Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Little chef, Big chef...

Okay, so how do you cook a meal that's healthy, easy and your kids love? Well, you let them do it. 
Pizza bases, piles of sauteed mushrooms, steamed broccoli and zuccini, sliced ham, plain old tomato sauce and frozen peas. Even more fun than lego.
Nowhere in any cookbook have I seen a picture like this. But the boys love it AND they eat it. And quite often I have a slice or two myself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Snowed under?

My whole spring clean in autumn push is stretching on through winter and I have finally woken up today feeling as though I have more of a grip on my life. A nice feeling for a Monday morning.

There is a pile of stuff at the front door to be given away, my floors are clean, the washing is out and thanks to my flirtation with flylady I am still washing up a lot and it's amazing how much more I love my kitchen.

I've even tackled the paperwork. When we moved in I gave over a drawer to my paperwork but with no plan of attack look what happened.
I only ever opened the darn thing to throw another piece of paper in. Half an hour of work (and ten months of thinking about it) and I have an empty drawer and a new plan of attack.
Now some of you may chuckle smugly into your hand when you read these simple tips. People like me who are by nature NOT NEAT need help.

1. Deal with the paper you have in your hand immediately. Toss it, file it, or put it in a 'do' zone.  If the doing is quick and easy - do it now.

The old me would have said a 'do pile' but we have a problem with piles in our house. My husband and I fight over them. 'His' and 'Hers' piles build up and before we've dealt with them they merge, then we re-sort them, get rid of them and within days new ones start.

I am keeping my black in and out boxes in the dreaded drawer. It eliminates the pile problem and as long as I file weekly and act on the stuff that's in there all will be well.

2. Filing. We have around ten white plastic ring binder files containing all our paperwork from the last five homes we have lived in. That's two house purchases, three leases, final bills, insurance etc etc etc...  Not to mention all the other stuff to do with careers, cars, banks and health.
The moral of the story is don't move so much and when you do don't move interstate or overseas. BUT anyway, I am chucking out the stuff we don't need anymore, re-labelling the spines on the files with a printed contents list and putting them in a kitchen cupboard where they are easily accessible.

3. Receipts
I now have a clear plastic pocket to keep them all together in the drawer  - you never know if you might need it to return a shirt if it falls apart after the second wash. Clear the pocket out every few months. File receipts for larger items that have a longer guarantee period.

5. School stuff
It's amazing how much paper one schoolboy can generate. Event dates now go straight onto the family calendar and the endless certificates to the inside of his cupboard doors - his glory wall. All that other coloured-in paper/homework/stuff that he just has to keep go in the craft drawer in his room.

And lastly? 
Buy yourself some cool stationery.  Like the Kikki.K bulldog clips above or their fabulous folders. Not that you can't get just as much organisational joy in the bargain stationery stores but hell there has to be joy in all this somewhere!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Awfully orange....

At some point this weekend I am going to sit down and flick through a couple of Australian mags kindly delivered across the ditch by my other half who flew to Melbourne for the day this week. You can get them here but not until weeks after they're published - and a magazine a month late is just not the same. 
When I put the these two together I was a little horrified. Are Australia's style makers trying to tell us something? All that orange and brown and black? Doesn't it take you back to this...
See what I mean? More than a little horrifying. You can groove it up, add some black and give it some hot new label but it still takes me right back to the seventies.

Ah now that's better... I will take a breath,  open the mags and hope the orange thing GOES AWAY.

First image from here and the second from Canadian House and Home, and yes, go on, tell me how much you LOVE orange!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black moments...

This is Vogue Australia's editor Kirstie Clements' home. You might be looking at the incredible Moroccan inspired tiling job which is fabulous and all you'd expect from Ms Vogue (you can read all about on here at The Design Files) but I am looking at the chairs.
 And once you start looking for black chairs you find them everywhere.

This is Canadian designer and decorator Tommy Smythe's kitchen which I found here.
He's Sarah Richardson's sidekick and I suspect more talented than he is allowed to be on Sarah's shows... he's her witty 'yes' man and always gives in to the boss's whim on wall colour or tile choices. Apparently he doesn't cook much in this room but I bet he sits down on those chairs occasionally.

So here are the colour chart choices for my chairs. I was hoping for charcoal grey/black. 
I've decided on the one in the middle - Resene's Jaguar.  Just have to wait for a break in the weather....

(Image 1 The Design Files, Image 2 Living Etc, Image 3 & 4 House & Home)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stepping back...

I have spent the last few days in the 1920s and 30s.

