Bubbles in the Winter Sun

On a cold, sunny winter’s day, what could be more fun than rugging up in jackets and Red Bands, and chasing bubbles in the sun?

Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles BubblesNothing, that’s what.


In Our Garden

I love watching our garden spring into life at this time of year. The new, brilliantly-green leaves on the trees, the bursts of colour as flowers bloom…everything about this time of year magically whispers, then yells, of growth and change and promise.

This is our second spring here, and we are still watching, learning, planning and bluffing our way along. We’re not gardeners, but we’re learning to be, and we’re excited to see things grow and change and adapt.

It’s a bit like parenting, really.

Vege patch Pea plants Radishes Strawberry plants in pot Mesclun and spinach Vege patch Thyme IMG_6189 Rhododendron Urban gardenThose plastic bottles covering my mesclun seedlings? My dad’s clever idea. They have two purposes: they act as mini glasshouses, and they protect the tender little plants from hungry hedgehogs and other garden pests. His thumbs are greener than a leprechaun’s top hat.

The weeds? They’re all my own.

Sharing Spaces

You know those times when someone asks you to make something happen, and you instinctively say “yes” because you just know it will make them insanely happy?

Tiny’s wish was granted last Friday, and the excitement on both boys’ faces when they saw their beds side-by-side was immense.

Shared boys' bedroom Shared boys' bedroom Shared boys' bedroom Shared boys' bedroomSomething so simple has made my babies incredibly happy, and even though we moved into a bigger house so we could have more space, I couldn’t think of a better use of the extra. Turning Pickle’s room into an upstairs “playroom” makes perfect sense, as they both like to take themselves up and play away from the boring adult stuff anyway.

Boys' playroomThose little hobbit doors in each room? We think they’re connected – there’s a loose panel in the wall of the one in the shared bedroom – but we’re not going to tell the boys until they’re a little bit older. But – FUN! Boys' playroom Boys' playroom Both rooms are a work-in-progress, but I think they look pretty good for just a few hours’ moving of stuff. We plan on painting over the flowers and replacing those floral-monstrosity curtains, and I’m looking for a suitable desk to pop in the playroom for my sewing machine, but for now, we’re happy with the spaces as they are.

The “couch” in the playroom is Pickle’s old cot, simply with the drop-side removed. I’ve covered the ugly mattress with two cot blankets, and even though the cushions don’t match, Tiny arranged them and thinks it’s the most comfortable couch everrrrrrr.

Cot becomes couch(Please feel free to contact me regarding where we might have purchased items shown)

Decluttering: goodbye, stuff!

Last week I was inspired to get rid of some unnecessary stuff after reading Jess’ 50 Things I’m Happier to Live Without post. The decluttering has continued, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve gotten rid of over 50 items that we no longer need or want.

Things like shoes that have always been too big for me, but I’ve never wanted to give them up, or clothes I’ve clung on to, despite not wearing them in years, because of the memories attached to them. Toys, clothes and books that the boys have long-outgrown, or are surplus to requirements, to be passed on to an expectant friend. Handbags and blouses that are much to “corporate” for my current lifestyle. Cookbooks and parenting books that are gathering dust on the shelves; broken kitchen things, and bath toys that are clouded inside with black mould. Samples of moisturisers, and cat food for a cat we do not have; nailpolish that has never been opened and jeans with holes in the knees.

Decluttering4 IMG_5178
All. Gone. Either given to friends, taken to an op shop, or thrown straight in the bin. Spaces cleared, friends and strangers made happy.

I thought I’d struggle to find 50 items to clear, but once I started, I couldn’t be stopped. I found it easier getting rid of my own things – clothes and shoes that didn’t fit were an easy choice, and I used this exercise as an opportunity to tidy as I went. Our walk-in wardrobe now looks very pretty indeed! I did clear out some things from the boys’ rooms when they were otherwise occupied, but I knew the things I was removing were items they no longer played with or fit.

If, like me, you are not a fan of clutter, I challenge you to follow Jess’ example and try this – it feels so good knowing we are lighter in stuff, and that other people have benefited from my clear-out.

A Herb Garden

I can’t wait to get my hands dirty in our new vegetable garden.

IMG_3557There are all my favourite herbs already flourishing

IMG_3559but I’d like to add in some dill and coriander

IMG_3561once the weeds are under control.

IMG_3562There are some little yellow silverbeets growing there

IMG_3558and even though I don’t like silverbeet

IMG_3566I think it looks so pretty that it can stay there for now.

IMG_3564Fresh herbs make me happy.

It’s often the simple things.

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Random Thoughts on Thursday: the house edition

Tomorrow. It’s Settlement Day on our new house. To say that we’re excited is the understatement of the century. This day has been a long time coming, it seems – although the past six weeks have sped by – and we are ready, so ready, to move into our new home.

