We have had a very hot start to Summer, with temperatures above 40C (104F) for the past few days. For this reason I never decorate with snowy themed Christmas decorations - it just feels all too wrong. While the fashion for flocked (fake snow dusted) Christmas trees has finally hit Australian shops, I prefer to theme with greenery and silver tones, which feels slightly more cooling on a hot day.



I've been baking up a storm since our long school holidays started  (Romy's Chocolate biscuits about to go into the oven are pictured above). One thing I've been meaning to share on the blog is a literally life changing discovery I have made. I think I first became aware of Martha Stewart using mini ice cream scoops to measure out cake batter during the occasional time I caught her tv show, and I probably filed it away somewhere mentally. Earlier this year I decided I was sick of uneven height cupcakes, remembered the ice cream scoop thing, and so bought a small one from Wheel & Barrow to ensure easy measuring and distribution. This was so successful it then lead to hunting for smaller and smaller scoops suitable for biscuits until I found The Holy Grail of Scoops - the OXO brand small sized biscuit/ cookie scoop. I bought it from Williams Sonoma, and  it is no exaggeration to say that this thing has changed my life. The speed with which you can scoop and release is unprecedented, and the fact that all my biscuits are now even sized is very pleasing to me. It's the little things...


Of course the biscuit distribution then lead to the next progression - using it for other things, which is where it has saved so much time and been life changing on a busy week day. Family dinners are generally fairly trying at our house. I have one fussy eater, and children who in general all have different tastes. Some one will be crying/ sulking about what I've served pretty much every night of the week. But one thing the entire family enjoys are meatballs, and I have a variety of different meatball recipes that I turn out. Unfortunately they can require a lot of pfaffing about with teaspoons and hand rolling etc. But the scoop works for these too, and it's cut the prep time down to about a minute for an entire batch of meatballs. 


Here are a favourite above - Ottolenghi Chicken and Zucchini meatballs with Sour Cream sauce from the Jerusalem cookbook. They are supposed to be burger sized, but meatball sized works better for children and can also work well as finger food with an adults drink party.The meatballs are also gluten free, and the recipe is fantastic - tasty for adults and kids. 



Another favourite are classic spaghetti and meatballs, which I make using a Bill Granger recipe (minus the chilli). It has a lot of herbs so they have a fresh flavour and the bread in milk trick makes them stay moist. If you have a thermomix (as I have) then meatballs are the easiest thing in the world to make as it does all the grating, chopping and mixing for you, so a batch of meatballs from start to getting cooking will take around 5 minutes. 



My second big food recommendation is not quite so life changing but has helped speed things up as well. It's a pancake pen, pictured above and purchased also from Wheel & Barrow. I don't use this for actual pancakes, a ladle does just as well for that, but for pikelets and blinis it's perfect. I'm a veritable production line churning them out for an after school snack/ lunchbox filler or for drinks with smoked salmon. 


In big news around the house, the long awaited Dining chairs finally arrived. This was perfect timing as another two of the old dining chairs broke in the week leading up to their arrival, so things were getting desperate. They are so comfortable I'm pretty sure our next dinner party will be a very late one. For all those interested in why I've chosen an upholstered chair having in the past pointed out that with children they become repositories for food, these ones have a clever design that solves the problem. The covers are removable and are velcroed under the seat, so they look fully upholstered, but can be wriggled off and washed as needed. The chairs are from Molteni & Co, and I purchased them directly from an Italian online retailer as the local importer price gouged so badly that they had added a fat 120% margin onto the full retail price + shipping+ tax + import duty comparable pricing from Italy. 



The garden has been growing like crazy in the heat, although we have woken this morning to cooler temperatures, rain and grey skies (which are very welcome). While my roses have mostly fried in the past few days and the flowers are looking a little crispy, other plants just love it. The Crepe Myrtle is shooting out in all directions and putting out fuchsia coloured flower heads.



All the perennial grasses have gone crazy


Back corner of the garden

Same garden bed a few months ago in Spring

This is the bed outside the kitchen window. We are growing wisteria up the veranda posts on wires and it's finally got going. I know it's going to be a pain to keep in control in latter years, but the purple flowers against the grey render in spring will make it all worth it.



