Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Staying Healthy Over Winter

Back when I was teaching a class of 30 children, I usually only caught one or two colds a year. Last year was a totally different story and it felt like every fortnight I seemed to have picked up some new cold or cough from Grace during chillier months. This winter, I'm going to try and avoid a repeat by looking after myself a bit more so I don't get run down by...

- starting each morning with a mug of warm water and lemon juice
- taking Vitamin C each day along with my usual multivitamin
- increasing my fruit and vegetable intake
- increasing my water intake

I also want to pamper myself a bit more, especially in the months leading up to October. While I cleanse, tone and moisture religiously morning and night, I forget to do things like exfoliate, put on a face mask or slather on body moisturiser. I'm going to try and make time for small things like these more often as well as for relaxing soaks in the bathtub.

What are your tips for keeping away the winter nasties or pampering yourself a bit more?

Image above via weheartit

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Vision For Grace's Room

Happy Monday! I hope you have all had a lovely weekend. I feel especially good this morning as I finally feel as though I've made a small start on the weekend on the organising projects which have been bothering me. I've almost finished tidying our linen cupboard, I've taken photos of the furniture we need to sell and listed it on Gumtree and Grace's room is slowly coming along as I hunt for / work on various pieces.

On Friday, the Moroccan leather pouffe I ordered from the UK arrived and it is even prettier than I was expecting. To begin with it will have a place next to the bed in Grace's room and then later on go in the living room where it can add a tiny hint of the pale pink I'm after. I stuffed it with rags which I have found to be a good filling and a sturdy weight.

In recent weeks, my ideas for decorating Grace's room have changed slightly. I'm leaning towards slightly more colourful fabrics for the patchwork quilt I'm making with patterns comprising of pink, cornflour blue, white, green, yellow and red. My idea is to provide an eclectic room with different colours as well as modern and older pieces that create a space Grace will enjoy spending time in.

My vision so far includes:

• a pretty patchwork quilt / bed throw made by me in a combination of fabrics
• an older style bed head (either a wrought iron or a cane one)
• a Moroccan leather pouffe to add a pretty touch
• a display shelf of some sort to display trinkets and treasures Grace collects
• a small string of bunting in cute fabrics
• a hanging mobile of either paper cranes or butterflies or a dream catcher
• a magazine rack or wall rack of some sort for book storage
• a play corner for Grace’s ‘teddy tub’ and new wooden kitchen
• a combination of artwork made by Grace and me, including the cross stitch owl above that I have embroidered (remember this sneak peek?)

Any other suggestions for Grace’s room? I have most of the fabrics for Grace’s quilt now and will begin working on it in a fortnight when my friend Kylie is on holidays and able to get me started on the right track. I will give you an update once Grace’s room is looking more complete.

Hope you all have a wonderful start to the week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nesting Instincts

Image above found via Kelly McCaleb's Tumblr

I was talking with one of my friends recently about how in recent months, I’ve felt an overwhelming desire to get my house organised and orderly (believe me, I have a fair way to go at present). She labelled my feeling as me trying to make everything as perfect as it can be before baby #2 arrives which I guess in a way it is. It’s like I think that if things don’t get done now, they’ll never get done once our baby arrives and my time is even more limited.

Firstly, I am desperate to get our nursery organised. Once Grace’s room is sorted, I will be able to move onto the new baby’s room and set up furniture, go through all of Grace’s old baby clothes and baby gear and get onto the fun part of the actual decorating. However, before any of this can be done, I need to sell our old ensemble base, the pretty bed frame and our old coffee table which are currently taking up space in the spare room. This weekend's task is to move the unnecessary furniture out of this room and list these items on Gumtree.

Next up, I’d love to have a more organised home. I want to sort through our filing cabinet and remove old and unnecessary paperwork. I want anyone to be able to easily locate a document they’re after without having to hunt through file after file. The 'clutter basket' on my bench is once again overflowing so I need to go through it and put everything in its proper place.

