Sunday, 14 June 2015

Things looking a little different

Since I spent most of yesterday painting our living room (a long overdue job) and rearranging when the furniture was ready to be put back, I decided that this blog needed a bit of a make over too... not only in look but in dedication too!

So you may see more posts from me again coming up - there's a bit too share on what's been happening lately!

Monday, 12 January 2015

January 2015 update

December has absolutely exhausted me! We hosted AirBnB guests all December (two sets of guests for most nights) plus family for Christmas and friends for New Year. And now, I am completely pooped!

January has raced by and life and its events has completely overwhelmed us for the last few weeks. None more than this week's tragic events in Paris. I have family and friends there, and having lived there ourselves, I felt so sad for what's going on. But after the solidarity march on Sunday, I do have a faint glimmer of hope for humanity. And that's something. On a brighter note, the Frenchman started back at work so things are slowly returning to a more static routine. Things have been all over the place lately, and although his shifts are not ideal, at least they are fixed so we know exactly what days and times he is working and can now plan around that. The Little Sausage is also back to school and whilst she normally loves it and is an all-round "good egg", it's been a bit tough at night lately, with me needing to get out of bed up to seven times a night for her. It's been a rough two weeks for me, I can tell you that! I feel a bit like a zombie but coffee is my best friend at the moment and at least it allows me to function somewhat normally for the time being...

I hope things will calm down and we can enjoy our annual wedding anniversary break this weekend. Baden Baden, just a 30 minute train ride away will be this years destination! I'm really excited since there will be massages and a stay at the roman baths. I'm needing this big time!

Here are some highlights of our the last few weeks:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Easy, no-bake Mars bar slice

I have a confession to make: I'm a fan of mumsy-70s-style home bakes. 

This includes all manner of retro things such as caramel slice, hedgehog slice (which my mum used to buy to put in my lunch box for school - I loved those lunch days!) and the Mars bar slice. I wasn't even born in the 70s but I can definitely appreciate the recipes! 

This recipe couldn't be easier - just three ingredients go into making this extra chewy, sticky treat. Invented, they say, by the Aussies (yay! Go team!) and enjoyed by all who have come across it, it's our chocolatey, caramelly take on the famed rice crispy treats. In my opinion, this one wins!

While it's certainly not diet food, that's not going to stop me making and eating it every once in a while!

The original recipe comes with a chocolate topping, however I usually skip this step as it's fine without it for eating at home. The extra chocolate layer does, however, class it up a notch so if you're serving this for a special occasion, I would add this step back in.

Mars bar slice

Makes a double recipe, enough to fill a square cake pan. 

180g unsalted butter, roughly cubed
400g Mars bars™ (or equivalent), roughly chopped
6 cups Rice puff cereal (i.e. Rice Crispies™/Rice Bubbles™) 
Optional topping:

200g milk chocolate, chopped roughly
30g unsalted butter, roughly cubed

Melt the butter and chopped Mars bars over a low heat. 
While that's melting, line the bottom of a high-sided cake pan with greaseproof baking paper (any shape will do, however square/rectanglar is traditional) and grease the sides with a little butter to prevent sticking. Prepare a large mixing bowl and measure out your Rice puffs into it. 
Gently whisk your melting mixture until it comes together. It will look curdled and separated at first but should whip together to a creamy mixture. Remove from the heat immediately and pour on to the rice puffs. Fold the mixture until all puffs are evenly coated. Pour the finished mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth into the corners and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. 
If using the optional topping, melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until combined. Pour evenly over the smoothed rice puff mixture. 
Refrigerate until set. Then flip it out on to a chopping board and cut into portions.

Keeps, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to a week (if it lasts that long!) 
I've also substituted Snickers bars turning them into peanut butter caramel bars which is really really good too. 

 Recipe adapted from Australian Woman's Weekly; ACP Publishing Pty. Ltd. 'Cakes & Slices' p. 105, 1994 edition, actual recipe title "Choc-topped Crunchy Slice".

Saturday, 30 August 2014

How to decorate your guest room on a budget (using new furniture)

Anybody else really into Scandinavian interior decorating?

So I've kinda really gotten hooked on Scandinavian design. A few hours on the "Home Decor" boards on Pinterest will do that to anyone!

