Congratulations to this week’s winner Bronte, who emailed us this picture of a child’s bedroom with plenty of colour and pattern. She  wins $100 to spend at Temple & Webster – plus you’ll see her picture in tomorrow’s email!

Keep the entries rolling in – there’s not long to go now. It was a tough decision this week, and there are lots of honourable mentions below. You can see lots more on Instagram at the #collectcreatedecorate hashtag, on our Facebook page or on our Collect Create Decorate Pinterest board.

Ellie @petalplum shared a beautiful picture of her ceramics collection, along with the story of her family’s connection to pottery and her own dream to find a wheel and learn to create.

Say hello to Marge the cactus, the new family member for @emma_e_flint.

@abbie_melle’s pictures are consistently beautiful. This one was entitled ‘quiet’ and captured a peaceful moment perfectly.

Nothing more inspiring than a pile of interiors books, and we liked the way Tara @tdcreativeagency styled hers with a jade plant called Herbert.

The copper jugs casts a warm glow on treasures old and new in @sarz_m_’s capture of a mantel moment.

It’s easy to enter – just share your picture via Instagram or post it to our Facebook page with the hashtag #collectcreatedecorate or email it to editor@templeandwebster.com.au for your chance to win. Entries close on 29 August, and all the details are here.

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We put Editorial Director Karen McCartney to work shopping the entire Temple & Webster site. Here’s what happened, and a few of her picks. Shop all her favourites here.

There is nothing that is quite as much fun as curating a selection of favourite  furniture and decorative items from T&W’s current sales. It is virtual shopping at its best but with a purpose. When I see all the items pulled together it doesn’t fail to confirm what I love, as I am clearly a creature of style habit. The monochrome, the quirkiness and beauty of the animal kingdom, washed out blues, a rug with a smudge of  dusty pink and the enduring appeal of industrial furniture.

I like that there is something for every budget – but so seductive was the exercise I am now going back for real.

It is all in the crop. The joy of this artwork (above left) comes from the placement of the dog low in the frame. Irresistible. With so many bright and pastel cushions around there is also an undeniable appeal in the dark and moody. This cushion (above right) works with grey linens and stone coloured cottons – but pastels need not apply.

This drum-shaped ottoman (above left) with its muted grey tones, works equally well in a contemporary and a traditional setting. This interpretation of a peacock (above right), with its artfully blurred shades of blue, contrasts the smart white frame.

This subtle dip-dye treatment (above left) in a soft dusty blue, on a stone coloured base, introduces a trend that works with solids colours and patterns alike. This urchin shaped ceramic form (above right) is not only a wonderful organic ornament but it lights up with a soft glow.

These charming plates (above left) would look as good on a wall as on a table. Repetition is a successful decorating trick and a group of nine or twelve would make a statement. A soft geometric print (above right) that takes its cue from an abstracted flower ensuring it becomes a timeless design that is right for now

Shop the Karen McCartney collection today.

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Jono Fleming took advantage of our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sale event to create a sponge cake with a difference…

You just can’t beat the classics. Relaxing on a classic chair, listening to classic rock, and cooking classic food. Sometimes good old-fashioned recipes are the best way to approach cooking. You can’t beat your favourite meal, whether it be spag bol or roast chook, and when it comes to dessert, there’s nothing more classic than a good sponge cake.

That being said, there’s no rule that classic has to be boring. The beautiful Wedgwood china puts a new spin on the classic tea set, with bold fresh pattern and vibrant colour, so I’ve shaken up a classic sponge with a bit of colour and a new, on-trend ombré look.  It’s a simple dessert, but the custard, cream and cherries (you could also use berries) take it up a notch to something a bit special. Call it classic, with a twist.

Ombré Sponge Cake with Custard and Cherries

Ingredients (makes 8 – 12 mini cakes)

Sponge cake

500g self raising flour
500g butter, at room temperature
500g caster sugar
8 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
red food colouring

Custard

2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped
Rind of one lemon
4 egg yolks
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

Whipped cream and cherries to finish

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Measure out all the sponge ingredients into a large bowl and mix with an electric beater till smooth. Divide the batter evenly into three bowls. To the first bowl, add a few drops of red food colouring and stir until the mixture is a pale pink. To the second, add a few more drops and stir until the mixture is a darker pink. To the third, add even more drops and mix until you have a vibrant pink colour.

