TGIF Chamomile Margarita Recipe

This Friday afternoon indulgence is perfect as a pick-me-up and calm-me-down all at the same time. Tea lovers will be especially fond of it!


4 chamomile tea bags

1 cup caster sugar

1 cup water

Juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ shots Tequila Blu

45ml chamomile simple syrup (mix of equal parts sugar and chamomile tea)

You will also need

½ cup salt (to rim glasses)

1 lemon cut into wedges (to garnish)


  1. To make chamomile simple syrup: Mix 1 part sugar and 1 part water in a saucepan over the stove to melt sugar. Once boiled, remove mixture from heat and add 4 chamomile tea bags. Leave these in for approx. 30 mins for tea to steep before refrigerating.
  2.  Rim cocktail glasses in salt by placing salt on a shallow plate, moistening the rim of each glass and dipping in salt.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until liquid is chilled. Strain into each glass, decorate with fresh lemon wedges and enjoy!

6 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas

Planning a bridal shower for a relative or friend with no idea where to begin? Start with the party decor, which will leave the bride-to-be feeling excited for the big day! From the invitations to the decorations, SHESAID has you covered for the bridal shower.

RELATED: Flattering Hairstyles For Every Bride


Rather than using the same-old vase, get creative with these cute and quirky mugs. Trim down the flowers and place them in the middle of the table for everyone to see.

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas

Candy table

Who can resist a few sugary treats? Not us! Decorate the sweets table with vintage-looking vases, bowls and cupcake trays.

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas


Don’t forget the balloons if you’re hoping to make a big statement for family and friends. Stick to a colour theme and make sure it’s cohesive throughout the entire shower.

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas


Whip-up this stunning bridal cake made from individual cupcakes, which all your guests can enjoy.

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas


To really personalise your wedding, why not draw up a timeline of how the bride and groom met. This is a fantastic way to make the bridal shower feel more homely.

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas

Mimosa bar

Mimosa bars are so popular at bridal showers because they’re a great way to enjoy a guilt-free cocktail. Gather today a few different fruit juices, chill the champagne, then let your guests help themselves!

7 Bridal Shower Decor Ideas

Images via Wedding Chicks, Sweetie Factory, Brit and Co, iVillage, Savvy Style, Smarty Had A Party

How To Host The Perfect First Date At Home

So the hard part is over – you’ve scored yourself a date. But instead of suggesting the two of you wine and dine at that great new restaurant down the street, you’ve invited you’re love interest over for dinner and now you have to entertain (oh the horror!). I mean, as if the first few dates aren’t already nerve racking enough.

RELATED: Throwback Thursday: How To Survive First Date Horror Stories

Before you decide to reschedule, or worse – cancel, Steph Peet from Eat now has provided us with a few of her fool proof tips on how to host the ultimate date night. So breathe a sigh of relief, ladies, you’ve got this!

Order In

Unless you’re quite the whiz in the kitchen or thoroughly enjoy cooking, take a load off and order in. The more relaxed you can be, the more you’ll enjoy yourself. Save the potential food disasters for the second or third date when you’ll be more inclined to laugh it off.

Don’t eat too early

Plan for your delivery to arrive after 8pm, says Steph. “This allows enough time for a glass of wine and a catch up prior to dining.” What’s more, if you and your date happen to run out of conversation early on in the evening, you can chat about the meal when it arrives. And in dire circumstances, at least having a mouthful of food minimises any awkward silences!

What to eat

Deciding on what to eat can require deep thought. Thankfully, Steph has recommended a few dishes that are perfect for date night.  Her first pick is risotto, because “it’s filling and easy to eat, even with the early dating jitters,” followed by a garden or Greek salad. “No one likes to over indulge when on a date, so it’s the perfect fresh side option.”

There’s something to be said for saving the best until last, so as far as dessert goes, Steph insists opting for a choolate mousse or tiramisu. “Nothing is more romantic than a touch of chocolate or coffee when on a date.”

What not to eat

Regardless of what people might say, first impressions really do count for something. Leaning in for a kiss at the end of the night with bad onion breath might not go down the way you’d imagined. Steph agrees: “Anything heavy on garlic or onion – steer clear! A big ‘no-no’ when getting close to someone new.”

She also insists that you skip on messy dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, taco’s and ribs. “[They] can be difficult to eat when sitting in your pjs on the couch, let alone when trying to impress someone. Make your choices wisely.”

Create a nice atmosphere

Lighting a few candles while you sip (or skull) your wine is a great way to set the mood and relax as you get to know your date a little better. Furthermore, if you’re meal arrives in plastic bags and containers, pull out the fine china – so to speak – and serve your take out in a few nice bowls and dishes, says Steph. “[It] will create a better dining experience, even if you’re just eating on the lounge.”

Get the bill

By ordering takeout you still have to endure that dreaded ‘who gets the cheque’ moment. Therefore, Steph recommends that the person hosting date night – so in this case, you – should take care of the bill. “The invitee should bring a bottle of wine,” she says. “It’s a nice gesture that everyone will appreciate.”

“If your date isn’t a big wine drinker, bring dessert.”

Behind The Scenes At Batlow Cider

Ever wondered what the story is behind some of Australia’s favourite cider?

SHESAID recently chatted with Rich Coombes of Batlow Cider to find out some of their delicious new flavours, how the cider is actually created, and some sweet collaborations just around the corner.

RELATED: Christmas Party Cocktail Ideas

Tell us, how did Batlow Cider get started?

Batlow Cider was born on a sunny Sunday arvo having a few (as many a great idea is born!). We were drinking imported brands of cider asking ourselves why we couldn’t readily find great local cider made from top quality apples and the best cider-making practices.

It’s a partnership between Sam, myself and Batlow Apples, growers of Australia’s Favourite Apples in the Snowy Mountains.  We approached them with the idea and they were excited about it. The rest is history!

How important is it to use local, homegrown produce in your ciders?

It’s super important, we only use Batlow Apples and locally grown pears in our cider production. What surprised us when we started out was the lack of companies in Australia doing this. It makes total sense, our farmers and growers are responsible for some of the best produce in the world, so not only are we supporting local businesses but we’re using the best available inputs.

What are some of the best dishes to complement your cider?

One of our favourites is a whole roast suckling pig (delicious and the experience and process of the spit is a sure crowd pleaser).

Any white meats such as chicken and a variety of seafood partner well with cider. The sweetness and acidity balance in our cider partners well with these meats. 4 Fourteen in Sydney has a great dish steaming their mussels in our cider and that’s absolutely delicious too. It’s also suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and cider like ours is gluten free for those intolerant.

For those of us who don’t know, how does the cider process actually work?

