Saturday, 9 January 2016

Living and loving a lot in fantastic 2015!

I have not made the time to write for a while now and this is not good! So let me fix that. Today, the idea struck me to take a look back over 2015, now that the New Year is here. As I am a bit camera happy, I have a great collection of photos from all through the year that have made it really easy to see just what I have been up to with my family and friends. And what a sensational year it was! Join me now as we walk back through 2015, month by month, as I create another entry in my 'living journal', my beloved blog, recording the living and loving that I adore.
January was hot, like it is every year. It is Summer, my favourite time of year for many reasons. My garden grows the best, I can enjoy the outdoor life that I love, everything comes alive and is vibrant. My children are all ready to hit the beach, posing in my garden that is flourishing in the warmth. My kids spend a lot of time with me outside in this glorious climate and love the beach and the pool in Summer.
Last January was my first experience of a Summer veggie garden. I had many, many tomatoes and here you can see some of them. I am outside, working in the garden a lot in Summer and here is the perfect example of why. I love the way my plants grow and thrive, I love to feel the warmth of the sun, it makes me feel alive and gives me energy.
February was an exciting month. I had my fourth Art Exhibition at a local cafe. I enjoyed looking back over my work that I have collected over many years and displaying it for the world to see.
The only problem was that I exhibited work from my own private collection and this was a mistake. Of course each piece was for sale and this was a bit painful. Looking back, I should have taken the time to paint all new pieces for display and sale, that I could easily part with. I will do that next time. Anyway, it was lots of fun, gave me a big thrill and I received lots of positive feedback on my work and encouragement to keep painting. This felt good.
On Opening Night, I invited my family and friends to join me for a little celebration. We packed the place that night, it was a full house. Later on, some good friends joined me for a meal, it was a great night and a wonderful experience.
In March, my husband and I travelled to Phuket in Thailand for the second time. We love it there, we love almost everything about the place. We always have an amazing holiday when we travel to Thailand and have created some wonderful memories.
It was my husband's birthday the day after we arrived, so we went out to celebrate at one of our favourite venues in Phuket. A fantastic night, in fact, the whole 10 days we were there was brilliant. We can't wait to go back again. Next time, we are planning on taking our kids with us for a real family holiday. They will love it too, we are sure.
Not long after we got back from Thailand in April, it was Easter and we drove interstate to Adelaide to stay with a close friend and her kids. We had beautiful weather and again, lots of fun.
This friend of mine is very dear to me and we really know how to enjoy ourselves when we are together. It was sad when she moved far away but we are still in touch and very good friends.
It is now May and Autumn is most certainly here. I enjoy watching the leaves on the trees change colours and fall. It is starting to get cold as Winter approaches.
In May, it is also Mother's Day in Australia. I always celebrate the day with my mum. We usually get together, have lunch and a laugh.
In June, we start our kids' birthday celebrations. For Adam's birthday, he had a ride in his all time favourite car, a Lamborghini. This gave him a big thrill and he couldn't stop smiling all day.
I made Adam's birthday cake, just the way he wanted it and he was a very happy boy.
July saw our daughter turn 5. She is growing up fast and will start school this year. Julia makes us proud with her bright and bubbly personality.
She had a birthday party with her good friends. They are all as cute as each other and have a lot of fun together.
We also had a party of our own for fun in July. It was a fondue night and the theme was 1970's. Any excuse for me to dress up is a good one and I had a great time with my friends.
I decorated the place and put on a good meal. There was plenty of everything and Winter is the perfect time to enjoy fondue.
A great night was had by all and I love getting people together to let their hair down a bit.
In August, we celebrate our second son's birthday. Here I am with my adorable Marc, the cheeky one. Last year, we celebrated at home with a family dinner.
That night, we celebrated in fine style with an Italian banquet of fresh, home made fettuccine with a trio of sauces, veal schnitzels, garlic bread and a green salad. I also made Marc a Tiramisu cake and he loved it all.
In September, it is my birthday. I had a wonderful time with my husband who spoiled me rotten with champagne and dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. You can see how happy I am on this day.
The following weekend, the family and I stayed at a place called Anglesea which is a coastal town along The Great Ocean Road. It was nice to get away with the kids and enjoy the beach.
It was very cold, but that didn't matter. I love the beach all year round and we spent hours walking along it. This was a really good family weekend getaway and we all had fun.
In October, my brother came to visit us. He also lives interstate. We don't get to see each other very often but make sure that we keep in touch throughout the year. We always enjoy each other's company and he really likes to spend time with my kids.
The following weekend, we flew to Tasmania to visit my brother-in-law. He has just moved there so we wanted to go and see the place that we had heard so much about. He works at sea so is only at home for a few months at a time.
He showed us around Hobart while were there and it was so good to see him again.
It is November now and things are starting to warm up. I am back out in my garden, dancing like no one is watching.
I am loving the fact that I can get back into short sleeved tops and thongs again. My garden is starting to get that Summer feel about it and I couldn't be happier.
December was a very busy month with my eldest son graduating from Primary School. Here he is looking very smooth, standing next to a friend's Mustang. He was so thrilled to make his grand appearance at his Graduation in this car.
And then it was Christmas again! I went to town, with a fresh Christmas tree, lights and all the trimmings. I love Christmas time with my family.
I cooked a traditional Christmas lunch and it was a beautiful day.
Well, if we hadn't already done enough this year, we certainly finished it off with a bang and went camping at Bendigo. We have a great set up and thoroughly enjoy the great out doors.
I love to cook outside in the open air and here is my effort for breakfast each morning, bacon and eggs.
It was hot while we were there and we all had a ball.
Wow! See what I mean? What a fantastic year! We had plenty of travelling and family celebrations, great experiences and good times. We saw family and friends that we don't get to see very often......and most importantly, we had a lot of loving. So when I decided to start this blog just over 3 years a go and had to give it a name, I couldn't have picked a better title than 'Live a Little, Love a Lot'.......because that is exactly what I do! Happy New Year, my dear readers, I look forward to sharing many more good times and laughs with you this year :) xxx

