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Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Club Book Review: Angela's Ashes By Frank McCourt

The pressure was on at Book Club this month because it was my turn to pick the book for us girls to read.

Initially I picked a modern thriller but then changed my mind and went for this classic novel which has been on my must read list for years (and sitting on my bedside table collecting dust for way too long!). It received mixed reviews at Book Club and scored an average of 6/10.

Here is my book review of the May Book Club pick  Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

This is a memoir of Frank McCourt told through his eyes as a young baby through to his early teens.

Set from the 1930's in the Depression the McCourt family move from Brooklyn USA to Limerick, Ireland their native country.

This memoir is of the daily life and struggles Frank and his family faced growing up in poverty, dealing with sickness, constant hunger and poor living conditions.

This was a very sad and depressing read except that it was also filled with humour and lightheartedness. The writing is brilliant in that it didn't dwell on what they didn't have, they just got on with living, and day by day and year by year Frank and his family persevered.

I learnt a lot about the schools, churches, religion, prohibition and the war and how it affected Ireland.

I recommend this book to everyone but especially the younger generations so they know of the struggles generations faced before.

I give this book 4 stars out of  5

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 paint dry than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd give up a bottle of the worlds best champagne for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Johnny Depp for this read

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Honeymoon Travels: San Francisco, California USA

Today I'm sharing part five of our honeymoon travels around the USA .... After New York, Louisville, New Orleans and Las Vegas our next leg was a first class flight from Las Vegas, Nevada to San Francisco, California - the one time I wish the flight was longer so I could've enjoyed the first class service more!

We stayed 3 days in San Francisco at Worldmark Hotel a nice hotel in Downtown which I'd booked through the owner direct on AirBnB at a good price as the accommodation in San Fran is really expensive! This Hotel was in a great area right near Chinatown where we ventured for cheap and cheerful meals and a short walk from Union Square where all the action happens.


This was my second time visiting San Francisco but I never made it to Alcatraz the first time and so I booked the ferry a few months ahead to make sure I wouldn't miss out this time!

We took the ferry over to Alcatraz and spent a couple of hours doing the self walk tour around the prison grounds - it was really interesting learning about the history of the prison and inmates and we bought some great Alcatraz themed gifts too.

Fisherman's Wharf

It is so nice walking around Fisherman's Wharf - it's a short walk from where the Alcatraz ferry leaves from so we had breakfast here before Alcatraz and then came back for lunch afterwards.

There are shops, lots of restaurants and cafes, and the sea lions sun baking on Pier 39 are worth a look too!

The seafood chowder in a sourdough roll is an absolute must eat here it was so good.

Lombard Street

To walk off all that food we walked from Fisherman's Wharf to Lombard Street and Gardens - the worlds most crookedest street!

The gardens here are really pretty and the view of the city and all the houses is stunning as well it's definitely worth checking out. 

A Baseball Game at AT&T Park

We wanted to watch a Basketball or Ice Hockey game while we were in the USA but there wasn't any games on the days we were at places ..... until we got to San Fran and were lucky enough to get tickets to a baseball game at the famous AT&T Park - to watch Los Angeles Dodgers Vs San Francisco Giants which was great fun after we got over the shock of paying $15 AUD for a beer!

As if we hadn't walked enough today, after a short tram ride, we also walked to the ball park in South Beach and then back to Downtown to our hotel again.

Tenderloin + Chinatown

On our last day we were so exhausted from the hectic day before we went out for brunch in the Tenderloin District which had a lot of interesting characters and things happening in this part of town! Then after a run of glorious hot sunny days the weather turned cold and wet and our plans to bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge didn't seem so appealing in the rain so we went back to our hotel for a chill out day watching movies and went out for a nice sushi dinner in Chinatown.

I find that we always do so much when we travel overseas so it's nice to have a bit of downtime as well to slow down and relax - that is what holidays and honeymoons are for afterall!

Have you been to San Francisco? What did you love about it?

Coming up next is our final destination .... Los Angeles!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jarrah Jungle - 6th Year Blog-versary

My beloved Jarrah Jungle blog, my creative outlet and diary of our home renovations, is turning a big 6 years old today!


Thank you all so very much, YES YOU my awesome readers, for supporting my blog, stopping by and leaving a comment, sharing or liking Jarrah Jungle on social media, it makes it all worthwhile to connect with the blogging community and readers from all across the world.

Boy oh boy what changes I've seen over the last 6 years within the blogging community. 

There are so many well known blogs that have stopped updating their blogs (like Young House Love my inspiration for starting this blog!). Certainly bloggers aren't blogging every day like they use to - it was hard to keep up I read blogs more than books back then! I write 2-3 blog posts a week and while I love the easiness of social media and I share on there daily - you just can't beat having a landing page and a blog to call your own.

