Friday, December 21, 2012

A Country Christmas at The Dow's

Christmas is by FAR my favourite holiday! Family, Food & Fairy Lights- what could be better than that?! This is Gary & I's first Christmas as a married couple and so it's the first time I have had my OWN house to decorate! The problem was...I had such big ideas for my first Christmas budget! As they say, "A Boer Maak N' Plan". So this post is not just about Christmas Decor- it's about Christmas Decor on a budget. Take a peek at my mood board below and I'll share some of my simple, yet effective decor ideas...


  • Whatever look you are going for, whether it be a modern, traditional or country Christmas- do it confidently and BOLDLY. There's nothing worse than a "neither-here-nor-there" Christmas theme.
  • Transform your home. Luckily the colours of my home are mostly neutrals which made it VERY easy to transform my home for Christmas time. All I had to do was remove all my blue decor (i.e. scatter cushions, frames, and vases) to get a blank canvas. Then I replaced all the missing decor items with Christmas decor. I put my bedroom's red scatter cushions in my lounge and I used lots of hessian to create a country feel.
  • Replace the pictures/photos currently in your home with vintage Christmas cards or printed Christmas quotes. I created my own Christmas images/quotes using Microsoft Word and placed them in wooden picture frames in my home.
  • Place red and green apples in your fruit bowl or put cherries and mini crackers on pewter trays on your coffee table. 
  • Tie together some red vintage books with hessian and Christmas ribbon.
  • Fill up glass jars with red and white Christmas candies.
  • Convert your current decor. My mom and I (mostly my mom) made hessian covers for 2 signs that currently hang on my wall. We appliqued Christmas words onto hessian, sewed it all together and in less than an hour we had made 2 beautiful wall hangings that I can slip off and re-use again next year!
  • Put fairy lights, pine cones and poinsettia flowers under a bell jar. So simple, yet so so SO effective! 
  • If you don't have a tree- use something else that could work. Gary and I were SHOCKED at the price of Christmas Trees so we decided to use the vintage ladder as our tree this year. To be honest I'm questioning if I'll ever go back to using a  normal tree because I love the look so much. Try something different- paint a Christmas tree onto a piece of wood, nail planks of wood together to form the shape of a tree or simply hang Christmas lights in the shape of a tree on your wall.
  • If you don't have a mantelpiece- then peg your stockings onto a string line. 
  • Hessian, Hessian, Hessian! It's the most important ingredient in the Country Christmas Cocktail! My mom made me gorgeous hessian stockings as well as the cute hessian Star that hangs at the top of my tree. 
  • Simple decorations are the best way to achieve the country look- sew your own material stars or hearts for the tree. Alternatively use hard cardboard to cut out and paint simple decorations like hearts, stars & crosses. 
  • There's no need for expensive wrapping. Use brown paper or newspaper and simply jazz it up with washi-tape, hessian, ribbon and Christmas decorations.
  • Instead of one simple gift tag- personalize each gift by creating an interesting gift "charm". Tie together different layers of paper, ribbon, photos, decorations and anything else that may be meaningful to the person.

So guys that's that! There is no excuse to having Christmas Cheer, no matter what your budget. Having said that, above all the lights, decorations and food- Christmas is a time to be thankful for our blessings and more importantly thankful to the One who has been the Ultimate Gift-Giver!

This is my last post for the year so to all of you...I wish you a blessed, warm & fuzzy feeling Christmas and a safe and wonderful New Year. Looking forward to seeing what 2013 holds!

Love Abz

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creativity with Crates

There's no doubt that the lofty & rustic crate look is currently in vogue and hopefully it's here to stay! I'm definitely a fan whether I'm using crates to pot herbs, to stash groceries or in today's case using them as a make-shift bookshelf/wine rack. Gaz really needed an attractive place to store his most prized wines (uh-hmmm about 5 bottles at this point) and I really needed to create a focal point on (what used to be) a very boring wall! So it was a win-win- YAY! :)

All I needed was some hard wearing crates, wine rack latis, some screws, mounting plates, a drill and 1x husband to put it all together for me! Now all Gaz and I have to do is start collecting more wine to fill up all those empty gaps! Watch this space for more creative crate ideas!

