Mandarin marmalade

My in-laws have a huge mandarin tree that is going bonkers with fruit at the moment. I took some off their hands and gave preserving a go for the first time.

They come from a family of keen jam-makers so there’s a lot to live up to. The consistency was a bit runnier than I would have liked (I’m storing it in the fridge which helps) but the bittersweet marmalade flavour is bang on.

You can find the recipe and free printable tags over on Polka Dot Bride.

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cookbook giveaway

After much trying, the winner of the recent Bookworld giveaway was unable to be contacted.

So, the cookbook prize pack is now back up for grabs!

Win a cookbook prize pack

Bookworld has a stack of cookbooks worth $160 to give away to one of you fine folk. The pack includes these new release titles:

  • Fast, Fresh & Unbelievably Delicious by Matt Preston
  • Annabel’s Family Cookbook by Annabel Karmel
  • Simon Bryant’s Vegies by Simon Bryant
  • Community: Salad Recipes From Arthur Street Kitchen by Hetty Mckinnon

How to enter

Simply take a photo of whatever you’re cooking or eating and share on Instagram or on our Facebook page with the hashtag #BWcookingweek to go into the draw. Each photo counts as a separate entry so get snapping!

Winner must be located in Australia. Entries close midnight Sunday 6th July and winner will be announced Monday 7th.

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This post was a partnership with Bookworld.

Makeup drawer before & after

Decluttering is an ongoing process, usually requiring you to revisit the same areas periodically. It’s not often that I’ll do it just a few months later, but that’s what I just did with my makeup drawer.

In this post from our old home five months ago, I got rid of a ton of rarely used and out of date cosmetics. The ‘after’ photo was looking ship-shape but it wasn’t the whole story: I still had a couple of zip-lock bags filled with spare items (samples and gifts) and several lipsticks in every handbag.

So while I had already done a big declutter before we moved, starting Project 333 has made me take a closer look at other aspects of my getting-ready routine.

I chucked* a whole pile more items, this time focusing on getting rid of colours that don’t suit me, samples I’ll never use and spares that could have lasted me two lifetimes (seven blushers/bronzers – really?!).

I consolidated my lipstick collection and now only put the current day’s product in the single handbag I’m using this season. There are some similar colours in there that I do use but could live without so I won’t replace them when they’re used up.

Apart from getting rid of the zip-locks, the biggest downsizing was the eyeshadows. I managed to find the ultimate (for me) silver-taupey-grey palette that suits everything from a subtle highlight to full-blown event makeup so I was able to get rid of four others that were less versatile.

The only non-everyday items I kept were a couple of super bold lipsticks and a crazy eyeshadow palette that I’m keeping for costume parties. I put them in the difficult-to-access section at the back for now but I could even move them to the costume box.

I moved my brushes to a jar on the vanity as they kept jamming the drawers, but apart from that, this is now my entire makeup collection. Still not minimalist by any means but it’s a far cry from what I used to have.

My next task will be to consider my toiletries and hair products to further streamline my mornings.

Do you like to have a lot of variety in your makeup or do you have a simple routine that suits you everyday?

* Put aside to donate to a women’s shelter.

Re-Love buffet process

I’ve been hard at work on my piece for the Re-Love charity auction. Prep-work isn’t as sexy as a before-and-after but it is the most important part of any project, particularly when you’re working to restore timber.

I began by removing all the added-on bits, like the glass doors and shelf, felt drawer liner the and sticky tape that surrounded the back edges.

Re-Love buffet process

Re-Love buffet process

I didn’t realise when I bought it (it was so convincing!) but the piece is actually veneer, which I’ve never worked with before. It takes some special care as it’s more delicate than solid timber.

On the areas where the veneer had lifted up, I used a wood glue with a house brick on top of a towel to dry it flat overnight.

Re-Love buffet process

The whole piece is really dinged-up, especially the top surface which had water damage and flaking varnish, so I gave it a really good sand, using the coarsest grit that I thought the veneer could handle.

Re-Love buffet process

Next up was filling. The Intergrain Woodblend filler is really thick (more like clay than putty) but it’s easy to work with and filled holes with wood colour.

Re-Love buffet process

Because it’s so thick and pliable I was even able to use it to mould a replacement bit of handle that had chipped off.

Re-Love buffet process

Once dry, I sanded again, this time using a finer grit.

Re-Love buffet process

As they say, things look worse before they look better and this mess of putty and sanding dust proves that rule.

Re-Love buffet process

Now that the prep is complete, his weekend I’m working on the fun part of bringing the timber back to life and adding the awesome wallpaper lining.

