Monday, October 12, 2015

Crafty projects around the house

With baby J getting older and more independent, I've had a bit more time and energy to tackle crafty projects around the house.

I love perusing home design blogs like Centsational Girl, Swoonworthy and Style by Emily Henderson, so this year I decided to get my arty butt back into action and do some stuff.

I was never happy with this one particular wall in our lounge. The sconce and wall switch in the centre of it meant any big artwork had to sit off to the side. We had a big painting on the left for a while, but it always nagged at me how unbalanced it looked.

This year I decided to change it up to a gallery wall.

First I checked out Emily Henderson's Guide to a well hung gallery wall and then got busy with existing artwork we already had around the house.

The four large canvases are paintings by my hubby, the centre flower is a tapa cloth artwork we picked up in Fiji, and the other two small paintings were done by Miss S. I framed the three small pieces in white frames to bring some cohesiveness to the wall. As you can see, the colour scheme I was going for was coastal blues and white.

For the lounge I also wanted to freshen things up with some new cushions, so I made this one out of vintage curtain fabric from our bach. It usually sits on our couch with a couple of large, plain turquoise cushions.

I also made two of these floral cushions which are patterned on the front, and blue satin on the back. They usually sit on the two armchairs in our lounge and I love them. In this photo the colours don't look quite right. Those red flowers are more of a peach colour and the pink flowers normally really POP.

Our front entrance area was a bit of a mess, with shoes everywhere and only a little bookshelf tipped on its side to store them in. It never looked tidy, so when I saw Miss L's school giving away the silver bench below, I nabbed it and then kept my eyes open for some baskets that would fit under it for shoes.

I found these blue/green plastic, basket-weave tubs with lids at Kmart and thought they would be perfect. They so are!!! L and S have one basket each, and I share a basket with baby J. Husby-heart doesn't need one since he wears the same shoes every day. 

The cushions sitting on the bench are ones we already had. I did have plans to make a foam squab covered in the same floral fabric as the two matching cushions in the lounge, but haven't got around to it and the cushions are working fine for now. They give us a soft place to sit while we put on our shoes. 

The walls on either side of the window were blank for a long time. I didn't notice too much because I love looking out the window at all the greenery. But then I decided I wanted a mirror so we could check our appearance before leaving the house, and I also wanted some artwork in there for a bit of colour and interest. 

I bought the bamboo mirror at our local op shop. It was a lot bigger in the space than I had anticipated, by the time I got it up. Should've measured first! But it does the trick. I haven't decided whether I'll leave it natural bamboo, or paint it. For now I'm leaving it. What do you think I should do?

I created the following oil painting over a couple of weeks in our garage (oil takes a long time to dry!). It was very much inspired by these Swoonworthy paintings I love, although hers are a lot bigger and done in acrylic paint. I'm keen to do another abstract painting to go with it, and balance out that wall against the big mirror on the other side. 

In the dining room, our glass dining table came to a sudden, crashing end when Miss S tried to shift it and the whole top fell onto our hard tile floor.

I wasn't interested in spending $1000+ on a new table, so kept my eyes peeled for one when the inorganic rubbish collection did its rounds in Auckland this year.

I spotted a wooden table that was missing its top but had lovely heart-wood legs. It seemed the right size for our dining room so I chucked it in our big car (with the help of a friendly passer-byer) and brought it home.

Next step was figuring out how to build a top for it. With some advice from my handyman friend, Lou, I bought the supplies I needed and set to work building a table top in our garage. It wasn't a difficult process, and I just did it in short bits of time over a few months as I could. This is the end result...

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It was a little bit wobbly for a while, but another handyman friend, James, took a spanner to the bolts underneath and tightened them all. Now it's solid as a rock so I'm thrilled.

Outside the house we hired a builder from church to build a gate and little bit of fence for us by the letter box so that the whole yard would be enclosed and I could let baby J play outside without worrying about him escaping onto the road.

It has been amazing for my peace of mind.

The builder we hired hates painting, so he left that part to me. Painting pickets is a fiddly process, that's for sure, but it felt good to be doing something constructive for the house, and it looks so nice I can't help admiring it every time I pass through.

What crafty projects have been going on at your house?

Monday, September 21, 2015

To-do list magic

It's happening. The To-do list is back.

I'm attempting to get more organised in life, as I feel like I'm constantly flying by the seat of my pants, dropping the ball and never getting everything done that I want to.

Last night I spent a couple of hours perusing homemaking blogs, hoping they would re-inspire me in this role of mine.

It really helped.

I pulled out a little A5 clipboard and started menu planning (based on what we already have in the kitchen as I'm not going grocery shopping this week), and I started a To-do list.

Today that To-do list kept me super focused and motivated, and I accomplished almost everything on it. I've just got a bit of baking and breakfast prep for tomorrow still to do (circled in the image above).

