Tag Archives: winter

Friday Finds – playing with fire

1 Jun

It’s the first day of winter in Australia, and by our standards it’s getting a bit chilly.  Yes I know that in Sydney we don’t know the real meaning of cold, to us it’s freezing if the mercury slips into single digits, and that’s celsius speak!  In honour of winter today’s Friday Finds is all about fire.  I love an outdoor fire.  Memories of toasted marshmallows on camp fires, bonfires on the beach and if I cast my mind back a long long way we use to have bonfires on cracker night before everyone became safety conscious and fireworks were banned.

Fire pits are becoming a backyard trend at the moment, and they range from a hole in the ground or half a metal drum to some seriously beautiful metal sculptures. It’s the seriously beautiful end of the spectrum I’m coming from today.  I stumbled across this artist when I was researching fire pits for a client.  Rick Wittrig calls himself a functional steel artist, and his company, Fire Pit Art, creates very simple, yet elegant fire pits that look good with or without a flame.

Check out his website at Fire Pit Art.

I’m headed off to find me a heater!

Sam

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Climbing a mountain

15 May

I’m having a love / hate relationship with my post a day May idea.  I love writing my blog, I always have, but hate (well, probably not hate, but mild dislike) that I’ve tied myself to posting each day and thinking about what to post.  I’m sure that I’m going to be extremely proud when I’ve achieved the goal, but for now I’m starting to struggle a little.  It’s starting to feel a little bit like an uphill hike.  You start out fresh, excited, ready conquer the peak, but as the trek wears on your breath shortens, you need more  breaks and it feels like you’ll never make it.  The good news is I’m half way, so to mark the half way point I thought I’d show you my favourite mountains. Theoretically, the rest is downhill!

The weather in Sydney has been pretty chilly this week, apparently they’re starting to get their first snow down in the Mountains.  OK, so we’re in Australia and we don’t have really impressive mountains.  On a global scale they’re more like hills, and the fact that we get excited about skiing these tiny mountains with the smear of snow that we get is a bit comical to those of you who are more enhanced in the alpine stakes, but we love them.  The Snowy Mountains National Park which contains Australia’s highest peak – Mt Kosciuszko, is a fragile Australian Alpine ecosystem.  The Australian high country is characterised by the Snowy Gum which helps to give it it’s unique character.  It’s an area that I find extremely calm and peaceful whether it is covered in snow or spring wild flowers.

Hope you enjoy my downhill slide!  Hopefully we will get to take the Drama Queen and Daredevil to see their first snow this year.

Sam

Photos from Drawn Outdoors, http://www.godadgo.com.au and http://www.boardworld.com.au

Rain rain go away…no actually just p!$$ off.

22 Jul

I am over the rain.  I am soooo over the rain it’s not funny.  I go stir crazy when I’m stuck indoors, and I’m sure I have an undiagnosed case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (you know the one where you get really grumpy when it’s winter and there’s no sun).  So it’s winter, it has rained exactly 50% of the days since we moved to our new house (yes, I counted them) and I’m stir crazy and grumpy, maybe that’s why I’m not one of the Drama Queens favourite people at the moment (yes, she told me).

I’m guessing if you’re in Sydney you would be a little bit like me.  After years of drought where all we wanted was just a little bit of rain to turn our brown grass green, now all we want is a little bit of sun to turn our mud patches back into gardens.  Or just a chance to emerge from indoors and feel the sun on our faces.  I think we’re all a little water logged.

Just to put it into perspective, I heard on the radio today that this has been the wettest July in Sydney for 60 years, and we still have another 10 days to go.  60 years is a really long time, so I figure I’m not imagining it, it is really really wet.

I am a firm believer in getting out there and getting wet or dirty when the weather allows, but as we are now running out of clean clothes due to the lack of drying weather, it’s probably not the smartest thing to do.  Plus I don’t want to really add to the long list of winter ailments the Drama Queen has had to endure this year.  So this leaves us house bound and delving into the world of creativity to while away the wet hours.

Yesterday it was crayons and dress ups.

The Daredevil is not so sure about the wearing a dress thing

Today we’ve made a Silvermist skirt (for those of you not up with fairies, Silvermist is one of Tinkerbell’s friends) and we’re about to make some cup cakes.

The Drama Queen in her "Silvermist" skirt - the word on her door is just wishful thinking!

