Saturday, October 31

Happy Halloween

If you celebrate it, if you don't hope you're having a lovely weekend! After the past week of baking my batooie off, I thought it would be ions before I even considered making a cupcake, let alone make a few!

Knocked these up this morning - double chocolate mini-cupcakes with ghosts and cobwebs.  We live in a community of mostly families, and it's a village-y type atmosphere, so trick or treaters are to be expected....  with their parents.

We'll be letting the kids dress up to greet the trick or treaters in a moment.  Should be a little bit of fun for them.

Thursday, October 29

Pretty in pink

It was a lovely day today at the pink ribbon breakfast I co-hosted.  Venue, company and lots of yummy treats.  Pink champagne at 10am!  I am pretty tired now - hubby and I were up until the wee hours making 5 dozen cupcakes and 7 dozen variety of biscuits... up this morning early to make fresh mini-quiches and pink popcorn...

Doesn't it look gorgeous though?  All for a good cause!


Don't forget there's still time to join in and donate!

My motivation for pink ribbon day

Today I'm off co-hosting a pink ribbon breakfast.... that might explain why my blog's been a bit bare yesterday and today.

I'm really pleased to say that I've raised $275.00 from online donations, and tomorrow hopefully we can raise more.

To me, pink ribbon day used to be a charity that I would support in a small way - buy a badge, pen, cupcake or some similar type merchandise and not give it much thought.... but then I met a colleague at work that took me a little step closer.  In her 30's like me, she was newly married and looking at starting a family, without her mother.

Her mother had passed away in her late teens/early twenties and left behind herself, two brothers and a husband.  It pained me to learn such a vivacious, generous spirited and caring person like herself didn't have a Mum - growing up doesn't finish when we turn eighteen.  No mother to share her engagement, wedding and most recently the arrival of her beautiful baby boy.  She couldn't ask her Mum about her pregnancies, share those special life-changing moments.

Imagine that.  Imagine leaving your babies behind.. Imagine my kids growing up without me.  We did have a close call almost two years ago, where I almost did die - thank goodness that wasn't a reality for my girls.

So I want to make sure I can help promote and assist the pink ribbon campaign.  For my friend, for her Mum, for my girls.

Do you have a motivation for pink ribbon day?

Wednesday, October 28

The afternoon that made me change my mind about the food I eat..

This is a long post.  But bear with me, please!

Recently I had the most enlightening afternoon.  It was a Sunday, and my hubby and frills dropped me down to Manly Wharf... I embarked on my ferry journey, Sushi in one hand, Sun Herald in the other and sat in silence reading the paper uninterrupted, taking in Sydneys' sights - the familiar ones I took in daily on my commute to and from work for many years.

I then walked around Circular Quay, I looked and felt like a tourist.  Although I have been there too many times to count, it was like the fist time again, I took photos I breathed in Sydney and its' beautiful harbour and made my way to the Sydney Opera House.

I was there to listen to the Slow Food Movements' "Padre", Carlo Petrini. 

Carlo the founder of the Slow Food Movement and the Non Profit organisation 'Terra Madre' (translates to Mother Earth) which is in 150 countries worldwide.  Maggie Beer is Australias' founding member.

Carlo is Italian, and speaks with an interpreter.. but there is no barrier when it comes to his passion and inspiring manner.  He told us of some experiences that confused, perplexed and drove him to start the movement.  One that will stay with me forever is this:

Carlo comes from a small town in North Italy in Piedmont - it's called 'Bra'.  Piedmonts' regional dish is Pepperonata - a dish of capsicums, tomato, garlic and tomates using Piedmonts' local Capsicums.  These square shaped capsicums grown in the area since forever.   He decided after a long overseas trip he would fly into Rome, and drive to Milan, passing through Bra, which he hadn't visited in about 6 years.

He popped into a local eatery, one he had visited since he was a boy and was a family business.  All he could think about on the trip up is how delicious the pepperonata was going to be, how it represented the produce and the culture of his hometown.  He stepped into the eatery, and was comforted by the familiarity of the decor and the local face, and ordered his Pepperonata.  He was excited.  It arrived, and took a bite, and then spat it out.  It tasted horrible.  He said it didn't taste like anything.  He called the chef over, asked how they prepared it.  Sounded about right.  Asked what was different, they said they were getting their capsicums from Holland.  He was in disbelief.. 'why'? 