Grease three baking trays and spread each mixture into a separate tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sponge is baked through. Use a knife or skewer to test the middle of the sponge; if it comes out clean it’s cooked. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

While the sponge is baking and cooling, make the custard. Put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla beans, pod and lemon zest and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour until pale and thick.  Pass the milk mixture through a fine sieve to discard any larger bits (like the vanilla pod) and pour over the egg mixture, whisking continuously (an extra set of hands helps at this point). Once the mixtures are combined, return to a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat, or until the custard thickens. Make sure you stir continuously; when the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, you know you have the right consistency.

With an egg ring, cut out little circles of sponge cake and starting with the darkest pink as the base, place a layer of custard in between each layer, going dark to light. To finish, top with whipped cream and some cherries.

Follow our Dish of the Day Pinterest board to keep track of all Jono’s recipes and styling.

Shop for classic Wedgwood from our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sale event

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Sally Webb is an award-winning journalist, has authored several Lonely Planet books and, in possibly her most impressive achievement, has travelled extensively with her children Lulu and Archie. Her new book Travel Without Tears includes 645 ideas to help you take on the world with your family – here, Sally shares the 10 questions she’s most often asked. We have 3 copies to give away – for your chance to win, leave us a comment telling us about your worst travel experience with kids. Full details below.

Does the thought of taking an overseas flight with your kids instill feelings of terror rather than joy? Is the idea of a lengthy family road trip something you simply cannot contemplate? You’re not alone, but it shouldn’t be this way. Travel teaches children (and their parents) about other cultures, exposes them to historical wonders, and helps them understand the fragility of the natural world. Travelling also builds resilience and life skills that kids never get in their day-to-day lives. And of course it allows the whole family to spend quality time together. Travelling with your children also allows you to see the world through their eyes. Kids have a unique way of looking at places, people and experiences and as parents we can benefit from their freshness of vision and enthusiasm. You never get first impressions of a place twice but you do get a bit of a second chance if you’re doing it with your kids.

Here are some of the most frequently questions about travelling as a family.

1. What’s the right sort of trip for my family?

For some it might be a simple beach holiday not too far from home, for others it’s the lure of culture and fine food in a European city or the hectic buzz of an Asian marketplace. Think about the age and stage of your kids, understand their physical abilities and plan accordingly. Also ask yourself what type of trip you want – it’s your holiday too.

2. Hotel or apartment – what works best?

Choose your accommodation carefully. Having kitchen facilities is a huge bonus for families for preparing snacks and meals. Apartments are usually much more affordable than hotels when there are several children. Also think about room configurations. Do you need interconnecting rooms or a separate sitting area where you can be comfortable when a baby or toddler is having a daytime sleep?

3. How do I get my kids engaged with the destination before we go?

Spend time talking about where you’re going and researching the must-see sights and then get your kids to nominate the things they want to do. Books – including guide books written specifically for kids – and movies can be a great introduction.

4. How do I keep my kids healthy when we’re away?

Staying healthy starts well before you leave home. Consult your GP or a specialist travel doctor and make sure you have the necessary vaccinations. Understand the health risks of the country you are travelling to – can you drink the water or even clean your teeth with it? – and make sure the children understand them too.

5. What’s the one essential item I should I pack?

The most important item to pack is a sense of humour. After that, a collapsible, lightweight umbrella stroller can be a godsend – it doubles as a highchair and they can sleep in it too. You can’t really travel extra-light with babies and toddlers but beware of overloading yourself too. It’s tricky to manage stairs and stations when you’re dealing with luggage, prams and holding onto a toddler’s hand.

