Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Now!

It's been a whirlwind week at work, with lots of 'interesting' little challenges popping up from nowhere to deal with! We have a New Product launch in Sydney next week & I'm so far behind in my pre-reading that it's scary. So Cote Sud, Marie Claire Maison & The World of Interiors will be replaced this weekend by such august tomes as CardioVascular and Interventional Radiology, Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, International Journal of CardioVascular Interventions, Circulation, International Journal of Cardiac Imaging & my very favourite, the Journal of Molecular & Cellular Cardiology. Oh be still my beating heart (no pun intended!!). Make me envious & tell me what's on your reading list this weekend.

Image: Alan Shortall

Thursday, July 30, 2009

That 70's House

This family home built on a high ridge overlooking Lake Michigan near Chicago, has had 2 major transformations over its 31 years. Originally built in 1978, it had an addition in the 1990s and another renovation/addition in 2007. The original design was straight forward, a simple L-shape with bedrooms on the lower level and main living spaces on the upper level, with great views of the lake on three sides. An L-shaped wall which was added in 1993, created a private exterior courtyard overlooking the heavily-treed garden.

The 2007 work included a new master suite with dressing room and larger bathroom and a family room was also added. When first built in 1978 it was given a Distinguished Building Award by the American Institute of Architects Chicago for its outstanding design & aesthetics.

As I have often said here at The Hedge, for those of us trying to breathe new life into a 70's house, despite much research, inspiration & imagery is very thin on the ground. This lovely house reminds me so much of our 1973 'beauty' - sitting high up on the land, surrounded by woodland and huge old trees, with large expanses of glass allowing the light to flood in. While I know many of you won't be particularly drawn to this era of architecture or even this house, I wanted to post it, as to me struggling with the challenges of this architectural style, its pure joy. In a perfect world, when we found our amazing site, it would have come complete with a gorgeous little Edwardian cottage, but it didn't. So we just have had to play the cards we were dealt in a positive & enthusiastic manner. The images of this home stopped me in my tracks, and its wonderful to see that it has reinvented itself to move gracefully into the 00's, stylish & confident in its ability to see out another 30 years quite happily.

Images: Booth Hansen

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time For Two

MOTH & I have gone in opposite directions for the past couple of weeks due to very busy work commitments. Time I think to regroup & reconnect, so a couple of chairs pulled up by the fire, phones turned off & quality conversation is definitely the go tonight.
P.S. My RSS Feed Account is not updating my new posts on blog lists. Apologies for the glitch, I'm trying to fix the problem, but Feedburner isn't being very helpful at the moment!

OK, OK It's Not December.....

I had a quick trip to the movies sans MOTH on Friday & thoroughly enjoyed this little gem of an Aussie movie My Year Without Sex.

It's set in the burbs in Melbourne & in one of the scenes, poor Matt Day the husband & Dad in the film was looking at his woeful Christmas light display in their front garden & comparing it to the OTT job across the road at his snarky neighbours. So time for a quick reminder to start planning your extravaganza well in advance this year.

MOTH the Christmas Grump absolutely refuses to put up even one small twinkling light globe on the front of the house, but I've been thinking maybe this calls for a little conference with the boys. Knowing MOTH's loathing of all things Christmas, I'm sure the boys would embrace this concept enthusiastically. Some fast clandestine electrical work with lots of flashing lights, a neon angel or 3, strobing Star of Bethlehem & dancing disco Santa would be a great start. And as we don't have any street lights, which makes our country lane as black & dark as an underground coal mine, the effect would be truly awesome. I reckon the look on MOTH's face as he drove into our street the night we flicked the switch on this display would be worth every bit of work!!! Oh, and any Comments mentioning the word tacky or the very strange image credit sites listed at the end of this post will be Deleted immediately!


Image 1: ABC Image 2: Hot Spot Vibe Image 3: Light Up Image 4: Frugal RV Travel Image 5: Parenting Help Me Image 6: Baltimore Sun Image 7: BBC Image 8: Virgin Media

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Genetic Engineering x 5

Striped door....

blue door....

pink door.....

white door....

sliding door....

glass doors....

green door....

black door....

turquoise door....

arched doors....

yellow doors....

french doors.....

No matter what the door, the experience is the same - MOTH & the 5 boys still won't shut them!! What is it about males, are they all programmed with the identical DO NOT SHUT THE DOOR gene!! Please tell me I'm not alone!

Image 1: Coastal Living Image 2: Katy Elliott Image 3: All Doing Image 4: Skeppsholmen Image 5: Israel-Kurd Image 6: Simpson Doors Image 7: kmh Image 8: Home Hints Image 9: Dream Kitchen Image 10: Jewell Joinery Image 11: Four Walls & A Roof Image 12: Achitectural Salvage Antique

Monday, July 27, 2009

Starting The Week With A Winner!

