Fab five: facial serums

With the cooler months looming ahead, keeping my skin hydrated has never been more important. The crisp cool air, plus the drying effects of heaters makes my skin more susceptible to feeling tight and looking dull, so tender loving care in the form of a facial serum is an absolute must. I highly recommend these five...
Tula Naturals Soothing Oil for Face and Body - I'd mentioned before I suffered from a bout of perioral dermatitis late last year and the treatment left the skin around my mouth and nose extremely dry, red and patchy. Tula Naturals' highly nourishing blend of oils gave my skin immediate relief from dryness and kept it hydrated when everything else seemed only to aggravate my condition. It doesn't contain any essential oils, making it suitable even for distressed, sensitive skin.

La Mav Pure Argan Oil - I think it's safe to say argan oil is fantastic for hair, but did you know it works wonders for the skin too? It is a great moisturiser; non-greasy and readily absorbed by the skin. It also boasts of healing properties - perfect for repairing damaged cracked skin and preventing any further irritation or dryness.

A'kin Pure Radiance Rosehip Oil - Deeply moisturising but easily absorbed; I love using this at night prior to my night cream and let it work its magic as I sleep. It has a strong herbal smell which I find quite calming. Skin feels softer and smoother with each use. Tip: It's super concentrated so a little really does go a long way.

Antipodes Hosanna H20 Intensive Skin-Plumping Serum - I was initially quite doubtful of this  water-based, oil-free serum ability to moisturise my dry skin but was very pleasantly surprised to find how super hydrated my skin looks and feels! And because it is water-based, it literally just melts onto my skin and plumps it up after patting it on. This is a great one to use in the hotter months as it leaves zero greasy residue.

Dermalogica C-12 Pure Bright Serum - Pregnancy and all the crazy hormones that came with it had left my skin pigmented, especially on the cheeks. I gave this brightening serum a go, without very high expectations but was amazed at the difference it made and how quickly. It gave my skin a healthy glow immediately. Skin looks clearer, brighter and the spots and ugly pigmentation have lightened with time. This is an expensive product but well worth every cent.

Goat's cheese with herbs and edible flowers

Herbs and edible flowers not only look nice on goat's cheese, they also impart their flavours too. Lavender and cheese may not be an immediate combination that comes to mind but it works really well - the flowery notes hit your palate first before the tart and creamy taste of the goat's cheese comes through. The trick is to go easy on the lavender.

If you're not game to try edible flowers, then try this with herbs, they work a treat and taste amazing. Herbs that go will with cheese include chives, thyme, oregano and basil.
You'll need:

Goat's cheese
Herbs and/ or edible flowers (I used lavender, zucchini flowers and chives)
Ramekins or muffin tray
Cling film
 Method:

1. Line ramekins with cling film
  2. Place edible flowers and herbs on cling film.
 3. Add goat's cheese and press down on ramekin so the cheese takes the shape of the ramekin.
 4. Remove cheese, place upside down and serve with crackers.

Tips on saving for your home

It has been five years since Stu and I bought our first home but it feel as if it was only yesterday we were at the auction. I remember so clearly the moment Stu made the winning bid and the loud thud of the hammer as it went down to seal the deal. The exhilaration I felt, the shock, the realisation that, "Oh my goodness! We just bought a house (and are now seriously in debt)!"
from home
Five years on, I've never been more glad - we've made the house our own and with the addition of Frankie the dog and Alexander the naughty boy, it has really become a real family home. And I feel incredibly fortunate we were able to afford it at that time. With Sydney's house prices soaring in the last few years, saving for a home has never been more daunting.
to home
So today, I'd like to share a few tips to help home buyers get started saving towards their future home.

High interest savings account - High interest accounts will allow you to speed the saving process up considerably and all you have to do is keep putting money in there. Make it easy to put money into the account and incredibly difficult to withdraw it. This is to keep any impulse withdrawals from ruining your awesome interest rate for the month.

Know how much you want to spend - this will allow you to build a time frame for saving. If the price range you’re looking at is particularly expensive, you can start putting together the funds for a proper down payment. If the property you’re looking at is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, you should probably be looking to pay for as much of it as you can straight off the bat.

Budget accordingly - build yourself a workable budget that takes all of your current earnings into consideration. You should be able to break the budget down into money that needs to be set aside for essentials like bills, car registration, food, and any existing debt repayments, while also leaving a little bit for emergencies or a bit of leisure like a night out. Working out exactly what you need to spend on these things allows you to take whatever is left and put it to work in your savings account.

Stay on target - the hardest part about trying to save for a house is having that growing amount of money just sitting there calling to you. You really have to focus on your goal. The best thing you can do is forget that the account even exists. Set up a direct payment into the account from your pay every week and ignore it. This will hopefully prevent you from being tempted to dip into it!

And if you're lucky enough to be thinking about buying your second or even third home, why not turn your first home into rental properties in short term? To do so, you should be researching everything. The suburb the property is in, housing market fluctuations and pricing and real estate agents. Agents are the people you’ll be dealing with most when leasing, so knowing what they’re about is crucial. Use sites like http://www.localagentfinder.com.au to gather information on things like commissions and real estate agent letting fees to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

These are just a few of the things you can do to effectively save money for buying your family home. What are your favourite saving methods? Do share in the comments section below!

My collections

It has been a long while since I entertained with my fine china collection and vintage tea sets but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about them. They've been sitting safe in the sideboard, totally out of reach of prying little hands.

Every once in a while, when Alexander is napping, I take them out to adoringly gaze and admire their beauty and treat myself to a nice cup of tea. A big part of my collection are thrifted goodies - odd bits and pieces; a lone cup here and an unwanted saucer there, obtained from trips to op shops around the country. The newer Royal Albert sets we received as gifts when we bought our house. Even more precious are the vintage tea sets that belonged to Stu's late grandmother, passed on to me by his mum.
More recently, having been much inspired by my blogging buddy Fee (who has the most awesome collections of feathers, sea glass, key rings and nature things, like rocks and butterflies and sticks - you have to check them out here), I decided to start a feather collection of my own.

It's only a tiny collection at the moment, comprising of cockatoo, magpie and kookaburra feathers from my backyard, as well as a couple of chicken and geese feathers I collected at the Hunter Valley zoo.
I got these three random green, violet and yellow ones from Stu's uncle who breeds budgerigars as a hobby. Apparently it's not yet moulting season so there weren't too many feathers on offer, but I hope to add more to my collection when the birds start shedding.
 Do you collect anything?

Dark chocolate tart

Lately, I've been feeling restless and irritable, lethargic and forever tired even after a good long night's sleep. Poor Stu bore the brunt of it; I was constantly snapping at him and picking fights over the smallest of things. Then one day he gently suggested that maybe I needed some timeout and offered to look after Alexander while I did something I love.

So on the weekend, while Stu was chasing after the ever energetic boy, I dusted off my tart tin, donned my apron and indulged in some baking therapy. I measured and mixed, I stirred and I whisked. Before long, my mind and spirit felt that much more refreshed and out of the oven came one of my favourite desserts of all time - dark chocolate tart.
Dark chocolate tart (makes one 23-cm tart)

Ingredients

1 sheet shortcrust pastry
85g dark chocolate
75g butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup plain flour sifted

Method

1. Grease and line fluted tart tin with pastry. Trim excess pastry. lightly prick bases with a fork. Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F) and blind bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is cooked.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

3. Place eggs and sugar in another heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until thick and frothy.

4. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk in flour and then pour into prepared tart shell.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just set.