Thursday, 13 December 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I love Christmas - I adore it!

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the festive atmosphere - the Christmas kitsch, the sparkling decorations and all the fabulously fun times spent with friends and family.  Its also a great excuse for baking and cooking addicts like me to spend cherished moments in the kitchen, whipping up delicious treats for all the parties and special visits with friends or family.

However, I can get rather frazzled and am prone to having a moment or two when I need things to calm down and the pace to relax a bit.  Therefore I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve to help with this endeavour.  One of the best things has to be recipes that are 'easy peasy' but still gorgeous.  Like these gorgeous little marshmallow puff Xmas puddings that I discovered via my lovely friend Leah over at

Lots of friends have asked me for the recipe for these darling little treats, but I feel like such a fraud as there isn't really a 'recipe' per se...its more of an assembly job!

Marshmallow Puff Xmas Puddings:

1.  Take a packet (or two!) of Griffin's marshmallow puffs (I have no idea what you would use in countries that do not sell these, but any thing that is round and chocolaty would do)

2.  Melt some white chocolate for the 'custard' look - I used the following:

3.  Finally (and this is surely the best part of all) pop a little jaffa, chocolate orange ball, on top!  If you cant buy these you could simply use a cherry.

See what I mean about being a fraud - its not really baking or cooking at all - but everyone loves them!

We finally have the tree up and the house decorated.  My son is over the moon with joy and loves each and every one of the Christmas rituals, like decorating the tree.  Each year we have a ritual of visiting a special department store in Wellington (kirkaldie and stains) to visit the Xmas shop and choose a new decoration.  We always pop into the tea rooms for a wee treat too.

My son still believes in the magic that is Xmas and is simply filled with excitement as we count down the days till the jolly man in red pays us a visit.  It took my husband and I eight years to finally become parents when we adopted our beautiful son in England.  There isn't a moment of each and every day when I am not thankful for having him to love and cherish, but at Christmas it seems especially poignant.  It may sound cheesy but I do feel like we are blessed to have our little boy.  As such each of his home-made decorations are absolute treasures to me and I adore displaying them in the house each year.

A coke bottle Santa Claus made by my wee boy when he was only 5 years old

My son made this fabulous Xmas picture for me when he was 6 years old and it takes pride of place on the bookcase every Christmas.

 Every year I think I might make my own Christmas cards like some of my talented friends do, but alas I have never quite achieved that goal.  One very talented friend of mine (thanks Shelley!) made this Xmas card with a teeny tiny crochet hat on it - amazing!

Right, I think it is time to call it a day and curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a gingerbread reindeer.
Becks xxx

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
 - Norman Vincent Peale 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Countdown to Christmas!

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more."
  The Grinch by Dr Suess

Despite spending my childhood growing up in New Zealand, I am not sure I will ever get used to having Christmas in the middle of summer - it feels oddly decadent - like we get to have our cake and eat it too!  I do miss the snowy winters I experienced in the US and the cosy, wet ones in England, but I really can't complain right now because the sun is shinning and the garden is all in bloom - bliss!

My wildflower meadow in the back garden - a bit scruffy but oh so lovely!

Today I am busy playing Christmas carols and wrapping up the gifts I bought which need to be posted overseas to loved ones in England and America.  This year I was determined to buy as many hand-made or NZ designed gifts as possible and I found some real treausres:

A gorgeous hand-made monkey for a darling little niece...

A pretty bag for a sister-in-law who adores anything that is green, floral or vintage...

A whimsical, pretty pot-mit and matching tea towel for a dear friend...

I'd better not post anymore of the pressies on here - people might be peeking! 

For me (and many others on the planet) I can find this time of year to be a bit nerve wracking.  There is always so much going on!  So I am making sure I take some time out when I can just to focus on the simple joys in life and realise that this time of year is not about 'keeping up with the Jones's'.  I love pottering around in the garden and have just planted some lovely young salad veggies, which I am hoping will be ready to eat by Xmas:

My lovely lettuce babies all tucked into the raised bed - grow babies grow!!!  Oh and please excuse the 'weeds' in the background - I just love sunny little buttercups and dont have the heart to hack them all to bits with the weed whacker!