I’d also like our cupboards to be sorted. I don’t want to be hanging onto any items we no longer need or want that are taking up precious space. I am by no means a hoarder at all, but I’d still like to have a good sort through. I’ve already started this by going through my wardrobe and giving away a whole bunch of clothes to my sister and to charity. Today’s task is to sort through the linen cupboard. To help me stay on task, I promise to share a photo of this newly organised space once I’m done although I'm not sure how much I'll achieve today as Grace came down with a cold last night and we're all pretty exhausted today... we'll see.

Which organising project are you eager to accomplish on your ‘to do list?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cooking Club: Winter Warmers

On Saturday night, my friends and I had our latest Cooking Club dinner. This time, we had a full table of six (seven including six week old baby Lucas). Our theme was 'Winter Warmers' and we all came away with a collection of delicious recipes perfect for the current cold nights. I remembered to take photos although they all have a golden glow to them as I couldn't suss out the lighting and camera settings.

To decorate the table, I used a piece of grey and white striped fabric as a runner (I had actually bought this fabric for our nursery). I didn't use any fresh flowers this time but instead placed a pot of parsley in the centre of the table and made some origami flowers using some pretty double sided gift wrap I bought from Kikki K. One roll provided plenty of paper for five of these flowers as well as enough to wrap my 'spot prize'. I actually had fun putting these together one night in front of the television. You can find the tutorial for making these cute flowers here. I followed the instructions exactly only I didn't use glue but instead tried double sided tape which I think is definitely a better option. It's funny because this week after my dinner party, I was flicking through the latest Real Living magazine and actually spotted these exact origami flowers which had been made into a ball.

To break away from my usual white and silver edged Maxwell and Williams crockery, I borrowed my friend's pretty Marie Claire side plates which fit in perfectly. I also made some labels for each dish using a printable Martha Stewart template you can find here (there are also other colour options you can choose from).

My traditional spot prize for one of my guests this time was the parsley plant, a handy measuring glass from Wheel and Barrow and a jar of vanilla bean paste.

As for the yummy dishes we shared, our menu consisted of:

- Zucchini and Prosciutto Soup
- Spiced Pumpkin and Coconut Soup
- Chicken and Mushroom Pie
- Sweet Potato and Pancetta Risotto
- Crumbed Scotch Fillet
- Moroccan Beef
- Chocolate Orange Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

I've shared the two soup recipes below, but if anyone is interested in the other recipes, let me know and I'll do another post.

For our next theme in August, we are going to break away from dinner recipes and have an afternoon tea instead with 'Teatime Treats' of cakes, biscuits and slices. I'm looking forward to decorating the table prettily and have already got a few ideas floating around in my head.

Here's those soup recipes for anyone who would like to try them out...

Spiced Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

1 tbsp red curry paste
1kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1½ cups coconut milk
1 large red chilli, seeded and finely sliced

Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook for one minute. Add the pumpkin and stock, cover and cook until the pumpkin is tender. Place the pumpkin mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the chilli to serve.

Zucchini and Prosciutto Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g prosciutto, chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
3 zucchini, grated
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
feta cheese, crumbled (to serve)

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic, prosciutto and thyme and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the zucchini, stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10-15minutes or until the zucchini is cooked. Use a hand held blender to partially blend the soup, leaving some texture. Ladle soup into bowls and top with crumbled feta.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Happy Week

Although Grace and I did nothing overly exciting, last week was a really good week and my happy mood has extended into this one too. Here’s an assortment of things that have been making me smile and some things I'm looking forward to…

… the two bunches of flowers Grace and I bought this morning from the Beaufort Street flower sellers. We went for a drive north of the river to buy a cushion from Domayne and made a detour to buy a cheap bunch on the way home. They add a touch of colour around the house and make me smile when I walk past them.