If  would like us to come and "install" a crate bookshelf and/or wine rack in your home- you can email or

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homemade with Mom Mom. Remember that day I told you I sucked at sewing (find the post here)? Well, I really don't know how that happened considering how talented my mom is with the needle. She is a quilting fanatic, embroidery extraordinaire and is totally blessed with a knack for fabrics.
"Homemade with Mom" is a series of posts that will exhibit my mom's projects and show you exactly how she made them. Just because I can't sew doesn't mean you should be deprived of the opportunity to see beautiful sewing crafts on the Just Darling Blog right? So here we go...


I like gardening on Sundays- summer Sundays. For me its the best way to end the week. But, after time and time again of getting my church clothes dirty-  I asked my mom to make me a gardening apron. It's so cute! Who says you can't look cute while pulling weeds? It's also practical - this little apron has pretty pockets to keep all your tools close at hand.  My mom says that anyone who can sew a stitch can make this little apron - so if you feel like making one for yourself or alternatively making it as a thoughtful Christmas gift for one of your green-fingered friends then keep reading...

  • Basic sewing notions such as: scissors, rulers, measuring tape, thread, needles, pins, etc.
  • Embroidery threads should you be doing any embroidery.
  • Scraps of floral cotton fabric should you wish to appliqué flowers.
  • 1 m Calico or Poly-cotton fabric (120cm wide)
  • 1/4 m floral fabric for binding and waist-band.
  • Should you not be doing appliqué or embroidery replace fabric for pocket with a floral fabric instead of the calico.

  • 1x 38cm x 60cm (Apron)
  • 1x 20cm x 60cm (Pocket)
  • 1x 10 cm x 172cm (Waist-band) (you may need to join two pieces to get the length).
  • 5x 5cm wide strips (Binding -these measurements should be the same width and length of apron and pocket). Eg, 2 strips for top and bottom of pocket, 1 strip for bottom of apron & 2 strips for sides of apron


Fold material in half (lengthwise 60cm) and press.  The fold is the top of the pocket.
At this point embroidery or appliqué should be done on front of pocket. Should you not be doing any of the above the calico measurements for pocket should be replaced with the floral fabric of choice. Once designs have been completed you can start the pocket binding.

Pocket Binding

* Note- These instructions will be the same for the apron.
  • Take the 5cm strips previously cut for pocket binding. There should be 2.
  • Pin raw edge of binding to fold line edge (top of pocket) and stitch (1/4 inch seam allowance).
  • Pin raw edge of next strip to raw wedge of bottom of pocket and stitch.
* For both apron & pocket bindings continue as follows:
  • Press and turn binding over to back of pocket (wrong sides of pocket).
  • Press 1cm of raw edge over to form a seam.
  • Fold over again and pin to back of pocket.
  • Top stitch binding to pocket. 3mm from open edge of binding.

Fold material in half (along the 60cm length).
Fold line being the top of the apron.(waist-band edge).

Apron Binding

* Repeat as for pocket on bottom of apron only.  Sides to be done only after waistband attached.

  • Position pocket on apron as desired. (I recommend +-9 cm from top (fold) or 4cm from bottom raw edge).
  • Draw  a line 4cm up from  the bottom on apron. Place bottom of pocket on this line. Stitch pocket to apron on this line 
  • Divide the pocket into three - optional sizes of pockets.  I recommend a bigger pocket in the middle and two small ones on either side.  Draw lines from top to bottom of pocket with a water soluble pen and stitch divisions on these lines working from bottom of pocket to top (opening end of pocket).
  • Strengthen the tops by reverse stitching.

