Friday, 27 February 2015

Handmade gift of the week: Button Clock

While we're on the button theme, here is a gorgeous clock that uses a mixed assortment of buttons and an embroidery hoop to create this unique clock.

https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/themasonbee?ref=l2-shopheader-name
Image from Mason Bee on Etsy


 
 
Why we love it:
 
  • You can completely personalize this clock to suit the recipient depending on:
- What buttons and base fabric you use - bright colours for children, tonal feminine colours for a female, or dark/primary colours for a man.
- Style of clock hands/mechanism
- Colour of embroidery hoop (they are usually made from wood, so could be painted any colour you like).
 
 
Who would you make this clock for?
We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...
 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Seven Ways to Use Buttons on Gift Cards and Tags

Do you have a Button Jar? If so, how many of the buttons in that jar can you identify?

Chances are the garment that spare button/s came from is long gone, but you can't bare to throw any out...just in case.

Here are some ideas of how to reuse old buttons, especially the decorative ones that are too nice to hide away in a jar!

1. I Love U card
Beautiful use of various red and pink buttons glued on a stripy heart shape.

http://taysrocha.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/button-art-mais-inspiracoes-com-botoes.html


2. Multi-coloured button gift tag
A lovely way of using a mix of different coloured/sized buttons. You could use seasonal colours (red and green for Christmas) or tonal colours that suit the recipient.

http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/evajeanie/product/vintage-button-christmas-gift-tags
 
 
3. Button flowers
These gorgeous little button flowers could be applied to a card or gift tag in a number of different ways. The newsprint flower base works well with any coloured button, and you could use tonal or contrasting coloured thread to add other colours to your theme.
 

 
 
4. Button monogram
This button monogram would make a beautiful baby gift - as a card or as a framed piece of wall art. This is a gift to treasure forever!
 
https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/letterperfectdesigns?ref=l2-shopheader-name
 
5. Button gingerbread man
These sweet little gift tags would be great for children's gifts, or on a child's party invitation
 
https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/MoonlightStamper?ref=shopsection_shophome_leftnav
 
 
6. Button balloons card
It's fun to think of objects that buttons could be turned into on a card...
 
http://indulgy.com/post/mEpvwgCOJ1/kids-crafts-buttons#/do/page/1
Image from www.indulgy.com
 
 
7. Button cupcake gift tag
A very sweet idea for a gift tag anyone would be delighted to receive - and keep forever! Masculine blue, red, grey, or green colours could be used to make this gift tag for a man.
 
 
 
 
What's the most memorable card or gift tag you've ever received?
We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...

 


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Favourite Cheesecake Recipes: Pumpkin Custard Cheesecake

Pumpkin is a vegetable. Using pumpkin in a dessert makes it healthy, right???

Well, that's what I'm going with when it comes to this delicious Pumpkin Custard Cheesecake recipe from Dianne Ward.

"I love cooking with vegetables with my desserts - it makes me feel like I'm adding a little bit of goodness. The measurements with this recipe are a bit fluid!  So go with your instincts.   Please also remove the cake from the oven whilst it still has an inviting wobble in the centre," says freelance writer and food blogger, Dianne.


You can't beat the rich golden colour of this Pumpkin Custard Cheesecake.
Simply add some crushed nuts to the top to serve.



Ingredients:


Base
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

 Pumpkin cheesecake filling:
  • 1.5 cups finely pureed cooked pumpkin
  • 1 block of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar or to your taste
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp chinese 5 spice
  • 2 eggs
  • rind of one organic lemon

  
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degees Celsius. Grease a 19cm x 19cm square pan.
  2. Place flour, ground nuts, sugar in a bowl and mix well.  Add butter and rub in with finger tips.  Add a little water to bring together if needed. Place in pan.
  3. For the topping place your pumpkin puree, cream cheese, sugar, lemon rind and spices and a food processor and process until the mix is silky smooth. Pour on top of base.
  4. Bake for about 30 mins. It may need longer but remember to leave it a little wobbly in the centre.
Tip:
To serve, you could sprinkle some crushed nuts or cinnamon sugar on top of the cheesecake and add some cream or ice cream on the side.