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Bountiful Barbecue

You might have worked out by now that we love barbecues at our place. I have even named our BBQ Bertha! A few weeks ago, I felt like getting a bit creative and made what I like to call 'The Bountiful Barbecue'. I want to show you what I got up to as you may get some ideas for your next BBQ from this post.  I usually reserve my cooking posts for my 'Little Italy' blog and when I was trying to work out where to put this one, I decided on 'Live a Little, Love a Lot' because this is exactly what I was doing, putting a lot of love and passion into the evening meal that my husband and I enjoyed alone. We had the weekend to ourselves as our children were away and had a bountiful BBQ for two.
I started off with making my own tzatziki. This is so very easy and when you know how, you will never buy this from a supermarket again. Simply grate one cucumber, crush garlic and mix this through some Greek yoghurt. It is that simple. This is also great to have on hand when you cook lamb, the perfect addition to your own home made souvlakis.
Enjoy your own tzatziki dip with some crusty bread for a pre dinner nibble. It is delicious.
My first barbecue item was Asian inspired meat balls. These provide a nice change from your usual hamburger mince. Here are the ingredients: soy sauce, ginger, black pepper, garlic, brown sugar, finely chopped spring onions, beef mince, one egg and bread crumbs.
Blend these ingredients together and form meat balls that have a really interesting flavour.
You can then put them on to skewers to make cooking them on the barbie easier.
Who could have a barbecue without a succulent pepper steak? Here I have some lean sirloin steak covered in crushed black pepper.
To make a sensational sauce for your pepper steak, try this. Combine cream, beef stock, brandy, horseradish and brown sugar in a pan over medium heat. This tastes fantastic over a barbecued pepper steak.
I really enjoy mushrooms cooked on the barbecue and these ones are superb. I stuff them before cooking with chopped spring onions, bread crumbs, chopped smoked ham, Parmesan, olive oil and oregano.
Here are the mushrooms ready to go. Again, this is a really interesting mix of flavours and they taste great on the barbie.
Another all time favourite of mine that is very easy, is a hot roast tomato salad, cooked on the barbecue. Lightly cook your tomatoes on the hot plate until soft. Then combine olive oil, honey, capers, garlic and soy sauce, pour over your tomatoes. This has a real tangy bite to it and is a great addition to you plate.
And last but not least, try some honey soy chicken skewers. These are the ingredients for your marinade: olive oil, soy sauce, honey and ginger. Combine in a bowl.
Cut up your chicken breast fillets into cubes and marinate in this blend for an hour or so.
Then skewer the chicken pieces with chopped spring onions and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Yummy!
Here is the bountiful barbecue for two. Usually we eat outside, but on this night it was too cold. Add to my barbecue creations some greens and a glass of red, and you have one super special BBQ! As I always say, it never hurts to live a little and love a lot, even when you are having a barbie :) xxx

