Monday, February 29, 2016

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Craft Corner Sweet Treats (in celebration of Autumn's pending arrival)












So apparently it is Autumn and we are meant to be rugging up and cooking a stew.. but we're still getting around in t-shirts, enjoying sunny afternoon picnics at the park and getting through the evening without the heater on - and that's just Melbourne!

With the odd chilly day creeping in, I am sure we will be complaining about the cold before too long which means big bowls of comfort food are on their way - savoury and sweet. Let's just concentrate on the sweet today. My favourite!

When I bake, I bake old school. Sugar, butter, full fat cream. All you IQS lovers can look away now. Of course, I do the healthy stuff for lunch boxes too, but the old everything in moderation is fine by me. My best attempt at making things marginally better for you with the sweeter stuff, is substituting caster sugar with brown sugar, but sometimes it just doesn't work. For recipes I know will be on the too-sweet side for me, I use about 3/4 of what the sugar measurement is. But if you're making a triple decker, double choc, choc chip, choc ganache covered mud cake then by all means - knock yourself out with the sugar.

Everyone seems mad for rhubarb at the moment. And with good reason! Delicious. I love it too, especially when your dear friend brings it fresh from her garden for you.

A new favourite of late has been this Rhubarb + Almond Cake. It's almost a cross between a cake and a slice, the texture is really lovely. I love that the rhubarb needs no pre cooking; it goes into the cake raw. Best served warm with a big dollop of double cream. And please don't substitute the currants with sultanas. That little third of a cup of little dark, flavour filled morsels are a match made in heaven with the rhubarb.

Rhubarb + Almond Cake
(original recipe by Donna Hay; quantities and some ingredients altered to make it baker and nut friendly for our daughter who is only allergic to some nuts)

250g finely chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g melted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup milk
icing (confectioner's) sugar for dusting, optional
full Fatty McFat double cream to serve

Preheat oven to 180C (355F). Place rhubarb, currants, brown sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Place butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, almond meal and milk in a bowl and stir to combine.

Press half the cake mixture into the base of a 22cm greased tin and top with the rhubarb mixture. Cover with remaining cake mixture and press to cover rhubarb mixture completely (use your fingers - it's a very doughy cake mixture).

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.