This recipe was kindly shared with us by Dianne Ward. Dianne is a mother of two young children, freelance writer and founder of food blog www.thesassycook.com that champions being fast and fabulous in the kitchen. Check out www.thesassycook.com for more delicious recipes and clever cooking tips.

 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Favourite Cheesecake Recipes: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bites

Peanut butter - good. Cheese - good. Cake - good.

Unless you're allergic to peanuts, this Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cheesecake recipe ticks all the flavour boxes. In fact, I'm a little disappointed I haven't discovered peanut butter cheesecake sooner!

Peanut butter + choc chips in a cheesecake = perfect match!


Ingredients:
 
  • 1 cup crushed chocolate biscuits
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
  • 225g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200g sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips


Method:
  1. Mix cookie crumbs with butter and press into an 8x8-inch square dish.
  2. Combine gelatin with 1 tablespoon of water and let sit 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.
  4. Microwave gelatin 20 to 30 seconds to melt and beat into the cream cheese mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into the dish and freeze for 20 minutes. Cut into bite-size squares.

This recipe was kindly shared with us by Sydney Heaters & Pizza Ovens - sydneyheaters.com.au. Endorsed by top Australian chefs, the Alfresco Wood-Fired Pizza Oven lets you escape the kitchen and entertain your guests. Cook everything from pizzas to roasts to breads and desserts. It's easy to clean with no mess and no fuss. Attractive and efficient, you can take your cooking to a whole new level as the even heat ensures perfect cooking. With over 25 years industry experience, they know their pizza ovens and can help you make the right decision for your outdoor cooking experience.

Have you had peanut butter in sweet dishes before? We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...



Monday, 23 February 2015

Favourite Cheesecake Recipes: Cheesecake in a shot glass

Baked vs. no-bake, lemon, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla - there are so many different variations of cheesecake. Cheesecake is such a versatile treat - a pick-me-up with a coffee or a delicious dessert after dinner.

This is Dianne Ward's version of a quickie cheesecake. Dianne says, "Whilst I love a good slab of traditional-style cheesecake anytime, I find that this little treat is so easy to whip up.  Ten to 15 minutes should do it. Maximum flavour, minimum faffing about. Bring out a tray of these at your next dinner party and I'm sure you will be very popular!"

Cheesecake in a shot glass - the perfect party treat for people to eat as they mingle


Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 1 x 250g block of cream cheese
  • 1 x 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • Juice of 2 lemons

"This is DELICIOUS and never fails to work out perfectly every time.  The base consists of the combination of walnuts and dates - you could of course use any nuts that you have in your larder or a combination.  It blends into a sticky crunch and a perfect foil for the soft and luscious sweet cream cheese," says Dianne.

Base:
  • 2 cups of walnuts
  • 1 cup of dates
  • Topping:
  • Simply mash up some fresh or frozen berries until pulpy to dollop on the top.

Method:

1. Blend the nuts and dates together to a sticky crumbly mass and set aside. It actually comes together well enough that if you want to squidge it together to form a base, that is ok.
2. For the filling put the cream cheese into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add condensed milk and blend until mixed and creamy smooth.
3. Add the juice and blend again until smooth.  You will see the mix thicken instantly.
4. Grab 8 shot glasses (or larger glasses but it will of course make less) and divide base amongst the glasses, then add filling.
5. Top with your berries. Exquisite. 

Tips:
  • You could also add a little of your favourite liqueur into the topping
  • Serving alternatives - simply layer your cheesecake with fresh berries and the nut base.

 Check out our other cheesecake recipes here...

This recipe was kindly shared with us by Dianne Ward. Dianne is a mother of two young children, freelance writer and founder of food blog www.thesassycook.com that champions being fast and fabulous in the kitchen. Check out www.thesassycook.com for more delicious recipes and clever cooking tips.


