Monday, July 30, 2012

A Few Touches To Our Front Porch

Over the weekend, I managed to sneak in a little bit of time to work on a few crafty bits and pieces - this was amongst playing ‘taxi driver’ for Paul on Saturday afternoon as he had a work function to be dropped off at and picked up from, doing lots of cooking to stock up our freezer and going out on a few little impromptu family outings.

I finally added a few small pieces to our front porch area which was looking VERY bare and not very welcoming at all.  We had changed our door a while back from an ugly cream to a crisper white and grey combination, but aside from a badly neglected pot plant, there was not much else happening in this space.  However with the addition of a cute stand and some healthier looking plants which don’t mind going a few days without a good soaking, things were slowly improving. 

Yesterday, I got Paul to hang a ‘welcome’ sign I made from a piece of jarrah.  I painted it the same colour as our front door and applied a decal in a white outdoor finish material.  I also painted some butterflies I had bought from a seller of vintage wares on Etsy (they were originally a matte gold) and hung them next to the sign for a pretty touch.  I’m much happier with how this space looks now.  It’s definitely more inviting.   

As for sewing, I only got as far as cutting out my material.  Yesterday morning, we went for an early morning ferry ride from South Perth across the river and had breakfast at a café in the Barrack Street Jetty area.  Later in the day, I had a few things to get from Bunnings and then got stuck in the kitchen again cooking.  Then, in the time I had set aside for crafting, we took an impromptu trip to Salt On The Beach in North Fremantle where we met some friends and their children for a little catch up in the afternoon.

Due to a mix up with my decal order, I actually have a spare one like the one I used only in black if anyone is interested in it…  if so, just leave me a comment below and I’ll pop it in the post to the first one who asks…

Hope you are all having a lovely start to the week…  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Already?

Where has this week flown?  It's been blue skies and sunshine here today so the girls and I whipped out the picnic rug at lunchtime and ate outside together.  Apart from a quick trip to Spotlight, we've just been pottering around the house, tidying and doing odd-jobs.

This afternoon, I have a bit of cooking planned - a chicken and sweet potato number for Sophie, curry for our tea and a Jamie Oliver chicken pie for tomorrow night.  As per usual, I'll have too many dishes on the go at once but I just realised I have chicken I have to use sooner rather than later so I have no choice.  

As for the weekend, I'm hoping to...
  • sew a cushion cover with a cute white bobble trim for Sophie's room
  • get Paul to hang some things I've made this week to decorate our front porch
  • practice some photography (as I haven't taken as many shots as usual lately)
  • start reading a book I bought recently called Simplicity Parenting

What about you?  How is your weekend looking? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting Back On Track 'House-Wise'

Thank you all so much for your kind comments last week which warmed my heart and made me smile.  I appreciated each and every one of them and found comfort in your words.  After a teary Friday, my weekend continued on a happier note with a first birthday party, a night off cooking and a sudden burst of enthusiasm that saw me get stuck into a bit of organising, a bit of cleaning and a few craft projects I've been putting aside for much too long.

Back when our spare room became Sophie's nursery, our study became our 'dumping ground'.  It wasn't that we didn't have the storage space for all these items, it was more that I didn't have the time to dedicate to sorting them out.  Over the weeks and months, I threw more and more things in there.  Piles of paperwork yet to be filed grew and grew, the carpet slowly disappeared under mountains of 'stuff' and I misplaced lots of objects.  Struggling to keep up to date with our housework as it was, I didn't have the time necessary for tackling such a mammoth task.  

Then last week, my Mum spent an afternoon helping me give our house a thorough clean.  We don't see her a lot when she's working, but last week she was on holidays and so she had the time to give me a hand.  I felt like crying happy tears that night as I stood in my sparkling, clean shower.  It was the best it had EVER looked.  And so, with the housework under control, yesterday became the day for claiming back our study. While Paul went for an afternoon bike ride, I plopped Sophie down next to me with a handful of 'random objects' from my desk drawer for her to investigate, gave Grace my box of ribbons to play with and I got stuck into sorting.  Two packing boxes are now sitting in our living room filled with things to give away, sell on Gumtree or donate to charity.  Aside from a pile of bills still to be filed and my craft and sewing boxes to go through, our study is now in an acceptable state.