Are we sad to be leaving this house? A little. Not really. I think we’ve mentally been out for a while now – we lost our passion for making changes a few months back – and neither of us are the sort to be too emotionally attached to brick and mortar.

However, in the spirit of RToT, here are the things I will miss about this house:

~ this was the first home we owned, and the three-and-a-half years we’ve lived here has been the longest we’ve lived anywhere together

~ this is where we brought our boys home to (and where one – Pickle – was conceived)

~ our beautiful, beautiful ceilings. I will miss laying in bed or on the lounge floor with such an amazing “view”

Ceiling~ the duck shelf in the toilet

Duck Shelf~ the changes we’ve made, and the comments people make when they walk in and see how contemporary those changes are, but how sympathetic we’ve been to the age of the house (it’s almost 100 years old)

Bathroom Hallway~ the stained-glass windows in the lounge and our bedroom, and the way the coloured light plays softly on the carpet when the sun hits them

There are also, however, things I won’t miss:

~ the huge gaps under some of the doors, the warped doors, the wonky walls

~ the way the southerly rain leaks through our bedroom windows

~ the duck shelf in the toilet 😉

~ the ice-box that is our laundry during the winter

~ having to go through the aforementioned ice-box to get to the toilet

~ the neighbourhood cats who seem to think our vegetable and herb gardens are their personal toilets (grrrrrrrrrrr!)

~ the green kitchen with its terribly-fitted, impossible-to-reach-into pantry

Kitchen~ the lack of neighbourhoodliness (not a word, you say, SpellCheck? Pah.), and the punks who have broken our letterbox a gazillion times.

We have had some wonderfully awesome-fun times in this house, and it will always be remembered fondly, but it’s time to move on to somewhere bigger and better, time to let another family create wonderful awesome-fun memories here.

(I can’t promise there won’t be tears when I close the front door for the last time though!)

Eating on the Move

In this week’s groceries, I did something I never do: I bought pizza bases and cookies.

Before you insist I hang my head in shame, please hear my defense:

We’re moving house this weekend.

Being the organised soul that I am, I decided to pack our pantry and cupboards last weekend. Herbs? In a box. Assorted rices? In a box. Baking supplies? In a box. Rolling pin? In…well, you get the picture, right??

IMG_3516Our pantry looks bare (although I am painfully aware that my “bare” pantry will be someone’s full pantry, and I count myself truly lucky that I can be so glib about this), and each time I open it, I am a little shocked (that may also be in part because there’s a random bottle of toilet cleaner in there).

IMG_3517IMG_3518I planned this week’s meals to use the minimum amount of ingredients, cooking implements and crockery, simply so I could keep packing.

Spaghetti bolognese: one fry pan, one pot
Pork and noodle stir fry: as above
Pizza: two oven trays
Spanish omelette: one fry pan
Lamb shank soup: one fry pan, one slow cooker
Lasagna from the freezer: one microwave

IMG_3521I think I am officially a packing geek.

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Memories and Macarons

Over the weekend, I got all blitzy and decided to clear out the wooden chest in the corner of our lounge. It’s always been the “I don’t know where it goes so it can go in here” place, but like a woman possessed, I decided that Sunday was the day to go through it all.

I bagged up everything that was my husband’s, and he scanned through it quickly, deciding to keep everything. Whatevs. That’s his prerogative.

But I got ruthless. All my old school books? In the bin. Random bits of paper with meaningless things on them? In the (recycling) bin. Old school projects? In. The. Bin.

Some of my artwork from when I was little was too special to throw out, so I kept those. The pictures I could bear to part with, I photographed first, as a way of preserving it for some unknown future use. I came across a box full of old birthday cards, including ones from both sets of grandparents who have passed away, handmade ones from my brother and sister, and three very special ones from my dear friend, Cookie Bear. These, I kept.

As I was doing my blitz, a part of me wondered if I shouldn’t just hold on to everything, as a way of, you know, preserving my past or something. My mother is a hoarder – not pathologically, but she doesn’t throw anything away unless it is threadbare or utterly kaput – and a child of the Depression. She saves everything for the day when it might come in handy, and I think my constant cleaning and cleansing is a way of going against this.

Sure, there are times when I get ruthless, and then a few months later, wonder what I’ve done with something that I suddenly can’t live without, and then I regret my blitzing tendencies. But most of the time, I think carefully about what I’m getting rid of, I ponder it for a while and then make my decision: keep or cull. And then I act. Pow.

Also on Sunday, I decided it was time to try making macarons. I’d pinned this recipe ages ago, and it was finally time to give it a go.


They took a lot longer to prepare than I expected. I did spend some time online checking out techniques and troubles, trying to work out exactly what my egg whites should look like when they were done. I also had trouble with my piping nozzle and the size of my pre-drawn circles, and in the end, went freehand.

