31 December 2014

Some Words For 2015

Whilst I'm not a resolution kind of girl, I do like marking the start of a new year in some small way. I like to think about the year that's passed - what worked and what didn't - and think about my intentions and hopes for the new year ahead. 

It's with this in mind that I've decided to follow the lead of many of my blogging friends and pick a word for 2015. Well actually, it's four words because brevity isn't necessarily my strong suit. 

Do stuff, with intention

The comma is important because, firstly, I want to do stuff. I want to ignore the fear and the "I don't know how / I'm not good enough" voice and just do stuff. I want to have a crack. I want to be productive. 

And then, the intention bit? That's about consciously deciding how I spend my time. That doesn't mean no faffing about on the internet for hours, it means conscious faffing*. I want to decide to spend half a day on Instagram, not get to the end of the day and think 'what just happened there?'. I want to decide to spend a week or two focussed on the family, rather than constantly feeling like I should be doing something else or something more. I want to be present. I want to plan more, to allocate time appropriately, to have clear priorities. 

There's also something about intentionality that has a certain kindness, a compassion to it, because it asks you to consider the consequences and impacts of each decision, each action. That's important, too. 

A disclaimer - last year, or maybe the year before, my word was FOCUS. And that totally didn't help with anything. But I'm feeling positive about this one. I think. 

*Conscious faffing. I feel like this is a term that could take off, yes?

Do you have a word for the new year? Or a phrase? Do you think it helps bring clarity to your year? Is it just something fun to do? Or entirely pointless?

29 December 2014

Three Simple Xmas Day Recipes (For Making Anytime!)

If I had of thought about writing this post before we all tucked in on xmas day there might be some better photos to go along with it. But I didn't and there's not, so you'll just have to settle for my marvellous pavlova, our colourful, eclectic table and Ferdi in a santa costume! 

This was our first xmas in our first proper house and it was ace. We have the step-sons staying with us right now, so their Mum came over for lunch and present opening. We stuffed and roasted a turkey and served it with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, buttery peas, fig salad, gravy and cranberry sauce. For afters we had pavlova with whipped cream, berries and pomegranate. It was a team effort, and it was all quite delicious. 

Here are three super simple yet super tasty recipes we used on the day:

Duck Fat Roast Potatoes 
1. Preheat your oven to about 190˚C or so. Put a biggish metal roasting pan in there to heat it up. 
2. Give your spuds a good scrub. Don't peel them - they're tastier with the skin on, plus it saves a heap of time and mess! 
3. Chop them into cubes; not too small but not too big. 
4. Throw the cubes in some salted, boiling water. Leave them in for about 7-10 minutes.
5. Drain your spuds really well, then put them in the hot metal roasting pan. 
6. Sprinkle liberally with chunky sea salt. Daub liberally with duck fat. 
7. Roast for 45-60 minutes, adjusting the temperature and oven position as required (ie. if they are browning too quickly drop the temp, if they're not crisping up enough give them a blast of heat). 
It's pretty hard to overcook these guys so don't fret too much. On the flip side, if it looks like they're going to be ready early don't be afraid to pull them out of the oven for a rest. 
From my head and years of trial and error. 

Fig + Mint Salad 
1. Halve 8 figs and arrange them in a bowl. 
2. Whisk together the juice of 1 orange, juice of 1 lemon and 50ml extra virgin olive oil. 
3. Add 1 loosely packed cup of mint leaves, roughly chopped, and 1.5 thinly sliced golden shallots. 
4. Season to taste then spoon over the figs and eat! 
This was delicious with the roast turkey, I think it'd go well with roast pork as well. Oh, and maybe barbecued prawns. And some kind of chicken. Actually, it'd go with pretty much anything!

Never-Fail Pavlova 
1. Preheat oven to 200˚C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. 
2. Place 4 egg whites in a bowl. 
3. Combine 1 tablespoon cornflour and 1.5 cups of sugar, then add to the bowl with egg whites. Next - add a pinch of salt and 5 tablespoons boiling water. 
4. Beat on high until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture holds its shape well. You'll know it when you see it! 
5. Important! Half way through beating add a teaspoon of white vinegar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. 
6. Pile the mixture on the oven tray, shaping with a spatula. I made two pavlovas - one was low and wide, the other thick and high. I think the low and wide one turned out better; it had a good ratio of crisp outside to soft, marshmallowy inside.
7. Place in the oven and drop the temperature down to just under 150˚C. Bake for about an hour, until it's dry to the touch. If your meringue starts to tinge drop the temperature down some more.
8. Once cooked, leave the oven door ajar and allow to cool completely before removing.
9. The meringue can be stored for a day or two. Before serving top with your favourite topping. 
I went for a classic whipped cream and berries combo - one with pomegranate and one with passionfruit. Although I adore pomegranate, I do think the passionfruit one was better - a pav really needs the tang of passionfruit to cut through the sweetness of the meringue. 

I was pretty pleased with how my pavlovas turned out. I'm pretty sure they're going to become a new xmas tradition. I'm already looking for inspiration for next year so please tell me - what are your favourite pavlova toppings? 

ps. I hope you had a delicious day too!

25 December 2014

Happy Festive Fun Times!

Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season. May it bring exactly what you need - whether that's days full of food and friends and family, or some quiet space for your soul (I'm aiming for a little of both!). 

Thanks as always for sticking around and checking in, for sharing and commenting and connecting. My life truly is the better for it x

23 December 2014

All wrapped up...

The night before the night before xmas and I'm feeling a strange mix of quiet, organised calm and sheer, panicky terror. Oh, and utter exhaustion too. Limping towards the finish line indeed. I adore this time of year, and I'm loving being back in Australia for it, but I'd forgotten all the pre-xmas drinks and eats and general running around like a headless chook that being home for xmas entails. 

