Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Spiced Apple bars

It is officially Fall.  Bulbous pumpkins are taking over the fresh produce at the supermarkets and stores are in full on Halloween mode.  It all seems slightly irrelevant as its 37oC outside, we are still swimming in the pool and slurping ice pops!    However not one to miss a baking opportunity Connie & I decided to make these Spiced apple bars which have a definite autumnal ring to them. 

In the UK they are known as flapjacks and were a favourite in my house growing up, with or without the apple.  They are fun for kids to do and worth the fight over the bowl licking rights!

The recipe is slightly adapted from her cookbook "Children's book of Baking".

Spiced Apple bars

2 large or 3 small apples (any variety will do)
6oz unsalted butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 cup sultanas or raisins
2 tbs sunflower seeds
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup jumbo oats

Line or grease a 7 x 11 inch tin. Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a medium sized saucepan melt 1oz of the butter. Peel and chop the apples into chunks and add to the melted butter.  Cook them over a low heat until the apples soften slightly, 5 - 10 minutes.  

Add the rest of the ingredients except the oats and seeds.  Stir until the remaining butter and sugar has melted then remove from the heat. Stir in the oats & seeds.  Tip the mixture into the tin then smooth down the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until dark golden and still soft.  Allow to cool in the tin then transfer to a cooling rack and cut into bars or squares.  Be careful not over cook them as they become dry and brittle.

Might of eaten the corner bars....
The house is filled with a delicious aroma which is reminiscent of Autumn, even if its nothing like it outside!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Leather and cork coasters

In my previous life (living in UK) I didn't have coasters, I would have balked at the idea of even owning one.  Possibly due to the 'granny' image or the fact my sitting room was so small we didn't have a coffee table, and therefore no need for a coaster.

Another country and a new perspective; coasters are in my good books.  

Esme & I made these ones a while ago.  One got eaten (seriously) by a friends little boy and one recently got ripped. Cork is great for coasters but these weren't quite durable enough.

Using leather leftover from having a pair of chairs recovered I've made a new batch. More durable and rather more sexy don't you think?!

First up cut out squares of cork and leather (you can get scrap bags of leather from craft stores which would be perfect for this) using an X-acto knife . Mine are 4" x 4".

Glue the cork and leather squares together using a good quality glue.  Don't worry if the squares don't 100% match up, you can trim them up when the glue has dried.

Using masking tape mark out your pattern. I went for geometric, my current love is anything geometric...

A great little craft project which takes no time (hour or so) and uses readily available supplies.  

Any suggestions what to do with the rest of the leftover leather?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gluten free banana bread

Its 8.15pm and I'm hungry. We have cupboards full of food but nothing to eat, you know the scene?!  I have had this banana bread on my mind since we returned from our summer holiday and was planning on making it with the girls.  I can't wait. I've made it. It is so quick and easy, requiring ingredients you have to hand (who doesn't have zillions of brown bananas in their freezer?) and only one bowl to wash up. Yay!

Gluten Free Banana Bread
adapted from this recipe

3 large ripe bananas
1 egg
3 tbs coconut oil
3/4 cup milk (dairy or non dairy)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tsp baking soda
1 cup almond meal
1 cup cashew nut meal
1 cup gluten free flour (I used brown rice flour)
1 cup of jumbo oats 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 sultanas

Preheat the oven to 365F.  Grease and line a loaf tin.  Mash the bananas then add the wet ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined. Lastly stir in the sultanas.  Pop in the oven and bake for approximately one hour, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.

Cut yourself a generous wedge, top with butter if you desire (I do) and even jam if you are feeling decadent. I keep mine in the fridge in an air tight container and it will last about a week. Its also delicious toasted.

Go make it, whatever time of day it is. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

No churn Rocky Road Ice cream

The summer heat has arrived in Redlands; days hover around the mid to high 30s and the nights are fractionally cooler.  So ice cream is definitely on the agenda.  This is a super easy recipe that does not require an ice cream maker or the hassle of having to take it out of the freezer to stir every hour.  It is very rich but grown ups and kids alike gobbled it up at our 4th of July party.

Another bonus of this recipe is it does not require exact measurements, use whatever you have to hand and what takes your fancy!

