Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cosy up next to the fire...

That was my favourite activity when I grew up in Macedon - I'd even sit right next to it with a big bowl of ice cream in the dead of winter! So I'm sure you can imagine that I'm looking forward to many moments like this with our new fireplace - and although I know we won't be roasting marshmallows anytime soon, we'll definitely be able to soak up a little ambiance.
No no no - no fireplace dvd's around here, if we were loaded I'm sure we'd have a separate TV mounted inside the frame, just for this purpose (wait - if we were loaded I'm sure we'd have a real fireplace!).

Enter: Matt. My friend's fiancee is an amazing painter and he's looking forward to creating a stunning fire to light up our room. I thought I'd share some of my favourite fireplace images with you...

I always liked the DIY chalkboard idea from JaimeScott...
... but room is tight and I don't think I'd be changing it very often.

This is a very cool design - which you might recognise from my mock-ups...

These last 2 are courtesy of Casa Sugar ...

I'm definitely leaning toward a more vibrant, abstract look, and can't wait to see what Matt has in mind when we visit this week!

I must have been good this year

I was so excited when I unwrapped this gorgeous gift that I just had to share it with you! These 2 fellas have been on my own wishlist for a while - but funnily enough I had never mentioned them to anyone. My close friend D thought of me when she saw them. Here they are gracing our upcycled hutch...

 Our hutch was originally the floor in an old department store in Melbourne. The numbers on top actually marked where a certain product would be placed! We found it second hand and have put in an order for a TV cabinet from the original maker.
We were hoping it would arrive before Christmas, but it's looking like early January at this stage. Well, good things are worth waiting for!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A new Addition...

No - not that type of addition! Little Macs are still a few years off yet...

I'm talking about our brand old mantelpiece! We purchased this beauty for a steal and picked her up the other night - ready for next week's project.

She'll need a sand and we might need to use a router to cut out the bottoms so it fits neatly over the skirting board...

And the strange gray colour will have to go - we've got some Dulux Napkin White leftover from the skirting boards so this is becoming a very affordable project! Stay tuned for some DIY shots...

From us to you

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mantle Hunting

... she draws up some mock rooms of course!! Obsessed? Me? Mais non! Too much time on my hands? Perhaps.

After scouring second hand stores and eBay for my perfect mantelpiece, I corralled them all into Publisher (I know, serious stuff right?) so I could compare dimensions and the 'vibe'.

Mantelpiece 1 - Hughes Online in Oakleigh $210
For - Solid Timber, a real vintage piece
Against - Oakleigh is the other end of the earth for us - maybe if it was cheaper

Mantelpiece 2 - eBay Glen Waverley, starting bid $5
For - Brand new, never used, low starting price, deep enough to put candles or something inside
Against - Glen Waverley is the other side of the earth for us (can you tell we like to keep it local?), probably wouldn't do candles as our dog might get a bit close, takes up more space due to extra depth.

Mantelpiece 3 - eBay Yarraville, starting bid $200
For - so close! We might even be able to walk it home! Brand new, gorgeous design.
Against - High starting price


Mantelpiece 4 - eBay Northcote, starting bid $0.99
For - Low starting price, there are 2 identical ones being sold individually, brand new, nice design. Northcote isn't really that far.
Against - ?


Do you like the wedding photos? Nice touch! Hubby rolled his eyes but I think he was secretly pleased xxx

The auctions all finish up early this week... fingers crossed!

Finally Festive

It's taken a while to get our house into the festive spirit -  I wonder if working 6 days a week coupled with a busy social calendar has something to do with it? To be honest, I think it's just because we won't be spending any time at home over Christmas, we'll be staying with family so no one but us will get to see any of my creative decorating. But that's just why I got into gear - I appreciate it when our house smells of pine and the Christmas stockings are hanging up - I love that festive feeling and I think you might too....