This would all be fantastic fun if I had have even had one hour of sleep last night, but thanks to a malfunctioning storm water pump Mr Perfect and I spent a very soggy night preventing our garage from flooding.  Once we had worked out a solution that didn’t require hauling buckets of water, I volunteered to do the night shift, he after all has to go to work and try and make some sense. This involved me trekking outside every hour or so and manually tripping the pump to empty the pit before it overflowed into the garage.

So after all this rain, I am itching to get stuck into our garden.  We planted the Drama Queen’s snow peas and broccoli on the weekend, but didn’t even get the chance to spread the sugar cane mulch around them before the latest downpour started.  Hopefully they don’t drown out there!  We did also start some new seeds – more snow peas and broccoli, plus some basil.  Theory says the rain should be good for them, but in reality it may just be too much.

So I beg of you, whoever flicked the torrential downpour switch, turn it off – we’ve had enough!

Sam

When you can’t get outdoors

17 Jun

After last week’s weather curse, I’m hoping this one brings us some gorgeous sunny weather so we can all head outdoors and shake off the hibernation shackles.

Let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t, or don’t want to go outdoors.  It might be wet, cold, miserable, and if you’re really lucky it might be snowing.  Or, you just don’t want to go out today, you feel like a little bit of indoor entertainment.  That’s fine, I understand.  I’m not generally like that.  I start to get a bit stir crazy if I don’t venture out the front door.  There’s a world out there and I love being in it, but sometimes I do want to cocoon, to hibernate and to just sit at home for a while, generally that mood hits on rainy days in winter, so I have a feeling that we might be having the winter mood this weekend after the week of horrible rain, wind and cold that we’ve had.

When the winter mood hits, my creative soul doesn’t generally take a break.  I like to make things.  I try to make as many of my birthday and christmas gifts as I can, and any new babies can generally expect some hand made goodies too.  I have a fabric obsession that is verging on the insane, and I probably have the supplies to kit out a small haberdashery store.  So here are my top 5 things to do indoors, when you can’t or just don’t feel like heading out.

1. Craft it up – This is my number one favourite thing to do indoors.  It also becomes an outdoor activity in summer when I can grab a picnic blanket (hand made) and stretch out in the sun and create.  Lately I have become seriously addicted to the sock animals designed by Craft Schmaft, they are so easy and look so good.  I have made flocks of owls who have flown the nest to many appreciative babies.

Some of my sock owls before they found a new home.

I was making owls before I was a Bizness Babe, and it turns out that Craft Schmaft is a Bizness Babe business too – such a small world! There are so many more Craft Schmaft patterns to choose from, last Christmas I branched out into sock dogs too!

The Daredevil loving his Craft Schmaft dog

2. Read a good book – This is something that I’ve had less and less time for.  I traditionally devour books, regardless of the genre, and have been known to spend a whole day just reading a book that I can’t put down.  Mr Perfect tells everyone about the number of books I took, and the amount of time I spent reading on our honeymoon.  I have a soft spot for good contemporary Australian fiction, with Tim Winton being an obvious favourite.  With time at a premium, these are the books I have been gravitating to, though I have just started reading a classic, I’ve picked up To Kill a Mockingbird again.

3. Become a domestic goddess – a la Nigella.  I love cooking, and winter is a great time to try out new recipies.  The Oven being on warms the house and the food warms the soul.  I make a killer chocolate brownie, and don’t mind trying my hand at cake decorating.  The DramaQueen and Daredevil have had some fantastic cakes.  But winter is the best time to try out puddings, chocolate, caramel, sticky date, crumbles… all yum with cream and ice cream melting over the top!

The Drama Queens' Butters cake made for her 2nd birthday

4. Take a bath – Another thing I haven’t had a huge amount of time for lately, but there’s nothing better than running a warm bath, lighting a few candles, adding some bath oils and relaxing.  Fantastic for a bit of alone time, and to recharge. I have to give a little plug for a fellow Bizness Babe – Felicity at the Karma Soap Company has just launched her website and it looks fabulous.  I’m thinking her new body scrub would be a great addition to a relaxing bath, or any of her handmade fresh goats milk soaps for that matter.

5. Cheese and wine – Well, lets face it, these are good any place any time, but they seem a bit nicer when you’re sitting around an open fire.  My sister is the queen of cheese, check out her christmas cheese platters.

Lou's Christmas cheese platters

Most of these things go very well with an open fire and a nice quilt to rug up with. Maybe you could make one??!!??