This cake is simply delicious and really quite light (just the cake - not the cream - obviously). It stays lovely and moist the following day or two. Any longer than that, I have no idea; it doesn't last that long at our house.

~~~

Next up - Grandma's famous lemon squares! I don't know whose Grandma we're referring to but the first time I made these lip smackingly wonderful squares, I cursed her and loved her all at once. Now, I just love her.

This slice is the perfect mix of sweet, bitter and tangy, with a traditional shortbread base. You will not be able to eat just one square. Ever. I've lost count how many times I've made this one. Whenever we visit some of our very favourite friends, I always take it because she squeals with delight when she sees it! We devour it over hot cups of tea while the kids run around making a mess.


Lemon Squares

Base
250g | 9oz | 1 cup butter
125g | 4.5oz | 1/2 cup sugar
250g | 9oz | 2.5 cups plain (all purpose) flour
pinch of salt

Topping
2 eggs
250g | 9oz | 1.5 cups sugar
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
2 lemons, juice and zest
icing sugar to decorate

Preheat oven to 160C (140C fan forced) (325F/gas 3). Grease and line a rectangular or square baking tray (22cm)* with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and salt and mix to a smooth dough. Press the dough into the base of the tin and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked and golden.

Beat the eggs and sugar until foamy. Mix in the flour, salt, lemon juice and zest. Pour the mixture over the cooled base.** Bake for a further 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool. When cool, transfer to fridge.

Sift icing sugar to coat the top (just before serving; the slice sucks the icing sugar in fairly quickly) and cut into squares. (This is the stickiest slice in the history of the WORLD so be prepared to lick your fingers and/or your knife as you cut. Only invite people over to share this slice who don't mind a bit of a lick of the knife between friends. Or be a lady and rinse 25 times between cuts.)

*Any smaller and your lemon mixture won't fit on top of the base.
**I have never actually done this part - let it cool. The first time I baked it I had no time to let it cool so just went ahead with pouring the lemon topping over and sent it straight back in the oven and it worked just fine. Actually it was bloody brilliant.






Tuesday, February 23, 2016

WEARING: IRIS MAY STYLE IN DENIM (SWOON!)





The Beetle Shack

As we all know by now, Iris May Style can do no fashion wrong. I believe this lady has found her personal style and is therefore free to run with it in glorious sophisticated abandonment. Check her out in her latest Bohemian Traders Denim. What a sight to behold! You can follow Iris May Style here.

Wearing

What denim are you wearing this week? Our Boxy Denim Jackets are getting a work out around here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

ESCAPE TO PAMBULA NSW





Anna at The Beetle Shack

We missed out little annual stop, breath and plan for the new year over Summer this year as we'd both decided to work through with busy schedules at both our jobs. So when the chance came up to take a long weekend away we were looking for somewhere super relaxing, nature-driven and we normally like to go somewhere we haven't been before. 

Pambula NSW did just the trick for out little road trip. My husband had stayed in the caravan park there as a kid but neither of us had been as adults and it ticked all of the boxes. Much like my over-zealous packing techniques I love researching houses and airbnbs to stay in when we're planning a getaway and took to compiling a list for days of all the options. It actually turned out that for the time we wanted there weren't many places suited for a couple. We went with a little newly renovated cottage that was right on Lions Beach which turned out to be a slightly more secluded spot from the main surf beach.

When we arrived I squealed like a delighted kid at the spot, the beach was in our backyard separated only by a little green belt where the locals went for their morning and evening walks everyday. We were greeted by a lovely group of roos (I sound like a such a city girl getting fuzzy over them  but they really just are amazing creatures, I never tired of seeing a cute joey face sticking out of a pouch. And don't worry that doesn't mean I turn my nose up at roo snags - such yummy lean eating! Doing our bit for the over-run farmers...) and the house was a clean and simple little cottage with painted white boards throughout and ugly by minimally styled interiors. Perfect! Plenty of space to breath! 

Our days consisted of lazy sleep ins, my love using his all-press to make us a yummy black coffee (he's totally geeking out with all his Christmas coffee toys at the moment) and then finally venturing out to final some local food and a decent milky coffee. Pretty nice life I know. Here's my quick little go for places to see and spots to eat and drink if you ever happen to visit the lovely little sleepy town of Pambula. We will definitely go back (I think it would be an awesome place for little kids) and next time we'll say extra prayers for surf-able waves. It's a bit cheeky but I kinda like that the universe always conspires to provide us with silky seas and not a set to be seen so that the Mister and I get some well earned hang time. Poor love, on our honeymoon to the ever-surfable Bali we didn't see a single decent wave in our two weeks!!! When does that happen!? I digress, the lists:

