The adventure of trying to make a house a home that we built for our family of six plus some craft, home décor, recipes & any family fun we might have.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Our Willy Wonker and his Chocolate Factory

As the shortest month of the year you'd think that time wouldn't whiz by at double the speed it usually does. I'd like to know where February has gone? It seems like only yesterday that we were finishing up with January and now we're about to wave goodbye to February. This month we've celebrated four birthdays, had a big party for my mother's sixtieth, driven long distances for events, started dance lessons for a four week trail period while still going about our day to day lives.

The temperatures here in my part of Australia have been hot, humid and really uncomfortable especially when you don't own an air-conditioner, but we've managed to work through them. I've worked on a few little things this month that were food related which I planned to share with you but unfortunately with the heat I've forgotten to take pictures or save leftovers so all my great blog ideas have literally been eaten up. However, I've managed to try a few new recipes which have been well received by four of the five food critics I have living with me. As always I'm yet to receive a perfect score with my dishes but I'm still trying because one day soon my two year old will love what I've made at the same time as the other children. It'll happen and when it does I'll have the camera ready.

School is in full swing at the moment, the eldest two are adjusting to the change in routine and they've also embraced the changes made to the homework program. We're loving the fact that we can do a small amount of homework over the weekend which frees up time during the week to play in the afternoon. Mackenna is enjoying having her violin and she practises every night plucking the strings, however ask me in a months time what I think especially when she starts using the bow. Caelan's teacher is lovely and I think she'll encourage him to focus more this year which should help him in the coming years.

One of the activities he could do from his homework sheet this past fortnight was to create a chocolate bar anyway he wanted. As this activity requires some adult supervision I had the pleasure of helping him create a chocolate that he'd share with his class. Initially many of the ideas he had were already available and with the majority of his classmates also doing this project he was running out of ideas. While walking through the lolly isle at the supermarket he choose two different chocolate bars that he was going to mix together with the melted chocolate in the hopes of creating something edible.

After a bit of brainstorming and guidance I helped him create a cute little chocolate that he took to school to test out on his class mates. Later in the term he'll work on branding, a logo and an entire marketing campaign for the chocolate bar he's created. At the moment he's named it 'Crunchy Heart Bar' but once he's been given more direction and an overview of the assignment I'm sure his little chocolate bar will get a new name, packaging and a cute little logo.

So what do you think of his little chocolates? I love how he's used white and milk chocolate while also incorporating little candies I had in the pantry, when you bit into them its nice to see tiny little pieces of colour. I'm very proud of his efforts, who knows maybe I'll talk him into making chocolates for Easter instead of going with the traditional Easter Egg thing. I'd love to here if you've ever made chocolates before.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

5 Minute Ribbon Necklace

We're five weeks into the new school year and my little Prep girl has just received her first birthday party invitation. To say she is excited is an understatement and she's been talking non-stop about what she'll do when she arrives, the games, the music and the PRESENT. Every time we get a party invitation I get a little stressed because I'm never really sure whether I should buy or make a gift for the birthday boy or girl. This year I'm a little luckier because my eldest is going to be nine and nine years old boys don't want handmade gifts so I'll just have to brave the toys aisles to see what we can find.

So been the first party of the year I decided that I'd contact the birthday girl's mum, ask her what she'd like me to get for her daughter and then go from there. I found out she loves Barbie, dressing up and jewellery. Now I took my daughter to the shops to LOOK for ideas and if she'd had her way we would have been walking away with hundreds of dollars worth of Barbie dolls and accessories.

After sitting down with a drink together we came up with a plan to create a few special, one of a kind necklaces that worked in with the Barbie theme while also adding a few other accessories so that they could be used during dress up time. This meant our gifts would tick off all three of the birthday girl's favourite things list and we'd be guaranteed to get a smile. First up I went looking for a few small pieces of jewellery that would be ideal for dressing up and I also found a small quilted case to hold them in. While in Kmart my daughter found a Barbie make up kit and we also found some really pretty silver bangles that would go perfectly with dressing up.

The only thing left was to make a couple of ribbon necklaces and the gift would be ready to wrap. While visiting my local scrapbooking shop one week earlier I'd found a few antique gold jewellery bits and I knew that they'd be perfect for the job. The great thing about this project was that I already had most of the items on hand and each necklace cost me under two dollars. I also personalised one of the necklaces because I wanted it to be special for the birthday girl. I drew the Barbie logo with a black pen on a piece of pink paper and I added the year that she was born as there wasn't much room to write her birth date.