I've also planted out a whole heap of black flag irises in the garden and can't wait for them to bloom. I have a thing for dark foliage plants and flowers.


Baby irises to the front, mini agapanthus to the right

a lone David Austin Heritage that's opened out

It's been a while since I've reviewed any books - this is because I've not read a great deal as the end of year has been so busy. But Faux Fuchsia recently sent me this book on Nancy Lancaster, and I absolutely loved it. Nancy was a founding partner in Colefax & Fowler, the venerable English decorating firm, and lived an interesting and quite pampered life (she was independently wealthy, plus married into money several times over). Her fascinating with houses with patina and age and layers and her ability to create a mood in a room was unparalleled, and she is credited with creating the English Country House look, which is amusing considering she was originally from Virginia in the USA. So much of the book resonated with me with her philosophy on decorating, I highly recommend it. The main thing I liked was that she bought things that she just loved and felt right, rather than what was in fashion or was considered the best quality by others. She would happily mix high and low well before that was a concept.  


If you're looking for an unusual gift for a garden lover, then this book will appeal. It's vintage style cover grabbed me - it is a reissue of the original edition of "Down the Garden Path" by Beverley Nichols. I picked it up when visiting Hobart a few months ago.



Here he is on the back cover.


He was a very popular writer in Britain, and wrote a semi fictional series set in a country village. This was his first book, written about the creation of his own garden, and the descriptions of purchasing an English cottage, his difficulty with his domestics, and trying to find plants that would grow in his garden are very entertaining.

With all the hot weather my sun dresses have been getting  a work out. I rarely write anything about my own wardrobe on the blog these days, I'm really not sure anyone is interested… but I've had to purchase a couple of new sundresses to replace a few that were looking very worn out after hard service. This one appealed to me in its vaguely Dolce & Gabanna style tile print. It's from Binny and is a tent dress in a thick cotton, so not only cool on a hot day, but good for expanding waistlines over the Christmas period!



 Busy times, but I think that's caught things up a little. Hope you're not being baked wherever you are in the world and that all your end of year prep is in order.

48 comments:

  1. My roses have fried too, in this ghastly Melbourne heat.
    Food is all about the configuration, isn't it? Especially for kids.

    I was at the shops yesterday, on a 41 degree day, and the song "Let it snow" was playing. I wonder whether it was a brainstem thing or whether they were taking the mickey....

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    1. That's pretty funny about "Let it Snow". We wish!
      Yes, you're right - food is about configuration for kids. Anything bite sized and they're happy. I've served up things with quite strong flavours in the past they'd normally reject (like Thai style ones). Whatever it takes….!

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  2. What a lovely garden! Thanks for the book recommendation xo

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    1. Thank you! I get so much pleasure from it. xx

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  3. Garden looks amazing! The effort and planning is so worthwhile once it matures! My crepe myrtle is going crazy also. I wasn't sure whether it would love humidity but it sits partially behind some slabs of milled timber for a future table and seems to like that spot. I am loathe to move it now. I love Binny. At first I thought it was quite pricey for a small label but everything has held shape and washed very well.

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    1. I can't believe how much its all grown in the past year. That's so interesting your crepe myrtle is happy in humidity too, I had thought they were more a Mediterranean climate plant, but obviously they are more versatile than that.
      I love Binny's dresses too - they are good quality and have a point of difference, even if a little pricey. Things that last a few seasons are worth it in my book. xx

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    2. Here in the States, they are grown with little thought or care in the very muggy and humid southeast. They thrive with little-no attention on roadsides and parking lot dividers--places where even sturdy plants have trouble.

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  4. so much to LOVE- the dress, the crepe myrtle, the lone rose, your gorgeous garden beds, the lovely grasses!! And the meat balls= so FAB!!!! am going to make them!

