I try and make this time of year as stress free as possible so my summer entertaining usually involves a lot of BBQs, really easy salads, fresh fruit and cheese platters. I’d rather be spending time with my nearest and dearest than hanging out in the kitchen so as much as possible I do lots of my prep beforehand or just pick really simple things to make. Here’s what I do when it comes to managing festive gatherings….
Stock the fridge
As I said I am a very casual entertainer so I always make sure to have the fridge stocked up with fresh ingredients. I always do a big online shop to get my supplies in order. I usually go on the Harris Farm website and order all my fruit and veg, cheeses and everything I need before the weekend so it’s always on hand in case I unexpectedly have people pop in. I think great produce is always key so you can make really simple, easy things that will still be a hit with guests.
I’m all about a great platter as I think it’s a great shortcut when you’re busy or low on time. Whether it’s pastries or fruit platters in the morning or it’s prosciutto and cheeses or ham for lunch they’re great for being able to lay on a spread quickly.
Whenever I have people over I always have a selection of cheeses, various types of dips and crackers ready to go as I like to make sure people are fed as soon as they walk through the door. And you never know when people are just going to pop in. We live close to the beach so we get lots of people dropping by all the time and platters are something you can put together really quickly if you have everything in the fridge (this is why the first step is so important!).
Take advantage of Christmas hampers
One of my little tricks is to use the contents of Christmas hampers whenever I’m entertaining. They’re stocked with such a variety of different condiments or nibblies that it’s great for putting together an interesting platter of goodies that are just slightly more special in nature.
Have drinks on hand
As it’s so hot I like having drinks that are really refreshing. I’ll stock up on bottles of champagne, beer for the boys or have the ingredients for a quick cocktail or mocktail ready to go such as peach juice in case I want to make a peach bellini. Aperol spritzes and mojitos are also a favourite during summer as they’re so refreshing. I always make sure to have some sparkling water in the fridge to serve to guests. I think overall the most crucial thing to remember is to keep everything as simple as possible so you can get onto more important things, and that’s spending time with friends and family.
What are some of your favourite Christmas entertaining tips?
I’ve been lucky enough to go on a few trips this year and each time I try and streamline my packing even more. When I travel I try and keep my luggage as light as possible. I stick to one bag so I have to be really strategic in what I pack and how I pack so I can take all my essentials with me without having to deal with excess baggage. It’s about being practical and also a bit ruthless when deciding what to cull and keep as I want to know that I’ll be able to wear all the pieces I take and not have any that are just taking up unnecessary space.
So here are my golden rules for holiday packing…
Mix and match
It’s all about bringing separates and mixing and matching that way I can take a few items and just rework them for different looks. For example I’ll take a leather skirt which I can then wear with a nice black evening top and it’s fine to go out for night or I can wear it with a white t-shirt and sandals, sneakers or slides and I can wear it throughout the day. It’s all about finding items that are versatile. Also, one thing I’ve grown to love is taking matching sets with me which can be worn as separates. It looks polished but it’s also something I can rework into a few different looks.
Take one versatile LBD
I always take a little black dress because it can be worn with a pair of great flats but can be dressed up in the evening with a pair of heels so it has versatility. Bringing items that are versatile and can be worn more than one way is key to avoiding overpacking too many things.
Limit the number of shoes you take
As for shoes, I pack a pair of sneakers which I can wear while sightseeing and I also take one or two statement heels that can be mixed and matched with different outfits. If you’re going on a tropical holiday obviously a great pair of sandals or slides is a must.
When I’m packing I lay everything flat as I find it takes up less room. And I stick to only one bag. If I find I need to take another bag, I’ll revisit what I’m packing. When we’re travelling with the kids they end up having to take so many things with them—I want to take the least amount with me as possible to make it easier.
