Sunday, 26 March 2017

Renovations #2

You guys, I'm drowning in paperwork.  I was an administration assistant when I was still a contributing member of society, so I love a form.  Love forms, love ticking boxes.  

But oh my wordy lordy are there a lot of boxes to tick and forms to fill out to move to New Zealand.  And each form has a supplementary form, and some forms have questions that I don't know the answers to, like, as a random example, the date purchased, price in NZD and origin of all the alcohol in our booze cupboard.  Actually I've solved that one as I will be drinking all that alcohol in the next couple of weeks.  There's no form needed for that.

It's only been a couple of weeks since I wrote about the renovations but oh boy are things coming together now!  I can really picture us living here.  Which is good, because we'll be there in LESS THAN THREE WEEKS OH MY GOD.

Bedrooms

The wardrobes are all in now I think.  B was insistent that we not put doors on the front which I'm pretty sure is going to be a stupid idea but whatever I have forms to fill out and no time to argue.  All I can think is MOTHS.  Moths eating all my clothes.

In the girls' rooms we'll probably use the robes for toys, books, etc, and use their dressers to keep clothes in.  Or we will be putting doors on everything in about a month's time.


Bathroom

Look!  Look!  Look at the shiny bathroom!  Just got the heated towel rail to be installed and we are d.o.n.e in here.  Before you think we're all up ourselves with a heated towel rail, please recall that this is New Zealand.  It rains, like, every day.  Unless we want to dry ourselves with mould spores, a heated towel rail is pretty much essential.


Laundry

I don't think I shared any photos of the laundry last time as there wasn't much to show, but it's going to be so good.  Look at all the bench space!  And on the opposite wall there's a narrow little cupboard to store all my laundry soap and stuff in.  I do love doing the washing and I'm going to extra double love it in this big awesome laundry.


Kitchen/Living

Just awaiting the carpet in the living room, not much to see here...


But the kitchen, now this is where I get quite excited!!!!  I love it.  I can picture my girls sitting up at that big bench.  I can picture myself standing at the sink looking out that window at the little house paddock.  Do you know how many times I have dreamt of something exactly like this for our family?




Pouring rain, sun shining, blowing a gale, fire crackling, muddy gum boots at the door, little girls running up and down the hall, bikes, ponies, flannelette sheets, hydrangeas, roses, snow on the mountain, it's going to be so good.

So good, you guys.

Ok I'll stop now.







Sunday, 19 March 2017

The last of the summer snaps

Well, summer is done.  Yes, ok, it officially ended several weeks ago but our autumn break only arrived last week, so now it's really over.  That's the last truly hot summer we'll have for some time and I can't say I'll miss it.

That being said, I think the New Zealand winter that we'll head straight into might be a bit of a shock to my system.  I'm from the Adelaide Hills originally and winters there can certainly get very cold - with frosts and everything - but it's been a long time since I've lived through one.  I've really been spoiled in Perth where we have about 2.5 months of winter TOPS, and the sun still shines most of those days.

One person who I think will really relish the cooler climate is the poor cat.  Poor black cat living in Perth.

This is pretty much how he spends October to March
The garden has come through this summer amazingly well.  B kept up the watering with gay abandon, knowing that we had to get things properly established before we leave.  It's all responded in kind and even plants we thought were d.o.n.e have marshalled themselves for a comeback.

Exhibit A below being this bromeliad which was a gift ages ago from an old colleague of mine.  It's been various states of miserable until we transplanted it into this spot and behold!  A flower!  A pretty cool looking flower too.


Exhibit B is my fiddle-leaf fig, the hipster's plant of choice circa 2015.  Longterm readers with elephantine memories will recall from my old blog that I found this plant as a very sad specimen squashed amongst the $7 flowers at the local supermarket.  It had about four very dusty leaves.  I watered it and wiped its leaves and it grew and grew!  

But then we had a few days' hot windy weather a couple of months ago and its leaves started to droop and die back.  I cut off the dead and dying foliage and B was insistent that it should be re-potted.  It looked like it was on the way out anyway so I reluctantly agreed to give it a go and see what happened.


And behold!  New leaves!  I never doubted you, B!



Because I am super on-trend at all times (see: fiddle-leaf fig above), I also recently started a succulent pot.  Not entirely sure why as we won't be here to see it to fruition but the pot was sitting there empty so hey.  Taa-daa.