Cider production is very similar to wine, we actually do our cider production at a winery. The production methods vary from producer to producer: craft producers like us (Batlow Cider) crush fresh fruit (mainly apples) add a specific cultured yeast and then transform the apple juice into alcoholic cider. It’s very simple.

The mass market brands will generally use apple concentrates that come in a syrup like format (mainly from China), add water then ferment that as their base juice. That’s taking shortcuts and usually driven by financial motivations, whereas as we only use fresh fruit. Our motivation is to produce a top quality product and pay respect to the apples we use!

 Do you have anything special coming up for winter 2015?

Mulled cider has worked very well for us over the years, so that’ll be happening again this year with some tweaks on past years. We’ve just done a collaboration beer with a local craft brewer using apple juice in the ferment and have some other plans that you’ll have to watch out for!

Where are some of the best places our readers can shop the new collection of ciders?

Online at www.beerbud.com.au or www.ciderinsider.com.au and many independent bottle shops with a craft focus. Our major products are available more widely – Batlow Premium Cider in selected BWS outlets and Batlow Cloudy Cider in Dan Murphys and both are available in selected independent stores nationally.


Duck Confit With Fennel Salad Recipe

Duck confit is a French dish that has been referred to as a ‘work of art’. Marinated with salt and various herbs, once cooked it’s seriously crispy on the outside and tantalisingly tender on the inside.


1kg duck leg (4pcs)

1.5kg duck fat

2 tsp coriander seed

2 tsp fennel seed

2 tsp cumin seed

2 tsp cinnamon powder

1kg rock salt

3tsp Black pepper corn

2 pieces orange zest

2 slices spanish onion


  1. Mix all the dry herbs, rock salt, black pepper, orange zest and Spanish onion in bowl.
  2. Marinate duck leg with herb and salt mix for 4-5hours and store in fridge. Rinse then pat dry.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150c. Place the duck into deep baking tray with melted duck fat (cover with the fat completely) then cover oil surface with the baking paper. Cook for 3-4hours.
  4. Place the cooked duck in preserving container and cover completely with the cooking fat (can keep refrigerated for up to 3 months).
  5. Heat the non-stick frying pan and crisp the duck skin for 4-5min, then turn the skin side up place the oven for another 10min.
  6. For the fennel salad, use slicer to slice the fennel, then drop into water (squeeze lemon juice into water to stop colouring).
  7. Drain well, then mix with lettuce leafs and orange segment.
  8. For the dressing, use freshly squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, sea salt flakes, freshly grounded black pepper and mix together.
  9. Mix dressing with salad and serve with duck.

Recipe courtesy of Fitzroy Inn

Top 5 Ways To Personalize Your Wedding

The pressure for couples to have a unique, one of a kind wedding can frustrate even the most chilled out brides and grooms. While it may seem impossible to find a truly original wedding idea, there are still many ways you can personalize key elements of your special day. Here are a few simple ways to add a personal touch to your wedding day:

RELATED: 5 Items Every Bride Needs On Her Wedding Day

Table numbers

Transform an otherwise boring yet practical element of your reception décor by personalising your table numbers. Fun options include grouping each table as a destination you have both visited together that holds a special meaning to you; eg, table number 1 = Your first holiday together, table number 2 = Your first date location, table number 3 = your honeymoon destination. It’s a great way to spark discussion among your guests and adds a personal touch to your reception.

Fun favours

Sugared almonds can seem a little generic as favours, so break free from tradition and choose favours that reflect you as a couple. It could be miniature bottles of your favourite wine, scented candles that remind you of your favourite vacations, or even homemade treats that you made together. Personalised favours are a great way to leave a lasting impression on your guests once the wedding is over.

Bespoke wedding bands

A great way to celebrate your engagement is to share the unforgettable experience of designing your wedding bands together. Artisanal jeweller, Michael Fallah (also known as Mick the jeweller), gives couples the opportunity to visit his workshop in Sydney to watch him melt down the yellow, rose or white gold he will be using for their wedding rings in person. It’s a great chance for couples to bring in their wedding photographer or videographer to capture the once in a lifetime experience to include in their wedding album and video.


Arrange with your caterer to incorporate a family dish or signature drink into the reception and then give out the recipe along with your favours. A great way to involve your family is to use your bridal shower as an opportunity to request dessert recipes from your relatives and surprise them at the reception with a dessert buffet featuring their delicious recipes.


Create a simple, but unique hashtag that makes it easy for your guests to upload any photos they take on the day. It’s a nice way to encourage guests to share their favourite photos, while also making it easy for you to track down all the photos. Make sure to include information about the #hashtag and any social media requests with invitations and programs so that you’re guests are aware.

Quick and Easy Pina Colada Recipe

Who can resist a sweet pina colada by the pool on a hot summers day? Rather than buying a pre-made mixture which probably doesn’t live up to the real thing, we’ve found the next best thing. A recipe which takes less than 5 minutes to create, and tastes absolutely delicious!

Enjoy with friends, or make yourself a sneaky drink the next time you’re lusting after something sweet.

RELATED: Christmas Party Cocktail Ideas


100ml rum

180ml fresh or canned pineapple juice

50ml coconut cream



  1. Combine the pineapple juice, rum, coconut cream and one cup of ice into a blender.
  2. Blend on low-medium until all of the ingredients have combined. Serve in a cocktail glass, and garnish with a piece of pineapple or sweetened cherry.

Image via The Starving Fish

TGIF Green Fairy Applesinth Cocktail

Perfect for any summer occasion, signature serve ‘Applesinth’ is a refreshing mix of Green Fairy, cloudy apple juice and lemonade garnished with a lemon wedge. The history and intrigue of absinth continues to play a prominent role in any absinth cocktail and this signature serve is the perfect mix of tradition and innovation.

RELATED: TGIF Champagne Margarita Recipe

Derived from botanicals including wormwood, absinth was originally used for medicinal purposes dating back to Ancient Egyptian times before it became associated with witchcraft.

With many absinth recipes destroyed during 15th century European witch hunts, the strong revival of the spirit wasn’t until the late 19th Century during the French Revolution. Absinth was adopted by the wealthy who survived the turbulent rise of the poor and was drunk by the French Foreign legion as a symbol of patriotism.

Throughout history many prominent creative figures were renowned absinth drinkers including Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway. Hemmingway’s passion led him to develop his own absinth cocktail ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and all of these creative thinkers firmly believed that absinth was responsible for allowing their imaginative brilliance to flourish and create artistic and literary masterpieces.

In 1915 absinth was banned across much of the world due to myths about hallucinogenic qualities. Green Fairy Absinth was the first legal absinth containing thujone available in Australia since the ban on absinth was lifted only recently.