Monday, 7 September 2015

Live the Rainbow

I did a painting once for an old friend and called it 'Live the Rainbow'.  It was a pretty wacky and wild piece, with a smiling face sitting under a big rainbow, complete with big Yin and Yang signs in the corners.  As always, it was bright and bold and lots of fun.  I was trying to give this friend of mine a happy painting to look at that would remind him of our friendship, but also, most importantly to depict a good life that was balanced, colourful, joyful and vibrant.

I must have thousands of photos that I have taken over the last couple of years, sitting on my computers and today I have had a quick look at some recent ones for fun.  I have selected a few that I like and posted them here.  As I look at them and think about what they mean to me, I have realised that I actually do 'live the rainbow' and what a special, valued and treasured way of life it is.
I am blessed with 3 gorgeous children, the youngest getting ready to start school next year. She is a little gem, full of personality, confidence and beauty.  Her name is Julia and she has just turned 5 years old.  She is at Kindergarten this year, having a wonderful time learning and preparing herself for school.  She brings me home some very interesting paintings and I adore them.  You can see that she has a wild imagination and puts a lot of effort into her work.  Her art work is so young and innocent, so childish and new, that it always reminds me of the wonder of childhood, as she explores, develops and learns.  She has a sharp mind and this is shown in her work. Julia would have to be the colour blue in my rainbow, her favourite colour.
This is a photo of my garden last Summer, my most loved season of the year. I spend hours out here and enjoy to grow a huge supply of fresh, organic vegetables. There is something so fantastic about being outside in the sunshine and fresh air. My garden is always evolving as I continue to improve on it, it seems to be a constant process that never stops.  We don't have a huge property and live in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, but I make the most of it and have used every bit of space that I have. My garden is my happy place and I like to see it thrive, I call it my little jungle at this time of year. My garden is obviously the colour green in my rainbow, lush and full of life.
Here is that little girl I was just telling you about, my little dynamo, Julia.  This photo was taken as part of an activity for Kindergarten where she had to spend time with 'Simba', a funny, floppy soft toy. We went to the local shopping centre and here she is in front of the Florist. When I think of my daughter, I think of just this, a little blossom amongst a mass of colourful flowers. She brings me immense joy.
Birthdays are a special time in my family.  Here my first born son Adam, is turning 12 and about to demolish his birthday cake. I make a fuss for my children's birthdays, I cook them their favourite meal on the day, we celebrate as a family, always have a special cake and I hope that this will give them some treasured memories of their childhood to carry with them through their life. Adam is fast growing into a handsome and responsible young man, he makes me proud and is the colour purple on my rainbow.
Now that Winter is over, I have to say that I am very happy about this.  But the cold didn't stop up enjoying a beautiful day at the beach along the Victorian surf coast recently. The tide was out and the water was a shining sheet, on top of a huge expanse of sand.  My kids played along the water's edge and we walked along the peaceful beach. The beach is another one of my special places, I have always lived near it and could never be very far away from it.  It is magical and the rhythm of the waves rolling in and out is so soothing. In Winter, the salt air is so fresh and crisp, we had a great day that day.
I could never stay indoors all day and all night, even in Winter. I like to spend time outside and this year, we spent many afternoons and evenings enjoying an open fire and cooking roast dinners on my rotisserie spit.  Here is a funny photo that I really like of my son, Marc, and I, holding up our 'Winter weapons'. He has his stick and marhsmallows ready to toast on the fire and I have the skewer ready to load up the spit. Marc is my second born son, a real character, Mr Personality, cheeky, with lots of spunk. He is adorable and is the colour orange on my rainbow.
Any excuse to dress up is a good one for me.  For a few years now, I have had fondue nights at our place in Winter.  This year was a great laugh, here I am as 'Sister Soul'.  The night had a 70's Disco theme combined with Christmas in July. Welcoming friends into our home and having fun nights like this, with plenty of good food, music and good vibes, is one of my specialities and over the years, we have had lots of nights like this. I love to get people together, to share in the good times, have a bit of fun......after all, you're only as old as you feel! Winter is the perfect time of the year to indulge in fondue and is always a winner when you're feeding a crowd. I am the colour yellow on my rainbow, the colour of sunshine on a Summer's day.