6. Babies often cry on flights. How can I avoid this?

The change in air pressure can be uncomfortable for everyone but for little ones who don’t know why it’s happening, it can be very upsetting.  Swallowing helps the ears equalise, as do chewing, yawning, and “popping” the ears by holding your nose and gently blowing out. If you are breastfeeding do it as the plane takes off and again when it starts descending. Otherwise, give your baby a bottle and encourage young children to have a drink.

7. What’s the best way to occupy kids on a long flight?

Don’t rely on the in-flight entertainment to occupy your children for the whole flight. For a start some airlines and aircraft don’t have much that’s appropriate for kids.  Bring plenty of books, especially interactive ones for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Raid the $2 shops for compact toys that you can produce one by one during the flight when boredom and fatigue kick in. Wrap them up; the unwrapping kills time and adds a further element of surprise. Load up the iPad with favourite games or movies, and bring child-sized over-ear headphones that are less likely to slip off.

8. What’s the best way to pass time on a road trip?

Bring out the old-fashioned car games, such as “I spy” and “Who Am I?” which can give you a real insight into your children’s developing vocabulary or their understanding of popular culture and current affairs. Stack the iPod with a variety of playlists. Beware of overdoing the baby- or toddler-specific music; the Wiggles on loop will drive you mad. Audio books come into their own on road trips. Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and Geoffrey Palmer reading Roald Dahl’s BFG are brilliant.

9. My kid’s a fussy eater. What happens if she doesn’t like the food?

Travelling with fussy eaters can be a challenge. Children will invariably eat if they are really hungry, and even if your child goes off their food for a few days, or is extremely picky, it is unlikely to have major health implications. Fill them up on rice, pasta, bread and other staples, offer fruit, and take advantage of hotel breakfast buffets to fuel them up on familiar cereals, pastries and eggs.

10.How can I ensure the kids don’t  forget the experience?

Get school aged kids to make a travel journal, where they write regular entries and stick interesting pieces of memorabilia, such as bus tickets or menus. Set up a family trip website and get the children to pull it all together. Get the kids to make a movie or a slide presentation from the footage you’ve taken – there are plenty of apps available.

Visit Sally’s Travel Without Tears website where you can order the book ($19.99, or $9.99 as an e-book) and subscribe for trip inspiration and advice. You can also follow via Facebook

Leave a comment below telling us about your worst travel experience with kids before 5pm (AEST) Thursday 28 August 2014 to win 1 of 3 copies of Travel without Tears by Sally WebbYou must be a member of Temple & Webster to enter, and you may only enter once. We’ll pick our favourite comments and contact the winners via Facebook or email by Friday 5 September 2014. If we are unable to contact the winner(s) within 30 days we’ll pick an alternative winner. Good luck!

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Karen McCartney has pinned 25 well-styled shelves to a brand new Pinterest board. Here she shares 10 great examples, and explains why they work and what to avoid. If you need more storage (and who doesn’t), check out our Off the Shelf sale event.

Image via Pinterest

There is something infinitely pleasing about this combination of white, cream and biscuit coloured crockery. Open shelving becomes a decorative asset when you have the right things to display. Within the confines of this colour palette anything goes, and bowls can be stacked with plates, cups etc. This arrangement also has the benefit of sitting directly above the sink so is practical as well as visually pleasing. Beware of...bright colours creeping in

Image via Remodelista

Even a tiny, solo shelf can deliver a stylish combination of artfully placed objects. Consider tonal compatibility and make sure that the arrangement has a thoughtful composition. Mixing heights, forms and materials adds interest without overcrowding. Beware oflosing sight of the arrangement and it becoming a junk collection!

Photo by Mikkel Adsbøl. Styling by Bolette Kiær

Sometimes a simple, slim white shelf positioned high above a sofa is perfect for the placement of ceramics and small artworks. Note here how some of the artworks are hung and some just propped, and how the ceramics form a tonal cluster at the end of the shelf. The sofa, decorated with cushions, below, also has a linear treatment with bursts of earthy colour. Beware...muddling your cultural references

West London home by designer Ebba Thott, via House & Garden

A stylish interior that makes the most of the high ceilings with a bespoke bookcase that covers an entire wall including above the doorway. This visual generosity creates a strong decorative feature that is also extremely practical. Beware…losing the ladder

Image via String

The String shelving system, designed by Nisse Strinning in 1949, is something of a design classic. Its smart, adjustable design allows for a number of successful configurations. It is also a stylist’s dream as its simple form allows the objects to take on whatever character the room needs. Beware…over complicating your options

The home of Swedish stylist Emma Persson Lagerberg. Image by Petra Bindel.

