little pleasures | for our little treasures

“Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”

Food is the perfect icebreaker | There is no greater joy than the joy of seeing a small child’s face light up at something you have prepared, something, especially for them. Warm their tummy and you warm their heart.

More often than not, it is the little things, which will turn their head; therefore every small effort you make will come with some great reward.

A designer lolly bag | At my Chanel inspired afternoon tea, I made up little Chanel inspired lolly bags (their parents didn’t think they were so small) and yet the little ones loved them! I warn, however, that this did not prevent some of them from poking their sticky little fingers into as many cakes as they possibly could in the least amount of time.

Message to self: Make sure I set the table higher than a 3-year-old’s little arms can reach.

As a small child, my son always judged a person’s house by what was in their pantry. This was so embarrassing and yet fortunately he was young enough at the time for most of my friends to find it just a little bit cute. That said I tend to spend a lot of time with my head in the pantry, so maybe he is his Mother’s Son after all, or as they say “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

The start of something special | I never liked the sound of a step-grandparent, and yet that is what I am. It always conjured up in my head, pictures of a woman dressed in black (well I fit that description at least), with a long nose and flying around on a broomstick. So we start on the back foot with step-grandchildren because they never really understand where you fit into the picture. For a while there they thought I was their Grand Father’s Daughter, which I was more than happy to grab and run with … sadly they grew up and knew better!

The middle one of the three, started very shy with me until we found hot chocolate and let’s not forget the marshmallows. I found that through something as simple as finding what truly pressed his buttons you can become great mates.

It was then that our relationship with hot chocolate began. So now I look for great chocolates and marshmallows in the hope that I can please him with something new and exciting, watching his gorgeous and sometimes mischievous face light up with delight at the mere sound of hot chocolate.

Serve it up | The hot chocolate always seems to appeal to most young kids and it is always more than just hot milk with chocolate sprinkled on the top, you are also judged by how you serve it up.


Like the Grandchildren, Scarlett loves her hot chocolate. As she is arriving at our house she can be heard telling her Mum exactly how she would like for me to make the milk and put the chocolate sprinkles on the side (I recently found out that I did not make this 3-year-olds hot chocolate the same way the coffee shop does…she is such an “I” snob. It shouldn’t surprise you that she only likes pink marshmallows! She also loves our Alessi’s heart-shaped spoons, which sit on the side and I am thrilled her snobby coffee shop does not provide this same spoon.


Photo:  Scarlett is just a little bit happy with herself!

No sooner has she filled the entire cup with the chocolate sprinkles than the chocolate ends up all over her face, down her sleeve and closely followed by the entire kitchen bench.  She then commenced putting her gooey fingers straight back into the can of chocolate (and I remind myself again to throw the can out afterwards).


Photo:  Mila is another story | always unable to break through with Mila because she has only had eyes for her Grand Father (my Brother).  So I arrived with a babyccino in hand (and marshmallow) and not only did she talk to me, she wanted to come home with me!  I am not sure why it took me almost three years to work this out!fullsizeoutput_1a38

Photo:  Jake is still too young to enjoy hot chocolate and lollies and yet it does not stop him from eating the Alessi lolly jar lid (I am thinking germs, germs, germs as I write).

Find out what kids like and make it for them. It is the parent’s job to provide balanced meals, not ours. We just want to make friends and if that means they go home with a little more sugar in their belly so be it. They will go home having had a good time and you spare those constant remarks like “can we go home now Mummy?”


Special kid’s food ideas |a few good ideas include:

-sweet or salty homemade popcorn (even better if you grab all the ingredients and make it together)

-lolly bags (and something healthy to keep the parents at least a little happy)

-a chocolate fountain with strawberries and homemade marshmallow

-cheese toasties

-rose coloured water with fresh strawberries

-mini cheesy pizzas (see easy cheat recipe below)

-homemade fruit muffins (it is all about the icing)

-sausage hot dogs

-Oh and please let’s not forget hot chocolate and marshmallow.

Another great fallback for those unexpected visits is a beautiful lolly jar filled with a wonderful assortment of colourful lollies.  I might need to see if I can superglue the lid … so that they last longer than a few nights … then again that kind of defeats the purpose.




Photo:  Mini pizzas are always a hit with the kids!  Another cheat idea is to buy the 2 pack pizza base from Coles (I am fast becoming a fan of Coles) and top with your favourite topping.  Then using a cookie cutter cut out the mini pizzas and cook them in the oven. So simple and seriously tasty!

A note | Make sure you have a packet of gluten-free chips or others in the cupboard on standby.  I had a child visit recently with her mother and she was gluten-free. Oh dear me, the bench was filled with everything but anything gluten. She was asking her Mother when they could go home! How tragic was that!