To see & do:
Pambula Markets (Rotary and a locals craft one) in town the second Sunday of every month - check local guides.
Pambula River walking track (crystal clear blue water, soft sand and amazing wildlife everywhere you turn)
Eden (a quaint little town with lots of history and amazing views from the Peninsula)
Lions Beach (this is where we stayed. I saw an Echidna on the first day fossicking about – so sublime! Amazing place to walk and play all over the rocks no matter how young or old you are*)

To eat & drink:
Sprout cafe, Eden (great organic produce, yummy fresh food and ok coffee)
Bar Beach Kiosk, Bar Beach Merimbula (this was an AMAZING spot to swim and the kiosk do a yummy brekky and decent coffee. We were spotting stingrays from our breakfast spot in the crystal clear water)
Santa Fe Mexican, Merimbula (ginormous decent food and cocktails all day. Thank you Sir!)
Wheelers Oyster Farm & Seafood Restaurant is the spot all the local sites plug but we never actually got there. It looked nice though!

Where's your go-to spot that's not too far to drive? This took us 7 hours with stops for yummy lunch along the way. And normally we do tend to go north but going south was SO refreshing.

*Oh the rocks! I was in raptures over the colours and textures. They were amazing. I sounds like a total geologist geek but do you know what, I think I'm ok with it after seeing these amazing specimens. I'll be buying a book on rocks in no time.

Sorry for the full on couple's getaway happy snaps. I was just in LOVE with the entire landscape and of course my gorgeous roman god of a husband. Feel free to scroll through, fast.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

MY KIDS ARE SO NAUGHTY, HOW DO I DISCIPLINE THEM AGAIN?





Gosh darn kids are kids, aren't they!? They're noisy and they're messy. They're rambunctious and rebellious and ratty- at least mine are.

From time to time things are calm and ordered. The young ones go to sleep without a drama, siblings enjoy happy interactions with one another and when they sing the Frozen song, they do so in perfect harmony* but most of the time, it's gosh darn chaos 'round here.

 Exhaustion is at an all time high since our first little lady baby Olive Pip started school some 3 weeks ago. Hot salty tears flow like rain and deep black tyres are a permanent fixture around our eyes. We're sleeplessly sleepy, it's safe to say.

Obviously, when the kids are tired they're a bazillion-gillion times more likely to rebel which means we've had some overwhelming days here at the shack. So much so, it's hard to know where to begin - eat your veggies, don't tell tales, do what you're told the first time, tidy your room, eat your veggies, go to sleep, relax, slow down, don't talk so much you sound like a mosquito buzzing in my ear, slow down, don't run in the house, be kind to your brother, don't pull hair, try not to flood the bathroom every single blessed time you have a bath, be nice, speak kindly, stop acting like a five year old, oh you're actually five, speak slowly, slow down, brush your teeth, eat your veggies and so on.

On any given day there is A LOT to navigate and truth be told, some days I throw my hands in the air and say 'let's get pizza for dinner' but in the long run, that doesn't solve any problems, does it? **

We need to get on top of this debacle called life and regain some sense of control- but the task must be broken down into bite sized pieces. I mean there is no way we can expect to conquer years of inadequate patently in one short week, is there?

First on the list is sleep. Once we conquer sleep, we can address the myriad of other issues.

And how do we solve the problem of sleep, I hear you ask, dear reader (mum, I know you're out there). WITH BRIBERY, OF COURSE.

Today, we sat the kids down and informed them that of they could go to sleep 'fuss free' in 15 minutes each night this week they could have a Lunch Order on Friday as a reward. HUZZAH. It's now 8:07 and I have 3 sleeping children. CALL ME WONDER MOTHER - I'm ready for the accolades.

Only 4 more nights to go.

Wow. that was mammoth.

Tell me, how old are your children, do they go to sleep easily (say no, throw a dog a bone) and what time do they wake up? And while we're at it, do you bribe them or are you judging me?




*okay, that's a lie.

** we all know it does- no cooking, no cleaning, carb loading and beer. Amen. Thank you.





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WEARING | DENIM JACKETS FOR THE WIN



Yep, I'm obsessed with these denim jackets. They're seriously soft from the very first wear and a really flattering cut. Boxy through the body but neat on the shoulders - perfect for all shapes and sizes, not to mention can be worn for every occasion.

I'm teaming the blue denim with a black Scoop Neck Dress and sneakers for busy warehouse days - a comfort-first ensemble but 'dressed' enough for the office/school run/grocery store if necessary (and lets face it- they're all always necessary). I sized up to a Medium in the blue wash for a super casual look. Gosh this is interesting.

The Linen Smock in white is the perfect base for the Black Wash Jacket. I got in the Small for a dressier look. I won't be able to button it up but wanted it more fitted across the shoulders.