Sam

And then it rained.

13 Jun

I think I may have a weather curse. After writing about how nice the sun had been despite the cold, I think the clouds rolled in straight after I hit the publish button.  It started to rain not long after, and it hasn’t really stopped since.  So all those fantastic “get out into it” ideas I had for this long weekend went straight out the window.  I guess if you had a raincoat, gumboots and maybe a small dinghy you could have enjoyed some outdoor time, but if you were like us, you were well and truly entrenched inside, bunkered down for the weekend.

We had great plans for this weekend.  We headed up to the Central Coast on Saturday for my cousin’s engagement party.  A family gathering is never a small or quiet event for us, and the opportunity for a long weekend together proved to be too much to pass up.  A gorgeous sunny weekend would have meant walks, beaches (without the swimming), beer gardens and barbecues.  But a rainy weekend meant 9 kids, and 19 adults locked inside with no chance of escape – cosy, loud and very communal!

So this got me thinking, how can you maximise the potential of your outdoor space during the bad weather and still enjoy actually being outdoors when the weather’s fine, and not build yourself in?

First of all you need to accept that really bad weather does not equal the best time to be outside, and maybe a good game of scrabble or trivial pursuit might be a better option. But, having said that a few things come to mind to minimise the inclement and cold.  Some will work for gardens of any size, some will need a heap of space, and some are just a dream waiting to come true when you finally win Powerball.  But hey, a girl can dream can’t she???

The key component would be shelter – to be completely weather proof this would need to be constructed, and therefore would need some space.  Here are some cute little ideas I found whilst procrastinating researching online.

How good would this be?? from http://www.from-london-with-love.com

This one even looks like it's winter. From http://www.centrodionysia.org

This one has to be one of my favorites photo: http://www.lightlocations.com

So, realistically, if you have an average sized garden you may have space for a covered deck, small awning, or nothing at all.  It’s good to try and locate things like barbecues and outdoor furniture under cover, it keeps them safe from the elements, and you’ll have them for so much longer.  You may just have to be happy with what you’ve got and enjoy a good game of Jenga indoors.

If you do want to build yourself some all weather space bear in mind that you will want to try and maximise solar access so they don’t become dark, dank and miserable, and try and consider how the structure will be used in all seasons.  If it’s shading from sun in summer, will it let enough light through in winter to keep  the space warm and attractive?  There are ways and means of designing to maximise solar access, you just need to think about it a bit before jumping in.

Heat is so important in winter – if it’s not warm you don’t want to be there, and at night time there is only so far beanies and gloves can stretch.  Night time get togethers are so much more fun when you’re crowded around a heater or a fire.  Who wouldn’t love their own fire pit in their garden.  But if, like me, you don’t have the space for a small wood burning bbq, let a lone a fire pit, then a heater will have to do.  There are plenty on the market, so I won’t go into recommendations, but just look for one that’s portable and make sure you have the space to store it undercover in Summer when you really don’t need it.

Here’s an idea from AK47 that looks like it combines both fire and a more compact heater in one, how good would this be?  I just need to work out how to get one.

What a great idea if you'd love a fire but don't have the space!

If you can create them, a shelter and heat work really well when you can create a little “nook” for them.  The smaller the space, the more cozy it feels, and the more attractive in winter, though you won’t be having gatherings for 20+ people!

Another consideration to add to my garden design to do list!

Sam

Rug up and get out there.

10 Jun
OK, so it’s winter and it’s really cold, but that’s no excuse not to rug yourself up and get out there. That’s what gloves and beanies were made for.  Besides, while it may be cold and windy, that sun is still spectacular and warms you to your soul.  Make the most of the cooler weather and try and do some of the things that get harder when it gets hotter.  Note for  those of you reading from the northern hemisphere, yes, we know it doesn’t get that  cold here in Sydney, but we think it does, we’re like Goldilocks, as long as it’s not too cold or not too hot it’s juuuuust right, and that’s the way we like it

We’re at the point at our new place where it’s warmer to head outdoors during the day than stay inside, so here are my top 5 things to do on a cold but sunny winter’s day.  This long weekend have a think about giving some a try…

1 Plant some vegetables. It’s probably not something you would normally associate with winter, but there are some great winter vegetable crops you can plant and enjoy in your hearty comfort food concoctions.

