30 November 2011

500 posts and A Gorgeous Glamorous Giveaway!

Yup, that's 500 times I've sat here and tapped my fingers against these keys. Sometimes words trip off these fingers as easily as a smooth flowing brook, yet other times I sit staring longingly at the screen willing the words to join up in some sort of semblance of sense for ages.

So whether it's flowed easily or been a struggle, it's crazy to think that there has been 500 times I've felt like there was something I wanted to say 'for the record'.

And to celebrate, I have a fantastic giveaway for one of you lovely people. And wouldn't you know, it's just in time for Christmas too *grins*

Tis the season to bless and I feel very blessed to have met some truly wonderful people through this little space I call MNM's. Thank you for making this thing we call blogging a truly enriching and empowering experience!

Anyway, back to the giveaway...my friend Sally makes the most amazing necklaces, and I want to give you the chance to create your own beautiful and unique design.

Here are the bead colours to choose from:

Together with the range of fabrics on offer for the giveaway (and a possible bead colour match):

And so I can really showcase this lovely lady's talent, here are some of the other gorgeous necklaces she's made this year.

To be in to win, leave me a comment telling me which one of the 12 designs and bead colours you'd choose if you're the lucky winner! 

Oh and I'll also throw in a block of yummy Lindt Chilli Chocolate too!

Giveaway will be drawn one week from today and announced on the evening of Wednesday 7th December. I will post internationally so all you lovely readers from over the seas can enter too!

If you are interested in gifting a necklace to someone you love or treating yourself, you can also email Sally directly here to find out more.

Good luck!

28 November 2011

Return to Eden: Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking Class

In the beginning there was a garden. And everything about it was perfect. It gave of itself that we might eat of its bounty and enjoy the fresh, clean tastes on our palate.

This was to be my Dreaming of a Green Christmas experience. 

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The day started with coffees and lavender lemonade in The Garden Room, where we enjoyed all manner of cheese and homemade crackers, accompanied by an especially lovely, refreshing bowl of roast pineapple in spices and mint.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I could have easily wandered around the beautiful grounds all day long taking photos and sipping on my lemonade, but my presence was required for some serious cooking in the kitchen.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The early part of our day was spent watching an amazing triple-layered Almond, Orange and Chocolate Cake being assembled.

It wasn't without a few hairy moments, due to the fragility of having to cut three thin cake layers to sit between the almond dacquoise and dark chocolate mousse layers. I was somewhat heartened to see that even Ruth Pretty (who I'd consider one of the best chefs in the land having recently served Prince Albert and Princess Charlene at the Rugby World Cup) is still capable of 'having a moment'. Yes, things got a bit nerve-wracking there for a moment as various cracks appeared in the wafer-thin cake layers. But once you see the finished product later on, I think you'll agree, it was merely a minor hiccup.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

One of the more memorable moments of the day was when Ruth showed us the preparation of our roasted duck. We definitely got the no-holds-barred, x-rated version that involved beheading and de-legging a whole dead duck.  Um, eeeew! Mind you, I have a feeling you'll be secretly pleased I was too squeamish to subject you to the photographic evidence from this part of the day.

After an intense few minutes, it was thankfully time for some fresh air (which involved a few deep gulps on my part!), more refreshments, and of course time to ooh and aah over the highly practical and beautifully made wares in Ruth's Kitchen Shop.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And just as the hunger pains were really starting to kick in, when we regrouped back in the kitchen we were immediately plied with a series of delectable nibbles along with a glass or two (or it might even have been three in my case!) of bubbly. Starting with Feta, Celery and Semi-Dried Tomato Salad in Parmesan Cheese Tart Cases.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Followed by Beef Salad Rolls with Mustard Sour Cream Dressing, and I just loved the way these were presented in chopsticks - clever idea!

We then retired back to The Garden Room where an array of refreshing liquids helped bide our time whilst waiting for the main event to commence.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth, with an ever straight face, had spun us a tale of a rickety old bus and Errol the bus driver coming to collect us for a journey to our final gastronomic destination. But alas, as the story progressed it became clear that he had been delayed and would we perhaps like to have a look around her Herb Garden while we waited his arrival?

We ventured into the herb garden, learning from Ruth about the constantly evolving seasons of herbs and micro greens growing in the garden. How one messy-looking bed actually held an abundance of different herbs each with their own unique purpose.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

On we ambled, listening, learning. Enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs and inhaling an array of lightly mingled herb scents.

But wait.....

.....what had we suddenly wandered into? In the blink of an eye, Eden appeared before us.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I can only imagine that this is how the Garden of Eden might have looked full of exotic and tropical vegetation, with all of nature co-existing in harmony.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And sitting down to this picnic in paradise, I truly believed myself to be back in that Original Garden. Surrounded by orchids and other brightly-coloured foliage. With monarchs hovering just out of reach, we sat at rustic tables on chairs draped in hessian, drinking from large goblets, calling softly to each other on our bird whistlers.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And our bounty, like is only possible in a place that has only known perfection, was just that.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I could have eaten these starters all day long. Spanish Style Peppers with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar and Garlic Prawns with Chorizo.