Right, enough time on the computer - I can hear the washing machine beeping and nagging me to go and hang all the freshly washed linen on the line!  Then I am off to do some baking and make some more home-made Christmas gifts - individual yummy little fruit cakes, jars of jam, chutney and fudge (okay not all in the same jar - that doesnt sound good at all!). 
Hopefully I wont leave it so long before I post seems to be especially busy this year, but I do love dipping into blogland and seeing what everyone is up to.  Becks xxx

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Change of Season...

"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!" ~Mark Twain

Spring is here at last!  It is bliss to say farewell to the cold, wet, days of winter and welcome in a lovely new season.  I thought I was doing so well as I almost managed to sneak through winter without getting sick, but as Murphy's law would have it, a few weeks ago I got a nasty virus.  I think the thing that really helped me get well again was hot lemon and ginger drinks with a huge dollop of manuka honey added - talk about a magic potion!

I almost gave up on blogging as there never seems to be much time, but then suddenly spring has arrived and I just had to share these pretty photos.  The garden is in bloom and the birds nesting in our trees are having chirpy little babies (maybe not quite so lovely at 5am) and slowly...very is beginning to get a little sunnier and warmer each day. 

I always get a bit nostalgic at this time of year, as autumn in the northern hemisphere has always been one of my favourite times of year and it all feels a bit topsy turvey to me living 'down under'.  However this year I have decided to really get out and enjoy the spring and my lovely garden and I have to admit, it is simply bliss to be out amongst the flowers, smelling the gorgeous scented air and listening to the birds sing. 

It is only a week and a bit until the October school holidays here in New Zealand and I am really looking forward to spending some precious time with my wee man, who seems to be growing up so fast.  He has suddenly become very neat and tidy with his toys (excuse me for a moment while I go and do the happy dance!).  He takes great care each morning, 'parking' his vehicles and making sure his action figures and teddies are tucked away.  I had to take a snap to share as it really makes me smile :-)

I think one of the nice things about the school holidays is an end to making packed lunches every day!  I am constantly trying to think of new ideas for healthy, tempting treats for my wee boy.  I came across this recipe on for the yummiest peanut butter oatmeal cookies the other week and they have now become a bit of a staple - in fact hubby likes them so much that I have to make an extra batch for him.  They couldn't be easier to whip up - it takes me about 5 minutes of mixing and then wham they are in the oven and the house smells heavenly as they bake.  They are high in fibre and protein, so a great little energy source - I often give one to my son before one of his sports matches or swimming lessons.

Easy Peasy Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar (I use low GI raw sugar)
1 egg
1 1/4 cups of oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

optional:  a handful of chocolate chips or sesame seeds

In a small bowl, cream peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Add oats and baking soda to creamed mixture (and chocolate chips or seeds if you are using them); mix well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with baking paper; flatten slightly. Bake at 350°  (or 180 C) for 8 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container. There are approximately 67 calories per cookie.

I have decided to try and 'live in the moment' a little more so in the spirit of spring, I am going to put on a gorgeous spring feast this weekend for the family - will post pics next week!  I think right now though I am off to the shops, as I quite fancy treating myself to some sunshine yellow nail polish.  What's life without a little whimsy?

Becks xxx

Monday, 30 July 2012

What shall we have for dinner?

I have been away from blogland for a few weeks.  Life has been a little it is sometimes.  Hubby has been away for work for the past 6 weeks and we have really missed him.  We've had the usual run of winter bugs and lurgies, plus a few added dramas to add some grey hairs to my head.  But things have calmed down now - phew. 

So I stand in my kitchen this morning and stare outside, past the teapots and out into the garden where the rain is softly tumbling down.  Then I do what women (and men...but mostly women) do all over the world each and every day - I think "what shall we have for dinner tonight".  Okay, so if I am honest, this is usually the kind of thing I think about at around 4pm or 'gasp' much later (those are the days when little son gets real kiddy food for his dinner, like baked beans and sausages, while I figure out something more elaborate for hubby and me). 

