Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Australia Day Lunch


Yesterday we celebrated Australia Day. We had discussed heading off to the beach or river which is a very popular activity for Australians living near to the coast but in the end we decided to stay home and enjoy a special lunch which gave me another opportunity to do what I love to do... set the table.
We live in the perfect setting for an Australia Day celebration. Surrounded by the colour and beauty of the bush. Even when we choose to dine inside we can look out from our dining/family room and all we can see is green and the occasional pops of colour... red flowers on native flowering shrubs and orange and silver... just a few of the colours of the bark of gum trees which change throughout the seasons. At the moment the green is vibrant. We have had a lot of rain recently so I decided to set up our table inside as more rain was forecast for Australia Day.

I prepared a roast leg of lamb and as it was cooking filling the kitchen with a wonderful aroma I set about setting the table. I used a linen coloured cotton tablecloth and white dinner plates which have a pretty scalloped edge. This set has become our everyday dinner set. It's by Schmidt of Brazil and it has everything you would need - dinner,entree and tea plates, soup, cereal and dessert bowls, platters and serving bowls, gravy boat, even egg cups and a matching tea and coffee service! It's very durable and dishwasher safe which makes my children very happy!

I've recently acquired and fallen in love with Laguiole cutlery which is often discounted on the homeware websites so my collection is growing. I made hessian napkin holders for Christmas but chose not to use them on our Christmas table but with a sprig of grevillea tucked in under the vintage lace trim they were perfect for adding a little touch of Australia to the place setting.
For a centrepiece I used gold candle votives found at the Reject shop and we burned citronella tea light candles to keep the mozzies at bay. I set them out on a cream and gold vintage plate and surrounded them with greenery freshly picked from the garden. You don't need elaborate flower arrangements to make a table special. I love the challenge of using what I have at hand to create beauty in my home. With the mozzies being so bad at the moment we are lighting the candles every evening. The glow of candlelight in my home is something which makes my soul sing and it creates a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. I want to do this all year long!

As for lunch. The lamb being slow cooked was delicious and was served with roast vegetables and a spinach salad. The twins were eager to try their hand at making lamingtons.. an iconic Australian treat which if you have never tried before you really do need to experience. They are simply a sponge cake cut into squares, iced with chocolate icing and covered in coconut. Google a recipe for them, they are simple to make and delicious served with tea or coffee.





 The rain arrived later in the day and came in torrents at one stage. My husband settled down to watch the one day cricket but alas it was short lived as the rain interrupted play and the match was later abandoned. Later in the evening we ended up watching a very interesting programme on SBS called 'Worse Place to be a Pilot'. There is not much worth watching on television these days but this series is an exception. We thoroughly enjoyed it and collectively held our breath as young pilots in need of flying hours landed small planes on tiny runways in the mountains of Indonesia.

 
The holidays are over. The new school year starts this week. I have twins who are becoming eager readers. I'm looking forward to re-reading all the classics I read to my older children. They have fallen in love with Anne Shirley and I can't wait to introduce them to the Little Women and Jo's Boys!

And then there's Heidi and the Swallows and Amazons - a wealth of characters and life lessons in these wonderful old books!


 
Hope that you enjoyed reading about how we celebrated Australia Day. We are so thankful for this beautiful country and our home among the gum trees. Will be sharing more soon from our Eight Acres of Eden.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Silver Anniversary Celebration at Christmas



As 2014 came to a close we celebrated a very special occasion - our Silver Wedding Anniversary. I had given much thought to how we should mark 25 years of marriage, perhaps a meal at an exclusive restaurant or a night away at a luxury hotel but tugging at my heart was the idea to plan a celebration dinner that would reflect who we are as a couple and what we value most in life. Hospitality has been such an important part of our life together. Right from the start of our marriage we had opened up our home to others and shared meals with family, friends, neighbours and sometimes total strangers. People from every walk of life, from countries all over the world have gathered around our family meal table, so it just seemed fitting that on this special occasion that we should dine at home with family and friends. We invited two other couples and on a fine, warm evening we sat down outside on our patio around a beautifully set table.

I relished the opportunity to set the table and used two special vintage dinner sets. A silver trimmed Noritake set I had purchased at a garage sale for just $15 and another special set, Royal Albert's Lavender Rose. Ornate silver cutlery, white damask napkins and crystal goblets completed the place settings. I bought two bunches of flowers from Aldi - cream roses and white daisies which I popped into silver jugs with sprigs of greenery.

Planning the menu was done in conjunction with my two assistant chefs, our twin girls who were mad keen to try out recipes from their new cookbooks! We decided to have roast meats and as turkeys were drastically reduced at Aldi after Christmas, we once again enjoyed a succulent turkey dinner. The turkey had been placed in a brine overnight and was so tender. One of the twins prepared a leg of lamb using her secret recipe which was slow roasted. Dishes of potato bake and a spinach, quinoa, orange and feta salad accompanied the roast meats.

 


The decision as to desserts was made simple. We were at the movies on Boxing Day when an ad came on for Magnum ice creams. It just so happened that they were celebrating 25 years and had brought out a special limited edition salted caramel ice cream with a silver coating in silver packaging. I turned to my daughter and said 'Guess what we are having for dessert now!' At the supermarket I could not find the salted caramel ones even though the label on the shelf indicated they stocked them. Undeterred, we pulled out boxes and found the last 3 packages hiding in the back of the cabinet. They were even on special - meant for us!