Minimise beauty products
Beauty products are heavy! So, I try to keep it light as far as what I take with me. As far as beauty goes I definitely always take a great sunscreen, a bronzer, cleanser, a good lip balm, mascara, and makeup remover. And I go with nude nails so I don’t have to keep worrying about any chipping or the polish growing out while I’m away. It’s a much more no-fuss approach.
Always take spare clothes
Having lost my luggage too many times to count I always take a change of clothes in my carry-on in case my suitcase gets lost and I also take items that I can’t lose such as my jewellery in my carry-on bag. I also always take my makeup with me just in case.
Go for comfort
Comfort is key on the plane and my fave plane outfit is pair of straight leg jeans, sneakers or a dad sandal, a loose-ish white tee and or a lightweight sweater (or both depending what time of year it is). I tend to do layering because it’s easy to adjust my clothing to the temperature on the plane. I also take a cosy Louis Vuitton wrap scarf in case it gets cold. Plus I always take a nice roomy tote carry all my essentials.
Without a doubt one of the best things about Christmas is all the feasting. I love being able to sit down with my family and enjoy loads of delicious food. However, this also means we’re often left with lots of leftovers and there’s only so many ham sandwiches you can consume after December 25! So, over the years I’ve tried to get creative with how we use up everything we have in the fridge post-Christmas lunch.
One of my favourite ways to use up common Christmas ingredients like ham and turkey is to pop it all on a pizza. I often take a gourmet approach, adding everything from garlic oil to a beautiful ricotta mixture to take it to the next level. One of my favourite new additions to my kitchen is the Breville The Smart Oven™ Pizzaiolo which achieves an authentic woodfire pizza result at home. It’s quick and easy to use and definitely achieves a great finish. It’s also one of the best ways I’ve found to put all the delicious Christmas leftovers to good use. This year, why not try my Flavours of Christmas pizza recipe? I guarantee it’s almost as good as sitting down for Christmas lunch all over again…
The Flavours of Christmas Pizza
Prep time: 30 min
Total Time: 35 min (plus 8 hrs rest time)
For the dough
3 ¾ cups (560g) bread flour
1 tsp instant dried yeast
2 tsp salt
1 ½ cups (360ml) cold water
semolina, for dusting
For the garlic oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
For the ricotta mixture
½ cup (125g) ricotta cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
For the pizza
¼ tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp mixed spice
¼ cup baby rocket
2 tbsp cranberry sauce
85g cooked turkey meat, sliced
1. To make the dough, place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix to combine. Add the water and knead on low speed for 5-6 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to proof in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
2. Once doubled in size, scatter some semolina onto a clean benchtop. Turn the dough out and divide into 4 even portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball.
3. Lightly sprinkle 2 baking trays with semolina and place 3 dough balls on the trays, leaving 10cm between the balls. Cover each tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate to use another time (up to 5 days).
Tip: Alternatively, you can individually wrap each one in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container in the freezer. Remove dough as required, allowing the dough to come to room temperature before use.
4. Place the remaining dough ball back into the medium bowl and cover. Allow to proof in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
5. Meanwhile, make the garlic oil by tossing the garlic and the salt in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook gently for 3 minutes, or until lightly coloured. Pour through a strainer and allow to cool to room temperature. Divide the oil into 3 bowls:
1½ tsp in a medium bowl for the ricotta mixture
½ tsp in a small bowl for the rocket dressing
Use remaining for brushing
6. Add all the ricotta filling ingredients to the medium bowl with the garlic oil and stir to combine.
7. Add the balsamic and mixed spice to the small bowl with the garlic mixture and stir to combine.
8. Preheat The Smart Oven™ Pizzaiolo by selecting the Wood Fired setting. This can take up to 20 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, use a bench scraper to lift the dough and dip both sides in the semolina to coat. Place onto a clean bench and gently press out the dough with your fingertips, working from the centre outwards into an approximate 22cm round, leaving a 1cm border. Lightly sprinkle the peel (the tool used to put the pizza in the oven) with the semolina. Carefully transfer the dough onto the peel, gently brushing off any excess semolina.
10. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1cm border. Brush the edge of the dough with half the garlic oil.
11. Once the The Smart Oven™ Pizzaiolo has preheated, transfer the pizza to the oven and cook for 2 minutes or until the crust is starting to develop brown spots. Turn the pizza and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the pizza from the oven, place the turkey on the pizza and return to the oven for the final 30 seconds.
12. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Evenly dollop the cranberry sauce over the pizza. Toss the rocket in the dressing, then scatter evenly over the pizza. Brush the edge of the pizza with the remaining garlic oil.
13. Slice and serve hot.
Photography: Ashleigh Larden
This post was produced in collaboration with Breville
In Italy with our girls celebrating our wedding anniversary. Bliss!
After experiencing the biggest travel high after not being able to travel for the last few years, I’ve come to realise just how wonderful it is for the girls to be able to get out of their usual routines and environment to experience something totally new. We spent some time in London, Paris and Italy and it was wonderful for the soul but also for our family in general. The girls had an absolute ball while we were away and it brought Luke and I so much joy to see them having a great time. That said I’ve also realised (much to my delight!) that the girls are now at a really good age to travel. We no longer have to worry about prams, cots, bottles, nappies and lugging half our house around with us so it makes a HUGE difference, particular when you’re dealing with long haul flights and constantly changing time zones. (If you are still in that stage check out this travel post I did when the girls were younger.) That said, the girls are still kids so there were a few things that we found really helpful on our trip to keep everything on track. Sharing some of my tried and tested tips for travelling with kids in case you’re embarking on a holiday with little ones in tow…
Choose your flight times wisely
I purposely chose flight times that were neither too early or too late. There’s nothing worse than trying to rush out at the crack of dawn while trying to corral two children, the same goes for flying way too late and ending up with extremely irritable kids. We made sure to fly at the friendliest hours we could so we got the girls at their most perkiest selves.
Pre-kids me probably would’ve just hopped into a cab or an Uber as it was easy. I’ve found it’s not so easy now with two kids in tow so I made sure to have transfers to our accomodation locked in ahead of time so there was no waiting around at airports. Also when everyone’s tired and over it, you’ll be so glad there’s a car ready and waiting to whisk you away to where you’re staying.
Do your research
We did tours that were specifically recommended for kids. I think there’s a big difference when a tour is accomodating of kids as generally it’s much more upbeat and energetic to keep little ones interested. I think the girls would have lost interest very quickly if we ended up going on something that was geared towards adults.
Choose accomodation with child-friendly amenities
When staying in big cities, I would try and book a hotel with a pool. That way we could do the sights in the morning and then we could retreat to the hotel pool to escape the heat in the afternoon and also allow for some relaxation time. It ended up getting quite hot in some of the cities we were in so this was a very welcome reprieve, and then we would go out for dinner afterwards.
As any parent will attest, eating out sans kids is a vastly different proposition to eating out with kids so my biggest tip is to sort out restaurant reservations in advance. It’s nice strolling around and choosing restaurants on a whim but when you’re dealing with hungry kids, it’s best to have a destination in mind and a guaranteed table once you get there. We researched in advance and chose family friendly restaurants so we could all have a relaxed time and not have to worry about keeping the kids quiet because we were at a white tablecloth/deathly silence kind of fine dining establishment.
Come prepared with entertainment
I made sure to stock my bag with lots of colouring and activity books to keep the girls entertained at restaurants. It helped to occupy them while we were waiting for food, and helped us avoid screen time at the dinner table.
Document the trip
It’s not a logistical or an organisation tip but one of the best things we did on our trip was have the girls keep a journal while they were away. They loved finding things to put in their journal and writing about their day. I know it’s something that will be looked back on fondly and will be treasured forever.
Tell me—what are some of your best tips for travelling with kids?