Short story | I purchased a small domestic fairy floss machine with all the coloured sugar to go with it. I thought this was an amazing idea to have on hand. Not only do kids get to eat the fairy floss, but they also get to make it with you. Only problem being, that it blew up on my first trial. Sticky fairy floss sugar is something you want to try and avoid. I still think the idea is a great one, however maybe next time I might purchase from a more reputable supplier.

Can you see their little faces  … just as we think about these ideas?

If you can do it … do it together | nothing beats spending quality time with kids making food and sometimes eating it together.  Tip:  Avoid watching what the kids do with their fingers when making food.  It will make it way more enjoyable when it comes to eating it!

recipe of the week | cheat’s delicious hummus

This recipe feeds 8-12 people as a pre-dinner appetiser/starter.

I took this dip to a friend’s house this week, as a starter for the dinner.  I promised her the recipe and I am sure she will be amazed at just how easy it is to make!

A great cook would suggest that hummus should be made from scratch with fresh chickpeas (how thoroughly tiresome). I have tried my hand at this method a few times and generally, I find the consistency to be a little too chewy in texture for my liking (which might say more about the Cook than the method). I have also made many a hummus using the canned organic chickpea version and combining that method with my foolproof Thermomix, I can generally pull off a reasonably well-textured hummus (emphasis on reasonably).

Hummus | a Middle Eastern creation is another one of my favourites and works very well as a starter for any dinner party or simply that go-to item, which can be kept in the fridge for a quick snack.

I prefer a smoother texture, topped with anything that adds colour and texture to an otherwise bland beige canvas. So imagine my delight when I found the 1-litre tub of hummus purchased from Coles! Better still it only costs around $6 for a tub and trusts me it beats any hummus I ever slaved over.  BTW … ignore the bland coloured photo, as I forgot to take a final photograph once the flat parsley leaves had been added (plus the smoked paprika adds some life to the otherwise dull hummus).

Yumi’s Traditional Middle Eastern Hommus Dip| (dairy-free and gluten-free). So some call it Hummus, others call it Hommus and others say Houmous. For me,  it is Hummus.


Let’s cheat together | Now that we have the perfect smooth hummus base, add your special touches to disguise the fact that you did not make your hummus-like all the other great cooks.


My added disguise, is the roasted cauliflower, lemon and spiced chickpea hummus. I have modified this from a recipe I once made from scratch and have since refined it to something truly tangy, tasty and even better, dead easy.

Easy Hummus Recipe | Ingredients:

1-litre tub of Yumi’s Hommus

1 lemon

1 tin of organic chickpeas

1 large cauliflower

2 tsp. of smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

100 ml virgin olive oil

Flat-leaf parsley or coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Yoghurt flatbreads | Ingredients:

1 cup of wholemeal flour

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp. of baking powder

1 tsp. of dried yeast

200 gm. thick plain yoghurt (don’t use Greek yoghurt)

Virgin olive oil

100 ml of hot water

Cut the cauliflower into small florets and toss gently in 100 ml of virgin olive oil. Place on a baking tray and grate the rind of 1 lemon over the florets. Add salt flakes and ground pepper.


Cut the lemon in half and add to the centre of the baking tray (the lemon juice will run onto the baking paper and be absorbed by the cauliflower). Place in the oven at 220 for about 30 minutes or until the florets are lovely and dark brown.

Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining roasted lemon halves over the cooked cauliflower (I love my hummus to be very tangy) and let rest.


Drain the chickpeas and toss in enough virgin olive oil to coat and then add the combined spices (smoked paprika, coriander and cumin) and toss together.

Place the chickpeas on a sheet of baking paper and roast until chickpeas are crisp and golden. Remember to toss from time to time.


Combine 2/3 of the lemony cauliflower florets with Yumi’s Hummus and stir gently adding flakes of salt and ground pepper to taste.

Pour a generous swirl of a good virgin olive oil on the top (great olive oil can make all the difference to the final taste), and add a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika across the top of the hummus and ground pepper. Heap the roasted chickpeas on the top of the hummus (remembering that the bland beige is no longer) and pile the remaining cauliflower florets in the centre of the chickpeas.

Finish with a generous handful of lightly torn coriander leaves or flat-leaf parsley. Both work equally well.

Yoghurt Flatbreads

I found this recipe sitting in some waiting room. I photographed the recipe and did not manage to capture the source. However, given that it was a waiting room I suspect the magazine was well out of date.