No churn Rocky Road Ice Cream

1 can of condensed milk
600ml of heavy cream
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips, melted
Equal amounts of the following:
crushed cookies (I used plain vanilla cookies)
dried cranberries (or sultanas)
mini marshmallows
semi sweet chocolate chips
chopped nuts of your choice (optional)

Using an electric whisk mix together the cream and condensed milk until thick. 
'Ribbon' thickness
Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.  Finally stir in the Rocky Road ingredients.  Transfer to a Tupperware with a tight fitting lid and freeze overnight.  Be warned it makes a lot!

Enjoy x

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Craigslist Credenza

I'm a fitful Craigslist user. Some weeks I am scouring everyday in the hope of hitting the jackpot (you know when you find that item) other weeks I can take it or leave it. Thus allowing myself the illusion I'm not a compulsive bargain hunter.

This particular purchase was found on a random flick through day. Everyone needs a credenza, right?

Here is the original image from Craigslist.

Not the best picture, but a bad Craigslist pic is a good thing.  It can often disguise a hidden gem that only you, with your trained eye can spot.  Also it can mean less interest (those without your superior 'eye' pass it up) = plenty of wiggle room on the price.  It was the chrome legs that sucked me in...

I wanted to paint it mint green. The best colour match was a Valspar spray paint called Mellow Spring. I love the colour but won't be using Valspar spray paints again. 5 cans later its still not the best finish but I feel guilty enough about the environmental impact of those 5 cans, not to mention the light dusting of Mellow Spring on everything in the garage.

To cover the laminate top I ordered PSA walnut veneer and edge banding to fit around the sides. It was worth a shop around on the veneer as the same product seems to vary greatly in price.

Having lightly sanded the cabinet all over I covered the chrome base and loosely cover the top. I applied one coat of primer to the cabinet then went all out with the 5 cans of spray paint.

The next stage was the application of wood veneer.  As there was wood involved Mr. got in the mix (I think woodworking is considered more manly than regular re purposing).  After much deliberation with decided to do the edge banding first. 

Ironing on edge banding
Using a Stanley knife we trimmed it down to be level with the top.

Smoothing down veneer with homemade scraper
Sticking down the top piece of veneer was a little more tense. Its pretty sticky stuff so there is no margin for error. Having cut a piece bigger than needed, we started by lowering the middle down then applied pressure outwards, smoothing as we went.  Mr. fashioned a veneer scraper from a scrap of wood which he used to smooth out any air bubbles. Fortunately there were just as many air bubbles on his side as mine! They did all come out.  I then did the final trim around the top.  We were both very impressed with the results. The edges are extremely neat and it could pass as a solid piece of wood.

Several coats of beeswax and orange oil furniture polish (the best BTW) and we were good to go.

Just look at those edges and corner!

Beautiful wood

Break down of costs

Credenza $60 (advertised as $100)
Walnut edge banding (plenty leftover) $22
Walnut veneer (inc shipping) not all used $60
Spray paint $25

Total cost for one-of-a-kind credenza = $150

Not the cheapest piece but I can see it being of use to us for many years to come. 

Alice xx

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chocolate covered coconut squares

Chocolate and coconut is a winning combination.  This is a great little recipe and a fun one to do with kids as its quick, it can all be done by hand and you get 2 delicious bowls to lick!  There are plenty of recipes out there for similar chocolate/coconut bites. I looked at a few a came up with my own quantities.

Chocolate covered coconut squares

2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup of coconut oil warmed
1/4 cup of honey
generous dash of vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
4 oz 72% dark chocolate
knob of butter

Mix together all of the ingredients together except the chocolate & butter.  You can blitz it a little in a food processor which makes it a smoother texture or just do by hand.  Press the coconut mixture into a tin or Tupperware greased with coconut oil or lined with parchment paper.  I used an 8"x 8" tin which was just too big. My coconut layer is not quite thick enough.  Pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes while you melt the chocolate and butter.

Once the coconut layer has firmed up pour over the melted chocolate.  Tap the tin to get any air bubbles out. I sprinkled over some Roasted coconut chips from Trader Joe's then put back in the fridge/freezer to set. 

Cut into squares when set. To make you feel better I ate 5 in the first sitting...Be warned they are very moreish!

NB: To make a 100% paleo version you need chocolate without added sugar. I used 72% dark which has a little sugar in. I'm OK with that, its your choice.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Which Rug?

