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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wedding Cakes .... Made Of Cheese

Anyone who has dined with me knows when the dessert menu is handed around after dinner, I skip something sweet and go for a savoury cheese course ...... and usually another glass of wine to go with it!

At most of the dinner parties we've hosted there has been a cheese course on the menu, my favourites are baked brie with garlic and rosemary and mini brie cold smoked with apple and served with home made rosemary bread croutons.

So when the decision came for what type of wedding cake to have I knew I didn't want to go with a traditional iced sweet cake. 

I have noticed too often at weddings once everyone has eaten dinner and dessert and the drinks are flowing and the dance floors pumping, people no longer feel like eating something sweet and the beautiful cake on display is only enjoyed by some.

I don't know what happens to the rest of the cake whether it lives on in newlyweds freezers or if the venue staff have a cake party. All I know is it's a crying shame to see such a beautiful, tasty, not to mention very expensive, wedding cake not get eaten.

So while I'm all for savory, Mr P on the other hand is the worlds biggest sweet tooth!

But as we already have three different desserts being served as part of our cocktail menu at the wedding reception it was a logical choice to go for something not so sweet ,,,,, like a cheese course.

Once I had convinced Mr P that we needed a cake of cheese my next hurdle was my parents!

It took a while to explain to my Dad there would be no fruit cake, or mud cake, or any other cake and that the cheese would not be covered in icing, it would just be big round wheels of cheese! Once he understood the concept of a cake made of cheese it was full steam ahead and being a cheese lover too he is now all for the idea! My Mum absolutely loves the idea and has been helping by visiting cheese makers to taste test cheeses that go together and is also going to decorate the cake for us.

My savoury cheese loving ways have for a very long time admired the beautiful images I'd seen on Pinterest of cakes made of cheese. 

Decorated with rustic leaves and fresh fruits they look stunning and can be dressed up to look just as fancy as a traditional wedding cake.

I also love the idea that you can cut the cake and eat it at any time during the reception - at the beginning, middle or end, it doesn't matter because everyone loves cheese at any time of the evening! 

I was going to DIY the cake and essentially go to a cheese maker and get large wheels of cheese and assemble them myself by stacking them on top of each other on top of skewers or cake dowels to hold them into place.

Then it would just be a matter of decorating them to make them look fancy enough for a wedding (and not just like a few wheels of cheese stacked on top of one another!). I found some great tutorials online like this one and it really does look quite easy to do.

When I asked our reception venue if I could bring in my own wedding cake made of cheese they told me they'd heard some horror stories of people making their own cake and using the wrong cheese and they had gone soggy or were too pungent and smelly. 

Imagine stinking out your reception venue with pongy cheese OMG that's not what I want my wedding to be remembered for!

So I got a quote from them as well and it came in very reasonably priced and includes all the condiments to go with it as well. Not to mention it's one less thing I need to worry about doing, I'm more than happy to leave it to the chef to sort out for us.

So while the reception will buy and stack the cake of cheese, we still need to pick out 3-4 cheeses we want to have and decorate it. 

Mr P and I had so much fun researching and tasting cheeses at our local cheese shop, taking them home to try with the wines and beers we'll be serving at the wedding reception to get a good idea of what cheeses will work together.

We also got a quote from the cheese shop for them to make a cake of cheese for us but it was more expensive than our venue, plus we would need to assemble it and deliver it ourselves, plus supply all the condiments to go with it. So the easier and least expensive option is to let our reception venue do it for us.

We are having 6-7 kgs of cheese which is about 60-70 grams per person (we have 100 people) and we have chosen a cheddar, brie, blue vein and a smoked cheese.

We need to decorate the cake of cheese ourselves and as mentioned my Mum is excited to help with this and it'll be done just before the wedding reception starts.

We are thinking of rustic decorations like twine, lace or ribbon paired with gum leaves and nuts from the trees on my parents farm and fresh fruits like grapes and figs.

I also want to get a custom made cake topper but there are so many options on Etsy I can't decide on just one!

Otherwise, I can try my hand at making my own. I love the sweet bunting style toppers and they look quite easy to make (similar to the image above).

It's only natural a cheese and wine loving couple like us will have a wedding cake made of cheese!

What do you think of this non traditional wedding cake?

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review And Preview: Slice Harvester: A Memoir In Pizza By Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

This is a book review and preview of Slice Harvester: A Memoir In Pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf this is due to be published by Simon and Schuster on 11 August 2015.

Colin is an adult punk rocker and aspiring long term sober guy. He loves eating pizza, working to dismantle systematic structures of oppression and carefree afternoon naps. He lives in Queens with his three cats.