What's your favourite type of cheesecake? We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

PRODUCT OF THE WEEK: SUCK UK Bottle Light

http://www.mrgift.com.au/homewares/wine-beer-bar/wine-bottle-light
 
Here's why you need a SUCK UK Bottle Light in your life: 
  • Finally there's a reason to keep empty wine bottles with a nice labels!
  • Repurpose empty wine bottles into beautiful lamps
  • Safe to use around the family, home, and outside
  • Creates soft mood lighting
  • Charges quickly and easily via USB
  • Easy to use - simply place the light in the neck of your wine bottle
Get one here...

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Handmade gift of the week: 40 Reasons Why I Love You Notebook

One of the nicest gifts to receive from someone is a compliment. It's very easy to focus on what we don't like about ourselves, so a gift like this is a massive self-esteem boost.

Who wouldn't love to receive a gift like this?

https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/quotesandnotes?ref=l2-shop-header-avatar
 
40 Reasons Why I Love You notebook from Etsy store, quotesandnotes


Why we love it:
  • This is a gift that everyone would love. Young, old, male, female - this is a rare gift that transcends gender and culture.
  • It's personal - there would be no two books the same as each one would be unique to its recipient.
  • It shows you care - a certain level of effort and thought is required on the gift-giver's part, making this gift extremely precious.
This is the ultimate personalized gift to suit anyone


Things to write in this book:
  • Focus on personality, as opposed to appearance. Comments like you have 'gorgeous blue eyes','a beautiful smile' or 'a cute butt' are flattering. However, compliments on the things we can control have lasting impact and don't fade with age. For example: loyalty, a great laugh, patience, a kind heart, etc.
  • Think about the types of things you'd like to be complimented on. Chances are your recipient would like to be complimented on similar traits (that are applicable to them, of course).
  • You could get other people to contribute to the book (such as family, friends or work colleagues), making it a great group gift that everyone feels they have contributed to.
The simplicity of this book makes it look even more bespoke and genuine


Who would you give this book to? We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Recipe of the Week: Sam Canning's Free Range BBQ Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is really versatile - you can serve if hot on a bun or cold on a sandwich. It's one of my all-time favourite recipes. Sure, you need to allow 6 hours cooking time, but when you taste that rich BBQ flavour with the tang and sweetness of apple, it's worth every second.

This recipe was kindly shared with us by Sam Canning from Cannings Free Range Butchers. Sam developed this recipe for all the pulled pork lovers out there.

The secret? A mixture of BBQ sauce, apple and select herbs and spices while cooking the meat slowly (to maximize flavour and tenderness).

 
Sam's Pulled Pork Slider - the ultimate way to enjoy pulled pork


Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 6 hours


Ingredients:
Serves 10

  •  2.5 kg Skinless, bone in, free range pork shoulder
  •  1 x SpiceVince Coriander Zing Marinade
  •  1 x Handful of brown sugar
  •  3 x Apples, skin removed and grated
  •  100-200 ml DL Jardines BBQ sauce
  •  500 ml Chicken Stock
  •  1 x Spices of your choosing (e.g. dried chilli)
  •  1 x Knob of Butter

To serve - Coleslaw and Brioche buns

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Fry a whole tube of SpiceVine Coriander Zing marinade in a heavy cast iron pot with a knob of butter on the stove-top.
3. Rub the pork with brown sugar and any other spices you like, such as
dried chilli.


 
Rub the pork with brown sugar and your choice of spices


4. Cook the coriander marinade and butter for five minutes before adding 500ml of free range chicken stock.
5. Add the seasoned pork shoulder to the pot and place the lid on.
6. Place in the oven for three hours.
7. Add the grated apples to the pot and mash/stir into the stock.
8. Place the pot back in the oven, lid on, and reduce the temperature to 120 degrees.
9. Cook for another three hours then remove from the oven.


Cooked pork ready to be shredded


10. Shred the pork with two forks and be sure to remove all bones.
11. Add 100-200 ml of DL Jardines BBQ sauce (or any other favourite BBQ sauce).
12. Keep shredding and mixing until the pulled pork looks sticky, saucy and delicious.


