Cheat’s tutu

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Mae is obsessed with dress ups at the moment. She is always asking if we want to play dress ups with her. And I know at child care she loves to try on the range of dress ups – and in particular loves the purple tutu that they have. So last week, I found myself at the fabric shop asking for help in choosing tulle for a tutu. Given I am not a girly girl, this is the last thing I could ever imagine myself making!

As the tutu was just for Mae to play with, I went with the EASIEST possible tutu making process, based on the advice of the lovely ladies at the fabric shop.

Even better – the tutu involved two items – tulle and elastic and NO sewing. I put the whole thing together in about 15 minutes… whoop whoop.

Mae loved it – and that is the most important thing.

What you need…

  • Tulle – I made mine 30 cm long so I bought 120cm of 150cm cm wide light purple and 60 cm of 150 cm wide dark purple tulle.
  • Elastic – I bought the one with holes in it – see pictures below._MG_3925

The how to…

  1. Fold your tulle so that it is 30 cm wide (i.e. the light purple tulle above will be folded in half, then in half again).
  2. Cut your tulle so that one end is open (the other end is “closed” – that is, it remains folded).
  3. Cut your tulle into 10cm wide strips (each strip will be 10cm x 60 cm).
  4. Cut your elastic so that it is 5 cm longer than your child’s waist.
  5. Starting about 5 cm in from one end, take each strip and thread it through a hole in your elastic, tying the piece of tulle in half. I did mine with one colour on each of three rows. When you get 5 cm from the other end, fold the elastic ends over each other with an overlap of about 2.5cm. Use the tulle through the holes in the elastic to join the two ends together._MG_3931 _MG_3938 _MG_3940
  6. That’s it! _MG_3941

 

 

 

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Mural redo – a “hanging” garden

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When we bought our new house it came with a very “special” mural beside the spa. This mural has caused much controversy. Is it cute? Is it hideous? Is it by someone famous (it does have a signature…)? Should we keep it?

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I have been wanting to paint over it since we got here and on the weekend, that is just what we did. And it looks so much better!

We painted over the mural in grey (with some left over paint we had in the garage). We were lucky that when we were tidying up our very over grown garden we also found a couple of staghorn ferns and so we decided to hang these on the wall._MG_3893

The next step will be to build a vertical garden (like this one) and hang it between the ferns, but this is a longer term project. Another long term project is to paint over all of the yellow paint in our backyard (and actually on our house!) in a much more modern colour.

What a difference a couple of small changes can make – doesn’t it look so much better? And so much more modern?!

And it really didn’t take that long… or really doesn’t need the instructions below but what the hell, it is my practice to always provide a “how to”!

What you need…

  • paint (and painting things like paintbrushes and painting tape)
  • staghorn ferns and something to hang them on (we used the existing wooden backing)
  • semi-circle nails
  • fishing wire
  • picture hangers

The how to…

  1. Wash down the wall to be painted and tape up anything you want to protect. Go nuts with your paint and quickly paint the wall where you want to hang your plants. You will probably need to do two coats._MG_3895
  2. Hammer in two semi-circular nails onto the top of each piece of wooden backing supporting your ferns._MG_3910
  3. Space your picture hangers where you would like them. Thread some fishing wire through the semi-circular nails to make a hanging device (we doubled up the threads, just in case)._MG_3906
  4. Hang your ferns and stand back and enjoy the more modern look!_MG_3913

 

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A winter forest

A few weeks ago, Pete and I had a childless weekend away in Lorne, Victoria. It was fabulous. We didn’t want to come home!

While there, we went up into the bush behind Lorne where I spotted these leaves, hanging on grimly through the cold cold days…

Such an amazing sight._MG_3837

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New York Baked Cheesecake

I made my second ever cheesecake this week. Probably not the healthiest thing to make when you have no visitors coming and you know that the three of you will need to eat it, but it was delicious!

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I was flicking through my Delicious – 5 of the Best cookbook looking for meals to make during the week. When, hurrah, it opened itself to the cheesecake section. And once I saw the cheesecakes, I couldn’t help but make one!

The second time around, making a cheesecake seemed so much easier. I am not sure if it is because I have become a better baker or if it is because the recipe was quick and easy (I suspect the latter) but this time round it was a breeze. This cheesecake also had a much better base than the one I made when I first started Little Ivy Blog (see here).

Pete apologises for the look of the cocoa on the top of the cheesecake, he didn’t realise I would be taking photos to post so just smashed some on. Doesn’t change the taste!

What you need…

  • 200g nice biscuits
  • 75g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 800g cream cheese
  • 190 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 300ml sour cream
  • cocoa powder to dust

The how to…

1) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease a springform pan. Then put two layers of foil around your springform pan. This is because the cheesecake will go in a water bath and it stops the water from leaching into the cake._MG_3868

2) Put your biscuits into a food processor and whiz until crushed. Pour into a bowl with the butter and mix well, then press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of your pan._MG_3870

3) Add the cream cheese, 170g sugar, eggs, yolk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and the lemon juice to the food processor and whiz until combined. You might want to let your cream cheese soften a bit before you do this step – I didn’t but I wished that I had!