The fact that this book is written by a blogger (like me!), it's about food (I love food!) and is based in New York (where I'm travelling to soon!) put three big ticks next to this book as a must read for me.

This is a fun memoir of Colin a 20 something bad boy who on 11 August 2009 and then over the course of the next 2 years until 22 November 2011 eats 435 plain pizza slices from every pizzeria in Manhattan, New York City.

Colin starts a blog Slice Harvester to document and review the pizzas, grows a large following and fan base and appears in newspapers and on radio shows.

This book is written as diary entries with the pizza place, a star rating and summary of the slice. What follows is a chapter on Colin reminiscing about a memory from his childhood, teenage years, or life now with his family, friends and girlfriend. Colin may have a punk rocker exterior but on the inside he has a lot to say and as the pizza eating and thinking continues you see a softer side to him.

The writing is honest and open, cheeky and fun, in a no sugar coating it way. This book was easy to read and I finished it in a few days.

Be warned - you will crave pizza the entire way through! When I land in NYC I'm going straight to Pizza Suprema to devour a 8 star slice!

I recommend this book to pizza lovers.

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 Johnny Depp for this read

Slice Harvester can be purchased from the author here and Simon and Schuster here

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 Simon and Schuster to review. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Recipe: Stole My Heart Prawn Pasta

Mr P is an incredible cook it's one of the things I absolutely love and admire about him, his ability to whip up a restaurant quality meal for just the two of us at home. 

I’ll never forget the first time Mr P cooked a pot of his creamy prawn pasta for me .... I can still taste the mouthfuls now the chilli cutting through the cream, freshness of the parsley and perfectly cooked prawns. 

It was absolutely divine and I fall in love with him all over again whenever he makes this dish which is why I call it Stole My Heart Prawn Pasta.

Stole My Heart Prawn Pasta
Serves 2

500g Australian tiger prawns, raw, peeled and de-veined
250g spaghetti or fettuccine pasta
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tomato, roughly chopped
2-3 tbs of thick cream
3 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Cracked pepper

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until ala dente
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat
Add garlic, onion and chilli and stir until fragrant and onion becomes translucent
Add tomato and stir through for a few minutes
Add prawns and stir until pink
Turn down to low heat, stir through cream and allow flavours to come together for about 10 minutes (do not let boil)
Add to prawn mix the cooked and drained pasta and half the parsley and stir through to combine

Serve in a bowl topped with grated parmesan, plenty of cracked pepper and remaining parsley

Open a bottle of wine and enjoy with the one you love!

If you want to a make an amazing dinner for a special someone give this recipe a go it's easy to make and will win over any pasta lover!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DIY With Avery - Wedding Invitation Pack

On the blog today I'm sharing my craftiness and how I DIYed my wedding invitations and decided on the theme and colours to use.

Picking a theme

With so many wedding blogs and pinterest for inspiration it was hard to narrow down the design because I loved everything!

But in the end I picked a vintage rustic theme as it suits my wedding reception venue and it was easy to find natural materials like twine and brown craft paper to use.

All I then needed was a colour to compliment this theme and I decided to base the wedding's entire colour scheme around the colour of the bridesmaid's outfits .... I just had to find their outfits! 

It turned out shopping for bridesmaid's dresses was harder than my wedding dress! At no fault of my beautiful bridal party the problem was I couldn't decide on a colour or find what I wanted in the shops ..... I changed my mind from emerald green to plum to teal to aqua to turquoise and then finally to forrest green which is pretty much the colour I wanted from the very beginning!

The wedding invitation packs

I had such success using the Avery celebrations and events range for our engagement party stationary that Avery kindly sent me some products to use for the wedding stationary.

From the Avery celebrations range I have made invitations, RSVP postcards, address and return address labels, gift tags and round labels.

Now I'm going to show you how I DIYed our wedding invitation packs at home with my laptop and printer and how they all came together.

Avery - Online and Print

Once I had the Avery products I was going to use I went to the Design and Print online section of the Avery website, entered the product code for the item and it brings up a heap of templates to use.

You can either use what's there or edit them - I used the basic template and changed the colours and font and saved the designs to my online Avery account. I went back to each design to edit or delete and start again, until I was happy with what I had.

When I was ready to finalise and print, before printing on the products I did a few test prints on plain paper to make sure they would all line up and print out perfectly. You can adjust the print margins and try again until you are sure they will print ok - then you can put the Avery products into the printer.

I used my Canon colour printer at home which printed them out really nicely, some of the products you need to feed through one at a time or they tend to stick together and the printer will jam. But overall they printed out beautifully and I had so many compliments from people who thought they had been professionally made, not printed at home.