We haven't had a proper Christmas tree in this place - it's just too small. We've decorated the conifer that my parents had given me when I was 10 years old, and it happily sat in an old wine barrel in our courtyard up until a few years ago when it started to go backwards - not enough sun for either of us out there I guess.
Last year I decided there was no reason we couldn't have a little tree, it just wasn't allowed to be plastic - behold our wooden Christmas Tree....

This year I made an Advent Calendar for my husband (well actually my sister did all the hard work a few years ago, I just filled it!)

- here are the Nice & Naughty notes he's received so far...

Our wedding cake stand does double duty with the pinecones we collected from Lauriston a few years ago.
I scored all the pine branches from our local fruit shop- these are the offcuts from their customer's trees.

I sequinned our stockings many years ago and have never had a place to put them without them being in the way of cupboards or drawers - next year they'll have a spot of their own on our new mantlepiece.

Rossi has his very own stocking too...

Our wedding gift graces our entryway - perfectly fitting the Christmas theme...

And what would Christmas be without carols?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mantle Inspiration

After I got a feel for the sizes, colours and shapes of mantelpieces I knew we'd definitely go for a white/cream one in our living space, we definitely don't need to darken our south-facing room.

I headed to the net and discovered I wasn't the first one to think up this brilliant idea (again)! 2nd Floor Living got my creativity flowing as did The Grower's Daughter and I soon found myself dreaming of some forgotten old country manor full of treasure to breathe new life into.
The Little Apartment detailed how a pile of old fence palings turned into a beautiful faux fireplace and Jaime Scott over at Caught in Grace described her Faux Fireplace Transformation - this definitely my favourite so far!

I LOVE the chalkboard fireplace!

Little Loveables showed how well a simple raised shelf can work as a mantlepiece and I am prepared to fall back on this idea if needed...
Little Loveables

Your home only Better was another good resource and so was Apartment Therapy - here and here and somewhere along the way I got distracted by another brilliant idea.

I was prepared to resort to wall art if I couldn't quite get the whole faux fireplace idea past the husband...

Coming up - what does a type A do when faced with many decisions?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mantle Dreaming

I think I've got me a Christmas break project. Last year it was an overhaul of our guest bedroom, and just wait till you see what I'm dragging us into this year...

We visited a good friend's new cafe in Geelong a few weeks ago (Ginger Biscuit Cafe, Highton if you feel like a drive it's definitely worth the trip!). Appealing to the older generations who live nearby, the cafe has lots of retro touches - Lynne has lined the walls with all sorts gorgeous vintage finds, from mirrors, teapots, to salt'n'pepper shakers and old cookbooks. She even gets donations to add to her quirky collections from her faithful clientele.
What stood out most to me though, was the faux-fireplace surrounded by couches near the entrance.

Lynne's husband is a builder and he knocked up an Art Deco period style mantelpiece frame and with a vintage screen in front, you wouldn't know it wasn't the real deal! It absolutely adds to the atmosphere and it popped a brilliant idea into my head straight away!

I'm always drooling over mantelpiece shots from Young House Love, Apartment Therapy, A Beach Cottage et al - especially this time of year as the festive decor comes out of the closet. Since we've rearranged things in our living area, I knew we have a perfect spot to put our faux fireplace - the blank area has been giving me the creeps for a while now.

As soon as we got home I raced to eBay to see what was up for grabs in our local area - I was pleasantly suprised with these couple of beauties starting at around $10:

... so am I the proud owner of a new old mantelpiece yet? Stay tuned....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can Portland do nothing wrong??

OK. I confess. I am an etsy fiend! I need to stay away from the site as I am bound to get stuck there for ages, scrolling through all the handmade and vintage goodies. Recently I started on a quest for lots of quirky brooches and as always happens, got sidetracked and bumped into this absolutely stunning camisole by CLF Claire la Faye - of Portland Oregon. Her beautiful range of frocks, gowns and camisoles can be found in her etsy store, and at her website.

Clair's creations have been worn by those glamour queens, Dita Von Teese, Courtney Love and Christina Aguilera and now I have my own beautiful piece of her imagination! I can't wait to wear this coral camisole with vintage lace out on the town - might need to plan a hot date out with my husband before Christmas!

