Monday, January 31, 2011

Vodka Waffle Weave

Our long overdue Summer has finally arrived & with a vengeance! 40C. Saturday, 42C. Sunday & again today (104/108F). As I love this sort of weather I'm one happy chappy, but poor old MOTH was up a ladder in the third bedroom continuing the new ceiling frame most of the weekend & was doing it tough - heat rising & all that! What better way to finish such a hot day than with one of my favourite thirst quenchers, Millie's famous Cranberry Caprioska. Here's my recipe, & as I don't have exact quantities, the purists had better go & do something else.

Millie's Eye-Rolling Vodka Caprioska

  • In a big tall jug muddle 2 fresh limes that you've quartered with a couple of scant dessertspoons of raw cane sugar until all the sugar is dissolved.

  • Add a very generous slurp of good Vodka straight from the freezer which is the BEST place to store it.

  • And a big splash of Frangelico (about 1/3rd the amount of Vodka)

  • Throw in a heap of ice cubes & top up the jug with ice cold Original Cranberry Juice (don't bother with the Light stuff it's just not the same).

  • Serve in individual tall highball glasses with an additional slice of lime.

  • You will find the glass is empty pretty quickly, so by all means pour yourself another. However, about 1/2 way through the second glass you will notice your eyes beginning to roll around uncontrollably & your focus on distant objects beginning to fail. At this point I tend to slow down, to ensure I remain upright for the rest of the evening!!!

A good buy at this year's Post-Chrissie sales was a lovely white cotton waffle weave blanket for our bed. I paid under $60 for a KS at BB&T, & with the hot weather we turfed the doona & gave the new blanket a run.

We are generally around 5-7 degrees cooler at night up here in the Hills than our friends down on the Adelaide Plains, so still need a light bed covering on these hot nights. It was a winner!


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sun House

Here we are at the end of the first month of a new blogging year, & I think it's high time for a relaxing weekend retreat away to plan our individual blog Agendas for the year.

A lovely place where we can find a quiet corner to relax & plan our posts & think about where we want take our blogs in 2011. Over the years we've been to all sorts of 6 star retreats on these cyber weekends....some very ritzy, palatial & down right decadent. This weekend's destination will be a little different. The Sun House is a private colonial boutique hotel perched high on a hill, just 5 minutes from the ancient fort town of Galle on the south coast of Sri Lanka.

Built in the 1860's for a Scottish spice merchant, The Sun House has an wonderful ambience, albeit with a touch of peaceful, faded beauty. Galle was deeply affected by the 2004 tsunami & has spent the ensuing years regrouping & rebuilding.

The Sun House has been renovated to maintain its colonial charm and elegance. The large central living area is the heart of the house. A place where you can browse through their eclectic selection of books in the library, sink into a relaxing sofa, listen to whatever music takes your fancy or relax by the pool.

The elegant suites are filled with colonial antique furniture & dreamy four poster beds.

With wonderful names like Hibiscus, Araliya, Parrot Fish & Dumas, the spacious suites have garden & pool views & private balconies.

Complete with antique furniture, mosquito nets & colonial ceiling fans, the suites make for a truly restful place to read or write or just to dream.

Each suite as a large, modern bathroom.

And the Cinnamon Suite has a stunning outdoor bathroom with a bath tub where you can soak in absolute peace and beauty.

The Living Room overlooks the wide verandah.

And is the perfect place to meet & compare notes on how our blog planning is going.

If you are the lucky occupier of the Cinnamon Suite, then your experience is very special, as it occupies the entire first floor of The Sun House. The Suite is complete with its own library & sitting room.

And a fabulous writing desk to work at & feel the cooling sea breezes drifting through the open windows.

The Mango Courtyard is a lovely spot for taking High Tea.

The fragrant frangipani ('temple tree') garden leads down to the swimming pool.

The pool area is an idyllic and serene place to relax, read, write or swim.

As the day draws to a close, the alfresco pavillion is the place to meet for a refreshing drink & to review our progress.

Make mine a passionfruit margharita please!

A lovely night together in the Dining Room awaits us. Scrumptious & tempting Sir Lankan cuisine is on the menu.

The Griddled Squid with Blistering Sweet Chilli Sauce followed by the Lime Tart has won me!

So The Sun House it is this weekend - care to join me my friends?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aussie Treat



125gm. softened butter, chopped
165gm. (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
185gm. (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
250gm. (1 3/4 cups) shredded coconut

For the icing
40gm. soft butter
500gm. (3 1/4 cups) icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
50gm. Dutch cocoa
20mls. Cognac
140mls. boiling water

Preheat oven to 190C.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in combined sifted flour and baking powder alternating with milk and stir until smooth. Spoon mixture into a greased and lined square 23cm cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand in tin for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and store for 1 day.

For the icing
Combine all ingredients with 140mls. boiling water and mix until smooth.
Cut cake into teeny-tiny 3cm. squares and dip each one into the icing using a wooden skewer, then roll in the coconut.
Place lamingtons on a wire rack for 1-2 hours or until dry. Then pop them into small confectionary papers.
Made cute & tiny they are sublime as after-dinner treats. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature they are OK for a couple of days, but honestly, why would you want to! Makes about 40.


Image & recipe: Cuisine

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another Day, Another Room

After a huge weekend in the garden, this is where I found MOTH last night, making a start on the grotty 3rd bedroom. It's further along the upstairs corridor next to the Bathroom-From-Heaven. On the other side of this wall is the even grottier untouched large family room which I use as my home office.