I found this book in a junk shop at the weekend - The Home of To-day, published in Britain in 1930 by Daily Express publications, full of useful tips for the newly married.
I read Agatha Christie mysteries at the age of ten and have devoured everything written by or about the Mitford girls so I'm in heaven. I am sneezing constantly (the dust I suppose) but can't seem to put it down.

Want to know how to host a garden party, a simple little recipe for Liver a la Francaise or how to manage your maid? It's all here.

Descriptions of the very latest in modern kitchens. Gas or electric ovens? My dear, how smart. 

Quite a few pages on the sometimes vexing relationship between maid and mistress.
"Any normal maid will appreciate a pretty, well equipped room and since pretty things do not cost any more than dull ones, and are just as useful, there is no reason why a girl should not have the pleasure of a nice room, the possession of which will go far towards making her happy and contented." 

Bachelor men are not forgotten. "Unless he is really forlorn and lonesome, he will have some sort of a housekeeper or landlady to look after his everyday needs, brush his carpets, make his bed and perhaps, mend his socks."

Doses of cod liver oil, poultice and hot mustard baths seem to cure a lot of ills and  there's  the rather alarming advice to take precaution against the sun by protecting skin with a layer of olive oil.

There are three pages on the intricacies of calling cards - three pages and I am still not sure of the rules! And of course there's how to sit, converse and dress.

"Women in higher grades of life wear plain, tailored garments while shopping in the forenoon, and smart frocks at afternoon functions. Evening dress has its own rules. Jewels may then be worn to an extent only limited to good taste."

"Becomingness is the first consideration to a wise woman when selecting a dress... but anything very daring or conspicuous should be avoided."

I'm afraid I could become quite the crashing bore reading bits of this aloud to anyone who will listen.

First image from here

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My style in one picture...

It's Sunday... time for a bit of 'me' time.  Ally who writes 'From the Right Bank'  is challenging readers to post a pic in the  Your Style in One Picture challenge. I was over at My Pear Tree House yesterday and got inspired - thanks Jane and thanks Ally!

Okay so my style? Am I stylish enough to have a style? Let's not answer that this early on a Sunday morning.

I really nearly went with this but you've seen it before and I need something new to think about.

Do I like this room? Yes, very much
Could I live with it? Yep, for a long time.

It has wooden floors, fresh white paint, soaring ceilings, gorgeous windows and lots of light, comfortable simple furniture, a lovely large wooden dining table and black painted chairs (did you read yesterday about what I'm up to with mine?) and not too much else. I like too that the cook can see everyone.

I'm hoping that behind the photographer is a fireplace, generous book shelves and art on the walls.

(Image from Canadian House and Home. Photographer Ted Yarwood)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chapel chairs...

I just never see these chairs in the hundreds dozens of magazine pages I flick through each month  so I was very excited to find this room while flicking online recently.
These are MY chairs. Wooden chapel chairs I bought in London -  the church authorities there have been replacing them with a more practical (and much less charming) plastic option. 

I found a couple at a Chiswick antique store and then tracked down more at a tumble down barn in Surrey that housed all manner of church antiquities - altars, candle sticks, robes and of course church pews. An old wooden chapel bench came back to Australia with us too and has sat in quite a few hallways since.

The chairs are sturdy, made from elm with a slight curve in the seat and a ledge for your song book or bible - or toy car, fork or sandwich crust in our house!
I love my chapel chairs  but so too did the borer that hitched a ride back to Australia. I know, I know, criminal. But how was I to know?

Luckily they were well wrapped in the container and didn't munch through all my other furniture. For some reason the quarantine officials didn't find them either.

Only four chairs were infected - when I found the sawdust  I panicked, banished them outside and liberally doused them in borer killer and again twice more for luck.

Then I painted them. Now don't YOU panic. They look quite good or they will when I paint them for the final time and find just the right shade. But that's another story for another sunnier day. When I get a break in the weather I'll get them outside and tell you all about it.

Pictures from here... these chairs live in a rather grand house - well worth a look.

AND a footnote - I have just popped over to Marie Nichols' blog and she has them in her London home and has posted pictures of her house today. Odd how life works like that...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now here's a map obsession...

I may have a thing for maps but nothing like the woman behind the iconic A-Z London Maps. Iconic is a word is abused and overused by journalists but in this case I feel justified using it.

Phyllis Pearsall was pretty amazing. An artist, she decided in 1935 that the Ordnance Survey map she was using to find her way around London was totally inadequate so she'd make one herself. Working long, long days she catalogued the city's 23,000 streets - on foot, mind you - and then devised the alphabetical index to go with her guide.