But - pretty much all my shopping is done and almost all my wrapping is done too, so I'm calling that a win. This year I had a hankering for a something shiny and traditional, red with lashings of gold. Like last year I got a lot of stuff from The Wrapping Paper Company (minimum orders mean it's a good chance to stock up on ribbons and belli-bands for the rest of the year). IKEA also had a heap of gorgeous gold xmas stuff in rather pleasing graphic designs. 

Anyhoo, no time to chat. I'm off to wrap the last of the presents, bake some meringues for our xmas day pavlova and check the wine fridge is well stocked. Hope things are merry and bright at your place! x

09 December 2014

Rewind : Handmade Holidays

Despite xmas sneaking up on me like a very sneaky thing, I'm definitely feeling the festive spirit this year. I think a lot of that's to do with having a house, a house that we love. 

Last year around this time we were very much not moving into our house, despite wanting to be in 'before xmas'. (Pro tip - never say those words to a builder, architect or recent renovator, unless you want to trigger some kind of PTSD). I was having regular melt downs over deadlines and contracts and tradies and money. 

We didn't have the dogs with us, or a great kitchen to cook in. We did have suitcases and a storage unit and xmas in a box. But this year the house is finally finished and we've settled in nicely. We have a place to decorate, to entertain in - somewhere to hang the stockings and put the tree. It's pretty ace. 

I know lots of people that are feeling quite a bit bah humbug about it all this year, but just in case you're not here's a round up of xmas craft how tos from the past few years of Good Things* (can you believe I've been blogging for four and a half years now?!!), plus some slightly tongue in cheek tips for stress free entertaining. 

Right now I'm in the midst of making a new pom pom wreath, red and gold are this year's colours. At the rate I'm going I'm pretty sure I'll be done before xmas day. Maybe...

05 December 2014

Death by Doxie : Elfi Loves Laundry

The dogs have had a longstanding love affair with laundry, clean and dirty. When Ferdi was a pup I'd often find him nesting in the laundry basket, and Elfi's favourite days of the week are bed stripping days - when we throw all the sheets and pillow cases and doona covers into a big pile and she clambers on top like a mountain goat. Even better if there's a patch of sun around. Sometimes she looks so content I delay the washing by and hour or so. 

It's fine when it's all going in the wash anyway, but when the hounds decide to cover a freshly laundered, freshly folded pile of washing in dog hair, as happened the other day, well...that's not so fine. But it's my own fault really, leaving the clothes on the floor for all of five minutes as I did. Rookie mistake. 

(But look at those Elfi eyes! How could you be angry? Clearly I wasn't as the first thing I did when I saw her was run and grab my camera. Pretty sure that's not in Dog Training 101.)

03 December 2014

The Kindness of (Almost) Strangers

Seven years ago, maybe more, when Ferdi first came into our life, when he looked like this (ie. freaking adorable), we lived in an apartment in Potts Point. I'd always had dogs, and those dogs had always slept wherever they wanted, even if that meant my bed. But my husband hadn't had a dog since he was a kid, and he was of the view that dogs should sleep on their own. So we put Ferdi to bed in the laundry, then headed upstairs to try and get some sleep. 

He was just a little puppy, so he cried. Oh man, did he cry. All, night, long. But there were two solid doors between us and his cries, so we managed to block it out, mostly. 

He'll learn soon enough, we thought.* 

What we hadn't realised was that there was only a thin wall between Ferdi's night time spot and our poor neighbours, so whilst we could tune the cries out they were pretty much stuck with them. We hadn't been living in the apartment all that long, so we really didn't know our neighbours. But we had kept them awake with puppy howls. For a week. Not good.

They could have written an angry, abusive note. They could have made a complaint to our landlord, or to the council. But instead they came and knocked on our door one day with a big fluffy soft toy. They said they'd heard a puppy crying, and they thought it might provide some comfort. I was horribly apologetic of course, and embarrassed, but I was also incredibly touched. Wasn't it the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful approach ever? 

I've been thinking a lot about this recently - the kindness of almost strangers. I don't know about you but I'm in the midst of a pretty teary fortnight, and not all of it can be blamed on hormones. I adore social media, I really do. It connects me to all kinds of people all over the world. But it also connects me to the tragic, unfair, horrible, nasty, inexplicable and just plain sad things that can happen to those people. 

Lately it seems every time I check Facebook or Twitter I end up shedding tears over the death of someone's dog, or grandma, or dear friend. I hold my breath as a domestic tragedy unfolds, or a health scare freezes a family in their tracks. Not to mention the relentlessly depressing news - the treatment of refugees, the funding cuts, the arrogance of those in power. 

And then I tear up again when I see the online community, this community of almost strangers, band together to offer their love and support, and hope, and passion. (Good lord I am getting sentimental in my old age. Cynical teenager me would be horrified right now. But not activist pre-teen me, she'd be cheering.)

There's so many people doing so many thoughtful things, big and small. There are people making awesome stuff so they can raise money for things they care about, there are people organising donations of gorgeous handmade things for kids who really need them, there are people putting out their batsThere's the friend who gave her postie a bucket of homegrown broad beans (and who got a thank you note scrawled on her mail the next day, complete with recipe). And there's the online community creating a special secret surprise for someone who is going through a pretty tough time right now. There's fellow dachshund obsessed loving people, helping each other out. There's my Mum, banding together with other Grandmas to do this

There is so much kindness out there, it's humbling. And it reminds me - it's a choice we make, to be kind and thoughtful and generous, in whatever way we can. It's a choice to ignore the cynics and do something, however small, even when we are feeling distant and helpless. So, what do you choose? 

*In the end we caved and now both dogs take up more room on the bed than we ever do, but that's another story.