Friday, 31 December 2010

Roast Duck, Peach and Orange Salad

I first tried this delicious salad at a friend's wedding reception at Quat Quatta about six years ago and was entranced by the mix of flavours involved.  My husband and I discussed what the possible ingredients were, in the hopes of replicating the salad at home, but we were sure we didn't have everything worked out.  Remembering that Australian Gourmet Traveller had an "ask the chef" section named "Fare Exchange", I wrote to the magazine asking if they could ask the reception centre's chefs to share the recipe.  The reception centre and magazine staff gladly obliged, and I have enjoyed this summery salad a few times since my friend's wedding!  So are you intrigued yet?  Well, here is the recipe for your enjoyment, with a few adjustments of my own, he he.

(Serves 6)
3 yellow peaches, halved and de-stoned
1 1/2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 barbequed duck, meat removed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed Vietnamese/Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
100g bean sprouts
50g Asian cress or baby salad mix
3 oranges, peeled, pith removed and thickly sliced

Mint and orange dressing
1/4 cup whole egg mayonaise
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
 2 Tb fresh orange juice
1 1/2 Tb finely grated ginger
1 Tb finely chopped coriander
1 Tb finely chopped Vietnamese mint
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp finely grated lime rind

1. Brush peaches with the olive oil and cook, cut side down, on a char grill over high heat for 3-5 minutes until charred.  Cool and cut into thick wedges.
2. For dressing, whisk together ingredients and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3. Combine peaches, duck, mint, basil, coriander, bean sprouts and cress in a bowl.  Divide orange slices between plates.  Top with salad and spoon over dressing.

1. I honestly thought that the salad had regular mint in it as well when I first ate it, so I usually add a handful of regular mint leaves as well as the Vietnamese mint (also called laksa leaf).
2. If you want to make this salad when peaches aren't in season, just use canned peaches instead.  It won't taste quite the same, but it's still all right.  After all, I first ate this salad in the winter time when peaches most definitely are not in season!
3. I am not a big fan of raw bean sprouts, so I like to lightly steam the bean sprouts in the microwave before adding them to the salad.
4. I had to leave the ginger out of the dressing because my kids don't really like strong ginger flavours.  It was a bit sad, but I got over it and it didn't ruin the salad.
5. If you don't like your food "charred", you can simply grill your peach halves until lightly browned.  It does change the taste of the salad a little, but it really is not a big deal.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Felt Play Food - The End of My Sewing Saga

You may recall my post last month about the felt food I had been sewing as a Christmas present for my nieces.  Finding the time to sew a pile of play food was pretty hard as things got busy in my online stores, so I didn't end up making as many pieces as I had originally intended.  But, teamed with a cute apron from Crafty Crackpot, my nieces were pretty pleased with their new play food, as was their mum.  I think I might try and make some additions to this collection during the new year and add them as present toppers at birthday time.

A "supreme" pizza with ham, capsicum (bell pepper), olives, pineapple and cheese

Lettuce, strawberries and carrots

 Ravioli and fried eggs

 Jam and iced biscuits (cookies)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Etsy finds - Inspiring art for your craft room

I have been dreaming about setting up a craft room at home for about six months now and am gradually getting closer to achieving this dream.  Of course, it wouldn't be a complete craft room without some artwork on the walls to inspire creativity!  So here are some pretty pieces I found on Etsy...if only I had enough wall space for them.

The Simple Things Print by Lola's Room

Bowl of Colour Print by 74LimeLane

Aqua and Tangerine Love by Freckles & Fairytales

Lovely Day Original Photograph by alice b. gardens

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Can you believe it?  It's Christmas Eve!  I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you, my readers, supporters, family and friends, a very merry and blessed Christmas and a joyful and peace-filled 2011.  Thank you all for your comments, words of encouragement, emails and, of course, your support in making Two Cheeky Monkeys purchases!  In supporting my stores, you have also helped to support the work of Lydia's List, an organisation which works to better the lives of underprivileged women.  I have really appreciated and been thankful for the support I receive, often from people I have never met in person.