A timeless beverage continued to be enjoyed the traditional way, from a glass fountain trickled over sugar cubes, it is time for a new generation to experience Green Fairy. The Applesinth cocktail is the perfect reintroduction to this mystical spirit.

How To Host A Party And Still Have Fun

How would you like some professional hosting tips for your next social gathering? I’ve organized and hosted a bucket load of social events in my time, ranging from big community functions to small backyard barbecues. The planning guidelines are basically the same, so if you use the tips I’m about to share with you, regardless of the event, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself instead of being a slave to the festivities.

Now the first thing you need to organise is a plan. Jump on your computer, get a spreadsheet happening and brainstorm. There are some templates available online or make up your own. Do you want decorations, music or a bar area? What about the food? Jot down everything you want at your party, right down to the smallest detail like bins, serviettes and ice. Make sure you have extra columns to mark off when items are ordered, organised and completed. Print this out and remember to keep it updated as you go along. This will not only be a guide for you, but will also help you allocate jobs to willing volunteers.

Next is the shopping list. Shopping for parties or events takes valuable time which you no longer need to spend in store. Jump online, order all your items and get everything delivered. It might cost a little extra but when you consider the time factor of physically sourcing everything, trust me, it will be money very well spent.

Now that you’ve got that organised, if the event is at a private residence, head back to the computer and get some decorative signs made up that lead to the toilet and bathroom. Plus, if you have areas you want to keep off limits, put together some no entry signs. Get creative and make up signs for the bar area, coat storage, can and bottle recycling or whatever you like. These will add to the decorations if you spruce them up a bit.

Speaking of decorations, make sure you get these delivered about a week before the event. If the event is in your home, spend some time each night setting the house up. Arrange the bar area with large containers for ice, plastic cups, etc.

Set up the music and speakers. Using an iPod, mobile phone or something similar is easy. Get your playlist together and make sure you have enough tunes to flick on the music before your guests arrive and forget about it. Just a tip, guests may ask for music requests during the party. Unless you want to start being the DJ for the entire event, let them know that the music is preset. If you have a volunteer who is willing to DJ and take requests, that’s great. Allocate the job to them if they are willing.

Now if the party is at home, don’t be too fussy about having a spotless house. It will look a lot worse afterwards. If you are concerned your home isn’t being presented the way you’d like, give it a quick vacuum and dust as you set up. Mopping floors are a waste so don’t bother.

If the event is at a different location, enlist the help of others to assist with decorations and preparations. Ask the facilities staff or management if you can have some time to prepare before the event. Most will agree to allow you limited access so plan decorations which you can set up within that time-frame. If you are having balloons, order a cheap pump with the decorations or opt for helium. Blowing up balloons is time consuming and there are easier ways to make it happen without running out of valuable oxygen!

The night before your party, prep any food which can be done early. Keep it as simple as possible and try not to make extra work for yourself. If possible have a reasonably early night and get a good rest.

The day of your party all that should be left to do is the final food prep. Cook anything which needs cooking, get out serving implements and you should basically be ready for an awesome event. If the event is at a catered facility you won’t have this concern. Spent some time during the day with your feet up relaxing and give yourself plenty of time to have a shower and get yourself ready to receive your guests.

Doing all the preparation prior to your party will really pay off. Instead of being the type of host who is rushing around ignoring guests, you can actually spend time with them and enjoy yourself. Plus, the more entertaining you do, the easier this gets. Save any documents you’ve created on the computer in a separate file and re-use them.

These tips and techniques are ultimately what professional event organisers do everyday. They plan, organise and prepare. It’s that simple! It doesn’t matter if it’s a small gathering like a BBQ, kids party or a big event like a wedding; these guidelines are super flexible.

Good luck and enjoy your festivities!

Image via spatrendonline.hu

3 Reasons to Invest In A Carpet Cleaner

If you have carpets within your home, you know it can be a challenge to keep them clean every day, especially if you have kids or pets. Not only should you keep your carpets in good condition to maintain the overall cleanliness and appearance of your home, but also for health reasons.

According to the ACAAI, dust mites are the most common cause of allergy from house dust and tend to live in pillows, mattresses and carpeting. Although regular dry vacuuming will remove the layer of dust on the surface, dirt and grime still exists deeper within your carpet, and the only way to effectively remove it is to give your carpets a good wash on a regular basis. Below are just three of the many reasons why you should invest in a good carpet cleaner:

Stain removal
Carpet cleaners are excellent for removing stains. Accidental spills happen all the time, especially if you have young children, have cats and dogs or regularly hold parties. If the spillages are not cleaned up properly and immediately they will leave a sticky residue that attracts dirt and results in a stain. Consider investing in some cleaning supplies from Click Cleaning.

Whether it’s from red wine, mud from outside or a piece of chocolate, you should apply your cleaner directly onto the stain, leave it to soak in for about five minutes and lift it with the help of a hand brush and by giving it a vacuum. As well as removing the stain, you can also be rest assured that strong odours and allergy inducing pollutants will also be gone.

Save money
Ultimately, one of the main reasons to invest in a carpet cleaner is to save you a costly carpet replacement sooner than expected. When you invest in a good quality carpet, it should last you for many years. Keeping your carpets clean and healthy will prolong its lifespan and save you money in the long run. If you have multiple carpets within your home, both upstairs and down, regular maintenance will save you forking out for them all at once.

Deep cleaning the carpet
According to the Daily Mail, new research has found that millions of Britons could be at risk of life-threatening diseases from their filthy carpets. The survey revealed that around 40 per cent of Brits wear footwear inside and less than one in five clean the bottom of their shoes.

It also found that 28 per cent of the UK’s population has had a pet vomit on the floor and 24 per cent have endured a pet leaving their mess. With this in mind, it is absolutely essential you deep clean your carpet on a regular basis. In addition to health and hygiene benefits, deep cleaning your carpet with a good carpet cleaner will also provide other advantages including revitalising dull flat carpets and restoring them to their original beauty. A clean and fluffy carpet will help to create a fresh vibrant atmosphere in any room of your home.

Top 10 Tips to Avoid Germ-Giving This Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching it’s important to remember that when celebrating among family and friends, germs are a gift no one wants to receive. It is a time of sharing and high spirits, but these useful tips will help prevent unwanted germs arriving and let you have a happy and healthy Christmas.

1. Wash your hands

Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food. In the rush to get everything ready don’t forget to do this simple step to stop germs from spreading.