I can't tell you how good that feels.  Freeing our home of unnecessary clutter has definitely freed my mind from feeling so overwhelmed and given me the enthusiasm I needed to get things back on track house-wise.  

This week, I'm planning to finish off some sewing and decorating projects and hopefully by this time next week, I should actually have some photos of things I've made and done to share with you...

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Difficult Day

Today is the third anniversary of my Dad’s death.  As this date rolls around each year, I find I’m worrying about the same thing… how to keep his memory alive in my mind.  I don’t ever want to forget what his voice sounded like saying the words, “Hi love” as I opened the front door when he visited or the way his big hugs made me feel so loved. I want my girls to grow up knowing what a genuine man their Pop was, how proud he was of his family and how he would have adored them and showered them with affection.    

I was never a ‘Daddy’s girl’ growing up.  It was only after my teenage years that things changed for us.  However, the one thing I take comfort in since his death, is knowing that our relationship in those last ten years was perfect.  Dad would be in contact with us often, with not many days passing before he’d phone just to check on us, to message Paul asking, “how are my girls going?” or to stop by for a cuppa on his way home from work.  He would attend every gig of my sister’s and every social sporting game of mine or Paul’s.  He visited me at the maternity hospital every single day I was there when I had Grace.  If he were still here today, he’d be reading every one of my blog posts just to show his support.  

That day three years ago is still clear in my mind.  It was an ordinary Tuesday at home for me.  Nine week old Grace had just gone down for her morning nap when I received a call checking to see whether I’d heard from my Dad as he couldn’t be contacted.  He had failed to drop past my Nanna’s after work the previous evening as he’d planned to and that morning, he still hadn’t called to check on her (a daily ritual for him).  I can remember that sick feeling in my stomach as I desperately tried to call his mobile and his home number over and over and over.  Nothing.  I called Paul at work to see if he’d spoken to Dad that morning.  He hadn’t.  Knowing things weren’t right, Paul raced home. 

And then I waited by the phone and cried and cried with worry. 

Not long after, I found out Dad had suffered a sudden heart attack.  He was fifty six.

My sister had been away down south at a workshop when Dad passed away.  My aunty and uncle made the five hour trip there to break the devastating news to her in person and bring her home.  I can’t imagine how difficult that five hour car ride must have been for her. 

I thought I’d share with you all today something that was said at my Dad’s funeral, something that I try to remember every single day and that I hope strikes a chord with some of you reading this post…

“Life is something we so often take for granted, it is something we assume.  But it is so fragile, just a moment in eternity.

Today is a reminder to us that we should live our own lives fully. 

Treasure each moment as though it could be your last. 

Let life challenge and encourage you.

Cherish those you love, tell them just how much you love them.

Life is still out there waiting to be lived.  Celebrate it and do things today; because life is too short to put off living until tomorrow.

If all you who knew Trevor can learn from his experience, if you can profit from his example, if you can live a little better for having known him, then this will give continuing purpose to his life and be a living memorial to him.”

Love you Dad and miss you more than ever.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins – A Must Try Recipe

I’ve been on the hunt for some time now for the perfect muffin recipe – one that produces muffins which are light and fluffy (as opposed to tough or crumbly) and that uses simple ‘on-hand’ ingredients.  Having shared a delicious raspberry and white chocolate muffin with Grace and Sophie last week at our favourite café, I was determined to replicate it back at home.  After much ‘Googling’, flicking through recipe books and with a new technique for lining my muffin tins, I think I’ve found it.  I made a few batches of these last week and they’ve had the nod of approval from all those who have tasted them. 

This time, I steered clear of ‘cupcake case style liners’ which in my experience have turned greasy and caused my muffins to stick.  Instead, following my café muffin, I cut five inch squares of baking paper which I pressed into the muffin tins with a small glass and then put the batter directly into (that is, no greasing).  I was also careful to use the minimum number of strokes to combine the ingredients and I learnt (after one batch of ‘purple’ muffins) to fold through the berries at the last minute with just one or two folds of the spatula.

