Thursday, May 31, 2012

Painted Furniture Inspiration - French Country

Firstly I want to say thanks for the love you shared about the photos and newspaper article yesterday. It is so heart warming to know that you come here to see what I'm up to and hopefully you leave here with a handy hint, some inspiration or even just the belief in your own ability to be creative.

One of the people I follow on Instagram, kris_avondalecottage, posted this quote  yesterday by Henry Van Dyke about using your abilities (whatever they may be) that resonates with me:

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.

So onto a little inspiration for you furniture lovers who stop by here. When I scan through my files and Pinterest board of painted furniture inspiration I notice that I have a lot of picture of furniture painted a colour with a white trim. I am obviously very drawn to this French Country look and I should just go ahead and try this out for myself! Perhaps on the large French wardrobe that's in our spare room and is in need of painting! 

Chalk paint and a wax finish is wonderful for creating this look. In Australia we can not yet buy Annie Sloan's chalk paint (STILL!) so I make my own and for the top coat I use the wonderful (but expensive) Feast & Watson Mastertouch Wax. I do have Annie Sloan's informative and beautiful book "Creating The French Look" which has step by step instructions on how to achieve this look.

Here are some examples of French Country Furniture from my files:

From Annie Sloan's Creating the French Look

From Annie Sloan's Creating the French Look

I love this bed head by Amanda of Reloved Rubbish in Annie Sloan's Linen paint. I think this will be the first colour I purchase when it finally is sold in Australia. Amanda is a champion of creating this look. go check out her fabulous blog.

via Reloved Rubbish



Lilyfield Life's own bad iPhone photo

Lilyfield Life's own bad iPhone photo
I also love the look of Wisteria's range of French country furniture. I've only seen these online so I'm not sure how well made they are or if they are like a lot of French reproduction furniture that you can find in Australia that is mass produced in Asia to not very high standards. I would prefer to find vintage furniture that is very well made and paint this look myself.  But their catalogue is certainly wonderful inspiration.
Wisteria Chest


And while this last one is not strictly French Country but I do like it's two toned look. So pretty.

I can't find the original source of this. I had it in my computer files. Anyone know?

If you want to follow my Pinterest Boards you can find them here

Do you have any French Country furniture in your house? 
What's your favourite furniture style?

Stop back tomorrow to hear about an amazing prize I just won. I'm still pinching myself) and for a furniture reveal. 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happiness is a Back Yard Full of Chooks -The Full Story

So you know how we made Page 4 of the newspaper last Saturday. (what a hoot!). Well I wrote to Lisa Power, the journalist to thank her for her time and congratulate her on the placement of the piece. She said she was a little disappointed that the story had been truncated and gave me permission to print the full story.

an oasis of green in the inner city suburb of Lilyfield
I have also included some of the other photos that the photographer Adam Ward sent me.  I love the ones of me and the kids (fake) painting the furniture. Sure it's posed but I don't often get photos of myself doing the things I love -I'm normally on the other side of the camera, so they're a nice memento.

Thanks Lisa and Adam. Here's to the little things we can do to help the planet and minimise our ecological footprint!

Happiness is a Back Yard full of Chooks
by Lisa Power - Family Reporter

MOTHERS yearn for the old-fashioned simple life but find the effort hard in the modern world.  Romantic visions of chook-keeping, veggie patches and running a green household appeal to most mums but over half have no idea how to start.

In fact, nearly two-thirds of households blame the pressures of modern life and the sheer volume of technology, gadgets and appliances for keeping them from living sustainable lifestyles. The new study of Australian mothers, carried out by Kleenex Cottonelle, found 78% believe it was easier to live a sustainable life in their parent’s generation. Electricity guzzling appliances and time pressures were also blamed for preventing them from living greener lives.

Mums believe they need to do more to be sustainable to set a good example for their children (20%) while more than 30% hope to save money at home. Most hope to be able to start taking simple steps to live greener, the study found. The findings reflect Australian Bureau of Statistics research that found a majority of Australians are concerned about the environment but still prefer to live in larger homes with fewer people and use a private car to get to work.

Fiona Gaven, who shares her tips on living sustainably at lilyfieldlife.blogspot, has learnt how to keep chickens, build coops, compost and restore vintage furniture by googling advice. 

“I think we live in an impatient society and people don’t realize the joy that comes from doing things yourself,’’ she said.  “The furniture I do up, you put in time and effort. Just spending money doesn't bring a lot of joy as you move on very quickly and don’t put any love into it."

yes i do really paint most of my furniture in our lounge room...

