Hola, life is pretty insane at the moment. I have started a new job, taken on a mountain of freelance work, am in the midst of redesigning this blog (and making it some business cards, finally!), have several baking projects coming up and am now a product photographer for a few awesome hair brands! I am looking forward to catching up/meeting a lot of you at next weekend’s Eat Drink Blog Conference and hoping I will have managed to squeeze some sleep and exercise in during the lead up.
When I have some (rare) downtime, I have been trawling Pinterest for some design inspiration (when I am not watching new Dexter or Revenge episodes of course, omg TWIST!) and thought I would share some works that caught my eye.
I love high tea and have blogged about it here and here. The idea of spending an afternoon with your girlfriends sampling an array of sandwiches, scones and pastries whilst sipping on tea or bubbles is heavenly!
When I heard this month’s theme for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was High Tea I knew I had to create something tasty, eye catching and most importantly, bite-size. I got out my nice teacups that usually only stay in the cupboard (terrified I am going to break them) and presented a little impromptu high tea on my dining room table.
- 170g butter, room temperature
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ cups plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 cup toasted coconut (shredded or desiccated)
- 170g butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 cups icing sugar
- 1 cup toasted coconut
- Untoasted coconut to decorate
- Preheat oven to 170°C. Line 2 x 24 mini-muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- Spread 2 cups of coconut onto a baking tray in an even layer. Please note 1 cup goes into the cupcake batter and 1 cup is reserved for the icing. Toast until golden brown which will only take around 2 minutes (watch like a hawk!)
- Cream the butter with an electric mixer until smooth in a large bowl.
- Gradually add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
- In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the coconut milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry.
- Mix until just combined, then stir in 1 cup of toasted coconut.
- Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full with mixture and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
- Cream the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed.
- Add in the vanilla, coconut milk and toasted coconut.
- Beat until icing is light and fluffy.
- Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe swirls onto the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with coconut.
Hello everyone I am home! I had a wonderful time in Vietnam and took over 1000 photos (!!) Whilst I sort through those, I will share with you some Instagram snaps I took to give you a little taste of my trip. Highlights included:
♥ Floating down the Mekong delta in a rickety boat, wearing a silly hat.
♥ Meeting far too many snakes in the Mekong Delta, and then drinking SNAKE WINE
♥ Waking up with a Vietnamese family in the middle of the Mekong. I was surprisingly perky considering I slept huddled under a mosquito net, praying that no geckos would fall on me. Meeting this darling old lady who owned the house was a great experience.
♥ Travelled back to Ho Chi Minh City by yet another boat, drank a coconut
♥ Ate delicious pho at Pho 2000 (Bill Clinton ate there once, as demonstrated by the countless photos lining the walls)
♥ I explored the Viet Cong tunnels and booby traps in Cu Chi (very claustrophobic). Back in HCM I finished my dinner and looked in the kitchen to see a kitty lounging on the prep bench (health and safety?!) But it was ok cause I got to play with him and he combed my hair with his claws. His name was Tommy.
♥ Had a fantastic time at the Nha Trang mud baths!
♥ Nha Trang beach was eerily beautiful
♥ Stayed in a gorgeous hotel in Hoi An and thoroughly enjoyed the pool (it was so hot!!)
♥ Woke up at 4.30 to go sunrise bike riding, fortunately there was a strong black Vietnamese coffee with a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk waiting for me at the end.
♥ Ate amazing food in Hoi An, tried betel nut and then wielded a knife at cooking class
♥ Fell in love with a stray, hungry kitten in The Forbidden City in Hue. Probably got cat rabies.
♥ Explored the grounds of Tu Duc’s Tomb
♥ Was disappointed to find out my hotel in Hue did not allow Liza Minnelli-esque prostitutes.
♥ Had a perfect example of why Hue is considered the rainiest city in Vietnam. The storm rolled in as we cruised down the Perfume River and soon enough our scenic boat ride wasn’t so scenic anymore.
♥ Returned to our hotel to find out entire street flooded!! Oh dear…
♥ Boarded our private junk boat for an overnight trip on the spectacular Halong Bay. I briefly enjoyed the sun deck before hiding in the shade.
