Links I Love from November 2014

My favourite links from November 2014It’s only two weeks till Christmas – eek! I haven’t even started buying presents yet. I had planned to get in early this year and get my gifts sorted at the end of November but that didn’t happen! Oh well I had good intentions, maybe next year! While I continue to ponder what to buy I thought that I would share my favourite links from last month. So here are the Links I Love from November 2014!

As usual I am sharing the direct link so that you can go straight to the blog/website and have a look for yourself. However if you like the look of a link but haven’t got time to check it out now then I have also included a Pinterest pin so that you can repin for later. I love including the Pinterest pins in these posts because it makes it easier for you to visualise the link that I am sharing!

This month’s post has got a few Christmas links but I will start with the non-Christmas themed links first! And as usual I will start with food links! Maybe I should have a food themed links I love post because there are so many great recipes shared each month!

 

We have lots of home-grown potatoes that are ready to eat and we are always on the lookout for new ways to cook them. I saw these Crispy Smashed Potatoes at Bake Play Smile and I can’t wait to give them a try!

 

I like most donut flavours but cinnamon sugar ones would have to be a favourite.  These Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts from Maureen at Orgasmic Chef made me want to get my donut pan out and get baking!

 

I think I have found a great Christmas morning recipe for this Christmas. I am going to make these Fruit Mince Muffins that I found at My Kitchen Stories! What could be yummier on Christmas morning than a muffin that has a fruit mince filling and a crunchy sugar crust!

 

If you are like me and not very good at artistic drawing then this Easy Image Transfer Method from Thrifty Decor Chick will really come in handy. This tip will come in handy for more than just Christmas decorations!

 

I love the idea of DIY Christmas decorations (although I rarely get around to making any!) and these Mini Wreath Christmas Ornaments from U Create looked so pretty. It includes tutorials for 3 mini wreaths that are small enough to hang on a Christmas tree.

 

I mentioned earlier that I still have to buy presents for Christmas so this list of Top Books for Christmas 2014 might come in handy! Books are a great as Christmas gifts so it was great to get some recommendations from Nikki at Styling You.

 

Finally I wanted to share this cute Christmas idea for the kids. I don’t have kids but if I did I would love to be able to surprise them with this Printable Letter from Santa. I thought it was such a wonderful idea from Lia at Lia Griffith.

 

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the great links that I found from November 2014! If you want to see more great links feel free to check out my Pinterest page!

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Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins

Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins - thelinkssite.comIf you are looking for an easy double chocolate muffin treat then these Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins are just the ticket! They can be mixed up and into the oven in a matter of minutes and the resulting muffins are nothing short of chocolate heaven!

I came up with this recipe by simply changing a couple of the ingredients in the recipe for these Sour Cream Lemon Muffins. I really liked the rich creaminess of the lemon ones but I wanted to try making a chocolate version. So I decided to substitute some of the flour with cocoa powder and swapped the lemon juice for milk.  And just to make them a little more decadent I added some choc chips!

I have to say that these are probably the best chocolate muffins that I have ever made because not only are they delicious, they also freeze really well. It’s perfect – when you need a chocolate fix you whip up a batch, eat a couple of muffins, and then freeze the left overs!

I haven’t had mine in the freezer for more than a few weeks but if you lift them out a couple of hours before you need them it is impossible to tell that they have ever been frozen. Wouldn’t it be great to have a batch of these in the freezer ready for when you have to take a plate to a BBQ or party!

At around 250 calories per muffin they are not necessarily a low calorie snack but everyone needs a chocolate indulgence every now and again – right? Chocoholics will really love this recipe so I will be pinning this to my Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate Pinterest board!

Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins
 
These Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins can be mixed up and in the oven in minutes, and the resulting muffins are nothing short of chocolate heaven!
Serves: 14
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups (210g) of plain flour
  • ½ cup (45g) of cocoa
  • ½ cup (110g) of sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (180g) milk chocolate chips
  • 1¼ cup (250g) of sour cream (I used light sour cream)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g of melted butter
  • ⅓ cup of milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C (350 °F) and line medium sized muffin pans with paper cases.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl and mix well to combine and break up any lumps.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the sour cream, eggs, butter and milk.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, do not over mix – only mix until no dry mix can be seen.
  5. Divide batter evenly into the muffin pan wells, filling them roughly ⅔ full.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Allow muffins to cool in tins for a few minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes
I found that 14 muffins was the right number for this recipe because when I tried using the mixture with only 12 muffin cases they overflowed a bit.

