Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So, That Was Christmas {happy new year}

Christmas has been and gone and the New Year is right upon us.

As I take a moment to reflect upon recent days I realise I am indeed an old lady. While the childlike part of me still wishes for the Christmas holiday to be full of wonder and carols and sleepless excitement, the adult part of me yearns for the same thing it always does - rest.

We all came down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve. The children spent two whole days and nights lingering in the bathroom while Dave and I wiped up messes, tears and our own disappointment at the lack of any real sleep.

What are the chances, really? A stomach bug for Christmas!?

My devastation was palpable.

For me Christmas is all about a hearty feast, champagne and salty ocean swims. This year the rain and impending sense of 'vomit' made our celebrations far more somber than usual. That and the fact that my darling brother and his wife left on an Australia wide adventure just days before. They were missed and things were quiet.

It just didn't feel like Christmas this year. It didn't even feel restful or rejuvenating.

But while I was schlepping about and morning the loss of my own Christmas Spirit, the children were filled with overwhelming joy at having most of their family at their immediate disposal. They relished in the opportunity to have at least four adults willing to construct lego, play catch and carefully place together puzzles.

They were overcome with the excitement of revealing cheap plastic toys, fishing rods, frisbees, body boards and books from unenthusiastically wrapped parcels - their gratitude was immediate and lasting.

This Christmas, I was again reminded of the selfless joy in parenting. While I was exhausted, sick and truth be told, a touch depressed, my kids were exhausted, stick and absolutely brimming with indescribable joy. So in their joy, I found mine.

Tonight, Dave and I will sit with a cheese platter and a cider and we will talk about the year that was. We'll make plans and resolutions for the year that is to come and tomorrow, when we rise, we'll start to live them.

See you tomorrow, love birds. For now...

H A P P Y    N E W    Y E A R

a new year, a new dream

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stills: A Weekly collection

1. Jewelled kale salad from our Polish family Christmas.

2. Little Pip with her lady beetle shoes and frock.

3. Pretty much the best thing our kids go this Christmas was lego. It was SO lovely to stop everything, sit down and enjoy their company whilst perusing the instruction manuals.

4. Our tired looking tree and it's bountiful / humble collection of gifts.

5. The dinner table at my family christmas. Pork, apple sauce, roast veg and a good afternoon nap.

6. My little rays of sunshine after trying out their snorkels in a bucket of water. Childhood joy.

7. The first time Dave and I stopped. A glass of red on the deck after the kids were in bed.

8. Charming hand printed voile scarf/ sarong from Bohemian Traders.

After a few lovely comments and suggestions from some of you, I've decided to keep the Stills Collection going in 2014. Thanks so much to those of you who continue to join in, I really appreciate it, even if I don't get to comment on each post every week, I do make a point of visiting.

Oh also, I'm offering 35% off all 4 MONTH side bar advertising bought between now and the new year - just use the code TAKE35 at checkout.. If you have a blog or business you'd like to grow in 2014, I'd love to have you on board. Please note all prices are in US dollars so are reduced quite dramatically when converted to Aussie $$.

Thanks so much for your support.


Well, that's 52 weeks of portraits for 2013. I would have liked to finish with amazingly crafted, beautifully composed, perfectly edited images but instead I've got an honest reflection of our life at week 52. Blurry images, poor lighting and as per usual, messy floors. December has been wild. Like totally insane.

Zeph: This year, my little darling, I have seen you grow and mature in ways I could have never imagined. You, my spirited boy, are gentle, loving, generous AND strong willed. You care for your sisters with a tenderness that inspires the rest of us. You are joy filled and larger than life.

Pippi: This Christmas you were given a lady beetle tutu (complete with polka dotted shoes) by your grandparents. You put in on in record time and were discovered sleeping in it later that evening. You've really revealed yourself to us this year, lady baby numero uno. You have a temper that you're still learning to master and a playful nature that sees you keeping up with that big brother of yours. You excel in long warm cuddles and manipulative, heart melting smiles.

Elke: The final piece to our Puzzle. You are one contented little lady. Happy to watch the others play but eager to be close by....you know, close enough to be injured. In your 8 months of life you've sustained more injuries that your siblings put together. You're a snuggle pot and a chatter box - you fir right in.

Thanks to Jodi for inspiring all of blogland to take part in this project. It's been fun!

In other news, I'm just slightly (read MASSIVELY) excited to tell you about all the stuff I've got planned for this little blog next year!