So, here is my winning recipe…

White Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins

2 cups self raising flour
¾ cup caster sugar
¾ cup white chocolate bits (I used the large ‘melts’ and quartered them)
1 ½ cups raspberries (can be frozen)
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup milk (I used reduced fat and it was fine)

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and line 12 muffin pans.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk eggs, oil and milk together and pour onto the dry ingredients  (if you find the mixture a bit stiff, add a splash more milk and oil).  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined (too much mixing may result in tough muffins).  Fold berries through VERY carefully.  Spoon the mixture among the paper cases and bake for 25 minutes or until golden on top and springy to touch. Turn out of the muffin pan and serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar.

Edited on 4th August 2012: This post was featured in the July 2012 edition of The Post Of The Month Club

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cubby House Dreams

Image above from Australian House & Garden
Cubby house designed and built by Angela and Phillippe Antelme 

As a little girl, I always wished I had a cubby house. While make shift ones of blankets were regularly made, they weren’t the same as the wooden one I longed for, one with sweet little windows, a letterbox and pretty curtains.

Now that I have children, I have an excuse for still wanting one of these tucked away in a corner of our garden.  I can easily picture Grace (and Sophie when she’s older) playing house and having tea parties inside. 

We did toy with the idea of a cubby house back when we completed our garden play corner makeover.  We thought about getting a cubby house, a trampoline or a swing set.  For now, we have a sand pit in the corner while we decide what else to go with (although I’m not keen on even the sand pit lately as every time Grace plays in there, she seems to be attacked by sand flies or something and then gets a type of allergic reaction to the bites and comes out in hard red lumps).

Paul was not so keen on my desire for a cubby.  He described them as ‘spider hotels’ and I must say, the notion of them being so makes my skin crawl.  I’m definitely not a fan of spiders and we do tend to get our fair share of red backs around here in the warmer weather. 

So I had sort of shelved my idea of a cubby until a few weeks back when the Kmart toy catalogue arrived and there in the outdoor toys section was this cute one above for $399.  While it is simple and doesn't have an awning or verandah, it is wooden, already painted in colours I would have chosen anyway, comes with a fold down table and two chairs inside and has darling little window boxes and a bell as perfect finishing touches.  Its dimensions are 120cm wide by 180cm long with a height of 177cm which I thought seemed reasonable and its price includes home delivery. However, it must be ordered either online or via lay-by which means buying something without seeing it in real life first.  For someone like me who procrastinates over every purchase I seem to make, I definitely prefer to 'see before I buy'.    

Do any of you who own cubby houses find they create a spider problem?  Have they proved to be popular with your children or were they not as well used as you had hoped?  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bathroom Bothers – Is It Just Me?

There are a few ‘issues’ I have lately with our bathroom which are really starting to annoy me and I’m wondering whether anyone else out there has the same problems or if it’s just me…

The bathroom is way down my list of favourite rooms in winter.  My biggest reason for this is WET TOWELS!  I am sick of jumping out of the shower only to have to dry myself with one that is damp.  On occasion, I’ve draped them over a chair in front of our heater but I wish there was an easier way to ensure warm, fluffy towels every day.  Heated towel rails?  Or do they just warm towels as opposed to drying them?  (And no, I don’t have a dryer in our laundry unfortunately).

My second issue is water ending up all over our floor tiles.  I don’t notice it so much after I’ve had a shower - I tend to just leave a few little wet foot prints here and there.  However, after Paul steps out of the shower, it’s like all the water he’s used to have a shower follows him out.  Our drainage doesn’t seem to be the best in our ensuite and so there are literally puddles of water on our floor.  This leads to another annoyance for me… a soggy, wet bathmat!  All I want is something nice and dry underfoot.  Am I buying the wrong type of bathmat?  Do I need to change it daily as I’m finding I am in this colder weather?  I’m wondering if our shower screen which sits directly on the floor tiles as opposed to our old one which used to sit on a raised tiled surround is contributing to this problem – I don’t seem to remember it bothering me so much before…

So tell me, do these same issues bother you?  Have you found a solution for them?  Or is it just me?...