♥ HALONG BAY IS AMAZING
♥ I stole the captain’s hat
♥ And then watched the sunset
♥ Our chef onboard the boat created the most beautiful vegetable sculptures. He demonstrated how to make the lotus out of a radish and a fishnet out of a carrot. A bit beyond my knife skills I’m afraid!
♥ Loved the hustle and bustle of Hanoi
♥ Said goodbye to Vietnam and hello to Hong Kong for a few days. First stop, the Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung for truffle dumplings!
♥ Tried an amazing cocktail featuring earl grey caviar and foam, and took in lovely views before flying home.
What an amazing trip! I am terrified to look at my credit card bill…
I’ve spoken of my love for Jessica Hische before and was super excited to hear she has collaborated with Paul Buckley (the Penguin Art Director) to produce a series of Penguin book covers featuring an illustrated drop cap designed by Jessica. Each book will also have “a foil-stamped paper-over-board case and a decorative color stain on all three edges.”
A is for Austen.
B is for Brontë.
C is for Cather.
A while ago I blogged about my 2 little succulents planted in Wedgwood tea tins and some succulent-related inspiration. Well this love for succulents has seemed to have turned into a full blown addiction and they keep multiplying!
We have a table out on our balcony that they sit on (the herb garden has been shoved off onto the ground, sorry herbs). The succulents are a mixture of presents, plants I have bought at Bunnings, a few from Surry Hills markets and quite a few cuttings from plants I find when I go walking.
I love the variety of shapes and colours the succulents come in. I have a soft spot for the pale plants.
This little guy is my favourite! It reminds me of a ceramic rose.
I also love this pale guy, he is a cutting from a plant I found around Redfern and has been sitting in a glass of water for the past month. These weather-beaten pots I find on my morning jog all around Surry Hills. I keep coming back from my workout lugging a variety of pottery and covered in dirt.
This looks like a rose and a cabbage had a baby! I got in from Bunnings, I need to buy some new pots as I hate the plastic aqua containers they come in.
My Wedgwood plants are still going strong! On the far right is a Milo tin I recycled, just make sure you punch holes in the bottom of your found containers so the water can drain.
How cute is the little polka dot pot? I got it for very cheap from a $2 shop.
Aaaaaand here is part 2 of my succulents. This table is kept indoors but still gets afternoon sun. These are cuttings I get from established succulent plants around the neighbourhood. I sit them in glasses of water until their roots form, then they can be planted in soil and moved outdoors.
I found this guy on the side of the road, dried out and caked in dirt. I have cleaned him up and trying to bring him back to life. Succulents are very hardy so I think he’ll do just fine!
This is a gorgeous cutting I got which is ready to be planted soon.
Check out those roots!
My next succulent-related project is to try and make a terrarium!
My housemate is being very patient about our balcony and living room filling up with plants. But she knows it’s either this or cats. Lots and lots of cats.
It was my turn to organise a food blogger outing and I wanted to do a high tea – spending the afternoon drinking tea and eating cake is my kind of Sunday! After much deliberation I settled on The Victoria Room - they had a range of affordable high teas featuring tasty sounding treats. I had been to The Victoria Room a few times before for drinks and the interiors are decadently decorated in a British-Raj style.
Of course I had to design an invitation, as that’s what I love to do! I insisted everyone dress up.
The lighting inside The Victoria Room is VERY moody (ie dark) so please excuse the quality of some of the photos, I was struggling! Half of our group ordered the Classic High Tea ($45pp) and the other half ordered the Royal High Tea ($55pp) which included a glass of rosé.
Our teas are ordered (I chose the Queen Mary, delicious) and glasses of De Perriere Sparkling Rosé arrive.
Gorgeous little tea cups
Our tiers of treats arrive shortly after. Guest starring Tara in the background!
The dessert level features a dark chocolate cup with chocolate mousse, cream and fresh raspberries, lemon cheesecake, fruit tart and a red velvet cupcake.
Date and plain scones with organic strawberry conserve and chantilly cream.
Sandwiches! Chicken and wild herbs, cucumber, creme fraiche and dill, smoked salmon, and walnut and goats curd. My favourite was the chicken sandwich (and they will offer more vego options when requested).