I don't even know what day it is, or when the new year begins but I do know that I'll be seeing you soon, my friends.

xo Em


The highlights

Then There Were Three
The Difference
The Giant Bump

also, I'm offering 35% off all 4 MONTH side bar advertising bought between now and the new year - just use the code TAKE35 at checkout.. If you have a blog or business you'd like to grow in 2014, I'd love to have you on board. Please note all prices are in US dollars so are reduced quite dramatically when converted to Aussie $$.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Salted Butter Caramels

Salted Caramels are easily one of the MOST delicious treats that can hit your mouth so I'm super excited to be sharing this luscious festive recipe from Sophie over at Local is Lovely (look, i'm a Sophie devotee, what can I say). I'm planning on making this one for our new years eve celebrations!

The bringing together of butter and salt is one of cooking's oldest and most successful pairings. And having spent an evening recently with two lovely people bringing salt and butter together in their own little road-show, I was inspired to do so in my own favourite way - caramels.

Salted butter caramels

My kitchen has seen many failed attempts at caramel making and the below recipe is the result of much trial and error. It's also, trust me, one of the most delicious and satisfying sweet things you'll ever make. Everyone always goes ga ga for caramels and I really believe that a plate of these with a few cherries and perhaps some chunks of store-bought nougat is all you need for dessert at any gathering. Posh or otherwise.

The only tricky thing with these is that you do need a candy thermometer (great to have in the drawer if you do any kind of sweet-making or preserving, think honey comb, toffees, jams etc and aren't expensive, mine cost about $6). I started making caramels after discovering David Lebovitz's awesome blog

10 hours ago ... I tried. I gave it my best shot to try and make)  and have since cooked with, tweaked and loved his recipes countless times. Here's my version of one of his greats. 

200mls pouring cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 cup caster sugar
100g butter

Line a square brownie tin with baking paper and lightly cover with cooking spray. Place the cream, half of the salt and 1/2 of the butter in a small saucepan and bring just to boiling point. Set aside for a moment. Combine the golden syrup and sugar in another saucepan, fit your thermometer to the edge of the pan and stir until combined then let bubble away until mixture reaches 140C. Remove from heat then stir through the cream mixture until smooth. Return to heat and bring the mixture back up to about 120C. Remove from the heat one last time then stir through remaining butter and pour into prepared tin. 

Thanks so much Soph, hopefully we can devour this together sometime soon!

See more amazing Receipes over at Sophie's blog Local is Lovely

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Hand Made Christmas

Christmas is such a joyous occasion when one manages to avoid the shops and the maxing out of ones credit cards. In Dave's family, we enjoy a Hand Made Christmas to ensure we do just that - stay well away the local shopping centres when they are at their most busy. 

This year we hosted dinner at our house. In the absence of flowers for our simple table setting, I gathered greens from the vegetable gardens. Everyone bought a Polish dish and we feasted like good old fashioned Polish should.

Each year the gifts are thoughtful, beautifully constructed and entirely personalised. It certainly helps that Dave's family is made up of Artists, Musicians and Quilters. Below you can see the recipients with their gifts

 A customised Glass Boat Portrait. 
{commissions available through wood|glass art}

 Fully hand crafted western shirt complete with removable tassels.

 Knotted Yarn Necklace and oversized floral beach bag

 Custom built double decker egg tray.

 Folk Fibers inspired quilt

 1940's inspired frame made to suit an artwork I was given last year.

 Bottle Neck Slide.

 Bespoke gardeners hat 

We here at The Beetle Shack hope that Christmas was a totally loved up occasion at your place. Thanks so much for popping in here this year, you've made writing this blog such a pleasure.

See you soon, lovebirds.

xo em

Monday, December 23, 2013

Stills: A Weekly Collection {it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas}

1. That right there would be my family of origin. What a bunch.

2. Christmas party frock from Country Road and Mythology Bag from Bohemian Traders

3. The view from our hotel room.

4. Our constant companion.

5. Simple table dressing for Dave's family Christmas (more on that later)

6. My awesome brother and his beautiful wife have taken off on a sojourn around our sunburnt country. They've loaded up the truck, packed the dog and hit the road. If you see that handsome face on the road, give him (and his lovely Nel) a MASSSSIVE hug from me (okay, you can kiss 'em if you like).