We are on the home straight in terms of our house renovations - whoop whoop!!! We are about to pull the trigger on the engineered hardwood floors and once we've laid those we are finished, well on the inside of the house anyway. The garden is another story.

I decorated the front sitting room about a month ago (post to come) and since then I have spent a disproportional about of time debating what type of rug to get. I think it may have something to do with the fact I don't work or get out much.....

Of course I would love to have one from my very talented cousin Lucy Wassell but sadly she is way out of my price range (she designs rugs which are hand tufted in the UK). 

I have narrowed my choices down to a few options.
  1. Ikea Stockholm rug A bargain at $299 for a massive 8'x11' rug.

Source: Emily Henderson

2. Rugs USA Homespun Medea Chevron Rug Currently on sale at $309. 
Not sure I am 100% sold on the black/white/chevron theme. A little passe non? 

Source: RugsUSA

3. Vintage Kilim Rug This is a beautiful rug made in a traditional style from goat hair no less! Also a very good price at $259 for a large rug. Would it make my house smell of goats?!
Source: Ebay

4. Anatolian Turkish Classic Antalya Kilim Rug. Another ebay find. I think this is my favourite, typical as its the most expensive at $599! Although this type of kilim rug is a bit 'trendy' at the moment so that gives me slight reservations. 

Source: Ebay

So what do you think? I would love some thoughts. I am determined to make a decision, soon.

BTW NO ONE is allowed to go and buy 'my' rugs from Ebay ;)  

Alice x


Friday, February 21, 2014

Carrot cake cookies

You know you just can't have enough snacks in the house, right?! I like to bake some form of snack every week for the family; something that I can eat and that's a bit on the healthy/filling side for the girls.  The doughnut maker is having a rest so I was on the look out for something new.  
I came across the Paleo Mom and got sucked into to her site for quite sometime.  So much so I have ordered her book, "The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal your Body". As someone who suffers from x3 autoimmune diseases I thought it might be worth a read ;-).

Anyhow, the recipe below is adapted from her Carrot Cake bites.

Carrot cake cookies

1 cup grated carrot
3/4 cup cashew nut flour
1/2 cup dates (pack them in!)
1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 egg
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mace
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sultanas or raisins

Preheat oven to 350F & line a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Add the dates and cashew nut flour to the food processor and pulse until it forms a sticky paste.  Then add the rest of the ingredients except the sultanas and mix until well combined. 

Then stir in the sultanas by hand. Now comes the sticky part; first wet your hands then roll the mixture into evenly sized balls (about palm sized). Place then on your baking sheet and flatten with your hand.  They don't spread much so you can pack them in. 

Bake for 15mins, they will start to crack and look slightly more golden in colour.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  I can't remember how many it made - it was a tray full of well packed in cookies.

They are moreish little bites packed full of goodness.

Have a great weekend xx

Friday, January 31, 2014

Master bedroom make over

The fourth and final bedroom is now decorated, yay! Of course it is a shade of grey, but I would like to say the inspiration for my colour scheme came from various sources not just the book of grey.

My husband bought these little glasses for me from a yard sale over the road from us.  He knows me well, I love the sugary colours of them.

The swallows duvet cover set was a gift from my parents from Heals (I don't 'do' ironing as you can see!). Sadly they don't stock it anymore. The colours seem to compliment the glasses which then led to my fabric choice for the curtains...Malin Cirkel from Ikea.  It is a lightweight cotton which was fine for these curtains as they are just decorative panels, and bonus - only $5.99 a yard.
We opted for a double cell black out shade from as we get full sun coming in the window during the summer months.

My cheap as chips curtains and rod were a breeze to do and added bonus they do actually draw!

The night stands were a craigslist score which I painted and changed the handles. And of course my first attempt at upholstering a chair; if I dare to be so bold, I would say it was actually easy!

I just love how the room as come together, although now the carpet looks shabby! Doesn't that always happen after you paint?!

DIY kitchen makeover part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1 painting the existing cabinets was the way to go for us. I hummed and ahhed for a while about painting (white) vs. staining them dark. I opted to go light as the kitchen area is quite compact and so can be a little dark.   