Honestly, I really don't mind cooking, in fact I rather like it and consider myself to be quite alright at it, thank you very much.  But the monotony of deciding what to have can become a real bother.  However, I have a new wee fabulous pot of ideas I can dip into now...PINTEREST!  Yes, my addiction to the visual wonderland has been providing me with some fabulous ideas for our family dinners lately.  The great thing is that most of the recipes and ingredients are very family friendly - quite healthy and not too costly. FABULOUS!!! 

Tonight we are heading south of the border and having 'Mexican Chicken Casserole' - yummo!  Its brilliant frankly as it is such an easy thing to throw together in the morning (or the night before), then bang into the oven an hour before dinner time.  So here below is my creation for tonight's dinner:

It really was super easy to make (and I cheated a little too, just to speed things up).

I used:

2 chicken breasts (diced up)
1 can of organic adzuki beans (because I was out of red kidney beans)
1 can of cannellini beans
1 cup of frozen sweet corn
1 bunch of chopped up spring onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1 red onion
1 jar of pasta sauce (told you I cheated a bit!)
1 packet of taco seasoning (cheating again, I know - easy peasy!)

Then I just put it in the fridge until an hour before dinner.  Just before serving I will grate some cheese over the top and let that melt (any cheese is fine - I am going to use provolone tonight as I love the way it melts).  I serve it with a few plain tortilla chips (organic and store bought), which thrills my men folk to no end!

So there you have it - low fat, low GI, high fibre, economical and best of all easy to make!  The best thing is you can also adjust this recipe to suit what you have in your pantry/fridge or garden. 

Right, time to get back to the real world and tackle the beast that lives in our laundry, 'sigh'.  Have a fab week!  Becks xxx

Saturday, 7 July 2012

School Holidays

Life has been crazy busy lately.  It's the winter school holidays here in New Zealand and so my little boy has been home, which is just bliss.  The time seems to fly by!  The poor lad has had to attend quite a few hospital appointments - he had problems with his heart a few months ago and the doctors are still doing lots of tests and things to try and figure out what is going on.  They have ordered a 'sleep deprivation test', which feels like absolute torture as it means nobody in the house gets any sleep - OMG!  I turn into such a grouchy beast :-(

Then we had a 7.0 earthquake on the one night we were due to get a good nights sleep and of course my poor boy was totally freaked out by that (so was Mummy!).  It felt like some giant had picked up our house and shook it, for what seemed like an age.  Scary!  No major damage though - just a crack in the ceiling upstairs.  Sigh.

So due to the above mentioned horrible things, we have been trying extra hard to have some fun too.  We started by going to the movies to see 'Brave', which was brilliant and so funny!  Then we wrapped up warm in our woollies and hit the beach to watch the giant waves, search for treasures like seashells and sea glass.  We bought our trusty thermos of hot chocolate with us and tried to eat our sandwiches without the wind blowing too much sand in them - I figure its extra fibre right? 

So needless to say I have once again been neglecting my blog and my lovely blog reading, but such is life.  Sometimes you just need to stop, hug the ones you love and forget about everything else. 

Hope your all have a great weekend!  Becks xxx

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Winter Solstice!

A wee winter solstice gift for my Mother!  I have made these myself in the past, but I spotted this gem by Tamsin Cooper in one of my favourite gift stores this past week and couldnt pass it up!  It will look so pretty pinned on Mum's winter coat :-)

Tempus fugit!  Or time flies as my grandmother always used to say to me when I was a child.  I am still very new to the blogging world and rather stumbling my through it all when I can snatch a few precious minutes of spare time.  So when life gets a little hectic, as it has lately, I find that blogging (and my favourite:  reading blogs!) must take a bit of a backseat to other priorities. 

My Mother bought these gorgeous flowers for me to grace the Yule table and remind us that the days are going to get lighter now and spring will be here eventually!  I wish you could smell things through the computer as these are just gorgeous! 

I could moan and groan here about the trials of the week, but I won’t because today my family stopped, took a moment and had a beautiful day to celebrate Winter Solstice.  We had our own little mid-winter Yule feast, followed by a few simple gifts for each other, a super yummy dessert and then we all curled up in the living room in to watch a movie.  A little bit of bliss on a cold winter’s day!