 

Yummy Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins - thelinkssite.com

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Bonsai Fertilizer: When and How to Use it

Tips for using bonsai fertilizer - thelinkssite.comI have been caring for three bonsai plants over the last couple years and I have really enjoyed watching them slowly grow and take shape. I have a trident maple, a ficus, and also a serissa foetida. I love the red/orange colour of the maple in the autumn and the serissa has tiny white flowers in spring. They haven’t grown dramatically since I have had them but that is probably because I have been very hesitant about using any bonsai fertilizer!

I know that bonsai are really just a small version of a regular tree/plant but because they are so different I haven’t given them any fertilizer. Basically this is because I didn’t want to do the wrong thing!

I have had some small pellets of slow release bonsai fertilizer for some time but I have not been sure about when and how to use it. I wasn’t sure how often to use the pellets and whether or not there was some special way that bonsai plants should be fertilized.

I know that with most plants you don’t fertilize over winter because you don’t want to encourage new grown when it is too cold. But I wanted to know whether there are any special rules that you need to follow when using bonsai fertilizer. So just the other day I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer and I did some searching online so that I could learn about using bonsai fertilizer.

The main thing that I found out is that bonsai plants need to be fertilized in a similar way to non-bonsai plants. For example a bonsai azalea should be fertilized in a similar way to regular azalea plants!

Once I found this out the thought of using bonsai fertilizer wasn’t near as daunting as before! However, there still are a few important points to consider when using bonsai fertilizer. Here are some of the general tips that I have learnt about using bonsai fertilizer.

 

Useful Tips When Using Bonsai Fertilizer

 

  • you don’t actually need a specialised bonsai fertilizer, any good plant fertilizer will do,
  • be aware of the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) ratios of the fertilizer,
  • nitrogen promotes shoots and leaf growth, phosphorous promotes root growth, and potassium promotes flower and fruit growth,
  • the majority of plants require fertilizer from spring through to autumn but you need to consider the individual needs of the plant that you have,
  • consider the stage that your bonsai is at; well established bonsai trees may require a different fertilizer mix to younger trees,
  • be careful not to use too much fertilizer; small frequent doses are best,
  • don’t fertilize sick bonsai plants,

 

I also found this useful video on YouTube which explains the basics of how to fertilize a bonsai.

Orlando BonsaiTV: Bonsai How-To – Fertilizers for Bonsai

 

Tips and information on how to use bonsai fertilizer - thelinkssite.comFor more information about how to use bonsai fertilizer check out these two helpful links:

 

Bonsai Made Easy: Bonsai plant food information! find out how to feed your Bonsai!

Bonsai4Me: Feeding Bonsai

 

 

I have small pebbles around the top of my bonsai trees so I put a few pellets of solid bonsai fertilizer just underneath the pebbles so that they won’t wash away whenever I water the trees.

 

 

 

 

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Low Calorie Lemon Coconut Slice

Low Calorie Lemon Coconut Slice - thelinkssite.comThis lemon coconut slice is heaven for any sweet tooth. It’s soft and sweet with a delicious lemon tang; no one will ever know that it is low calorie!

I have said it before but I will say it again – I love sweet lemon recipes! I don’t know what it is about sweet snacks and desserts with lemon in them but I just can’t resist them. I have a bit of a sweet tooth anyway, but when you add in lemon I just can’t say no!

Usually the thing that keeps me in check is the idea that these sweet lemony treats are loaded with calories. I am resigned to the fact that I can only have them sometimes – that they are an every now and again treat :(

That was until recently when I came across this yummy Lemon and coconut slice recipe at the Australian Healthy Food Guide website. I can’t believe that this recipe comes from a healthy eating website and that it only has 134 calories per serve. I think that I have just gone to sweet lemon heaven!

If you like a good lemon slice (like I do) you will not be disappointed with this one. It has all the flavour of a traditional lemon slice but with a lot less calories. This lemon coconut slice is lighter because it uses reduced fat butter/margarine and skim sweetened condensed milk. Also there is no generous icing layer like many traditional lemon slice recipes have. But, having said that, the lemon glaze that is drizzled over the top still has a sharp lemon tang.

This would be a great recipe for kids because there is no baking involved (only use microwave to melt butter/margarine) and because it is still nice and sweet they will love it.