I already think if I was to move to America, I'd want to live in Portland Oregon - imagine being surrounded by inspired people like Clair and the girls from Queen Bee Creations - and the fact that it's such a bicycle friendly city is a bonus too!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are you Fitted for Work?

Today I copped a drenching as I headed into town to deliver a very special Christmas gift. A few months ago I came across a volunteer organisation called Fitted for Work. Based in Melbourne, they are a dedicated bunch of ladies whose mission is to help long term unemployed or disadvantaged women back into the workforce. They do this by running workshops on interview and presentation skills and providing these women with clothing donated by us.
I had a few items of gently work office clothing I no longer wear, as well as a few unopened gifts of bath and shower gel, perfume and candles waiting around for someone else to make use of them. Kim from Fitted for Work was very happy to hear from me and she said they love to be able to include a little Christmas gift as a suprise for their clients.

I just love the feeling of fulfillment that comes from focusing on others instead of myself during Christmas. If you have any professional clothing (old suits, shirts etc) that still have plenty of life in them, please get in touch with Fitted for Work, items can be dropped off at Northcote and the CBD.

Give a little this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farewell Spring

After we entered what looks to be quite a tropical summer - I ventured out into the garden to see what was happening, and found some very interesting suprises...

 Our beetroot is nearly 4 months old now and I can see it crowning above the soil - might be time to pull one out and see how big they are - I can't wait to taste the homegrown difference!

Two random seedlings that look like tomatoes have made themselves a new home in my garden beds, only time will tell what they actually are so I'll leave them to do their best, they must have come up from the compost! You can see my heirloom carrots sprouting in the background.

I found a very sneaky Mary Rose shooting up amongst the peas, we'd pulled the rose out months ago but I had a feeling I'd left some roots deep down in the soil. With all this rain she's decided to give it another go!

Adventures with Artichokes

I've only had one attempt at cooking artichokes before this week - a few years ago I was helping a friend prepare Christmas in July and we diligently followed every step in the Gourmet Traveller to be rewarded with some delicious stuffed artichokes. We got a good result but really felt out of our depth.

Now I'm doing it on my own - I want to know how I can prepare every single vegetable that comes into season and this looks like a good place to start. It's a great adventure adding a new dish or two to the repertoire! I guess I've always assumed that there would be a lot of waste when cooking with artichokes - but as I discovered as I began my research, even those stiff green outer leaves can be used to dip into a creamy sauce.

I'd like to include stuffed, fried and crumbed artichokes and yesterday I started with a simple Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad that I found over at tastespace.

It was quick and easy to prepare the artichokes, although I should have removed more of the outer leaves as they were still a bit tough to eat. The salad was a hearty meal for the warm night and it was full of flavour. I could almost imagine myself in a little restaurant somewhere near the mediterranean ocean, and yes the husband was impressed too. I'm already looking forward to our Garlic Sauteed Artichokes on Friday's menu!

Thumbs up for our Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

Ingredients from our garden: parsley

I have to apologise for picture quality for the next week or so - I'm relying on an iphone just at the moment!

Another glorious market morning...

 I pulled out my trusty Put Victoria on your Table bags and picked Tamra up on the way - this was her first farmers market and I was thrilled to be showing her around. We arrived early and did the customary lap before starting our shopping - Mornington Peninsula Organics were there with their beautiful range of vegies - including some heirloom carrots which we pounced on. We were lucky enough to taste the new Vanilla & Honey flavoured ice cream from Bella Pasta & Dolci and the Goat's Milk Body Butter from Seven Hills Tallarook.