In this Danish apartment a wall of floor to ceiling books makes a decorative backdrop. Instead of having two or three smaller bookshelves dotted around the house, combine into one large custom-made wall of shelving that houses everything from paperbacks through to large scale photographic books. Beware…not reading enough to fill the shelves

Image via Pinterest.

This approach to shelving combines the precision of the white man-made shelves, and pots, with the wild organic greenery. Not only is it a winner visually but use for everyday herbs and you have an instant kitchen garden. Beware…a heat-wave.

The Muuto stacked shelf system.

This irregular stacking shelving unit allows you to unleash your inner stylist as the variety of shapes creates opportunities to place books, objects, artworks and favourite vintage finds. It is a case of trial and error until you find the perfect visual balance. Beware…over-regimentation.

A Madrid apartment designed by Suzanne Sendín.

Well-styled, well-filled shelves with a touch of the pleasingly chaotic can bring a great energy to a room. It speaks of a life well-lived. The timber structure of the shelving is echoed in the choice of furnishings giving the room a coherence, and hint of control, that avoids the random. Beware…the random.

Image via Cote de Texas

A vintage storage cabinet can be piled with objects and still retain a rustic charm. The beauty of this shelving unit is that the transparency of the mesh doors allows you to see in but also creates an arena for the display of objects. By keeping the palette tonally tight – with light timber and white ceramic objects the busyness is overlooked. Beware…a toddler climbing up and pulling it over (it happens!)

Inspired? Find your own storage piece in our Off the Shelf sale event. 

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Lee Tulloch has written her way around the world, living and working in London, New York and Paris while contributing to international fashion magazines and writing several books. Her ‘luxe nomad’ lifestyle fits perfectly with her travel writing and she is the founder, with her photographer husband Tony Amos, of the online travel magazine Mr and Mrs Amos. Luckily for us, she was at home in Sydney just long enough to share a recent trip to beautiful Italy.  

I never have a ‘typical’ week. Although I live in Sydney, my work as a travel writer and author takes me outside the country about two weeks out of five. When I’m home, I’m either writing up the trips for Vogue Living, Fairfax Traveller or the web magazine I publish with my husband, photographer Tony Amos, Mr and Mrs Amos. As Mrs Amos, one part of the travel writing/photographer duo, I’m lucky I get to travel with my husband most of the time.  Well, I shouldn’t say ‘lucky’. We planned it that way!

In June and July, we spent five weeks in Europe, mostly in Italy. When we travel we are always working. Even though I get to stay in some really wonderful hotels, I’m rarely lounging by the pool. We have to shoot the hotel and destination, meet with hoteliers, research the history and culture of a place. Often, we only have two nights in a hotel before moving on to the next. In Italy, we worked this way from Sicily to Venice, without taking a break. This trip, I did get a couple of opportunities to dip in a pool, which you’ll see below. These are all my photographs taken on my iPhone.

This is Casa Angelina, at Praiano, near Positano – the first time we’d actually been to the Amalfi Coast. The hotel is perched on a cliff, like most everything there – our room had views to Capri (and not a bad view of Positano from the terrace.) The hotel is mostly pristine white, with a collection of amusing Murano glass sculptures by Mexican artist Sergio Bustamante adding shots of colour.

We took the fast train to Rome (excellent by the way), where we discovered a delightful new apartment hotel, Casacau, in a historic building close to the Trevi Fountain. (Alert – Tourist Central in summer.)  Casacau is more like a home, with only five suites, each done out in a mixture of mid-century and modern furniture. Every apartment is individually striking – the one thing they have in common is a vintage typewriter in each room. This is apartment 4. Once we’d closed the heavy door behind us, it was complete tranquillity.