We recently opened up our apartment here in Strasbourg to paying guests who can reserve a room on Airbnb. The room itself was a blank canvas - recently painted white by the previous occupier (unlike most of the other rooms - who paints a bathroom floor to ceiling in concrete-grey?!?).

I'd spent some time (too much time) on Pinterest looking for inspiration, and the simplicity and bold colours of modern Nordic interiors caught my eye. Think: white, neutral base (furniture, walls) with bold colour features (throw pillows, colour-dipped furniture, statement objects). We were lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it!) to start with nothing for the room - I mean, not a single piece of furniture to put in it. Since we have an IKEA close by with a fantastic shuttle bus service to get us from the tram stop to IKEA and back (a godsend to those without a car), we were able to stock up there and shop at the home of Scandinavian design! And, no, this isn't a promotional blog piece about IKEA ; )

Since we're on a tight budget at the moment, we needed to decorate as inexpensively as possible, yet still appeal to people looking to rent the room. We considered going "second-hand" and buying some things through the classifieds but by the time we sorted through the time-wasters (one ad we contacted was selling a bed with a mattress that was 10cm too short for the frame - which conveniently wasn't mentioned in the ad) and figuring out how to transport it, we concluded that buying everything new and on-the-cheap from IKEA was the way to go for us. And besides, I kind of get the heebeegeebees from used stuff anyway (second-hand mattresses in particular!). You think I'm weird - you should see my sister around library books! Grossed out is an understatement! (Hi Nadja, love you!)

Starting with the most important piece of the room - the bed - we took the most inexpensive frame on offer - FJELLSE - at €35, plus slats, we couldn't balk at that price for a brand new bed! We also picked up a stool to use as a bedside table (Scandinavians being all about simplicity and clean lines!) - which kept our final costs way down. A simple rug under €20 and a few bits and pieces to provide not only the basics, but some comfort too.

The only things we did have already which we added to the room was an oval shaped mirror and two picture frames that we put up on a picture shelf, along with a votive candle and a lucky bamboo in a small vase to add an organic touch. I'd seen many examples of framed guest room wifi passwords and printed up our own network and wifi codes so that they could connect right away (and not have to re-ask for it in case their device forgot the network or something). I always loved that idea and planned to use it for future house-guests and I finally had the chance to do it with our paying-guests. We also added a ladder-backed chair to hang fresh towels (also in our chosen colour scheme), a tissue box and a couple of water bottles in case they got thirsty.

We stayed with a simple colour scheme - white base with a bold electric blue throw blanket to brighten up the simple bed sheets, and some rainbow-striped throw cushions to add a slash of colour. We thought the room still looked a little too sterile behind the bed, so we painted a feature wall in a pale blue to add a bit of cosiness to the room. I think the effect is quite nice, if I may be so self-congratulaing! We still want to add a few finishing touches, like a couple of large picture frames on the walls (with photos of the local area) and some wall lamps and a shelf above the bed. A small wall-mounted TV would also be nice when we have a bit more funds.

I'm quite proud of it - seeing as we're on a tight budget, we got the look we wanted and have already received reservations. I guess some others out there like it too!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Latest news...

A lot has happened since my last post. Things got a bit hectic at the start of the year, so we decided to take some time in Australia to visit my family. The Little Sausage finally got to see her grandparents and younger aunt and I got to cure that bout of homesickness that just wouldn't go away. A win-win in my books! So we spent about 4 months in Australia. It was nice to be home but also a little scary. Nothing had changed in the 8 years I'd been gone! Life went on but Canberra is still just as it was when I left the first time. Apart from leaving my family behind, I was glad to return to Europe.

So, where in the world are we now? For a long time now, we wanted to return to Strasbourg, as we had lived there briefly while I was pregnant with the Little Sausage. We moved away only due to necessity and whilst we enjoyed living in all the other cities since then, we knew that we wanted to return to Strasbourg to live one day. So here we are. Strasbourg: Capital of Alsace; home of choucroute, kougelhopf, and flamekueche; and super magical Christmas land. We have settled in to an AMAZING city-centre apartment, that we found out is from the 1500s! It has plenty of character (i.e. the walls are not straight and the floor slants downwards!) and it has the most amazing view of the cathedral. The only downsize is the noise at night. 1:30am seems to be a very popular time for bars to close and hence all those drunk/tipsy people walking home... we are trying to find a long-term solution to blocking out some of the noise. For now, I sleep with a pillow over my head.