The Drama Queen’s snow pea crop is starting to power, though her broccoli is a little out of season, so they aren’t doing so well.  Other vegetables you might want to try if you’re looking at some Sydney vegetable gardening, are carrots, parsnips and beetroot for root crops, broad beans, snow peas, Spinach and cabbage for the above ground types.  If you’re looking for something a little more herbal, try parsley, oregano or chives.

Pop's spinach crop

Just try and make sure you keep their feet warm with a bit of organic mulch (try sugar cane mulch it’s a great re-use of a by-product) and that you give them plenty to drink, Sydney winters are normally dry.

2 Go for a walk.  Winter is a great time to check out your local neighbourhood or try something a bit more adventurous.  There are a few spectacular walks in Sydney, one of my favourites is the Spit to Manly, a little bit of bush, and it can end with a wine or two and a nice meal.  The bonus of bush walking in winter is you don’t need to worry too much about snake spotting, they’re generally fast asleep.

Another of my favourite winter walking habits is playing tourist in your own city, and Sydney is a fantastic place to play tourist, The Rocks, Circular Quay, Opera House, Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery, you can’t beat that for a walking circuit!  and if you’ve still got puff left, you can always walk across the bridge to Kirribilli and Luna Park.

Me and the Drama Queen on one of our tourist adventures in the botanic gardens - and yes, this was in winter!

3 Do some garden renovation – lets face it some of the hard stuff in the garden is hot work, and in summer it’s just not fun.  Really, in winter it’s not much fun either, but if you can’t afford to get someone to do it for you, winter is the best time to do the tough jobs like re-mulching, pruning and building, then you’re all ready to enjoy what spring then summer have in store.

4 Share a wine in a sunny beer garden – So you’ve planted, walked, and put in the hard slog, me thinks it’s time for a reward.  I love spending time with friends and family out in the sun, and partaking in a drop or two of good Aussie wine.  Need I say more?  Just head on down to your local, find a nice spot in the sun and have fun.

5  Go skiing.  Oh how I miss our skiing holidays.  Since the Drama Queen was born we haven’t managed to make our way down to the snow.  Despite our pre children promises, it appears we have turned into those parents who stop doing some of the things they love when munchkins come on the scene.  Every June long weekend, when the Australian ski season starts I get a little pang of longing, and then every October long weekend, a little pang of regret that we’ve missed another one. So if you’re heading down to the slopes this weekend for the season opening, I am soooo jealous!  I can’t think of much better for a sunny chilly winter’s day than shooping down the slopes to stop for a hot chocolate and a chat.  Really, I think I spent more time with the hot chocolate than I did with the snow…

ahhhh... sun, snow and skis, can think of nothing better in winter

I’ll definitely be doing number 4, how about you? Stay warm and have fun!

Sam

If it’s winter, it must be soup time!

1 Jun

It’s the first day of winter, and it’s been chilly! Today it’s been a bit rainy and overcast in Sydney, and it really feels like winter, so we need a good winter warmer for dinner.  I grew up with the world’s best soup cook.  Mum’s soups are the thing of legend.  They’re nothing fancy, she’ll be winning no Michelin stars, but they are good, wholesome, tasty and heart warming.  I learnt from the best.

Soups are the best way to empty the vegetable crisper, or to use up all those home grown vegetables.  You can make a soup out of anything, add some stock, maybe some meat and there you have a fantastic and easy winter meal.  Tonight we’ll be having lamb, barley and vegetable soup with crusty bread rolls.  Here’s my recipe if you want to try… though bear in mind that I am a very instinctual cook, and many of these quantities and times may be wild guesstimates, just do it for the love if you’re game.

Bubbling away on the stove

2 lamb forequarter,  chops
1 medium onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
half a cup of barley (prepare it in accordance with the instructions on the packet.  I’m either forgetful or lazy so I always end up doing the quick boil it up method)
2 carrots, chopped
half a butternut pumpkin, chopped
1 x tin of tomatoes
1 x carton of beef stock
water

Brown chops and onion (OK, so you’d better add oil to the ingredients list).

Add stock, the equal amount of water, barley and all the veges (including the tomatoes) and bring to the boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover and simmer until meat and veges are cooked (about an hour?).  If the liquid level gets a little low, just add a bit more.

Remove the meat from the bone and chop or break up into small pieces and return to the soup. Season to taste.

Serve it up with bread rolls

Eat and enjoy – the most important bit!

The happy result!

Sam

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