My kids generally keep me indoors during sunset doing fun things like bath time and reading Spot books, so I usually only see the best sunsets on Facebook and Instagram.  Somehow the other day, though, I happened to be outside while this was going on.  This was actually taken looking east.

One day my girls will be able to take care of their own ablutions and think how many sunsets I'll soak in then!


Found a recipe for brioche bread in Gourmet Traveller magazine.  If we're friends on Instagram you will have already seen this.  Six eggs and 300g butter.  It smells like a croissant.  I'm pretty happy with how it came out considering that I have about zero bread-baking experience.  It was slightly underdone but totally delicious.


Baby A turns six months old next week this week today.  She's had a very cranky and dribbly phase recently so might be teething but really who knows.  Luckily she's chubby and delicious or I might have been tempted to put her out for the rubbish collection once or twice.




Less than one month until we're in New Zealand!!





Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Salted Chocolate Cookies

You get a bonus post this week because I just had to share this recipe!

Original recipe from taste.com.au

We can't take any food, opened or otherwise, with us to New Zealand.  That means over the next few weeks we'll be doing our best to run down and use up our pantry stocks.

The good news is that the moving company will donate any unopened food to charity.  But I keep all my baking supplies in glass jars which means it allllll needs to be used up.  This recipe enabled me to finish off the last of my superior cooking chocolate.  These cookies also happen to be delicious, and I'm a big fan of any recipe that doesn't require an electric mixer because: lazy.  I can never be bothered to drag the thing out of the cupboard.

Salted Chocolate Cookies




Ingredients
275g 70% dark chocolate, chopped (I only had 180g so I also used the last of my dark chocolate drops which added up to about 220g I think)
100g milk chocolate, chopped (I didn't use any milk chocolate because YUCK)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa (I always use dutch)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar (I had none so used the last of my brown sugar and raw caster sugar)
180g salted butter
3 eggs, lightly whisked
2 tsp salt flakes

Method
Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan-forced.  Line two large baking trays with baking paper.

Melt butter and 100g dark chocolate and 50g milk chocolate (I obviously just used 150g dark) in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Set aside for 10 min to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, sift flour and cocoa into a large bowl.  Stir in sugar.  Add chocolate mixture and eggs and stir to combine.  Stir through remaining chopped chocolate.  Roll slightly heaped tablespoons of mixture into balls.  Place on the prepared tray 5cm apart.  Slightly flatten balls with fingers.  I didn't leave my chocolate mixture to cool for quite 10 min so my dough was quite loose and wet.  I didn't bother to flatten them because they spread on their own.  Bake for 11 min.  Sprinkle with salt.  I was quite cautious with the salt and you can barely taste it.  You could leave it off altogether and they would still be delicious.  Bake for another 1 min.  Cool on trays for 5 min then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to one week.  Trust me, they won't last that long.

Oh, nearly forgot to mention, yield is about 35 cookies.









Saturday, 11 March 2017

Renovations #1

Right, so, as threatened previously, it's time for our first update on the renovation of our little cottage. I don't have a huge number of "before" photos but just picture burnt orange curtains, flocked wallpaper, high gloss ceiling tiles, brown lino, and a BAD eighties pine kitchen.  Oh, and how could I forget the olive green bathroom.  Ya-huh.

We don't expect to stay in the cottage long - it just has to be liveable - but even if we're only there for a year or two we still want it to be a pleasant place to live.  The deck was rotten so that had to be replaced no matter what.  And the olive green bathroom, well obviously it HAD.TO.GO.  But beyond that, we had originally intended just new floor coverings and a coat of paint.

As so often happens, though, things took on a life of their own and it's turned into a pretty major overall.  I'm excited though because it's going to be a really nice place to live, however long we are there for.  The intention long-term is to build a family home of our own further back from the road and we'll rent the cottage out perhaps as a B&B (that I would run), or, more likely, as a long term rental.  So it does make sense to get everything done now so that it's ready for its next incarnation whenever and whatever that may be.


Kitchen/Living Room

I honestly did not mind this kitchen too much - plenty of cupboard space, and it has a dishwasher.  Tick and tick.  Sadly the stove is electric which is going to take some getting used to but it's not the end of the world.



The lino on the floor was U.G.L.Y IT AIN'T GOT NO ALIBI, and that *ahem* charming stained glass overhead cupboard?  NOICE.  I especially enjoy the fancy turned spindle things holding it up.