The woman was unstoppable. When no one would publish her new atlas she started her own company, the Geographers' Map Company which she ran until she died.

I've read this book twice (once would have done but I quite often read books again. There are Agatha Christie mysteries I've read half a dozen times and still can't remember 'who done it.' What will I be like when I'm eighty?!)

The story of Phyllis Pearsall's work is amazing enough but her childhood and family shenanigans also makes for an incredible life. Of course the author has taken a liberal dose of creative licence but that makes for a much better read - I'm not one for a stack of dry facts as bedtime reading. If you prefer the bare facts, her own book might be good too.

Thank you Miss Pearsall for providing me with the bible for all those lovely jaunts on foot, bus and tube across London.

Thank you too for all those times we got lost together - my dog-eared A-Z sliding off the passenger seat and gout of reach as I drove around a corner distracted and lost in a new London suburb. Good times indeed - who needs a GPS?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gourmet Farmer...

Our Friday night date at the moment is with the Food channel. Each week we head home to Tasmania for a delightful half hour with the Gourmet Farmer.

Matthew Evans was the food critic for the Sydney Morning Herald  - surely one of the best jobs in journalism? Apparently not. He has chucked it all in and bought a small farm south of Hobart - my hometown - with the aim of getting closer to the food he eats.

The program which you might have seen already in Australia on SBS, is a fantastic introduction to all the interesting people who've moved to Tasmania to grow unusual foods, go organic, make cheese, raise dairy cows or live off the power grid. Not to say that everyone in Tassie is living an alternative life... but certainly many do live a very good food life. 

We knew we'd found a new favourite program when Matthew pointed out that he was finding potatoes are often the star of each meal. Couldn't agree with him more. There's nothing better in the world than a Tasmanian potato (I have looked). The best is the Pink Eye, steamed until the skins pop open and served with a bit of butter.

Matthew has set himself up with pigs, chooks, turkeys (not so successfully) a dairy cow and a whole load of lovely vegetables. He has a blog too... and a new book.

He spends a bit of time with mates on Bruny Island and lives in the Huon Valley.

We sit there on the couch sighing at the scenery and remembering camping and sailing trips with scallops, salmon, abalone and even blue eye tuna. We caught a beauty last June while away with friends on the Tasman Peninsula.

I was in raptures. They were a bit casual about it... sometimes I think you need to leave to realise just how special Tasmania is. We might never live there again but we both still call it home.

(Second image from the Gourmet Farmer's blog)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Couch potato...

Now that's a sign of a good weekend.... his grandmother to stay, soccer with his brother, Lego and Thomas trains, Toy Story 2 on the TV, a BBQ dinner in the rain. Running, jumping, kicking and laughing and a big boy's four year old party to top it all off.

At two, he thinks he's ready to drop his lunchtime sleep. I'm not so sure.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Simple suppers...

Butternut squash was sold at my local Waitrose supermarket in London - it came with a large sticker with the cooking suggestion, "CUT INTO CHUNKS AND BOIL."  Good heavens, please don't. Anything but that. Unless you're seven months old.

It should have said "cut into chunks and ROAST." There is nothing better than roasting any pumpkin with a whole head of garlic, pepper and a generous drizzling of olive oil. Flakes of dried chilli are good too.

If you're feeling lazy then soup is a lovely option, cook off some garlic and leek, add chunks of roasted sweet butternut and vegetable stock, a smidge of curry powder - cook until soft and then whizz.

A great midweek meal is cheat's risotto.  Baked not stirred.  I do love making a traditional stirred risotto just not on a Thursday night after wrestling two children to bed.

This is fabulously easy and tastes good. Very good. You just have to give it a very hard stir for two minutes or so at the end to get that oozy risotto texture.

For 2 people...
  • Small butternut squash 
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 2 1/2 cups hot vegetable/chicken stock
  • 40g butter
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
First roast squash with half a head of garlic, olive oil and pepper.
Put it in an ovenproof dish that seals well with a lid along with the rice and hot stock and butter. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add it too.
Cook at 200 °C  for about 25 minutes until the rice is soft but still wet.
Add about a third of a cup of grated parmesan and stir madly for a minute or two. The pumpkin will mash together and the risotto will become thick and creamy.

Really rather easy and really rather good. Sometimes my passion for cooking has to come second to a need for a simple midweek dinner.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hang it...

I think after years living with stacks of pictures waiting for walls I'm becoming a little obsessive about different ways to frame photos, prints and paintings.