2. Clean all surfaces regularly

Food preparation areas as well as food consumption areas are very susceptible to germs as bacteria can build up faster than people think. Germs that cause food poisoning can linger for days in the sink. Craig Jones, from Australian microfiber cleaning company White Magic wwww.whitemagic.biz, says that the kitchen sponge can harbour more germs than a toilet seat, up to 10 million bacteria per square inch!

3. Avoid cross-contamination of your food

Using different utensils for meat and other foods will help stop germs spreading. Ensure all your foods are prepared properly as harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw meat onto bench tops, chopping boards and utensils. Using microfibre cloths also helps prevent the spread of bacteria, as the White Magic Kitchen Surfaces Cloth (RRP $9.95) contains nano silver in the fibres that kill bacteria in the cloth within 24-28hrs.

4. Look after your fridge

In the heat of summer your fridge is already working overtime, then we add all the extra meals for Christmas lunch. Be sure to check your fridge is at the right temperature (below 5°C) to stop germs from growing. Also, don’t pack the fridge too tightly, the food will be a lot healthier if there is cold air circulating in the fridge.

5. Fully defrost your meat

Make sure your turkey, chicken or even prawns are fully defrosted before cooking and separate all your meat from other foods in the fridge.

6. Cook thoroughly

Make sure everything is cooked thoroughly as uncooked meat harbours unwanted bacteria. For example, don’t get too excited about the Turkey and take it out before its cooked through. Turkey should not be pink at all and the juices that run out should be clear.

7. Don’t forget the veggies

Food safety at Christmas is not just about turkeys and prawns, it’s important to peel and wash your vegetables as necessary because soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria. Washing with a vegetable brush, such as the Fruit and Vegetable Brush from White Magic (RRP $ 10.95), will quickly remove excess dirt and bacteria available at www.whitemagic.biz.

8. Look after your leftovers

Use leftovers safely. It’s horrible to waste food, especially at Christmas, so be sure to eat the leftovers within two days to avoid the spread of bacteria. Freeze any leftovers you know you can’t eat within two hours of cooking it.

9. Identify the contagious cousins

If a relative or friend shows up with the sniffles its best to avoid any physical contact, especially hugs and kisses, as this can cause infection and spread illness fast.

10. Have an eco-friendly christmas

Don’t overdo the chemicals as when cleaning with chemicals they will leave a residue – this residue may be harmful when consumed, come into contact with skin or eyes or when inhaled according to Asthma Australia. White Magic’s Microfibre Eco Cloths simply pick up the bacteria and then dispose the germs down the drain when the cloth is washed or laundered.

Worse than socks or deodourant, germs really can spoil your festive season, and remember if you happen to get sick this Christmas don’t be the one to regift!

For more information visit www.whitemagic.biz

TGIF Berry-Flavoured Ice Cube Cocktail

Warm summery weekends call for fresh, fruity and ice cold cocktails and what better way to enjoy than turning things up a notch and getting creative with this simple serving suggestion…

Serves 4


1 four-pack of Vodka O Craft in Strawberry, Cranberry & Basil

Ice cube trays

Three punnets of mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, cranberries)

Loose basil leaves

Glassware, straws and tools for serving, stirring and enjoying

Vodka O, cocktail, cocktail recipe,


  1. Cut up and sort half the mixed berries and basil leaves so that each piece fits into one cube in the ice cube tray. Fill with water as usual and set overnight.
  2. Once fruity ice cubes are set, choose your glassware for serving and place four to five cubes into each glass.
  3. Pour Vodka O Craft in Strawberry, Cranberry and Basil over ice and garnish with remaining pieces of fresh cut fruit.
  4. Stir with a fancy swizzle stick or spoon and enjoy!


Share your recipe ideas on social media using #vodkao or check out www.vodkao.com

Celebrate Summer with Aperol Spritz

All you need this summer is a group of friends, the sun, and a jog of Aperol Spritz to cool down after a long day in the sunshine. Italy’s renowned drink is teaming up with some of the coolest venues in Sydney to give you a summer you’ll never forget.

RELATED: Summer Beetroot Salad Recipe

In the lead up to the weekend, the Aperol Garden is the perfect post-work location to grab a drink and relax with friends and co-workers. Intricately detailed outdoor spaces adorned with fairy-lights and lanterns create a cosy atmosphere to relax with your $10 Aperol Spritz. Head down to the Goodwill Society, The Argyle, Campari House, and Merchant Osteria Veneta on the Terrazzo to make the most of your Friday afternoon in the sunshine.

On Saturday, enjoy some fun with friends and take part in the Aperol Barefoot Bowls which is also perfect for a first date! Both Paddington and Coogee Bowls are the perfect destination to perfect your aim and have some fun in the sun.

If you prefer to unwind on a Sunday evening instead, the famous Aperol Sunday Sessions are back by popular demand. Enjoy some music by your favourite local DJ’s one of these popular locations:

  • Bondi Icebergs
  • Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel
  • Café Del Mar
  • Royal Saxon
  • Fatto Bar & Cantina
  • Riverland

How To Design An On-Trend Space That Won’t Date

Interior design, like many other professions, has gone through a dramatic change. There was a time when design and colour trends from the fashion world would take at least a season before they would be interpreted in interior designs. In the past, an innovative use of materials would slowly work it’s way from design innovators to department stores, sometimes over years; and a colour or design trend might then remain in fashion for years. But in today’s fast paced world of instant gratification, Facebook, Instagram and short attention spans, those days have all but gone.   The moment a new product is launched or on the catwalk, it’s all over social media and it’s not long before imitations appear. So, does this mean you should not follow trends? That you can no longer have a fashionable space with longevity? Not at all! It just means you need to be a lot more clever about it.

RELATED: BMID In LA: Taking Inspiration From Where You Sleep

Clients often express to me their concern about the longevity of the design in their spaces, especially when it comes to the more expensive items. This doesn’t mean they should simply design a neutral space and just change out the throw cushions to keep on trend. As anyone who is aware of my designs will know, I love colour. In my opinion, there is no desirability in an interior that might be neat, comfortable and neutral but says nothing about the people who live there. To me, that look that says dressed to sell, inoffensive and lifeless. When selecting the colour scheme for an interior, I like to take cues from the architecture and the homeowners likes.

brett Mickan Interior Design

The picture above is a space I designed for a beautiful Federation home in Sydney’s inner west. This room definitely refers to the period of the home, yet is also definitely not a restoration. The highly detailed dandelion wallpaper is a contemporary design from Porters Paints, while the colour and level of detail are a wink to Federation. Although a crystal chandelier would probably have originally hung over a dining table in a home of this age, the crystal ball pendant light gives the room a contemporary feel and picks up on the dandelion design. In order to relate to the architecture I also selected furniture that used natural materials and have a hand made, “Arts & Craft” quality, such as the large oak dining table from Jardan and the beautiful teak and leather Kai Christiansen dining chairs.