Good Morning & welcome to the results of the draw of Millie's 300th Game! give-away. The draw was conducted under totally uncontrolled circumstances here @ The Hedge last night.

Everyone who left a comment was eligible.

After an afternoon of slaving away in the Bathroom-From-Hell, MOTH went & had a shower for the occasion, donned his favourite Rugby top which just 'happened' to come from his mate Jason's Company Unicorn Brewery & poured himself a beer to prepare himself for the draw.

Hamming it for the camera as usual, he made sure he wasn't peeking as he fossicked around in the 'barrel'.

Yep, he's selected the Winner & it's............

Amanda from Small Acorns in New Zealand! Amanda is the owner and creative force behind Small Acorns - a boutique store in Wellington, New Zealand which specialises in homeware, interior design and gorgeous goodies from NZ and around the globe. If you haven't visited her blog, I can really recommend you do, you will receive a very warm welcome. Amanda please email me at & let me know the address you would like me to send your prize, the lovely book Two Dogs & A Garden. Thanks to everyone who left such beautiful comments, I wish I could send you all a copy to enjoy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Serious Scientific Research

.... and with apologies to my friends in the Northern hemisphere who are sweltering through Summer! But it's freezing cold Down Under & I'm going into my 'Laboratory' this weekend to try & discover the Ultimate Hot Chocolate recipe to enjoy by the fire. Happy weekend to you all.

Max's Perfect Hot Chocolate (Serves 4)
Vanilla Cream:
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 1/2 cups full cream milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1. Put cornflour in a bowl & add only 1/2 cup of the milk.
2. Stir well to dissolve the cornflour.
3. Add sugar & egg yolks & whisk well. Set aside.
4. In a saucepan, heat the remaining 2 cups of milk & vanilla bean.
5. Bring mixture just to simmer.
6. Remove vanilla bean to scrape the seeds into the milk & discard the pod.
7. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the milk over gentle heat until it almost comes to the boil.
8. You can also add your favourite spice (e.g. cinnamon or nutmeg) to flavour the vanilla cream.
9. Strain vanilla cream through a sieve, set aside & allow to cool, then refrigerate.

Then to Make the Perfect Hot Chocolate......
2 cups full cream milk
2 cups of the cool vanilla cream
300g high quality dark chocolate chunks (Valrhona or similar)
1. Over gentle heat, mix vanilla cream & milk with a hand whisk until the mixture almost comes to the boil.
2. Stir in dark chocolate until melted.
3. Pour into mug & enjoy!

Totally Addicted's Hot Chocolate (Serves 1)

1. Line your hot chocolate glass with sweet chocolate topping leaving about an inch on the bottom.

2. Cover with frothy hot milk. When the milk is poured over the chocolate topping, you get three layers, dark on the bottom, slightly chocolatey in the middle and frothy milk on top.

3. Warm up another cup of frothy milk to serve on the side to adjust the chocolate to your liking.

4. Add some Valrhona chocolate shavings to your hot chocolate & stir well.

Gourmet Traveller's Heart-Stopping Hot Chocolate with Chocolate Marshmallows (Serves 6)
First make the Chocolate Marshmallows


20 gms. powered gelatine
330 gm (2 cups) white sugar
100 ml (2/3 cup) light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50 gm. Dutch-process cocoa (preferably Droste)
120 gm (¾ cup) pure icing sugar
70 gm (¼ cup) cornflour


1. Place gelatine in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add 1/3 cup cold water and stand for 10 minutes.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook without stirring until mixture reaches 121C. on a sugar thermometer.

3. With the mixer on low speed, add syrup in a thin steady stream and whisk until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl, add vanilla, increase speed to high and whisk for 8-10 minutes or until thick, white and fluffy.

4. Sieve over 20gm cocoa, whisk and transfer mixture to a baking paper-lined, lightly oiled 17cm-square cake pan, smoothing top and stand overnight.

5. Turn onto a lightly oiled cutting board and cut into squares. Sieve together icing sugar, cornflour and remaining cocoa, then roll marshmallows in cocoa mixture to coat.

6. Marshmallows will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

To assemble the Hot Chocolate
1. Combine 320 mls. of full cream milk and 320 mls. pouring cream in a heavy-based saucepan and 300 gms. dark chocolate (64% cocoa solids e.g. Valrhona) finely chopped
and bring to a simmer over low heat.

2. Stir continuously until melted and smooth. Divide among heatproof cups, add a dash of chocolate liqueur to taste, scatter with marshmallows and dust with cocoa.

Jeffrey Steingarten's Hot Chocolate via Crispy Waffle's Adaptation (Serves 4)

1-1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
80g of your favorite bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder (Droste is my favorite)
a generous pinch of salt

1. In a saucepan, stir together the milk, water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Add the chocolate and cocoa, bring to a boil again, whisking until the chocolate and cocoa are dissolved and the mixture is thickened.
3. Serve in little cups - a little goes a long way with this hot chocolate!

