Tag Archives: Home

Goal #49: Our housewarming party

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Ah, now I know we are well and truly HOME! ūüôā

Ninja and I finally managed to arrange our housewarming party, two months after we’d moved into our new place. It took the format of a¬†tea party in the garden, because there was no way to squeeze 20-odd¬†visitors inside our little cottage! In answer to prayer¬†it was a gorgeous day out¬†‚Äď clear blue Joburg winter skies; windstill and sunny ‚Äď and so wonderful to have our dear friends gathering at our new address.

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Home at last

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Decor

Hello there friends!

I’m back at last,¬†finding a new normal¬†with my Ninja and the fuzzies¬†in our brand new home. Thanks for your patience while I was away; I’ve missed reading your blogs and sending out some cyber scribbles of my own ūüėČ

Wow, what an adventure the past few weeks have been! Moving house¬†sure is messy, whether you do it all in one go or bit-by-bit over many weekends like we did. Towards the end we were sleeping on just a couch cushion on the floor,¬†with no furniture or appliances left¬†except a¬†tiny bar fridge that held only a few meals’ worth of groceries, and clocking hundreds of kilometres¬†driving back and forth between the two homes on weekends. Exhausting.

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Wonderfully wonky

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Hello friends! How’ve you been? ūüôā

A bit of sun¬†lit up¬†my day today: I couldn’t resist buying my first two pieces of new home decor! I spied these two wonderfully wonky ceramic¬†bowls on¬†sale at Woolies¬†and had to snap them up.¬†They fit right in with my planned¬†colour themes, in this case for the lounge/living room area:

Wonky crockery

Wonky crockery

I like that they’re misshapen, especially for the lounge, because I want it to be a fun, informal area where guests feel at home. And what are the odds that the only colours available would be a perfect robin’s-egg blue and rusty orange?! Plus they were really cheap¬†on sale so I don’t feel bad for squeezing them into my budget.

The ideal marriage of form with function: eye-catching decorations that double as snack bowls for a party or hold-alls for odds and ends.

It’s a silly thing, but this little find¬†made my day! ūüėÄ

Goal #25: Design decor themes

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The exciting thing about moving into a place we’re not renting is that I can finally put some effort into decorating my home ūüôā

Realising my dream of a fully decorated house, however, will be a slow process… For example, when we move into the cottage we’ll be stuck with the paint scheme (pretty though plain) that my parents have chosen.¬†This is to¬†save us the effort and expense of repainting when they eventually move into the cottage themselves. But at least (Lord willing) when we¬†take over the main house, I’ll finally be let loose with a paintbrush!

In the meatime, my decor ideas will be limited to all the finishing touches rather than the walls, carpets or tiles. I don’t mind, though. I can’t wait to start collecting stuff¬†ūüėÄ

To help me plan properly, I’ve laid out my ideas in what could¬†loosely be¬†called ‘mood boards’. They don’t have actual swatches of fabric or splashes of paint like proper mood boards would, but they do¬†group¬†colours and elements that will inspire my eventual purchases. (In creating these boards, I’ve also¬†accomplished Goal #25 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.)

I’ve put together¬†the¬†ideas on¬†black cardboard because it brings out the colours, but the actual palette I have to work with is: white ceilings, pink-white walls,¬†purply grey carpets, peachy-white tiles and purply grey doorframes. I’m hoping that that¬†base won’t clash monstrously with the colourful themes I have in mind ūüėõ

First off, the bathroom:

Bathroom: Lavender and lemon

Bathroom: Lavender and lemon

Our cottage bathroom is beautifully light and airy, with large windows that face both east and north out over the garden. That inspired my lavender and lemon colour scheme, to reflect the sunshine and the garden views.

To me, a bathroom also has two main functions: to relax and rejuvenate. The varied purples I’m grouping under ‘lavender’ will bring a sense of calm into the room, while the cheerful zesty lemon yellows should inspire and revitalise us. And of course purple and yellow are complementary colours, which means that when placed together they really make each other ‘pop’!