Whether you’ve watched a hefty dose of home renovation shows and suddenly want to refresh a room, or you’ve just had enough of looking at a particular problem area, revamping your home can be exciting but also a bit daunting at the same time. Where do you start? What should you keep and what should you change? And how can you do it without totally blowing your budget?
That’s where interior designers Katrina Garrett and Millie Alison of The Design Paddock come in. Experts in both residential and commercial projects, they have extensive experience in reworking a space and giving it a fresh new spin. And here, they share their tips on how to re-do a space to achieve maximum impact on a budget.
Pick up a paintbrush
“Paint is one of the easiest ways to make a huge transformation to your home. When considering paint, look to places such as your front door, the exterior, the entry hallway, get rid of feature walls and look to something more neutral that can make the spaces feel larger, particularly in your main living areas. It’s obvious why people are drawn to the neutral tones as they are so timeless and work with varied furnishings.”
“Look to your kitchen and bathroom joinery, there are so many paint options out there now for tiles, benchtops, laminate and more. A fresh coat of paint can make a massive change to these areas, particularly if they are dated and need a facelift.”
“Paint doesn’t just apply to the home, look at painting some furniture pieces inside or even your old outdoor pots, there are endless ways with paint. You can even paint your roof if it’s looking shabby.”
Focus on details
“These details in the home that get used daily and most of the time are somewhat forgotten about, but when updated to something more durable and consistent with the style of your home, can make a massive difference.”
“We find that a lot of older homes tend to have inconsistencies in their door hardware, particularly noticeable when down a hallway. Look to changing to something the same that allows the home to have “flow”. This doesn’t just apply to doors, look at changing your hardware in bedroom robes, the kitchen, laundry and bathroom.”
Dress an empty wall
“Sometimes all your home needs is a reshuffle. Look closely at some of your walls and where might be an opportunity to decorate.”
“Find free art! We are actually the biggest fan of hats, not only wearing them, but decorating with them. Hats are always something that people seem to hang onto forever, they might be tucked up at the back of your laundry coat hooks.”
“Try bringing them out and clustering them on a wall over a console. They not only look great but bring a sense of a ‘story’ from a collection.”
“Print out some new photos, black and white photos framed in a feature wall always look sophisticated.”
Let the light In
“There are honestly endless window furnishing options out there and we feel that they are just a beautiful piece to finish off a space. Their softness, texture and warmth can instantly make a home feel “homey”. We love to specify sheer curtains in living spaces for their floaty aesthetic and a feature roman blind for bedrooms. A block-out is always great for the colder climates.”
“Bring in more natural light. You might find yourself in an older home with large verandahs or an overgrown garden. Look at ways that might increase the natural lighting in the home. It might even be a case of replacing some full panel doors to be half glass or adding in some skylights.”
“Look at updating your light fittings. Commonly some rooms can offer little light or can be placed simply in the wrong location. Look at incorporating varied lighting styles; combine table lamps, floor lamps, dimmable downlights and pendants; these can all provide different levels of lighting for different times of the day offering the home some ambience and an all-round cosy feeling space.”
Revive soft furnishings
“Old, tired patterns and fabrics can date the space. Whilst high-end specialty fabrics are in the designer’s toolbox, there are plenty of handsome and budget-friendly fabrics available. Quality doesn’t always mean big name fabrics. Replacing accent cushions on the sofa, consider getting slipcovers made for existing furniture that is in good condition and you’re not ready to part with. This will give the room an instant lift with the added benefits of being able to throw the covers in the wash.”
“Try repurposing ready-made natural linen curtains from [a store such as] Pottery Barn that don’t cost an arm and a leg and adding a fun and sophisticated trim. Get an upholsterer to sew the trim along the side seams for added depth and detail. They will look completely custom!”