“Sometimes you have to put in a big of effort and not sit on the couch but it actually makes your life a whole lot richer.’’

Ms Gaven said her children Jonty, 6, and Sasha, 8, enjoy keeping chickens, exploring farmer’s markets and love the surprise of the weekly box from the local veggie co-op.  She throws all organic scraps to the chickens, shares excess veggies with a neighbour and gifts eggs to her children’s teachers.
“I have heaps of herbs and fruit trees espaliered along our fence which is a pretty easy thing to do.  My whole block is a little slice of country life in a city suburb.’’

The study found 80% of mums dream they could live sustainably like Ms Gaven, with 67% wishing they had time to grow their own vegetables, 55% wanting to make food from scratch and 36% keen to buy locally sourced produce.

Deborah Bauer from Kimberly-Clark said an “overwhelming majority of mums’’ also believe businesses have a key role to play in helping them be greener. She said accreditation by groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council were important signs of a product’s “green origins’’.

Planet Ark, who focus on simple steps to help the environment, said recycling and controlling food waste were important aims for households. Each NSW household throws away $1,000 of food – or a collective 800,000 tonnes per year. “Food waste is a big issue so planning the shopping and working out what you are going to use ahead of time is helpful,’’ said Sara McGregor, from Planet Ark.

“Since mums and women generally do the shopping and or cooking, how they plan meals can have a big impact on how much food gets wasted.’’ Ms McGregor said Planet Ark-endorsed products - which include tyres, cleaning products, skin care, light globes and washing powders – had been tested for their environmental impacts.

Another standard for shoppers to check for was the ecolabel certification from Good Environmental Choice Australia, she said.

What 80% of mums already do
• Recycling at home
• Air drying clothes
• Use energy saving bulbs
• Turn off taps
• Take green bags to shops

What they plan to do in the future
• Shop at farmers markets (61%)
• Use smart appliances (53%)
• Visit community garage sales (39%)
• Order veggie boxes (33%)
• Begin a worm farm (29%)
- Source: Make A Difference study by Kleenex Cottonelle

Sharing at
Nifty Tuesdays @ Coastal Charm

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where's the Vodka?

So I promise I won't turn into an angry mummy blogger but OMG by 3pm yesterday afternoon I was like ...WHERE IS THE VODKA???

I accompanied a school excursion to The National Maritime Museum. How do teachers do it? They honestly deserve a medal.  The constant repeating of yourself did my head in - stand in line, stop jumping around, wait your turn, don't touch that. And I had one little boy who kept running off and disappearing...just to make things even more fun. Seriously though I loved seeing how excited the kids were but gosh us parent helpers were TRASHED by the end of the outing!

Living in Lilyfield is really wonderful.  We are so central and close to the city.  A short tram ride and we arrived at the National Maritime Museum. My son's class (grade 1) is studying museums and how people portray and display history.  

Days like these make Sydney shine. What a spectacular day by the harbour.

On the plaque above you can see a town Eden down on the bottom of the coastline. That's the town I grew up in and where my Mum still lives. See this post for some beautiful photos of the town and surrounding areas. Eden has a rich maritime history with whaling and shipping strongly featured. I loved the whaling exhibition at the museum - what a tough life it was to be a whaler (and tough also the be a whale at that time...). I have a wonderful photo of all the kids looking up at the whaling boat but I don't have any parents' permission to share the photo so I'd better not. 

 I loved this vintage poster of Sydney Harbour Regattas.

 This bow figure of Captain Cook is actually a little freaky. It's enormous.

The day included a tour of HMAS Vampire. The kids had a ball exploring and climbing over everything. I very nearly joined the Royal Australian Navy as an engineering student but decided that I'd prefer the Air Force.  I had 6 and half years an an engineering officer in the RAAF and loved my time. I know I made the right decision when you see the conditions that sailors live on when they are at sea. I don't know that I could have managed it. 
So no projects got done yesterday... but what a lovely way to spend the day. The kids grow up so fast and I'm sure it won't be long till it's not cool to have your mum around. But my little boy is still very much into his mummy and held my hand all day and at the end he said he'd had the best day ever because I came on the excursion....make it all worthwhile!

I've got my paint brushes at the ready so stay tuned for some project reveals.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Baking Bread at Becasse Cookery School

I've talked about baking bread before but from now on our home made bread will be taken up a notch or two.  On Saturday I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon at Justin North's Becasse Bakery and Quarter Twenty One Cookery School.  I had a huge amount of fun, learnt a lot and came home with a bag packed full of goodies. What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The class was run by the head pastry chef at Quarter Twenty One, Julian. He is an incredible baker and just such a nice man. His easy teaching style makes the knowledge so accessible.  Julian's assistant Roberto was hilarious and kept us all very amused and our wine glasses filled :)  The classes are intimate, we had just 4 in ours. The class would be a perfect idea for a hen's party or special occasion for a group of friends.