We arrived here in Strasbourg at the beginning of summer and it's been a mixture of warm, sometimes hot, and mostly humid and rainy weather - not something I'm used to from summers back home! I am still adjusting to having so much rain in summer, as well as day-to-day temperature fluctuations. My French has plateaued and while I can get by easily ordering food, buying things, or most little everyday tasks - the big stuff still eludes me. I'm looking into joining a language exchange group just so I can move things forward because it's getting a bit old being given the pity look every time I try to say something out of my comfort zone.

I'm posting a daily regularly on Instagram (@kangaroo_sweet) so you can join me there to see that daily goings on...

Meanwhile, here are some highlights to bring you up to date!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Week 1/52: The Queen of the Galette des Rois

Week 1/52: The Queen of the Galette des Rois
As much as I love Fat Mum Slim's Photo-A-Day, I am (obviously) finding it a bit too difficult to keep up. After years of following Misplaced Texan's blog and her interpretation of The 52 Project (A Photo a Week), I decided that this was more achievable and I too am jumping on the bandwagon!

This photo shows the Little Sausage as the Queen of Epiphany - she found the token inside her piece of the galette des rois. Ok, ok, we're a bit early (technically it's not Epiphany until the 6th January) but they are sold all throughout the Christmas/New Year period and everyone eats them during this time. This particular one was filled with chunky apple compote, was Super Hero themed and the fève (token) was The Flash.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Day 6: 8 o'clock (in the morning)

Breakfast while staying at the in-laws...

Day 5: afternoon (at the pick-your-own farm)

We spent a lovely day at the pick-your-own farm in Torfou. It was the first time we went with the Little Sausage. She loved helping put the picked vegetables into our wheelbarrow and running through the rows of vines. The raspberry bushes were the major highlight for her since she's been crazy for them lately. An afternoon well spent, I'd say!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

October photo a day - Day 1: Something colourful

This is the bike I have to ride for work errands. I'm usually in the office but sometimes I'm needed out in the field...

Follow on instagram or twitter #FMSphotoaday - thanks to @FatMumSlim

Monday, 23 September 2013

September, day 23: 'From my childhood'

When I look at this picture, taken in Australia in the mid eighties, I cannot help but see the resemblance between me and the Little Sausage. Even the hair and chubby cheeks are the same! My older and younger sisters look much the same these days too.

#FMSphotoaday @FatMumSlim

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

July / August update

1. The view from the in-laws house over their town

2. A new float vest - although she's too light and kept flipping over. Back to the arm floaties then!

3. Swimming with Pappa - she's getting to be quite good!

4. A new scooter - she'd seen other kids playing with them at the park and always wanted to have a go, so we got one of her very own. We took it with us to the in-laws so that she could scoot around the paved area they have in the garden. Note: her new sunglasses that she's very taken with!

5. A swing/slide set that she received from her grandparents for her Birthday was finally built and ready to play with in their garden.

6. At Angelina's to indulge in my favourite 'Paris - New York' with work friends.

7. I did a little rearranging of the Little Sausage's room - very happy with the result (and so is she!)

8. My new hair cut (and silly looking selfie shot)

9. Ready for the new "school" year - walking to the Creche to start a week of integration before she goes full-time.

September, day 4: Alone {at Brighton beach}

This picture was taken back in June (it's not cheating if I take a photo from another month, right?) at the beach during our trip to Brighton. We we there for a little break and to visit friends from when we lived there in 2011/2012. It felt like home and made me sad to leave.

#FMSphotoaday @FatMumSlim

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

September, day 3: Lines {of Smarties, on a birthday cake}

For the Little Sausage's 2nd birthday, I made a chocolate cake, decorated with lines of coloured Smarties. The effect, while simple to do, was pretty good! (It tasted pretty good too!)

#FMSphotoaday @FatMumSlim

Monday, 2 September 2013

September, day 2: 'My name begins with...' [P]

My name begins with a... P!

This sign was found in Paris (Parc de Bercy). Not sure why it was there, but I thought it was cool!

#FMSphotoaday @FatMumSlim

Sunday, 1 September 2013

September, day 1: 'Together' [Us at Parc Asterix]

My sister, me, and the Frenchman at Parc Asterix this summer. Love these guys!