...the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Wrapping and Surprises in the Mail

Although I haven't had much chance to go all out with my Christmas preparations this year, I did manage to try two new wrapping techniques I love.  The first is a very simple way of wrapping Christmas goodies which leaves the recipient something to keep after the treats have been eaten.  I used this wrapping technique to wrap home made Christmas sweets.
I like to make a little something sweet for our neighbours each year at Christmas time and this year I decided to try making chocolate cake pops from a recipe I saw in the Coles supermarket Christmas magazine.  Rather than fiddling with coating cake balls in chocolate, sprinkles and then poking them with a lollipop stick, I left my "cake pops" as "cake balls".  These were then sealed into a ziplock plastic bag before the entire bag was neatly piled onto a little dish I found at my local op shop (thrift store).

present cake pop vintage dish upcycling

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the cute little dish (I almost forgot to take off the price tag!) - it was a little leaf-shaped porcelain dish with a floral design on it.  I guess in a past life it may have been used to hold used tea bags or perhaps even have acted as a spoon or ladle rest.  Once the treats were on the little dish, all that was left to do was to wrap the lot in cellophane and ribbon and add a gift tag.

wrapping doily upcycled book tag vintage

My next new favourite wrapping technique is to team sweet doilies with plain wrapping paper and a rustic-looking gift tag upcycled from a vintage book.  I think this method of wrapping gifts is great for jazzing up plain paper (I used tissue paper and brown kraft paper) or adding a vintage feel to your gifts.  It is also very versatile since the doily placement is up to you, they don't have to sit in the corners of your gift.  The only thing I would recommend is to first fold your wrapping paper around the gift to give you an idea of where to attach the doily (or doilies) you wish to use.  The doilies can then be glued or taped (using double-sided tape) in place.  You can use raffia or twine to tie up your gift, if you wish, or simply leave the present as is, as I have done in the next photo.

wrapping doily upcycled book tag vintage

The two gifts you see pictured were put together for two special online friends as part of a Christmas gift swap for my Christian Artists Street Team and a kris kringle for my Melbourne Etsy Street Team.  Both of these parcels have been mailed off to their recipients, but if you want to know what was in them, you'll have to wait until after Christmas as I don't want to spoil the surprise!  And speaking of surprises in the mail, I received the sweetest goodies from my CAST Christmas swap partner, Jocelyn of NewCreatioNZ.

lavender flower photo card gift card newcreationz
The first item was this gorgeous lavender card, which can also be purchased from NewCreatioNZ.

christmas card embossed secret newcreationz
The second item was this cute Christmas card - love the embossing!

And the third item was a stunning photo print, which I didn't have time to photograph.  But trust me, it is GORGEOUS, just my kind of art and I can't wait to frame it and put it on one of the bare walls in my home.  If you are ever in need of beautiful photo cards, photo prints, bookmarks, gift tags or artwork, pop on over to Jocelyn's store - her creations are magnificent!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cabochon Sneak Peeks

I recently received a gorgeous shipment of vintage and vintage style cabs from one of my favourite vintage suppliers (a BIG thank you to them too, they know who they are) and couldn't stop myself from creating a few new designs immediately!  The designs below are mostly earring stud sets, which come packaged in a Two Cheeky Monkeys gift tin, but I will also be working on some new hair accessories and jewellery pieces after Christmas.  None of these items will be added to my stores until after Christmas, so if you are desperate to purchase any of these creations for yourself or a loved one, please email me using the details on my contact page.