Next, we hired a snazzy Mercedes and Tony expertly drove it out of Rome (I don’t drive) and along the white roads of Tuscany, where we stayed in a villa at the beautiful Castiglion del Bosco, a once-deserted village set on 4500 acres, much of it forest, which has been lovingly restored and developed by Massimo Ferragamo, the US Director of the famous fashion house. The property also has a winery that produces exceptional Brunello: stay in a multi-roomed villa in the middle of the vineyards if you have the wherewithal. I managed to sneak thirty minutes by the pool – hooray!

Catiglioncello di Trinoro is a village in the Val D’Orcia, my favourite part of Tuscany. American lawyer Michael Cioffi has been buying up houses and turning them into rental villas and a charming small hotel. A devotee of the arts, he has retrofitted the village’s chapel for concerts and created an art gallery and artist-in-residence program.  Italian architect Ilaria Miani has done the rustic interiors with impeccable taste. It’s absolutely gorgeous and in June the gardens were in full bloom. It’s high on a hill so there are amazing views of the valley from just about everywhere. There are few places like it.

This trip coincided with the opening of Portrait Firenze, a superb new hotel from the Lungarno Collection, which is part of the Ferragamo fashion empire. Our suite was so vast it had his-n-her walk in robes and a long terrace that was almost on top of the Ponte Vecchio. It was as chic as all get out, as they say.

In Florence we visited the Ferragamo Museum and shoe factory to watch an iconic pair of flats being made (still mostly by hand.)

Finally, we found ourselves ensconced in the 11-bedroom Villa F on Guidecca Island, Venice, thanks to villa agent Merrion Charles. It’s next door to the Bauer Palladio hotel and near the Belmond Cipriani. The Villa has eleven bedrooms and many grand public spaces plus a 3-acre garden with pool. Did I mention the butler, Robin? As chance had it, we had the €60,000 a night villa to ourselves. Individual rooms start at €1200 per night if you’re thinking of hiring it for a special occasion. Robin showed me a neat trick – press a button and the pool turns into a fountain. Swish or what?

For more, visit Mr and Mrs Amos or follow them via Facebook or on twitter @mrandmrs_amos. You can also follow Lee on Instagram @bymrsamos, or on twitter @missleetulloch

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Karen McCartney introduces Zuster’s American Oak & Glass vase set, our newest Object of Desire.

It is hard not to be drawn to Zuster’s clean, modern aesthetic, whether a beautifully crafted sideboard, a sofa backed in leather or their new accessories pieces. Zuster (sister in Dutch) is a family-run company that draws on its European heritage, while designing and manufacturing in Australia.

“This month we are celebrating our 20th birthday, and to mark the occasion we are delighted to offer this trio of vases to Temple & Webster members,” says Zuster managing director Fleur Sibbel.

Wilhelmina McCarroll has been designing for the company from the outset. “I take the same approach to designing the accessories as I do to the furniture,” she says. “Strong simple lines with the same handwriting. The accessory side of the business started because we struggled to find items which truly represented the brand.”

With the combination of American Oak and glass imparting the contrast of warm and cool, the appeal for Wilhelmina is akin to using contrasting colours in design. “The change of material or colour, used in the right way, gives the item its beauty,” she says.

The vessels are both the same and different, with the height and materials as a constant and variation coming through the three turned shapes that complement each other as a group or can be used apart.

Wilhelmina also loves the styling possibilities of the three forms. “They look great styled in a cluster of three in a hallway or lounge, amazing down the centre of a table with graded colouring in the flowers, or as a single with greenery in a bathroom or powder room,” she says.

And there are a few stylists in the T&W office who agree with her.

Acquire your own set today.

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Congratulations to Yvette @thestylistsplash! She entered her cushion collection for #collectcreatedecorate and we loved her mix of colour and pattern. She wins $100 to spend with us – more cushions, perhaps?!