7. Dave raised a pig, butchered it and bought it to our Christmas table. I've overwhelmingly proud of him.

I can't wait to see what your week looks like!

xo em

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Zeph: Upsidowntown.

Pip: Hey Babe.

Elk: Content.

See you later for our last Stills Collection of the year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I have been SO excited about sharing this post with you! Please welcome the AMAZINGLY beautiful and talented Tahnee from 'Milk Please Mum', one of the most stunning blogs on the interwebz. Tahnee is a Photographer and Mumma by day and a Blogger by night. She is also really attractive, just sayin'. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS FOLKS! The festive cheer is in full swing at our place, not hard when the tree went up in November as per the kids' request.. everything is as it should be - 24 hour carols are driving the husband nuts, I will only drink out of St Nick or Rudolph clad cups, I'm on a roll with the Christmas shopping,the school grind is over- holidays are here- YESS! 

Em asked me to drop in and share some Christmassy craft stuff with you, thinking perhaps you'd like to clean glue off your table every day between now and the BIG day or sweep up wayward glitter for the next three months, maybe get your bake on? She's nice like that. All in the name of some good festive cheer. I've got lots to share - almost all of it old and rehashed (complete with some very ordinary photograph quality - wow what a difference twelve months can make!). But I won't apologise! The good stuff is worth repeating. Classic really.

Okay, this is going to be short and sharp. O-kaaay, scrap the short bit but I'm gonna be sharp - bark my ideas at you like orders. Cause I know you're busy. You've got lists to write, menus to plan, online shopping to do, gifts to think of for those annoying people who are so bloody hard to buy for. I get it.

So here we go.

Reindeer stamped wrapping paperGot kids? Yes! Several? Even better. Put them to work. Get them going on some stamping which you can convert into little reindeer heads. Easy, colourful and most importantly - fun!

If you're a painting-with-smalls-drives-me-insane kinda person, then use the mountains of artwork they brought home from the mess they made at kindy/playgroup/childcare all year that you kept so lovingly, for this very moment. When giving a gift wrapped in my child's artwork, the recipient has always commented on how fantastic it is, and also lingers a little longer to enjoy the outside of the gift before finding out what's on the inside!

Cards and gift tags - make your own! Another one for the smalls. That old classic, the potato stamp, just keeps giving. You don't even need fancy paper or card, though please, do splash out if you feel the desire! Cut your spud in half and use cookie cutters to make a shape in the bottom of each half. Press down about 5mm and then use a sharp knife to trim the excess away from the outside of your shape. Blot on some kitchen towel to get rid of the starch. Remember anything goes here. If your kids are too little to take direction, let them be. If they stamp a sheet of paper all higgledy piggledy you can chop it up into pieces, punch a hole, tie some string and use as gift tags.

Anything-goes-garland! If you're an avid crafter then you'll have plenty of supplies lying around. And if not, head to your local $2/reject shop where you can find plenty of cheapo supplies. We used buttons, large sequins, cut up pieces of coloured felt, recycled christmas decorations, old lantern cases, coloured wooden beads, broken necklaces.

Make yourself a cuppa and put the carols on. Thread your needle onto some twine/embroidery thread/thick cotton and start threading. Make a pattern if you like, or if that feels too hard, just reach for whatever is closest and see what you come up with at the end (our preferred method). My eldest did this happily for about an hour, while my four year old was more interested in playing with and finding matching buttons amongst the hundreds spread all over the table, but he still sat still and gave me his input into what I was to thread onto his garland.

Hang on the wall or turn into a little mobile with some sticks and fishing line, then hang from your ducted heating vent!

Advent calendar! We've had a few different ones over the years - a fairly traditional one, filling numbered pockets with treats, stickers, activities etc. Last year we made an advent tree (idea loosely based on something seen on Pinterest) which was a big hit. It was both decorative and useful!

This year we're trying something different again. Late November I hit up Pinterest again for some calendar ideas only to feel a little lack lustre. Beautiful, of course, but nothing seemed to do it for me and then a little idea popped into my head. Why don't we try adding this year, instead of subtracting? It's a bit back to front, given the whole idea of advent is to count DOWN, but it was an idea the kids showed genuine excitement for when I suggested it, and the excitement is still going strong.