The Daisy, Cornflower and Carnation brooches

Peacock ear stud set

Monochrome ear stud set

Scarlet Pimpernel ear stud set

Mediterrannean ear stud set

Sunshine ear stud set

Friday, 10 December 2010

A Deliciously Simple Warm Salad

Something that you may not know about me is that I am a bit of a snob about my food.  Not to say that I won't happily eat macaroni and cheese or other more "simple" foods, it's just that I like to have variety in my diet.  And I am also not the kind of person who serves up "kids' food" to my children while cooking Malcolm and myself something more "adult".  I mean, first of all, who has the time?  Secondly, I love exposing my girls to new things, so much so that Malcolm nicknamed them the "gourmet babies" because I have been feeding them things like sushi, stir fries and curries since they were 12 months old or thereabouts.
I love to flick through magazines such as Delicious, Donna Hay and Australian Gourmet Traveller for meal inspirations when I am planning my menu for the week.  (Yes, I plan my meals a week in advance and then do one massive grocery shopping trip).  With the weather becoming much warmer in Melbourne these last few weeks, I have started looking for some interesting salad recipes I could cook either as meals on their own or as an accompaniment to simple steaks, chops or cutlets.

When I saw this recipe, by Robert Marchetti of North Bondi Italian Food, in the November 2008 issue of the Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, I just had to try it out!  It has some of my favourite spring/summer vegetables (asparagus, peas and green beans), looked simple to cook and I was fairly sure the kids would happily eat it too.  Served with some lamb cutlets (beautifully cooked by Malcolm), this salad was a hit with everyone in the family!  So, after that long preamble, here is the recipe, if you would like to try it out.

Zucchini, asparagus, peas and ricotta salata salad
Serves 4 as an entree

1 kipfler potato, cut into 1 cm dice
75g baby green beans, trimmed and cut into 1cm lengths
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1cm lengths
1 small zucchini, cut into 1 cm dice
75g podded peas
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 golden shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup lossely packed mint leaves
1 Tb lemon juice
50g ricotta salata, coarsely grated (I opted to use regular ricotta, crumbled up, since this is easier to source)

1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, cook potato for 2 minutes, then add the remaining vegetables (not the shallot or garlic) and cook until the vegetables are just tender.  Drain the vegetables and transfer to a bowl of iced water to refresh, then drain them again and place in a bowl.  Reserve 1 Tb of the blanching liquid.  (I actually steamed my vegetables rather than blanching them because I felt this was a healthier option).
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add shallot and garlic and saute until softened.  Add the vegetables and cook until heated through.  Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper and add the reserved blanching liquid.  Stir to combine.  Add mint and lemon juice and stir again.  Spoon into a bowl and scatter with the ricotta salata.

Let me just say that my attempt at this recipe does not do the actual recipe any justice.  The photo of the original dish looked amazing, and I was too lazy to chop everything into 1cm pieces, ha ha.  Also, I forgot to add the peas to my dish, only remembering them after I had cooked and served up the entire meal...oops!  I hope this recipe has inspired you in the kitchen, it is certainly one I will cook again.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Coming Soon to a Two Cheeky Monkeys Store Near You!

Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a little since you will only have a Two Cheeky Monkeys store near you if you live near to me, LOL.  Although Christmas is almost upon us and many of us are busily in the midst of Christmas preparations, I have managed to find a little time to work on some new creations.   Digging through my boxes of supplies has produced some forgotten treasures with which I have been having fun playing.  Since I probably will not be listing any new items in my store until after Christmas, I thought I would tease you all with a sneak peek of just some of my new creations!

I revisited my love of lockets by creating these dainty earrings which are yet to be named.

My store is sadly bereft of snap clip sets at the moment, which I am working hard to rectify.  The Pastel Posy set includes two of my regular snap clips as well as a new addition of a vintage-style cabochon and vintage button combination.

Like the previous snap clip set, the Summer Garden set includes two of my regular snap clips and a third clip with my new cabochon and vintage button combination.