That's the hot water unit in the cupboard on the right above, kind of a waste of space in the kitchen but at least it's hidden.

So, the kitchen is now being almost entirely re-done.  The door to the hot water unit cupboard has been moved to the other side and we've now installed a wall to separate the kitchen from the entrance and laundry.  The bench top will be replaced and extended along the island to give me more bench space.

You can also see in the photos below that the ceiling tiles have been replaced too, thank god.  The lino has been torn up to reveal some surprisingly lovely floorboards.  Unfortunately, with the intention of renting it out, we don't want to worry about the maintenance of the floorboards so they will be covered again by a (nicer) lino in all the wet areas.  And we'll have carpet in the living and bedrooms.  I would love to have exposed floorboards, and what a jackpot to have beautiful tightly fitted ones hiding beneath the icky old floors, but it's just too cold a climate to have them throughout.

If the B&B thing eventuates we can always tear everything up and put rugs down.



Right, onwards.

Below is the living room in its original state, with cameo by woman I don't know.


 Here we have torn up carpet, replaced ceiling tiles, replaced down lights, and removed fireplace and relocated in the "nook" you can see to the left in the photo below.  Moving the fireplace is another one of those things we wouldn't have bothered with but it segmented the room making positioning furniture really difficult, plus in its new location it will be more central within the house so the heating will be way more efficient.

Can I tell you how excited I am to have a wood burning fire?!  VERY EXCITED INDEED.  Yes, ash, yes, wood chopping.  But: crackling log fire.


Bathroom

I have no words.  There are none.


Unsurprisingly, the lovely bathroom was also leaky so the whole thing has been torn out and replaced.


White!  Shiny!  Clean!



Bedrooms

All the bedrooms had built-in robes which have been torn out to make more space, and they're all getting new carpet, paint and curtains.  Unfortunately the ceiling tiles will remain but at least they're not as offensive as the high-shine ones that were in the living areas.



Outdoors

LOTS of work has been done around the garden and house paddock clearing away overgrown shrubs, dead and diseased trees, and other mess.  As mentioned the deck has been replaced and it looks so good!



It's all ticking along at a fantastic rate.  We have actually now booked our flights and will be living in NZ before the end of April.  I'm tremendously excited but also daunted at the amount of work to be done between now and then.  I've said it before and I'll probably say it again quite a few more times, but the logistics of moving internationally with two small children are significant.  

Significant.






Monday, 6 March 2017

5:2 Diet

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Since my youngest child is now nearing six months old, and is no longer breastfeeding, I'm running out of excuses to put off losing the baby weight.  I'm not especially hung up about the number on the scale, it's more about how clothes fit, the general level of horror I feel at my reflection in shop windows, and so on.

Also it's good to, you know, set a positive example to the kids re health and fitness and YAWN.

Anyway,  I'd heard about the 5:2 diet, which is where you eat normally - but sensibly - for five days of the week and fast on the remaining two non-consecutive days.  By "fast", I mean that you restrict calorie consumption to 500 or less.

It appealed to me for numerous reasons.  Firstly, I am hopeless at exerting willpower when it comes to food, and as soon as I decide I'm going to "eat healthy" I immediately crave pasta and cheese and hot chips and so I eat salad for two meals and then go nuts on some massive cheesy nuggets blowout feast cos, you know, I've been dieting (cheesy nuggets being my kryptonite food).  But denying myself for only one day at a time?  Well, that I can do.

Secondly, it apparently offers many health benefits besides weight loss.

And third, it's simple.  It costs nothing to do.  It requires no time-consuming food planning and preparation.  In fact, I get so much more stuff done on my fast days because I'm not wasting time eating.  PLUS, I'm not a big drinker but 5:2 means that I automatically have two alcohol-free days per week.  Tick!

My husband B and I have only been doing it for a few weeks but already I'm a total convert.  I'll keep it up for as long as I can.  We missed a fast day a couple of weeks ago due to J's birthday, but whatever.  Sometimes I go over my calorie allowance on fast day, no big deal.  Most interestingly though, recently we had a big indulgent weekend of eating and drinking, and I was actually looking forward to fast day Monday.  For a diet-hater like me that is really revolutionary stuff.


So far, my strategy on fast day is to put off eating for as long as possible because once I do, I'll be starving.  That said, I still have my usual full fat flat white every morning (I don't have sugar in my coffee anyway) because I MUST HAVE MY COFFEE.  It's only 120 of my calories and it's totally worth it.  Then I drink water all day long, as much as possible.