This room is really a mini clone of the completed guestroom, just a lot smaller at 2.7m. x 4.3m. So just like it's fancier sibling, it will have its ceiling dropped, as the very weird tall raked look with beams c.1972 is just a haven for spiders & other creepy crawlies. The height also makes the room almost impossible to heat & is bitterly cold in the dead of a Hills winter. And yes, in case you were wondering, that is the original '70's light fitting, it will be 'archived'.

So MOTH's started to put the frame up around the walls ready to attach the plasterboard (dryboard) ceiling to. To do this is an 'interesting' exercise for a couple of our advancing years. We both climb up ladders, then as MOTH uses buckets of adhesive & nails to do the fix, I balance the board on my head to keep it elevated. Over the past 16 years of renovating together, we have perfected this technique. Photos will not be forthcoming.

The wardrobe is the original, a smaller version of the one in the Guestroom. Thankfully this time, MOTH won't have to relocate it to another wall, it can stay where it is. We'll paint it & keep the original handles, they still look OK & function well.

It will look like this, once I've used a zillion coats of MOTH's special recipe undercoat to make sure the old varnished timber finish doesn't bleed through the new topcoat. As soon as this room is finished it will become a cramped holding bay for everything that's in the final room, my home office. Once MOTH gets cracking with that reno. I'll need to set up elsewhere to work, so I guess this little room is where I'll temporarily end up. Not the prettiest of posts today, but the After pics will hopefully make up for it.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Set Free

As well documented, MOTH's been trapped inside the house every weekend for the past 18 mths 'attending' to bathroom matters. This has meant that our jungle garden has been incredibly neglected, so he's been given permission to work outside on weekends for the next couple of months while the weather is warm. 'Inside can wait' I told him (I actually still can't believe I said that!).

He took me at my word & last Sunday attacked a huge area in the front yard, ripping out a whole heap of old woody trees & self-sown rubbish. It's already looking much better, so we can start to put into action what we have planned for that space. I do love the work of Holt Jordan & Joan Honeyman @ Jordan Honeyman in Washington DC. They have done wonders with this property in historic Delaware, especially the use of an old relocated train depot in the above 2 images as a garden guest house.

And I reckon this reworking of a rather neglected outdoor terrace space by Donald Lococo is fabulous.

Thanks to everyone for their very insightful comments on yesterday's post. It was really interesting to hear how you would deal with the same issue - & of course, the Queen of Dodgy Customers, Miss Renee Finberg put it all in perspective, as only she can. 'They are feral children and are only doing the best they can.' - can't top that!!! It's the weekend - go enjoy!


Images 1 & 2: Jordan Honeyman

Images 3 & 4: Donald Lococo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grace Under Pressure

A less than auspicious start to my working year this week has left me feeling like I'm walking down a long corridor, not knowing what's going to come charging out from a side door to send me flying. I had to engage the old adage 'The customer's always right' big time yesterday, when very clearly they were not. When the evidence was placed quietly in front of them without any words, a simple apology was not forthcoming, just abject rudeness. This is a major Account so I made the split second decision to walk away without another word, but I found it incredibly disempowering. Those meaningful words from my dearest friend 'Grace under pressure Millie, grace under pressure' came in very useful, but it wasn't easy to adhere to them.

Could I or should I have handled it any differently, that's the big question. I get a niggling feeling that 'The customer's always right' belongs in another era & it's time to give it the flicko. However, the last thing I want to do is have a stand-up slanging match with a client, just to win a point - that's not my style. Thank goodness these occasions almost never arise, but if you've got any thoughts on the matter I'd be very keen to hear them.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of Frills & Friezes

One of my favourite Hills houses has just come on the market. Olivet House c.1920 (formerly known as Wachenappee) sits in all its grandeur at the end of our street here in Stirling. For a while back in the '90's it was a very gracious Boutique hotel, but was converted back to a private residence by the present Owners.

The land holding is a substantial 6,600 sq. metres approx (1.5 acres) of fabulous Hills garden & the house sits in a wonderful elevated position.

Very nice hedged courtyard outside the back door.

It has all the accoutrements required of a country estate.

The stairs leading down to an all-weather tennis court (puts our dodgy old clay court to shame!!).

Fabulous mature trees throughout the garden.

Meandering paths lined with the traditional Hills camelias & rhodies.

And a wide verandah to yell instructions to the gardeners from.

However, as we wander inside things sort of turn pear-shaped. A strange combo. of marbled colour washes on the walls, skirting boards & dado line. I have no doubt that a large amount of money was spent in the '90's getting all these specialist painted finishes done, but I reckon they detract from the true 'personality' of the house.

The formal sitting room is OK.

I feel a refit coming on here in the kitchen.

And the casual meals area off the kitchen has great potential. Love those French doors leading out to the verandah.

The formal lounge room has a bank of fabulous windows, but more of that painted marbled wash-ie thing happening with the walls. The chunky velour sofas seem to be caught in a time warp.

There are 7 bedrooms, and here's where the frills really kick in.


More frills & garlanded friezes.

This is one of the 5 bathrooms, & the ultimate awful frilly Austrian blind thing is in situ. This is a magical property, & I'm sure with a little clever design, strict adherence to the Less Is More theory, a large skip bin, the phone #'s of Heckle & Jeckle (aka Mike & Chris our favourite Painters & Decorators) & a fat cheque book, the new Owners can end the Frills & Friezes era Olivet House is sadly stuck in - good luck! Estimated sale price is $3 - 3.5 m.

Images: with apologies again to Jamie Brown @ Bernard Booth
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