Tah-Dah!

Bohemian Traders Premium Denim Jacket for the WIN!!

WEARING

Scoop Neck Dress | size S
Denim Jacket | size M
Chanel Boy Bag
Adidas Sneakers

Linen Smock | size S | currently on sale
Zoe Wittner Shoes



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

PREPPING FOR A (SHORT) ROAD TRIP


Anna at The Beetle Shack

Heading off on any trip can be stressful and a little overwhelming. Especially if, like what I can only assume in most families is the norm, you're taking off during a busy time for the purpose of getting away and stopping. It can all seem a bit counterproductive adding yet another thing to your to do list.

Something that I get teased for but has truly made all the difference in getting away in not too much of a flap is starting to pack ahead of time, rather than the night before. I think it also adds to the anticipation of the trip which is half the fun in my world and it means you can be as indecisive as you like. Think of it as your physical short list which you'll then make a final edit of right before you go. I like to get my suitcase out and as I'm sorting washing or tidying up I throw things that I know I'll want to take with me in my bag. I don't have children so if you do and you're reading this thinking "honey ain't nobody got time for that" forgive me. We live a pretty chaotic lifestyle at our place with not much time in between work, sport and play too but if you can make the time (15mins one night here, 10mins one morning there) to potter around and pack, who knows you might even enjoy it!

The other school of thought I subscribe to is to take all your favourite things! It's a nice way to end up with all the clothing, shoes, accessories etc that you love and want to enjoy and be comfortable in while you're away. And that way you don't have to worry too much about making the right decisions – take your favourite jacket, jumper, jeans, dress, shorts, skirt, undies, cozzie etc and soon you'll have too many things to actually lug around. That's what I love about a road trip – no carry on limits!

So that's fashion and your suitcase sort of covered in a random flow of babble. Onto my other favourite thing – food! We love cooking while we're away. We totally love checking out little cafes and restaurants too but part of relaxing for me is having the time and headspace to cook. My all time road trip high moment is hitting a little road side produce stall on the way into your destination and grabbing whatever fruit and vege looks good. To ensure our culinary experiments are all properly seasoned I love packing my special olive oil, salt and pepper (and some herbs from the garden if I can be bothered!) Also, wine. And beer. And Baileys. And whiskey. These are all top of the priority list and normally packed first in our car, along with the babies (aka surfboard options). Oh and snacks for the car! I am seriously addicted to chips of any kind so we always have ample as our holiday treat. And chocolate but that goes without saying right?

Ok you've got your threads, your eats, your drinks so looking at this road trip business as a sensory experience the only thing left (as you'll be seeing your sights as you go, clever aren't I?) is your tunes! We (are totally dorky don't worry I realise this) always buy a new album or two on iTunes once we're on the road and listen to the album through about 100 times. It's a nice way to fall in love with some new music and do it to death so that you never want to listen to it again but if you happen to hear it, it'll remind you of your trip! I think that's everything. Hope I haven't forgotten anything but then you always do when you go away don't you!? Last thought for the day – most places have shops! So don't stress or just make it up as you go, it's half the place of being in a new place. We'll get to the actual trip part at some point... Until then happy adventure's y'all.

Monday, February 15, 2016

WEARING | MOONFLOWER SHORTS & LUCY LACE BLOUSE (cheeky cream & white together!)


Anna at The Beetle Shack

Eek! It's my wearing debut, be nice folks! I've forgotten how to smile somewhere between high school and now.
What better way to kick start my foray into the world of wearing (and a lovely Monday!) than with a big ole myth-busting! I've thought myself quite the clever one pairing colours together that my mum would recoil from. This little Cream & White ensemble came together in a hurried flurry of running out the door for work! And if I may say so myself the "White & Cream should never be seen thing" kind of works. My beautiful embroidered shorts are in the loveliest cotton muslin (the same as Em's top and dress) and light as a feather to wear on hot, sticky days. I use the pockets everyday. And confession, I feel like a 'cool girl' in these. They're a bit "high fashun" in my mind. The gorgeous top is also cotton and everytime I wear it I get the sweetest compliments. It's one of those special pieces that feels a bit like a vintage / treasure chest find. If I wasn't already married I'd place this lovingly in my glory box. Tangent.
I think the thing that might help ground the whole look is the accidental dark accessories – black purse, sunnies and my fav navy suede sandals. Another fashion faux pas that I love being all bad ass and challenging – Navy and Black together. So good. More on that at a later date. When I take this little look into Spring I'm super pumped to add my brand spanking new Black Denim Jacket – gah! What fun!