To cheat or not to cheat | If you prefer your hummus could be served with a good quality flatbread (and yet I often find it difficult to find a great flatbread).  Making your flatbread is easy; it just takes a little time.

Combine both the plain and wholemeal flour in a bowl and add the baking powder and dried yeast.

Whisk the plain yoghurt and 100 ml of hot water together and add to the well the dried ingredients. Mix all ingredients until dough forms.

Put the dough on a lightly floured board and kneed for a good 5 minutes or more (until your arms drop).

Rub the ball of dough in olive oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with cling wrap.

The dough should rise to about double its size in 45 minutes. Knockback the dough and break it into 8-10 even size balls. Roll out each ball to a nice thin consistency and then cook in a heavy very hot pan.  Flatbread should be cooked one at a time until parts take on a charred look. When you take flatbreads out of the pan, drizzle some good quality virgin oil over and add a sprinkle of salt flakes to each.


These are truly delicious and nothing beats hummus and great flatbread.

Hint |The dough will last in the fridge for days if well wrapped in glad paper.

Happy eating!




OMG …did you seriously give that!

There are so many more glorious gift ideas, way better than the good old faithful and sometimes convenient bunch of flowers, or the fake red carnation in a cylinder (that OMG moment, did they seriously give me that) gift!

There is nothing more loving than putting a little thought into the gift you give to the Hostess.

It’s not all about the Wine | A bottle of wine is still a must, whereas the hostess is also given a small gift as a gesture of your appreciation. The bottle of wine you take on the night may not be opened on the night because this is always at the discretion of your host and the same applies to any food you might give as a gift.

Gifts should not be elaborate or expensive as this can make the Hostess embarrassed and it can also make other guests feel uncomfortable that their gifts look less significant. Keep it affordable and keep it thoughtful.

So when is too much? That is difficult, because the traditional gift of a bottle of wine or champagne still exists, as does a small gift. Just remember that it is always less about the value of the gift and more about the thought behind the gift.  Just never go empty-handed.

The perfect gift is when you stop and think what an amazing gesture and you realise that your guest gets you. What a massive compliment!

The Power of Flowers | Flowers are always a safe option and yet not always the best option. If you are buying flowers on the way to the dinner party, it will often look as if the flowers have been purchased as a last-minute thought. Flowers that have a look of love about them can never go wrong. Consider putting a bunch of flowers into a glass bowl or ceramic pot for a point of difference. A vase demonstrates just that little bit more thought.  Better to make the bunch of flowers smaller and add a container. An orchid plant is always an absolute showstopper!


An alternative to a bunch of flowers could be a potted plant, cacti or pot of herbs, which are all very in at the moment. Keep your container neutral in colour and style, not patterned. You want your gift to fit easily into any home style.




Wrapping Up | Wrapping the gift also adds weight to your gift and makes it look a little more loved. Attach a ribbon to your gift or place it in a gift bag filled with cellophane or tissue paper. And of course, ribbons, ribbons, ribbons.


Attach a Tag | Add a gift tag to your gift (this is again me suggesting you do as I say not do as I do). How often have we hosted a dinner party and in the flurry of tight deadlines and in the middle of a series of back to back hot flushes, we find that we paid little attention to the gifts given on arrival only to later find that we cannot remember who gave what (difficult to type with one hand in the air)?

Sweeten up the Night | Chocolates are always guaranteed to please. There are also many gorgeous sweet alternatives you could consider such as decadent peanut brittle (one of my favourites), delicious rocky road (another of my favourites) and the likes.



Empty a box of Baci (oh dear another of my favourites) into a lovely glass jar and tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar. This looks gorgeous and again it makes for something a little less predictable than the commercial box of chocolates.

The Unexpected | Something a little unexpected and equally appreciated would be a delicious jar of jam, a tin of herbal tea, a tin of hot salted caramel chocolate, flavoured oil of sorts or a basket filled with Ottolenghi style herbs.



Make it and Take | If you have the time and the talent, then nothing beats a homemade condiment of sorts, such as spiced oil, jam, chilli, biscuits or meringues. Whatever the item place it in a lovely jar, basket or gift box and finish it off with clear cellophane paper and a ribbon. I keep a box filled with beautiful ribbons in many colours for exactly this purpose and the purpose of gifts. Handwritten labels on jars can make your gift more personal.

I have shared stories about Ottolenghi and I have spoken about his pistachio and rosewater meringues. Bake some and give them away. Again, don’t expect them to be eaten at the night, they are a gift. Wrap them in cellophane paper, fill the bag with dried rose petals and tie it all together with a gorgeous big bow (better still let the Hostess know what you are bringing so that she can rely on them on the night).