How do you keep yourself on track? Do you use a To-do list too?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Baby J is turning two

Arrested for cuteness.
I don't know if I should still be calling him Baby J, since he turns two next month, but a Mama's gotta hold onto the baby stage as long as possible. Especially when this is her last bubba.

With the girls, I tried to record some of their developments from this stage of life, so it's high time I did the same for baby J. Just because he's the third child doesn't mean he has to miss out on all records and photos of his life.

1. Words and sayings
The Three Amigos pulling funny faces.
This lil guy has SO many words and sayings, it's impossible to record them all here. Since about 21 months, he's been giving any word a go, and often surprisingly accurately, so his vocabulary has sky rocketed. Here are some of his more common words and phrases:
  • "Thomas pooter" - means he wants to watch Thomas the Tank Engine on the computer. Duh.
  • "Batman there!" - said whenever he sees Batman, Darth Vader, or a man wearing a motorcycle helmet. Our car has also become the "Batman car", because of its dark colour.
  • 'Nono" is Noddy, who J loves to watch on TV, read books about at creche, build houses for out of Duplo and draw pictures of.
  • "This my Mummy!" - if Mummy is giving too many cuddles to the sisters or holding another baby.
  • "My, mine, mys" - talking about himself and his things, obv.
  • "Meow" - all cats are "Meows" to J, who corrects anyone that dares call them a cat.
  • "Pease" Please - used at all the right times. This week I got a lot of, "Cuddle pease?" as J was feeling so sick with a vomiting bug and just wanted his Mummy to hold him. 
  • "Hungy" - Hungry (this was a heartbreaker this week, as he kept on throwing up and then complaining that he was "hungy".
  • "Tank ooh" - Thank you
  • "Dat one dere" - That one there.
  • "No! Smith pop pop." - blaming farts on his cousin when I ask J if he has filled his pants.
  • "Yay!" - said whenever Mummy agrees to one of his requests.
  • "Where's the remote Mummy?" - because it's time to put Thomas on. 

2. Developments
  • Bed - J went into a big boy bed a couple of months ago and is loving it. It's a King Single, so big enough for Mummy or Daddy (usually Mummy) to lie down next to him as he drifts off to sleep. This is something he always requests, saying "Mummy piyo" as he pats the pillow next to his where he wants Mummy to lie.
  • No more naps - J dropped his daytime sleep at 21 months - just didn't need them anymore. I tried to fight it, but gave up when I realised he wasn't going to budge and it made night-time sleep so easy to achieve.
  • Toilet training - We are in the very early stages of this and won't embark properly until the weather warms up, but J has practised climbing up onto the toilet and can sit himself on it without help. When the weather warms up, he will go around with nappy and pants off at home so he can start connecting the dots between a full bladder and toileting. 

3. Interests
  • Toys - J loves building with Lego or Duplo, and he's just discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, so chances are he'll be getting some of that for his 2nd Birthday. He calls all trains "Thomas" and corrects anyone who tries to correct him. J loves to sleep with soft toys, and has lots of teddies and furry animals in his bed with him. 
  • TV - J discovered the TV a couple of months ago, and now wakes up every morning wanting to watch Thomas, Noddy or Postman Pat. It's been a godsend this week, as all three children have had the vomiting bug, but I'll be glad when everyone is better and we can get out and about again.
  • Swimming - although he hasn't done any official swimming lessons, J has been watching his sisters' lessons for the last year and picked up quite a lot. In the bath he blows bubbles, kicks his little feet and happily floats on his back. We went to a pool party recently and J swam in the pool with Paul, but kept pushing Paul's hands away because he wanted to swim on his own. He had lots of fun jumping off the edge and into the water, going under every time with no worries or fear, before Paul lifted him back up.
  • Painting - I've set up a painting area in our garage, which J absolutely loves. 
  • Drawing - J draws these amazingly detailed pictures, with lots of circles and small shapes completely covering his page. He also likes to draw on walls, which I'm always trying to prevent. We have to keep pens out of his reach, because they are impossible to get off the wall. Everything else comes out with Jif, thank goodness.
  • Reading - J loves to look through books by himself, but doesn't often let me read them to him. He's more likely to let Daddy read them, and they look so sweet reading together.
  • Playgrounds - J loves the adventure playgrounds at his big sister's school, and will happily climb ladders, walk the rope bridge and wobbly bridge, and slide down the slides.

4. Personality
J learns by watching and imitating others. It is amazing how observant he is, and the things he has already picked up. It makes him really helpful because he copies me and knows to put rubbish in the bin ("bim" he calls it), put his dishes on the bench and his toys in the toy baskets.

This boy of mine is super sweet, helpful, cuddly, funny and delightful. I woudn't change him for the world. Happy (almost) Birthday baby J. We love you to the moon and back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Vanilla smoothie recipe

This vanilla smoothie is my childrens' absolute favourite flavour.