Creating a monogram - for free!

One thing I recommend to anyone designing your own wedding stationary is to create a monogram of you and your partner's initials and then use this across all your stationary.

There are lots of websites which show you how to make your own monogram and some have templates already set up you can download for free. I found mine on Wedding Chicks and all I had to do was change the initials and colours to suit and save it.

I used the monogram image throughout all the stationary by inserting the image into each design, it really helped to tie everything together and is a great way to personalise the wedding stationary.

Wedding Invitations - DL Invitation Pack

I started with the invitations as I found once I had the wedding invitation sorted, I based all the other elements around that - matching the same font style, size and colour combination.

Once we had worked out the layout, wording and style for the invitations I was ready to print them out. With the final guest list I copied everyone's names as I wanted them to print out on the invites from the guest list into an Excel spreadsheet and uploaded this as a mail merge which inserted all the guests names into the invitations.

I went through and checked each invite fit the names on neatly, resized some of the longer names to fit, and then they were all ready to print out in one go. The invitations print 3 to a page and they pulled apart really easily.

I used a block green colour from the bottom of the invite that faded up towards the middle and it didn't print to the edged in colour unfortunately which left a white frame around them so Mr P got busy on the guillotine and trimmed them.

I invested in a $40 guillotine from OfficeWorks that I know I'll use a lot for my craft projects ...... Please don't ever ever ever ever use scissors to cut your wedding invites! Use a paper trimmer or guillotine for a neat professional finish.

Reply Information - Postcards

I had a lot of fun making the reply cards - they look like an actual postcard which I love. I did the design double sided.

The front was like a postcard with our names and the wedding date and in the centre I stuck on a Avery brown kraft round label printed with our monogram initials.

On the back of the postcard is the RSVP information to be completed by guests and our address details for them to post it back to us. I also included our email and telephone numbers as an alternative in case anyone doesn't want to post them back, which is fine with me as postage is expensive!

Gift and Social Media Information - Gift Tags

I was unsure how to include information about gifts and social media. In the end I decided to print the information onto gift tags which I tied together with twine. The gift tags worked perfectly for this and the monogram of our initials I inserted was a sweet detail.

We are using the WedPics App which guests download for free and they can then upload photos from the day which everyone can view and I can print them out at a later date. It also has options to add in accommodation information, gift registers, etc which is really handy it's a great App.

I also created an Instagram hashtag for guests to use at our wedding, everything has a hashtag nowadays! There are a few websites which generate hashtags for you, I got mine from Wedding Hashtag Wall and it also created a little Instagram sign with our Instagram hashtag which I'll print out on some of the leftover postcards and display at the wedding reception.

The address labels kits are a must if you want a professional looking invitation set.

Once the guest list was finalised, I copied the names and addresses into an Excel spreadsheet, then inserted a mail merge into the labels. I still checked each one to make sure they fit onto the labels and edited any that needed to be.

For the small return address I added the monogram initial image as well as our name and address. 

I printed both sheets of labels out and they print really well so it's a quick and easy print job this one and it sure beats handwriting all those names and addresses!

As mentioned, I created a monogram of our initials for free on Wedding Chicks and then saved the image and used it throughout all the stationary.

I used Avery's white gloss labels and brown craft labels and they both looked great and contrasted nicely against the different materials I used.

This was the easiest one to do, I simply inserted the monogram image into the labels and then printed them out.

The white gloss labels were used on the belly band and the brown labels were used on the back of the RSVP postcard.

Envelopes and Envelope Seals

I found the brown envelopes at Target for half price (bargain queen strikes again!) and they match the rustic theme perfectly.

For the envelope seals I made these from the Avery clear return address labels, I inserted our heart monogram into the smaller label sheet (meant for the return address) and printed it off.

They came out as sweet little envelope seals and looked great on the clear labels.

Belly Band and Monogram Gloss Labels

I found some A4 brown craft paper from Target that matched the envelopes and cut it into strips with the guillotine.

The monogram initials I printed on the gloss white labels were used to secure the belly band in place.

I folded the band around the invitation pack to secure all the elements together and then stuck the label on to secure the band.

Putting them together

The invitation, reply postcard, gift and social media tags, were all packaged together with the belly band wrapped around them.

I placed these packs inside the envelope with the address and return address labels attached and sealed the envelopes with the clear envelope seal to finish them off.

I absolutely love how the wedding stationary turned out and I had so much fun designing and creating everything myself.