For our special lunch I made us a beef wellington:

We had this served with roast potatoes and cauliflower and broccoli cheese (all very decadent I know!).   Dessert was a gorgeous ‘Opera Cake’ inspired by the challenge on which I came across on two fabulous blogs: and (I am not very good at putting in links yet, so do excuse me if this is not the best way to do it – I’ll get there eventually!).

I am not sure if it is a ‘getting older’ kind of thing, but as the years go by I do find that I really like to take more time to savour the simple joys in life.  I love to celebrate each season now and the special quality that each one has.  Yes, even winter!  Who doesn’t enjoy a cosy, comfy dose of cold weather once in a while?  It gives us a great excuse to curl up with a hot, steamy drink, a fabulous book or perhaps time out for more creative pursuits.  I love it!

When I lived in the northern hemisphere I always found that the seasons seemed to ‘work’, but living downunder means that here in New Zealand, for example, we have a long winter with no holidays and not much to really look forward to, unless you are of the ski bunny variety (which I am not).  So my family and I decided we should have a mid-winter Yule celebration each year and I have to say, it is rather lovely.  The Maori people of New Zealand call this time of year ‘Matariki’, which is the Maori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters.  It is considered the Maori New Year and a special time of celebration as the darkest day passes and the light begins to slowly return.

The winter night sky in New Zealand really is a breath-taking sight (providing the weather is clear enough so that the stars can actually be seen!), so hubby and I always make a point of wrapping up warm and going outside to gaze at the night sky around this time of year.  Somehow just standing there staring at the heavens makes most problems and grumbles seem so trivial.   Hubby and I love it and always find that it makes us feel peaceful.  I am sure the neighbours must think we are absolutely bonkers though – the two of us sat out on our front steps late at night, usually in our dressing gowns and slippers with woolly hats on!!!

Time to nip off back to the warmth of the fire and do ‘a Nigella’ and see if there is any Opera cake left to go with my cup of tea!  For those of you in the southern hemisphere – merry Matariki!  For my friends in the north – here’s hoping you are enjoying a fabulous summer.  Becks xxx 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A proud little English boy

This image is taken from
Well wasn't the Jubilee simply fabulous?  My son and I absolutely loved it.  In fact I was really rather surprised by how 'into it' my wee 8 year old was.  But then he is very proud of the fact he was born in England (where the castles and the knights are!).  Hubby (who is English) wasn't nearly so over the moon about all the proceedings as wee son and I. 

Anyway, one of my wee boys great passions in life is cooking - his favourite TV show is the Australian version of Junior Master chef.  So he was determined to make something special for the jubilee - ALL BY HIMSELF he informed us.  Below is his creation - a jubilee cake!  He really did make it all by himself, although I did help read out some of the directions.  He used blueberries and raspberries to decorate the vanilla butter cream icing, but alas they had to be frozen ones as they are not in season here now...the winter is upon us!

The great jubilee cake!

My wee boy dressed in his favourite knight costume for the Jubilee!

Oh how I wish we were in England now! New Zealand has had a real blast of winter weather and it sure does feel super chilly and cold in the mornings now - not to mention dark! I am dreaming of pretty flowers, warm sunshine and not having to hobble around the house in my granny slippers.  I have even taken to visiting my local gardening centre on a fairly regular basis, just to get a glimpse of their pretty flowers...I couldn't resist this bouquet below.  Well a girl needs treats!


Just to be a little more frugal, my son and I also love to visit our local botanical gardens (ah the joy of breathing in all that oxygen and freshness!).  This dear little waterfall above is one of favourite views in the gardens.  We love to sit nearby, dressed up in our warm woollies, sipping hot chocolate from a thermos and dreaming of summer.  My Mother always tells me that 'you shouldn't wish your life away' - that we should all savour 'the moment' and I think (wise woman that she is) this is sage advice.  So I shall do my best to embrace the magic of this chilly time of year.

I am so behind on all my blog reading, but I cant wait to have a peek and see what everyone got up to over the Jubilee weekend - such fun!    Becks xxx