They request it nine times out of ten and always guzzle it down. It's really a banana smoothie with vanilla flavours, but if I call it banana, my kids don't want it as much.

I like to make a big amount so all three kids all have a full cup, and I can use the leftovers to make ice blocks and smoothie pouches in these nifty Kai Carriers for lunch box fillers.


  • 3 bananas, fresh or frozen (frozen will result in a thicker, creamier smoothie)
  • 1c vanilla or greek yoghurt
  • 1/4c milk kefir, optional
  • 1/4c pouring cream
  • 1-2c water or almond milk
  • 3T vanilla protein powder 
  • 1t vanilla essence


Cut bananas into thirds and place in a blender with all the other ingredients. Whiz on high speed until smooth.

Serve immediately.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Embracing my space

Last year I bought three wooden planter boxes after getting inspired by Janet Luke's gardening book, Embrace Your Space. The boxes grew me a lovely assortment of vegetables for many months, but when I tried to replace the dead plants with new ones, my wee boy thought it was so he would have something to dig up with his nifty green space.

I planted more seedlings, and he raced to dig them out too. What a fun game. (I was crying on the inside.)

I gave up and left the boxes sitting empty for several months.

Then a couple of months back I found some King Seeds packets in my garage that I had bought at the same time as the planter boxes. I already had them so I though I may as well sprinkle them into the boxes and see if any plants would take hold before the boy pulled them out.

And now I have this... the best crop of coriander I've ever grown, with some carrots coming through underneath.

I've been enjoying the most beautiful salads this week, with freshly picked coriander packing a flavour punch. And tonight we had a gorgeous Thai Beef Stir-fry featuring more coriander from my garden. It might not seem like much of a garden, but it has helped me reconnect with my earthy side, which has been sadly neglected this past year. And it's reminded me just how much I love growing and eating my own food.

In one of the other planter boxes I've got a thriving self-seeded Italian parsley, which was just such a lovely surprise.

The parsley featured in a recent Moroccan Chickpea Salad I made, following the divine Revive Cafe recipe. I am so addicted to this salad. I also threw some coriander into it, just because I could.

How are your gardens growing?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Low-carb, gluten-free coconut wraps

OK, before you get your hopes up, this is not a coconut wrap recipe (although it would be super cool if anyone has one they want to share in the comments below).

This is just a review of a great product I found at Food Compass that I thought might interest some of my gluten-free, low-carb, Trim Healthy Mama friends out there.

The product is called Pure Wraps and it's a pack of four small tortillas/wraps made out of coconut meal and sea salt.

If you can see in the photo above, I filled mine with basil pesto, tuna, cottage cheese, cucumber and tomato.

That's a pretty wet mixture, which would usually turn my tortilla or mountain bread wrap into a soggy mess, but the cool thing about these Pure Wraps is that they are almost glossy, so the liquid doesn't penetrate. The Pure Wraps hold up really well and are beautifully pliable.

They do have a slight coconut flavour, understandably, but I didn't find it interfering with the taste of the wrap filling. I more noticed it in the smell and as a coconutty aftertaste.

The only improvement I would suggest to the manufacturers is to increase the wrap size, as they are a little on the small side.

Have you come across Pure Wraps before? What did you think of them?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dark chocolate brownie - a grain-free recipe

I've discovered a wonderful NZ online provider of specialty health foods, called Food Compass.

If you're having trouble tracking down specialty ingredients for a recipe, try your luck at Food Compass. You can shop the specials or new arrivals, and you can even filter your searches to make them gluten-free, paleo, nut-free, etc, depending on your dietary requirements.

Food Compass recently sent me a box of goodies to experiment with, so the following is the recipe I came up with. It's an airy, grain-free, dark chocolate brownie that could also work as a gluten-free cake if baked in a cake tin.

If you're after a denser chocolate brownie, try adding 1/2 cup - 1 cup of dark chocolate chunks, although this would increase the sugar content, which I've kept low by using dates and coconut nectar instead of sugar to sweeten.

*Update, the brownie does become denser as it cools. I think it's even nicer after 24 hours.


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
  2. Place dates, water, cocoa butter, coconut nectar and vanilla essence in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the dates have softened enough to mash and the cocoa butter has melted.
  3. Tip contents from saucepan into a food processor and whiz on high speed until smooth.
  4. Add cocoa powder, almond flour and baking soda to the food processor and mix on a medium speed until incorporated.
  5. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing after each addition until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into a greased baking dish and spread to edges.
  7. Bake at 180°C / 350°F for 18 - 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Slice into rectangles and serve warm or cold with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or Greek yoghurt. 

This recipe makes 15 pieces and freezes well. It's a perfect Thermomix recipe, as the dates and cocoa butter can be melted directly in the Thermomix bowl, saving on dishes.