“Looking to add interest to a featureless room? Try adding paneling to the walls! We are a big fan of Hardie Groove – durable fibre cement VJ sheet panels. Not only does this provide sophistication uniformity to a room but it’s also a cost-effective solution for the home. We love using this in kitchens, bathrooms (excluding showers) and laundries as you can paint it your own colour, they offer a range of styles and they won’t shrink or swell with moisture.”
I take a million family photos on my phone but occasionally it’s nice to have a professional behind the lens to take the shots. Recently I had the pleasure of working with family photographer Felicity Cook who shot Luke and the the girls and I along with my extended family (see below for the finished product). She managed to make it look so easy, plus anyone who can handle five kids simultaneously and still get great shots is someone who has my admiration. It’s hard enough getting a nice shot of one! I wanted to tap into Felicity’s expertise to give my family photo taking a little more polish and here, I’m sharing her tips.
What’s your process for composing a shot?
“There are multiple factors to composing a shot. It depends how many people are in it, what your background is like, and what the focus of the shot is meant to be.
If you’ve got a large group, the group is the focus, and you’ll generally centre them, but if it’s one or a couple of people, and you’re in a beautiful location, you may focus on capturing the subjects within their surroundings, so a bit of both.
I also look at body language- if a child is snuggled up to a parent, I may focus on the moment that is happening, rather than trying to capture everything else going on in the shot.”
How do you deal when you have kids who refuse to look at the camera?
“Ahh, working with kids. They are equal parts fun, equal parts patience training! It can be a little daunting for some kids to look at a camera pointing at them. There are gizmos and gadgets you can invest in to try and distract them (puppets or funny things that attach to your camera), or you can simply work with them at their level. I like to try and bring them out of their shell—whether that means letting them sporadically let off steam (running around or climbing or whatever they need) and then bringing them back in, or engaging them in conversation just me and them, to let them know they’re in a safe environment. If all else fails, position yourself so that they’re looking at something behind you!”
What are your tips for choosing a location that will shoot well?
“I prefer uncluttered, natural locations. Too much clutter confuses the shot, and can detract from the moment you’re trying to capture. Somewhere that is void of excessive crowds is always easier—especially when dealing with easily distractable children! Above all, choose a location that suits you and your family. If you live for the water, a densely urban location might not fit who you are all that well. Similarly, if your kids aren’t confident around water, perhaps the beach isn’t the best place to be, choose a park or bushy location.”
What are some considerations people should take when it comes to lighting?
“Contrary to what you might think, really bright sunny days aren’t great for photography! Soft lighting is much more forgiving than harsh light, so I always shoot in the early mornings or late afternoons. Natural lighting is best—unless you have proper studio lighting set up at home, steer clear of artificial lighting wherever you can. Even shooting at home, choose a location that gets natural, even light coming into it.”
What’s the key to getting a shots that are vibrant and have great energy?
“Keep it natural, and keep it fun! Forcing people to pose in positions that aren’t natural or comfortable for them won’t result in a great photo. If the kids want to run and climb, work with it! Get them to start at a point further away, and run towards you, and capture them as they come to you. If they’re feeling clingy, take cuddly photos. Dance, play music, make it fun, and the result will show it.”
Most people are using their phones to take family pics these days… do you have any tips for making the most of phone photography?
“Phone cameras are so advanced these days, you can get excellent shots on them. Avoid zooming in too much on a phone camera though, as most of them will pixelate (meaning they lose sharpness) as you zoom further in. Keep your phone straight on, so you’re not angling too far up or too far down, because proportions get a bit wacky. And just be mindful that a phone camera is not the same as a professional camera! You can get great shots of your loved ones on your phone, but you might not be able to get large format landscape photography happening on your iPhone (although if someone has managed that, you can correct me on that one!).”
What are some big no-nos when it comes to taking family photos?
“Everyone has a different style when it comes to photography. I personally go for a light, bright, natural feel. Some photographers prefer a darker, moodier look—both equally amazing, but quite different from each other!