* Once pocket has been stitched you can continue with side bindings as per previous binding instructions. Remember to turn in the edges (1cm) before stitching.

The Waist-Band:

  • Take 10cm strip fold in half (right sides together). Turn in 1cm of ends (wrong sides together) and stitch raw edges together.
  • Turn band inside out....this can be quite a challenge but persevere :-)
  • Once right sides show 
  • Fold strip in half (lengthwise) and mark the middle.
  • Fold apron in half along top edge and mark.
  • Position these marks together placing waistband 1 cm down from top of top edge of apron (this would be the fold line) pin and stitch waistband to top of apron. I recommend two rows of stitches  a few mm apart to secure waistband and ...voila!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Darling things & where to find them

Wrought Iron

If you are looking for the perfect combination of prettiness plus practicality for your garden decor then wrought iron is the way to go! Apart from being absolutely beautiful -wrought iron is the ultimate weather-proof material. No rotting or warping- instead it keeps it's form even in the toughest weather conditions. I love it! I love the rusty natural look and I also love it when its been white-washed for a more "French Chateau" feel. Unfortunately, if you are shopping for wrought iron pieces in the city- you are going to be ripped off. They are so over-priced. I buy all my wrought iron pieces from a cute little shop on the Midlands Meander called Sterling's Wrought Iron. They sell everything from plant stands, furniture sets and chandeliers. They are also custom make pieces to suit your needs and whats more- THEY DELIVER within South Africa!  

I bought this beautiful plant hanger for R350 to fill what used to be an awkward spot on my outside wall...

Then I also happened to see this dodgy old spade which was marked down to R100. You know what they say, "One man's trash is another man's treasure".  All it needed was some dried lavender to make it a beautiful focal point beside my herb table.

At this point I don't think you'll need anymore convincing but once again- here's some eye-candy to get you all inspired about what you can do with a little wrought iron in the garden... 

Happy Gardening! Much Love Abz

Image Source: Pinterest

Monday, November 19, 2012

3 Ways with Paper!

I really suck at sewing! No seriously, in Home Economics I did pretty well in everything EXCEPT SEWING. I was useless. Weird, since my mom is the Queen of a needle and thread. I've always been upset that I couldn't sew because there are so many amazing things you can make. So although I'm still learning with the stitch, I'm very grateful for scrapbooking paper! That's something I can do- CUT & STICK! Haha! So if you feel the same,  today I'll be showing you some simple, cute things you can do with paper for your next event.

This is what you'll need:

  • Scrapbooking Paper 
  • String or Ribbon
  • Mini Pegs
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Buttons, Washi- Tape etc

No Sew Paper Buntings

Although Fabric Buntings are first prize- these paper buntings take half as long to make and they look just as beautiful! There are so many different scrapbooking papers to choose from these days that you can have alot of fun choosing your prints too!

1. Cut each scrapbooking sheet in half
2. Fold each rectangle in half to form a square
3. With the fold at the top draw a triangle from each fold-corner to the bottom-centre of the paper.
4. Cut the shape out to form a double-sided triangle or BUNTING FLAG :)
5. Finally, secure each flag onto a piece of string/ribbon using glue (Alternatively, I used mini pegs so that I could dismantle the bunting later).

Paper Cones

I love paper cones because there really is no end to what you could use them for- sweets, petals, fish and chips or in my case popcorn. I used pretty scrap booking paper but plain newspaper looks good too.
You wont believe how simple it is! All you need to do is cut a circle (Any Size) with a 45 Degree angle cut out of it and then overlap the gap to form the cone.Then secure the end with clear tape. To finish it off you can decorate the cone with buttons, ribbon or washi tape.

Cup Cake Wraps

You've probably seen these in the shops before but I usually encounter two problems- 1. They are SO expensive (it is only paper after all) and 2. I often can't find ones to fit my theme/colour. If you want event stationery to match perfectly then I would suggest picking out your prints and making your own. Again, its really simple. Find the cupcake template here, trace it onto your chosen paper and cut it out. Wrap it around the cupcake and secure.