While strolling down Brunswick Street on Saturday we came across Panel Pop. It's a company making a a groovy new stone surface that artists can paint or draw or print straight on to. I'm no artist but we have a lot of photographs and they too can be printed on the panel.
Even the poor quality seventies snapshots looked fabulous. It's all recycled material and you can choose to have them edged in reclaimed timber if you like that look. I do of course.

They deliver overseas and all over Australia and have a great website - even the answers to your FAQs are rather witty.

I think really now I just need to become a little more focused on getting the framed pictures we have from the stack to the wall. Next year's resolution maybe?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A taste of Melbourne...

Ah Melbourne, how I do love catching up with you.
We've just had a short holiday staying with family and seeing old friends. My brother lives in North Fitzroy so my parents flew in too and we all stayed together for the weekend. Just lovely.

The boys love their Very Cool Uncle. Highlight for my five year old was the sleep-over at his place or perhaps more accurately the computer games on his TV.
The boys played soccer in the hallway and soccer in the park, kicked up the leaves in the street and entertained their grandparents.  The cat flap was an unexpected bonus.
Making the most of the babysitters we shopped a little, walked a lot and ate out.
We wandered down Brunswick Street, had brunch on a much-changed Gertrude Street, bought  indigenous art at the Australian Print Workshop and checked out my brother's new studio in an old Carlton mechanics' workshop.  He's still cleaning off decades of grease and painting it out but it's already  home to the sort of stuff little boys (and even their non-sewing mums) would love to have at home.
This was endlessly fascinating, almost as good as a cat flap.

As we spent Sunday morning with my cousins, my husband told me it was his turn to catch up with his family  - turns out he meant the Collingwood Football club. I think he's actually serious. Football is no laughing matter.
It was the first father/son football match for them and yes I checked, it is okay to dress like that in public in Melbourne. In fact, expected.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Design smarts...

I want one of these. Not the phone, the receiver...
It's a Yubz mobile handpiece - and they claim it even reduces your exposure to radiation...

You can buy it at Top3 by Design for $95. Australian dollars. 

When I lived in Sydney I used to often float through their Bondi store. It was started by a very clever woman, Terri Winter, who aimed to stock what she thought were the top three products in each design category.  

Great for gifts and now they sell online too. Need a new bin? These are the top three...

Terri Winter was featured in last week's Sydney Magazine - my other half brought it back to NZ along with the weekend papers and my latest Australian mags. ( I am still mentally living in Australia - it will change with time.)

Terri was asked to list her top 10 blogs and sites for design inspiration and I thought you might like a look.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spring cleaning - lessons learned

I think there are two types of people in the world, NEAT and NOT. I am not.

Much as I love an uncluttered home and clear bench tops what I actually have is a daily battle against myself. I wonder if the homeowner in this kitchen had my sort of frantic clean-up before the stylist arrived? I'd like to think so...

I've been spring cleaning in autumn and I did promise a progress report.

First stop Flylady.

This is a self-help plan you don't hear about until you blog. Ironically it's quite the most cluttered website you can imagine, not well explained and a little too much sweet stuff for me.

But there is a very good method in the madness.

It all starts with a clean sink and getting dressed early in the morning. I get dressed every day so I'm halfway there. The emails from other subscribers make you realise there are a lot of people who have BIG problems with their NOT neat lives. A little depressing actually.

Anyway here it is... my Flylady experience.

1. Clean sink, clean mind.
I have been working on this,  in other words, washing up a lot.   Just got to get the husband on board. He went away for three days and came back a little shocked to find his "don't worry, I'll do it in the morning" wife had left him.

2. Flylady loves a timer.
Frenzies are big in our house already but if you have a highly competitive five year old, a timer just annoys him.  We have 'putting away all the toys' and 'cleaning my room' frenzies every night and he is so caught up in winning he's quite forgotten I once mentioned a prize. 

3. Flylady recommends a Control Journal.
If I had one I'd lose it.  Lists work for me and  I love moleskin notebooks and very nice stationery from Kikki.K - the family calendar, weekly planner and shopping list. Guess I'm a sucker for an overpriced notebook and a magnet.

4. The fifteen minute rule.
Basically tackle a little not a lot. Suits me and she's right - you've always got fifteen minutes to spare and even I can face fifteen minutes of housework.

5. Declutter.
No problem at all with this.  I love a clear out and don't have attachment issues. I've been working my way through the house and clearing drawers, kids' clothes, my useful box and the dreaded spare room which doubles as a shed (not a good combination).

So what have I learnt this month from Flylady? Lots actually.
Has my life miraculously changed? I wish - like most other things it's a work in progress.

Image from here 


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