Depending on the style you’re going for, what does and doesn’t work will differ. For light, bright photography, wearing dark clothes won’t really help you get that soft, dreamy look. But for moody photography, it’s perfect. Bold patterns and logos on shirts are generally a no-go for most styles of family photography, because they detract from the shot, and can throw out the balance if one person has bright green frogs on their shirt, and everyone else is wearing plain colours!
Height differences can cause some odd no-nos in photos too. If you’re on a bit of a slope, having the tallest person on the high side and the shortest person on the low side will give you an almost Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole look, which doesn’t flow well.
And don’t cut off heads or feet, except when doing portrait close ups! A beautiful family portrait can be ruined by one person having their feet cut off at the bottom of the shot. It’s easier to crop a photo than to add to it!”
Kids will generally have a short attention span when it comes to taking photos… what are your tips for ensuring you a great shot quickly and without too much fuss?
“Be prepared. The moment passes super quick, and nine times out of 10, they won’t repeat it for you. Take more than one shot of a moment or if your phone/camera allows, take a burst in quick succession. It will give you a greater chance of getting a good shot. Kids are also super fast (as we all know!), so a fast shutter speed is a necessary.
But the biggest key is patience. If they’re getting fidgety, take a break, distract them with something else (if there’s a Mr Whippy van, go get an ice cream!).
And respect their wishes. If they don’t want to be in a photo, don’t force them. It’s not fair on them, it will stress you out, and you won’t get a memory worth keeping. Take a breath, try the distraction, and then regroup and see if they’re ready again a little later.”
What are your tips for editing? Are there any apps you’d recommend?
“There are SO many apps out there for editing photos, I can’t even name them. It really depends what you like your photos to look like, but I prefer to keep shots as close to natural as possible. You can download the Lightroom app and use it for free on your phone, and you can purchase presets that help you edit your photos at the click of a button (or you can discover how to make edits yourself).
Instagram is also a great editing tool- I often use Instagram to edit my own personal photos. The biggest trick with editing is colour. Especially skin colour. Focus on ensuring that people’s skin colour looks as natural as possible- make the photo too cool, and they’ll look a little purple, make the photo too warm, and you’ll have orange Oompa Loompas!”
As the founder of premium baby and children’s furniture brand Incy Interiors, if there’s one thing Kristy Withers is well versed in, it’s how to create a stylish and functional nursery. In the early days, there’s so much time spent in the nursery changing, feeding and putting baby to sleep that it has to be a place you love being in. And with endless inspiration for nurseries available, it’s important to know the difference between a simply Insta-worthy space and one that’s actually practical and useable in real life. Enter Kristy, who is sharing her go-to tips for not only creating a gorgeous nursery, but one that’s designed to make day-to-day life with your newborn easier.
What are the most important things to consider before styling a nursery?
“The first thing I look at when designing a room is to understand what space you have to work with. What is the floor space, how high are the walls, where are the windows and doors located. This is really important to understand upfront to save a costly purchase down the track.”
What are some of the key essentials in a nursery?
“The absolute essentials for any nursery are a cot, change table and nursing chair. You spend most of those early months either feeding, changing or getting them to sleep (and staying asleep) so choosing these pieces wisely is so important.”
What are your tips for creating a great space on a budget?
“Great design doesn’t need to be expensive. Rather than painting walls you can create an amazing space with inexpensive removable wall decals, which is also a great option for renters. Buying prints rather than originals is a great way to create interest on the walls without spending a fortune. Another one of my favourite tips is to buy beautiful wooden toys that can double as decoration as well as a plaything, saving money and the environment.”
What are some things that perhaps aren’t entirely necessary in a nursery to start with?
“A bassinet is not a must-have but it was so helpful for me. It meant the baby was right next to me for middle of the night feeds and I could move it around with me throughout the day. I also deliberately left both of my children’s nurseries bare and then I purchased accessories such as toys, books and decorations as their little personalities started to show. This meant that their rooms were more of a reflection of them rather than me.”
