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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lens Life - August


Here I am again, after another month has absolutely rocketed past! It's been a busy one, with trips to Canberra and Melbourne, a hectic assignment schedule and of course, reading way too many articles and speculating on the, now past, federal election. 

I do have a few photos from my two trips away though, so for now, I'll share those and cross my fingers that September will ease off a little and give me time to write some posts. 


We are eating burgers from Brodburger, the best burger of my LIFE!


The sculpture above is the 'Little Big Man' by Dean Bowen in the middle of Civic, isn't it cute!

Whenever my sister is involved in anything, you can be sure that you will not have a second of boredom. She loves to plan as many things as possible in even the shortest of time frames. This meant that when my Mum and I travelled up for the weekend we were in for busy time. 

It was a great girls weekend with trips to see Phantom of the Opera at Canberra Theatre Centre,  a visit to the Turner Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia and SO much food and wine, I pretty much just rolled all the way back home to Sydney. Oh, and my first trip to Costco... whoa!


The cityscape walking from Richmond to the city.


Again, more beautiful grey skies at Luna Park in St Kilda. 

The next weekend I headed down to Melbourne with my sister and her partner Mel. Again, I had chosen a freezing place to go in the depths of winter... silly! Although, one of the things I love most about Melbourne IS the gorgeous grey skies. We powered through the cold with trips to St Kilda markets, Brunswick, Richmond and Fitzroy. As always we drank and dined and walked A LOT!


Where are your favourite places in Canberra and Melbourne? Do you have a 'must visit' list for either? 

Sarah x

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lens Life - July

It has been a busy few weeks here in Sydney, which unfortunately has meant very little time to add to my blog!

There has been family visits in Sydney, Newcastle and the Southern Highlands, friends leaving for overseas, countless assignments and a persistent cold. Fortunately, the sunny Sydney weather combined with an endless supply of honey and lemon tea has kept me going.

Here are a few of my favourite snaps from July:

Saying good bye to my friend of 14 years, Chino


Checking out some amazing bronze sculpture works by Gillie and Marc, followed by Ruben sandwiches at The Milk Factory Gallery, Bowral



Strolls around Sydney - The MCA and Blackwattle Bay

Does anyone have some handy tips to beat a persistent cold?

Hope you've all had a great few weeks!

Sarah x

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DIY - How To Grow Herbs Indoors

After last weeks kitchen reveal on The Block, I have been more than a little interested in developing my own indoor herb garden to use when making things like this delicious 12hr Lamb Ragu.

It's a bit of a hassle being in the midst of cooking and realising you need just a little more thyme or rosemary to really complete a dish, so this would be a fantastic addition to a cooks kitchen. Let's not forget though, they also look damn pretty and add life and colour into the heart of the home.

Alisa and Lysandra's inbuilt herb garden from The Block

Trixie and Johnno's indoor kitchen garden from The Block

Because my kitchen has just the one window, I needed to look for a compact version to give my sumptuous smelling plants a better chance of survival in the light. So I settled on six inch diameter terracotta pots which can easily sit on my windowsill, although I spruced them up through this little DIY here.

My DIY Terracotts Pots

In my research I discovered that there are certain varieties of herbs which grow much better than others in an indoor environment. These (thankfully) were just the kind of herbs I always use:

1. Rosemary - For all of you that forget to water plants, then rosemary is your new best friend. It requires little water and is a hardy plant but try and get either Tuscan Blue or Blue Spire as they are smaller and easier to grow indoors. (Although as they grow, chances are they will have to be moved to a larger pot.)

2. Chives - The humble yet delicious chive is a great plant to grow indoors in areas where there is little light. They can survive away from a window and if you continue to chop off the top third, they will keep you in good supply.

3. Thyme - is a much loved plant at my house and I will usually try and add it to everything, or at least as a garnish, because it's just so pretty. However, it will also grow well indoors if you can find a spot for it near some light.

4. Parsley - Parsley is a herb which I'm sure most of us use a lot of, so it is thankful that this little beauty will grow well indoors as it is a pretty hardy plant.