Although¬†my husband has generously said I can freely decorate the entire house except for his computer/hobby corner, I still don’t want to go overly feminine or floral. It’s important to me that the decor makes him feel relaxed and at home in the space too. So far he seems to like my ideas ūüôā

Next, we have the lounge (or living room as you may call it):

Lounge: Robin-egg and rust

Lounge: Robin-egg and rust

This is going to be a fun one to decorate! In the cottage our lounge area is very small, but I’m thinking of the¬†long term too ‚Äď these themes can also be carried over into the main house one day. So, for this family-oriented space I’ve picked a soft robin-egg blue and a striking rusty orange. Of course, my idea is not to get every item bang on¬†the exact same shade… so the blue includes a range of soft sea-blue and mint-green shades,¬†while the orange items will go from coral to rust to tangerine.

I’m hoping that even though the cottage lounge is small, it will be a welcoming and relaxing space for us and our family and friends. I also trust that the colour scheme I’ve chosen here will make it an area that feels both¬†warm in winter and cool in summer.

In case you’re wondering, in the cottage our open-plan¬†dining area is part of both the kitchen and the lounge. While I don’t expect the kitchen or¬†dining area¬†to have much of a colour scheme (I’m still waiting to see what my folks decide on), I do think I’ll introduce some of my wonderful ratty-themed items into those areas. That will make for an interesting welcome to the house, especially since the entrance door is in the kitchen and the ratties’ cage will be in the dining area ūüôā

And finally, the bedroom:

Bedroom: Charcoal and cherry

Bedroom: Charcoal and cherry

I’ve waited a long time to make a beautiful bedroom, so I look forward to this decorating job! Here I’ve chosen a base of charcoal grey to bring a manly and restful tone to the room. Then the feminine side will come in with light cherry-blossom pink, accentuated with splashes of sumptuous winey-cherry-red here and there. The feel of the room should be elegant, private, peaceful and sexy all at once. Hmm! ūüėÄ

In this room I can get away with a bit more emphasis on the floral¬†cherry-blossom motif, thanks to my Ninja’s interest in the Orient and especially Japan. It’s going to take some careful selecting to balance the minimalistic Japanese touches with the rich luxury of the boudoir accents, but it’ll be worth the effort, don’t you think?

Well, those are my ideas. It will probably be years before it all comes together like that (if ever!), but at least it gives me a shopping guide and something to work towards ūüôā

Do you have cool colour schemes and decor themes in your home?

A harvest of health

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Just think of all the beautiful sunshine that was poured into these natural delights!

My¬†resolution to eat a salad as a main meal every day for 30 consecutive days has been going splendidly. I feel so blessed by the bountiful ‘harvest’ I’m able to buy!

Of course, I’m¬†in¬†a city in the twenty-second century,¬†so unfortunately¬†my fresh produce doesn’t come to me with bits of soil still clinging to it…¬†One day I hope to have a little patch of land where I can experiment with growing a few of my own fresh goodies, but for now¬†I buy the freshest and the best selections I can for my money and convenience, and it’s a blessing.

This is¬†one way I measure wealth: when my fridge is full not just of food, but of good food that hasn’t been¬†fiddled with¬†too much between God’s hand and my plate ūüôā

There are so many diets and eating plans out there, some of which¬†totally take over people’s lives. That’s not for me.¬†I’m just¬†content to make small changes for the better wherever¬†I can.

If the label says ‘organic’ and I can afford it, I’ll buy it.¬†And on the other end of the spectrum, if the best-before date is in¬†a year’s time, I don’t really want to be putting that stuff in my body!

I know most of my readers will be heading for their northern-hemisphere winter now, so salads may not seem very appealing. But may I encourage you to balance out your cold-weather comfort foods with fresh produce whenever you get a chance.

You’ll reap a harvest of health ūüôā

Flowers for my mother

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The 56th goal on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days was to surprise my mom with flowers. I crossed off¬†that goal this past weekend, taking my Marzipan a bunch of bright yellow beauties ‘just because’ ūüôā

Flowers for my mom

Flowers for my mom

My mom would never say she deserves flowers, and I can’t say we’ve always had that kind of relationship where I’d think of getting her any… but despite our various differences she is a huge blessing to me. This poem reminds me of her:

 

We search the world for truth. We cull

The good, the true, the beautiful,

From graven stone and written scroll,

And all old flower-fields of the soul;

And, weary seekers of the best,

We come back laden from our quest,

To find that all the sages said

Is in the Book our mothers read.