Apparently, because they were cheaper and grown hydroponically, and were all the perfect size/identical so they could fit 32 in a box.

'But they don't taste like anything, can't you get the local ones instead'
'There are no local ones, they couldn't compete with the imports'
'So what are the farmers doing now?  Are they ruined?' he was concerned.
'Oh, they are growing tulip bulbs, and export them to Holland'.


The aims of Slow Food is to make food good, clean and fair.

Good: Fresh, flavoursome and seasonal, satisfying the senses and part of local culture
Clean:  Produced in harmony with the environment and in ways that respect the earth, its animals, plants and peoples' health.
Fair:  by which farmers and consumers benefit fairly from production and purpose

In other words - we should try:
Not over-producing - keeping the crops to a level that doesn't harm the soil, being seasonal etc.
Buying and supplying local - reducing carbon footprint - understand where your food comes from
Value the skills of farmers, allow that to be passed down, appreciate the difference - pay a little more to nurture local produce.

It all got me thinking.  Yes, I do buy local, we buy from farmgate and the abbatoir.  Yes, I try to eat as seasonally as possible.  But No.  I might not be doing the best I can.

I have bought fish and seafood from Asia and I have bought in my inbetween shops fruit from the other side of the country when I should really be supporting local produce from my state, no matter what the price.

So I could be doing a whole lot better.  I have no idea if fruit and vegetables from large chain supermarkets or fruit barns (i.e. not farmers markets) are being farmed in an overproductive market.  Sometimes I'm not 100% sure they are as local as they say they are.  I will go the extra (literal) miles to make sure I know in future.    Our vegetable garden will help us this summer eat seasonally, understand how much we consume.  Be mindful of how much we waste.

Carlo told us we produce enough food to feed 12 billion people on planet of 6.3 billion, yet 1 billion still starve.  

Are you willing to give up taste/culture for a few dollars?  Not me.  The most memorable quote of the day: "When I was a child, food fell on the ground, we picked it up & kissed it. It had value, but now it only has a price..."   how sadly true that is.

I got to briefly chat with Carlo whilst he signed my book Slow Food Nation - he has warm eyes and a genuine manner.  It was an enormous honour to listen to him.  I shall be forever grateful for what he taught me.. and in turn, my family.  The book is wonderful... would recommend it to any food or produce enthusiast.

A huge thank you to Lorraine who was able to secure me the ticket and the lovely Arwen and Trish for the excellent company and post-event discussion!

Tuesday, October 27

BlogThis Challenge: $200 to spend on Etsy, what to buy?

I used to frequent Etsy quite regularly but to be honest, I can't remember the last time I bought something!  I bought a few decals from there - I have Christmas decals on my front door from last year (I know, bad, but they're so pretty - promise I'll take them down this new year!)

So here they are!  I actually struggled, isn't that funny, usually I don't!

Something for the kids, for me and the house... a good mix I think!

Top Five Tuesday: Places to go within 10km radius - play along!

This may take a little bit of thinking but it doesn't have to be somewhere exotic, it can be in your house!

Here's mine:
1. In my garden  or my kitchen on a spring day just relaxing
2. In bed watching a movie.. or reading.. without interruptions
3. Bayview with the kids in summer - we go swmming, it's a kid-friendly inland beach

4. Church Point- great little RSL, catch the ferry, laid-back - love it.. oh to live there!

5. Bonds Nursery - good for lazy sunday breakfast - it's got a playground attached so the kids can play and we can talk!  Gardening inspiration, great little homewares section..  You could walk around for hours, it's enormous.

Monday, October 26

Make it from Scratch Carnival #139 - Return to Oz Halloween Style

I'm so very pleased to be hosting this weeks' make it from scratch carnival! It's a special Halloween edition this week with so many Halloween contributions!  Here in Australia Halloween isn't as widely observed, but I personally would love to visit the US or Canada to have much more fun with it!   I'll be reading many blogs in the coming weeks to live a little vicariously in the meantime! 

Cindy from My Recycled Bags presents this gorgeous recycled Halloween pails from you'll never guess what!?  Aren't they cute?

Not sure what to do with hallowed out pumpkins? Try making some of Katies' One bowl Pumpkin Muffins (which you can also make bread with the mix).  I could literally smell them off the page! Yumm! Another great recipe from Kitchen Stewardship!  Katie also has submitted a whole 
Rina over at Gotta Little Spice to Fill also shares a pumpkin muffin recipe this week - but with a little spice.. look how pretty they are!  She's used the Pioneer Womans' Recipe - Pumpkin Spiced Muffins with cream cheese frosting. Yum.....

