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Lifestyle

My Christmas entertaining tips

18th December, 2021

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.

Prep platters

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?

Fashion, Lifestyle

My recipe for Prawn And Mango Salad With Avocado

17th November, 2021

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)

 

  • DRESSING:
  • 2 Tbsp white condiment (white balsamic vinegar)
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard

 

Method

  1. In a large bowl or on a platter, arrange lettuce, mango, onion, prawns and avocado.
  2. 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

Lifestyle

Where we stayed, what we did and where we ate in Cairns

22nd October, 2021

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

Lifestyle

My tips for decorating a home when you have kids

18th July, 2021

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.

Incorporate prints

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.

 

 

Fashion, Lifestyle

Closet goals: how to get an organised wardrobe this year

4th July, 2021

An organised closet really is a sight to behold. When shoes are all neatly lined up, shirts folded and divided into neat piles, everything from blouses and dresses all perfectly hung up into distinct categories it brings a noticeable feeling of satisfaction. It also makes getting dressed SO much easier. I’ve tried to implement an organisation system in my own wardrobe for this very reason. And whilst it admittedly does take a little daily tidying up, it also means I don’t have to do a huge clean up a few weeks down the track when all my clothes are threatening to take over our entire bedroom. If you want to make things stress-free on the sartorial front it’s time to do an overhaul of your wardrobe and turn it into a space that’s Pinterest-worthy and one that you’ll be happy to stare at every single day.

Here are some great ways to start…

Colour code everything

Grouping like with like is a great system to employ when it comes to your wardrobe. It makes locating everything at a glance a simple process and let’s face it, it looks really nice too.

Sub-divide into categories

Whilst colour coding is extremely handy as a sorting tool you could also try another method which is to divide everything into different categories. This means grouping all your skirts together, your t-shirts together, your jeans together and so forth. With a closet divided into distinct areas you’ll find it easier to find what you’re looking for.

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Organise jeans from light to dark

If you own multiple pairs of jeans it can be hard to keep track of them all so this year, organise them from lightest wash to darkest wash. If you’ve got the space, hang them up so you can avoid wrinkling them and thus have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Fold garments like a boutique

You could just throw everything into your wardrobe and hope for the best or you could take a few minutes to fold your clothes and put them away in perfect piles like a boutique would. By categorising into piles you make things doubly easier for yourself as you can immediately see what you’re looking for. Also this is the best way to store things that stretch such as woollen jumpers and tees which may stretch if hung up.

Label everything

Earn double organisation points by labelling everything. Yes, you may already know where everything is but visually it helps to have a clear idea of what you’re looking it.

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Arrange bags vertically

By lining up bags vertically as opposed to sitting them all on top of each other you not only help protect their shape but reduce the time it takes to track down a particular clutch or tote.

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Get matching hangers

Nothing says you’ve got your style sorted like staring into a wardrobe with matching hangers. Bin the old mismatched hangers you may have been using (wire especially as they can ruin the shape of clothes) and get wooden or slim velvet ones. The former looks amazing all lined up and is gentle on clothes whilst the latter allows you to fit more into your wardrobe as they take up less space, plus it has a bit of grip so you avoid things like silk blouses slipping off constantly.

Put things away in drawers vertically

If you store most of your things in drawers, instead of piling them up on top of each other, put them away vertically so you can see everything as opposed to just what’s on top. You’ll be amazed at how much more wear you’ll get out of everything simply by being able to see what you own.

How do you keep your wardrobe organised?

 

Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Social

Inexpensive ways to revamp your home according to interior design duo The Design Paddock

27th June, 2021

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.

Neutral tones can freshen up a space and is extremely versatile

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.”

Change your wall art, change your space

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.”

The simple act of changing up your cushions can make a space feel new again

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.”

Semi-customised curtains

“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!”

Introduce paneling

“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.”