I work full time as an office administrator in a legal office (my real day job) and blog after hours in my spare timeI'm not going to lie it's a lot of work having a blog and it's working for free too which is why you rely so much on the connection from readers so you don't feel like you're doing it all for nothing. 

For anyone new who may not know how the Jarrah Jungle blog 
came about here is a little about it .....

I started the Jarrah Jungle blog in 2010 about 8 months after I moved into a do-er-up house with my then boyfriend and now husband Mr P. 

As we started tackling our first renovation my passion for interior design really came alive and I wanted somewhere to diarise the before and afters on the house, to share where I found bargains and good buys and indulge in my love for turning our house into a home.

The blog name Jarrah Jungle is a namesake to the jarrah wood throughout the house - the floorboards, shelving in cupboards, even the roof beams are solid jarrah. The backyard was a bit of a jungle too so the name fit perfectly!

I love to write about our DIY projects and renovations we are tackling. When the paint brushes are put away I also write regular book reviews and share recipes and other happenings around the Jarrah Jungle home.

I think like minded home lovers identify with my blog because they can follow a renovation by real people getting our hands dirty - there's no Lifestyle Channel TV crew helping us, just Mr P and I, our sense of humour, hard work and passion for turning our house into a home!

Thanks again for reading and being around for these 6 years .... you guys are awesome!

I wonder what the 7 year itch will bring!

To see the blog-versaries throughout the years you can check out these blog posts:

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Courtyard Garden: Waterproofing The Limestone Garden Bed

The first thing we did once the courtyard garden bed had been built was to waterproof the inside of the garden bed which is made from limestone blocks.

We needed to waterproof it because the back of the garden bed is our limestone fence surrounding the courtyard and we don't want it to get damaged by water seeping through or to stain with water marks and a waterproof will protect from this.

The garden bed is a decent size about 3.5 metres long in total which will fit lots of fresh herbs and vegetables that we are hoping to plant this weekend.

Mr P also waterproofed the limestone fence when it was first built - you can read more about that here.

We used a Crommelin waterproof product that is specifically made for outdoor use in wet areas such as garden beds.

A pair of disposable gloves to protect your hands and a paint brush is all you need to paint on the waterproofing. We bought a small paint roller and tray as well but it was too awkward inside the garden bed so we didn't end up using it - it's much easier to just paint it on with a brush.

Mr P painted on the waterproof nice and thick all the way along the inside of the garden bed. It's a once only coat and only took about an hour from start to finish. The black makes it easy to see where where you've applied it and I like how the black adds depth to the garden bed.

To be honest this stuff looks horrible (like something out of a horror movie!) it's thick with a tar like texture. But the good thing is it has little to no smell. 

That's another little DIY ticked off the to do list and the garden bed is now ready to be filled with sand, soil and we can start planning out our herb and vegetable garden (hopefully this weekend!).

What vegetables and herbs do you grow at home?

Sharing with link parties:
Curly Crafty Mom - The Creative Corner
Savvy Southern Style - Wow Us Wednesdays
The Dedicated House - Before and After Wednesday
The Plumbette - Home Improvement Thursday

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Recipe: Slow Cooked Beef In Soy + Orange Sauce

I had my family over for dinner on Sunday night for my Birthday and so I wasn't stuck in the kitchen on my special day I put the slow cooker on to make dinner for us!

I made this Slow Cooked Beef in Soy + Orange Sauce recipe but added more veggies, meat and a few other changes per the recipe below.

It's an Asian take on the traditional Italian Osso Buco and everyone loved it, it had a really rich and sweet flavour, the meat was tender and falling apart and there were lots of hidden veggies so it was healthy too. 

Slow Cooked Beef in Soy + Orange Sauce
Serves 6 


6 beef osso buco
2 tbs plain flour
2 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, sliced diagonally
4 sticks celery, sliced diagonally
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3cm piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5 strips orange rind
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs oyster sauce
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine  (I used Sherry)
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup cold water
2 star anise
2 tbs brown sugar
Green beans
Coriander leaves
Steamed rice 


1. Place meat in a sandwich bag with flour and shake until meat coated. Heat oil in a pan, brown meat and remove from pan.
2. Heat oil in pan and fry onion, garlic, ginger, carrot and celery for 5 minutes. 
3. Add to the slow cooker the meat, veggies, orange peel, sauces, wine, stock, star anise, sugar and half a cup of cold water. Stir well and add cracked pepper.
4. Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours, turning meat half way through.
5. Discard bones and star anise and break up meat with a fork.
6. Add beans and let cook on low with the lid off for about 20 minutes or until beans cooked through and sauce thickens.
7. Serve with steamed rice and top with coriander leaves.

Note: I have a Sear and Slow Cooker so can brown in my slow cooker, but if you don't you will need to use a pan and then transfer to your slow cooker.

What's your favourite way to cook osso buco?