If anyone desperately wants to purchase any of these items now, please contact me (you will find my contact details on the "contact" page of this blog) and I will sort something out with you!  And on that note, let me remind you that my shipping cutoff dates for Christmas purchases are today, the 8th of December for international (non-Australian) customers and 15th December for Australian customers.  Purchases made after these dates may still arrive in time for Christmas, but I can't make any promises, especially as Australia Post has not been providing a particularly efficient delivery service in recent months.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Handmade Christmas

Yes, it is up!  I got my man to retrieve the Christmas tree from storage (aka "under the house", he he) and the kids and I spent the morning setting up and decorating the tree.  That is to say, I set up the tree amidst repeated queries of "When will you be done?" and then the kids decorated the tree while I tried to rearrange ornaments they had hung up too close together.  And yes, my poor Christmas tree is sadly lacking a star at the top this year.  We seem to have misplaced our Christmas star, so I guess I'll be spending the weekend either hunting for it or buying a new one.

It probably won't surprise you to discover that, being a fan of the handmade Christmas movement, quite a few of our ornaments are handmade.  Some of them were made by the kids and me (the simplest being a cut out Christmas tree shape, coloured in and hung with a little ribbon) while others were kind gifts from various creative individuals.  My favourite ones to make have been the quilted ornament balls, although the kids have been asking me to "help them" make some stuffed felt ornaments like the stylised Christmas tree in the bottom corner of the above picture.
Under the Christmas tree are a handful of presents (yes, I am one of those people madly trying to finish off their Christmas shopping), some of which are handmade.  So, will you be having a handmade Christmas this year?  Feel free to share your handmade Christmas ideas and links to any great Christmas craft tutorials!

Julie's Jewels Winner!

Thank you to everyone who commented on my post about Julie's Jewels and looked through Julie-Ann's beautiful stores.  We do have a winner, picked by - and the winner is:

Congratulations comment #15 which is Jenny of Growing up Jenny.  I will be passing your email address to Julie-Ann and she will be contacting you very soon.
For everyone else, don't fret, Julie-Ann is still offering 10% OFF until Christmas for everyone who mentions the code "Deb’s Review 10% off" at checkout!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Two Cheeky Monkeys - Cyber Monday Sale and Changes in Postage

I cannot believe that it is just under a month till Christmas (help!) and am starting to panic a little at the number of items still on my "to do" list.  For those of you who still haven't finished your Christmas shopping (and yes, you can include me in that category), I have decided to continue my Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale in my Etsy and Madeit stores until tomorrow (Tue 30 Nov), since it will still be Monday in North America and parts of Europe.  All prices have already been reduced (some items by 30%) so that we don't have to worry about Paypal refunds and so on.

Those of you who have already been shopping in my store will have noticed that there has been a change in postage for Australian buyers.  Due to the high volume of mail sent at this time of year and continued unreliable service by Australia Post, I am slowly changing over postage for Australian customers from regular post to registered post.  This means that postage will increase by $3, but it also means peace of mind for all customers regarding the safety and whereabouts of your parcel.  I have not included registered post for international customers as yet; I am still working out whether or not the costs will be too prohibitively high.

P.S. Do you like the box above? I have decided that this is how I will package all of my bulky items (such as headbands and cuffs) from now on.  I have also started making some padded envelopes like this too.    :)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Feature Friday, Special Offer and Giveaway - Julie's Jewels

This week's featured artist is a special lady who is the "team boss" of the Etsy Down Under Street Team, the very first team I joined on Etsy when I was new to the world of online selling.  So let me welcome Julie-Ann, of Julie's Jewels, the creator of beautiful jewellery pieces.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in a little town called Nhill (pronounced nil), we are the midway point on the highway between Melbourne and Adelaide. I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, but with 4 children, even though one has moved out, we have busy lives. The three children who are still at home all have special needs so we are always dealing with something or the other. I do sell Avon and have for the last 20 years or so and am now a team leader…
I also teach recorder at a local primary school and that has me doing two classes a week and assembly on Monday mornings to play Advance Australia Fair, amongst other school commitments. We also have a small school band that plays at the opening chapel of each term, there I use my Clarinet. It’s a lot of fun.
I am on several committees in town including Church, School, Chaplaincy and Business. I am also an Admin on the DUST team, a wonderful team of Australian Etsy sellers.

Describe yourself in five words.
Generous, Happy, Musical, Creative, Patient, Friendly… it’s hard to find positive words about yourself, this took some thinking. 