I'm usually hungriest at about 1 or 2pm, and then it tapers off over the course of the afternoon until I'm quite looking forward to dinner, but not desperate.  

We have a smallish dinner of salad or veg with egg, always an egg!, and that's it.  Normal service resumes the following morning when you think I'd wake up starving but here's the thing.  I wake up less hungry than I do on a normal day.  Then usually I spend the day still in "fast mode" and I'm very conscious of anything I put in my mouth (insert usual joke here).


Now that I've got the hang of it I'm working up to a true fast day - zero or as few calories as possible. I suspect that that would actually be easier than figuring out how best to spend my 500 allowance.  Food is off the table (GET IT! OFF the table!) so you just carry on with your day instead of obsessing about whether this food or that is a better use of your allowance.


Look, I'm not really sure why I'm telling you about this.  I'm usually not really a food fad type person.  I'm always rolling my eyes at the whole paleo/quitting sugar/gluten free thing.  And 5:2 could very well be debunked as a ridiculous food fad in a few years' time.  But for now I like the fact that I can have my cheesy nuggets and eat them too.





Monday, 27 February 2017

Two!

We've passed a few momentous milestones in this house recently.

Firstly, J has started daycare once a week.  She did her first full day last week and although she didn't sleep while there, and there were some tears at drop-off, she seems to have taken to it really well.  She's especially proud of her "bap-pack" which is almost as big as she is.


She also turned two (or "doo" if you ask her) last week.  She didn't really have a clue what her birthday was beforehand but she had a pretty good grasp of it by the end of the day.  Watching her running up and down the driveway squealing and playing, while I held baby A in my arms, really drove home to me more than ever that they do grow up so quickly.  It's hard to picture but is very likely that within a year A will be chasing her big sister, and possibly even trying to talk.  Honestly I can't wait.


CAKE DELICIOUS CAKE
At two, J is pure joy.  She has been slow to speak but the little words and sentences are starting to come through (I'm sure daycare will help immensely with that).  She is such a helpful little girl and whatever we're doing she's right there front and centre "helping".


I'm sure her helpful nature has been a big contributing factor in making the transition from one to two kids such a smooth one for us - more on that later.  I'll be writing a post to follow up on the one I wrote about all my "second baby" fears on my old blog.

It was also my birthday earlier in the month - the big 36.  I can't remember how I felt about turning 35 but certainly this year turning 36 gave me pause.  I'm not one to get depressed about getting older (or not yet anyway) but 36 does seem awfully grown up.  I even went for a nice invigorating walk to start the day.


Not much to report on the move to NZ - the renovations on the cottage are ticking along at a great rate and will apparently be finished very soon!  It makes me itch with anticipation to imagine the house all ready standing empty waiting for us, but unfortunately we won't be moving just yet.  I'll post some photos as soon as I have some decent ones to share.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Parrots and a Dragonfly

When I started this blog (all of a week ago), I told myself I would only be using high quality photos that I'd shot on my DSLR.

That's all well and good for posts about things here in Perth, but for now we can only rely on my husband B's family sending us photos of Ten Acres from their phones.  So already I'm realising that if I'm going to write about renovations and so on, as I intend to, I may have to let the odd low res image through.  I'm clutching my pearls at the very thought.

Anyway.  Just getting that off my chest.

Here, though, are some nice shiny DSLR images from the other day when we had an early morning visit from some corellas and, er, green parrots (king parrots maybe? A twitcher* I am not), and, later on, the most amazing huge glittery dragonfly.

We've grown these sunflowers to attract bees to the garden, plus they grow quickly and look very cool.  Having the wildlife come for breakfast has just been an added bonus.




This reminds me of a book we had as kids called Where Is The Green Parrot



The birds sent J into an absolute paroxysm of delight.  She was crouching down in her pyjamas pointing with her stubby little finger: "Bords! Bords!".  Then, in an exaggerated pantomime with her finger to her lips: "Shhh! Woaw."  Think how Lydia from Real Housewives of Melbourne says "wow".  Like that.

J was also very pleased with the dragonfly visitor and it took some restraining to convince her not to touch and just look.  I think she got it in the end: "Non't touch."





*Twitcher means bird-watcher.  Look it up if you don't believe me.  This is the kind of useless knowledge I retain so that I can forget the names of everyone I meet