Finished kitchen
Now before I get into the nuts and bolts of the job let me just tell you, it wasn't that bad. Yup, you read me right, painting the kitchen cabinets wasn't as painful as I had anticipated. I broke it down into jobs I could do in a couple hours either in the mornings whilst the girls were at school or in the evenings.  Having said that painting the cabinets was only really a half of the job of renovating the kitchen. As with every job the list of snags is endless.

Here is a list of the jobs, each of which took between 1-3 hours. I tried to do something everyday, however small, just to keep momentum going.  I think it was about a month from start to finish.

1.  Remove existing hardware and take off cabinet doors.  Label the doors so you know what goes where.

2.  Empty out cupboards. Pack away all non essential items (you're not gonna be baking cakes over the next few weeks)

3.  Clean cabinets. The nice guys at BM recommend good old TSP solution.

4.  Clean doors & draws

Before cleaning

Scrape out crud whilst cleaning
5.  Fill any holes with wood filler. Caulk any joints (e.g. between top of cupboards and ceiling)

6.  Sand cupboards with medium grit (180) sand paper.

7.  Sand cupboard doors.

8.  Wipe doors with tack cloth. Apply one coat of primer (I used Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Primer). Always paint the back of the doors first just in case they mark when you turn them over.

Use a brush over any indents/grooves then a foam roller

Don't forget to prime & paint the sides.  I bought a load of these painters pyramid's to rest the doors on. Well worth the money.

After one coat of primer
9.  Wipe cupboards with tack cloth. Apply one coat of primer.
  • NB: the guy at BM said I only needed one coat of primer & one of the Advance (satin finish) paint. In retrospect I would do 2 coats of primer to get a better coverage.
10.  Lightly sand doors (fine grit, 220 paper) & wipe with a tack cloth.  Apply first coat of paint.

11.  Lightly sand cupboards (fine grit, 220 paper) & wipe with a tack cloth.  Apply first coat of paint.

12.  Wait at least 24 hours before applying second coat to doors & cupboards.  The finish was pretty good after one coat. Where I had used the brush was ever so noticeable which is why I did further coats. 

13.  I did a third coat on the doors for good luck & because I had enough left.

14.  Leave well alone for at least 3 days; the longer the better for your paint to 'cure'.

15.  Attach doors to frames, much easier and quicker if there are two of you.

16.  Attach handles.  I made myself a template for the drill holes from card stock to save myself measuring each one. It really saved time, and stress!

The bar handles were from Glidrite via Ebay. They are solid stainless steel and half the price of the exact same handle from big box stores.  Again I shopped around online for the hinges and found the best deal at  It really is worth a little bit of time to shop around online; I saved over 100 bucks on the handles and hinges.

17.  After a week stock up the cupboards.

18.  Stand back and admire your work!

Love my tumble weed!

Other changes
  • Replaced the glass slider which leads out to the garden.  Luckily we have great handy friends who helped us; that is one heavy door!  
  • Several months ago we ripped down the central bank of cupboards above the island. Wow, what a difference that made. Light now streams into the kitchen and you can actually see from one end of the room to the other without having to bend down.
  • A ceiling mounted extractor hood is now in place. I choose this one by because of price and size.  As with all DIY projects its never straight forward; Mr. had to cut the central column of the hood to get the height right (the ceiling is lower in the kitchen). Any excuse to get out the power tools.......

  • Will put in the same LED recessed spot lights as we used in the dining area. Unfortunately the 'well' in the ceiling is structural (why??); to remove it would have required ripping out the ceiling and replacing all the rafters.  We copied our friends 2 doors down who have the same feature and highlighted it with a hidden rope light. It gives off an ambient light and does make the ceiling seem a little higher.
  • Open shelving replaces the cupboard next to the sink. We used Ekby Jarpen/Bjarnum from Ikea as they can be cut to the desired length and the brackets fitted neatly into the notch in the granite left from by the cupboard :)

I'm very proud of my succulents grown from cuttings!
  • Added pull out inserts to the pantry cupboard.  

2 deep draws and 2 wire baskets. Both from Ikea. Contrary to popular believe you can get Ikea inserts to fit regular cabinets!  This is now home to all our dry goods; the pull outs mean you use every inch of space.

The all important before and after...

So there you have it. Large exhale of breath, the kitchen is done!