Friday, August 28, 2015

DIY Hook Coat Rack

I'm very excited to share my first woodwork craft! In our home, there is a nook between the main door and the staircase. We've been keeping miscellaneous items such as slippers, umbrellas and scarves on the shoe rack and it was getting a little out of control.

I've been on the lookout for an affordable hook coat rack for a while now, but it was always the wrong size or wrong colour or wrong style. So I decided to do what a craft addict would do - DIY.

What you need:

Pine [42x19mmx1.8m or desired size] (Bunnings, $4.32)
Hooks and matching screws [90mm or desired size] (Ebay, $1.59 each)

What to do:

1. Saw the pine to the desired length.

2. Sand the pine.

3. Paint the pine with primer, and then with paint of desired colour. Paint several coats if needed.

4. After the paint is completely dry, space the hooks evenly across the pine and mark the positions with a pencil.

5. Slightly hammer the screws into place, and then tighten them completely using a screwdriver.

I attached the rack to the wall using quite a few 3M picture strips. It's held up well so far, but we have been careful not to put anything too heavy on it. As we are using it more for decorative purposes, we have only been hanging lightweight items such as scarves and hats. I think the space looks a little more cosy now!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Walk: Warrandyte State Park - Mt Lofty Trail

These few weeks have been pretty cold and wet, so when the sun was in our faces on Saturday, we decided to take advantage of it and go for a short hike in Warrandyte State Park. It was a great choice for us as it wasn't too far away, plus there were plenty of tracks to choose from. As we had plans in the afternoon, we set our hearts on the Mt Lofty Trail, said to be short and sweet but with great panoramic views.

We started our walk at the Wittons Reserve carpark, and as we crossed the creek via a footbridge, we were immediately greeted with wattle trees abundant with flowers.

The first half of the walk parallels the river, so we managed to get closer to the water when we veered slightly from the main track. I thought it would make for a great picnic spot, as it was grassy and shady with beautiful views.

I decided to pay more attention to plants this time, keeping an eye out for fungi in particular. I didn't manage to see any, but I did come across many majestic looking trees and of course, more golden wattles. 

We enjoyed scenic views as we worked our way uphill. It was getting slightly tiring with the bold sun, but we knew we could do it with a little extra effort. After all, nothing compares to W. James Whyte Island Reserve in Werribee Gorge State Park!

We also saw plenty of kangaroos on our way back to the carpark.
This fella was such a great poser! It stared into my camera, tilted its body for me to get a different angle, all without me having to ask! I actually left the scene before it did.

The walk was an easy one that took us about 1.5 hours. For maps and information on all the tracks, read this document here. We're hoping to do Yarra Brae next!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dilmah School Of Tea Masterclass

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tea degustation masterclass held by Dilmah School Of Tea at the William Angliss Institute last Thursday. Aimed at those working in the hospitality industry, I thought long and hard whether to accept the invitation as I knew I was going to be out of my depth. In the end, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about tea.

The class was led by Merrill Fernando, founder of Dilmah and his son, Dilhan Fernando. It spanned about three hours and covered a range of topics such as the company's values and philosophies, history, manufacturing processes, brewing techniques and food pairing. I wasn't sure what to expect at the start, but as the session unfolded it proved to be a great afternoon!

I'd love to share some things that I learnt from the session:

Tea can generally be classified into four types:
  • black
  • green
  • oolong
  • white

Although all teas originate from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, different types of teas are created by processing the leaves differently. There may even be variations in flavours and aromas for teas that are processed similarly due to different atmospheric conditions during planting, such as the presence of wind, humidity and light.

The bud and the first two leaves of the plant are where the antioxidants and flavours are concentrated, while the third leaf may start bringing a little coarseness. Therefore, there will be a difference in taste when making teas from handpicked leaves versus those harvested by machinery. 

Dilmah's line of Watte teas display the differences in colours, flavours and aromas of tea grown in different climate conditions. Ran Watte is made from tea leaves grown at an altitude of 6000 feet, producing a golden, light and grassy tea. Uda Watte, Meda Watte and Yata Watte are grown at consecutively declining altitudes. The lower the altitude, the deeper the colour, and the more intense the flavour. 