Jamie Oliver's The Best Hot Chocolate Drink (Serves 2)

This takes around 3 or 4 minutes to make.

1. First put the milk into a pan.
2. Bring to a simmer – not a boil – and while it's heating, put a tablespoon of choccie powder and sugar to taste into each mug.
3. Add a little warmish milk from the pan to each mug – you just need enough to dissolve the chocolate powder.
4. At this point, plonk a few marshmallows into each mug.
5. When the milk is at a simmer, carefully pour it into a plastic jug or flask.
6. I normally do this over a sink as I always end up spilling a bit (the trick is to have a big enough jug or flask so the milk only half fills it – you need the extra space for shaking and frothing).
7. Screw the lid on tightly, place a cloth over the lid for safety, and shake hard for a minute. Remove the lid, minding the steam, and pour the milk into your mugs.
8. A little stir and you can slurp your way to heaven!

Martha's Hot Chocolate (Serves 8)
400 bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
600 mls. full cream milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine chocolate and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2. Whisk until chocolate is melted and milk is very hot and frothy, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Add vanilla; pour into a blender, filling halfway.

4. Blend, holding lid in place (the hot liquid will expand), until frothy.

Spicy Spanish Hot Chocolate (Serves 4)

This combination of hot chocolate and espresso is enjoyed in Spain and throughout Europe.
2/3 cup boiling water
150 gms. good-quality dark or bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped 1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 2-inch piece orange rind strip
1/4 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Cocoa powder (optional)
1. Combine 2/3 cup boiling water and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan, stirring until chocolate melts.

2. Add milk and next 4 ingredients (through rind); cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk. Heat 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Discard rind.

3. Pour 1 cup mixture into each of 4 mugs. Spoon 1 tablespoon whipped topping over each serving. Dust with cocoa powder, if desired.

Recchuiti's Decadent Hot Chocolate (Serves 2)


150 gms. dark chocolate pieces, coarsely chopped
100 mls. filtered water, boiling
Flavorings (choose one only)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
or ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
or 1 teaspoon pasilla chile powder
Spirits (choose one only)
1 ½ nips single-malt Scotch Whiskey

or 1 ½ nips apple brandy
Garnishes (choose one only)
loosely whipped cream
or crème fraîche flavored with vanilla bean
or cinnamon sticks
or vanilla marshmallows

1. In a small saucepan, pour the boiling water over the chocolate pieces. Add any
flavorings or spirits to the mixture now. 
2. Using an immersion blender, mix until the chocolate pieces have completely melted
and a foamy froth has developed. You may also use a whisk, but the hot chocolate will
not be as frothy.
3. Pour into serving cups, garnish and serve immediately.

White Hot Chocolate (Serves 4)

3 cups light cream
3/4 cup white chocolate, chopped
1 stick cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Ground cinnamon for dusting (optional)
1. Combine 1/4 cup of the cream, white chocolate,cinnamon stick and nutmeg in a medium saucepan, whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove stick cinnamon.
2. Add remaining cream. Whisk until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Serve warm in cups or mugs. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

*Tip: To create the foamy layer on top, blend some of the hot chocolate mixture in a blender container until frothy, and add to each serving.

Hot Chocolate Cake in a Cup

250 gms. unsalted butter, plus extra for coating
3 tablespoons plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
150 gms. semi-sweet dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Generously butter, flour, and sugar eight coffee cups or mugs made of ovenproof stoneware. Wipe the rims clean.
2. Place the 8 tablespoons of butter and the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and melt, stirring once or twice until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.
3. Using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar at the highest speed until the volume doubles and the mixture becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir the 3 tablespoons of flour into the chocolate, then gradually add it to the egg mixture, beating on low until it's fully incorporated.
4. Ladle the batter into each cup until it's about 1/2 inch from the rim. Bake until the cakes puff and begin to crack but the centers are still a bit runny, 13 to 17 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with marshmallows, then return to oven for 2 to 4 minutes, until the marshmallow tops begin to crisp. Remove from oven; let cool about 5 minutes. Sift the cocoa on top.

Image 1: Max Brenner Image 2: Totally Addicted To Taste Image 3: Gourmet Traveller Image 4: Crispy Waffle Image 5: Jamie Oliver Image 6: Martha Stewart Image 7: My Recipes Image 8: Recchuiti Image 9: Better Home & Garden Image 10: Real Simple

Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Allo Mother!

Click to enlarge for an awesome sight!