As part of the Re-Love project, I and seven other bloggers have donated our time to revamp a piece of furniture using products supplied by Feast Watson. The finished pieces will be auctioned with proceeds going to Salvos Sores. Find out more here.

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Scarf gift wrapping

I have five (FIVE!) 30th parties to attend this month, along with my Dad and brother’s birthdays both in June, so it’s celebration central around here.

I tried out this fun wrapping technique using an adorable Japanese scarf that was given to me as a gift.

You can find the full how-to over on Polka Dot Bride.

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keeping warm this winter

Picture The Man and I on the couch, wearing our thermals (the ones we bought to survive a European winter holiday), multiple jumpers and even scarves and beanies, with a nanna rug up to our chins and hot coffee in hand.

Yep, that’s pretty much been our reality for the last few weeks as winter has set in. We feel like total wusses – I mean, this is Adelaide, it doesn’t get that cold – but it seems our new home is fuh-reezing. Great in summer, but winter? Yeahnotsomuch.

It has an old double-sided oil heater in the formal living areas at the front of the house but it doesn’t function so we’ll be ripping that out. The man we bought the house from was in his 90s, I have no idea how he managed without heating but he was obviously made of tougher stuff than us!

We have been surviving with nothing more than a tiny blowy heater but of course they are terribly inefficient to run so we feel guilty even switching it on. (Even as I write this, I’ve just got up to put my dressing gown back on over my clothes so I can turn the heater off.)

We bought an electric blanket which we used for the first time last night which is a total lifesaver. But we are still hanging out for a more permanent solution for both day and night.

We’re planning on having ducted airconditioning installed before summer (there is only one tiny old aircon unit and it’s in the living room that we won’t be using yet) so we’ll likely get a reverse-cycle system to kill two birds with one stone. To be honest I prefer a radiating heat rather than a blowing one, but there are so many other pros (only one system to install, single set of ducts, no loss of floor/wall space, will heat entire house in zones) that I’ll have to get over the one minor con.

Til then, let’s compile a big list of winter survival tips. What heating system do you have in your home and how else do you stay warm?

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Winter 2014 capsule wardrobe

Following on from my post last week discussing why I’m experimenting with Project 333, here’s a look at my items for my first capsule wardrobe.

I actually found it surprisingly easy to pull together my 33 winter items – much easier than dealing with all of the leftovers, which is still a work in progress. I bought a handful of items last season that I wore a ton and work quite well together. A colour scheme emerged quite naturally so I stuck with it for easy mixing-and-matching of outfits.

I’m very lucky in that my office job is only two days a week and it’s not too corporate so I can wear the same items to work as I would on the weekends. We also experience relatively mild winters here in Adelaide too, which makes it easier.

My 33 winter items

Here’s what I ended up with:

  1. Navy jeans
  2. Black jeans
  3. Cream lace skirt
  4. Patchwork skirt
  5. Black tulip skirt
  6. Turquoise dress
  7. Black knit dress
  8. Black long-sleeved tee
  9. Olive long-sleeved tee
  10. Teal bow top
  11. Blush sequin sweater
  12. Plum knit sweater
  13. Black & white stripe jumper
  14. Plum knit cardi
  15. Charcoal chunky knit jumper
  16. Turquoise turtleneck jumper
  17. Purple trenchcoat
  18. Blush leather jacket
  19. Olive green coat
  20. Black & beige handbag
  21. Purple clutch
  22. Purple skinny belt
  23. Tan plait belt
  24. Turquoise chunky scarf
  25. Pink/purple chevron scarf
  26. Multi-coloured floral scarf
  27. Tan heeled ankle boots
  28. Turquoise heeled calf boots
  29. Grey slouch calf boots
  30. Black buckle heels
  31. Two-tone pink flats
  32. Black & white stripe flats
  33. Mystery item

The handbag really should have gone out long ago but it was the only remotely neutral one I owned so it had to be included. I’ll try to stick it out with a terrible worn-out bag for this season and maybe pick up something new for spring. The olive top and plum cardi I’ve both had for years and worn them to death so they’ll likely have to be replaced mid-season.

I’ve also included a ‘mystery’ item in case I find I’m really missing something, either an existing item or something new. In particular I’m thinking a nice top for work / dinners out could be a worthwhile addition (maybe this one?).

Exclusions

I applied the normal exclusions of Project 333 including:

  • Underwear
  • Sleepwear
  • Work out gear
  • Loungewear
  • Everyday jewellery (e.g. wedding rings)

Admittedly I was tempted not to include shoes, bags and accessories but figured I should try to challenge myself and did end up counting them.