As a certified sweet lemon addict I can highly recommend this lemon coconut slice. I am so glad that I have this recipe because I know that I will make it again!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Low Calorie Lemon Coconut Slice
 
This lemon coconut slice is heaven for any sweet tooth. It’s soft and sweet with a delicious lemon tang; no one will ever know that it is low calorie!
Serves: 20
Ingredients
Slice
  • 75g of reduced fat butter or margarine
  • 300g of skim sweetened condensed milk
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon (reserve 1 tablespoon of juice for glaze)
  • 150g of crushed Arrowroot biscuits
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • ½ cup of desiccated coconut
Lemon Glaze
  • 4 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Line a 17cm x 27 cm (7 x 11 inch) slice tin with baking paper.
  2. Place butter or margarine and sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave safe mixing bowl and microwave on medium power for 2 minutes or until the butter/margarine has melted.
  3. Add lemon juice and zest (don’t forget to reserve a tablespoon of juice for the glaze) and mix until smooth.
  4. Add crushed biscuits, rolled oats, and coconut and mix well to combine.
  5. Press into prepared tin.
  6. To make the lemon glaze, combine the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl and then drizzle over the slice.
  7. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until the slice is completely set, and then slice.

 

Yummy low calorie lemon coconut slice - thelinkssite.com

 

 

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Links I Love from October 2014

My favourite links from October 2014 - thelinkssite.comIs it just me or does it feel like the closer we get to Christmas the faster the weeks go? I can’t believe that we are almost up to the middle of November already! Before we get too much further into November I had better show you some of the great links that I found online from October 2014!

As usual the links focus on simple everyday things that cover interests such as crafts, gardening, and of course baking (I spend too much time looking at food blogs!). I love looking at these types of blogs because they pretty much cover the things I like doing!

So that I can provide a picture with the links (without stealing anyone’s photos) I always include a Pinterest pin for each link. That way you get to see what I am talking about and you can also ‘Pin it’ for later if you wish, as long as you have a Pinterest account. Alternatively, if you want to go straight to the content then I will also provide the direct link for that as well!

Anyway, here are some of the great links that I saw during October 2014!

I thought I’d start with one of my weaknesses which is apple recipes. I love a good apple cake so this Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake from Lori from Recipe Girl really caught my eye!

 

I also loved the look of this Vanilla Bean Yellow Cake from Nicole at Or Whatever You Do. It just looks so pretty and reminds me of the cakes that my Nana used to make.

 

Now that the weather is warming up it is good to try out some no-bake recipes. These Coconut Caramel Pecan Bars that I saw at Gourmande in the Kitchen looked really yummy.

 

The last recipe that I want to share is for Chicken Cordon Bleu French Bread Pizza!  I saw this recipe at Six Sisters’ Stuff and it had my mouth watering!

 

If you are into gardening like I am you will appreciate a good water saving tip. Last month Anne at The Micro Gardener shared 17 Water Saving Tips for Container Gardens – that will definitely be handy this summer!

 

I saw this post titled 10 Fun Things to Grow at The Home Grown Country Life and was intrigued. If you like gardening then you should check it out; I have 7 out of 10 growing in my garden!

 

Easy DIY vases are also popular in this house so I had to include this DIY Colorblocked Twig Vase from Real Housemoms. I think this would also look good done in a bright colour.

 

Finally I wanted to share this really cool Wine Cork Bulletin Board that I saw at A Beautiful Mess. I like this one so much it has definitely been added to my to-do list!

 

Well that’s it for now; I hope you liked seeing these great links from October 2014! If you want to see more great links feel free to check out my Pinterest page!

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November Gardening Plus What’s Going on in My Garden

Talking about November Gardening - thelinkssite.comWow where has the year gone? Now that the days are getting longer and the weather is warming up it feels like Christmas and the end of the year are approaching fast! I can’t believe that October is behind us and it’s already time to get stuck into the November gardening jobs!

While the daytime temperature here these last few weeks has definitely increased we have still had a few really cold nights. Just when we think that we have used our wood heater for the last time the overnight temperature drops again and we have to start it up again. It’s hard at this time of year because it is too hot for a fire during the day but it still gets cold some nights. We even had frost forecast a couple of nights ago but thankfully that didn’t eventuate!

Despite the changeable temperature I really love this time of year because it won’t be much longer and it will be too hot to be out in the garden during the day. Our summers can be really hot which means that often the gardening has to be done early in the morning or in the evenings. It is great to be able to work in the garden all day during spring!

There seems to be so much that is happening in the garden as the weather warms up. I find it hard to get my inside jobs done because it is really great being out in the garden at this time of year!

