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Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: The Pretty Delicious Cafe By Danielle Hawkins

This is a book review of The Pretty Delicious Cafe by Danielle Hawkins that was published by Harper Collins Australia on 1 December 2016.

Danielle Hawkins is a New Zealand author who is a qualified vet and lives on a beef and sheep farm with her husband and two small children. When she finds the time between juggling family and farming life she writes books and this is her third book.


Set in a seaside town of Ratai in New Zealand this is a light-hearted, modern and quirky story about Lia who runs a Cafe with her twin brother's fiance Anna.

The Cafe is at the heart of the story and each day the girls work hard to cook meals and serve the customers. There is a bonus section at the back of the book with recipes made in the Cafe which is a nice touch.

There's the usual small town characters which play a part and add interest as well as dramas, a wedding, and a few romance stories thrown in for good measure.

When I saw this book was recommended to fans of Offspring an icon Australian tv drama series I instantly downloaded it and I wasn't disappointed.

I recommend this book to take on your next holiday as an easy to read contemporary women's fiction.

I give this book 4 stars out of  5

Jarrah Jungle's Star Rating:
1 Bad - I'd rather eat brussel sprouts topped with anchovies than read this again
2 Not Good - I'd rather watch paint dry than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd give up a bottle of the worlds best champagne for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Ryan Gosling for this read


The Pretty Delicious Cafe can be purchased from the author here or Harper Collins Australia


Sharing my book review on Good Reads here and Netgalley


Disclosure:  NetGalley partner with bloggers such as me to help promote authors and their books and I was given this ebook published by Harper Collins Australia to review. As always, all opinions are my own.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

My Top 5 Slow Cooker Recipes

It's no secret that I absolutely love my slow cooker it is hands down my favourite and most used kitchen appliance.

So today I thought I'd share with you my top 5 tried and tested slow cooker recipes for easy, tasty, slow cooked dinners.

Be sure to check out my Instagram and Facebook pages as I share a lot of recipes on there as well and have included links to more of my slow cooker recipes at the bottom of this post .... happy slow cooking!

Slow Cooked Chicken + Vegetable Curry

I have a Sunbeam Sear and Slow Cooker which means I can brown in it and then slow cook in it as well which is great as it means just one pot to wash up after dinner, it retains all those lovely flavours in the one pot and it makes it quicker and easier to prepare.

For these recipes if you have a normal slow cooker you can just brown in a pan and then add it to your slow cooker.

My Top 5 Slow Cooker Recipes

1.  An Old Favourite .... Slow Cooked Apricot Chicken

Apricot Chicken is a favourite dish from my childhood that I have adjusted with some added spices. Remember to always heat up spices before using them as this releases the flavour and brings them to life. 

RECIPE: Brown chicken thighs and chopped onion, celery and carrot. Add the spices - coriander, cumin and garam masala and heat until fragrant. Stir in a packet of french onion soup mix and a tin of apricots in juice and season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove lid and cook on low until sauce thickens. I throw in some extra vegetables at the end like green beans and peas as these don't take long to cook. So tasty served over rice or couscous. 

Apricot Chicken

2.  When You're Feeling Fancy .... Slow Cooked Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore was the first dish I ever cooked for friends I think I was about 20 years old and they were over to watch a Big Brother finale on TV as I recall! I thought it was a very grown up dish as I got to cook with wine!!

RECIPE: Heat oil and brown chicken (thighs or drumsticks) and remove. Cook a chopped onion, celery, carrots and crushed garlic. Add the chicken back in with a jar of tomato passata, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, mixed herbs, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Stir well, put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours. Add mushrooms and olives in last 30 minutes of cooking. Serve over creamy mashed potatoes and pour the remaining red wine into a glass and enjoy!

Chicken Cacciatore

3.  Easy As Slow Cooker Pulled Beef or Pork

I never knew how easy it was to do pulled beef or pork in the slow cooker and now that I do there's no stopping me! I make this dish quite often and serve with either hard tacos with salad, cheese, sour cream and salsa or with soft tortillas and a coleslaw.