Thanks to Flick for providing some extra light from her phone for these next shots! The scone was a bit dense for my liking and I have eaten their delicious scones a lot at their offshoot The Tea Salon so I was a bit disappointed. However when smothered with the delicious jam and cream they were still very tasty. The red velvet cupcake was moist and flavourful and I loved the cream cheese icing on top.
The fruit tartlet was delicious and I loved the rhubarb and mint on top which kept it from being too heavy. The chocolate mousse cup was ridiculously decadent and tasted AMAZING. I was equally enchanted by the lemon cheesecake and by that stage I was beyond stuffed!
I had such a fun afternoon, thanks to all the lady food bloggers who showed up!
♥ Travel Insurance
This should be purchased the minute you book that flight! Most policies do not automatically include cover for claims involving motorcycling. If you plan on riding a motorcycle (even as a passenger), make sure you include this option on your policy.
Pay a visit to your doctor at least a month before you leave. I got an injection for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, Malaria pills that I must take everyday before I leave and during my trip, an oral Cholera immunisation that is taken twice, 2 weeks apart, and finally some antibiotics and anti-diarrhea medication “just in case”. This all came to just under AU$300 – it’s not cheap but do you want to risk it?
Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to your home country.
Australians require a visa to enter Vietnam (as do Americans, English etc – please check with the Vietnamese Embassy in your own country). There are 2 options to obtain the visa – I ended up going with the safer, more expensive option. Firstly print off and fill in this form. Get a passport photo taken (this can be done at the post office), and along with your passport, a self addressed premium express post bag and a AUD$75 money order send it to the Canberra Embassy. All up this costs around AUD$110.
The other option involves arriving at a Vietnamese airport after filling out an online form and then waiting in a queue for a loooong time. I was advised not to go down this route by Twitter friends with previous experience. Yes it is cheaper, but there have been reports of visa scams involving online Vietnamese visa applications – also who wants to stand in a long queue after a 9+ hour flight?
Stay tuned for more parts of my guide to Vietnam!
Today I made a saucy dessert for this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. This is a super easy and quick treat to whip up when you have friends over or to finish off a casual dinner.
One of my favourite treats is strawberries dipped in dark chocolate and I wanted to make a more decadent dipping sauce version. I substituted the normal cream used in a ganache in favour of sweetened condensed milk to give it a fudgey consistency. I added peanut butter for salt and crunch and a bit of butter to keep it smooth and shiny.
- 400g sweetened condensed milk
- 200g dark chocolate (70%)
- ⅓ cup peanut butter (I used crunchy but you can also use smooth)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 punnets of strawberries (or pretzel sticks, marshmallows, cake cubes….)
- In a medium saucepan melt the chocolate over a low heat.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter and butter and stir until warm and combined.
- Pour into serving dishes or a fondue pot and serve with fruit, pretzel sticks – whatever you like!
This dip starts to firm slightly after sitting at room temperature for a long period so it’s best to make this right before serving. A fondue set is a great way to keep the dip warm and smooth, however a quick blast in the microwave will bring it back to a good consistency!
I have always been turned off diet food delivery services – the food was over processed, the flavours were bland and there was so much sodium in them I felt they were doing me more harm than good. After a decadent winter that included far too many delicious dinners out and home made puddings, I wanted to start spring afresh. I stumbled upon a company called Dietlicious and thought the food looked tasty, fresh and “real” (I studied the ingredients lists and there were no preservatives). Plus it was affordable ($9.50/lunch and $11.90/dinner). I finally took the plunge and placed an order for 2 weeks of lunches and dinners – you have the option to order the full 1200 calorie plan which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, fruit + vege and snacks, however I prefer to sort this out myself.
I placed my order on Thursday night and Friday morning a giant box arrived at my office! I popped everything in my office freezer and was very excited.
Please click through to continue reading about my Dietlicious experience. If you’re just here for the desserts then click here.
I recently stumbled across the most gorgeous designed sweet shop in Melbourne called The Candy Room. Designed by Red Design Group, they painted the entire space white and decorated surfaces with black line drawings. It results in a fun and edgy unique concept store that I cannot wait to visit next time I’m down south!
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