If Muffins aren't your style, but you like the spice, use butternut pumpkins/squash in the recipe that  at Cheap Healthy Good has submitted this week for our blog carnival -  Roasted Butternut Squash with Moroccan Spices  I love a good combination of spices.  Yum.
Here's another healthy use of butternut squash and is very similar to my own Pumpkin soup - Creamy Butternut Squash Soup presented by the Backyard Grower - looks silky and warm and comforting doesn't it?

Brighten your Halloween without breaking your budget - dress up your house and your children's safety flashlights as well as dressing them in costumes with these two homemade crafts. Easy-to-make and using lots of materials from around the house!. Read more here
If you. like a lot of the worlds' population is enamoured with Stephanie Meyers' Twilight book (and movie) series, head over to and see their ideas for celebrating Halloween with a Twilight Twist - costumes, decorations and games..
If you are still stuck for a Halloween Costume, check out this post at Star Costumes blog - 15 Books to inspire awesome halloween costume ideas.
How fabulous is this?  Make your own Bellydancing costume for Halloween! Crafty Rose at the Fine Craft Guild shows us how!
And lastly on the Halloween Costumes - Len Penzo dot com has some frugal and practical (and quite funny!) Halloween Costume ideas for dressing your family (including Mum and Dad) on a budget!

Doesn't this look inviting? It's Cream of Broccoli Soup - submitted this week by the Homemaking Helper.  We've had a couple of days of cool weather here, this looks like just the thing to warm the cockles!

Mr Salsa has a great recipe for homemade Bean Salsa this week - a great addition to your celebration table.   (Aussies might want to know what great northern beans are - they are cannelini beans.)
Abi at The Lighter Side submitted the recipe for English Tea Muffins - if you're after a bit of sticky indulgence, I think you've found the right recipe here!

Oh My.  This recipe is one at the top of my most droolworthy list... I am SO making this! Kristia from Family Balance Sheet shows us how to make Apple Gingerbread Cake.  Oh my.  *drool*

While we're on apples, apples here in Sydney are at their cheapest at the moment as we're at the end of harvest season, but any time of the year is a great time for Homemade Apple Pie isn't it?  Bargaineering has a quick apple pie recipe that is great when you're in a hurry, or even if you're not!

I love this submission too!  15 Rice Quickies - those of you who buy seasoned rice packages - take it OFF the shopping list -Annette from Craft Stew has fifteen different varieties to share, spice up your next dinner, or even have cold for lunch!  I will be trying a few of these for sure!

Cyndi from Beading Arts shows us how to make these gorgeous little beaded flowers!  She warns though - they are addictive!  Wouldn't they be a lovely embellishment on your winter hat?  Or us Aussies coming into warmer weather - a lovely necklace or a ring?

I love how Cyndi shows you a very step-by-step view so even if you are a beginner, everything looks achievable!

Our flagship blog, Make it from Scratch, shows how to make this adorable book.  A great  Christmas present for work colleague, Kris Kringle or School Teacher don't you think?  I would love a Christmassy one to put my Christmas recipes/memories in!  What would you put in it?

Ever been on the phone and forgotten about that 'something' on the stove?  Had a dodgy toaster that burnt your toast (I have!)  Don't you hate that?  Home Life Weekly gives the tip of the century to get that burnt smell GONE.  Thank you Alex!

Hope you've enjoyed this carnival!  Thanks for visiting and please help spread the word by linking through to your own blogs, and use the social media buttons below to Stumble, Digg etc!

Next weeks' carnival is hosted at  Make it from Scratch -  
Anyone who makes anything from scratch can submit!

Plus.....if you want MORE....
Katie at Kitchen Stewardship also invites you to check out the OctoberFest Carnival of SuperFoods: Un-processed foods edition Katie shares her100% whole wheat tortillas and Mexican Rice, and bloggers  linked up their "Un-Proessed Foods", or things that most people buy in the store that they make at home.

We have an Opera House in our garden!

Well, it's been busy times in the vegetable garden, many transplants from the baby garden for a start.
(more) tomatoes, (more)  lettuce, celery, (more) rhubarb, climbing beans...  we've also been planting more marigolds but we are finding the white moths are loving the lettuces and we're not wanting to use too much pesticide, decided we'd try something else.