4) Once the cream cheese mixture is smooth, pour it on top of the biscuit base in your pan._MG_3873

5) Place your pan in a large dish and make a water bath (filling the large pan with boiling water reaching about half way up the side of your pan). Bake for about 1 hour.

6) Beat together the sour cream, 20g sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until smooth and then pour it over your cake. Return your cake to the oven and bake for 10 minutes._MG_3874

7) Leave your cake to cool, then refrigerate for about 3-4 hours. When you are ready to serve, dust the top with your cocoa powder – Yum. (PS. we couldn’t wait for it to cool completely in the fridge and it was also pretty yummy warm!)._MG_3878 _MG_3879

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Hanging terrariums

This was such a fun project. And so ridiculously easy!
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I have been eyeing off hanging terrariums at local cafes for a while now and while at the nursery buying some seedlings the other day, I saw a bunch hanging in the window and couldn’t help myself, I bought two on a whim.

I brought them home, added the stones, air plants (what a weird concept!) and hangers and then decided I needed one more. As my mother says – never decorate with even numbers…

It took about 10 minutes to do, and then I got Pete to hang them from the ceiling with some heavy duty hooks. And I love them!

Air plants don’t require any soil to grow… so strange. And, they are very easy to look after. You can either take them out of the terrariums and dunk them in water for 10 -15 seconds, spray them with a water bottle or drop a small ice cube into the terrarium. I just now have to remember to keep watering them…

What do you think?

What you need…

  • air plants
  • glass containers
  • small stones (if you want or you can go without)
  • string (I used some macrame rope – more on that project soon)
  • hooks

The how to (do I even need this???)…

  1. Add your stones to your glass containers. Add your plants. (Be careful not to bang the glass containers together – I broke one by being a bit of a klutz.)_MG_3623
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  2. Thread some string through the top of the container and tie off.
  3. Insert the hanger into the ceiling according to the instructions on the packet.
  4. Hang your terrariums. Step back and admire!_MG_3734 _MG_3731

 

 

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“Impossible” coconut cake

Since moving into our new house we have loved having the space to have friends and family over for long yummy lunches. And I have twice made this delicious “impossible” coconut cake. It is called impossible as it is allegedly impossible to stuff it up. That is my type of dessert!

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I have a couple of go to recipe books for after work meals (Jamie Oliver 15 minute meals and 5 Nights a Week by Valli Little from Delicious magazine). This recipe is from 5 Nights a Week. It is a great recipe book, filled with perfect recipes for midweek cooking. Anyway, back to the impossible coconut cake.

It is incredibly easy to make. You put all the ingredients into a food processor, whiz it, pour it into a tin, put the tin in the oven and you are done. What could be easier?! Plus, most importantly, it is delicious!

What you need…

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g slivered almonds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup plain flour

The how to…

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease a cake tin (about 28 cm).
  2. Put all of your ingredients into a food processor and whiz until they are well combined. _MG_3638_MG_3639
  3. Pour into your cake tin._MG_3640
  4. Bake until lightly browned and a skewer comes out cleanly (about 50 mins to 1 hour)._MG_3652
  5. Set aside to cool. Serve with ice-cream or cream._MG_3653
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Upcycling our garden pots

PicMonkey CollageWhen we moved into our new house our backyard was a bit walled in and a bit of a jungle. I plan to show you the changes we have made in the coming weeks but one in particular I have really enjoyed.

The deck outside the “man cave” had a lot of pots hanging off the railings. In the pots were a mixture of succulents, bulbs, weeds and dead plants. The pots themselves were in okay nick they were just faded and a mish mash of colours (like everything in the backyard!)._MG_3624 _MG_3625

Anyway, I decided that a quick coat of paint and a spruce up would make a world of difference and I was right! Pete was very sceptical at first and just wanted to put the pots into the hard rubbish but I decided $20 worth of paint was worth the gamble and it paid off.

I reused the succulents that were doing okay (quite a few had to go in the green waste). And I bought an additional 4 succulents to fill the last of the pots. This was one of the easiest projects I have ever completed and I love how it turned out. My next job is to tackle that seat you can see in the background of a few of the photos. It really needs a spruce up!_MG_3699_MG_3697

Doesn’t it look so much better now?!