    Love you x

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    1. I feel you need a crepe myrtle in your garden - crafty domino up in the comments has said they grow in Brisbane! You will love the meatballs, definitely make them - I highly recommend.
      Have been thinking of little Hugh all day. Still feel so sad, went to look at your Facebook page (which I don't usually see anymore as I'm not on Facebook) and watched the video. Then saw you'd posted E's Christmas card from last year, which made me smile after the tears. Feel so sad for A & D xxx

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  5. Love so many things about this post! The Williams Sonoma website is fab and the cookie scoop is such a great idea. Love Ottolenghi as well and your dining room chairs look stunning. I always love reading your book recommendations. Have a fabulous Christmas with your family! xx

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    1. I love that website - they've got all the little gadgets that can be hard to track down in Oz sometimes. Hope you enjoy your first Christmas with your little man!! How exciting for you as a family. I remember our first Christmas with H, and we bought him a bunch of picture books. Still read them (to his little brother) and think of that first Christmas. Hope you have a wonderful day xx

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  6. Your garden makes me so happy! I have a Beverly Nichols section in my library - I adore him! And now off to look, for oxo ice cream scoop..... Merry Christmas!

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    1. It makes me happy too Wendy! How wonderful you already know about Beverly Nichols. I want to read the biography on him now, he sounds like such an interesting character. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too!

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  7. I heard Adelaide is the hottest city on some chart. 40 plus is tough for me as I tend to pass out at 36. The garden is flourishing and looks so lush. My favourite utensil is the spider and my now missing best scissors were from William Sonoma. Great chairs and live the upholstery but. So important. Next time you come to London you must go to NL's old Mayfair home that is now a colefax showroom. It's divine! Merry Xmas xx

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    1. That just doesn't surprise me at all re Adelaide. The dry heat isn't as bad as humid heat, so higher temps are hot, but not unbearable. Aside from over 40 when it really is pretty unpleasant.
      I can't believe I never went to see Nancy's yellow room when I was studying all those years ago. I'm pretty sure Colefax used it as a showroom back then, but it never even occurred to me to go and visit. Such a shame but next time I make it there I'll be visiting with bells on. xx

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  8. Hello Heidi,

    So much to absorb in this post. You must be thrilled with all the changes in the garden and your dining chairs (conveniently arriving before Christmas). I'm sure they will be very much appreciated and what a clever thing to have upholstery that is easily removed for cleaning.

    Sometimes it is those little things (like your scoops) that make life so simple you wonder why they were not invented before. I remember Martha had many such time-saving tips and I think she called them "Good Things", which they certainly were.

    Adore reading anything by Beverley Nichols and I'll put this book on my Christmas list. I need to also read Merry Hall too as I'm backed up with my reading material right now.

    Loved your tent dress and yes, it must be prefect for the sweltering heat of summer, at least when paired with a cooling gee and tee. Cheers to that!

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    1. I am so pleased with both the garden and the chairs. The chairs were a long wait though - they were ordered in May, and unfortunately I fell victim to the annual shutdown in August in Italy… they sat and waited until the first week of September to finally ship them to me.
      I can't tell you the pile of books waiting for me on the bedside table - it's positively groaning under the weight. I can't help myself though and even when there are so many to get through if I see something interesting in a book shop I still go ahead and buy it! Hopefully during the quieter period of January I'll make good headway! Have a wonderful Christmas with your family CD xx

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  9. Wow! So much to love...and yes, I like to read about your "dress" posts. Thanks for the scoop on the scoop. Will be using mine for salmon patties. Had to laugh, but I love it when they are all a uniform shape and nicely rounded. Garden's great, thought it would be dying in this hot, hot weather. Melbourne's had it too, but Adelaide's heat wave has been longer. Oh, and I really like your chairs. So much to like... Have a wonderful Christmas.
    Linda C.

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    1. Well it does seem silly to enjoy perfectly lined up and sized biscuits, but when everything else is chaos it does prove very soothing indeed!
      The garden has held up fairly well all things considered - a few things are absolutely scorched, but some of the plants absolutely love the heat (as long as they get water), so it's a mixed bag. At least I don't have to look at that sad old magnolia tree anymore since its removal as it really hated the heat and the scorched leaves were always a very sad entry to the house.
      Have a wonderful Christmas too Linda, and thanks for all your lovely comments this year xx