 I presented our Anniversary Magnums on an ornate silver cake stand

  

My 17 year old daughter had just finished refurbishing a vintage dresser for her bedroom. My husband had rescued the dresser from a derelict house which was about to be demolished. The mirror was broken so we turned it into a chalkboard. I had thought of writing up the menu but decided to use it to display photographs of our wedding day. It made the perfect dessert station and gift table! In addition to the Magnum ice creams we also served a fresh fruit salad and chocolate dipped cherries - made entirely by the twins.
 

Enjoying our silver Magnums on our Silver Anniversary! They even have 25 engraved on the stick. It was such a special evening and I have no regrets about giving myself 'extra work' so soon after Christmas.

 


This was our Christmas place setting. This time I used gold trimmed vintage plates and Royal Albert Old Country Roses cutlery. I trimmed sprigs of cedar to scatter down the table with pine cones. I made the lavender scented soy candles in crystal glasses to sell at the markets but no one bought them which I didn't mind as they looked beautiful on our table and I am still enjoying them each evening. They have such a long burn time.
 

This is the area of our patio where we set out our tables for our Christmas and Anniversary dinners. The younger children sat at the rustic farm table I bought from a garage sale for $20. One of the boards really does need replacing but I covered the splintered edge with greenery, freshly picked from the Himalayan cedar that frames the front of our home. It is so tall now, as is the Kashmiri cypress on the other side of our front entrance. It was the sight of those trees that made my heart skip a beat the first time we came to view this property. A house with its own Christmas trees! I knew there and then we would buy it! In the background you can see a glimpse of our vintage tricycle drinks cart. This is something my husband made for our vintage hire business. He is just so creative. I showed him a picture of a champagne cart at a wedding I had seen on pinterest and he said ' I could build that' and he did! We found an old ladies vintage bicycle in a junk yard and with months of welding, building and painting we had ourselves a rather unique drinks cooler! A very talented artist friend painted the sign for the front of the cart after I showed him a vintage inspired sign I had found on pinterest but he didn't need a stencil! Our cart has been to three weddings this spring to three different venues - a botanic gardens, a country hall and a historic homestead. It is booked for several weddings so far this summer and it just works a treat keeping drinks cold for hours.



The other 'prop' that has been to weddings but I get to enjoy at home is our vintage chandelier. I have hung it on the veranda over our table. I waited so long to find an authentic vintage one at the right price and could not bring myself to buy a reproduction with acrylic drops, it had to be real glass! It's a 1940's chandelier I found in a vintage store in Melbourne last December when we traveled down for our son's graduation from RMIT University. He moved out of home last year after securing an excellent position with a software development company. It's not too far from home, just over 2 hours away and he was here for Christmas and our Anniversary dinner.


December was a month of non-stop celebrations! The twins celebrated their 9th birthday and our youngest turned 5 .There was another birthday too - our son turned 15 and on that occasion mum and dad took him out for dinner!

To make serving dinner easier for a larger family we serve the food buffet style and everyone helps themselves. No shortage of platters and serving utensils in this house! For Christmas dessert we kept it simple. My daughter convinced me to buy rather than make a pavlova. We found one that was preservative free and decorated it with fresh fruit.


I set up our tree in the corner of our dining room. Sentiment won me over and I used the same traditional red, green and gold decorations I have collected over the years. I didn't decorate any other rooms such as our formal lounge or the hallway. This is the room where we do most of our living and I wanted to just enjoy the sight of our tree, Nativity scene and other decorations every day during the Christmas season.
  

Our Stanley stove always gets some Christmas touches. The wreath I made a number of years ago was set out again, together with lamps and candles. I placed some apples and a bundle of cinnamon sticks on a cake stand and that was all that was really needed. In the evening when the candles are glowing it is so homely and beautiful. Three years ago I uploaded a photo of our Stanley stove decorated for Christmas and adorned with greenery to my Pinterest board. It's been repinned over 326 times and even appeared in my own feed!


Alas the time came when I had to take the decorations down and pack them away until next Christmas. I took the opportunity to do a big clean up and with help from my girls we spent a full day cleaning, decluttering and organizing.

This year I have two girls celebrating special birthdays - one will turn 18 in August and the other celebrates her 21st in November! My vintage girl cannot make up her mind whether to go for a 1920's theme or 1950's. She loves both eras. She is madly pinning ideas!

With a home to manage, a small business to run, children to teach and people to care for (international students and backpackers) 2015 looks like being another another busy year for our family so I am not sure how I will find time to write this blog but I am going to give it a go. I have found it's much faster to use my phone to upload the photos then hop on the desktop to arrange them and add in the text. I've managed to do this today for a longer post and fit in a trip to the beach so I am hopeful I can repeat the exercise again soon, providing Blogger cooperates this time and saves my text (this is my 2nd attempt for the text after my first draft of the text disappeared!) I've switched over to a simple template with thoughts of doing a re-design. I want to keep it simple, no fussy backgrounds - just an attractive photographic header and category headings making the blog easier to navigate. My techno savvy son has left home and doesn't have the time to assist me so if any of my blog friends can recommend someone who can do this who doesn't charge a lot I will consider it.

I hope that you have enjoyed catching up with me here today. It's been some time since I posted so will be interesting to see if I receive many comments but I'm still here and so very grateful that I discovered blogs and the friends I have made here are still very dear to me. I pray that your times with family over the holidays and Christmas celebrations were as fulfilling as mine were. These are the days we will look back on when we are older and remember - the family gatherings, the times around our tables, the Christmas mornings with excited younger children and grandchildren. The days we will cherish and long for again which makes me more determined to make those times feel extra special and memorable. I am so grateful to God for being a homemaker and hope to share more about what motivates and inspires me to be a better homemaker during 2015.

Happy New Year!



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