Followed by Roasted Duck with Pomegranate Glaze and Roasted Kumara, accompanied by Asparagus and a Quinoa and Cranberry Salad (which hadn't quite made it to my plate at this point).

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And then...the piece de resistance. That wonderfully layered creation of a cake that despite encountering a few speed wobbles had been turned into a vision of all that is lovely to look at, and even lovelier to behold in the mouth. How amazing are those marzipan oranges on top!

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And yes, I will admit I went back for a small second helping of the dessert. It was delectable without being too sweet, so that you could easily (really truly I wasn't being a complete piglet!) contemplate more.

I didn't want each mouthful to end, partly because it was so good, but also because each mouthful gone was one step closer to the moment where I knew I would have to leave Eden.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And when the moment came, I left with a just-nicely, not overfull stomach, but with a heaviness in heart. Knowing that no matter how much I might try to recreate this very experience, the Garden is destined to remain only in my memories, in reality elusive and tantalisingly just out of reach.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

*This post contains sponsored content. I received a free ticket to the cooking school from Ruth Pretty but all opinions of the experience are my own*

25 November 2011

Things I'm Loving 25.11.11

A little (big) gem
Once in a while a little nugget escapes from the mouths of our babes, quite unexpectedly. This one was particularly amusing, and I'm sure fellow mums will identify with the mixture of amusement/slight mortification I felt.

I had just finished getting undressed to get into the shower with Mylo, and I was standing naked in the bathroom. We were just about to take his clothes off, when he looked at me. I mean really looked at me. Like for the first time he was actually noticing my nakedness, and this is what he said:

'Big bottom mummy'.....promptly followed by 'Little bottom me'

Awesome or what?! I laughed and laughed, thinking to myself, 'it's a good thing you're so young and cute boyo, as I doubt I'm gonna find that one quite so entertaining in a few years' time!'

Have you ever tasted a piece of fruit that you could absolutely swear was the nicest of its kind you'd ever tried? This was my experience with our first watermelon of the season this week. So juicy, so flavoursome, no pips to have to spit back out, everything about it was so just right!

And from the pages of our garden
Radishes. It's our first year growing them. From seed, I might add. And they are super easy to grow, and super quick. I'm not sure I ever really liked them growing up. But much in the same way I love rocket salad leaves,  the spicy pepperiness (OK...that's not even a word but you know what I mean!) of the radishes is so refreshing. The little guy loves em too. Nom, nom nom!

On the fence
So unless you live with your head in the sand in NZ right now, you'd all know that tomorrow is election day. Slap my wrists if you want, but I haven't been paying too much attention to all the hoo haa and giving my vote much thought until this week.

Which is why I quite liked this On The Fence application. Basically you feed the sheep political policies under categories such as Health, Education, Transport, Nuclear, Justice etc. I only did about five categories but I was surprised (and kinda not at the same time) to see what it put my preferred political party as.

So if you're like me, and still not a little vague or undecided about who you'll be voting for tomorrow, why not put the sheep through his paces?

Our national airline
How cool to be these unsuspecting sixty diners out for an evening meal! Watch and see what happens.

Proud of the creativity of our national airline. Sure beats the stick Qantas is getting at the moment for grounded planes and industrial action. Although we are flying Qantas to Melbourne in March so let's hope they've sorted their act out by then!

Crafty Christmas creations
Don't stop me now, I'm on a serious roll, people!

These were the latest creations rustled up this past week spied in the Little Treasures magazine. A great way to put the excess popsicle sticks left over from the Giant Snowflakes to good use.

And tutorials for these (I'm SO addicted and I can tell I'm going to be making more of these!) were spotted on both How About Orange and Lily & Georgie this week.

Boys on beach
Loving being able to get a free carpark pretty much every time we go to hang out at our little Oriental Parade Beach. Yes, it is a pathetic excuse for a beach by anywhere other than Welly's standards, and yes the wind started blowing something fierce forcing us off the beach in a  matter of minutes with the sand being whipped up and stinging every part of exposed skin.

We went from this serene 'playing on the beach' scene......

to holding onto our hats and nearly being lifted off our feet in a matter of seconds. Loving the facials though!

A Green Christmas awaits me
I'm finally allowing myself to get super excited about Ruth Pretty's Christmas cooking class on Sunday. It seems like months ago that I blogged about being offered a free place on one of her highly sought after sell-out Christmas events merely for having written an honest but glowing review of last year's Narnia-like experience. Never for once dreaming that it would ever be read and appreciated so far and wide. But now the time has finally come. Now...how to last till Sunday without going completely crazy in anticipation?