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  10. I am so not ready. Unusual circumstances keep popping up. I was making garlands at 3AM this morning and started laughing thinking how helpless I am with my holiday insanity. Because what's more important than festooning doorways?
    Your crepe is so beautiful! I tried to grow one here and it survived one winter and then froze to death the next year when we had a week of -10F. But at my vacation rental house they are everywhere and I cut them from all over for arrangements. Such vivid color.
    I cannot believe how hot it is there! I guess I'll stop complaining about it being 40F here. Actually, I won't. It's so annoying and we are used to having our garages and decks/terraces/patios as freezer and fridge space during the holidays. So with it being so warm I am struggling without that option. Every time I open one of my freezers, a damn loaf pan falls out on my foot because I have all the shelves out and thjngs stacked from the bottom to the top and have to shimmy things out. Which leads to something falling.
    I don't much like snow-flocked stuff in any climate anyway. Unless, you know, it's real snow flocking real evergreens. I would love to do a tropical Christmas sometime. But not in 104F heat.
    Ice cream scoops are a wonderful baking tool indeed. I have a large inventory and find myself using them all the time.
    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Do you know I hadn't thought of the possibilities of extra fridge/ freezer space outside when you have snow, but this would be ideal at Christmas. Our fridges have everything falling out as with the heat you really have to keep everything cold. Actually, when Mr AV was at University in England, and had to share kitchen facilities with other students he had a problem with people stealing his milk, so in the end he stuck it on his window sill in his room as it was 0C so cold enough to keep there. You'd never be able to do this in Australia!
      I just knew you'd be all over the ice cream scoop thing! Can you please do a series on all your time saving/ organisation tips in the kitchen. I have had real life conversations with people who read your blog and admire your matching Le Creuset! xx

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    2. How funny, Heidi! When we were first married in Cambridge we took a very short term rental before we moved to London for a year - it was a two roomer that had no fridge at all and shared a toilet with four other flats (there was a shower in the middle of the kitchen - I know! bizarre, right?!). There were five rolls of toilet paper on the back of the loo door! But I distinctly remember putting the milk on the window sill too. Only it was summer and sometimes it was warm enough for the milk to go distinctly off - a bit like the bottles of milk we had at primary school when I was a child in Q'ld. The milk truck used to leave the crates out in the playground sun when they delivered each day. We were forced to drink this disgusting stuff and so many children used to get sick on hot days from the milk! Put me off it for years. Must have been some kind of subsidy for the dairy farmers but not very effective long term.

      Like the sound of those ice cream scoops - will look around for them. If not available will try next time we're in Paris. It's where I buy most of our kitchen gadgets - I just love going to the fabulous kitchen shops - it's where I bought our microplanes this year and some papier guitar silicon (I think) paper for kneading dough and rolling pastry. it's brilliant - but very heavy in a suitcase so could only bring one packet home, washable though.
      Your garden is stunning, despite the heat. Ours seems to have shriveled up pretty much. Love that pansy tree and all the things in that bed. What is the silvery plant that has grown so tall? Love the whole garden and the hot pink crepe myrtle.
      Plus your meatballs look delish! Drool-worthy! Pammie xxxx

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    3. Share housing is always fraught with perils I think Pammie! But it really was annoying as the nearest shops were quite a distance, so after hauling the milk home to find it gone within a couple of hours was frustrating. The other alternative he did was to pour a tiny bit out, then write in texta on the side "I have spat in my milk" and it would never get touched. Desperate times!!
      You should definitely get a scoop - it's the little things! I'm sure you'd love Williams Sonoma in Sydney, even if it's not a patch on the Parisian kitchen ware shops.
      I'm not sure what the silvery plant is - it's a perennial and I cut it back at winter, but I can never remember the name. Will try to remember and will text you. Hope you have a wonderful time with the family in Sydney tomorrow. xxx

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  11. I think it's too late to write to Santa re: scoops for my kitchen... Goodness it's hot over there - we've got an unseasonably warm December so far (opposite hemisphere, it's supposed to be winter on its way!) and I was harvesting herbs from the garden up until yesterday! Down side is the bugs will be insane next summer if this keeps up...