 
Adding BBQ sauce for extra saucy stickiness


13. Serve with coleslaw and brioche buns for the full Sam Canning’s BBQ Pulled
Pork Slider experience.


Thanks to Sam for sharing this delicious recipe with us. Sam Canning is the owner of Cannings Free Range Butchers. He's the butcher who loves animals. Sam opened his first Cannings in 2010 and as the name suggests only stocks 100% free range produce. He’s also a believer in local and sustainable produce. All products for his recipes can be found online at www.canningsfreerangebutchers.com.au
 

Random Acts of Kindness: 10 Ways to Make Someone's Day

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day - a day dedicated to showing others little gestures of kindness. Here are 10 little ideas of how you could make someone's day:

1. Smile at five strangers
2. Say something nice about someone
3. Share your umbrella
4. Bring in your neighbour’s rubbish bins
5. Complain less – be the person you want to be around
6. Leave a book on public transport for someone else to enjoy
7. Pay a compliment – on something nice someone is wearing, or to a waiter/waitress who has given great service
8. Share a positive facebook or blog post
9. Make conversation with someone new - talk to someone you know, but don’t usually speak to at work, etc.
10. Bake – make a cake, some cookies or something tasty for your work colleagues or friends.


 
 
What is your favourite way to brighten someone's day?
We'd love your thoughts - please comment below...


Monday, 16 February 2015

Happy Random Acts of Kindness Day

It was a scorching hot Canberra day, and I desperately needed fuel. After pulling into the nearest service station, I filled up, locked the car and went to pay. There was only one problem – I had my toddler and baby in the back seat. 

I hate leaving the kids in the car when I go to pay for fuel (I’m actually pretty sure it’s illegal), and I usually try and fill the car up when they’re not with me. But on this occasion I had to fill up or we wouldn’t get home. The other option was to get them both out of the car and take them in with me, but my baby was asleep. There was already a queue of cars behind me waiting to fill up, so I thought it best if I ran in quickly – the queue inside didn’t look that long. 

Once inside, I regreted my decision. There were only two other people in front of me, but the customer being served was taking an incredibly long time (choosing the chocolates that would give him an additional $5 off his fuel). The middle-aged man in front of me could see I was getting increasingly anxious as I kept looking at my car, hoping both children were ok. When the customer at the front of the line had finished, the man in front of me said “Please jump in front of me – I can see you have two little ones in the car you need to get back to”. 

Normally I hate jumping queues, but on this occasion I gratefully accepted his offer. This small but incredibly kind gesture made my day. Not only had he sensed my tension, he had worked out what the problem was and offered a solution. The only thing it had cost him was time, but that and our health are our most precious resources these days. 

I often find myself going about my day ‘blinkered’. I’m ashamed to say I don’t see the person who has dropped their shopping, or the person behind me in the supermarket queue with only one item (when I have a full trolley). I still think of the kindness this man showed me and it reminds me that we should never take these actions for granted, no matter how small. 

One small act of kindness could just make someone’s day. 




Tuesday 17 February is Random Acts of Kindness Day, so to honour this day we caught up with Karen Chaston from www.karenchaston.com.au, who shares her thoughts on random acts of kindness: 

1. What was the last Random Act of Kindness shown to you? 

Karen: Almost daily, I get a smile, a nod from total strangers, though the other day, I was at a coffee shop waiting and a lady started chatting to me and then said she would like to pay for my green tea. 

2. What was the last Random Act of Kindness you showed someone else? 

Karen: Just this morning I was walking back to my car and a teenage school girl was walking to school with her headphones on. I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she reads. She said sometimes... I then said if it was a book about how you can have higher self-esteem, value yourself, understand your body bio-chemically and physiologically would you read it. She said yes, so I handed her a copy of my book, with a card and asked her to contact me with any feedback or questions 

3. What are the best types of Random Acts of Kindness? 

Karen: When you do something randomly - like give a total stranger a compliment, initially they may be taken back and then they'll thank you saying 'Wow you have just made my day, it was not going so well up until now!" 