Queen of Hearts | Now let’s get different and thoughtful. If they play cards, how about a beautiful set of designer cards (so special) what amazing thought.  These Christian Lacroix are of a beautiful set of cards and seriously who would be unhappy to receive these!



For those of you who love linen napkins, then there are sets of affordable linen serviettes on the market right now. Maybe consider a set of 4 linen napkins in a neutral colour, which will work for any casual setting or a linen tea towel (which is perfect for an afternoon tea or high tea gift).  Simply roll them and tie them in a ribbon.

A scented candle always wins in my house. I love burning scented candles and I love giving them as a gift. Add to this list a lovely jar of hand cream, hand towel, and soap on tap, (I adore Aesop’s mandarin and orange soap).

Short story | I gave my brother-in-law a get-well candle a short while back. A black container with white writing, so contemporary and so masculine. The words read, “From someone who cares … and that someone isn’t me”. Fortunately, we have that kind of relationship and he loved the thought and the candle … and me of course!


When you are out shopping and you see a gift and think of a particular person, grab it, store it and wait for that special occasion when you can give it.


Staying over the Weekend | Does anyone do that anymore, unless they are your grown adult kids trying to save money? If they do, then absolutely a gift is appropriate. Friends came to stay at our beach house a short while back and bought with them a bottle of red wine and a hamper filled with beautiful cheeses, biscuits and jams. Delicious, so kind and so perfect!

As for me | I am off to eat a little peanut brittle, or maybe some rocky road or maybe a Baci or maybe a little of each! Next time you will find me just a little bit sweeter.

Tip | Stockpile some lovely small gift cards/tags, gift bags, ribbon, cellophane and tissue paper so that they are sitting waiting in the ready for your next Hostess gift.


going sweet on ottolenghi


I have all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. We have shared so many nights with Ottolenghi, albeit his food, not Yotam himself. After having just finished watching Yotam on Master Chef for the past two nights, I realise that all this time I have been pronouncing his name incorrectly, Yoth…am instead it is Yot…am! Oh dear me!


Guess Who is Coming to Dinner | My sister once asked me whom I most admired in this world. Knowing all too well that for her it was Oprah (and just a little disappointed that she didn’t pick me). It made me think to myself that if I had a “guess who is coming to dinner” kind of moment, who would I want to sit with me at the table.  I would have liked to sit at the table with Nelson Mandella, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Angela Jolie, Aung San Suu Kyi and the likes and yet I have never been one of those people who would clamber to get an autograph of some famous person (certainly not sportsmen because generally, I have no idea who they are anyway).

Be an Inspiration | Look at the fabulous legacy left by Coco Chanel. Her exquisite style and grace are legendary and she has made a massive impact on the world of fashion. She encouraged women to dress for themselves and be themselves. She encouraged women to be confident. So do I want to be like Coco Chanel?  Not.  However, Coco Chanel truly inspires me on just about every level.

It is not only famous people who inspire me in life. If we open our eyes we can see the beauty in the actions of many people who surround us each day and who are often silently inspiring us. Sometimes their inspiration can be felt in a small way and sometimes in ways that truly matter and make a difference in our lives.

I am digressing (the strange thing that … and I am starting to sound a little like Anne of Green Gables with my rambling, just a little less articulate).

I am inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi (pronounced Yot … am), his cookbooks, his restaurants and the passionate relationship he has with food (I even love his personal story)! When I first fell across his cookbooks I developed an absolute love of the way he talked so passionately about food and ingredients. He introduced me to so many new spices, which I did not even know existed (Ras-Ei-Hanout has become my second best friend). Over the past five years, I have cooked a lot of his recipes and while they are not always the easiest of dishes to cook they are ever so flavoursome. His food is filled with heart!



It has never been Yotam Ottolenghi that I crave to meet or sit with at my dinner table, but his recipes and his love of food and spices continue to inspire me on every level.

Ottolenghi Relaunched | So imagine my delight when I yet again visited his website, trawling for a new recipe, to find that there has been a new cookbook released. They have just relaunched a special edition of the cookbook titled Ottolenghi and the cover is printed in a vibrant red. How fabulous! I send a message to myself that I must order this online before they sell out.  I just know how fabulous this vibrant red will look sitting on top of my existing collection of Otto cookbooks.

Can you imagine my double excitement when I also found out that they are releasing a brand new cookbook titled Sweet? So for all those Otto diehards like me, go online and order your copy now from their online store.

I have copied details about his new recipe book because I adore his desserts. His rosewater and pistachio meringues are one of my favourites and you need to have a great set of beaters to master this one. Luckily I have a Kitchenaid and it beats the perfect meringue and pavlova.