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Courtyard Garden: Paving, Garden Bed + Grass

As you may have seen snippets of if you follow Jarrah Jungle on Facebook or Instagram you will know our courtyard garden landscaping project has kicked off and I'm so damn excited about the progress we've made in the last few weeks!

The courtyard fence was built at the front of our house a few years ago but we have been focused on other projects like renovating our laundry/powder room, subdividing our block and getting married and planning our wedding. So the courtyard was left as a sandpit until we could turn our attention back to it this year and the time has come to work on this project again and finish off the landscaping and courtyard garden.

Mr P and I did all the preparation work ourselves including drawing up the courtyard garden designsetting up the reticulation ready for the grass and garden beds, installing shade sail poles (the shade sail is still being made) and clearing the area ready for the landscaping work to start.

We decided not to DIY the paving, brick garden bed or lay the grass ourselves and have turned to the professionals for this - our family's landscaping business. The main reason we aren't DIYing is because the pavers are really heavy and we'd need to hire extra equipment to move them, it would take us a lot longer to do the work just on weekends and we worked out it was more worthwhile to pay professional landscapers to do the job.

To save money we organised all the materials ourselves - yellow sand, soil, cracker dust, concrete, pavers and limestone blocks and turf. 

This is the work the landscapers have done over the last week and a bit .... 

Day 1 - Clearing and Leveling the Site

Sand and cracker dust delivered and the landscapers used this to level and compact the ground. 

The sand is used to raise the ground level of the courtyard so it's the same as the pathway to the front door. They compacted the sand down and then added a layer of cracker dust to the top.

Unfortunately they couldn't do any more work as the delivery truck for the pavers and blocks had broken down so we had to wait until the next day for delivery before any paving work could start.

Day 2 - Garden Bed Begins

Limestone pavers and limestone blocks we picked and were made by hand were delivered from our local supplier Dan-Stone.

The limestone blocks were quite cheap and they're not perfect they have some chips out of them but as they are being used for a garden bed we were happy to save some money and use these as the chips can be filled with cement mortar.

Work on the garden bed in the corner started today using the limestone blocks and a mix of cement mortar to stick them down.

Day 3 - Garden Bed Finished & Site Leveled

The garden bed was finished and lined up perfectly with the corner of the courtyard (good job lads!).

Once the garden bed was built the rest of the courtyard ground was leveled again with sand and then cracker dust and compacted flat.

The level was raised up about 5cm to meet the concrete path that runs to the front door so it's all one level - joining the path to the courtyard.

Day 4 - Paving starts

The landscaping lads started to lay the pavers today starting from the pathway to the front door and leading outwards. The pattern on the pavers were laid at the same angle to match as well.

All these little details you never notice about houses until you work on them yourselves!

Day 5 - Another Day Of Paving

More paving was laid today and the tricky bits around the edges which had to be measured and cut.

Good quality soil was delivered today for the garden beds and to lay under the grass areas.

When Mr P and I got home from work and spent 3 hours working by torch light adjusting the new reticulation and sprinkler system we installed around the grass areas.

This is because we decided to lay an extra row of pavers at the top of each grass area - so we had 4 sprinklers we had to cut and re-connect the pipe to shorten it. There were other pipes which were a little but under the paving as well so we ended up cutting and re-connecting most of them.

We also dug out all 8 corners and attached sprinkler heads and dug them in so they are in the corners perfectly - now that the paving is laid you can really see the defined area where the grass will be laid.

Day 6 - Paving Finished

The last of the paving was laid today including the extra paving we asked to be done near the two grass areas.

The pavers were then cemented in around the edges of the courtyard and the edge of the garden beds.

As mentioned, the reticulation we fixed so it was all ready for the grass to be laid. The grass we ordered was cut and delivered the same day and it was laid the next day. It's really important to lay turf as soon as you can and keep it watered so it stays cool, or it can dry out and won't grow as well.

Day 7 - Grass laying day

The turf Velveteen grass was laid today and it looks amazing. Velveteen is a high quality grass, it's drought tolerant which we need out here as it will get full sun and needs to stand up to our tough Aussie summers. It's soft and spongy to touch and is green all year round.

We had about 9 rolls (9m2) of grass leftover (as we changed the design and paved more so there was a smaller grassed area) and we had no trouble selling it on Gumtree in just a few hours.

What a transformation the paving makes - it really shows how large this outdoor space is and it will be a perfect spot to soak up the morning sun or to watch the sunset.

I'm really happy with how the grass patches look, they are both the same size, and make the garden design look symmetrical and modern. I love love love it!

Now Mr P and I are ready to get our hands dirty and seal the pavers to protect them from stains and marks, then we will get busy adding plants and pots and furniture.

Stay tuned for more courtyard garden updates coming this month!

Sharing with link parties:
Curly Crafty Mom - The Creative Corner
Savvy Southern Style - Wow Us Wednesdays
The Dedicated House - Before and After Wednesday
The Plumbette - Home Improvement Thursday

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[All images my own]

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