Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hoya Garden Plaza - Alexandra Hills

I really hate the fact that I've lived in my area for near on 14 years now and a place I've wanted to visit for so long turns out to be just as good as you thought it would be.  My girlfriend and I found this out recently on a visit to the Hoya Garden Plaza in Alexandra Hills. It was my girlfriend's birthday and she suggested we finally go and check it out after all this time. We were pleasantly surprised and so glad we did.

The view from the cafe looks out into the nursery which is neat and tidy and full of reasonably priced plants.

There is quite a good range of pots and statues available.

My girlfriend had a voucher for our meals so we decided to be a bit extravagant, opting for something a little more substantial than the usual fare of burgers, wraps, focaccia and salads on the lunch menu. I chose the grilled salmon and my girlfriend the garlic prawns and both were delicious and just enough for a light lunch. A breakfast menu is also available until 11:30am with reasonably priced options like bacon and eggs, pancakes, omelettes and the usual.

The cakes are your usual commercial variety but beauifully presented and complimented our meal which we finished off with a cappuccino and my girlfriend an iced chocolate.

Besides the beautiful plants, garden art and meals available at the cafe, what impressed me most was the wonderful array of homewares, giftwares, jewellery, handbags and other items available in the gift shop.

Beautiful handbags and home furnishings.

French inspired clocks, wall art, signs and clocks.

Asian inspired decorator items.

A gorgeous selection of artificial flowers and homewares.

Original handmade jewellery items.

A really unique collection of wind chimes and other items for your outdoor areas.

Christmas themed decorator homewares.

All sorts of gifts for just about everyone in the one place.

More Christmas inspiration.

I particularly loved this vintage green teapot wind chime although I don't think it would withstand the attention from my children. It was super cute.

Shabby chic artificial flowers.

The store is absolutely bursting at the seams with lovely items. They are continuously getting in new stock so you never know what you might find. I've already got my eyes on a few items for Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Hoya Garden Plaza is open 7 days a week from 8:30am until 5:00pm, only closed on public holidays. It's the perfect place for a catch up with the girls, end of year Christmas break up or a nice place to grab a coffee and read a magazine or a book for a while. I'll certainly be returning many times now and I made a promise to myself never to leave it too long to go and check out some of the many hidden gems in my own area.

Hoya Garden Plaza
546 Redland Bay Road
Alexandra Hills  Qld  4064
Ph: (07) 3206 1222

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pumpkin Cake topped with Cream Cheese Frosting & Pistachios

I've got a confession to make. Well, if anyone knows me well enough, they'd already know that I'm addicted to Pinterest. There. I said it. I'm addicted to Pinterest. I don't always look at it as often as I would like but I love looking at all the beautiful recipes out there from the wonderful people I follow. And nothing has filled my Pinterest feed more than pumpkin recipes. Anyone would think it was Fall in the northern hemisphere! I was totally inspired for a sweet pumpkin cake.

In Australia, pumpkin is a very popular vegetable (also known as butternut squash). Nearly as popular as potato. We enjoy it mashed, baked, as a soup, in pasta, or salads. We love it and eat it all year round. You can't buy it in a tin in the regular supermarket. I think only specialist US grocery stores might stock it. I'm a bit suss about eating it out of a tin. I much prefer the fresh stuff. I had a bit left in the fridge and steamed it in the microwave, then mashed it which produced a cup full. Just enough for a Pumpkin Cake.

I also had some wonderful pistachios in the pantry which I thought would compliment the spicy pumpkin cake.  I had a lot of trouble shelling the pistachios. A lot were going in my mouth and not in the bowl for the cake!

I used my 'forever faithful' cake recipe, making a few adjustments and baked in a square pan. I find it produces a lot more pieces of cake for hungry mouths.

You can't beat a cream cheese frosting on just about any cake and I had all the ingredients for just that.

Pumpkin Cake topped with Cream Cheese Frosting & Pistachios
  • 1 and half cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pureed/mashed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • half teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tub softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (375 F). 
  2. Grease a cake pan well. 
  3. Put the flour, spices, sugar, pumpkin and water in a bowl. 
  4. Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, baking soda and salt. Mix until mixture is runny.
  5. Pour into the tin. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then take out of tin.
  6. Mix frosting ingredients together and when cake has cooled, top with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with finely chopped pistachio nuts

A3 Art Print  'there's always time for tea and by stephsayshello

We're having a bit of a heat wave here in Australia for the last month of Spring so we couldn't be any further away from Fall weather but no matter what the weather, it's always a good time for cake.

Disclaimer: I was gifted packets of pistachios from Wonderful Pistachios. All thoughts, recipes and opinions are my own.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: "Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"

I was lucky enough to score some free tickets for the family to see a new release from Disney called "Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day", based on the best selling book by Judith Viorst. 

