Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mildura makes me happy

 Mildura always makes me happy so a quick visit just before Christmas was a perfect way to lead into the festive season. 

First stop after a few hours on the road and some speed shopping was Fine and Sunny to test out their little cafĂ© and browse their beautiful wares.  A cold iced coffee with a jam swirl biscuit was just the caffeine and sugar hit I needed, delicious!

For dinner that evening we made our traditional stop at the Pizza Cafe for antipasto, pizza and a cold beer.  Fast, friendly service and tasty food was just what the doctor ordered for kids and adults alike.  

We tried the special pizza of the day topped with eggplant, olives, capsicum, prosciutto and mozzarella.  With a perfect crispy base and just the right amount of topping, the pizza was a winner.

Saturday morning and we make a happy discovery.  Since out last visit Stefano's Cafe Bakery now has a children’s menu. This means a more affordable option for the kids and the plastic cutlery is also a welcome addition.  There were no complaints from the junior gourmet travellers about a fluffy pancake served with lemon curd, maple syrup and a strawberry.

I enjoyed an indulgent serve of French toast with poached fruit and cream…yes at breakfast time!  The toast had a thin, crispy, cinnamon and sugar crust and a sprinkle of fresh mint leaves was welcome in amongst all the sweetness.  Poached pears and raspberries were hiding under the toast and with a hint of spice they finished off the dish perfectly. 

We enjoyed our breakfast al-fresco under the grapevine canopy and just for a moment pretended we could live like this full time!

Incredible coffee was devoured and we made our way towards the Murray and the Sunraysia Farmer's Market

My preferred dried fruit supplier for my sourdough fruit bread; Tabletop Grapes. 
An array of beautifully presented, fresh produce was on offer at the market and it was a relaxing way to shop and chat while the kids enjoyed an obligatory visit from Santa.

As I said, Mildura always makes me happy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toys with character for Christmas

On a recent trip to Mildura I visited one of my favourite second hand shops S & L Trading looking for something interesting preferably related to vintage or old caravans.  This recent enthusiasm has been sparked by the beautiful book My Cool Caravan which is full of cute retro vans that have been lovingly restored by their owners.

My own caravan is a long way off so in the meantime I am searching for the toy variety…preferably old with a little character.  I quickly found this Ford Thames Airborne Caravan made in Great Britain by Corgi Toys.  A little searching took me to the very interesting website of Andrew Wood where I discovered that these vans were made between 1962 and 1966.  

My little van is clearly pre-loved but in good condition complete with internal shutters on the windows, swinging back doors and a slightly perished cushioned seat in the back.  I love it!

On the same trip we acquired this three wheel children’s bike which came with a cute home made tin trailer.  This is a Christmas present for our kids but I am not sure who is more excited about it, us or them? It is difficult to resist the timeless quality of these toys.  Do you have any old toys from your childhood that hold special Christmas memories?  Merry Christmas.

For more lovely vintage finds link up with Sophie at Her Library Adventures

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Zucchini Chocolate cake

I have found the perfect way to deal with large zucchinis found lurking in the vegetable patch.  This cake is dense, moist and not too sweet…who knows it might even be slightly healthy!

 Zucchini Chocolate cake – recipe adapted from The best of Jackie French

185g butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
 1 ½ cups of grated zucchini
1 ½ cups of self raising flour, sifted
¼ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind, optional
¾ cup of milk

Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs one at a time; gradually stir in the other ingredients.  Stir just enough to combine ingredients – don’t overbeat.  Grease a cake tin, pour in batter; bake at 200°C for about 50 minutes or until firm.  Leave for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool.

The original recipe suggests icing with chocolate icing but I took the easy option with this one and simply dusted it with icing sugar.  There were no complaints from the cake testers in the house!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The simple things at Christmas

In these hectic days heading towards Christmas I am reflecting on the simple but beautiful things that really make me smile.

These gorgeous crocheted and knitted stars are made by the very creative Jodie over at Jellywares with 50% of the sales going towards charity.  Handmade treasures that have been made with love while also benefiting someone else…for me this is the true spirit of Christmas.

A handful of perfect tomatoes from the garden.

Terry took this photo of a little Christmas beetle in the garden yesterday morning (that is our name for them anyway!)

What is making you smile this weekend? 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Crafty Sunday

Yesterday I finally managed to get a little festive spirit into our house.  For me Christmas is all about the food and I love getting inspired by my collection of both old and new Christmas magazines and cookbooks. 

The morning started with a big batch of mini gingerbread men to give as gifts to family and friends.  These mini men always make me smile but they are rather time consuming!

 From the baking we moved onto a home-made advent calendar partly inspired by Cathie and her beautiful blog Melbourne Epicure .  Annabelle decorated some of the boxes until she became more interested in filling them with the tiny treats.  I had a little play with the textas to finish the project and this was our result.

Are you doing any Christmas crafts yet?