RECIPE: Coat the beef or pork roast in a dry rub made from chilli powder, mixed herbs, salt and pepper (do this the night before if you can for extra flavour). Heat oil and brown the meat all over and then put in the slow cooker, lid on and cook on low for 6 hours. Just before serving remove the meat and shred with forks and then return shredded meat to slow cooker so it can soak up any juice in the pot and be delicious and tender. You can find my detailed recipe for Pulled Pork here.

Pulled beef tacos

Pulled pork tortillas

4.  Not Just A Sunday Roast ... Slow Cooker Turkey or Beef

Roasts are no longer just a Sunday treat we are now enjoying a roast and vegetables midweek because it's so easy to prepare. I am a fan of the chicken and turkey rolled roasts (like this turkey roast) as they're stuffed it keeps the meat tender. You must brown the meat well before slow cooking so it holds its shape - if you don't brown the meat it will fall apart and be more like shredded meat.

RECIPE: These roasts turkey (first photo) and beef (second photo) I cooked with the same method. Heated oil and browned it well all over and sat it on top of roughly chopped carrots, potatoes and onions. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours. I use some of the lovely cooking juices to make gravy and keep the rest of the juices to use as stock (it's a delicious stock to add to soup).

Rolled turkey roast with vegetables

Beef roast with vegetables

5.  Best Ever Pasta Sauce ... In the Slow Cooker

I can whip up a pretty quick pasta sauce on the stovetop but a pasta sauce slow cooked all day tastes amazing as it makes all the difference letting the tomatoes cook out for hours. 

RECIPE: Heat oil and cook crushed garlic, chopped chilli, finely chopped onion, carrot and celery. Add chopped chirozo or bacon for extra flavour and some Italian style sausages (skins removed and cut into bite size pieces) and brown. Add a cup of red wine, tin of tomatoes, jar of tomato pissata, mixed herbs and fennel seeds. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6 hours. Add a handful of olives in the last 30 minutes. Cook pasta, drain and mix into your delicious tomato sauce and serve topped with cheese.

Sausage, Tomato + Olive Pasta

I have not given exact measurements for these recipes feel free to add a bit of this and a bit of that you can't really go wrong with one pot dinners like these. If you have any questions or want to know quantities please leave me a comment :)

What is your favourite slow cooker recipe?


Check out my other slow cooker recipes:
Best Ever Bolognese Sauce in Slow Cooker
Slow Cooker Sausage Stroganoff
Slow Cooked Old Fashioned Curried Sausages
Slow Cooked Chinese Chicken Hot Pot
Slow Cooked Beef in Orange and Soy Sauce
Sear and Slow Cooker Recipes


Sharing with link parties:
Curly Crafty Mom - The Creative Corner
The Dedicated House - Make It Pretty Monday
Savvy Southern Style - Wow Us Wednesdays


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Backyard Subdivision Progress: The Last Retaining Wall + Fence

A few weeks ago we had the last of the limestone retaining walls built and a new Colorbond fence installed. 

As you can see in the photo below we have retained and installed new fences on the left side and the back of the house when we did our patio and deck a few months ago. This is what our house looks like from behind now with the new patio coming off the house and the land subdivided in two.


We removed the old fence dividing us and the neighbor a few months ago in preparation for the new fence to be installed and it has taken a bit of toing and froing with our neighbor to agree on the style and heights of the retaining and fence but we got there in the end and when everyone was in agreement we could start the work.

For the other retaining walls and fences we put them on our side of the boundary so within our own block but for this one we were unable to do this and so we had to agree with the neighbor and both sign and submit a form to our Local Council stating that we built on top of the boundary line straight down the middle of where our two properties meet.

We used the same stonemason who has done all our limestone work to build the limestone retaining wall which is a 40 meter long wall from the rear fence towards the road at the front and goes down 3 blocks deep into the ground in a stepped retaining design. 

There was a lot of excavating to be done as the land is so high on our side and the bobcat dug up our sewer pipe on the first day which we had to repair and then the next day it hit our neighbors pipe which he had to repair and then over a week later we realised they had broken our pipe again so we had to repair it yet again! The joys of renovating I don't think we've ever had excavating work done that didn't involve busting open one of our pipes!