… our Rinnai flame effect gas heater (in the background of the above photo). Last year, we spent the majority of winter without a heater when our very old one died. Getting a new one wasn’t all that straightforward but thankfully this year, ours has been working a treat. It’s so lovely having the 'flames' glowing away at night.

... our beautiful bright pink camellia which is flowering in our backyard (although most of the pretty blooms fell to the ground in last week’s heavy rain). The photo above is the view I see from our kitchen windows each time I look out (if only those hideous palm trees weren't in the yard next door!) It’s so nice to have colour in the garden. Even the fallen petals on the ground are pretty.

…having a hair appointment on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to a bit of 'me' time, relaxing at the hair dressers with some magazines and a cup of tea and coming out feeling great. I love my wavy hair but I always get my hair straightened for something different when I go to the hair dressers.

… finally finding the perfect fabrics for the quilt I’m making Grace. I've decided not to go with pastel colours after all, but am using more vibrant, pretty prints. After much hunting, I stumbled across some great material at a few local quilting stores and Spotlight, along with some gorgeous pieces I’ve ordered from Etsy. Can’t wait for those packages to arrive and can’t wait to get stuck into sewing!

… being given a huge box of hand me down clothes for Grace from Paul’s cousin whose little girls had outgrown them. Grace thought it was Christmas and has been ‘playing dress ups’ all week as I slowly sort through what fits and what doesn’t. I used to be so excited as a little girl when my cousin passed her old clothes down to me.

…my growing baby bump. The picture above is the blurriest shot ever but at least it shows you my belly (it’s very hard to take a photo of yourself I’ve discovered!!). At 23 weeks, I’m getting lots of prods these days and I love lying in bed at night feeling our baby kicking away. The fact that we’ve only got 17 weeks left is a bit scary though!!

... curling up on the couch tonight with my cuppa in hand and a piece or two of the chocolate fudge I made purely as an indulgent treat for myself. I'm looking forward to watching Katrina on The Block and then flicking through the latest Real Living magazine.

I hope you all have a happy week ahead too. What are you looking forward to?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Artwork In Our Home

I read somewhere recently that you can tell a lot about a person by the types of artwork displayed in their home. That’s a bit unfortunate for us as we still have several bare walls yet to be filled. However, the artworks we have bought so far are all pieces we love. Today I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite art from around our home.

The canvas in our bedroom was actually a Christmas present one year from Paul. It is by Kanvas, a West Australian company based in Subiaco with a range of great designs and I had been eyeing this particular piece off for some time when I first discovered their website. With some help from one of my best friends, Paul managed to buy (and keep secret) exactly the canvas I had been admiring. It fits in well with the feel of our bedroom.

In our entryway is a signed print by artist Helen Norton. We purchased it from Helen’s old gallery (Cockatoo Gallery) in Fremantle which unfortunately no longer exists, although Helen’s pieces can still be purchased from other sources. We loved her quirky style of art and finally settled on the print above titled ‘Sniffing Dogs’. You can see more of Helen’s artwork here.

In our lounge is a small original oil painting we bought from ‘The Old Butter Factory’ in Denmark on our last visit. It is actually a scene from Albany and for its size wasn’t cheap, but we loved its colours and subject matter. Its title is ‘Come Walk With Me’ and it is by Lois Drygan.

Two small pieces I purchased from Etsy are by print gocco artist Bernadette Sipkes of Sugarloop. When I first discovered Sugarloop, I fell in love with Bernadette’s simple designs with their almost folk-like feel. A gold owl print now sits next to our computer and a green bird print is on the wall directly outside our study.

Finally, our kitchen / living area is home to three of our favourite artworks. Above my tea and coffee station on top of our kitchen bench is a canvas we purchased on our last trip to Sydney. It is a view from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and has an almost fishbowl effect to the way it has been painted. It’s fun trying to pick out famous Sydney locations like Bondi Beach or the SCG while the kettle is boiling.