Overall I'm really happy with the entire gift. Mackenna and I really like the necklaces the most and that they're handmade, makes them extra special. I have chosen colours that relate back to Barbie and that will work easily when the birthday girl is playing dress ups. Although the gift might be small in size there's been a lot of thought, effort and care put into the entire gift. 

These necklaces are easy to make and the fact that you can personalise them makes it even better. I think I'll buy a few more pieces for future birthday parties so that Mackenna or Viveca can give them as personalised presents. If I knew making a necklace like this was so easy I would have made some of them ages ago. My birthday's next week and as a treat I'm going to make myself a few of these necklaces so that I can add something personal next time I go out somewhere special. Kidding! I'll just make one pretty one and wear it when I go to school and grocery shopping.

With the success of this project I'm now thinking I'd like to try making some more jewellery but I want to try making something more decorative and something with a chain. In the last few days I've taken more of an interest in the jewellery section when I'm out at the shops. Might have to take my time with the next project as my craft area is getting crowded with all the stuff I've already got. Glad Mr Opoes leaves me to my own devices when it comes to crafting but I think I might need to narrow it down to two crafts and focus my attention on them.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Test Tube Birthday Treats

Last weekend we celebrated Viveca's 4th birthday and although we weren't having a birthday party I wanted her to give little thank you gifts to her sibling and that's when Test Tube Treats were created. I'd been walking the aisles of my local dollar store when I came across these test tubes in the birthday section, so I grabbed a few boxes and off I skipped home. Like every birthday we have at home I make a specific birthday cake, we have birthday presents and generally do what were the birthday person wants to do. So as you can see it's a very low key affair.

This year Viveca wanted a Peppa Pig birthday cake and as I was purchasing it from my local Woolworth's store I felt the need to do something a little extra for her on the day. Now the hardest part of this project was designing a little gift tag as I'd never done it before and printing out the gift tag. All this was difficult because I had know idea what I was doing and our printer ran out of coloured ink, so off to our local print shop I went to get three tags printed. Now for all of you out there who know how to use a computer I'm sure you'd have this done and dusted in less than five minutes. Next time I do something like this I might reduce the size of the tag because when I printed it out it was a little large.

The next thing I did was to divided my Jelly Beans into different colours just to give a more scientific look to each test tube and then I filled each tube with the jelly beans before screwing the lid on. I then attached a small piece of twine to the gift tag and I wrapped it around the top of the tube, tiring it off to secure it to the top of the test tube.
There you have it. If you're talented you can have these made within fifteen minutes but if you're not so great it could take you that long just to design something simple. Viveca thought they were a great idea and as her Barbie bike wasn't ready to be delivered I was able to still make her feel special. I love the size of these test tubes because you don't have to fill them to the top and they would be great for a science themed party.

So what do you think? I'm really pleased because each test tube treat come in at under $2 but it would have been a bit more expensive if I hadn't used lollies we already had on hand. Viveca thought it was a great. To save on any future dental bills I shared the two tubes between the four children and they were happy with that. If I was going to use these at a birthday party I think I'd fill the tubes with a mixture of small and large jelly beans, overall I was happy with this project.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Man Cave

Like most men my husband would love a space he could call his own and that's why I decided to turn our study into a man cave. For Christmas we put a shed up in the backyard, in order to free up some space in the garage. Now my husband isn't a shed type of guy so we needed an area in which he could hide away and do what ever men do in their caves. So with only one room left, the study will become his office when he works from home and thus it'll also be known as his man cave.

Like many couples if you present a space to them and asked them how they'd decorate it their responses would probably be quiet different. That's what it's like in our house. Mr Opoes likes a modern, minimalistic look with clean lines and I like wooden things, vintage items while also liking some modern pieces. I know you're thinking that we really don't have much to work with because we like different things but when we moved into our house we decided that we would like to decorate the house in a classic, vintage style with items that aren't cheaply made so that they will last us longer or so they'll last the children's treatment of them.