My husband and sons are mad car enthusiasts and this year I was dragged along to a festival called 'Greazefest'. It had many very groovy cars on display, rockabilly fashions and music and was a good day out with the family. My husband has lots of good ideas for fun family things to do and we should make the effort to do more.  As the kids get older, it is becoming easier to go out together. On this day, I was amazed at how loved these vintage cars were and what wonderful condition they were all in.  My boys loved to see them all up close and learnt a thing or two.
We have a wonderful open range zoo near our place and it has an African theme.  There are countless animals roaming in open areas and visitors can travel throughout the zoo on a bus and see them up close. Here I am with my children, basking in the hot sun on a Summer's day. Right now, I am dreaming of being able to dress like this again for I am so sick and tired of rugging up to beat the cold. It is always a fun day out at the zoo and my children love it. I enjoy teaching them about animals and how to care for them.
I couldn't possibly 'live the rainbow' without painting, could I? I have recently rediscovered my love of creating art and painted a piece for a friend's birthday. I often set up my paints on the outdoor table, in the middle of a sunny spot and paint in the garden. I put on some classical music and lose myself in it all. It was a complete joy to do this painting and since then, I have started another one, but this one is taking a bit longer to do. But at least I'm back in the swing of it all and have all my painting gear at the ready for whenever the mood strikes me.
I could not 'live the rainbow' without this man, my husband, David.  We have over come many challenges in the 20 years that we have been together and continue to go from strength to strength. He is a big calming force for me, as solid as a rock, although he can be a nuisance too! Marriage is never easy and is certainly not all about romance, champagne and chocolates......it takes a lot of work. At times, I feel as though I could strangle him because he can be so irritating and I am sure there are times that I don't impress him either. But at the end of the day, we are so much a part of each other's lives now that these negative feelings never last long. We know, more than anything, that we are a great match and work together to achieve a certain quality of life that we are both very proud of. David is the colour red on my rainbow, the colour of my heart.
My boys were both Scouts for a few years and last Mother's Day, I went along with Marc for a special night for mums. The activity for the night was for the kids to dress up their mums for a night out at the Logies. Here you can see that I have a lovely 'dress' on and superb make up, all done by Marc. It was great fun and we both had lots of laughs. My boys have learnt many valuable life skills from Scouts and I have enjoyed watching them participate in many fun and interesting activities.
Cooking is another one of my big past times and source of enjoyment. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, making many home cooked meals, sometimes experimenting with new recipes and always using all of the fresh produce that I grow. Marc loves Italian food and one of his favourites desserts is Tiramisu. So for his birthday, I made him a whopping big bowl of Tiramisu that doubled as his birthday cake. I enjoy good food and I love to cook it, I take pride in it, get a lot of satisfaction from bringing people pleasure when they eat it and I find it lots of fun.
I could not 'live the rainbow' without this lady, my mum. She is an incredible influence in my life and I am very close to her. She also enjoys to cook and we often get together and get busy making some sort of creation.  Here we have made some fresh egg fettuccine and it turned out perfectly.  We made 3 sauces that night and enjoyed a family feast. My mum is very special, I care for her and much as she cares for me. She gives me strength, keeps me strong, showers me with love, gives me hope and courage and has taught me so much about life. She is an exceptional human being and is the colour pink on my rainbow.
I will finish off with this photo that pretty much sums it up. In life, we all have our own rainbow, we all have many things that we do each and every day that are full of beauty and colour. Beauty is all around us, you just have to take the time to look. Take time to enjoy simple pleasures, take time to enjoy the journey, take time to hug your children, take time to do the things that bring you pleasure, forget your worries for a while and look around you at how many day to day things are joyful. Remember to live a little, love a lot........and live the rainbow :) xxx