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Monday, September 30, 2013

Recipe: Caprese Style Pasta Salad

I made this tasty pasta salad for the footy festivities on the weekend, it was great for a crowd and also a meal in one for vegetarians that don't like BBQ food. I had it both cold and warm and it was delicious either way, I'll definitely be making it again.
Caprese Style Pasta Salad
Super Food Ideas Magazine, November 2011
750g packet bow tie pasta
1/2 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped (or I used 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved)
180g tub baby bocconcini, halved

1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, following packet instructions until tender. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
2. Combine pesto and vinegar in a small jug.
3. Place basil, tomato, bocconcini and cooled pasta in a large bowl.
4. Add pesto mixture. Season with salt and cracked pepper.
5. Toss to combine and serve.

Note: This dish is best eaten at room temperature so only refrigerate if you won't be eating it straight away. With the leftovers I heated it in the microwave for a minute and served it warm and it was just as yummy.
[All images my own]
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Club: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The September Book Club read was The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club is a story that begins in the 1940s in China at a time of war and 4 main woman characters start The Joy Luck Club and form a lifelong bond of friendship. These 4 woman share the stories of their families and where they come from. The story is then told by their 4 daughters who are by this time born and living in a modern America city where family values and life are vastly different to how things were back in China.

I enjoyed the parts of the story explaining the history of the Chinese culture, the meaning of their names and customs I found very interesting. It's also a bit of a coming of age story taking you from the war through to immigrating and starting a new life. It touches on the American born Chinese kids not knowing where they come from or understanding their family ways and I did find myself smiling in areas in the book when you think the Mother doesn't understand the daughter but we all know they understand perfectly well and know exactly what they are doing!

I wish I liked this book more than I did, it's not bad but it's just not great. I thought it would move me and expected more from it. I felt it was lacking depth somehow, it may be because every chapter was a new story by a different character and I always find those types of tales hard to follow because they skip from one person to another.

I would recommend this book to people of different cultures living in a country different to where your parents are born as I think you will have a good understanding of the issues that face immigrating families.
I give this book 3 stars
Jarrah Jungle's Star Rating:
1 Bad - I'd rather eat brussel sprouts topped with anchovies than read this again
2 Not Good - I'd rather watch re-runs of Neighbours than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd pass up a pack of tim tams for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Johnny Depp for this read

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm On A Mini Break

With me working full time, renovating on the weekends and blogging in between I feel like there's hardly any time for other things - so I'm giving myself a mini break from today and having a few days off work and into the Long Weekend.

I want to take myself shopping to find some holiday outfits and a new suitcase, give Lexi some much needed exercise and attention and catch up with my gorgeous friends who I don't get to see nearly as much as I want to.
Lexi wanting some attention :)

As indulgent as it sounds I also want a PJ wearing day where I get to watch all my favourite shows on Foxtel, paint my nails, read magazines and catch up on my favourite blogs.

Magazine stash ready and waiting
I would also love a whole day to bake in my lovely new kitchen ... I'm yet to bake a cake or anything sweet in the new oven. To have a full day to cook a delicious meal for Mr P that we can eat in our newly renovated dining area would be so good.

Kitchen ready for a bakathon and dining ready to be christened!
Another huge milestone this weekend is the AFL Grand Final on Saturday - For my overseas readers this is probably on par with your Super Bowl celebrations! Our top 2 football teams go head to head our West Australian team Fremantle Dockers Vs Victorian team Hawthorn. Mr P is a big Freo Dockers fan and we are throwing a Grand Final Party and having some mates over to watch the game with lots of yummy food and drinking games. Another reason why we've been keen to tidy up the backyard, fix the patio fence and get the kitchen renovation finished.
Purple fever .. Go the Dockers!

Here's to mini breaks and recharging the batteries!
I hope everyone has a fantastic week and Long Weekend :)

[All images my own]
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Before + After: Dining Area Reveal

I have envisage how I want our small dining area to look for so long that once the art and mirror was finally hung on the wall and the new furniture put in place and I took a look at it all it was so familiar to me because I've dreamt about the design for so long!

I absolutely love how it has turned out ... come take a look at the scary befores and pretty afters of the Dining Room reveal.
Before - Dining Area and Window
After - Dining Area with French Doors
Before - Dining Area was a blank canvass
After - Dining Area with art and mirror
On Saturday morning Mr P and I were up early and fuelled on McMuffins waiting for the shops to open on a mission to find dining chairs to go with the dining table we bought a few weeks ago.

