those cocktails and worried that by 30, I would still be picking up glasses off tables at closing time.  Thankfully that never happened.

But I digress.

To celebrate the launch of the new Samsung French Door Fridge,  complete with still and sparkling water dispenser,  I have a cocktail set to give away to a reader.

This is going to be a quicky giveaway for my Australian resident newsletter readers.  I am hoping to get this one in the post for Fathers' Day.

All you need to do is subscribe or have already done so, to the Desire Empire Newsletter HERE.  New and existing newsletter subscribers must leave a comment on this blog to that effect.

Sharing this post to each of your social media platforms or giving it a Google + will constitute another entry.  Leave me a separate comment for each share or sign up.  

And good luck.

Giveaway Terms and Conditionns
This is a game of skill.  The skill is signing up to the newsletter and leaving a comment to that effect on this blog. 
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 your email address.
This competition is open to Australian Residents only.  
The prize is a cocktail maker set, in the black box, as shown in the last shot in this post
This competition is open from now until 27 August 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 2 days to respond, otherwise the prize will be redrawn.

This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to the winner, Alex from Eating Adelaide.  Please contact me with your postal address.

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Samsung for lunch and was given the cocktail maker set to giveaway.

The sky writing was a gift I cannot explain, but one for which I will be eternally grateful.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Goodie Bag Birthday Party Ideas

Goodie Bag Birthday Party Ideas

Lollies make me shudder.  Weirdly, I was never partial to them as a kid.  Although I can eat my own body weight in chocolate, if given the chance, lollies have just never been my thing.  Generally they just taste like plastic blobs of sugar to me.   Read Yuck!!!!!! I do make an exception for Christmas decorating, but I try, often with limited success, not to let them into the Beach House otherwise.  Conversely, the other three members of this household are totally into them, so there was no avoiding the "lolly" bag culture that has grown up around the kids party scene, when someone turned 5 last week.  Although I did try.

I put on my best negotiating skills and with a little bribery and the odd chocolate drop, this is what the littlest Beach House brat and I came up with.  She insisted on poppers and was happy to have the choc chip cookies she loves in there.  The strawberries were all my idea.  And I have to say, there was no one complaining when they opened their little packets at the end of the party.

The poppers (2) went in first and I covered them with some baking paper, so no chemicals crossed over to the cookies.  Shoot me I'm a Virgo.

I actually wrapped the stawberries in plastic for the same cross contamination reasons as above.

The deal was sealed with a love heart sticker,  left over from our engagement party invitations from many years ago,

which was kind of in theme with the love heart cake.  I picked up the tin at Aldi for a song. It was spring form and worked a treat.  The recipe I used was a double quantity of a carrot cake with coloured cream cheese frosting.......It was sooooo good and you can get that recipe here. 

Someone had a brilliant time and I came away relatively stress free.  A success in my book, especially when the effort to happiness factor ratio is low.

For more simple party food ideas go here.

and for easy birthday cake ideas go here.

Have a great week.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

Today I am linked up here
Sunday Showcase
Metamorphosis Monday
Inspire Me Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesday
Transformation Thursday
Weekend Wrap Up
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies
 I was asked the other day, how I could eat all this stuff and lose weight.  Well the truth is, I can't.  When I bake something I have one portion to taste and then the Beach House crew eats the rest, PDQ.  Lately, I have stopped buying commercially baked goods.  They are full of complete rubbish.....which is not news to anyone and on the whole, they taste yuck too.

Now over indulging on these is not good for anyone either, but they take 15 minutes to throw together and 15 minutes to bake.  Believe me they are well worth the minimal effort required, as they are delicious and something my 5 year old loves to make with me, for school lunches.

We have a birthday in the Beach House this week.  The party is at a play centre this year, but she is insisting on "lolly" bags.  That's fine I said, but "no lollies."  I may be a  mean mother, but there were no complaints when I told her these cookies could go in as part of the "Lolly Bags" contents.

I have made many variations of this recipe, and whatever I seem to do to it it works a treat.  Here is the basic recipe and below are some of the changes you can make to it.