As the first tray baked, I saw straight away that they weren’t working. There were cracks and peaks, and no feet. NO FEET, people, no feet. In the macaron world, this is the disaster to end all disasters.

Definitely NOT macarons

The second tray was as bad as the first, but as they came out of oven and cooled enough to be sampled, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they tasted. It was evident that I was making heavy meringues instead of macarons.

The third tray were the best yet, almost good enough to be called macarons. What was different? I mixed the last of the batter a bit more, and used a different baking function on the oven (one that wicks more moisture out). Everything I read pointed towards the mixture being under-mixed, so next time (yes, I will try again), I will be sure to give an extra few stirs, just to be sure.

Could possibly pass for macarons

I had issues with brownies for a while, but I’ve mastered them now, and I am determined not to let macarons beat me either.

Tales of Travel: Living in London

Before leaving on our New-YorkNew-ZealandThailand adventure, we’d moved out of our St Albans flat – in deep, deep snow, no less (in fact, the morning we flew to NYC, we trudged from my sister’s house to the train station, in deep, deep snow…)! We spent a couple of weeks selling things on eBay and putting everything else into storage; it was scary how much stuff we’d accumulated in less than two years!

Snow at our front door…

Arriving back in England, we headed back to St Albans to stay with my sister while we looked for a new place to live; conscious of the fact that she had two young children, we wasted no time in figuring out what areas of London we’d consider living in, and set about the daunting task of trawling through ‘Flatmates Wanted’ ads online.

Tall was going to be commuting to St Albans six days a week (five for work, one to play cricket for Wheathampstead), so we needed to be near the Thameslink trainline. Our search, therefore, started in West Hampstead and nearby suburbs – the perfect spot with the train station for Tall, a good tube line to the centre of London for me, and loads of great pubs, bars and restaurants.

The first flat we looked at was in Swiss Cottage, a 10 minute walk from West Hampstead train and tube stations. It was on the third floor of a Victorian terrace, in a quiet street close to Finchley Road and not far from Hampstead Heath. The bedroom was huge, the lounge was even bigger, and the bathroom and kitchen were ginormous by English standards. The flatmates who were staying in the flat just happened to be a young kiwi couple, and we hit it off at that first meeting; she was huge fan of cooking shows on TV (yey for me!) and he was a massive Arsenal fan (yey for Tall!). We fell in love with the flat straight away, but had arranged to view another the same evening.

Swiss Cottage

That second flat was in West Hampstead itself, five minutes from the train and tube stations. The room was small but had a modern ensuite and a separate closet, and the rest of the flat was very tidy and had been recently redecorated….and the flatmates who were staying in the flat were – you guessed it – a young kiwi couple!

Knowing how quickly nice flats get snaffled up in London, we knew we had to make a decision immediately. That night, I called the first flat to say we were keen to take the room; it was tough situation as we didn’t want to seem too eager and scare them off, or too nonchalant and have them give the room to someone else. Luckily, we made a good impression, and they immediately agreed; the flat was ours!

Five days later, we were taking all our belongings out of storage and moving in to the flat that would be our home for the next seven months.

What We’re Reading

I’m not sure whether I’m enjoying “Black Beauty” or not! It’s strange…I almost feel as though I’d have liked it more when I was younger, yet it has such a powerful message that would most likely have been lost on adolescent-me. I’m aware that being written from the horse’s point-of-view was pretty out-there for the 1870s, but it feels a little halting and uncomfortable. In saying that, it is a very easy read, and I am fascinated to read about the treatment of horses in the late 19th-century.

My in-laws would be proud: they both competed at an international level in showjumping, and now train racehorses, and are therefore horse mad. Horse crazy, even. Tall doesn’t ride – never has – so is seen as a bit of an aberration on both sides of his family!

“Kid Wrangling”, like “Up the Duff”, is a bit tongue-in-cheek in some parts, which appeals to my I-don’t-want-to-read-a-parenting-book-but-will-muddle-my-way-through mentality. My sister has this book and recommended it for the sections on discipline and toddler sleep; so far my only complaint is that the section on “Weaning” doesn’t account for babies over 12mths.

It’s always an exciting day when the latest copy of “Your Home and Garden” arrives in our mailbox, but the last two months have seen me unwrap it, stare longingly at the cover, and place it somewhere out of Tiny’s reach. However, last night I managed my first flick-through during the ads of Grey’s Anatomy – on the same day the magazine arrived, wheeeee!

Tiny is loving these four right now. He’s eager to get to the “On Saturday he ate…” page, gleefully shouts “BOAT! BOAT”, still loves the “Near Sheep”, and, even though he can say all the animal noises in the “Sounds” book, prefers to flip through the pages until the rooster at the end, so he can crow, “cock cock cock”.