What are some nursery design trends you’re seeing right now?
“I have been doing this for 10 years now and it has been so interesting seeing how nursery design has changed over that time. When we first started, nurseries were navy and red or yellow and grey. As general tastes have changed so have the nursery design trends. Mid-century is becoming much more popular.”
What are some of your best tips for maximising storage?
“Storage is something you can never have too much of. Always look for a change table with inbuilt storage as well as one that converts once you are done with it as a change table. All of our Incy change tables either convert to a dresser or a bookcase so that they can be used for years to come. Other great storage options are ottomans, toy boxes and storage baskets.”
What are some of your fave design flourishes for nurseries?
“I feel so lucky to do what I do as children’s nurseries/bedrooms are the one space in the home where you can really experiment with things and have a bit of fun. I’m a huge fan of textures so I love mixing various fabrics and finishes. Leather, velvets and metallics are my absolute favourites right now. Mixing the three can create a feeling of warmth and luxury at the same time.”
What are the splurge and save items in a nursery? What should people invest in and what are some things they can afford to scrimp on?
“I always feel biased saying this but I am a big believer in spending as much as you can afford on good quality furniture, it can them be passed down through multiple children and my ultimate goal is for the furniture we are producing right now to be handed down to our children’s children. The items I tend to save on are the accessories. There are so many amazing Australian brands right now producing beautiful linen, artwork, toys and accessories. If you save on the accessories you can then swap them out for the next baby or when transitioning to a toddler/big bed.”
I have said before that while I love nothing more than sitting down to a delicious spread, I also don’t want to spend ages cooking. So, I’ve embraced a number of things in my repertoire that are easy to make yet still tastes delicious and looks impressive. This is definitely the case when it comes to Christmas!
Last week I shared the fact that I’m going to be posting my go-to recipes for the festive season and I’m particularly excited to share this one because it’s just perfect for summer. I think nothing says Aussie Christmas quite like mangoes and prawns. This salad is a staple in our household during warmer months and is the perfect addition to any Christmas feast. With the taste of succulent prawns, crunchy salad and sweet mangoes, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 handfuls mixed lettuce leaves
2 mangoes, cut into cubes
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
20 cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
2 avocados, cut into cubes
1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 long red chilli, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp white condiment (white balsamic vinegar)
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
In a large bowl or on a platter, arrange lettuce, mango, onion, prawns and avocado.
To make the dressing, shake ingredients in a jar until combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. Pour over salad, and sprinkle with coriander leaves and chilli.
This post was produced in collaboration with Macquarie Centre
Now that travel is once again on the cards I’m on the hunt for great travel destinations for families. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat, particularly when it comes to the long Christmas school holidays at the end of the year. Earlier in the year we took a trip up to Far North Queensland and paid a visit to Port Douglas, followed by Cairns and I can’t recommend both highly enough. With any spot we are planning to visit as a family I like to make sure that there’s plenty of things for the girls to do, activities that the four of us will enjoy together and something fun for the adults whether it’s a great restaurant or luxe day spa. If you’re looking for a tropical holiday close to home, check out my travel guide to Cairns below.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Bailey which opened in 2019, and it’s a gorgeous hotel located in the heart of Cairns’ CBD. We found it to be a really central location from which to base ourselves. We always try to be within close proximity to amenities such as cafes and restaurants whenever we stay somewhere as when travelling with kids it’s important to make getting from A to B as easy as possible. The rooms are fresh and modern, and I loved all the cool art around the hotel and in the rooms, Bailey also plays host to different exhibitions and activations. One of the things I loved about Bailey is their focus on sustainability. All the bathroom amenities are recyclable or compostable, there are also no plastic water bottles or straws and things such as room key cards and accessories are made from recycled wood.