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    1. Maybe it will be a late Freeze Liene? I remember how long a winter it was last season, it seems like its all shifted forward a bit this year. But this heat does not bode well for the rest of Summer - it's only just begun, so there'll be another 3-4 months of this ahead. Hope you find a scoop in your Christmas Stocking though! x

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  12. One of my fave posts of yours ever. Your garden is looking stunning, we have those same trees a lot in oakland i love them but ive never seen that pretty fushia. That new sunfrock of yours is adorable!!! Yes so like d and g, may have to action something of theirs, love it all. Impressed w yr chairs, they look comfy and elegant, an unusual combo and i can imagine yr chairs whiling away many a good hour at yr table to want to while away the hours chatting at your table

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    1. Do you know that tree was supposed to be a white one! I had said no pink, as the usual Crepe Myrtle has a musky pink flower, which I'm not so fond of. When it started putting out the fuchsia coloured ones we all got quite a surprise. I decided to keep it as I quite liked it, so it was a garden surprise really!!
      Can't tell you how much difference the new chairs have made, esp to my husband who is tall - the old ones were so uncomfortable!! xx

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    2. Yes, all around here they are white, but that pink is so unusual.
      I lost a good hour on that website of your dress, I do love those things. It was great to be in NZ and see some of the wonderful Australian styles that you don't get here.
      Yes, know about the chairs, how often have we been out and we are sitting so low, our chins nearly below the table, so comical

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  13. Christmas decorations... hmm.... I just can't get interested. Even in a tree. Just find the whole thing a bit tacky. I look at US blogs and cringe at the constant house decorating that goes on... Halloween gouls, Thanksgiving pumpkins, Christmas wreaths .... it seems that one must trick up the house with assorted decoration for almost every month of the year. Sorry if I sound Bah Humbug-ish but honestly, I just prefer a calm home environment. Of course I don't have kids, so there is no pressure to conform. Anyway! So much for my boring old fart impersonation, I do hope your have a wonderful Christmas Heidi and thank you a million times over for the interesting blog posts this year. As always, a nice mix of intelligent content and eye candy. Stay cool. Judith

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    1. We didn't used to decorate for Christmas for years either Judith, but we used to go home for Christmas so there didn't seem much point. But I do make an effort for the kids. Truth be told though once January hits I'm itching to get the house back to normal. I've always wondered about where people store all their 'seasonal' decorations, and I was admiring the fake tombstones in Costco at Halloween and wondering what on earth you'd do with them the rest of the year! I hope you have a peaceful Christmas Judith, with a little of the christmas cheer, and thank you for all your comments over the past year, which I always enjoy reading. x

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  14. Lovely post Heide,
    How your garden has grown you must be thrilled with your planting. I too have just planted some iris in a new bed from a fellow gardener who gave some very interesting ones and have been looking after them in this heat as it was probably a bit too late to plant them- but couldnt wait.
    Im in Melbourne at the moment enjoying the cooler temperatures and getting ready for the family to come here for Christmas. I had not known of little scoops for dishing out the perfect biscuits and cakes and am going to run not walk to purchase them today!!!!!! Great scoop.
    Loving your dining chairs- it truly is a difficult one to get a comfortable chairs for adults to linger in after a meal that will also deal with every day domestic life. Yours are perfect.
    I wish you and your family a very safe and happy Christmas. I have always loved your posts and thank you for sharing them with us.
    Best Wishes for the new year
    Marilyn xx

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    1. I'm hopeful the irises aren't too late Marilyn - fingers crossed for yours too. I'm making sure they're getting a reasonable amount of water, so hopefully that will do the trick. So glad the cool change has finally reached you all in Victoria too - the bush fires did not look good.
      Yes, get your mitts on a scoop - they are brilliant!! As proven by the fact I've just written almost an entire blog post on them!
      Have a wonderful Christmas Marilyn, and thank you for all your kind and warm messages over the past year. xx

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  15. So interesting and informative Heidi!... Going up to Sydney in a couple of days and will look for that scoop! Sadly the gorgeous dress from Binny is not available anymore... really love it! Your garden has come on in leaps and bounds. Wishing you all the Happiest Christmas. xxxx

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    1. I think you'll find the scoop very useful. Maybe try googling online for a couple of other shops? I had to buy mine through another shop as they'd already sold out on Binny around a month ago when I bought it. Am so enjoying the garden! Merry Christmas to you and all the R-I family xx

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  16. Great post Heidi - love the garden, chairs and dress. Off to look at the W-S website for mini scoops!! Might whip up some biscuits today since it is a bit cooler. We celebrated Christmas on 12th December as my son is overseas for six weeks - so I am not feeling very Christmassy now. As we are not having anymore Christmas functions at home this year, I have just put up the small fibre-optic tree, three stockings and a handful of decorations. Won't take two days to pack up like it did after last year's events!! I have so enjoyed reading your posts (including dresses and "blanket-gate"!!) over the year. Looking forward to your posts in 2016. Are you having Christmas Day at home? Just saw weather has been upgraded from 29 to 37 ... yuck :( I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year. Jo xx