Fashion, What I Wore

What I wore this week (on location)

24th June, 2021

I’m on holiday in Port Douglas this week so I replaced my usual winter gear for one of my favourite types of clothing: resortwear! It’s warm where we are staying so it gave me the perfect reason to pull out some new additions to my wardrobe, including some great swimwear and cover-ups. I love dressing for balmy weather as outfits feel so relaxed, yet they can easily be glammed up with the right accessories. I’m quite partial to doing a bit of beach glam as it’s such a fun way to mix and match some of my favourite pieces. Here’s what I wore this week… on location.

One of the things I’ve been using as a staple look this week is a swimsuit or bodysuit paired with easy, relaxed separates. These white pants are so fresh and perfect for balmy weather. I paired it with my trusty Loewe basket bag, because if you can’t wear a basket bag on a beach holiday then when can you? I finished off the look with a chunky gold necklace and sunnies as the final touch.

Credits: Bodysuit, Venroy; Pants (similar), Seafolly; Bag, Loewe; Sandals, Gucci; Necklace, Manning Cartell; Sunglasses, Le Specs

I always pack a wrap like this whenever I’m doing a beach holiday as it’s great to wear as a skirt, and also something to throw on after a swim. Bondi Born always do really practical, yet elegant separates that are made for a holiday destination such as far north Queensland. I paired them with my fave Ray Bans and trusty white Gucci sandals.

Credits: Swimsuit (similar), Seafolly; Wrap (similar), Bondi Born; Sunglasses, Ray Ban; Sandals, Gucci; Bag, Loewe

We were heading out to dinner so I wanted to glam it up a bit. This cami is such a great piece as it’s so lightweight that it barely takes up any room in my suitcase, but it’s also just the thing to elevate a pair of linen pants. The pearl straps are just delightful and such a fun touch to this outfit.

Credits: Cami, Cami NYC; Pants, Seafolly; Bag, Sparrows Weave; Sandals, Gucci

I absolutely love this set by Venroy. It’s super comfy and the contrasting thin and thick stripes achieve an interesting effect that give this look some personality. They’re also perfect worn on separately and worked back with other pieces so I can double the use of them while I’m up here.

Credits: Top and shorts, Venroy; Sandals, Gucci; Bag, Loewe, Sunglasses, Ray Ban

Loving this textured swimsuit by Monday Swimwear. It’s a great colour and I like the ribbed effect as it adds a layer of interest to this ensemble. I paired this with my Bondi Born wrap, and this printed Aje bucket hat. These Karen Walker sunglasses have been a fun addition to my sunnies collection, they’re an interesting shape and I love the geometric silhouette as an accent piece.

Credits: Swimsuit (similar), Monday Swimwear; Wrap (similar), Bondi Born; Hat, Aje; Sunglasses, Karen Walker

See? What did I tell you about these shorts? I paired this with a one shoulder swimsuit for a glam look for the day and proved I did some great strategic packing. I always make sure that any pieces I bring when I travel can be worked back with other items I’m packing and turned into a variety of different looks. Topped off with my fave basket bag and sandals, I can’t think of a better tropical look.

Credits: Swimsuit (similar), Bondi Born; Shorts, Venroy; Sandals, Gucci; Bag, Loewe; Sunglasses, Ray Ban

Lifestyle, Shop

The one thing I always have in my home

6th June, 2021

JM_458

Candles aplenty at the Jo Malone “Just Because” dinner I hosted earlier this year

If there’s one thing my house is never without it’s a beautifully scented candle. I love having one burning in the background as there’s something quite luxurious about a gorgeous fragrance filling up your home (note: this is why I always have one burning when I have visitors over). A candle also adds warmth to any space which makes it a simple way to decorate a room. There’s no shortage of wonderful candles out there. And there’s definitely one to suit every taste and budget.

Check out some of my top picks below…

Tip: Candles usually come poured into a perfectly re-usable glass or metal jar so when you’ve used one up be sure to repurpose its home; you can use it for everything from a makeup brush holder to a vase.

To clean out the jar simply pop it in the freezer so the wax hardens. Once frozen take it out and scrape out the excess wax and wick which should leave you with an empty jar. If you’re removing the label, using a hairdryer, blast hot air over the jar to melt the glue, peel off the label then run it under hot water to clean off the sticky residue.