What you need…

  • old garden pots
  • a scrubbing brush
  • sand paper
  • paint appropriate for plastic (I used a spray can of Rustoleum and it worked a treat)
  • new plants if you need them (I repotted most of mine but had to buy 4 new ones)

The how to…

  1. Empty your old pots and give them a really, really good scrub, then leave to dry.
  2. Rub each pot with a coarse sandpaper. Make sure you go over all of the ridges and give it a really good sand back.
  3. Spread out some newspaper or an old sheet. Place each pot on top and spray a light coat over the pot. Leave for a couple of minutes and then spray it again. Leave to dry for 24 hours._MG_3628
  4. Refill your pots with soil and plants. SO EASY!_MG_3705 _MG_3701 _MG_3700 _MG_3696
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Quince paste

My parents in-law have a quince tree in the back yard and every time I hear the word quince, all I can think about is delicious quince paste (paired with oozy brie – which I will be gobbling down once this baby arrives!)._MG_3521

A month or so back, Pete’s dad and I made a batch of quince paste with the huge amount of quinces from their tree. Unfortunately the tree had a moth infestation. The quinces are still edible, you just need to cut away the infested bit, which was almost three-quarters of some of them. So, it was a little laborious but still pretty fun. Plus we got to use the retro dehydrator which once belonged to Pete’s grandma. Love it!

Quince paste is surprisingly easy to make, you just need to have patience. You also need to close your eyes when adding the sugar if you are on a diet. Eeek. What a lot of sugar!

Anyway, even though we were afraid we had overcooked the quince paste, it has been getting rave reviews from friends and family. Now, I just need to save some until the baby arrives so I can enjoy it with that brie!

Oh and a big thanks to Stephanie Alexander for another fail proof recipe…

What you need…

  • 8 quinces, washed and peeled (keep the cores!)
  • 1 cup of water
  • juice of 2 small lemons
  • sugar (about 1kg)

The how to…

  1. Cut your quinces into large chunks. Keep the cores and pips of two of the quinces.IMG_3460-2
  2. Add the quinces, cores, pips, lemon juice and water to a large saucepan. Cover and simmer on a medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, or until the quince is tender._MG_3472
  3. Pour into a food processor and whiz until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Weigh the mixture and then add about two-thirds of its weight in sugar to the bowl. Mix together well._MG_3480
  5. Add the mixture back to the saucepan and cook on a low heat for about 4-5 hours, stirring frequently. You will know it is ready when the colour becomes a deep pink-red and the mixture becomes thick and hard to stir._MG_3482
  6. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper and pour in your mixture. Cover with another sheet of baking paper.IMG_3484-2
  7. Place your trays in the oven (on a warming heat only) for a few hours, until the paste becomes a bit firmer._MG_3489
  8. If using a dehydrator, cut each tray into sections so that it can fit easily and leave in a warm dehydrator for about 15 hours. (If you are not using a dehydrator, then you should leave in the oven overnight with the temperature turned off, and check in the morning to see if it is firm and ready). PS. Isn’t this dehydrator just the best!?!?!_MG_3493
  9. Cut each section into smaller bits, wrap in baking paper and then foil._MG_3512
  10. Enjoy with cheese and crackers. YUM!_MG_3522

 

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Fish birthday cake

So, I was flicking through the camera the other day and came across Mae’s 2nd birthday cake. If you are looking for a dead easy birthday cake to make for your child’s birthday, surely this is it!_MG_3317

Two round cakes, some clever chopping, some icing and smarties and voila – a fish birthday cake. I dread the day Mae asks for the dump truck or some equally difficult cake out of the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook!

I made a delicious chocolate mud cake and some butter icing for the top. The cake was moist, rich and delicious. Way too delicious for a two year old – at least that is what I told myself as I ate my second and third piece.

I have to admit, our attempt at bubbles (if you can’t tell, those random shapes near the fish’s mouth are supposed to be bubbles) and the stripes on the fish fin were pretty dodgy. But what two-year old complains about cake. It got a big tick from my nephew as well, and that is what matters after all…. the kids… right?!?!?

What you need…

  • Two round cakes (any variety will do)
  • Sharp knife
  • Double batch butter frosting
  • Food dye
  • Smarties

The how to…

  1. Cut one-third out of one of the round cakes and trim to a fin shape.
  2. Arrange the cakes with the cut third at the bottom of the whole round cake (making the fin) and the two-thirds of the remaining cake on the side of the whole round cake (making the tail)._MG_3315
  3. Mix up your butter frosting in a couple of colours and generously lather your cakes in the design you want.
  4. Add smarties for decoration and for the mouth.
  5. Maybe skip the bubbles!
  6. Try to keep the little hands away while you sing happy birthday and make sure to have seconds and thirds!IMG_3328
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Dinosaur bones

The museum is by far, Mae’s current favourite outing. (OK, it comes a close first with going out for coffee but I would rather not admit how much my two year old enjoys going out for coffee).

And when Mae thinks about the museum, the truth is, she really only thinks about the dinosaur bones. In fact, of all the amazing exhibitions at the Melbourne Museum she really only likes visiting two rooms – the dinosaurs and the stuffed animals. My issue with the stuffed animals is that there are so many I have never seen before that I have to keep madly reading the little plaques to figure out what the hell these animals from South America or Africa are!

Anyway, I can understand her fascination with the dinosaur bones. They are pretty stunning…

_MG_3420 _MG_3431 _MG_3428 _MG_3425 _MG_3421Linking with: Simple Things Sunday

 

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