Here are the November gardening jobs that I will be doing in the weeks ahead:

 

My November Gardening Jobs

 

  • monitor vegetable patch daily and water as required
  • mulch around newly planted vegetables
  • stake tomato plants as they continue to grow
  • deadhead roses to encourage fresh blooms
  • control aphids on roses using natural control methods
  • monitor drip irrigation system for leaks and blockages
  • clear leaf litter and twigs from gutters and around garden to prepare for upcoming bushfire season
  • protect fruit tree from birds as fruit develops
  • move pots of spring flowering bulbs that have finished to a cool shady area to die back before lifting

 

Our zucchini plants have been thriving in the warm spring weather! November Gardening - thelinkssite.comOne part of the garden that is not hard to get obsessed by during spring is the vegetable patch. Once you plant out some seeds it is so much fun to check on them every day and see if any have sprouted! During the last couple of weeks we have planted beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons. We have been watering the seeds and new seedlings everyday so that they are kept damp but our other more advanced vegetables are surviving quite well with a good soak every three or four days.

A new vegetable in our garden that I am really excited about is our zucchinis! I love zucchini so I can’t wait to harvest some home grown ones. We only have three zucchini plants, but I believe that they are very productive so that will probably be enough for us :)

We have been enjoying harvesting lots of our own vegetables over the last few weeks. I was very pleased with my crop of three nice big cauliflowers and we have also had a good harvest of silver beet, parsnips, and onions. A couple of days ago we even dug up some of our own potatoes and had them for dinner – and they were delicious! We planted quite a few so we won’t have to buy potatoes for a while!

 

Lots of yummy plums on the way! November Gardening - thelinkssite.comOur fruit trees are also loaded with fruit at the moment. Since we have not had a lot of rain over the last couple of months we have been giving them extra water so that the trees don’t get stressed. Even though the fruit is still very green we will soon have to start thinking about protecting the fruit from the birds. Only the other day we noticed that the birds have ‘taste tested’ a couple of the apricots!

Our fruit trees end up looking a bit silly in the lead up to Christmas and through January because we hang lots of shiny objects up to try and scare the birds. We have a stack of old CDs and aluminium trays that catch the light quite well and seem to spin and flap around in the breeze. I don’t know what our neighbours think!

Our lemon tree has also been flowering away over the last few weeks. We find that we get lots of lemons if we make sure the tree is well watered while it is flowering. It is only a small Meyer lemon in a pot but it provides quite a few lemons if we keep it well watered!

 

 

 

Alstroemeria plants add colour and bring bees to our vegetable patch! November Gardening - thelinkssite.com

Now that we are really utilizing our vegetable patch we have decided to incorporate some flowering plants to help attract the bees. We grow most of our vegetables during the spring and summer so we have tried to add some plants into the veggie garden that will flower over the warmer months. There is a happy wanderer creeper in our garden that has been there for years but it flowers at the end of the winter which is a bit early for most of our vegetable plants.

The salvia plants that grow in our front garden seem to flower for months and months so we now have one growing in a big pot in the vegetable garden. They can spread a bit so we thought that having it in a pot would be the best option.

We have added a patch of alstroemeria to the back of our vegetable patch and it seems to really like the full sun position. We plan to put in a couple more different coloured alstroemeria plants because they also make a great cut flower for arrangements.

The alstroemerias that are already in the vegie garden are already attracting the bees. Just the other day I saw a bee moving between the alstroemeria flowers and the tomato flowers!

 

Well I can’t wait to get out into the garden and get stuck into my jobs for November! If you want more November gardening inspiration check out the following links:

 

November Gardening in Australia:

 

Organic Gardener: What to do in November

Yates: November Gardening

 

For my northern hemisphere visitors.

 

November Gardening in the Northern Hemisphere:

 

Horticulture Guy: November Garden Tasks

Seasonal Gardening: Gardening in Autumn: What to do in the Garden in November

 

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Pumpkin Fruit Cake Recipe

Pumpkin Fruit Cake Recipe - thelinkssite.comPacked with plump, juicy fruit and sweetened with pumpkin and apricot nectar this Pumpkin Fruit Cake is a luscious snack cake that is almost irresistible!

These days most people can be placed into one of two categories; fruit cake lovers or fruit cake haters. I myself am very much a fruit cake lover! I grew up eating fruit cake as a regular afterschool snack and in my family Christmas just would not be Christmas without a traditional Christmas fruit cake!

Speaking of Christmas cakes, if you want a great Christmas cake recipe check out this Easy Mix Christmas Cake recipe that I shared a couple of years ago. I usually make this Christmas cake a few weeks before Christmas so that it is really rich and moist by Christmas day!