'Allo Mother,
Hope all is well in the big smoke. Sorry haven't called you this week - been busy busy as usual. Thought you might appreciate a pic of yesterday mornings sunrise - it sure was a sight to behold! Oh well, will be on that big silver bird in the sky soon! Anyways, will catch you when I get back.
Love Son # 4 xxx

(Sent from the most remote exploration site in Outback Australia where he works & also where he plots & schemes to ensure MOTH never wins the Perpetual Family Joke Trophy!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Up The Garden Path

Thanks to the gorgeous Miss Carolyn over @ Little Bear Studio for the following tag. I need to post the 6th photo in my 6th folder & tell you the accompanying story. So over to My Pictures I go, & happy days, my 6th folder is named Garden Shots. Ooooh, this is exciting I'm thinking to myself, lovely pics of our Hills garden. Not so - as luck would have it, this is the 6th pic. I could stretch the truth here & say I've no idea who this man is, but I'd be caught out badly. Yes, you guessed it, & once again, he couldn't help but get himself in my blog. There is no story to tell, except that 12 months on that path is still not finished. The other salient point about this pic is that shape inside the back pocket of his jeans is actually his wallet.

MOTH has a huge reputation amongst all his family & friends for never having his wallet on him if he can help it. Sometimes you read of couples proudly extolling the fact that they have never seen each other naked, well in my case, it's MOTH's wallet I've never seen! I always reckon his epitaph will read 'Hey Mills, ya wouldn't have 10 bucks on ya, I forgot my wallet'. So I guess, if nothing else, this pic is evidence that his wallet does exist albeit cleverly disguised as part of his bum!

If you would like to play along, please go ahead & take the tag. I've really enjoyed seeing what everyone else has posted, wish mine was as interesting!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

300 Games!

Well who would have thought it - 300 posts!

According to my Coach MOTH, 300 posts is just like 300 footy games, which by his reckoning really puts me near the end of my blogging career & living on borrowed time! As it stands, I got to my 300th fairly quickly because of an almost injury-free run & no Referee reports (although a few of you may have quietly given me the occasional red or yellow card!). There's been the occasional biffo/melee incident with the odd snarky anonymous comment, but the Reject Comment button has resolved that nicely thank you.

There's been the odd fall-out or 3 with the Coach, but they've mostly happened 'behind the play'. I've also fielded offers from opposition clubs (Typepad & Wordpress most notably), but since there was no money attached, I've stayed loyal to my original club Blogger.

And we won't even discuss the scandal on the 2008 End-Of-Season Players trip. I could go offers, dodgy sponsorship deals (from Banner Ads. wanting me to promote all manner of 'performance' enhancing gadgets). For the sake of decorum after consulting the Coach, I did decline all these offers.

So as I run through the 300th game banner today, provided by The Hedge's very loyal Cheer Squad, it weighs heavily on my shoulders that you may have to endure another 300 rough & ready posts, the occasional great win & a few monumental losses!

The 2 comments on my very first post came from 2 gorgeous girls, the wickedly wonderful Heidi from HeidiClaire & the sensationally stylish Anne-Marie from The House That A-M Built. Amazingly, they are still around here at The Hedge, leaving the most fabulous & supportive comments. A huge thank you to you both - I cherish the bond of blogging friendship we have built over the past 300 posts. And of course, to all Hedgies (lovely readers of The Laurel Hedge!), whether you've supported me from Day 1 or are new to The Hedge, thank you for keeping me on my toes, for your warm & supportive comments & your own lovely blogs.

Two Dogs & A Garden

So to celebrate this milestone please join in my Giveaway. The newly-released Two Dogs & A Garden is a sumptous book filled with passion, beauty & truly gorgeous photographs. It is the story about an extraordinary & unique property on the Central coast hinterlands of New South Wales & the trials & tribulations experienced by those living there - Professor Bob Cherry, his wife Dr. Derelie Cherry & their dogs, Jessee & Trudy. Everyone who leaves a comment on the 300 Games! post will be included in the draw for this delightful book. The winner will be drawn fairly & randomly on Sunday July 26th & announced here @ The Hedge on Monday July 27th 2009. Your prize will be gift-wrapped & posted/shipped to your home address & readers anywhere are warmly invited to participate. Good Luck!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Seamless Transition?

Absolutely not! But I'm so impressed with the way in which a new wing has been linked to the original building, a pretty mid-Victorian cottage complete with eye-lash verandah in the gorgeous suburb of South Yarra in Melbourne. It's bold, modern & light-filled, & yet sits so comfortably with the main house. The land obviously slopes down at the rear, so the Architect was able to play with the different levels, incorporating a lap pool & interesting decks & entertaining levels as well as the new 2-storey addition with home theatre & gym. Bordered by the meandering Yarra River, in walking distance to the fabulous shopping precincts of Chapel St. & Toorak Rd. & a few minutes from the CBD, South Yarra has always been high on my list of Melbourne favourites.

Garden by Andrew Renn

Images: R.T. Edgar

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