We love your style, and we want more of it! Here’s a taster of our favourite entries this week, and please do keep them coming over the next fortnight for your chance to win. You can see all the entries so far on Instagram at the #collectcreatedecorate hashtag, on our Facebook page or on our Collect Create Decorate Pinterest board.

 Ioanna’s elegant hallway caught our eye with its simple yet effective style. It’s ready to be re-pinned on our Pinterest board.

Janine emailed us a pictures of her smart front door (you can see it on Pinterest). Before you ask, you can try Larkstore for the doormat.

@florencepas had a cold and said she was “faffing around in the house”. We like the results and her natural colour palette.

Bernadette made her new wall art collection herself – clever! Find this image on our Pinterest board with the other email entries.

@mrslaureneve shared a cute corner of her son’s room, complete with whale wallpaper and a giant stegosaurus.

It’s easy to enter – just share your picture via Instagram or post it to our Facebook page with the hashtag #collectcreatedecorate or email it to editor@templeandwebster.com.au for your chance to win. All the details are here.

Posted in   Collect Create DecorateTags  2 comments

Portrait by Chris Warnes

Fans of the Daily Imprint blog will be pleased to hear it has just been re-launched by founder Natalie Walton, a Sydney-based writer and stylist, with a new roster of interviews with inspiring creatives. Since working at Real Living magazine as its deputy editor, she has been exploring how we live through a range of projects, including styling and writing about homes across Australia with partner & photographer Chris Warnes, via their editorial content agency Warnes & Walton. In case she wasn’t busy enough, she has also just launched The Indigo Crew, a blog inspired by her own family about living creatively with little people.

MONDAY

About two years ago I drove past this house and saw a “for sale” sign out the front. I wasn’t even looking for a new home, but the size of it and some magic words (“scope for renovation”, soaring ceilings”, “sunny NW courtyard with rear access”) piqued my curiosity. As soon as I stepped inside, I knew it was the next place where I wanted to live. A few months later, we moved in. One of the first spaces we worked on was the dining room. We installed floor-to-ceiling shelves and cupboards to store my books, magazines and props. While it’s still a work-in-progress, I love this room. I use it as my office, and every Monday after dropping my children off at school and childcare I come here to work in beautiful silence.

TUESDAY

Much of my life and work overlaps. At the moment I’m in the process of renovating my home, writing a few different interior features for magazines, sourcing for an upcoming Christmas photo shoot, and on the lookout for people to feature on Daily Imprint. So with a child in tow (long story), I head to Cult in Chippendale. I wanted to view the work of artist Sophia Szilagyi for my blog (and for my “one-day” art collection), and have a look at a few items for my shoot (and my home).

WEDNESDAY

It’s no secret that the fun part of styling – and renovating a home – is sourcing. This past year I’ve been accompanied on many trips by a friend who also works in interiors, Christina Anasta. While we’re working on different projects (she’s been part of the team to put together the recently refurbished Coogee Pavilion, we gravitate towards similar stores and artists. Today I was helping her to create a blog, Inside Scoop. I get really excited about the possibilities of projects, and like to help others make their mark on the world. It’s why I use that tagline on Daily Imprint.

THURSDAY

Mondays to Wednesdays I tend to be based in my home office, a photo studio, or someone’s home for a shoot. So when I have my two young daughters on Thursdays and Fridays I try to get out and about with them, visiting art exhibitions and homewares stores or scouting potential homes for Warnes & Walton. That in amongst lots of baking and creative mess-making at home. Today’s visit was to Emilie Costechareyre from Elvis Et Moi. It was another one of those win-win scenarios. I got to visit her new home (Chris and I shot her previous place) and pick up some jewellery I had purchased a few days before.

FRIDAY

Many of the people who I feature on Daily Imprint I come across through my work as a writer and stylist. At the start of the year I was on an advertising shoot with producer Chris Hemmings. A little while ago he sent me an invite to the opening of his partner’s art exhibition. Sick with the flu, I wasn’t able to make it, but it turned out for the best as I got to meet Tania Mason a few days later and she gave my daughters and I a guided tour through Galleria Vicino in Potts Point, where her works are currently on show.