If however you don’t want to wait a few weeks to get a moist and tasty fruit cake then you need to try this pumpkin fruit cake. I came across this recipe on a packet of Sunbeam mixed fruit that I had in the pantry and decided to give it a try (see the original recipe here).

We still have one of our butternut pumpkins from our autumn harvest so I thought this would be great opportunity to try using it in a sweet pumpkin recipe. The only modification that I made to the recipe was to change the shape of the baking tin. The original recipe suggested using a 20cm round tin but I wanted to be able to cut it up into small slices so I chose the rectangular slice tin instead. As a result the fruit cake is not quite as high as it could be but I really don’t think that it matters – as long as it tastes good I say ;)

So if you can’t wait till Christmas to have a delicious slice of moist fruit cake then I can highly recommend you make this Pumpkin Fruit Cake!

If you count calories like me you will also be pleased to know that each piece of this pumpkin fruit cake is 192 calories (using My Fitness Pal to calculate calories).

Pumpkin Fruit Cake Recipe
 
Packed with plump, juicy fruit and sweetened with pumpkin and apricot nectar this Pumpkin Fruit Cake is a luscious snack cake that is almost irresistible!
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 500g of mixed fruit
  • 1½ cups of lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of golden syrup
  • 125g of butter
  • 1 cup of apricot nectar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of cold pumpkin, cooked and mashed*
  • 1 cup of sifted plain flour
  • 1 cup of sifted self raising flour
Instructions
  1. Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm rectangular slice tin.
  2. Place mixed fruit, brown sugar, golden syrup, butter, and apricot nectar into a large saucepan and stir it continuously over a medium heat until the mixture comes to the boil.
  3. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently for 10 minutes as you continue stirring.
  4. After 10 minutes remove from heat and add the baking soda. Stir the mixture thoroughly and allow it to cool.
  5. While mixture is cooling preheat oven to 160 °C (320 °F).
  6. Once cooled (saucepan is just warm to the touch) add eggs and pumpkin and beat with wooden spoon until smooth.
  7. Add flours and mix well to combine.
  8. Place mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool completely in tin before slicing and serving.
Notes
* 300g of raw, peeled pumpkin was enough to give me one cup of cooked mashed pumpkin

 

Pumpkin Fruit Cake - thelinkssite.com

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DIY Solar Halloween Lights

Easy DIY Solar Halloween Lights - thelinkssite.comHalloween is not a huge event here in Australia although it is getting more and more popular each year. We haven’t made any Halloween decorations at our house in the past because we don’t get any trick or treaters where we live – the distance between houses is a bit big for the kids probably! But I got thinking about Halloween decorations recently when I was out at the hardware store and saw that they were selling solar Halloween lights.

I love using solar lights for decorations; I made my own solar Christmas lights design last year! The solar Halloween lights that I saw at the hardware store were selling for around $2 each and most of them seemed to be based on a carved pumpkin head style. So I got thinking about the solar lights that we already had at home and decided that I could make my own solar Halloween lights. We still might not get any trick or treaters this year but we will have some Halloween lights ready just in case!

If you are like me and have solar lights that have a twist off top then you can easily add your own Halloween cut outs to the lights. I had these made up in an hour or so and they are super easy. I found the hardest part was carefully cutting out the shapes! I used regular scissors to cut out the outlines and then a utility knife (help children with this step) to cut out the inner pieces like the pumpkin face. I used the point of a compass to make the small eyes for bats and spiders. See below for the steps I used to make my Halloween lights.

 

How to make your own solar Halloween lights - thelinkssite.comHow to Make Your Own Solar Halloween Lights

 

  1. Visit PicMonkey and create your Halloween cut-out images (or use mine here – right click image and select print)
  • Click on Design
  • Click the pumpkin icon on the left menu bar to choose Halloween themes
  • I then chose the Trick or Treat theme
  • Click on the Classic Creepies overlays
  • Select which images you would like for your lights
  • position images on you design board (don’t make them too big or they won’t fit in your lights)
  • Save your design to your computer
  • Open the saved design and print

 

  1. Carefully cut out images (may need utility or craft knife for inner pieces and a compass for the small eye holes – be careful!)
  2. Place several very small pieces of Blu Tack to the front of each cut out
  3. Take the top off the solar lights and position the cut out inside. Press the cut outs onto the inside of the lights so that they stick in place using the Blu Tack
  4. Put the top back on the solar lights and place them back in the garden (where they get sun)
  5. Go outside after dark and see the Halloween lights!

 

The best thing about these DIY solar Halloween lights is that once Halloween is over you can take the paper Halloween images out and they go back to being regular solar lights!

 

 

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