When we were building our house we designed the study to have two functions, one was to be a study and the other was to act as a guest room. After living here for nearly two years we've never had a guest sleep in the study. So when I was planning how I wanted the room to function I've made room for a blow up mattress to fit, still allowing the room to serve two purposes. This foresight meant we were able to add a built in wardrobe, thus allowing us to divide up the space between my husband's study and a guest room.

Last year I purchased a beautiful barn style door that I wanted to use as a table top for a desk and after explaining my concept to my husband he seemed pleased with the idea. Using the door will allow me to create a unique feature within the study as the door is  fifty years old so it'll be a vintage item with somewhat of a classic style. I'm looking forward to seeing what the door has to offer once it's stripped back and I'm hoping that we'll have a unique desk top for the room. The additional benefit is Mr Opoes will have a place to rest his laptop on while he works instead of sitting in the middle of the house, in the kids area.

Gallery Wall

Other decorating ideas include creating a gallery wall that you see when you come through the door. Directly opposite I'm creating a storage space so my husband doesn't have to leave the room to find a file while he's working. After talking to some of my blog friends on Facebook I also decided to hang three pictures above the storage space as they're sentiment to my husband and I, but I'll share those with you when the room is all finished. When I did the gallery wall in our front entrance my husband helped me hung all 33 picture frames and it was during this time that I learnt he liked the concept behind a gallery wall.

With this in mind I wanted to create something slightly different so that it would have more of a masculine feel about it. When I talked to my friend Mel over at Mellywood's Mansion she gave me the idea of creating a monochromatic gallery wall as she thought this would be something my husband would enjoy. This idea was perfect as I'd wanted to cover a corkboard within fabric, plus I had a few embroidery hoops that would be ideal for showcasing pieces of fabric to create the monochromatic look I was after. Not long after this Christian (another blogging friend) posted a picture on Facebook showing what Jamie from Raising up Rubies did with an embroidery hoop and I was hocked.

Now if I'd shown this picture to my husband he would have laughed but I had just the right shirt to go in my embroidery hoop and it would work perfectly with the monochromatic theme. The shirt I had in mind defines my husband so it was a no brainier that it would be perfect for my gallery wall. The other good thing was I could use the wooden hoops frames and this would save me having to paint them. After spending time ironing the shirt, sewing it down in places and hiding all the extra material in the back I was left with this.

Gallery Wall

I was really happy with the way it turned out and because of the size of the hoop I found it was easier to use cotton to hide the extra fabric instead of using glue to hide it away. I was really happy with they look that the various hoops created especially when I paired it with a few square canvas's, the rectangular corkboard and photo frame. When I presented the finished wall to Mr Opoes on his birthday he really liked it and ultimately that's all I was trying to achieve.

Gallery Wall

I am really happy with the look of this wall and I think that even though its monochromatic and masculine I really like it and I can't wait to get the entire room finished so that I can continue blogging in there when Mr Opoes isn't working from home. I'm hoping to find a way to use the kid's pet rocks in the room so maybe I'll find a space for them in the future. So what do you think I'd love to hear your thoughts on my little wall. Should I use the rocks on the wall? Tell me what you would do.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Rock Art falls for love.

Over the summer holidays I've been slowly working on doing up the study so that Mr Opoes has a quiet space to work in while he's working from home. Part of brief I set myself was to create a masculine, functional and usable space that we'd both comfortable using day or night. I also wanted to add some sentimental items into the room without over doing it. One idea I had was to create a functional gallery wall so that I could incorporate something personal on the wall without it been too obvious. I also wanted to have the option of changing out some art work so that I could change the feel in the the room whenever I felt like it.

As the room reveal will be somewhat of a surprise I tried to source all the items quickly and quietly so Mr Opoes didn't get any ideas about what I was doing. Before I'd even started collecting things to place on the wall I knew I wanted to use the kids pet rocks that they created last year, I liked that when you walked into the room you would't expect to see them hanging on the wall and they would also add a little bit of colour to the monochromatic gallery wall I'm doing.

So I got to work putting it together. I purchased a black shadow box from Ikea, I used some scrapbooking cardstock I already had, grabbed some craft glue and I purchased some stick on magnets. After positioning the kid's rocks in order from eldest to youngest I made the discovery that the piece of glass needed to be removed from the frame as Mackenna's rock was too high to sit behind the glass. Now this was the first problem I encounted BUT I continued on as I knew this was going to look great.