Herbs need a bit of room as they tend to produce fungus so the best way to prevent this is to grow them in terracotta pots at least 6 inches in diameter and provide adequate ventilation at the bottom. I did this by placing decorative pebbles in the bottom of the pot to allow airflow. Also, as some tend to spread more than others, keeping them in different pots is the best way to give all of them a chance at survival.



To keep them at their best, clip them back a little every now and again and occasionally fertilise them by adding one teaspoon of fish emulsion to a small watering can. You should always water them at the base of the plant, not over the leaves and don't overwater, every two or three days should be adequate.

Do you have any tips for growing plants/herbs indoors? I'd love to hear of ways you incorporated live herbs in your kitchen!

Sarah x

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cushion Love: Kate Lauren Designs

I think I've fallen in love with a cushion! More precisely, the 'Zachary Hunter Yellow Accent Cushion' by Kate Lauren Designs. So subtle, yet simply gorgeous. In fact, I've fallen in love with many of their whimsical bedroom collections, sweetly put together as children's spaces.
"Each collection has been inspired and named after either my own children or my children's friends.  Their stories are real stories and I have tried to capture the essence of their characters through the designs and stories that accompany them. " - Kate Lauren
Aside from the dreamy bed linen and cushions, you can also find stunning fabric lampshades, lanterns and wall hangings. I suggest heading on over to check out all the loveliness at Kate Lauren Designs and be sure to read the beautiful little stories of who the bedroom was designed for, they're adorable!



The inspiration for cushion searching came from having just purchased my first linen bedspread by Home Republic, from Adairs. This pillow will make a joyous accent to my sleeping space. As we are in the depths of the Winter rains here in Sydney, I needed a little brightening to make the days a little less grey. Crisp whites with a touch of happy yellow shall be my sanctuary from the clouds outside. 


I also purchased this sweet as pie owl, from Adairs, to sit by me at night. Maybe he will impart some of his wisdom my way... but even if he doesn't, he's still a joy to look at. 


How do you transform your spaces in the dark old days of winter? Do you go for brighter colours, or relax into neutrals and textures? 

Sarah x

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY - Fresh Painted Terracotta Pots

With a rainy old weekend in Sydney, I dropped in to my local Bunnings Hardware to get inspiration for a quick DIY that would keep me busy and out of the drenching weather. I have been very into indoor plants lately, so I was on the look out for some pots that could do with a bit of a makeover.

As I am on a budget, I settled on four 6" diameter terracotta pots, to use as a blank canvas, a can of Dulux Spraypak Quick Dry in Flat White, to quickly and easily do a base coat, and a small bag of white stones.




While there I decided I would use these for a little windowsill herb garden so ducked out into the rain to grab some rosemary, chives, parsley and thyme.

Back home I went, armed with my little bag of goodies. The next few hours were a process of trial and error as I had a serious problem making a decision on which pattern I wanted to use. I settled on a simple, geometric design with subtle greys and pops of colour in yellow and  orange.

Here are the steps I used to create the pots:

1. To begin with, I sprayed the pots (making sure to use gloves and a plastic drop sheet, the spray can go everywhere when you're doing it on a windy balcony!) and left them to dry.



2. I then chose my design to paint over the white base, I did this with some small pots of enamel paint I had laying around. Head down to your local hardware store and they will have a large range to choose from.

3. The easiest and most striking way to create a modern design involving blocking colours, is with two diagonal pieces of sticky tape stuck on the pot and then paint between the bits of tape, being sure to paint the lip and the top of the inside of the pot too.



4. Pull the sticky tape off, leave to dry and voila! THAT'S IT!!

This whole process, including potting the herbs took less than a day and all together (plants as well) cost me under $30. This is great value considering I spent $15 last week on pre-packaged herbs from the store!

Which other patterns would you like to try on the pots? If you give it a go, I'd love to see the pictures, just tag me on Twitter @sarahmaymorris

Have fun DIY-ing and try to stay out of the rain,

Sarah x

P.S. Make sure you check out my DIY - The Best Way to Grow Herbs Indoors if you want to grow some windowsill goodness!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

12 Hour Lamb Ragu

The idea of getting back to basics has been a corner stone of many for the last few years. People are looking toward entertaining, dining and just generally enjoying their homes rather than expensive nights out.