4. How do you think we can perform Random Acts of Kindness more frequently? What are some simple Random Act of Kindness we can incorporate into our daily life? 

Karen: Smile at a stranger, give them a compliment, ask them how they are feeling, make them laugh, buy them a coffee, give them something, help them out, give a random "heart to heart" hug. 

About Karen: Karen Chaston inspires women to become their own best friend, which allows them to be more aware, grateful, healthier, energised and live in Essence. www.karenchaston.com.au 




What was the last last random act of kindness you showed or received? We' love your thoughts - please comment below...

Friday, 6 February 2015

How to Plan a Romantic Weekend Away

This is the final instalment of our blog series, Five Ways to Spoil your Valentine... 
Some of the most romantic weekend getaways I’ve had with my husband have been the ones that have been organised last minute. For example, waking up in the morning and saying ‘shall we go away somewhere this weekend?’ We haven’t been quite as spontaneous since our children came along, since we now have two little people to think about. But planning a romantic weekend away doesn’t have to be hard. And if you can’t find a babysitter, you can always take the kids with you! 




1. Pick a location
The first thing to consider is where you're going. If you do want to break the bank, then you can consider all-inclusive Valentine’s breaks with a five-star hotel, a five-star meal, and a five-star receipt from your credit card company! Ultimately though, if you want a really memorable weekend, seek out a unique experience. Explore options ‘off the beaten track’ (although not too ‘beaten’ if you appreciate the finer things in life), such as a secluded cabin in the bush, or a cute beach hut that put you close to nature. The more adventurous might consider ‘Glamping’. You could also opt for the bed and breakfast experience with attentive, individual service. Seeking out the less obvious options that are still special means you won’t be fighting with everyone else to make a booking. 


Choosing a location by the beach or bush is a great way to get close to nature and unwind
Image from www.skyscanner.com


2. Work out how to get there
The journey can be half the adventure, especially if you’re planning on driving. Examine the various routes to get to your destination and make a note of points of interest along the way – a charming café or winery to stop at for lunch is a nice way to break the journey. A scenic route may have some nice bushwalks you could check out – the fresh air will reinvigorate you and hopefully combat driver fatigue. 

3. Book accommodation
Obviously the further in advance you book, the more options you’ll have. However, you could get lucky – a last-minute vacancy might become available at your dream hotel, so it’s always worth calling to double check. If you can only book one night at your location, you might consider staying a night in another town on the way to or from your destination. This can break up your trip and give you the chance to do some different activities. 




4. Book dinner and other activities

Activities:
Another key component to consider for a romantic weekend away is which activities you’re going to do. We suggest some fun, adventurous activities during the day, followed by a quieter, more relaxed evening. This might include a morning beach walk or hike in the bush, followed by an afternoon nap and then a quiet meal at a local restaurant or at your accommodation. Other daytime activities could include: golf, tennis, indoor bowling, a tour of town you’re staying in (by foot or bus), a bike ride, a boat cruise or snorkeling if you’re by the water.  If you don’t fancy cracking a sweat, taking in a movie or art exhibition could be a more subdued activity. 




A leisurely bike ride is a nice way to spend time together
Image from www.express.co.uk 


Whatever you decide to do, the important thing is focusing on each other and feeling like you’re in your own little world. With a little creative thinking, this doesn't have to be expensive – draw some inspiration from early dates you had together when you first met each other and try to tie each activity to one of these fun dates. This makes it more personal than anything else.

Dinner:
Try not to tire yourselves out too much during the day so you still have some energy for a romantic dinner together in the evening. If you’re eating locally, try to find a restaurant or cuisine that has some meaning. For example, if your first date was a Thai meal together, look for a Thai restaurant (hopefully your first date wasn’t at McDonalds!). 