Brett Mickan Interior Design

The result is a dining room that says I am current and also sit seamlessly within this home.

This room is in a 1960s Cape Cod-style house on Sydney’s North Shore. It was created in a the space built above the homes garage. The ceilings are low, the fireplace is off set to the room and there were no distinguishing architectural features. We adopted some current trends with wall moulding and white walls complementing the existing architecture of the house. By creating custom sized boxed wall details, we evened out the unusual space and created some architectural interest where there was none. Keeping the space all white created light and a seamless transition between the ceilings and walls, giving an illusion of height. The simple, ceiling hung curtain track allowed a longer drop of fabric, which also enhanced the height of the room. The plush grey wool rug defined the seating area and gave a cozy feeling in this large space. The final layer is a mix of period and contemporary furniture, some dating to the era of the house, placing this home well and truly within its era, but with no doubt that it is a contemporary.

Brett Mickan Interior Design

This master bedroom suite is situated in a magnificent home on Sydney’s lower North Shore and overlooks both the bush and the harbour. The owners wished to have a simple, monochromatic scheme that didn’t distract from the clean lines of the architecture of their ultra modern house. White walls and clean lines are the trend, however that doesn’t mean a stark, colourless and uninviting space. I simply turned the dimmer switch down, taking the myriad of soft hues found in the trunks of the surrounding ghost gum trees as my colour palette.   The walls are painted a grey / parchment colour and the magnificent pale sea-foam, linen drapes, sit quietly in the space. the drapes, that puddle to the floor, soften the lines of the room and create the most beautiful tented cocoon environment when they are fully drawn.   The natural wood floors, plush art silk rug, Italian linen upholstered chair and wool slip covered bed frame and head board add to the softening of the lines. Other furniture was then selected for its fluid and organic lines, like a cast metal side table from Bill Schofield and vintage mahogany side table with delicate flowing legs. What is created is a soft, inviting and timeless master suite that sits comfortably in this beautifully modern home. Anything but stark and cold.

So next time your designing your own spaces, take the trends you like and look at the architectural language of your home to find relevance. Good luck.

Homemade Sangria Recipe

Whether it’s made from red, white or even rosé it seems that everyone loves a little bit of sangria. Not only is this drink refreshing, but is filled with many tasty summer fruits which makes it seem good for you, right? Making your own sangria doesn’t have to be difficult – all you need is a punch bowl, some wine and add in your favourite fruits.

Red wine sangria recipe


2 (750ml) bottles of dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon or merlot are good options)

1 cup brandy

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup orange liqueur

Handful of strawberries, hulled and halved

3 oranges, thinly sliced

3 limes, thinly sliced

2 lemons

4 cups fresh arugula

1 can (375ml) lemon-lime soda


  1. Combine the wine, brandy, sugar plus the orange liqueur into a large punch bowl.
  2. Keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, then add the arugula. Arugula is purely optional, so if you aren’t a fan of the flavour, then skip this step.
  3. Then just add in the strawberries, lime, thinly sliced lemon and orange pieces to the mixture. Make sure to lightly mull the fruit, this will allow the fruits natural juices to infuse the wine.
  4. Cover up the punch bowl with plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge for 2-3 hours. This will allow the flavours to completely mix together, then add ice before drinking.

White wine sangria recipe

White wine sangria isn’t uncommon; however it isn’t nearly as popular as its red counterpart. A refreshing beverage which is light and tasty when mixed with sweet summer fruits.


1.5L white wine

¾ cup peach pucker

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Handful of strawberries, sliced

1 green apple

1 can (375ml) lemonade

½ cup of ice


  1. Firstly pour the wine and the peach pucker into a glass pitcher. Mix until they have completely combined.
  2. Chop up the apple (making sure to remove the core) and add it into the mixture together with the strawberries, and lemon slices.
  3. Look at the label of the white wine, and try to stay in the same family of fruits. In this case, not many fruits were used so you can still taste the wine in its mostly original state.
  4. Pour in the lemonade – this will make the sangria sweet, and will also mesh well against the fruits. Pop the pitcher into the fridge for 2-2.5hrs.
  5. Add half a cup of ice before stirring with a wooden spoon, then serve.

Recipes and image via Gimme Some Oven, Mac and Molly

5 Ways To Avoid The Dreaded Red Wine Lips

Winter has hit and the odd glass or two of red wine goes down a treat in the chillier weather. A few glasses of wine later and a quick trip to the bathroom, you notice your lips are stained with splotches of red and purple; you’re clearly suffering from a case of red wine lips. Anyone can fall victim to such a wine travesty from wine connoisseurs to the classiest of wine drinkers.

Let’s be honest, red wine lips are not pretty, nor do you want to blatantly admit to your boss the next day that you’ve had a big night on the red wine when he/she notices the red stains on and around your lips. The wine stain evidence can be hard to scrub off your precious wee kiss makers so here are 5 ways to avoid the dreaded red wine lips.

1. Constantly applying lip balm or lip-gloss is an easy one, as 9 times out of 10 you’ll have a stick of lip balm in the bottom of your handbag. By regularly applying the lip balm you’ll be creating a barrier between your lips and the wine, avoiding the stain. Just make sure to brush your teeth when you get home so all traces of red wine are brushed off of those too!

2. Red lipstick! If you can’t beat it, match it. This trick is perfect to cover up the evidence if you’re already well into the bottle of red wine and you have a spunky date across from you. You’ll look smart, sexy and your date will be stopping at nothing to get those lips closer to them.

3. Brushing your teeth, tongue and gently exfoliating your lips prior to drinking will smooth the surfaces of your lips and mouth to which wine pigments might cling. It’s not promised to last more than one glass, but it’s better than nothing. Plus make sure you do this tip at least an hour before you plan to drink wine otherwise you’re going to have some very nasty tasting wine! Toothpaste and wine do not mix well with each other!

4. This one’s a double whammy. Drink lots of water! The water will help wash away the traces of wine on your lips and in your mouth, plus it’ll also help lessen the wine headache the next day. If you have the option of sparkling water the carbonation in the water will help scrub those pearly whites even further.

5. Wine Wipes come in cute little compacts of 20 wipes and a mirror. The orange blossom flavoured wipes help to remove traces of wine on the lips and teeth in one easy swipe. The flavour of the wipes has been specially designed to not interfere with your palate during wine tasting too.

This article is written by Casey Ewers who is more commonly known for her wine blog, Travelling Corkscrew. If you need any tips & tricks on all things to do with wine, connect with Casey today!