I did allow myself a couple of additional exclusions:

  • Dirty clothes (for painting, gardening etc)
  • Special occasion clothes (for weddings and such)
  • Sunglasses, winter hat and gloves
  • Jewellery

Despite my cheats, I haven’t given myself free rein: I’ve selected a limited amount of jewellery (so hard!), two pairs of gloves and one hat. I only have one pair of winter dirty clothes and one pair of sunglasses so that was easy.

So, if you see me between now and August 31, I’ll be wearing some combination of the above. Wish me luck!

Have you ever done a capsule wardrobe or clothing challenge?

This post is brought to you by The Kitchen Place.

The Kitchen Place

Our recent kitchen makeover was a budget, cosmetic-only affair. But we do have fantasies plans of doing a complete gut job and calling the pros to start from the ground up. Living in the space as it is now will give us a feeling of how we use it and what our needs are so when we do come to create the dream kitchen we can be confident it will work for us.

Here are some other questions we’ll be asking ourselves while we save our dosh for the real deal:

How many people need to work simultaneously?

In our townhouse’s kitchen, whoever was playing sous chef had to squeeze their chopping board onto a too-small bench for prepwork. If you regularly cook with more than one person (or would like the option to do so) ensure you have two generous work spaces.

How do you tend to cook?

Similarly, how much space do you need for the kind of meals you normally cook? If you’re happy being a one-pot-pasta kind of person then bench space will be less of a priority (particularly around the cooktop) than for the type who regularly hosts three-course dinner parties.

The Kitchen Place

What items do you need to store?

Catalogue every type of item you need in your new kitchen. Figure out how much space it will take up and consider what will be the best way to store it (shelves, drawers, racks etc). It may seem like overkill but the last thing you want is to spend tens of thousands on a brand new kitchen only to find you have to store your cake stand in the laundry and you can never find the spice jar you’re looking for.

Are your needs likely to change?

In addition to noticing how you use your kitchen now, consider if future plans will affect your needs. Are you and your friend getting serious about your on-the-side cupcake business idea? Are you planning to have children so safety and durability will be crucial?

Do you need to change the layout?

If you find your current layout is working well for you, it may be wise to stick with it since moving plumbing, gas and electricity will significantly increase your costs. Of course, if an unworkable layout is your whole reason for an upgrade, then the infrastructure costs will be a worthwhile investment.

Do you want space to eat or just to cook?

Anything goes with kitchens these days. Include a breakfast bar, freestanding table or have a separate dining area; it’s up to you. Again, consider how you normally like to dine. If you normally eat your toast standing up you’re never going to sit at a dining table so consider a breakfast bar. If you can’t relax over dinner with piles of dishes in your sightline, you’ll want a separate dining room. Those who have spacious kitchens and enjoy casual meals will like an eat-in kitchen.

The Kitchen Place

Open plan or separate room?

Open plan kitchens are de rigueur now but they’re not for everyone. Those who want to stay in the conversation while entertaining guests and or need to keep one eye on the kids while cooking will love it. But if you like to be able to shut off the mess when guests come over, you may prefer a kitchen with a door.

What functions does it need to have?

These days kitchens perform many more roles than cooking and eating. Kids’ homework, paying bills, charging phones, dumping keys… you’ll want to ensure you consider the requirements (space, lighting, storage, seating and power points) for every activity that happens there.

With a few careful considerations you’ll end up with a kitchen that’s not only beautiful but suits your lifestyle perfectly.

lounge progress

It was a long weekend here (cheers, Liz) hence the delayed post but it did mean we had an extra day to finish painting the lounge. Phew!

The Man and I actually nixed the light grey paint colour outlined in this post and went back to my original idea of black walls (‘Domino’ by Dulux to be exact). Working about as dark a colour as you can get in such a large room meant for painstaking cutting in, proof of which is my sore neck today.

You can see a strip of white poking out at the top of the skirting boards, that’s the primer coat. We decided to prime the walls for a few reasons: we wanted to seal in any wallpaper glue residue, to provide an even base (we had to re-plaster quite a lot so it was looking like a patchwork quilt) and to cover the message wall from our 30th. Remember we were planning to go for light grey so we used white primer, if we’d known we were going to go black we would have used a dark-tint primer (thankfully two coats of cutting in were sufficient but we needed three coats of rolling).

On the advice of an interior architect friend we’ve also decided to switch up the pool table and dining table (to give more clearance room for playing pool) so this room will now be lounge/dining instead of lounge/games. (Here is the floorplan to refresh your memory.)