When and how did you first start crafting/creating?
I started beading quite a few years ago by going to a craft class that was making Christmas decorations out of simple plastic beads. I had never beaded before but found I could follow the instructions and make up the decorations with no trouble at all, so I started to play around with a little jewellery for myself and it just exploded from there. I am now a member of my town's local business group - Business Nhill - and have registered my Julie's Jewels as a business name. 

What do you create and what are your favourite materials with which to work?
Artisan Beaded Jewellery and Accessories using almost anything with holes. A few personal favourites – Lampwork, Gemstones, Czech Glass, Swarovski Crystals, Pearls, Sterling Silver, Brass, Copper and many many more.

 When and how did you start selling online?
I started to sell on Etsy because I became very disappointed with eBay, with their fees, with the way that the eBay company was dealing with their sellers and the way that eBay buyers only want a bargain for the lowest possible price. Etsy suits me much better as it is for handcrafted products, and  I have now included stores on MadeIt and ArtFire. 

Describe your store in five words.
Romantic, Feminine, Elegant, Colourful, Quirky

Who or what are the influences behind your creations?
I have no idea, I do like to use images and themes to create from, but mostly work work just pops out of my head – that could be quiet scary I suppose.

Where can we find you online?

Special Offer: Julie-Ann is offering 10% OFF your purchase in any of her stores for those who mention "Deb’s Review 10% off" at checkout.  This discount is valid until Christmas 2010.

Giveaway:  Julie-Ann is also offering one lucky reader a $20 item of their choice from her store.  Simply leave a comment on this post to be in the running to own a gorgeous Julie's Jewels piece!  Giveaway is open worldwide and will run until midnight, December 2nd 2010 (AEDST).  The winner will be chosen via

Friday, 19 November 2010

Christmas Giving - Gifts That Give Twice

Firstly, I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and virtual hugs this week while I have battled sinus and ear infections.  I am slowly on the mend and looking forward to being able to craft and blog more regularly!
Today's post is, yes, about Christmas again.  I know, I am a little obsessed with the topic, but at this time of year when we get all caught up with spending hundreds of dollars on gifts, I thought I would highlight some gifts that "give twice", as it were.

One way of giving a gift that gives twice is by purchasing a handmade item from the Creative Collective charity auction for the Starlight Foundation.  There are twenty-seven different handmade items (including a Two Cheeky Monkeys vintage teacup art print!) you can bid on, many of which would make beautiful gifts for someone this Christmas.  And even better, the proceeds raised from this auction will support the Starlight Foundation's work with seriously ill and hospitalised children.

For those who need a gift for the person who has everything or are tired of buying grandparents and neighbours the same box of chocolates every Christmas, charitable organisations such as TEAR, World Vision and Compassion offer "gift catalogues" from which one can "buy" presents for friends and family.  You essentially donate money to provide for a specific need, for example childhood immunisation or educational supplies in a third world country in which these organisations work.  In return, you receive a gift card with a picture and information about the work you are supporting.  So, you can now give your grandparents or neighbours that box of chocolates (or home made biscuits!) as well as a gift card outlining a much needed "gift" you have bought for a community in need on their behalf.
I hope this little list of ideas has given you some inspiration for any Christmas shopping you will be doing this year.  I think it would be wonderful if, this Christmas, the presents we give and receive will benefit not only the receiver, but others whom we will probably never meet or know were blessed by our gift.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Madeit Christmas Gift Guide - Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Now that my children are old enough to attend kindergarten, Sunday school and take extracurricular lessons such as piano and swimming, I find myself racking my brains for sweet and helpful teacher appreciation gifts.  Here are some ideas I found on Madeit this week.