Chocolate Chip Cookies  
About 1/2 cup or125g butter at room temperature
1/2 cup or 100g firmly packed sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1.5 cups plain flour (225g)
1/2 cup dark chocolate bits (95g)
Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper
Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat until combined
Add egg and beat.
Add flour, mix to combine
Stir in choc bits.
Using a teaspoon, place heaped portions 3cm or 1 inch apart on the baking trays.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Stand on the tray for 2 minutes and transfer to a wire wrack to cool.

Replace the vanilla with 2 teaspoons of coffee extract.  I got some as a one off thing at Aldi and its great.
In addition to the dark choc bits, add 1/2 a cup of white choc bits.  Milk choc bits are fine too.
You could also add  1/2 cup of slivered almonds or chopped macadamia nuts instead of the extra choc bits. 

This recipe seems fail proof.

For all my other easy baking ideas, have a look here.

And don't for get to enter the $100 Kmart Australia gift voucher giveaway on my blog here.

Have a great weekend and happy baking.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Tips for Stress Free Entertaining in a Smallish Space

This post is sponsored by Fisher and Paykel and Finish Dishwashing Powder

The Beach House may be cute, but she is somewhat on the small side.  When I am entertaining, which is often, particularly in the Summer months, there are some strategies I use to make the most use of the space and time available.

1. If a guest offers to bring something other than the mandatory bottle of wine, I take them up on it.  A salad or a dessert contributed by a friend can be a big help and take a lot of pressure off and saving precious kitchen space, when I am cooking up a storm.

2.  For a dinner party, I make the pre dinner nibbly with drinks the entre, so I only need to serve 2 courses.  Saves on washing up too, if the nibbly/entre can be served with just a napkin.

3.  It's about seeing my friends, not about how elaborate the meal is.  I often have a BBQ with Greek Style butterfly lamb, oven roasted potatoes and a salad.   That way, the cooking load is shared with Mr Beach House and he doesn't even realise he is lifting a finger.  Even when I lived in an apartment and had a kitchen smaller than the average sized wardrobe, a small BBQ set up on the balcony was a life saver for entertaining and the associated clean up.  

4.  I make a really detailed shopping list of ingredients when I do the shop for the party, so I don't need to keep popping out to the shops before the guests arrive.  That is such a time waster.

5. I choose dishes which can be prepared the day before. That way all the prep can be cleared away well and truly before the guests arrive.  It allows for the flavours to infuse as well.

6. When I entertain, I know my fridge will be up to pussies bow with food and drinks.  To cope with the over flow, I have invested in some glamourous wine coolers and fill them with ice to accommodate my guests' beverage contributions.

7.  I make sure my dishwasher is empty at the start of the party.  An empty and well functioning dishwasher is my key to a clean kitchen at any time actually.  You know I am a cupboard shover, well I am a dish washer shover as well.  My bench tops can be stacked with junk one minute, but once it is all stacked in the dishwasher and the bench tops are wiped down, I can go from kitchen chaos, to gleaming clean kitchen within minutes.  

8. If we are eating indoors, I lay the table the night before, so that I don't need to worry about it as I am serving the food and talking to my guests.

9.  Instead of a full blown dinner, I often organise an afternoon tea or a small drinks party, so as to make the logistics more simple.  Saves on the clean up too.

10.  As my guests walk through the door, I make sure they get a drink straight away, the music is playing so it sets a great mood and any cock ups from that point forward will be well and truly forgotten about.  Sounds crazy but being the social animal Mr Beach House is, as soon as the first guest walks through the door, he thinks he is a guest too and waits for me to do the drinks.  After all these years, I have given in and don't even ask him to help anymore.

To me entertaining is one of life's great pleasures, but there is a definite art to being a good host.

The preparation and clean up can often be daunting too, but I never let that put me off, or get in the way of a good time.  Personally, I am up for anything that makes the process more convenient.

If you are redesigning or upgrading your kitchen around drawers, then with Fisher and Paykel you can continue that theme with DishDrawer Technology.  DishDrawers come in a myriad of sizes and shapes, tall, wide double, single and integrated to fit whatever your design requirements.

The space efficient ergonomically designed dishwasher in a drawer was created with any sized kitchen or family in mind.  They can be stacked or installed side by side to cater for any demographic.

No kitchen is too small for one of these babies.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

Today I am linked up here
Wow Us Wednesday
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