On the opposite end of our kitchen bench are two prints by Sue Miller which we bought in Salamanca when we visited Hobart. The left piece is called 'Boats On The Derwent' and the other 'Emmalisa Off Battery Point'. The image on the right is particularly meaningful to us as we had a cruise on the exact ‘Emmalisa’ paddle steamer in the scene. We had these professionally framed once we were back home.

So there you have a snapshot into some of our artwork. I’m not sure what these pieces say exactly about Paul and I, but they are all part of our ‘story’ we have built since we moved into our home over six years ago. I’ve spent a lot of time this week researching galleries around Fremantle and Perth that I can drag Paul along to so we can hopefully finally fill our bare walls. We’ll also check out the galleries down south when we go on a little holiday later in the year.

Do you have a favourite piece of art in your home? I’d love to hear about it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Delicious Potato and Leek Soup

I love making Potato and Leek soup, not only because it is hearty and warming (perfect for wintery nights), it’s super simple to make. I have always used a very basic recipe but when the June issue of Real Living magazine came out a few weeks ago, I decided to give their version a try.

The use of celery, garlic and vegetable stock (as opposed to chicken) appears to make a difference. However the definite magic ingredient for me was fresh thyme leaves. Fortunately this is one of the plants in my herb garden that has taken off so I had plenty to add to the pot.

If you’re after a delicious soup to try one wintery evening, be sure to give this one a go. I’ve written out the recipe below for those of you who don’t have the magazine. On the subject of cooking winter dishes, this coming Saturday is our next Cooking Club and our theme is ‘Winter Warmers’. I promise I will make it my priority this time to take photos and will be sure to share with you all any yummy recipes I gather. Stay tuned…

Potato and Leek Soup

50g butter
2 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped roughly
3 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
1.2kg potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1L vegetable stock
2 cups water
sea salt
cracked black pepper
¾ cup cream, plus extra to drizzle

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, celery and thyme. Cook for 10 mins until leeks and celery are tender but not coloured. Add garlic and cook for a further 2 mins.

Add potatoes, stock and water to saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to high and boil for about 15 to 20 mins until potatoes are very tender. Skim any scum that rises to surface and discard.

Use blender or food processor to puree soup in batches until smooth. Return blended soup to saucepan. Over medium heat, add cream and stir. Gently heat through.

Drizzle with extra cream and cracked black pepper to serve.

(Serves 4)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting Off Projects

It’s taken me a long while to realise this fact but I’ve finally accepted that my house will most likely never reach the fairytale ‘perfect’ standard I hoped to achieve ‘one day’. Too often, I put off projects I am keen to get stuck into because I think that our house isn’t clean enough to allow myself the pleasure of indulging in crafty activities as there are more important things I should be spending my time on. I’ll often tell myself that when ‘everything is done’, I’ll begin sewing that top for Grace or learning how to crochet.

The day that my sink is empty (and shining), all the washing and ironing done, the floors mopped, the carpets vacuumed, my bathrooms scrubbed and the house tidy is always going to be a long way off. It’s not that such a target is necessarily unachievable, it’s more that there will always be something to clean, something to sort through or some chore that could be done as well as lots of other responsibilities that go with being a stay at home Mum to a toddler.

I’ve decided I’m going to try and dedicate more time to the many crafts and homely projects I’d like to try. There are so many ideas saved in my ‘to make’ inspiration folder that I am itching to start. To begin with I’d like to make the quilt I’m working on for Grace’s new bed and provided that goes okay, I’d like to start a quilt for our new baby. Crocheting is also something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time so armed with the guide and crochet hook Catherine sent me, I’d like to try and make a pretty scarf for Grace to wear this winter. Gift tags, some decorative pieces for Grace’s room and a cross stitch runner are also things I’m planning to make.

I’m interested who else out there has my problem and keeps putting off exciting new projects waiting for that magical day when they have nothing else important to do? Which projects are you keen to get started on?