Once the retaining wall was built Mr P painted on waterpoof sealer to protect the limestone from water damage - that's the black paint you can see on the inside of the limestone blocks. 

Next we had fence guys out to install a Colorbond fence in classic cream on top of the limestone wall - they core drill into the limestone blocks and install the fence posts into the wall so they are really strong. This fence went up in 2 days which is super fast as there were 4 guys working on it to get it done.





This new retaining wall and fence will define the newly subdivided backyard and will be the driveway for the rear block.

We are now ready to finalise our subdivision with the Local Council to split our original block in two.

As soon as that's done we will be looking for a Real Estate Agent to help us put the block on the market to sell so that someone can build their dream home on it. Exciting times ahead!

Have you been tackling any renovating projects lately?

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Cookbook Review: The Pho Cookbook By Andrea Nguyen

This is a book review of The Pho Cookbook: Easy To Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favourite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen that was published by Ten Speed Press on 7 February 2017.

Born in Vietnam, Andrea Nguyen is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher now based in San Francisco. Andrea has a brilliant website Viet World Kitchen with lots of great recipes.


This is a cookbook with both easy and adventurous recipes for Vietnam's favourite soup and noodles - pho.

There are lots of different ways to make pho and this shows you 50 different recipes from quick weeknight cheats to five hour weekend feasts.

It also includes recipes for snacks, salads and accompaniments to go with the pho including Vietnamese coffee (which I have become addicted to thanks to my brother's Vietnamese girlfriend!).

There are lots of helpful hints and tips about preparing pho and Vietnamese cuisine in general which I found really useful.

The photographs of the finished dishes are beautiful as are the photos taken on location in Vietnam which add interest to the book. Reading this as an ebook was a bit difficult and a hardcopy version of this cookbook is a must to use in the kitchen.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Vietnamese food and wants to make this cuisine, especially pho, at home.

I give this book 4 stars out of  5

Jarrah Jungle's Star Rating:
1 Bad - I'd rather eat brussel sprouts topped with anchovies than read this again
2 Not Good - I'd rather watch paint dry than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd give up a bottle of the worlds best champagne for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Ryan Gosling for this read


The Pho Cookbook can be purchased from the author here or Ten Speed Press - Penguin Random House


Sharing my book review on Good Reads here and Netgalley


Disclosure:  NetGalley partner with bloggers such as me to help promote authors and their books and I was given this ebook published by Ten Speed Press to review. As always, all opinions are my own.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I'm Being An Organised Mum-To-Be

When I found out I was going to be a Mum and after the initial excitement and warm and fuzzy feelings I became a bit overwhelmed with all the medical appointments, what I need for the nursery and baby, what to pack for the hospital etc. There were so many things running through my head of what I needed to do and being that I like to be organised I started to make lists for everything and anything and these lists wouldn't fit in my Happy Planner in an easy way.

So I soon realised what I really needed was a pregnancy journal so I could keep everything Mum and baby related in one place.  


I looked everywhere for a pregnancy journal from bookshops to online and there just wasn't much available.

So when I found Baby Notes at kikki.K I just had to have it - it cost $34.95 and if you sign up to be a member you'll get a $10 discount voucher to use which makes it a pretty good buy.


Essentially Baby Notes is an organiser with sections to write down to do lists, appointments, baby names, gifts and check lists for the nursery, hospital, etc. There's also a blank calendar which I use a lot to write down how I'm feeling, milestones, important dates to remember, etc.

After the pregnancy section there's a baby section so you can record the baby's appointments, what foods they like and sleep patterns which I think will be really useful. I really like that I can keep using the same journal without the need to purchase another one and start again.



I've been using my Happy Planner stickers and washi tape to decorate the journal and stick in photos of the ultrasounds and special moments as well to make it more memorable and a keepsake.

I also bought some extra baby stickers from Blitsy as they are always having a sale it's hard to resist and I found some great pregnancy stickers on Etsy.