Perhaps we can put the Christmas tree up tomorrow ...we're four days early but who's counting? Gosh, I love this time of the year! One month till we celebrate the most important birthday in the history of mankind.

What about you? Is that festive glow that warms you from the inside out like a glass of mulled wine on a cold winter's night upon you yet?

Mmmm...mulled wine, now there's a thought. I wonder if I could make some?!....*scribbles it on the growing list of things she'd love to try this Christmas*

What things are you already loving about this time of the year?


23 November 2011

Recipe: Christmas Mocha Fruit Cake

Wondering how you can indulge in all the traditions of Christmas without all the calories? Well, you've come to the right place.

Straight from the pages of Weight Watchers, yet tasting like it should be on a page from one of those naughtily delicious Nigella cookbooks.

And it's far too easy to make.

I'd love to be able to show you the step by step photos for this recipe, but as I was busy being a lazy-ass in bed last Sunday morning I came downstairs just before 8am to find hubby had been too quick for me, and it was almost ready to put in the oven. So I had to make do with just a couple of pics, but since it's such an easy recipe, I'm sure it won't matter in the slightest!

1 kg dried mixed fruit
2 cups strong coffee (500ml)
2 cups self-raising flour
1 block of Cadburys dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)

1. Place fruit and hot coffee in a large heatproof bowl, cover and set aside to soak overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 160 degrees, line the base and two long sides of a 18x28cm or similar sized rectangular tin with non-stick baking paper.
3. Add sifted flour and chocolate to fruit mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until well combined.
4. Spread evenly into prepared tin, place in preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.

Lasts for ages in the fridge, and it is such a lovely surprise to come across a nice hunk of dark chocolate in the middle of all that fruit....mmmmmmm.

And in case you're wondering only 3.5 Weight Watcher points per serve (serves 20).

21 November 2011

How To: Homemade Sugar Scrub Recipe

When you're contemplating what to give the lovely people in your life for Christmas, giving 'homemade' always has such a nice ring about it. But if you're like me, and you always a bit challenged in the craft genes, it has to be super easy and reasonably quick to do.

I found two recipes which I used bits of, one via Pinterest a recipe over at Maybe Matilda and one over at my favourite blogger Kelle from Enjoying the Small Things. So here's my take!

Homemade Sweet Orange Sugar Scrub

Sugar Scrub Ingredients:
Plain white sugar
Oil (I recommend a very light oil such as sweet almond oil, avocado oil etc found in any health shop)
Essential oil (any one or more scents will do, I used Sweet Orange)
Food colouring (optional)

Jar ingredients:
Small jar (I found mine - bead storage jars at Spotlight for $2 each)
Christmassy fabric (I bought 2 different Fat 1/4's)
Mod Podge (my new best friend)

Decorating the jar

Take your jar and draw a wide circle around it, large enough so that when you turn the fabric inside the lid there will be enough of a turnover

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Make slits at regular intervals all the way round

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Take your Mod Podge (this is my favourite part!) and a small brush and paint the top of the lid. Fix the lid upside down in the centre of the cut fabric.

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Paint Mod Podge all round the outside rim and inside rim and fix down each portion of slitted fabric onto the lid. Continue all the way round until the whole lid is fixed down. 

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

With your finger, smooth away all excess Mod Podge as you go which will help the slits on the sides of the lid sit nicely.

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Now go over the whole fabric again with the Mod Podge, smoothing away excess as you go.

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Once this dries you will have a lovely hard and glossy finish on the lid.
Create a label and Mod Podge the label onto the jar. 

Making the scrub
Take the jar or jars you want to fill and measure out the equivalent amount of sugar into them that you will want in the finished jar. I made five jars at a time.

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Gradually add sufficient oil (try adding 1/2 cup to start, then 1/4 cup at a time after that) to make the mixture go all fluffy and then test the consistency by rubbing some on your hand. You want it to make your hand feel smooth after washing off, but not still all oily. I learnt the hard way by following a 1:1 ratio and using olive oil for my first batch, and not only was it way too much oil, the olive oil is too heavy an oil to use as it just sinks to the bottom of the container.

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Once you are happy with the consistency, add enough drops of essential oil to give the mixture a really nice scent. I think I added about 30 drops of Sweet Orange for my large batch.

If you want to make the mixture look a little like the scent, add a couple of drops of food colouring - I added a couple of red and yellow to give a soft orange colour.

Pack into your prepared jars. Keep mixing the mixture as you go to prevent the oil from settling at the bottom.

Seal all the containers, and then open a couple of hours later just to check that they all still smell as good as you remember..

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

And you may even find you contemplate keeping one for yourself they smell so lush!

homemade sweet orange sugar scrub recipe

Apologies in advance to any of the 'lovely people' who read this blog if one of these winds up under your Christmas tree and I've now somewhat ruined the surprise for you!


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