If you have your own unique ways with paper- let me know! Would love to hear more beautiful paper-craft ideas.

Much Love Abz

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Foodie Friday

Baked Banana & Pecan Nut French Toast Kebabs

When I went to the U.S.A to work at a Summer Camp they used to make amazing french toast for breakfast that had a sweet vanilla/cinnamon flavour. I loved them! In fact, when I arrived at the airport back in South Africa- my whole family could see "just how much" I loved them!

I've never been able to get hold of the Summer Camp Recipe - so the recipe you see below is my own take on it. I've made it even more amazing by adding Baked Banana, Pecan Nuts & a delicious toffee sauce. Then I stuck it all on a kebab coz kebabs are cool! So if you ever need to make breakfast finger-food- this will be a winner!

I made it for Gaz for breakfast- and I think he felt like a very lucky guy! French Toast Kebabs served with a filter coffee, and some fresh strawberries and cream on the side. It sounds delicious doesn't it? Well it is! So go's FRIDAY, throw your diet out the window and have a treat- you deserve it!

What You Need:
  • A big knob of butter (For Frying and For the Sauce)
  • A large handful of Chopped Pecan Nuts
  • 1 French Loaf
  • 1 Cup of Full Cream Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 Bananas
  • 1 Cup of Muscavado Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • A Dash of Milk or Cream for the Sauce (About 1/4 Cup)
  • Kebab Sticks
  • Strawberries and Whipped Cream to Serve

  • Preheat your oven to 180 Degrees (C) and bake your bananas on a greased baking tray for 15 minutes
  • Cut the french loaf into thick chunks
  • Whisk together the 3 eggs, 1 Cup Milk, Cinnamon and Vanilla Essence in a bowl
  • Dip each chunk into the batter and fry in a pan a little butter until each side is golden.
  • Combine the Muscavado Sugar, Syrup, Butter (A Thin Slice) and Cream in a Sauce Pan
  • Bring to the heat and continously stir until all the sugar has dissolved
  • Throw in your chopped pecan nuts
  • Allow the mixture to reach boiling point and then quickly remove from the heat
  • Put alternating chunks of french toast and baked banana onto the kebab sticks
  • Pour the warm toffee sauce over the kebabs
  • Serve with strawberries and whipped cream on the side and...VIOLA!

Happy Happy Weekend All!

Love Abz

Monday, November 12, 2012

Darling Decor

Weathered & Distressed Decor- Be Inspired!

Following on from my recent post about DIY Weathering & Distressing (View it here) I thought I would provide you with a little inspiration on the topic to show you just how much you can do with this look. Who would've thought that scratching, sanding, chipping and battering objects could look so beautiful. I just love these images... it makes me want to paint and sand EVERYTHING! Have a peek and let these pics be your muse ...

White Washed & Weathered Cafe Style Table & Chair

You can see that they have done ALOT of work on this server- different layers of paint create a textured look. And BONUS POINTS for the gigantic lantern...LOVE!

Weathered Arch Mirrors

This is a good look too- keep the top dark and only make changes to the bottom of the piece.

So original- an old train station bench/church pew weathered and put in an entrance hall. So simple, so creative and just stunning! Anyone have a spare church pew lying around for me?  ;)

Weathered Shutters.

Weathered look combined with a glamorous chandelier. Works!