If your accommodation has cooking facilities, you could prepare and enjoy a lovely meal in (here are some more tips on how to do that). Try to think about what you want to cook before you go away for the weekend so you can remember to take any recipes you need with you. Don’t let grocery shopping take up too much of your day. There are more exciting things to do on Valentine’s Day than wandering around a supermarket. 

It doesn't matter where you go, or how much money you spend; what is important is that you create a loving atmosphere between the two of you. On your romantic weekend getaway you should feel like you are the only two people who exist. 

Check out our other posts in this series:
How to Plan a Romantic Picnic
How to Plan a Romantic Dinner
How to Plan a Romantic Night In
How to Create a Romantic Treat for your Valentine 

Where was your last romantic getaway? 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

How to Create a Romantic Treat for your Valentine

What was the last thoughtful gift you received? It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive – it could be something as simple as some homemade biscuits. 

A friend who came over for dinner recently bought a large bunch of flowers she picked from her garden. Rather than bringing food, another friend that came for morning tea the other day bought a fresh bunch of mixed herbs from her garden. 

These guys obviously know me pretty well, because I LOVE these types of gifts. In fact, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to receive gifts like these. They are thoughtful, useful and meaningful – the ultimate ‘Awesome Gift Trifecta’. 

How can you create this kind of gift experience for your Valentine? We reckon the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach with food and/or drink. So here are some ideas of how you can personalise some simple and beautiful gifts…



1. Trays
We're spoilt for choice when it comes to creative ways to present food these days. Any $2 shop has a range of decorative takeaway-style noodle boxes, plastic and glass containers/trays, party bags, etc. that are perfect for gifting home-cooked goodness. Even a coffee mug with a beautiful design could be filled with chocolates, nuts and sweets and wrapped in cellophane as a gift. If you’re feeling thrifty, check out the crockery/kitchenware sections of Op Shops and second hand stores. Imagine a finding an unusual vintage tray or glass bowl and filling it with goodies – two gifts in one! 






We are IN LOVE with these gorgeous Rosanna porcelain trays. They are the perfect size for serving a variety of foods - from cheese and crackers to cupcakes and chocolates. Source your Valentine’s favourite French cheese from your local market and package it up with some crackers or a baguette in cellophane with a matching ribbon. 


2. Coasters
Coasters are a super-versatile gift that no home should be without. Not only do they protect your table surfaces, they also add colour and personality to any table-top. We suggest wrapping a small bottle of drink with each coaster – a beer bottle would be ideal if your recipient likes beer. You could even select a different bottle of beer to go with each coaster so your recipient gets to try some new beers. 





3. Glasses
This set of wine bottle glasses could be filled with a lovely selection of nibbles that go with drinks. Think nuts, dried fruit, gourmet chips/rice snacks, etc. 


4. Ice Bucket 
A beautiful bottle of bubbles or champagne deserves to be beautifully presented. What better way to gift a bottle than with a striking ice bucket you can also use to chill it in. A room-temperature bottle of wine can be chilled very quickly in an ice bucket with a combination of ice and water. 


5. Coffee Cup
I don’t know many people who don’t like coffee. In fact, I know more die-hard coffee fans than people who don’t like coffee. With this in mind, a reuseable coffee cup, such as the KeepCup can make a useful gift for many people. However, a simple coffee cup can be made into a really special gift with the addition of some locally roasted coffee beans. Either package the cup with a bag of coffee, or fill the cup with beans and wrap to pleasantly surprise your recipient when they open the cup…although the amazing smell might give it away! 
Fill this Weights and Measures Mug with roasted coffee beans


The best thing about these types of gifts is that they can be enjoyed on the day, but the recipient also has a memento, such as a tray, coasters, or glasses to remind them of your thoughtful gift. 

Check out our other posts in this series:
How to Plan a Romantic Picnic
How to Plan a Romantic Dinner
How to Plan a Romantic Night In
How to Plan a Romantic Weekend Away

What was the last 'thoughful gift' you received?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

How to Plan a Romantic Night In

Picture yourself: Relaxing on your couch with a glass of wine in hand and your favourite movie playing. Your Valentine might be giving you a foot massage, or you might simply be soaking your feet in a warm footbath, lightly fragranced with some lavender oil. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? 