Although we dreamed of having indoor bench seats for the dining area seating we managed to find a table that would fit the space and just needed 4 dining chairs to fit around it.
Our recent purchases - Ikea glass dining table and yellow Replica stools
I had in mind black leather seats with silver legs to match the dining table but all the chairs we saw were quite plain, not very comfortable or well made, or the legs were round instead of square (which wouldn't match the dining table legs).

The dining chairs ranged from $80 at the cheaper shops up to $300 at the more expensive shops.

One of the contenders from Harvey Norman but the $299 price tag was not appealing

As we were nearing midday we had to head home and decided to make a last minute stop at Lifestyle Furniture which has a great mix of modern and retro furniture.

Mr P spotted these fabric chairs first and then I stopped in my tracks and stared at them like it was love at first sight.
The silver fabric was a brave choice but they will match the painted grey walls, the legs were square and shiny exactly like the table legs, the dark edged pattern is a grey/brown colour and will go beautifully with the jarrah floorboards and there is flecks of a green/yellow and yellow is the accent colour in the kitchen and dining.

They were perfect ... I had to have them!

Then the bartering began, they would only sell the chairs in a set of 8 as they were the last ones they had and we only needed 4 chairs but decided we could fit 6 at the dining table and put 1 in the study and 1 in the guest bedroom.

We also haggled for a discount and instead of $129 paid $110 per chair. We managed to fit all 8 chairs in the ute and on the back seat and took them home there and then.
Then on Sunday we finished off the rest of the room.

Once we knew where the dining furniture would sit centred on the wall, we could hang up the mirror which I got from Freedom a few months back and thought it would be perfect for above the dining table.

I think mirrors in dining areas are a fantastic way to create a zone, especially in an open plan style like my kitchen/dining area. They also help to bounce light around which helps make the space look bigger.
Freedom's Karla mirror
I managed to get it reduced even further to $154 ... but there was a 1 month wait to order it in

The mirror at 20kg was to heavy to lift to see where to hang it, so we just measured to centre it on the wall
Removing the packaging and praying that it was not damaged !
Drilling holes for the brackets
Attaching the brackets to the wall

Then the mirror was hung straight on to the brackets
We checked that our heads weren't going to touch the mirror - it was hung at the perfect height

Once the mirror was hung on the wall I could set up the furniture and I was so damn excited by this stage I couldn't wait to see it come together! 

I borrowed the silver rug that was in the Guest Bedroom as I want to protect the jarrah floorboards we spent hours sanding, sealing and restoring. Until we work out what type of rug to put here I think this silver shag rug looks really good except the size is a little small. 

Once the rug was down the dining table and chairs went onto it .... it looks like a proper dining area now!

A rug not only protects the floorboards but also anchors the dining area

The dining setting fits perfectly in this corner against the wall and out of the way
The pops of yellow from the stools compliment the fabric chairs
I know where that saying the cat that got the cream comes from now ... I am just happy that I followed my heart and took a risk with the design and colours in this room I think it has really come together well. 

Looking back to the first rooms we renovated and decorated I really played it safe with colours and design but now I feel I'm a lot more confident and taking a risk really pays off.

I also want to say a big thanks to my gorgeous Mr P who has always encouraged my inner interior designer and given me full reins to design and decorate however my heart desires. 

What do you think of the new dining area?

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[All images my own]
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Tackling The Garden ... A Weed At A Time