Professional invitations start at around $6 each and these cost less than half of that, they were certainly cheaper to DIY and design and print at home - for the invitation, reply postcard, gift tags, return and address labels, belly bands, envelopes and envelope seals it came to a grand total of $2.71 each to make.

Here's the cost breakdown for each wedding invitation pack:
.56c  Invitation
.30c  Gift tag - Gift information
.30c  Gift tag - Social media information
.42c  Postcard - Reply cards
.25c  Round brown label - Used on reply card
.10c  Envelope
.11c  Envelope seal - Made from clear address label
.11c  Address label - For envelope
.11c  Return address label - Our address for envelope
.20c Brown paper - Cut into strips to make belly bands
.25c Round gloss white label - Used for belly band
       Twine - Already had
$2.71 total each pack

All you need is a computer and printer at home and you can make your own invitations like these using the different Avery products available from their celebrations and events range to create the look you want.

What do you think of my DIY wedding invitation packs?

You can check out my engagement invitations here 

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

Disclosure: Thanks very much to Avery Australia (Celebrations With Avery) for providing the Avery products for review. I have not received any payment or compensation. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Who Walk In Darkness By Chandler Brossard

This is a book review of Who Walk In Darkness by Chandler Brossard which was first published in 1952 and re-printed by Open Road Media on 9 June 2015. 

Chandler Brossard (1922-1993) was an American novelist, editor, playwright and poet. Born in Idaho, he grew up in Washington DC, and was laid to rest in New York. Over the course of a 40 year career he wrote or edited over 17 books. Since 2000, three of his novels have been re-printed, including this one.

This book was considered by many as the first Beat novel and is an underground classic.

Set in the 1950s you follow the day to day life of Blake and his friends as he takes you to restaurants, bars, music gigs, and live fight events across New York City.

The writing style is simple and easy to follow, almost like you're reading someone's diary in it's simplicity and straight forward descriptions of exactly what they're doing, eating, drinking, saying.

I liked the rawness and honesty from the writer and the other characters involved in Blake's life. One of the characters Henry is meant to be based on Anatole Broyard a well known New York Times book reviewer and essayist.

I found the places Blake and his friends ventured to and the descriptions of life in New York City really interesting, from the dive bars to a sleepy sea side town.

For it's time this book was one of the most controversial novels of mid century America. But for this year 2015 it is quite a tame read.

I recommend this book to beat novel enthusiasts and fans of Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski.

I give this book 3 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 Johnny Depp for this read

Who Walk In Darkness can be purchased from various sellers listed here

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 Open Road Media to review. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

On Being My Own Wedding Planner ...

When you think of a 9 month timeline you think of making babies right, well for Mr P and I that's how long we have to plan our wedding. 

We got engaged in November last year on a cruise holiday, we had an Engagement Party in February this year and then September we are getting hitched! 

It has been a very busy and exciting 7 months so far with just 2 months to go before the big day!

A few people asked me if I was going to get a wedding planner .... C'mon guys you're looking at the wedding planner! 

So I thought I'd share with you how it's working out and what I've learnt from being my own wedding planner .... so far!

Organisation is the key to success

Planning a wedding has taken my love for organising to a whole new level I can tell you. To be honest I thrive on being organised, give me a spreadsheet and a heap of information and I'll organise it with pretty headings and neat little rows, I have been in my element organising this wedding.

In the beginning I was overwhelmed with all the things that had to be booked and finalised, but then I started on one task at a time, researched blogs and pinned like a crazy bride to be on Pinterest (I have a secret Wedding pin board!) got quotes from local suppliers and finally I'd take all the information to Mr P (with the one I want him to pick in bold and underline!) and we'd make a decision together and then book it in. I add all the details into my master spreadsheet and that's job done. Time to drink some wine to celebrate before moving onto the next task. 

I needed a wedding binder to keep everything together and made a simple one for about $6 from supplies found at Kmart - a cute polka dot lever arch file, dividers for each section and plastic sleeves. This is where I keep all the paperwork, receipts, inspiration pages from magazines and brochures, samples etc. The binder lives under my coffee table so I can pull it out whenever I need it, which is quite a lot!

Use checklists and templates wherever possible

It can be overwhelming with all the different things you need to organise from booking the reception to the transport and even down to the finer details of gifts for the bridal party and the date for the rehearsal dinner. 

What I found helped me was to have a simple checklist which I printed out and stuck on the fridge at home and I tick tasks off as they are complete. This also helps me keep on track and see what else needs to be organised. 

I also have a more detailed checklist as part of my master spreadsheet where I keep all the information including names and contact details in case I need to confirm any bookings etc. 