The slow cooking movement has been a HUGE aspect of this and as such I am constantly salivating over the wonderful recipes my fellow bloggers are posting. I was lucky enough to get a small slow cooker, that I had been lusting after, for my birthday this year and was eager to test it out on a lovely lamb recipe.

Enter a 12 hour ragu...


12hr Lamb and Rosemary Ragu

Ingredients: 

1.25 kg lamb shoulder (deboned)
4 truss tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 celery stalks
2 rosemary fronds
4 thyme fronds
2 dried bay leaves
2 cups of red wine (I recommend shiraz for its wholesome flavour)
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 packet of parppadelle pasta
2 tablespoons of butter
basil and parmesan cheese to garnish

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees celsius or if using a slow cooker, put on high to warm up.
2. Dice lamb shoulder, being sure to remove most of the white, fatty bits.
3. In a pan with olive oil, sear the lamb until a very light brown. Add to slow cooker or large crock pot.
4. Finely chop rosemary, thyme, garlic and celery and then saute for a minute in the same pan.
5. Add red wine to pan and reduce the mixture by about a third, then pour in stock and heat. Add this mixture to the slow cooker or crock pot.
6. Dice up the truss tomatoes and add to pot with canned tomatoes and bay leaves.
7. Give a quick stir and put in just one tablespoon of butter and a generous amount of pepper and salt then leave for one hour.
8. Return to crock pot, give a stir and turn slow cooker to low or oven to 120 degrees celsius.
9. Leave for a further 11 hours checking intermittently.
10. Either at the end or around the 8 hour mark, whisk around the whole mixture to break apart the meat, this gives it that pulled thick meat look.
11. Boil up some parppadelle pasta then mix the ragu sauce and remaining butter in with the pasta.


Serve hot, topped with basil leaves and a generous amount of parmesan. Enjoy with a good red wine and some dark chocolate for desert. This recipe can also be frozen in batches to enjoy later. 

If your sauce is at any point looking a bit too watery you can add in one tablespoon of flour to thicken the sauce. It works a treat!

While this dish does take a long time (hello, twelve hours) it actually doesn't take much effort. You can be doing anything, including leaving the house in the time that it is cooking. Checking it often isn't required unless you're like me and love to just stir it and get a whiff of the delicious aroma!

I hope you enjoy the dish! Do you have any tasty, wholesome meals I should be trying in my slow cooker? I'd love to know!

Sarah x


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

With Winter seriously making its mark down here in Sydney, it's about that time where soup becomes a powerful elixir to warm the shivering shackles of our bones. One of my favourites, that I whip up and freeze in batches, is my Easy Chicken and Vegetable Soup.



It's so simple to make and is perfect to reheat with some crusty bread on a night when you can't be bothered to cook. It's also a great way to get your vegetable fix in; fantastic for the immune system! There are a few cheats in the preparation stages to make it really easy, so all of you cooking purists, look away now!

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Soup 
(6-8 serves)

Ingredients: 

3 carrots
2 large zucchinis
2 small potatoes
1 large handful of green beans
1 small capsicum
1 small (or 1/2 large) onion
1 clove of garlic
2 litres of water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 whole roast chicken, shredded (this the cheating bit)
1 1/2 packets of Continental Chicken Noodle Simmer Soup (this is the REALLY cheating bit)

Method:

1. Dice carrots, zucchini, potato, green beans and capsicum then set aside in a large bowl.
2. Finely chop garlic and onion and saute until soft in a tablespoon of olive oil.
3. Add all of the diced vegetables and stir together to sweat for about 2 minutes.
4. Add one litre of water and Chicken Noodle Simmer Soup. Bring to boil.
5. Turn down to simmer and add torn chicken and another litre of water.
6. Add second packet of Chicken Noodle Soup, turn to simmer.
7. Simmer for about 1-2 hours, adding hot water to create desired amount of broth.
8. Serve hot with crusty buttered bread, or ladle into portions and cool to freeze.

I choose to add in a little crushed chilli when adding the Chicken Noodle Mix just for a tiny kick, but this is dependent on tastes, it's also great without it! 

And that's it, tastes absolutely delicious and very convenient for those of you who lead busy lives! Do you have any delicious meals I should try? What's your go-to winter warmer dish?

Enjoy, Sarah x
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