Thanks for having me. Are there any colours you love to clash and experiment with? I think I've found a new obsession.

WEARING

Will add to look: Bohemian Traders Black Denim Jacket | s
LouenHide purse
AM Eyewear Sunnies
Sportscraft Sandals

Friday, February 12, 2016

SOME THOUGHTS ON VALENTINE'S DAY

Anna at The Beetle Shack

In our house when the topic of Valentine's Day plans comes up we have been known to smile smugly at each other while explaining that we don't "do" Valentine's Day. If we're being nice we'd probably say that we celebrate our love for each other every day and if we're being cynical we'd say that we think it's trashy and too "American" for our little Aussie establishment. But this year (as with so many other things that I've often taken for granted that we just "do" or "don't do") I've been trying to look at this from a different perspective. Maybe in our busy, chaotic weeks a day set aside to celebrate the ones you love isn't such a bad idea. It's not "Celebrate People You Hate Day". It's not particularly gender biased, nor is it based around any one religion or race either. Not the modern version of the day anyway. Could be some good neutral ground? Regardless, here are some ideas on how to thoughtfully partake or gracefully opt out of February 14th's shenanigans this year.

STAY IN. Order your takeaway, binge watch your Netflix series and do it all in the delicious comfort of home with the one (or ones) you love snuggled up beside you. That's in my top 10 date nights for sure.

DINE OUT, LOCALLY. You may not want to buy in to all the commercial blather but supporting your local food scene is always a worthwhile venture. Make a reservation at your favourite little spot. Byo delicious italian wine and have a good catch up in the comfort of a familiar place that's 10mins from home.

DIY. Homemade gifts are always so authentically delightful. Rather than splashing out on a big ticket item, bake a cake, cut off some shorts, pot a plant, frame a photo. Whatever craft works for you, your special someone is sure to appreciate a little time and thought. And home projects are also memory makers. You're going to want to keep those trinkets in the family.

SHOP FOR YOURSELF. For a while now when birthdays and other holidays worth celebrating come around we'll often give ourselves a bit of an "allowance" and then enjoy the experience of guilt free shopping for some nice luxurious for ourselves. Often we'll end up researching or window browsing together which is fun in and of itself but as responsible adults these days it's nice to get a bit of a free pass to spend some hard-earned cash on yourself. Just quietly, Bohemian Traders' brand new  Premium Denim line has got to be your first stop. The Jackets – dear God. They are sublime. And skinnies in three superb colours? That's a date night right there. Those bad boys are hot to trot.

GO FOR A BUSH WALK. Just a little one. Pick a spot with a spectacular view and book it in. If you really want to go all out, pack a picnic lunch (or just some antipasto - that's my go to picnic lunch any day) and a towel and find a spot under a tree to stop together. Delicious.

However you spend your day, have a sublime weekend lovers. And do tell if you have anything planned,, make me jealous.

Illustration above by the very talented (and romantic) Erin Fiore.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

FASHION NEWS: THOUGHTFUL AUSSIE-DESIGNED DENIM


The Beetle Shack team

Hold the phone, Bohemian Traders have just dropped their exclusive line of Premium Denim! 
Designed by women for women who want to take the fuss out of chic style and quality wash and wearable threads. These pieces are thoughtfully crafted from premium denim and cut to fit and will sculpt like no other. Translation: they make your derrière look fantastic! Available in sizes 8 – 18, Bohemian Traders has gone to great lengths to create the perfect line of denim. Each piece has been perfected with quality leather branding, customised press studs and buttons. They are a beauty to behold and will no doubt fill the denim shaped hole in your life. Check the full collection out for yourself today! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

WEARING | GINGHAM SMOCK + (a sneaky peak of BT's new) DENIM JACKET


Who doesn't love a smock? I know, I know- they make one look pregnant and are generally unflattering but WHO CARES? A good smock with enough length (no upper thighs with legs like mine, thanks) is a wardrobe essential. It covers a multitude of carbohydrate related winds, I mean sins.

This little gingam number (sold out in this print but still available in a few others) is 100% cotton, doesn't really need ironing (does it, mum?) and it's a dream to wear. The only thing required that is a slight inconvenience is shaving the ol' legs.

Throw on a denim jacket and I'm calling myself 'dressed' for work.

In other news- HI KIDS!!!! How cute are they?

Thanks for indulging me once again on this fine Wednesday.

As a side note, Bohemian Traders has an extra 20% off storewide today only. Clearance stock will be removed from Bohemian Traders eboutique tonight.


WEARING

Bohemian Traders Boxy denim Jacket | coming soon
Zoe Wittner Heels