5 Ways To Serve Tequila (Without The Lick, Sip, Suck)

You don’t have to be in Mexico to enjoy tequila a variety of different ways. Bypass the standard shots at the bar with our list of five ways to celebrate tequila properly, thanks to Tequila Blu.

Spiked Mexican hot chocolate
This spicy hot chocolate gets its kick from the Oaxacan chocolate that is traditionally used to make it and with the inclusion of agave nectar and fine tequila, like Tequila Blu, this drink screams with the taste of Mexico!

Serves 2


3 cups milk of choice

1 ½ bars of good quality, spicy chocolate

6 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp agave nectar

1 ½ shots Tequila Blu

½ heavy whipping cream or ½ cup water

Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Warm the milk in a saucepan on the stove.
  2. Add chocolate, cocoa and agave nectar and whisk to melt chocolate.
  3. Season with cayenne pepper.
  4. Pour into two large mugs, top with whipped cream and garnish with ground cinnamon.

Tequila and orange
When you think of drinking straight tequila you might jump to thoughts of lime and salt, a seedy nightclub and a bad hangover… but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Why not try something different like the Tequila Blu Citrus Harvest?


45 ml Tequila Blu

Slice of fresh orange

Vanilla Sugar

Or try making a tequila and orange granita:


1 ¼ cups water

½ cup sugar

juice of 7 oranges

6 tablespoons of Tequila Blu


  1. Combine 1 ¼ cups water, ½ cup sugar (or agave nectar for a more Mexican twist), juice of 7 oranges (2 1/3 cups approx.), and 6 tablespoons of Tequila Blu, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour into a baking pan and place in freezer until frozen, and then use a fork to break up the ice before re-freezing until solid. Continue to break up ice crystals with a fork every 20 minutes until the mix becomes slushy. Spoon into glasses and garnish with orange slices.

Margarita ice cream


125 ml lime juice

2 tablespoons tequila

3 tablespoons Cointreau (or triple sec)

150 grams icing sugar

500 ml double cream


  1. Pour the liquid ingredients (lime juice, tequila and Cointreau) into a bowl and stir in sugar until it is dissolved.
  2. Add cream, whip til it becomes think and smooth but not stiff!
  3. Place in an airtight container and freeze overnight.

Tequila poured over sorbet

This one is an easy twist on an old favourite.
Place a few scoops of lemon, lime or berry sorbet in a glass with a salted or sugar coated rim, and drizzle with tequila for a deconstructed margarita.

Edible strawberry and tequila bites


Large strawberries (amount required depends on how many shots you plan on making)

1 x packet of jelly (choose a flavour that will go well with strawberries)

Tequila Blu


  1. Prepare your strawberry cups first.
  2. Chop off the top/green part of the strawberries and hollow out to create a cup or mould. If your strawberries are large enough you may like to cut off the bottom, just enough to make the strawberries able to stand up on their own but be careful not to cut through to the hollowed out middle.
  3. Follow instructions on the packet to make your jelly, substituting ¾ cup of water with tequila. We suggest preparing the jelly in a jug so it is easy to pour into the strawberry cups.
  4. Once you have made the jelly liquid, fill the strawberry cups and place in the fridge until jelly is set. If your strawberries aren’t able to stand up, an empty egg carton will make a great tray. You can experiment using oranges and other fruit too!

Discover these tips and more recipe ideas at facebook.com/tequilabluaustralia or share on Instagram @Tequila_Blu #tequilablu.

Q&A with Celebrity Chef Ben O’Donoghue

The festive season is a time for celebrating, entertaining, cooking and of course, the dreaded cleaning-up. As a busy family man, celebrity chef and Fairy ambassador Ben O’Donoghue shares what’s on his Christmas menu this year, and his handy tips and tricks to help get you through this fun but busy time of year.

What are you cooking for Christmas this year?
A Bangalow pork ham from my butcher and loads of prawns and oysters – simple and fresh!

What are your best tips and tricks for stress-free entertaining over the holiday season?
For the food, develop a menu plan. Get everything you need ahead of time and also keep it simple.

For the enviable mess aftermath, make sure you have some Fairy Platinum in the cupboard, which cuts through grease in one wash.

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
Tomatoes, chillies, coriander and fish.

What are some foodie gift ideas that you’ll be gifting this Christmas?
Cookbooks and some quality produce, like good olive oil. Also, my new BBQ cookbook is out, Ben’s BBQ Bible, so all my relatives and friends will be receiving one this Christmas!

What’s coming up for you next year?
Hopefully we will get a TV show off the ground. My new restaurant, Billy Kart Kitchen in Brisbane has been keeping me busy but I will also look to start writing a new book.

What’s on your Christmas menu this year? Tell us in the comments!

7 Habits of Highly Stress-Free Hostesses

Entertaining season is in full swing, so luckily Babe Scott, the Lazy Hostess, shares her tips on how to host guests in style without having a nervous breakdown.

Excerpt from The Lazy Hostess by Babe Scott. Published by Random House, RRP $29.95.

1. Recruit a friend to play the role of sous chef
There is nothing lonelier than cooking solo, especially when you don’t know your left elbow from an artichoke. I never cook alone. It’s as much fun as a private joke. Recruit a friend with culinary talents to be your sous chef. Cooking with a friend turns the preparation itself into a social event. It means you will have someone to chop onions and share tall stories with as well as confer on the menu. He or she can also make sure you stay on course and don’t get distracted and incinerate the meal. They can also teach you all their tips and tricks, like making sure the oven is turned on.

Make sure you both taste everything so you can compare notes on flavours. Having someone else to consult will give you the confidence to add a little twist here and there to suit your own tastes. Spending time in the kitchen is also a great bonding exercise and you two, or even three, can share a spot of sherry to get in the mood before the guests arrive.

I guarantee you will learn more about your foodie friends in the time it takes to put together your finger food menu than if you had known them for years. There’s something about the camaraderie of the kitchen that inspires confidences. But, remember, what goes on over the stovetop stays over the stovetop.

2. Pre-plan the evening
More important that you have time to relax, do your nails and douse yourself with perfume. You want to look and feel perfectly edible. You don’t want to be outshone by the hors d’oeuvres.

I suggest preparing everything you can ahead of time. Any items you can pre-cook and freeze, do so on a rainy day with a friend. Then you can simply defrost and reheat them on the evening. It’s also better to spruce up your space and put together your party playlist at least the day before. And make sure at least a few items can be served at room temperature.

Make sure you have pre-thought everything else so you don’t have any last-minute panic attacks. The soundtracks and any sprucing up are also best done at least the day before. Make sure your kitchen cohort arrives early to help with the pre-heating and plating, and that you have a bunch of platters to put things on. This way, you will get to spend most of the day preening. If you do forget anything on the appointed evening, just pour yourself another drink and don’t worry. Throw up your hands and let someone else take care of it.