Reusable sandwich bag by BonTons Gifts

Monday, 15 November 2010

Works in Progress: A Collection of Felt Food

Before I started up my own jewellery and art "label" last year, I spent a lot of time sewing felt food toys to entertain the Two Cheeky Monkeys as well as myself.  I do like to sew, although I am not particularly good at it, and my girls were thrilled with their new stash of felt playfood with which to pretend to cook.
When one of my sisters-in-law saw the felt pizza earlier this year, she mentioned how much she liked it, as did my nieces.  I then foolishly volunteered to sew a batch of felt food for said nieces as a Christmas present.  So here I am, almost four months after making my rash promise, slowly sewing away at an eclectic mix of felt food

.As you can see above, I haven't gotten very far with this project.  It is most definitely a work in progress!  I am currently in the middle of making a copy of the pizza which sparked this whole project as well as some jam biscuits.  The pizza would have been completed last weekend, but wouldn't you know it?  My yellow thread has gone missing.  For some reason, it is not in any of my thread boxes or even laying around with my usual spread of jewellery supplies on the dining room table.  It is a complete mystery where my yellow thread has gone, probably the same place into which my kids' socks disappear...

Once I finish off the biscuits and pizza, I will begin work on some iced biscuits, strawberries, fruit slices and lettuce leaves.  I'm not sure how much more I will make after that, I guess it really depends on how much time I have before Christmas!  If you have any suggestions or tutorial links, I would greatly appreciate them. 

Friday, 12 November 2010

Feature Friday and Special Offer - Beadevolution

My featured artist for this week is the talented Helen of Beadevolution.  Helen is a fellow Australian and DUST member who creates bold and edgy pieces for those who love chunky jewellery.  So let's find out more about Helen and her wonderful creations.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from South Africa but have been living in Melbourne for the past three years. I have a background in Human Resource Management as well as having trained as a chef but I am pretty busy being a mother to my three young children at the moment and so am keen to avoid the corporate world. As well as my business, Beadevolution, I import and sell furniture on ebay (interiors are another passion!)

Describe yourself in five words.
I asked my husband to come up with five words to describe me - I think he is pretty accurate:
passionate, focussed, creative, caring and MESSY - I won't argue with the last...

 Blue Feathered Resin Bangle (inspired by the Melbourne Cup fashions)

When and how did you first start crafting/creating?
I have always been creating something - I see myself as a specialist in 'putting things together' - interiors, gardens, food and now Beadevolution is just an extension of that. I have long been a collector of beads and have been making jewelry for friends for a few years. My store Beadevolution is still a new baby and is still 'evolving'. 

What do you create and what are your favourite materials with which to work?
I make mostly resin jewelry. Beaded resin creations and chunky bangles, rings etc. I have become so entranced with the resin making process that I can see myself creating all my own beads from scratch - although it is a very time consuming process. I love the uniqueness of each piece - especially the coloring process - no two pieces will ever be the same. It is also an incredibly tactile medium and the sanding of each piece of handmade resin is a joy in itself.

When and how did you start selling online?
I have only recently opened my Beadevolution store on Etsy and am building my own website now. I have been selling furniture on ebay for a couple of years but this is my first online selling of my own handmade products.

Describe your store in 5 words.
Five words to describe my store would be: bright, bold, funky, colourful and tactile. 

Who or what are the influences behind your creations?
My influences come from all around me. I am lucky to live very close to the beach and am working on some beach pebble inspired resin pieces at the moment. Some of my colour combinations come from looking at what is growing in my garden or at the colours in a favorite item of clothing or fabric.

Where can we find you online?

Special Offer: Helen is offering all Two Cheeky Monkeys readers 10% OFF any purchase in her store during the month of November!  Simply let her know that you found out about her store from this blog and she will refund you the difference.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wordy Wednesday - Thank You

Some of you may know I've had a difficult week with lots of little things going wrong.  Let me hasten to add that we are all okay here in Two Cheeky Monkeys land, it's just that we've had a few minor mishaps (including Miss 5 contracting conjunctivitis) and I am finding that running a small business from home is a lot more tedious work than I ever envisaged.   So this funky Wordle word cloud is a "thank you", in various languages of the world, for everyone who has helped me out, supported me, prayed for me or encouraged me during my journey so far.