French blues & greys work beautifully on weathered antique pieces. I have to try this sometime- watch this space! And it just proves that you don't always have to go for traditional colours to still create a classic look.
Have a blessed week! Love Abz

(Images Sourced From: Pinterest; Paintmewhite; Brookegiannetti; Eclectic Revisited;

Monday, November 5, 2012

Darling Things & Where to Find Them

The Klein Karoo's Little Gem

Most of you will know that Gaz and I are currently road-tripping the Garden Route. On our trip down and in an area predominantly known for it's vast plains of dry, barren landscape, windmills and sheep farming, Gary and I stumbled across a little treasure of a town. Just off Route 62 and about 35km from Oudtshoorn is a gorgeous and unique village called De Rust. De Rust is located at the foot of the Swartberg Mountain range between Oudtshoorn and Beaufort West and its the perfect spot to stretch your legs, have some tea and best of

Gaz and I were lured into an interesting little spot called The Village Trading Post. A feast for the eyes! Everywhere we looked we saw interesting crafts, homemade thingies and antiques...lots of antiques. Melville and Parkhurst have nothing on this shop's arty-farty vibe, in fact I'd go so far as to say that The Village Trading Post is the Mother of all things Arty Farty. Get your hands on some excellently priced antique furniture or browse through some gorgeous decor items weathered picture frames, vintage coca-cola crates, jugs and so much more.

If you're clever, you'll stay for the Cape's most delicious baked cheesecake or check out their art gallery displaying a range or artists' work including one of my favourites- Frans Groenewald.

So the next time you are on your way to the Cape- DON'T just pass through De Rust. Give it a chance, take a rest and find some bliss while you are there.

The Village Trading Post also offers accommodation- please click here for their contact details

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Foodie Friday

Cheese, Onion & Origanum Boertjie Brood

It must be said that I am a bit of a boere-meisie- not a thorough breed, no, my Dads family is from the UK. My mom's side of the family however, are the real deal! My Great Grand Parents raised my Gran in the Wilderness area (Western Cape) in a house made from cows dung (yes...cows dung),  with no electricity and water only from the river nearby. What a beautiful simple life they lived. My Great Grand Father, a Wood Cutter and my Great Grand Mother, a wife, mother, home maker and prayer warrior. The two most important things in their lives was serving God and ensuring there was food on the table. I'm very blessed to have known my Great Grand Mother and even more blessed to have been so close to my Gran, who passed away last year.  So... having said that, this recipe is a tribute to my heritage. My Afrikaans, cow-dung huisie, potbrood baking hertiage!

For those followers outside of South Africa- Pot-Brood is an Afrikaans Bread made in a traditional cast iron (potjie) pot. A special thank you must go to our friends Ruan and Lauren who let us use their potbrood pot and also gave us amazing tips for this recipe. If you don't have one of these cast iron breadpots- don't stress- you can use a normal loaf pan instead.


  • If you don't have time to make the dough from scratch- go to your nearest bakery (Spar sells a pretty nice dough) and buy a packet of ready to bake dough.
  • If you are having a braai/barbeque you can simply put the pot on a few of the braai coals (the coals cant be too hot), put 2 coals on the lid and bake for 45 min. Easy!

560g cake flour
2tsp salt
300ml room temperature milk
30ml vegetable oil
1tsp baking powder
2 level tsp instant yeast
2 handfuls Grated cheddar cheese
125ml Cream
1 Onion Chopped and Fried in Olive Oil
Some chopped origanum
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the milk, oil, half of the grated cheddar cheese, the onions, and origanum in a bowl. 

2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add dry yeast and mix. 

3. Next add the liquid mixture little by little to dry ingredients. mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Ps.  I'm lucky enough to have a mixer that is able to knead the dough for me (thank goodness for that because it really is an arm workout!) but if you don't have one of these knead the dough by hand until it has an elastic consistency.

3. Divide the dough into kiwi fruit sized balls (usually about 6 balls).

4. Lay them side-by-side in rows in a greased loaf pan/ potjie bread pot and pour the cream over the dough balls.

6. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45- 50 Minutes until cooked (Skewer must come out clean). Take the bread out, top with the remaining cheese and the Bake for a further 5 minutes.

7. Serve WARM with Butter

8. Repeat Steps 1-7  as your guests will definitely want seconds :)