Now consider which you would prefer: The above scenario; or a meal out in a noisy, crowded restaurant (probably after struggling to find a car park)? 

Don’t get me wrong - I love a bit of fine dining, but traditionally Valentine’s Day evening is one of the busiest nights of the year for most restaurants. Why fight the crowds when you can go out any other night of the year and have a more peaceful experience? So what’s the alternative? A romantic night in! 



Wine and candles - a great start to a romantic night in
Image from www.theusualbliss.com


Five reasons why a romantic night in is fun:

1. It’s peaceful 
Save the fine-dining experience for another night and turn your lounge room into a romantic sanctuary. 

2. It’s family friendly 
Forget trying to book a babysitter and put the kids to bed early for some ‘Mummy and Daddy time’. Plus you can go to bed whenever you’re ready (cause you know the kids will be up as soon as the sun is!).  

3. A home cooked meal is optional
If you fancy the idea of cooking a nice meal, check out our previous post, How to Plan a Romantic Dinner. If you find cooking stressful, keep it simple with some yummy canapés, or fancy cheese with crackers – minimal preparation required!

4. It’s cheap 
The money you save on a fancy meal out can be put towards a nice bottle of champagne and some good quality Belgium chocolates. 

5. It’s personal 
You pick the movie, the drinks, and the pampering. 

Five ways to plan your romantic night in:



1. Pick your movie 
Select a movie that you've both wanted to see or a classic that you enjoy watching together. Test the DVD or computer file to ensure it plays through your DVD player or computer. There’s nothing worse than snuggling up ready to watch something, only to find that technology lets you down – it’s a guaranteed passion-killer!

2. Pick your music 
You might prefer to listen to music throughout the evening so you can spend some time together and talk. Or simply use music to set the mood before or after the movie you’re planning on watching. Either way, make a playlist and check that it plays smoothly beforehand. 

3. Select your food 
Plan your meal or prepare a nibbles plate. You could go savoury, sweet, or a combo of both. These beautiful Chocolate Dipped Strawberries are a refreshing option and work well with champagne. Present them on a beautiful plate like these Rosanna Porcelain Trays.



These Rosanna porcelain trays are a magic way of presenting food




I challenge anyone to resist these Chocolate Dipped Strawberries!

  
4. Select your drinks 
If you’re going for alcoholic drinks, champagne is a great way to start the evening. A nice bottle of red will probably go down well later in the evening when you snuggle up to watch your movie. 

Non-alcoholic drinks could include sparking apple or grape juice served in champagne glasses. Or you could serve virgin cocktails in beautiful cocktail glasses. Try to pick special drinks you don’t have every day, and think of unique ways to present your drinks to make the experience memorable. 

This gorgeous Heart Hottie would be lovely to snuggle up with if Valentine's Day evening is a bit cold! 


5. Pick your relaxation activity 
I know what you’re thinking - keep it clean please! Think foot/head/back massage, or a foot soak with essential oils like peppermint or lavender. You don’t need a fancy foot spa – a bucket or a large bowl with some warm water might not look as pretty, but has the same effect. 

Light some scented candles or burn some essential oils to add a beautiful aroma to your environment. 

Think of other little props that will enhance your environment:

  • A beautiful bunch of flowers that add colour (and perfume) to the room
  • Scented candles
  • A soft blanket to sit on or cuddle under
  • Cushions if you’re picnicking on the floor. 


Anything that excites your senses by engaging your sight, smell, touch, taste or hearing will add to the relaxing mood you create for your loved one. 