My take on Ottolenghi’s rosewater and pistachio meringue!


Order via:

Following blurb taken directly from Ottolenghi’s website.

Pre-order your signed copy now: Ships for publication date September 7*

In his stunning new baking and desserts cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Helen Goh bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Sweet includes over 110 innovative recipes, from Blackberry and Star Anise Friands, Tahini and Halva Brownies, Persian Love Cakes, Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines to Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut and Rosewater and Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs.

There is something here to delight everyone – from simple mini-cakes and cookies that parents can make with their children to showstopping layer cakes and roulades that will reignite the imaginations of accomplished bakers.

*Please note: This item is available for pre-order only.

I so want the walnut, rosewater and cinnamon pavlova recipe (a fresh challenge for my husband at Christmas).




mad about napkins or just mad

Some call them a serviette and some a napkin.  However, Debrett’s say napkins and never a serviette.  They should be placed on either side of a plate or in the centre of the setting, where the plate will go.  They should be folded simply (and yet for me I sometimes prefer to leave them large and bold).

I know you know, but let’s take a further look at what Debrett tell us. Before you start eating unfold your napkin and place it on your lap (never tuck it into the top of your shirt…seriously who would do that).  That said, any napkin on my lap always ends up on the floor, not once but more times than not and you spend your night with your head in your guest’s lap attempting to retrieve your napkin from the floor (not a good look ever).   Dab the corners of your mouth throughout the meal but never make grand side-to-side wiping gestures (besides that would mean wiping off my Mac lipstick so that’s not at all cool).  Finally, when you have finished picking up your napkin from the floor 20 times and wiping the corners of your mouth, place the napkin, unfolded, besides your plate.


Napkin Debate |I prefer paper because they are so much easier to maintain than cloth and so much more choice.  I do however pull out the beautiful linen for more formal occasions (which are rare in our house as I prefer the more relaxed style of entertaining).  As weird as this sounds, I love great paper napkins (tragic…maybe).  We all collect one thing or another and for me, it is paper napkins (along with a few other things).  Currently, we have about 200 napkins stored away (actually please don’t make me count for I think I probably have closer to 1,000!!).  So often I would go shopping for the perfect napkin and could not find what I was looking for.  There is nothing more annoying.  So now when I see what I love I simply buy it and store it for that perfect occasion.


Perfectly French | These french napkins pictured here (from Simon Johnson, Subiaco) have since sold out both in Australia and on their French website. I am thankful I purchased just enough to get us through this lifetime of dinner parties (and possibly my son’s life after me).

Go large (40cm x 40cm) so that they make a big splash on the dining table and they look and feel generous.  They cost more (between $20-30 for a packet of 20) and yet I am also known to stock up on Ikea’s napkins which sell for around $3 for a pack of 50 (a massive bonus).  Mix them up and have fun.  Put them together or layer them.  I love layering.  You can never have too many napkins and if one falls on the floor you still have another to go before you have to put your head in the lap of the guest sitting next to you.

Tip:  Go bold, large (40cm x 40cm) and gorgeous!  Let your napkin make a statement!

the wild unknown world of reiki

Elaine my friend and Usui Reiki Practitioner gave my body and mind one hour of sheer bliss today! I never really understood Reiki until very recently when I now get to experience it every second week in Elaine’s, The Peace Practice studio in North Perth.

Each time I call in for my little bit of magic, Elaine has introduced something small but something special. Today she had drawn a card, especially for me from her Animal Spirit pack of cards. I am so in love with these cards, especially more so now that she drew the oyster and I got to read what it means.

Reiki Image

OYSTER | Patient – Secret-Keeper, Keeping Inner Treasures

The focus and the determination of the oyster are unmatched. Anything an oyster personality puts their mind to, they achieve with grace and charm. The only problem is, that the oyster type often takes their inner gifts for granted. They become shy or doubtful, and this can lead to withdrawing or protecting their deepest desires and life’s work. When the oyster card appears it’s important to reveal your inner treasures. What is it you’ve been hesitant to share? The world is waiting to see.

When in balance: feels blessed, generous, and masterful | When out of balance: reluctant, gripping “clams up” | To bring into balance: share something

I so totally love that card and I cannot believe that this card was drawn the day after my blog went live. I might add with some reluctance! I now plan to go forward in the hope that I can un-tap some of that magic and share it with you.

I purchased a set of these cards from Elaine to give them as a gift to my niece Laura. Well sorry Laura, I could not stop myself from breaking the pack open to see what else I could find.

Elaine Image