ňú John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807‚Äď1892 ňú

Rat-themed cupcakes

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It’s a rainy grey day¬†in my¬†corner of the¬†world today ‚Äď and as¬†you know,¬†this weather always draws¬†me¬†into the kitchen to¬†make sweet treats¬†(boy it’s a good thing I don’t¬†live in the UK or¬†I’d become a real roly poly!).¬†I baked ratty cupcakes today, and tried out a new marshmallow frosting technique for fun.

Rat-themed cupcakes

Rat-themed cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is the same one I used for my husband’s ninja-themed party. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried a rat or mouse theme with baking, but it’s the first time I’ve used cute mini Marie biscuits for ears ūüôā The eyes are noses are just silver and red dragees. I would have loved to have added whiskers too; maybe next time…

The marshmallow icing was sticky messy fun ūüėĬ†It’s a quick alternative to normal icing with confectioner’s sugar ‚Ästif you happen to have marshmallows on hand, of course.

Making marshmallow frosting

Making marshmallow frosting

It’s as simple as taking the cupcakes out of the oven about two minutes before they’re done baking. Place a marshmallow on top of each warm¬†cupcake and pop them all back in the oven.

Marshmallow frosted cupcakes

Marshmallow frosted cupcakes

Hardly a minute later, as you see the marshmallows sliding and melting, take them out again and smooth the sticky sweets over the surface of the cupcakes. Then pop them back in one last time for a minute longer so they melt completely. Take them out again, decorate and cool as usual.

Cute rat cupcakes

Cute rat cupcakes

The marshmallow icing is very sticky to work with but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s not too sweet if you only use one ‘mallow per cupcake.

So, did I share my ratty cupcakes with my ratties?

What do you think? ūüėČ

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

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For our Spring Day feast I made us a really quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert. It only uses three ingredients and satisfied every palate, rounding off our feast with a treat that’s¬†both fruity and sweet. I don’t really have a proper¬†name for it though, so let’s just call it a strawberry and marshmallow dessert.

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

You could start making this dessert the¬†day before your dinner party. I did, by preparing some jelly (I think you guys¬†call it¬†Jell-O overseas?) in four dessert glasses. I only¬†had the¬†raspberry flavour in my cupboard at the time, but you could always experiment with different options. And I’m sure this¬†would¬†work with¬†other fruit too, such as bananas or peaches.

Jelly base for dessert

Jelly base for dessert

This jelly base set overnight in the fridge, so all I had to do today was to slice up some fresh strawberries and prepare the marshmallow sauce.

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

The hot marshmallow sauce was a random idea I’d had. I wasn’t sure it would even work, but luckily¬†it¬†did ūüôā

In a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water) I melted together about two cups of mini pink and white¬†marshmallows. I guessed they’d become quite sticky, so I first greased the bowl with vegetable oil. As they started melting I stirred in¬†a little¬†milk, which thinned and smoothed the sauce beautifully.

Melting marshmallows

Melting marshmallows

The last step was then simply to spoon the warm, sweet, sticky sauce over the strawberries, and serve them up.

I was concerned the marshmallow sauce would be too sweet (you know how sickly sweet they get when you cook them over a fire?), but when the sauce mixed with the tart, unsweetened strawberries, the balance was perfect.

Quick, easy, cheap, creamy,¬†sweet and almost healthy ‚Äď it’s everything you¬†want in a dessert! ūüėČ

Spring Day feast

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Happy Spring Day to those in the southern hemisphere! Sorry my northern friends, I¬†don’t mean to rub it in that your warm weather is slowly seeping southwards ūüėČ

But winter isn’t over for us¬†yet ‚Äď it was absolutely freezing icy cold this morning. When we went to church we¬†joined huddles¬†of hunched-over¬†people¬†wrapped in¬†thick coats and jerseys. Even the heartiest singing didn’t warm us up today!

Thankfully, though, Jozi is usually sunny even when it’s cold, so as I write here this afternoon I have warm bright sunshine flooding my desk… and cheerfully¬†highlighting all the dust I haven’t got around to cleaning… Meh.

Anyway, enough of that. What I’m really here to write about is the delightful Spring Day feast I made for Ninja and my parents today. My folks were originally coming over to meet their new ‘grandrats’, but since that’s been delayed we just turned it into a celebration of the first day of spring.