 
Flowers (especially fragrant roses) add colour and perfume to the room
Image from www.cashelhouse.ie


Check out our other posts in this series:
How to Plan a Romantic Picnic
How to Plan a Romantic Dinner
How to Create a Romantic Treat for your Valentine
How to Plan a Romantic Weekend Away

What’s your idea of a romantic night in?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

How to Plan a Romantic Dinner

Don’t have a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day? No worries. This next post in our Five Ways to Spoil your Valentine series explores how you can have a romantic and loving Valentine's Day dinner without having to spend a huge amount of money or time trying to book a restaurant on Valentine's Day night. Here’s what to do:

1. What to cook

The first and obviously most important thing you should consider is what to cook for your loved one. You could opt for something traditional, such as a pasta dish or an aphrodisiac meal (oysters anyone?) that might include something spicy. Or, you might want to try cooking something special and unique to your relationship – what was the first meal you remember enjoying together? 


Image from www.valentines-day.holidayscentral.com


Whatever you do, if you want the night to end on a romantic note, make sure the meal size is sufficient, but not too big. Feeling sluggish and bloated because you’ve over-indulged isn’t sexy, and needing a nap to recover after a huge meal can be a bit of a passion-killer. Here are some great Valentine’s Day recipe ideas… 

Another important component of the meal is the drink. If you’re planning to have wine, try to match it to your meal. Whilst it’s more important that you enjoy what you’re drinking (stick with a sweet white over a full-bodied red if you don’t like dry wine). Generally, delicate bubbles and white wine work well with seafood and white meat like chicken, and red meat dishes benefit from a rich red, like Shiraz. 

Whatever wine you choose, take the time to serve it beautifully. Use a beautiful ice bucket to chill champagne and white wine. 


Chill your white wine and bubbles in a beautiful ice bucket, 


If you're drinking red, decant it beforehand so it has time to aerate. Here are some tips on decanting


Cantina Master Decanter is a classic decanter for red wine


Most wine stores would be happy to suggest wines to match your menu. And who says you only have to have one type of wine? You could match each course with a different wine. Worried about not finishing an open bottle of wine? Check out this cool product that preserves open bottles of wine… 



Longitude Wine Preserve keeps open bottles of wine fresh for days


2. Presentation is everything

This second thing to consider when planning a home-cooked romantic meal is how to lay the table. You might want to have candles, romantic music, or a certain colour theme to accompany the meal.  For instance, you might have candelabra with three candles in the middle of the table with a red tablecloth. 

You might want to dim the lights, play some romantic music in the background and start the meal with a glass of bubbles, wine or an aperitif such as: vermouth, pastis, gin, or dry sherry with cheese, crackers and pate.  


A beautiful table setting doesn't have to be complicated - a colourful bouquet of flowers can be a great way of adding colour
 Image from www.bulletbluesca.com


Of course, your relationship might be completely different. Disco lights, rock music and a takeout meal from your local pizza place might be your favourite way to unwind together. 
Whatever you decide, you need to think about what is appropriate and special for the two of you.

3. Just the two of us

It’s easy to get caught up in the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day and overlook one of the most important aspects of Valentine’s Day, which is how it fits with your relationship as a whole.  Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to reflect on and celebrate what you have accomplished together over the last year, and where you want to be this time next year. 

Cherish the moment - think about how happy you are and consider all the parts of your relationship that make you feel good.  Valentine's Day is not about airing your differences - it's about recognising what you have in common. Focus on the happy times and talk about things that you want to do in terms of dreams and visions for the two of you. 

Keep your dinner conversation light, fun and flirty. You can always talk about more serious issues (like who does the dishes) on February 15 - or any other day for that matter.

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to take a step back and celebrate your appreciation for each other. It’s also a good excuse to treat each other. Have a lovely dessert - even if you’re on a diet.  Have a glass of wine, even though it might give you a headache. Take the time to dream together.


Creme Brulee - a delicious Valentine's Day dessert option
Image from www.fitbyraphael.com 



Check out our other posts in this series:
How to Plan a Romantic Picnic
How to Plan a Romantic Night In
How to Create a Romantic Treat for your Valentine
How to Plan a Romantic Weekend Away

What is your favourite Valentine's Day meal?