I learned that the summer oranges are Valencia and the winter ones are Navels and the cherries were out again and freshly picked garlic graced many stalls too. My haul included another yummy chicken from Yapunyah Meadow Graze Chicken and I was devastated to hear that they'd planned to have a break until April anticipating a hot, dry summer - but could have possibly continued through considering the crazy weather we've been having. Some amazing organic broccoli, basil, carrots, beetroot, asparagus and fennel also made it into my bags. My pick of the week was 4 beautifully artichokes - I finally stopped avoiding them and grilled the Italian gentleman at the stall about how to prepare and cook them. There's no time like the present to try something new!
I've realised I'm missing something in my weekly market trip - a notepad and pen to jot down my spending and any recipe tips I pick up on the way - I'll be more prepared next week.

Did you know that the original carrots weren't orange? After some digging around in the Garden of Google I also found out that each coloured carrot has different health benefits:

White Carrots:
White carrots lack any significant pigment or color, but contain health-promoting substance called phytochemicals.
These are natural bioactive compounds,that work with nutrients and dietary fibre we eat, to protect our body against disease.
Purple Carrots:
These carrots, are usually orange inside, and actually, contain more beta carotene than orange carrots, but, they get their pigment from an entirely different source of pigments called, the anthocyanin.
These pigments act as powerful antioxidants, grabbing and holding on to harmful free radicals in the body and preventing them from doing any damage.
Anthocyanin, also help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting in the arteries and have good anti inflammatory properties.
Red Carrots:
The extraordinary color of these carrots is due to the concentration of the anti-oxidant pigment, called lycopene.
The red carrots contain as much lycopene as a tomato, and so share many of the same health benefits.
Nutritional studies suggest that eating at least one serving of a lycopene-rich food daily is believed to help prevent prostate cancer and other cancers.
Orange Carrots:
The orange pigment is from beta carotene and alpha-carotene. Both of these pigments give the carrot significant health benefits, such as antioxidant, antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Orange carrots are also high in Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy eyes, so what your Grandmother used to tell you was right!
Yellow Carrots:
Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls and lutene, these pigments are similar to beta carotene, which help develop healthy eyes, help in the fight against macular degeneration.
They also have properties, which help prevent lung and other cancers and also help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

Information from

Coming up next - what did I do with those artichokes?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spring Challenge Day 28 - I did it!!!

Departure: 8:25am
Arrival: 9:05am
Conditions: sunny, humid with a nice breeze, 21
Attire: skirt, tshirt, heels

I was greeted with a bright blue sky when I peeked hesitantly out of the window this morning. Yes! The heavens had decided to back me on my last challenge day. It was a beautiful sunny morning as I headed out of our street, and I could feel the humidity in the air. I decided to make my final challenge trip in style and felt pretty good as I pulled up at the lights with my lycra-clad counterparts. It really was a beautiful morning ride to work and I'm already looking forward to my riding days long after this challenge is finished.

Looking back I'd say this is exactly what I needed to do - starting up a regular routine to make things habits - like packing my panniers, planning my wardrobe and handling different weather conditions. I know I'll be rewarded in so many ways now that I'll be incorporating my bicycle into my weekly commute.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November Trading Up

We did a big trade up in November...

Out: Our Anolon cookware set
In: Shiny new Essteele copper based stainless steel pots and pans! It was a big investment but the money from the sale of our 2 year old set on eBay went towards it and afterall it's an investment in ourselves for the long term. I'm looking forward to having these for decades!

Out: Disposable cotton make-up pads - use once and throw out? No there must be a better solution!
In: These clever flannel reusable make-up pads - just thrown them in you delicates bag with the washing once a week! I know I know, I was going to make some but have to save my energy for Christmas creations!

Spring Challenge Day 27 (1 day to go!)

Departure: 8:20am
Arrival: 9:05am
Conditions: grey, cloudy, humid, 20
Attire: skirt, tshirt, sneakers

It was a muggy morning, as I neared the city I felt the odd drop of rain on my cheek, which turned into more than the odd drop and I found myself pedalling in heavy drizzle most of the way to work. Didn't get really wet and I didn't really mind riding in it either - I just really hope that tomorrow is a good day to ride - it's the last day of my challenge and this isn't the summer weather I've had in mind!
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