3. Delegate like a true diva
Friends love showing off their talents, so make sure you avail yourself of any skills they might have.  Make sure you delegate someone the role of official photographer. There is always some friend who thinks of themselves as an aspiring Mario Testino or David Bailey who will enjoy taking paparazzi-style snaps. Being the group happy-snapper is a great ticket to popularity as everyone (or at least all my friends) loves posing. This way you should have some great photos to mount on your wall of infamy and also to put in your party scrapbook later.

Palm off whatever other tawdry tasks you can too. For instance, you might have a friend who is great at decorating, so get her to help you create a festive atmosphere. Some other acquaintance may have a fantastic CD collection . . . you follow my drift. Delegate like a cocktail-party diva. This way everybody gets to feel like part of the event and his or her respective talents get recognised. Just make sure you point out and applaud each contributor’s efforts at some point during the evening. This also gives them plenty of talking points and gives you a good excuse to raise multiple toasts.

4. Serve an icebreaker signature cocktail
Nothing kickstarts a party better than serving your guests a signature cocktail at the door. It’s like giving them a dose of rocket propellant. It loosens people up straight off the bat and creates a great icebreaker by giving them something to talk about. It also adds a touch of pizzazz.

Make up a fabulous name for your libation that helps set the right tone for the evening. A good trick is to give it a slight twist and name it after yourself – for instance, the ‘Janetini’. This will lend it a little of your sparkling personality. Or call it something seductive like the ‘Sexytini’ and tell everyone this magical mix is an ‘aphrodisiac in a glass’. Nothing like the power of suggestion. And everyone can blame your mystical potion later for their misbehaviour.

5. Set a dress code
Another way to set the right tone straight off is to have a dress code. It’s all about flaunting our frocks and putting on the ritz. I like to pretend I am Princess Margaret holding court on the island of Mustique, or I will take fashion inspiration from Ginger Rogers or my all-time favourite fashion icon (‘I’m not bad, I’m  just drawn that way’) Jessica Rabbit. Thank God for push-up bras and shapewear. Dressing up is half the fun. Otherwise, you may as well go out and eat a falafel at your local food stand. And where’s the romance in that?

6. Let the games begin
Running a cocktail party is akin to running a daycare for delinquent children. I generally find guests regress to an infantile state as the night wears on. Just like controlling a hyperactive class of under-fives, you must make sure your charges are adequately fed and watered or they will become fractious.

I find having some fun activities on hand also helps. For instance, buy a karaoke machine from Toys R Us and let your friends take turns warbling. You may want a giant hook to get some of the keener songsters to leave the microphone, but it’s guaranteed hilarity.

7. Start a cocktail party guest book
Finally, start a guest book that your friends can write in before they leave. Try to select the ideal time for them to make the most flattering comments. This should be when they are drunk enough to be generous with their superlatives but not so loose they can barely string a sentence together. I would suggest  the ideal time is after a few beverages but before they start bopping on the dance floor. Encourage them to put into words what a fabulous time they had and let them know that they can’t be effusive enough, that high-flying fits of hyperbole are more than welcome.

Self-styled kitchen vixen, Babe Scott, has just released her new book, The Lazy Hostess, the ultimate guide to getting you through the party season in style – without fuss. We think The Lazy Hostess would make a great Christmas present for your BFF, sister, mum or aunty.


The Lazy Hostess’ Easy Hors d’Oeuvres Ideas

Self-styled kitchen vixen, Babe Scott, has just released her new book, The Lazy Hostess, the ultimate guide to getting you through the party season in style – without much fuss. It’s packed with practical and sassy tips, like these easy yet impressive hors d’oeuvres ideas that are perfect for cocktail parties, summer entertaining or for when unexpected guests drop in.

We think The Lazy Hostess would make a great Christmas present for your BFF, sister, mum or aunty.

Excerpt from The Lazy Hostess by Babe Scott. Published by Random House, RRP $29.95.

If you scour the contents of your fridge and pantry you might well be able to create an instant cocktail menu supplemented by a few items bought from the corner shop. For instance, there are any number of foodstuffs you can pair with toasted baguette slices to create yummy crostinis. Chances are you will also have at least some of the ingredients to create if not ‘Pigs in Pashminas’ then another doughy delight.

If you have leftover soup or even canned soup, you can heat it up and serve it warm (not scalding) in shot glasses. If it’s a chunky soup, put it in the blender until it’s smooth so your guests don’t encounter any choking hazards as they ‘shoot their soup’. Just make sure whatever soup you serve is seasoned well. You can add a dab of sour cream to roasted red pepper, butternut squash, pumpkin or mushroom soup for extra zing.

Make sure you also put out whatever snacks you have to hand. They don’t have to be fancy. I like the faithful old standbys that have been around since my grandmother was getting soused at her sneak-a-spot-of-sherry quilting club: pretzels, salty roasted peanuts, almonds or any mixed nuts. You can also offer bowls of plain potato crisps, Ritz crackers, Twiglets, breadsticks, olives or any other goodies you have on hand. In a fit of desperation, I’ve even been known to put out bowls of Froot Loops.

Delicious Dips

You can also create delicious dips from leftover packet soup. Just add a tub of sour cream to almost any packet soup: for instance, onion, mushroom, vegetable or tomato. Simply blend the sour cream and soup mixture together in a food processor and add salt and pepper to taste. If you are running short of sour cream, you can substitute yoghurt, cream cheese or even mayonnaise for up to a third of the sour cream.

Serve these dips with leftover vegetables cut into crudites, which is a fancy term for veggies cut into strips and served with dip. You can use baby sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, and even spears of romaine lettuce.

There are also plenty of pre-made dips you can buy if you are pressed for time. Among my own personal faves are hummus, taramasalata and aubergine, but you can’t go wrong with any flavour that takes your fancy.

Just use your imagination and you won’t have to stretch your wallet or walk too far to create a mouthwatering menu.

Pimp your Popcorn

While plain old popcorn works a treat, you can add almost anything to it to give it a bit of zing. Just have a look at whatever herbs, spices and seasonings you have skulking around in your pantry and sprinkle them on to your popcorn after you’ve added some melted butter to help them stick.

The following are a few simple ways to give your popcorn some pizzazz.

First, you will need salted, butter-free, microwavable popcorn. Pop 225g of kernels for each recipe (which will make a party-sized bowl of popped popcorn). Then melt 60g of butter to coat it before adding the flavouring. As an option, you can also add 60ml of olive oil to lightly coat. Throw it all in a large bowl while warm and mix. You can also add some finely chopped chives or parsley to give some colour.