Lifestyle

How to set the perfect Mother’s Day table

30th April, 2021

Mother’s Day is always such a special occasion in our household, and I always like to get together with my family to honour my mum and celebrate the wonderful mother she is. One way we like to do that is to enjoy a delicious breakfast together. Our preferred menu? Pancakes and waffles and lots of it.

I always like to dress the table for the occasion and add some simple design flourishes that will turn Sunday breakfast into something befitting Mother’s Day. I usually choose to do something pared back yet impactful, because I don’t really want to spend the entire morning fussing around with setting the table. That said, I’ve found there are some easy, but striking decorations that will really set the mood.

Just add flowers

I don’t think a table is ever really set without some gorgeous blooms to add a splash of colour. And the thing with flowers is, you can go in so many different directions, from bright and vibrant, to understated and classic. I personally like to embrace a lot of striking hues as I think it really lifts the scene, and turns a table at home into something special.

Add a delicious scent

Whenever I’m entertaining I always have candles burning as I find it’s such an effective way to create a great atmosphere, and makes any space so warming and inviting. Scent is such a powerful thing and for events, it’s always great to add a scented candle as it will instantly transport you to that time and place whenever you smell it again. This year, I’m embracing this beautiful limited edition Glasshouse Candle aptly titled, An Ode to Women, as Mother’s Day is a lovely reminder of the beautiful women in my life, from my mum, to my gorgeous daughters.

Keep it simple

Any good design is about keeping things simple, with a tight edit of beautiful things, and that includes setting a table. I went for simple tableware as I didn’t want it to overwhelm. I don’t think you can really ever go wrong with crisp white plates, linen napkins and placemats and interesting design details, like wooden napkin rings. It all works together to create a mood that’s sophisticated and elegant, yet is still comfortable enough that people feel welcomed and at home.

Generously portion serving plates

Don’t neglect your plating! Part of setting a nice table is to ensure that the food is celebrated. I usually like to keep platters or plates piled high as I think it looks more inviting. Creating that abundant effect is always a critical part of setting a table that has people wanting to sit and enjoy themselves.

Layer your table

I think it’s all about working with different layers when it comes to setting a photogenic table. Consider the base, which includes things like placemats, cutlery, tableware and glassware. Then consider what goes on top, from napkins to serving platters, then look to the decorative touches. This includes things like a delicious scented candle, to assorted florals in a range of different colours.

This post was produced in collaboration with Glasshouse Candles

Photography: Ashleigh Larden

Fashion

On my radar: The Camilla and Marc trench, the Alex and Trahanas fruit bowl stand and the Apede Mod mini tote

26th March, 2021

I’m lucky to come across a lot of beautiful things in my job, and as a result I’m always finding new additions for my wish list. This month I’ve been in equal parts house and wardrobe shopping mode. I’ve been looking for new decorative pieces for our home post-reno, just small things that can really help transform our space. While on the fashion front, I’ve been searching for new updates to add to my autumn wardrobe. And in my travels, I’m lucky to have managed to find a few pieces that fit the bill. Here’s what’s currently on my radar.

Apede Mod Poker Face Mini Tote

This cute structured bag is just the thing to add a fresh touch to the more moodier tones I’ll no doubt be wearing throughout autumn and winter. The size is perfect as I’ll be able to carry all my essentials without it being too cumbersome, and I love the chain strap which adds a layer of elevated elegance to the overall design.

Alex & Trahanas Fruit Bowl Stand

This is currently sold out but I’m waiting patiently for new stock to arrive. This ceramic fruit stand is made in Puglia in Italy, and the colours and design remind me of many of my favourite holidays in Italy. I’m planning for it to be a stylish reminder of more Italian soujourns that will hopefully be on the horizon in the not so distant future.

Camilla and Marc Tarantino trench coat

I’ve been looking for a trench to get me through the next few months and I immediately fell in love with the design of this Camilla and Marc number. It’s the perfect length/shape to work back with my winter wardrobe and the colour is just right. I can’t wait to snap this one up as it’s definitely going to fill a gap in my wardrobe.