I just loved how they looked and admittedly I wasn't looking forward to dusting them all the time so I thought a quick spray of hair spray could help me out in the long run. I proceeded to stick and glue the magnet's into place on the back of the rock's so that they would eventually stick to the cardstock.

The next step involved placing the magnets to the back of the cardstock and to do this I had marked off where I'd need to place the magnets prior to sticking the rock to the front of the cardstock. This was where my second mistake took place as I only used one magnet on the back of the cardstock for each rock. I should have used a piece of tin, spray painted it white and then attached the magnets as this would have allowed them to stay magnetised.

Now I've got a picture. The first time I had an issue with the finished piece but I stopped taking photo's after that because my rocks just would stay attached to the cardstock or the magnets. In the end I attempted to complete the art piece a dozen times before I called it a day. The picture below looks innocent enough but I ended up having the rocks fall off the cardstock onto the floor time and time again. I only stopped when the cardstock ripped and I'd have to cut another piece.

So in the end I cleaned up all the mess I'd made with the magnets and glitter. I cut another piece of cardstock and I glued an MDF word onto the cardstock. This piece of art took me five minutes, didn't require a heap of planning or things and I must say it looks good. The only negative is that my children's pet rocks will have to go somewhere else. I've got a heap of area to decorate in this house so I'm sure that next time I'll purchase a piece of tin from the hardware store and I'll have them hanging on a wall sometime soon.

What do you think? Did I do the right thing or should I have used the rocks. I'll show you the finished wall later this week as I have to get a picture developed and will hang a few more things before the wall is finished but so far it's looking masculine and I'm loving it.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Hotcakes with berry and plum syrup

Recently I've decided that I've wanted to try a few new recipes so that we can broaden our food horizons as we seem to be eating the same old things for what seems like forever. I've told you all before how I like to mix things up sometimes and the kids seem to enjoy eating dessert for dinner so when I found this recipe I knew we just to try it. In Australia we call hotcakes pancakes, so I called these pancakes when I served them up to the children.

The other good thing about trying this recipe was that because of the dairy and sugar content Quinlan might actually gain some weight instead of losing it this month instead. We have been battling with his weight for the last few months and its getting to the point that I need him to gain weight every few weeks. So with this in mind I just knew that he would love this meal and if I added yogurt I'd be ticking all the boxes to make him happy.

The great thing about this recipe is it's adaptable and it can be eaten year round. I'm thinking I'm going to try using mixed berry and vanilla bean cream when winter comes or maybe I can make them for Mr Opoes to celebrate Valentines Day.

Hotcakes with berry and plum syrup.
Sauce Ingredients
5 plums, halved, pitted and cut into 1 cm thick slices
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, split length ways
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Hotcake Ingredients
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup caster sugar
100 grams unsalted butter
icing sugar for dusting

1. Heat a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Add plums, sugar and cinnamon. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the plum mixture then add the beans too. Cook, gently stirring the fruit occasionally for 2 minutes or until the sugar melts and the plums release their juice.
2. Gently fold in the blueberries and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the blue berries begin to release their juice. Don't let the berries cook too long or they'll become mushy and lose their shape. Stir in the lemon juice. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
3. To make the hotcakes, whisk the ricotta, buttermilk and egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Sift the flour and baking powder into the ricotta mixture, whisking until blended.
4. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Using a large silicone spatula, gently fold the egg whites through the batter.
5. Pre-heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in the pan or alternatively spray your pan with cooking spray. Ladle the batter into the pan and cook each hotcake for 3 minutes each side or until they puff up. Each side should be golden brown and just cooked through. Transfer the hotcakes onto plates.
6. Immediately after coming out of the pan, spoon the warm fruit and syrup over the hotcakes. Dust with icing sugar, to serve. Alternatively, place the syrup in a bowl and have your diners spoon their own topping over their hotcakes.
7. Repeat to make and serve more hotcakes, wiping the pan with paper towels before cooking each batch.

NOTE: if wanting to make these gluten free I just substituted 1 cup of plain flour for 1 cup of gluten free plain flour and I made sure that the baking powder was also gluten free.

When I served these up to the children I allowed the fruit and syrup to cool down a little so that the kids wouldn't burn their tongues. Alternatively, you could also serve these hotcakes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a bit of cream on the side. Either way, these hotcakes are now my go to recipe, especially when after a while trying my three year old is eating them with her siblings.