    PS I finally The Rosie Effect - started on 2nd January and finished 25th August!! Was okay - not as good as the The Rosie Project xx

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    1. Wow Jo - that took a while… it's obviously been a busy year for you! I thought the original was funnier, although the sequel was a good light read too. Hope you have a lovely day tomorrow, even if your Son is away and you're not feeling quite so Christmassy this year. We are at my In Laws for lunch, and it will be a big gathering, so I'm finishing up my trifle tonight, and mentally preparing for the onslaught at around 6am with the overexcited children unwrapping presents! xx

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  17. You have been cooking up a storm, lots of yummy dishes!
    Your garden is looking fantastic the plants are loving the sunshine and hot days :)

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    1. I'm always in the kitchen Michelle!! The hot weather has made the garden grow like topsy - and the weeds. I was thinking today I really need to get stuck into it, but it's been too busy/ too hot the past week. Maybe next week after all the festivities are over. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas xx

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  18. Your garden looks amazing and the pancake pen sounds interesting!

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    SSG xxx

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    1. Merry Christmas to you SSG, and thank you for the compliments on the garden. It's hard to believe it's only just over a year old. Hope you have a wonderful break with your family xx

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  19. The chairs look so beautiful! And comfy, too. I like that the seats can be lifted and vacuumed - very clever. Merry, Merry Christmas, Heidi.
    Cheers from DC,
    L

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    1. Thank you Loi, and yes the chairs are just the best. So many friends have commented on them when they've come over (then again, the originals were all breaking and uncomfortable so there was quite a contrast!). Merry Christmas to you and Tom as well and hope you have a wonderful day with your families. x

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  20. We have escaped Melbourne's heat and traffic and headed to Hobart where the sun is shining and the crowds are thin - perfect ! I am not made for the pre-Christmas madness in a hot hot city. Nobody is !

    I discovered the cookie scoop concept while living in Auckland and became a little evangelical about them too - I started buying them for people as I found it so life changing. I have scoop envy when I see your collection.

    Love the chairs and your garden is looking stunning after only a year - and I agree the wisteria is worth the trouble - one is destined for my back porch too. I've left my garden in the care of young paid waterers and just hope it will survive the hot summer that's coming. I found it very hard to leave my poor hydrangeas.

    I am coming home to a thermo that I ordered last week so 2016 may be the year of the meatball (and a myriad other things). Thank you for your advice.

    Have a lovely break and a very Merry Christmas, Ann x

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    1. It is a weird thing how truly life changing an ice cream scoop can be! So lucky to be getting the latest thermomix!!! You'll love it. That is definitely more life changing than an ice cream scoop! So many recipe possibilities… Enjoy!! And enjoy Tassie and the family holiday, and the cooler temps than we are having here (which I'm very envious about - it's 37 tomorrow here and I'm not really that fond of such a hot Christmas day!) Merry Christmas Ann xx

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  21. The garden is really looking a picture it is amazing how much it's grown. Love the idea of the scoops I make sponge kisses although they taste delicious quality control is hard to achieve with teaspoons so a small scoop should do the trick. The dining room chairs are both beautiful and practical. Have a lovely Christmas Heidi and may the New Year bring you and yours joy and happiness.XXX

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    1. I can't believe how much it's grown either Karen, it truly looks to me like a much older garden than it is. I love looking back at the bare earth photos from only a year and a half ago. Definitely get a scoop - you'll love it. Portion sizing does make a huge difference, plus it's so much quicker. Merry Christmas to you and your family xx

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  22. The garden looks amazing! Please do more of the fashion posts - I love them and the dress looks lovely and summery. I'm so slow to see this post Heidi... I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I got one of those mini cookie scoops in the summer and love it. I hadn't thought to use it for meatballs. I will definitely try that recipe - sounds delicious. xx

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  23. A little late … but love the dining chairs (and the room) and the tale about price gouging. We steam baked through Christmas but now its cooled off but isn't really all that cold. Happy New Year.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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