We're making a progressive Christmas artwork across the twenty four days, taking the time to sit down together each day to draw something to add to our big picture, either working alone or collaborating. Unsurprisingly, our smallest isn't overly interested but our biggest two have jumped right in. We have even seen bedtime slip by over an hour some nights because I couldn't bear to disturb the creative SILENCE produced by the concentration needed to make their beautiful creations they were so genuinely enveloped in. This one has been a winner! We're still in the early stages, but I think it's going to be a cracker when it's done. We have visitors arriving a week before Christmas who will be required to contribute to our artwork in exchange for a bed. This is the stuff to pack away (probably laminate first) and bring out in ten years so the kids can laugh at their funny - and BRILLIANT - drawings, and we parents can cry and wonder WHERE DID THE YEARS GO?!!

Christmas pillowcase! Raid your basket of fabric scraps and stitch until you've got enough to make a pillowcase. If the tricky inside out foldy thing on the inside at the end freaks you out, leave it out (but really, it is much easier than it looks). Just sew your two rectangles together, or one long rectangle folded in half, and you'll have your very own festive pillowcase, sure to encourage dreams of dancing sugarplums and all that.

How about a very merry felt appliqué cushion cover? That clever Christie knows her stuff.

Of course, you can always adapt the personalised pillow with a Christmas theme, or leave out the festive cheer and use your child's beautiful drawing as a unique gift for the grandparents or teacher.

Nativity scene! We made these last year which the kids played with for all of December. Super clever Joel has one ready for you this year too, so take your pick.

Edible crafts! I don't know about you, but I totally count baking as a craft. If you have to draw on or glue something together - even if you're using icing - then it's craft. And here's where you can incorporate your potato stamped cards and gift tags and reindeer stamped wrapping paper.

Some of our favourites for kindy/school gifts for little friends are rudolph biscuits and reindeer food.

My go-to edible gift this time of year is peppermint bark. Don't waste your time trying other recipes. I've tried them. They're not a PATCH on this one. Make it. You can thank me later. Or send hate mail because you will have eaten your own body weight in bark.

Honeycomb! Brilliant, delicious and perhaps most importantly - CHEAP! I try my hardest to keep a lid on spending this time of year, both because we have to and because we want to. Excess for the sake of excess is just plain crazy. In my book, spending more doesn't equate to caring more. While handmade, edible gifts may seem cheap on the hip pocket, they are definitely time consuming. And many of us are seriously time poor at this end of the year, which for me, makes these gifts mean more than if I were to go and buy a fancy box of chocolates or shortbread to package as a gift. Many a late night is spent in my kitchen throughout December, carols on, cup of tea within reach. Packing treats into little bags and baskets to give special people in our lives is a very enjoyable craft for me.

This honeycomb recipe is the only one I have ever tried because it always works so I have never looked elsewhere (as long as you don't burn your sugar, that is). It's from Lisa McCune's (with Di Thomas) Hopscotch and Honey Joys.

Di Thomas' Honeycomb

4 tbsp golden syrup
1 cup caster sugar
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate, melted

// Mix together the golden syrup and sugar in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for approximately 7 minutes.
// Remove from the heat and add the bicarb soda, stirring through, very quickly. Pour into a lined slice tin to set (the mixture begins to set VERY quickly, so you must work fast!).
// Allow to set and cool in tin.
// If you'd like a little added indulgence, break your honeycomb into rough chunks and spread out a bit on baking paper. Drizzle melted chocolate over honeycomb and allow to set.
// Be sure to collect all the tiny leftover shards - they are perfect for a delicious ice cream topper!

Gingerbread house! Perhaps you prefer a stable? Or a little (licorice street) neighbourhood, complete with gingerbread lamp posts, cars and park bench seats? Or an itty bitty cottage on the side of your coffee? (Yes, I made those fiddly f*@#ers AND enjoyed every minute. Clearly there is something very wrong with me.)

Our little neighbourhood street prompted a Christmas Day fit out competition between the family. Everyone got involved (bar two, who slept through it all in a food coma) and we laughed and laughed. There was some serious competition and a little tradition was born. Apparently we are making the Polar Express this year  (and by 'we' they mean me..) and there will be a decorate-off between carriages. Whatever you choose to make, do it as a family. While the baking and construction can include your smalls, it is mostly a job for mum or dad. But decoration of your gingerbread creation is a job for one and all - even the grandparents!

So that's about it. I do hope there's something new in there for you to enjoy with your smalls. Thanks so much for having me, Em. Merry Christmas to your beautiful, crazy crew at The Beetleshack!

Much love to all - be safe and merry! xx

Thank you SO much Tahnee, you are amazing, obviously.