As my children have grown older, I'm enjoying the fact they are starting to be more interested in films with real people in them, not animated films. Sure, I can't go past the classics like "Cinderella", "Snow White" or even "Cars" but I enjoy the 'real people' movies a lot more. This movie had something in it for both young and old.

The story is based around Alexander (played by up and coming Australian actor Ed Oxenbould) who is turning 12 and like all teenagers, thinks life is dealing him a cruel blow. (I know my 10 year old daughter thinks that every day is a bad day for her.) Everything seems to be going from bad to worse with Alexander on the eve of his twelfth birthday but his family try to tell him life isn't that bad.

Things start to turn really bad for all the family members, just as it does in real life and I could relate to so many days like that myself. It's a comedy of errors from the start to the finish with Steve Carrell playing the Dad and Jennifer Garner playing Mum. Ed Oxenbould is fascinated with Australia and the film has a great Aussie theme running through it. The supporting cast is just as convincing when things go wrong for them.

My 10 year old daughter and my 8 year old son thoroughly enjoyed it as did my partner and I. It was a short film, lighthearted and a good lesson for teenagers to hopefully realise that the world doesn't revolve around them, life does get hard sometimes but it can and does have it's good points.

The film screens in Australia cinemas on December 4, 2014.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crispy Satay Crackles

Growing up as a young child in Australia, if you mentioned the words "birthday party" you would be sure to be served up Chocolate Crackles (Rice Krispy Treats I think they're called in the US). They are one of my most favourite memories of birthday parties as a child. I thought I'd try a savoury take on them with these Crispy Satay Crackles made with Healtheries Rice Wheels.

Rice Wheels are my children's most favourite lunch box snack. They are a miniature rice cake flavoured with either Burger, Chicken or Cheese flavouring. The best part about them is they have 65% less fat than regular potato chips, are gluten free and contain no preservatives, no artificial colours or flavours and no added MSG.

To get started, I used just two small packets of the Rice Wheels and put them into a ziplock bag and beat with a wooden rolling pin until just crushed.  Then add a quarter cup of shredded coconut. Desiccated coconut will do.

Next, in a saucepan over low heat, melt a quarter cup of peanut butter, one tablespoon of barbecue sauce and 2 tablespoons of butter. I used a peanut butter flavoured with honey so if you're after a bit of extra sweetness, add a tablespoon of honey to the saucepan. Add to the dry mixture and mix thoroughly.

Line a mini muffin pan with plastic wrap and spoon the mixture in. You could line the muffin pan with cupcake papers but I just find that's just one more thing I have to pick up and throw into the rubbish bin!

This recipe made one dozen mini Crispy Satay Crackles. You could use a normal sized muffin pan to make them larger. I kind of like this smaller size for little fingers and mouths. And let's not just think about the kids. These are perfect for us grown ups when entertaining. They'd go perfect with a drink, just in time for the festive season.

They had all the flavours of a Malaysian satay with peanut butter and coconut with an extra crunch.

My official taste tester gave me yet another thumbs up. (He does love his Mum's cooking, unlike his fussy sister.)

These Crispy Satay Crackles are the third and final entry of mine into the Healtheries #Snackosphere challenge. You can check out my previous two entries below.

Thanks to Healtheries and Kidspot, I am now in the draw to possibly win in excess of $10,000 worth of prizes. Wish me luck! I hope you try some of these recipes. I don't know about your kids but mine seem to have developed a 'bottom less' pit in their stomach and I'm always looking for ways to extend what I already have in the cupboard. Having a few packs of any of the Healtheries snacks on board will hopefully keep those kid's hunger pangs away. If not, they are the best thing to add to an already nutritious lunch box.

Disclaimer: This blog post forms the final of three entries into the Kidspot Voices of 2014 Healtheries #snackosphere challenge. I was given a selection of Healtheries snack foods to try. All opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, November 3, 2014

17 homemade gifts for crafters

My boyfriend's mother is a keen crafter, enjoying crochet, knitting and quilting and with Christmas coming up, I'm just not sure what to give her. She probably has everything she needs and I know my Mum always loved receiving handmade gifts, of any kind. I've been trawling Pinterest and have come up with a few options I'd like to share. As usual, I've left it until the last minute so I better pull my finger out and get busy. With my children's birthdays both in November, end of school Christmas activities and the usual hustle and bustle of Christmas, you'd think I'd know by now to start doing these things a little earlier in the year!

Hopefully these will give you a few ideas. There are so many different ideas for embroidery and pin cushions. The above just touches on all the beautiful crafts on Pinterest. Here's hoping you're not like me and left it until the last minute, as usual! Happy crafting!

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