Also, this week, Homely One is being featured over at The Decorating Forum. If you’re not a member already, be sure to head over and check it out. It’s a wonderful resource for all home and decorating topics and provides plenty of advice that you may need.

Enjoy your start to the week!

I must apologise as I have no idea where I originally found any of these images as I've had them in my folder for a very long time. If any of these images are yours, please let me know and I will be sure to give them proper credit.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On The Hunt For...

For the past two weeks I've had intentions of visiting the local Sunday morning swap meet but things have popped up that have stopped me from going. Fingers crossed I can go for a browse tomorrow (if I can work up the motivation to head outdoors in the chilly morning weather). Paul has had a big day today so I'm sure if I sneak out with Grace, he'll appreciate the sleep in. There are a few things I’m on the hunt for at the moment, certain pieces to add touches of character to our place and to help create that homely feel. Here's some examples of treasures I'd love to find...

One thing I'd love to get for Grace's room is a little open shelf display similar to the one above. Young children always collect bits and pieces and I'd love something to be able to display all Grace's little trinkets and treasures on and where she could change little collections around as she pleases.

Next on my radar are some little glass bottles to use as vases. I often save old jars for this purpose but something cute like the bottle above would be lovely to put a single bloom in. I like to have small arrangements like this dotted in different spots around the house or on the table when I am entertaining.

A few weeks ago, Grace snuck into our pantry and broke my salt shaker. It was never really my style anyway so I wasn't overly fussed and now I have the excuse to look for some cute salt and pepper shakers. Mum has some tiny ones from my grandparent's house which I love. Hopefully I can find something similar one day.

Last up, I'm looking for old, decorative picture frames which I will possibly paint white. I love the detail in the one above and the way it is still a simple design.

Sometime in the next few months, we're planning a little holiday down south where I'm looking forward to browsing in the various country town antique shops so if I don't find something at the markets, fingers crossed they can be found on other travels.

What treasures do you mainly hunt for at second hand stores or flea markets?

If you wish to purchase any of the items above, you can visit their Etsy stores:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shades Of White

You know how when you write a word over and over and then you start to look at it in a strange way and wonder whether you’re actually spelling it correctly because you’ve seen it so many times? That’s a bit how I feel today with the colour white.

After five quotes, we’ve finally decided which company to go with for our blinds in the children’s bedrooms, study and laundry. The company we’re happiest with seems to have better quality fabrics (they apparently have a higher thread count) and they come with a five year warranty. In saying that however, choosing between two different shades of ‘white’ is making our final decision a bit difficult.

I’ve moved the samples from room to room and tried them in different lights but everywhere I look, the whites in our home are so varied, which is something I’d never noticed before. Our walls are not pure white, they are more of an antique white with a slight stony touch. Our skirting boards are pretty much a true white and are different once again to our doors and trims (although Paul tells me when he has holidays next, he’s planning on painting these more like our skirtings). Our Ikea kitchen cupboards appear to be more of an antique white, Grace’s bedroom furniture a bright white and the white picture frames around the house have more of an antique shade to them. Who knew whites could be so varied?

At the moment, I’m thinking of going with the more antique white textured blind fabric which will blend in best with the walls. I don’t want our blinds to be a feature but rather a continuation of the wall colour so I think I’m on the right track. In any case, the other sample has a slight lurex thread through it which I’m not overly keen on and I’m sure this would bug me on a larger scale piece of this fabric.

Hope you're all having a terrific Thursday. I'm off to look at those samples for one last time...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Take Two: The New Bed

Photograph by Bob Smith via House to Home

You’re all going to think I’m totally crazy, but I’ve decided to sell the bed frame we bought for Grace. On Thursday night, we bought another ensemble base instead (lower than the one currently in our spare room) to go with our existing virtually new mattress. In hindsight, I think I was sucked in by the prettiness of the bed we recently bought and didn’t think about the practicalities of it or its design.