Apparently, most people are brewing their tea wrongly, either giving it too little or too much time. (I'm guilty on both accounts!) Here are some tips for brewing the perfect cup of tea:
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of tea leaves (equivalent to 2.5g) per 200-250mL of water per person
  • use freshly boiled spring or filtered water (do not reboil water as it removes dissolved gases)
  • for black teas, brew with boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes depending on desired intensity of flavour
  • for oolong and green teas, brew with cooler than boiling water for 2 minutes
  • covering it and stirring occasionally will help release its flavour
  • use enhancements such as spices, mint, honey and ginger
  • if adding sugar, use white sugar only as brown sugar will give it a caramelised taste
  • if adding milk, use warm milk, otherwise the tea will be cooled too rapidly
  • make sure your tea is stored properly in an airtight container, otherwise it will absorb whatever moisture and aroma there is in its vicinity 

Who knew that tea brewing was such a refined process!

The second half of the masterclass was a wonderful demonstration of food and tea pairings. I'm hoping that more restaurants will adopt this concept, as it is an excellent option for non-wine drinkers like myself! My favourite pairings that evening were the green curry with rose with french vanilla tea, yoghurt and honey with chamomile tea, and chocolate ganache with moroccan mint tea. I was a little skeptical about the green curry pairing but it worked wonderfully!

The masterclass ended with the presentation of certificates of participation, but I walked away with a newfound appreciation of tea. It's always been one of my favourite beverages but I don't think I'll ever look at it the same again. Thank you Dilmah for a fun yet educational afternoon!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The World Of Watercolour

Some months ago, I suddenly decided that I wanted to have a go at watercolour painting. I don't even remember what inspired me, but it wasn't one of those passing fads that I get from time to time. I thought about it often, watched and read tutorials online and even searched for painting classes. However, true to my nature, I never really took the first step because I was afraid that I would suck so bad at it. 

I don't know what came over me but a couple of weeks ago I bought a mini watercolour set for 10 dollars and set to painting one afternoon. I was so glad I finally took the first step. I followed these these tutorials (1/2) and thanks to them I managed to paint something presentable. For my third painting I got a little bolder and just used one of my photos (Cape Schanck) as a reference. 
The feeling of learning something new is wonderful. Watercolour is not an easy skill to learn and my paintings are still very crude but I love how it is so different from all the other crafts I have done. My goal is simple, to eventually be able to paint some art that complements my home!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Scarvelli Café, Deepdene

Last weekend, hubby and I had the pleasure of brunching at Scarvelli Café in Deepdene, a café that takes pride in their coffee as well as their food. They adopt a paddock to plate philosophy, so much of the produce is actually sourced from the owner's farm.

As neither of us were coffee drinkers, we decided to opt for a juice instead. We chose 'revitalise', a blend of apple, celery, ginger and lemon, and it was exactly like its name - refreshing and invigorating. 

For my meal, I decided to go for the wood fired salmon, served in shreds alongside a poached egg, crispy polenta gems, quinoa, corn, rocket leaves, and mustard salsa. I thought it was such a refreshing way to eat salmon for brunch! I'm a huge fan of smoked salmon, but I admit I've been feeling a little bored having it eggs royale style. This dish, however, managed to incorporate a myriad of textures and flavours such that every mouthful was a new discovery. From the crunchy outsides of the polenta cubes to the bursting sweetness of the corn, this dish was a treat.

Hubby had the dukkah encrusted eggs served with toast, cauliflower purée, spinach, pine nuts and pomegranate. I didn't have more than a bite of the eggs but he loved it! 

The café manager generously packed some sweets for us to take home as well, which were an espresso buttercream éclair and a slice of banana bread which is apparently a very popular item. We were too full from our meal, so we had it as a snack after we had been to the cinema, and they were amazing! The éclair was beautiful, we loved the hint of coffee and the lightness of the cream. The banana bread was a tad too sweet for me, but no trouble, as hubby gobbled it all up.

In conclusion, we had a great experience at Scarvelli. In hubby's words, he 'wouldn't mind coming back again', and he seldom says that! We love the fact that the dishes on offer have their own twist and are quite healthy. It is a bit of a drive for us, but the good food and ambience is definitely worth it. 

Disclaimer: This meal was sponsored by Scarvelli Café. The content of this post reflects my honest opinions.

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