I got this idea from Gardening Australia, looked easy so we thought we'd give it a try...

Attach poly pipe to star pickets on each side of the garden, with cable ties
(we got the poly pipe - 19mm - from our local recycling yard for $10 for the lot!)

We then bought bird mesh from Bunnings - 4x4m - we needed 4 to cover the area, and we tied them together with nylon string. (I tried to sew together with a cotton channel but my sewing machine was a little unco-operative) Hubby and I did this on Saturday night whilst watching movies..

This morning we putted it over and secured it around the chicken wire border.

Looks good right!? (Well it does now it's secure!)

The netting cost us $5.99 each so all up our agri-tunnel cost us $33.96!  (We already had the rest!)  If we were to add the star pickets, cable ties and maybe some tent pegs to secure net to the ground, I think you'd be adding about another $40.  It's still cheap!

I'm nick-naming it the Opera House - what do you think?

The lady who did it on Gardening Australia was in Darwin, and covered hers with shadecloth, so if you were in a hotter area, you might prefer to do that? 

I'll update you in the week with our crops, they are going so well!

Mondayitis Cooking : Oven Baked Risotto

I've loved this recipe since I learned of it at Lorraines' Blog Not Quite Nigella.  Hers is a cheese risotto and it's yummy, don't get me wrong, but you must know by now I love to tweak!  So I have many variations as I encourage you to also, it's fun!  The great thing about this is not only is it cheaty -  but it's also a bit of a 'set and forget'... about 5 mins in preparation at most and it's perfect to set up, bath kids or have a shower etc. and then it's ready when you're done.  We've eaten this for a warm lunch on cool days. I've even jaffled leftovers too!

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup pasta sauce of choice
1 cup filleted/diced tomatoes with 1 crushed garlic clove, 4 chopped basil leaves 1 small sprig oregano leaves, 1 tb tomato paste and 1/2 cup red wine.

3/4 cup shredded/grated tasty cheese
1/2 cup shredded/grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan/grada pardano cheese

Good lashing of Pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees c
Add all ingredients into a oven proof dish

Cover with aluminium foil, and bake for 40minutes.
Take foil off, give it a stir, and then put it back in the oven without foil for a further 5 minutes.


Here's Lorraine's original recipe...

Pink Ribbon Day! We've got a fantastic giveaway!

Although it's officially pink ribbon month, today is also the heralded day to 'think pink'.  I myself will be celebrating pink ribbon day by cooking for the pink ribbon breakfast I have helped organise this Thursday... there's still plenty of time to decide to fundraise or hold a pink ribbon morning tea you know!  Just visit or

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in Australia.  It is estimated that in 2009, 13,698 new cases will be diagnosed in women. New diagnoses are also expected in 106 men.
The incidence of breast cancer is increasing, but with continued support and funding from organisations like the National Breast Cancer Foundation, improvements in research mean survival rates are on the rise.

Sunday, October 25

Sunday Baking Project: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I like to shake it up a bit and divert from your usual butter cupcakes, and a great excuse to dig up some of our gorgeous sweet carrots from the garden.  These are moist and lovely for a rainy afternoons with a cup of tea... today is pretty wet here in the Hills, and this has sent the most beautiful aroma through the house... We'll be sharing these with my Nanny and my sister and her family who are leaving to live in Cairns this week... a great adventure for them, but sad for us - our little girls will mis their cousins very much.

No mixer required for the cake, and if your a dab-hand at mixing with a whisk you may be able to do the frosting too by hand, but I don't think I could be bothered!

2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
2 cups grated carrot
2 large apples, grated (I used one red, one green for some colour)
1 cup raisins, currants or sultanas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

250 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c
Grate your carrot and apples, set aside
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon, set aside

In another bowl, combine eggs, sugar and oil and whisk until it thickens

Add oil,egg and sugar mix to the flour mix, whisk until well combined.

Stir in carrot and apples half at a time with a spatula

Finally add raisins and nuts, stir thoroughly.

Put into cupcake papers (I have used Robert Gordon Australia Polka Dot ones here) and bake for 15-20mins - test by skewer method.

Let cool.

For frosting, whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, add icing sugar one cup at a time and whip into cream cheese until well combined.  Frost with piping bag or knife.


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