There were a few reasons for my change of heart. From a practical point of view, I decided that having a bed frame against the wall was going to make it very difficult for me to make the bed. I know many people have such beds against walls, but anything that makes my pregnant life easier these days is a positive in my books and the new ensemble base on wheels makes it super easy to tuck in blankets and sheets. The new base also has no hard edges so I have no fear of Grace hurting herself on the bed either when she sleeps or is running around in her room playing and being a good ten centimetres lower, if Grace does fall out of bed at night, it’s not of concern, especially with a few pillows placed on the floor.

From an aesthetical point of view, the ensemble bed option suits Grace’s room better. While I’ve always preferred the look of a bed base, our bedrooms are super small which means visually, it is important to minimise how imposing the furniture feels. I won’t have the effect of the carpet continuing under the bed, however the extra space we’ve gained is beneficial and most noticeably, the lack of a footboard makes the bedroom feel less ‘closed in’. When we got the pretty bed frame home, I also didn’t like the way the mattress wouldn’t sit nicely within the frame and kept sliding around. The visible slats under the mattress really bothered me.

So, those are the reasons I used to explain to Paul why I had completely changed my mind and gone down the ensemble bed path and why we now have not only our old ensemble base to sell, but also the pretty bed frame. Most importantly however, I feel at peace with my latest decision and Grace has been sleeping pretty well in her new bed since Friday night. Thank you all for the advice you gave me over my bed debacle.

Now it's time to decorate Grace's 'big girls room' and add some pretty touches like those in the image above. To satisfy my wish for a pretty bed, I am going to be on the lookout on Gumtree and Ebay for a nice headboard. For now that’s not a necessity but it will definitely finish off this corner of the room better. I am also in the planning stages of the patchwork quilt I am about to make which I will share with you as I make some progress.

Have you ever made a furniture purchase you later regretted?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our Wintery Week In

This week, we've had a lot of heavy rain. I haven't complained at all though as our garden is loving the extra soak it's been getting. It's fantastic for all the new plants we recently bought and put in.

Being stuck indoors a lot this week, Grace and I have had fun with various activities. We've played dress ups (I gave Grace my basket full of hats, scarves and handbags to play with while I sorted through my wardrobe), we have watched snails climbing up the window in the rain and we have done some baking. We have also been enjoying afternoon teas with mugs of Milo to 'warm our bellies.' One morning, when the showers stopped momentarily, we put on gumboots and went into the garden collecting leaves and flowers. Inside, we patted our finds dry with towelling paper and Grace arranged them all onto a piece of contact. Once finished, another piece of contact was placed on top of the flowers to create a 'flower picture'.

Today we've going out for a morning coffee and then we'll be spending the rest of the day at home. I've been a bit overwhelmed by the untidiness around our place this week but I've lacked the motivation to do anything about it. It's been a case of 'where do I start?' So this afternoon while Grace naps, I need to do a lot of cleaning up to get things back to an acceptable state.

This weekend is a long weekend in WA and I'm aiming for a little bit of 'me' time. I'm meeting my sister for breakfast tomorrow morning and then I have dinner planned with a friend on Sunday night. Hopefully I'll get a chance to check out fabric for Grace's quilt some time over the weekend too. Other than that, I'll just be pottering around the house. What about you - what are your weekend plans?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nest Pretty Things

Firstly, I want to thank all of you for your reassuring words on my last post regarding Grace's new bed. I appreciated you taking the time to share your own experiences and advice and you have given me some great ideas. I've decided to think about things for a week or two before I make any decisions. I'll let you know what happens...

Today I wanted to share with you a gorgeous Etsy shop I stumbled upon a little while back called Nest Pretty Things. Its owner Tamar creates a range of pretty pieces of jewellery, several of which I have my eye on. I love the way Tamar's pieces are packaged and presented and the way she styles her product shots. Here are some necklaces that I am particularly drawn to...

All photos by Tamar of Nest Pretty Things