Parmesan Popcorn
40g grated Parmesan cheese
Toss with buttered popcorn

Mexican Style
1 tbsp fajita seasoning
Toss with buttered popcorn

Paprika Popcorn
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Toss with buttered popcorn

Curry Popcorn
1 tsp curry powder
Toss with buttered popcorn


Bring Back Cocktail Hour

Self-styled kitchen vixen, Babe Scott, has just released her new book, The Lazy Hostess, the ultimate guide to getting you through the party season in style – without much fuss. It’s packed with practical and sassy tips to ensure your parties are talked about (for all the right reasons), with everything covered from invites and playlists to who to invite and how to get rid of guests who just won’t leave!

We think The Lazy Hostess would make a great Christmas present for your BFF, sister, mum or aunty.

Excerpt from The Lazy Hostess by Babe Scott. Published by Random House, RRP $29.95.

I’m on a mission to bring back Cocktail Hour. This tradition is the height of retro chic and adds a little sparkle to even the dullest week. It’s the perfect excuse to put on your glad rags and rev up your blender. Furthermore, cocktails are the perfect social lubricant. If you want a passport to popularity, then hosting a semi-regular Cocktail Hour is the best way to do it. It’s also an ideal way to lump a bunch of people together without too much fuss. It will help you build and cement your social circle in a way that only an alcohol-propelled party can.

Cocktail Hour can be a fairly intimate affair or a big, thrashing, swinging-from-the-chandeliers event. It’s an opportunity to quaff cocktails and snack on finger food while mingling with other guests. In theory, cocktail parties go from two to three hours.

However, my soirées usually last long into the night. On my invitation I generally put a start and end time of 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., but I’m nearly always trying to crowbar the laggards out the door at well past midnight.

Since there are bound to be a couple of last-minute no-shows, invite one extra person for every ten guests who say they are coming. Make sure your friends also know you are not Ivana-berich Trump and to bring a bottle of plonk. Work out what you need and let each of your guests bring a contribution to the beverage quota. Remember: the purpose of this event is to up your fun quotient, not to land you in the ‘pour’ house.

A Sinfully Sexy Invitation
It’s worth emailing a proper invitation. Simply calling on the phone or sending a random text doesn’t convey a sense of occasion. Nor do the generic invitations you can find online. A gorgeous invitation will make your event stand out and will also convey right mood. The invitation should evoke old-school glamour and a sense of excitement. It should also clearly set a dress code. You want your friends to know they can’t just turn up in their flip-flops for a beer but should do their best to look foxy.

Spruce Up Your Space
Arrange furniture so that guests can move around the room easily and engage in a little impromptu dancing later on in the evening. Clear debris from whatever surfaces you can so guests have somewhere to leave their glasses and you have somewhere to put snack bowls. Make sure your guests can clearly see the snacks and offer them to people when you’re doing the rounds.

Set up a table for beverages, as well as a separate station for finger food. Preferably, position these stations on opposite sides of the room to cut down on people traffic. Make sure there is some seating around the sides of the room for guests who need to catch their breath from dancing like the possessed. Throw a couple of tablecloths over your stations to spruce them up. Put one or two citrus-fruit halves, cut side down, on the table for people to stick their used toothpicks into. If you don’t have enough serving plates, then improvise – cutting boards, picture frames, lightweight mirrors or even large books. You can also often buy beautiful vintage platters and serving plates from antique stores for next to nothing.

Decorative Touches
Decorate with some festive bunches of flowers if you like, even if you borrow them from the garden of a green-fingered neighbour. Vine leaves also work a treat and create a Bacchanalian effect. If you are an artsy-craftsy type and want to save money, consider creating vases out of old bottles by purchasing a bottle cutter. Or you could put a handy friend to the task. You can also make votive candleholders and even drinking glasses

Smooth Soundtracks
Music helps your guests unwind and gets them into a celebratory mood. A great soundtrack is crucial for to a memorable night. The tunes selected should ideally match your theme and the atmosphere you want to create. The best way to manage the music is to create a couple of playlists for the party so you can strike the right mood. The earlier one can be a bit more mellow and then as things rev up put on a party mix.


Spring Cocktail Recipes: White Chocolate Cosmopolitan

Chocolate heaven Max Brenner share a decadent twist on the classic Cosmopolitan cocktail – make a big batch in a pitcher this weekend and serve in martini glasses with wasabi chocolate peanut clusters.

Serves: 5


1/4 cup whole milk
210g white chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup Cointreau
1 cup cranberry juice
Juice of 1 lemon

Chocolate-Covered Peanuts

1 pinch wasabi powder
2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
45 salted peanuts

1. Bring the milk to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Cover and let sit until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Set aside until cool, about 20 minutes.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and lemon juice. Shake well and serve in tall glasses.

3. To make the wasabi chocolate peanuts, line a baking sheet with baking paper.

4. Mix the wasabi powder with 1 teaspoon water. Stir until smooth.

5. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl set over simmering water (a bain-marie) or in a bowl in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in the wasabi. Dip 3 peanuts at a time in the chocolate and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Serve along with White Chocolate Cosmopolitans.

For more information about Max Brenner or to shop online,  visit www.maxbrenner.com.au and for other Max Brenner recipes check out Chocolate: A love Story (65 chocolate dessert recipes from Max Brenner’s Private Collection).

Best-Ever Burger Recipe

What better way to celebrate the warm weather than with a burger cook-off! Start with our best-ever gourmet burger recipe, add your favourite condiments and have friends build their own ultimate burger.

For a really juicy burger, look for beef mince that’s not too lean, and always rest your meat after cooking (and don’t lose those resting juices, they’re great drizzled over a salad or mixed in with barbecue sauce for chips).


500g beef mince
2 tbsp McCormick Grill Mates Blazin Pepper Steak
1 red capsicum, deseeded and quartered
4 hamburger rolls, spilt
1/2 cup ready-made basil pesto
50 g baby rocket leaves
1/2 cup beetroot dip or relish


1. Combine mince with McCormick Grill Mates Blazin Pepper Steak seasoning and divide into 4 and shape into 10cm wide patties.

2. Heat BBQ or large frying pan over medium-high heat , spray with cooking oil and cook patties 3-4 minutes each side or until cooked through. Cook capsicums at same time on BBQ plate, until tender.

3. Toast hamburger buns, spread bottom halves with basil pesto, then top with meat patty, capsicum, rocket and dollop with beetroot dip. Top with remaining halves of each bun. Serve immediately.

Bacon? Beetroot? Fried egg? How do you like your burgers?