The room is very large but we wanted the spaces to feel intimate, so the dark walls will help to cosy things up. The other big reason I was keen on black walls is to disguise our TV so I’m really happy how that’s going to work out.

Excuse the shoddy photo, by the way. We’ve removed the wall lights and there’s only a single ceiling light in here so it feels gloomy (and hard to photograph) no matter what wall colour at the moment.

This room has come a long way! The next step will be ripping out the carpet and installing new flooring. We’re not 100% set yet but we’re considering timber-look vinyl planks, floating hardwoods or floating laminate floorboards. Have you used any of these floors? I’d love your opinions on installation and the finished product.

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Project 333: Getting started

Let me begin with some back story.

We had a built-in robe at our old house. It was not huge but we’d had it refitted to maximise space. Along with a dresser each and a nightstand with drawers for me and we were fine for storage space.

Our new home has no built-ins so we opted to purchase a pair of side-by-side freestanding wardrobes from the vendor as an interim solution. We do plan on installing some nice built-ins eventually but we want to wait until we have de-wallpapered the walls and ripped out the carpet.

This pair of wardrobes physically takes up a lot more room than our old built-ins, however it has maybe a sixth of the hanging space (one unit is hanging and the other unit is all shelves). Half of my clothes were still in the boxes we moved house in, which made it difficult to find what I was looking for (and when I did, it was all crumpled).

Project 333: Getting started

So I got to thinking about how to make things work with what we had. I remembered something about Project 333 via the creator Courtney Carver’s main blog Be More With Less and started to mull over whether it would work for me.

Why Project 333?

The premise is wearing a ‘capsule’ wardrobe of 33 items (including jewellery, accessories and shoes) for 3 months.

I realise the irony since this time 12 months ago I wrote a post titled The case against a seasonal wardrobe. But with all matters of household organisation, I believe in changing approaches that are no longer working for you.

In addition to the limitations of our new storage space, here are some other factors that influenced my decision:

An uncluttered bedroom

  • I love the spacious feeling of our new home and don’t want to clutter it up simply because we have room for more stuff.
  • Purely decluttering with regular clear-outs of my clothes has only got me so far. To get the streamlined closet of my dreams I need to try doing the reverse: removing everything and only putting back in what I really love and suits my body, life and style.
  • I dislike some of our bedroom furniture and how it’s laid out. Paring down the amount I own will give us more flexibility to create a room we love.
  • Of all the rooms in our home, I want the bedroom to be clutter-free. No, it’s not a public space that guests generally see, or a room that we spend much (waking) time but I want it to be a restful sanctuary.

Making it effortless

  • I find it a daily struggle to keep the bedroom tidy, with piles of clothes on the floor and a mess of shoes under the bed. Having fewer items makes it easier to put everything away.
  • My change in lifestyle (going back to work in an office part-time) means pulling together a good outfit quickly is more of a priority.
  • I want to make it easier for me to look nice on my work-at-home days. I don’t want to have to get changed just to go to the post office or to be embarrassed when a courier or print rep rocks up on my doorstep.

Finding my style

  • I’m in my thirties now, people. It’s time to find my signature look. I know it’s in there in my wardrobe but it can be hard to see amongst the impulse buys and throwbacks from my partying days.
  • Similarly, I’d like to get away from trend-based dressing and create a more classic wardrobe. I’ve never considered this before because ‘classic’ to me meant boring (because I adore colour and pattern which goes against most ‘classic dressing’ advice). This will enable me to focus on creating my own classic look from clothes I already own and only buying new items that I know can mix’n’match with the rest of my wardrobe.
  • After I quit my full-time job we cut back on a lot of areas of our budget and clothing was one category that was slashed. Even now that my income has gone up, I still find myself buying cheap and nasty clothes. I want to get back into the mindset of investing in good quality pieces again. I don’t want to increase the clothing budget, so I need to buy fewer things and again, make sure they work with other items.
  • I enjoy choosing outfits and would feel frustrated and deprived if I had an all-year simplified wardrobe. I am hoping switching it up every three months will prevent me feeling bored.

Buoyed by all these benefits, I thought Project 333 was a worthwhile experiment for me to try. I have created my first capsule wardrobe (which you can see in the header image) and have been wearing it since a bit before my official start date of June 1st.

It’s definitely a big project so over the next week or so I’ll share the details of how I chose my first capsule wardrobe and what I’m doing with all the leftovers.

Have you done Project 333 or another wardrobe challenge? If so I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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