Image above from House and Home July 2008 issue - Photographer: Donna Griffiths / Designer: Gordon Ridgely Architects

Monday, July 9, 2012

Riding On A Steam Train

Yesterday, the four of us took a little day trip we had been talking about doing for a while now - a ride on the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway.  We drove down to Dwellingup (it took us roughly an hour to get there) and then hopped on the morning train at ten thirty. I've always wanted to ride on a steam train - I think the appeal has something to do with reading all those Harry Potter books and picturing the antics aboard the Hogwarts Express.  Lucky for me, our little journey didn't disappoint.  It was one of my favourite outings we've done together as a family.

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive about how the girls would go being 'stuck' in a carriage for a length of time.  However, with the novelty of riding on a train along with a sandwich and some snacks I'd packed into a lunch box for her, Grace was happily occupied and didn't ask once when the ride was going to end or if we could go home. Similarly, Sophie couldn't have been better behaved.  She didn't grizzle or whinge once, was happy sitting on our laps looking at all the other passengers and together with some food to nibble on and a breastfeed on the return journey, she was more than happy.

For me, the highlight of the ride was the return leg - the girls spent the majority of the time gazing out the window at the forest, waving to people waiting in their cars at the train crossings, pointing out creek beds and streams and looking out for animals in the paddocks we passed.  

Do your family have Sunday outings?  Do you have a family favourite?

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Wonderful World Of Online Shopping

Once upon a time, a package at our front door was a rarity.  These days, it isn’t uncommon.  I’m by no means a shopaholic, in fact, I’m quite the opposite.  It’s just that with two little ones, shopping without having to leave home is SO convenient.

Here are some purchases I’ve made online in recent weeks…

…a hand stamped keyring from Brag About It as a treat for myself (although it’s so pretty I’m now contemplating hanging it from a chain as a necklace instead) …

…a pair of teacups and saucers from Etsy seller Turtle andDove – I bought one set and loved it so much, I ordered the second one too…

…Peppa Pig jigsaw puzzles for Grace – initially I bought her a set of simpler ones.  However, these quickly became too easy and so last week, I bought the ‘nine in one’ set of 12, 24, 35 and 50 piece puzzles – the perfect challenge for wintery ‘stuck indoors’ days!

… and I finally bought those adorable Beehive Kitchenware bird measuring spoons I’ve admired for so long with some birthday money I'd been given.  Guess what job is at the top of my list for Paul to do tomorrow? 

Also, not worth a photo but worthy of a mention is Kitchenware Direct.  Following my mother-in-law's recommendation, I bought a new stick blender from their website when the motor on our old one went a few weeks back.  Not only was it WAY cheaper than any of the stores I'd looked at, it arrived on our doorstep only two days later!  

Are you a fan of online shopping?  Which purchases have you made lately?  Do you have any online stores to recommend?

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Sunday Drive

Hello again everyone!  Last week, I had a little blogging break as all my energy and enthusiasm went into just 'getting through the basics' each day.  Sophie had been having high temperatures for almost a week and without any other visible signs of illness, I initially put it down to teething.  However as the days dragged on and we reached six days of her being out of sorts, a trip to the doctor found she most likely had a virus.  Thankfully, by last Thursday, she was back to her happy, smiley little self again.

Aside from being house bound and trying to pacify a grumpy Sophie, we did have some excitement last week in the form of a new car.  Paul has been trying to convince me for ages now that we 'needed' a four wheel drive and a while back, I finally agreed he could buy whatever he thought would be suitable for us.  After a long wait, our new vehicle finally arrived and so yesterday, we took it for a drive out to York in the Avon Valley.  It was a gloriously sunny day and we enjoyed wandering through the town browsing in little antique shops, stopping for lunch at a cafe on the main strip, investigating the Swinging Bridge and then enjoying Devonshire tea at The Mill.  

How did you spend your weekend?