As a first time Mum-to-be it really has made my life a lot easier to have all this information in one place and the organiser is nice and small so easy take with me to appointments.

If you know a friend who is expecting this is such a great gift although you would want to give it to them early so they can make the most of it from the start of the pregnancy!

This post is in no way endorsed by kikki.K I just really love this journal and wanted to share it with you!

Did you keep a diary of your pregnancy or as new Mum-to-be?


If you join Blitsy an online craft discount store and make a first time purchase it would be awesome if you use my referral code HERE when you sign up - you will get great discounts and I get a $10 reward to spend on my creative obsession so I can share more product posts like this one with you guys! Thank you!!

Sharing with link parties:
Curly Crafty Mom - The Creative Corner
Savvy Southern Style - Wow Us Wednesdays

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Before By J P Delaney

This is a book review of The Girl Before by J P Delaney that was published by Hatchette Australia on 31 January 2017.

This is the first psychological thriller from J P Delaney, a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names.


This is a fast paced thriller about two young woman Emma and Jane - the story is told in parallel chapters by Emma who tells her story from the past and by Jane who tells her story in the present.

Both Emma and Jane rent a modern minimalist house from a renowned and unusual architect who built the house. To live in the house they sign a contract, need to follow strict rules and are continually tested to see how living in the home affects them psychologically.

Between the two main characters Emma and Jane, the relationships they have with men and the unusual terms of agreement they have with the architect, this is an interesting and modern read that is hard to put down.

As with most thrillers there's death and mystery and I suspected almost all of the characters, it is really well written and the suspense is there until the very end.

Whilst some relate this book to The Girl On The Train I actually felt it was closer to 50 Shades Of Grey !

I recommend this book to thriller readers.

I give this book 4 stars out of  5

Jarrah Jungle's Star Rating:
1 Bad - I'd rather eat brussel sprouts topped with anchovies than read this again
2 Not Good - I'd rather watch paint dry than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd give up a bottle of the worlds best champagne for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Ryan Gosling for this read


The Girl Before can be purchased from Hatchette Australia


Sharing my book review on Good Reads here and Netgalley


Disclosure:  NetGalley partner with bloggers such as me to help promote authors and their books and I was given this ebook published by Hatchette Australia to review. As always, all opinions are my own.


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[Image via Hatchette Australia]

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

DIY: Painting + Sealing The Driveway

We have come a long way in updating our house exterior over the years - here's a flashback to what our driveway looked like before when we first bought the house.


After we had a new driveway laid it was a million times better and safer to drive and walk on .... Plus we built a garage, rendered and painted the bricks, roof restoration, built a courtyard garden, sheesh we've made some changes out here!


But we were a bit slack and didn't seal the new driveway straight away and so it has faded a bit in the harsh summer sun and suffered a bit of wear and tear. So we thought we had better seal it to protect it from the weather and any stains and marks from leaking cars and also to inject a bit of colour back into it by using a sealer tinted with colour.

We used a Crommelin Sealer in Enhance Satin with a Basalt colour additive which tinted the sealer a dark charcoal colour. This is an industrial strength sealer which resists oil and grease so is perfect for the driveway. 

We sealed one side of the driveway and then on our next free weekend (a month or so later!) we did the other side of the driveway. This way we could still park our cars and walk on one side whilst the painted side was curing.




To seal a driveway you need to clean the surface well first and for this we used our pressure cleaner to hose off the driveway and scrubbed off any heavy marks and stains. When it was dry we went over it with the vacuum to remove any bits of sand left behind. Once it was nice and clean it was ready to be sealed. 

To apply the sealer which is like a thick paint Mr P used a paint brush to cut in along the edges and then a paint roller on a pole to paint the rest. We bought a cheap brush and roller so we could throw them in the bin afterwards. We did two coats leaving it to dry overnight between coats.




We spent under $100 on the sealer, paint brush and roller which makes it a pretty inexpensive DIY.

Painting and sealing the driveway has added a new lease of life to the concrete and it makes a great first impression to the front of the house.

Have you tackled any DIY projects around the house lately?


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