The girls enjoying the lobby at Bailey
Heading out as a family
Enjoying the pool
What we did
We always love destinations that have lots of things for kids to do and this trip we were able to check out a range of different locations. We went to Cairns Aquarium which is only a few minutes’ walk from Bailey. It’s a great spot and something that I’m sure most kids would love to check out. Another fun place to visit is Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome. It’s a wildlife sanctuary which plays home to crocodiles, koalas and more. Plus there’s also an indoor ropes course which features everything from climbing walls to swings and even a zipline. It’s great if you’re after a bit of an adrenaline rush!
If however you just want to take things easy, definitely take a walk along the Esplanade Boardwalk. It’s quite picturesque and the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll. The kids loved the big stingray sculpture, which as you can see, they couldn’t resist taking a picture on.
If you want to explore a little further afield then you most definitely cannot miss seeing The Great Barrier Reef. We did a day tour and it was incredible. Pictures just don’t do the Reef justice. We ended up snorkelling which was a lot of fun. We weren’t able to do it from Cairns this trip but one thing to definitely add to your list is a day trip to see Daintree National Park. We went there from Port Douglas which is where we were before Cairns, but we would visit again as it’s just beautiful. The kids had a great time exploring and swimming.
Doing the ropes course at Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome
Taking a stroll along the boardwalk
Where we ate
When we discover a place we like to eat while we’re on holiday we tend to be repeat customers. And it was no different this trip. We went to dinner at Rocco and Paper Crane, both restaurants at Riley, a lovely hotel that’s across the road from where we were staying and really rated the food there. Rocco is a Mediterranean restaurant with rooftop bar. The view is great and the food even better. While Paper Crane is an Asian Fusion restaurant, with a Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese inspired menu. Both delicious and both menus the kids really liked.
Sampling the local fare
One of the many delicious meals we enjoyed
This one too!
This post was produced in collaboration with Crystalbrook
As most people with kids will attest, decorating a home comes with its own new considerations once little ones enter the picture. Everything from sticky fingers being wiped down on the couch to trying to grab everything in sight means that you have to take these things into account with your colour scheme, your furniture and home decors. Of course, having older children gives you a little more freedom to decorate as you wish but when it comes to younger kids, this is what I’ve learned…
Go for durable fabrics
We have a couch made from a durable earthy toned fabric and the pillows are made from quite a similar material so this helps to avoid the couch looking worse for wear. When it comes to the furniture in our home everything is quite neutral and quite durable so I always consider those things when I’m buying anything for the house.
Invest in baskets
I never used to have baskets around the house but now I love them as they’re great for storing (or hiding!) things like toys and pillows in a hurry. This is a lifesaver when guests pop around unexpectedly and I need to quickly tidy the house.
Do a big edit of ornaments
I still like having decorative bits and pieces around the house but I’ve done a big edit so I only have the pieces I really love dotted around our home. This makes it easier to keep track of them as the girls are quite curious and love picking things up and playing with them.
I like to do a tight edit of ornaments but find gallery walls to be a great way to liven up a space, but is out of the way from little hands
Choose neutral kids’ furniture
We live in an apartment so the kids’ space is our space so I feel like the kids’ stuff has to blend in with our stuff. I find children’s furniture can be really bright which tends to stick out a lot so we try to get furniture that is neutral so we’ll get white or blonde wood rather than bold colours such as reds, blues or greens.
Think like a kid
Ultimately kids will be kids so you have to take that into account whenever you’re buying/arranging anything in the home. So look around your home and see it from their eyes. For example I would position delicate things somewhere that’s a little more out of the way and not right in the middle of where the girls tend to play a lot. Now that the girls are older it’s a little bit easier, but it’s always important to think about what things are made of because for example something made of glass is definitely more prone to breakage than something made of wood.
Prints are the kind of thing that can mask dirt or stains really well. So if you’re worried about little fingers getting food all over a pristine cushion, consider something like a check or a ikat print or an equally as busy pattern to disguise any marks. It works a treat.