Spring Day 2013

Spring Day 2013

For the decor I chose mismatched and cheerful colours, using what I had around the house instead of spending extra on new fancy stuff. For example, I had these bright orange paper cups in the cupboard, so I just prettied them up with spring-themed flower stickers.

For Marzipan

For Marzipan

I used my multicoloured bamboo placemats and colourful serviettes left over from my first special dinner. Ninja had also bought these cool 3D/holographic bookmarks for each of us, so we gave my mom the horsey one and my dad the eagly one (oops, couldn’t resist inventing a word there).

For Daz

For Daz

I also snipped a few sprigs off a jasmine bush to use as our centrepiece. I so enjoy the scent of those flowers: it always tells me my favourite season has arrived at last.

Jasmine

Jasmine

And now for the best part: the food ūüėÄ I made us a three-course meal as follows:

Spring Day menu

Spring Day menu

In case you can’t see the¬†text on the¬†pic, our starters were those mini pizza mushrooms that I first made for this dinner and then again for this dinner. I also recently hosted my in-laws for lunch and made it for them too. In fact,¬†I could quite easily make that starter for every fancy dinner for as long as I live, and never tire of it. Those ‘shrooms¬†are just so darn delicious!!!

The main course was ham and spring onion clafoutis with roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado with basil pesto mayo. This is where I had the most fun, since I love experimenting with new dishes and flavours. (I’m determined not to lose that interest even though I no longer have as much spare time for experimenting as I had before…).

I’d never made a clafoutis (say: ‘klafootee’)¬†before, but I based my recipe on this one and simply substituted ham and spring onions for the basil and tomatoes. I also used four¬†small ramekins rather than one big dish.¬†It’s such a simple and easy recipe, and my family enjoyed it (though we all added some extra salt, without which it would have¬†tasted far too mild and milky).

Tomatoes ready for the oven

Tomatoes ready for the oven

The roasted cherry tomatoes are an idea shared with me by my best friend. She first made it for me with pasta and wilted spinach (oh, how well¬†we ate that day!), but the tomatoes work perfectly on their own too. Simply wash them, pop them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with whatever herbs and spices you like (I used origanum, pepper, chives¬†and salt). Then bake them for 30 minutes at 180 ¬įC ‚Äď which was ideal in this case because that’s the same as for¬†the clafoutis, so I baked them together.

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

As you can see from the pic above, the poor clafoutis had no patience with me fussing with the photography… it started to deflate almost as soon as I took it from the oven ūüėõ Still delicious though.

The basil pesto mayo was also a hit (with everyone except my plain-eating husband, hehe). Since I enjoy basil but can’t eat the garlic they usually put in commercial pestos, I decided to make my own pesto. As a replacement for the pine nuts used in standard pestos, I added a few spoons of ground almonds. Hmmm. Didn’t¬†do much for me.¬†Then I simply mixed up low-fat mayo and milk, and¬†stirred tiny shreds of fresh¬†basil into the mix. Yum! A perfect complement to the plain avocado, with none of the disadvantages (for me at least) of using garlic.

And the dessert of fresh strawberries and hot marshmallow sauce? That’ll be my next post ūüôā

My favourite meal of the day

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Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day :mrgreen:

Nothing gets me up and¬†out of bed like the anticipation of a good breakfast. While Ninja is one of those people who dislike eating too early in the day, I’m ready to nom as soon as I’ve opened my eyes.

Recently I’ve changed over from cold cereal as my standard start to the day, to a¬†warm bowl of cooked¬†rolled oats with a variety of toppings. Warm, healthy, tasty and filling… the ideal first meal of the day.

I loathed oats when I was a kid, but that’s probably because I only encountered them at church¬†camps and other strange places, where¬†they were cooked until they were grey and flavoured with salt as well as sugar. Gag. The oats I make for breakfast these days are gourmet in comparison!

The bowl pictured above shows one of the best combinations I’ve come up with so far. The¬†oats are¬†cooked in coconut¬†milk and water, with a dash of vanilla essence. Then I top them with dried cranberries, blueberries, raisins and goji berries, drizzle on some honey and sprinkle cinnamon and¬†a few flax seeds on top. YUM!

And when summer hits South African shores, I think I’ll stick to my warm winter cereal but top it with more fresh fruits instead ūüôā

Do you enjoy oats for breakfast? What toppings have you tried before?