We spent our time making sourdough bread using Becasse's own Levain (sourdough starter mix) that is many years old. Part of the goodies you get to take home from the class is a small jar of Levain. It is truly an honour to have this and I will be busy keeping it alive.  I hope to have many years of bread making from this small sample!

Julian says "here's some I prepared earlier!"
We learnt to make lots of different classic French bread shapes - baguette, boule, epi and fougasse. I will definitely be making more of these and experimenting at home with different flours and fillings.  We also learnt different  little techniques that are essential for good bread making. I know know all about the dough key, the fermentation process, how to nurture the levain and keep it alive; as well as how to steam the bread at the start of the baking. 

Brushing olive oil on the dough, Jamie Oliver Style

Making French Epis - filled with spinach, goats curd and olives

French Epis ready for eating

My rustic baguette with sesame seed

And this little boy was very excited that I brought home a French boule loaf for him. A great accompaniment for our dinner that my lovely husband had prepared while I was gone all afternoon.  I was tucking Jonty into bed that night and he was saying that he'd missed me and how much he likes living with me. I said but you know one day you'll get married and not live with me any more. His reply - "Don't worry Mum, I'll call you every month". Thank god I've got a few years yet!  Boys crack me up, they love you so much but there's always a kickback comment...

The Quarter Twenty One Cookery School has a range of amazing course. They are reasonably expensive - my afternoon was $170. At first I thought this was quite a lot of money but actually it's pretty good value. Becasse is incredibly generous with sharing their knowledge, I got a lot of goodies such as bread, levain and dough to take home, as well as a folder full of detailed notes and an invitation to email Julian at any stage with questions. You are also given 10% discount at the produce shop and I came home with a bag full of divine food (lemon curd, fresh pesto, marmalade and mayonnaise).  The course program changes regularly. Current courses can be found here.

A special thanks to the other class attendees (Nim, Nicole and Leah) who were my gracious models for the photos).  I haven't been paid or reimbursed by Becasse in anyway for this post. (but Justin North, you are definitely welcome to contact me with a kickback! LOL).  The course was a gift from my sister in law for my birthday last year. What a wonderful gift!

So who's up for a little baking?


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Easy Pie Recipe - Chicken, Leek and Mushroom

Sunday night dinner with friends should be quick and easy to make;
and most of all delicious!

This recipe certainly fits the bill!

Our neighbours came over last weekend with their tiny baby. They've been having a bit of a rough time with him crying lots and being generally unsettled. I wanted to give them a little treat so I made these yummy chicken, leek and mushroom pies.

I make these without a formal recipe and just use whatever vegetables are in my fridge.  You can make one big pie or smaller individual ones. 

I've used :

4 chicken thigh fillets - one person cut into small cubes
2 big handfuls of various mushrooms - thinly sliced
2 leeks - thinly sliced
2 spring onions - sliced on angle
a small handful of fresh herbs or a tablespoon of dried herbs (or a mix)
*I've used some dried mixed herbs (de Provence) and fresh lemon thyme from the garden.
1 tablespoon of plain flour
1/2 cup of cream
1-2 sheets of frozen puff pastry

The method is extremely simple:
Slice and cut everything up

toss a piece of chicken to your puppy who is looking extremely sad...and waiting ever so patiently at your feet....

Gently cook the chicken with the herbs and some butter in a frypan. 
Take out and rest in a bowl.

Cook the spring onions, leeks and mushrooms in some butter till gently cooked. 
Add in plain flour and stir well.
Add in the juice/liquid from the bowl of cooked chicken.
Stir well to ensure no lumps of flour.
Add back the cooked chicken.
Add in the cream and stir.  
Add pepper and salt as desired.

Take off heat - you can either cook the pies now or refrigerate this mix and make pies at a later stage.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Ladle either into individual pie ramekins or a large pie dish.
Top with circles of puff pastry. 
(to make the circles, I just turned the ramekin upside down and traced around with the knife)

Put in oven - should take around 30 mins depending on the size of pie. 
Just wait till pastry is golden brown.

Served with roasted strips of potato & sweet potatoes, and vintage cutlery :) 

Accept all compliments graciously!

and perhaps the next morning hit the gym or go for a run!

Bon appetit!
cheers Fiona