SATURDAY

Since we bought the house my husband often works on the renovation and general home improvements on Saturday while I try to keep our three children entertained. Today we decided to have a lemonade stall after receiving several bags of lemons from a friend a few weeks ago. My son loves making things and activities that he can get involved in, so it seemed like a fun idea. I decided to set up a website called The Indigo Crew to share these projects, and to use it as a space to celebrate creativity and the art of adventure in childhood. There is an instagram account too @theindigocrew.

SUNDAY

Ah, Sunday. Sometimes I get to sleep in (8am). Most of the time we have blueberry pancakes (brunch). And pizza is always on the menu (dinnertime). But other than that the day ebbs and flows with get-togethers with family and friends, and pottering around our home. More than anything, though, I enjoy it because it’s a day when we’re all home, and get to spend it together. Family life is a balancing act, but one I am happy to indulge.

Find out more and subscribe to inspiring daily profiles at Daily Imprint, and follow Natalie on Instagram @nataliewalton  

 

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Jono Fleming returns with a hankering for the elaborate home-baked cakes of old, and a modern day solution… 

No kid’s birthday party in Australia during the 80’s and 90’s was complete without a cake from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake book. Trains, popcorn ducks, jelly swimming pools with chocolate sticks as a fences – Mums all over the country slaved over elaborate creations, wishing all along their kids could have chosen the easy rabbit shaped cake.

Home made cakes seem to have gone by the wayside a little in these busy times, replaced by an easy transfer cake topper of brightly coloured cartoon characters or an expensive custom creation, which seems a waste when it will be demolished in a few seconds after it’s presented.

Today’s adorable range of cookie cutters and cupcake holders takes me back to a time of home-made goodies and licking the icing from the bowl as Mum decorated a cake. With my easy piping directions and a simple chocolate cupcake recipe (with an optional grown up twist) you can spoil the kids or big kids without having to slave away for hours or break the budget.  Plus with succulents booming in home décor, these cactus cakes are absolutely on trend.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cactus Buttercream Icing

Cupcakes:

Use your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe (here’s a basic recipe). If you’re pressed for time, a packet mix will do for bulk cooking for a party.

For an an adult twist, add ¼ tsp of chili powder, ½ tsp of cayenne pepper and ½ tsp of ground cinnamon to the recipe to add a spicy chili kick to the cupcakes.

Buttercream icing:

Ingredients

250g butter (softened not melted)
3 cups of sifted icing sugar

Method

Buttercream icing is so simple to make. Just place the butter in a mixer (a hand mixer will do as well) and beat until the butter is pale and creamy. On a low speed, add the sifted sugar, ½ a cup at a time, and beat until the sugar is mixed in and dissolved. It should be a light creamy colour.

Add just a few drops of a green food colouring, either the liquid or a leaf green gel. 3 drops will give the icing a nice cactus green colour. If you want, add one drop of blue to give it a slight aqua tinge.

Put the icing in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool just slightly.

Cactus piping

It is very important for the cupcakes to be completely cool before piping, otherwise the icing will melt and you’ll end up with a globby mess.

I used a No. 32 star piping tip to create the cactus stems; these are only a few dollars each and are available from most baking or cookware stores. Before you start, place the piping bag in a tall glass and fold the edges around the top. Fill the bag about halfway with the icing and push it down towards the tip. Don’t over fill the bag or it will get to hard to control and handle.

Step 1 – Twist the bag tight and using two hands, squeeze out a little dollop of icing in the centre of the cupcake.

Step 2 – With short even actions, pipe lines from the centre of the cupcake outwards to the edge, releasing the end with a quick flicking motion upwards. This way the icing will break from the tip and you’ll be left with a little upwards point on the end of the cactus stem.

Step 3 – Turn the cupcake and continue piping from the centre outwards until the top is covered with one layer.

Step 4 – Starting from the centre again, pipe a second layer outwards, ending half way down the cake, then a few final pipes in the centre to create more ‘peaks’.

Step 5 – To finish off, add a small sugar flower (available in the baking section of most supermarkets) to give a pop of colour.

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