There are so many free templates, lists, basically everything wedding you could possibly need available for free on the internet - there is no point in re-inventing the wheel and starting from scratch, find the templates that suit your style of wedding and use that as a guide.

Sticking to a budget

Weddings can be expensive, but you don't need to go for the fancy and expensive options - get lots of prices and then compare the cost with people who have received and used the services. We are saving money in some areas like not going overboard with decorations and flowers so we can spend money in other areas that are important to us - like food and wine! 

I found a budget template online which I personalised with all the items we'll be including in our wedding and took out all the extra things that we just don't need or want. Each time I pay for something I update the budget which automatically does the sums and tells me what we've spent and how much is remaining. 

I over estimated on most items, putting in a budget figure from what I could find on the internet and what I understand things cost. I have mostly come in under budget for each category so far which is a really good feeling. The budget spreadsheet definitely keeps us on track.

The average Australian wedding costs anything from $27,000 to $54,000. Our budget is below the average at $20,000. I can do a budget breakdown of the actual cost of the wedding afterwards if anyone would find this useful ....

What I will DIY .....

I DIYed our engagement invitations, party gift bags and all the engagement party decorations, the flowers and set up and pack away of the party venue. I admit it was a lot of work and I don't want to go overboard with the DIY for the wedding - I want to really enjoy the day and the memories we'll make without worrying about hanging bunting and blowing up balloons!  

Having said that any small DIY projects I can do leading up to the wedding I am happy to tackle like these ....

Bridal party invites - We asked our bridal party with a small creative project - cute wine bottle invites for the girls and cigar invites for the boys (blog post to come on these!)

Wedding stationary packs - I designed and printed all the wedding stationary myself, I'm using the same Avery products from my Engagement party invitations which I had leftover plus some more which Avery have supplied me with for a product review which is awesome (blog post to come on these too!)

Designing, printing and framing signs - I'll make some signs on the computer which I'll print out and frame, these are really quick and easy projects that don't cost anything as I'm using frames I already have. I need to make a reserved sign for the seating in the church, a sign for the drinks table, and some social media signs for our Wedpics App and Instagram hashtag for the reception venue.

Flowers - With the help of a creative friend I'm having a go at doing the flower bouquets for myself and the bridal  party, boutonnieres and corsages. I admit I'm a little nervous about this and will do a trial run next month once the spring flowers are in and see how we go. If it's too hard or they all wilt and die, then I will have to turn to the professionals for the flowers.

Make up - My beautiful bridesmaid is doing all our makeup, I've bought some new makeup and we've had a few trial runs including one final trial last weekend, wrote down everything we used and took lots of photos so we can recreate the look on the wedding day. Honestly this has been so much fun, who doesn't love make up and bubbles with friends! 

Photobooth Guest Book - I am DIYing a photobooth for the reception, as a cheaper option of hiring a professional and photo booth set up for the night. I have purchased a Polaroid camera and custom made guest book and just need film, props (which I'm borrowing from friends) and to make a backdrop.

What I'll leave to the pros ....

Ceremony - We are getting married in a Church so there is no concern about being outdoors with the weather or the set up and pack away of the ceremony chairs, table and decorations. I just need to pick what flowers I'd like and what music to play and I don't need to worry about anything else.

Food - We did all the catering for our engagement party and my parents did all the food and were baking, cooking and freezing canapes for weeks! This time around we'll have delicious food from the reception venue and I have a few special treats in store which I'll announce after the wedding (I don't want to ruin the surprise!). 

Cake - I was going to make my own wedding cake as we are having a cake made of cheese wheels .... yes I'm having an actual cake of cheese! But the reception venue offered to do the cake at the same price as it would cost me to DIY so I came to my senses and asked them to do it, it's one less thing to worry about. I will DIY (or find on Etsy) the cake topper and my parents will decorate the cake for us with some fresh fruit and rustic gum leaves from the farm.

Reception - We are having a stand up cocktail reception so there are no tables to decorate or seating plans or anything like that needed. One of the main reasons I picked this venue is because it's already beautifully styled with a vintage eclectic decor so I will just bring a few items from home for the welcome table and photobooth table and that is all that is needed.

How it's going to turn out ....

Everyone puts so much pressure on your wedding day, but it's important to not lose sight of what a wedding day should be about - Mr P and I becoming husband and wife and declaring our love for each other in front of our friends and family.

So long as everyone who is special to us is there and I have a pretty dress to wear and Mr P looks dapper in his suit, it doesn't really matter if the flowers wilt or we run out of champagne so long as we have each other the show will go on!

I feel really good about the wedding plans so far ..... but a few weeks before the wedding I may start to get a little frazzled, we will see!

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for the big day?

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