We had a break from the rain last weekend and managed to spend a couple of hours in the Spring sunshine pulling weeds and transplanting some plants and trying to tidy up the garden ready for some entertaining now that the warmer weather is just around the corner.
This time last year my garden was looking pretty good the lawn was growing well and the vegetables and herbs were being harvested. Now another season gone and the garden is looking a lot more worse for wear now that we have little Lexi our backyard destroyer who has turned the lawn and garden beds into her very own digging playground!
There were 2 palms underneath the French Doors so they needed to be moved so we can put some steps near the French Doors so we can start using them to access the backyard. Eventually there will be a deck along the back there, but until then we are going to build some temporary steps or something as I'm absolutely hanging out to use the French Doors!
Digging up the palms to transplant them
These poor palms have held up pretty good the last few years with us clambering around on top of them when we were renovating the bathroom and replacing the window to the right and when we turned the window into a doorway they are both kind of smack bang in the middle and got a bit of a beating with ladders and people!
Moving the palms out of the way
If that didn't kill it, I don't think anything will! The trunks have been growing side ways as well so instead of them standing tall they look like little dwarf palms. Coming from a vertically challenged person, I don't mind their shortness, good things come in small packages after all :)
The 2 palms ready to go into their new home
Once they were put into the ground and given a good water they look pretty happy in their new home. This garden bed is at the back of the granny flat so gets lots of morning sun and afternoon shade so that should keep the plants pretty happy. This use to be a vegetable garden but after the crops died down and with Lexi still wanting to dig up any patch of sand she can get her paws into, we have now made this garden our bed for plants that we are growing to transplant to the front garden once the courtyard is built (like the Yukkas we are growing from cuttings).
No Lexi you can't help dig the holes ... sorry pooch!
We transplanted the lemon tree which has not given me any lemons in the 2+ years I've had it so finally let it break free from it's pot and planted it into the ground, in the corner by the back fence garden. It has started to show flowers which is a good sign of fruit coming .... I would use lemons so much in cooking, baking and drinking Bacardi and lemon is my favourite beverage and would love it if my lemon tree started to product lemons by the bucket load!
This is how it looked back in 2011 when I first bought it home and planted it into a pot
Now 2 years on it's outgrown it's pot

Mr P transplanting the lemon tree into the ground

Grow my pretty lemons GROW!
Showing before photos of all the weeds in the garden feels like I'm showing you my overflowing washing basket or pile of dishes ... I feel guilty for letting the garden get so unruly over Winter but honestly, it's so easy to forget about it when it's freezing cold and wet outside whose going to sit out there and weed? Not me!
BEFORE - Weeds along back fence garden and around the tree garden
AFTER - Weeds be gone!
The back fence garden got a long overdue weeding so you can actually see the limestone garden edging and dietes. They were a little lost in the weeds before! This was Mr P's job to do.
Mr P getting lost in the weeds!
Great job babe, you can see the plants again!
Meanwhile I tackled the around the tree garden trying to pull weeds out from amongst the flowers was not fun it was so fiddly and I had bees to dodge as well! I'm really not an outdoorsy person ;)
Around the tree garden full of weeds
A little better now !
Hopefully once we get some more sunshine we can spend a bit more time in the garden in the coming weeks to get it looking nice for Christmas and Summer entertaining. We are thinking about laying some more lawn, as the summer heat and then Lexi totally destroyed the last lot we laid. But not sure if Lexi is quite out of her destroying stage yet and it might be a waste of time and money to do so ... we will have to wait and see. 
How has your garden been growing lately?
Hopefully it's not full of weeds like mine!
[All images my own]
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Zealand: From All Angles

The last few weeks I've been planning my end of year family holiday and what to do when the cruise ship Voyager of the Seas docks in New Zealand. We are going to 3 ports Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington and in true form I've been madly organising what to do to get the most out of our day in port.
I've been to NZ twice before, once on a cruise ship the Oriana and visited 2 ports Christchurch and Auckland. Then years later I did a 2 week Contiki tour of both North and South Islands and saw heaps of the beautiful NZ country. This will be my third time and again arriving on a cruise ship the Voyager of the Seas, we will be visiting 3 different ports and I can't wait to explore this beautiful country again.
Royal Caribbean - Voyager of the Seas
I like to think outside the box and do things a little different on holidays, I don't like to book all the same city sights tours I like to experience places from different angles by doing different adventures. This is what I have planned for the NZ stop overs ....
Auckland - I'm a wine lover I really enjoy going to wineries and doing tastings and trying different wines. I'm also a fan of New Zealand wines we stock quite a few here in Australia, my favourite is Oyster Bay. So that has led me to book a full day wine tour for the day in Auckland just for Mr P and I to spend the day together we'll catch a ferry over to Waiheke Island and spend the day visiting wineries, beer tasting, it's going to be heaps of fun.

Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke Island
Tauranga - This is going to be a family day and I've booked a private tour bus that will seat up to 11 people. We have our own van and tour guide to take us wherever we'd like to go for the whole day which means we can move at our own pace, stop for photos if we see something we want to visit, no crazy long lines or waiting for others who lose track of time. This is going to be a really action packed day seeing the sights of Tauranga and exploring Rotorua with it's geysers and boiling mud, Maori culture, Kiwi fruit orchid, Forest, Waterfall, Lakes and so much more!
Te Puia in Rotorua - Gateway to the thermal valley
Wellington - Oh Wellington you windy city you! We are going to do our own thing in Wellington and catch the local bus around, this will give us a relaxing day moving at our own pace. A trip to the free Te Papa Museum and a Cable Car ride up to the gardens is on the to do list. I'd also like to check out Cuba Street with it's trendy cafes for a coffee (or a cocktail!) and some last minute shopping.
Cable Car and view over Wellington city and harbour

I think these ventures are a good mix with a large tour group, a private tour and a do it yourself tour. We're seeing the best of what NZ has to offer from wineries, boiling mud, culture, city and sights. And it's a good balance of family time and romantic time with Mr P .... It's going to be a fantastic holiday I can't wait!
Do you have any must see places or things to do in New Zealand?
I'd love to hear them!
[Images via 1, 2, 3, 4]
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Recipe: Bacon and Corn Chowder

With the Spring season still bringing rough and stormy weather I couldn't resist making a bowl of soup over the weekend ... probably the last one until next Winter!

I found a Bacon and Sweet Corn Chowder recipe from my magazine stash and it's the kind of soup you can make from cupboard ingredients and leave out the bacon if you want to go vegetarian. This soup was really thick and creamy and I've been serving up a small bowl as a starter before our main meal every night this week and it's gone down a treat, with some crispy bacon bits sprinkled on top for extra taste. Oh soup weather I'm going to miss you! 

Bacon and Corn Chowder
Recipes+ Magazine
40g Butter
1 large brown onion, chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 large tin creamed corn
1 small tin corn kernels
A few rashers of bacon, chopped
2 tbs plain flour
1 cup milk
2 cups chicken stock
White pepper and salt

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan, cook onion, garlic and half the bacon, stirring until onion softens.
2. Add flour and cook stirring for 1 minute.
3. Add potato, celery, milk, stock and bring to the boil.
4. Add tin of creamed corn, corn kernels and their juice and cook for 20 minutes until soup thickens. 5. Season with white pepper and salt.
6. Meanwhile cook other half of diced bacon and set aside to garnish soup.
7. Serve this thick hearty chowder ladled into bowls and topped with some crispy bacon.

Have you made any tasty soups lately?

[Images my own]

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

4 Years In The Jarrah Jungle Home

Four years ago Mr P and I moved into our first home together now affectionately known as Jarrah Jungle. We knew the house had good bones and a great layout but would need everything renovated inside and outside to turn this house into the home we want to live in and enjoy.

Our house has certainly seen a whirlwind of changes these past 4 years ...

Phew we have done so much work to the house in these last 4 years working on weekends one project at a time, finishing it and having a break while we catch our breathe, get some rest and save some money for the next project. We have well and truly put our own stamp on the house and made it work for us with the things that we love and how we want to live. Sure, not everyone is going to love my shoe cupboard (although I'm yet to meet a female who hasn't ohhhhed and ahhhhhed over it!) but it definitely works for us.
In the next 6 months we want to finish renovating the house inside and within 12 months finish outside both front and back. Hopefully we'll then be at the stage where we can get the land subdivided which was the plan from the start .... then we'll have some big decisions to make on whether to (1) keep the subdivided land and build a house on it or (2) sell the land to someone else and move onto our next home or (3) keep Jarrah Jungle as a rental or sell it and move on. This was a 5 year plan for us and we are running pretty much on schedule which is a great feeling.
The project list still to do thankfully is a lot shorter than what has been done which gives me some hope that we will manage to finish this list in the next 12 months ...
  • Build the front courtyard with brick fence, landscaping, etc (in progress)
  • Lay a new driveway and path to the front door
  • Replace the fences outside
  • Replace all the internal and external doors and handles throughout the house
  • Gut and renovate the laundry
  • Gut and renovate the toilet, turning the toilet into a powder room with a basin
  • Build a deck out the back leading off from the French Doors
  • Pull down the old patio and granny flat
  • Landscape the backyard

Happy 4 year anniversary Jarrah Jungle, I'm excited to see what you look like this time next year!

[All images my own]
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