Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vege garden update - up close and personal...

As you know, I recently planted out the vege garden again, and it's going great guns! So as promised, here is a little update on how it's looking… not quite ready for harvesting just yet, but we'll be there in no time!

When it was planted just over a fortnight ago, this was the overall view from the end:

And here is the same view now - a lot more green in this picture, wouldn't you say?

Here are the peas (sugar snap and snow peas) a fortnight ago:

They have really taken off now and are grabbing nicely onto the little frame I put in for them:

I don't really have too many befores of the other things I planted, so how about some photos just right now - they can serve as future befores :)

The broccoli still has quite a lot more growing to do, but it won't be ready for harvesting for quite a while yet (it grows a lot slower than the leafier veges).  Something is currently have a little bit of fun with the leaves, so I will probably have to spray them this weekend:

The cos lettuce is looking nice and lush, getting ready to become my salad sometime soon!

The iceberg lettuce is really going well - it always does great up here in winter, we had a bumper crop last year. Now that our really cold weather seems to have passed, we are having beautiful winter days at around 22-24 degrees celsius (that's around 72-75 for those reading from the US) and these icebergs love it…. Our favourite thing to do with these is harvest leaves one at a time and make San Choy Bao - its something the 3 of us enjoy harvesting, cooking and eating together, and I'll be sure to share the recipe when we make it!

The shallots are growing well but looking a little yellow - I may cut back on the water for these ones a bit and see if they green up again (I have been watering a lot because all the leafies need it so much).

The beans have had a little growth spurt too and more than doubled their size! They are dwarf beans so won't grow very tall - but judging by these, and the weight that will be on the plants when they start producing beans, I will need to put in some stakes or growing frames for them this week, as they will need some support.

Our little capsicum plants have doubled in size also - except the one in the back right corner there… That one was a present from a friend, but the transportation from her house to mine seems to have given it a bit of a shock, and it's not really growing… Oh well, its alive, so for now it stays :)  Here is our first flower on these, which means capsicums are probably only a couple of weeks away!

All of the herbs are going great, especially the coriander (you might notice that I have already harvested a bit off that …. Couldn't wait! Lol) But parsley and basil are looking good too…

And right up the end are the aloe vera plants…. I planted them there because it’s a shady spot and nothing much seems to grow well there. My stepmum Heather suggested that aloe vera grow anywhere, so that was probably a good place. They are looking a little sad and pale though - I am not watering them directly (as they are a drought tolerant plant) but I think they are getting a lot of water by proxy as I'm attending to the other things in the garden…. Oh well. I have another one growing in a pot on the patio, so if they don't make it, at least I have a back up!

My one epic failure so far is surely the tomato plant…

It looked healthy enough at the nursery, but pretty much the day after I planted, it started to go downhill. One of my work colleagues told me its too early for tomatoes, so I didn't feel too bad…. But then another friend, Sam, came over and said hers are going crazy, with currently 20+ on her plant…. Bugger! I am persevering for now, but I don't like my chances, tomatoes were my epic failure last year also! As a result, I do have an old tomato planter currently gathering weeds, grass and all manner of junk:

Sam said she has some special tomato food that she will bring over next time, so I'll clear the planter out and get it all ready for her next visit, and we can plant the next ones together…. Hopefully her involvement will be the magic touch I need to finally master the tomato!

You might notice in the first photos that I have not planted all the way back to the fence - this was deliberate, and I have two reasons for doing it this way. The first is that at 1m high and 1.2 deep, its very hard to reach the back of the garden, even with a step ladder! The second is that it is impossible for Alex to reach any of the garden on the step ladder, so I tend to put him in the garden and let him trudge around picking things for me or pulling weeds. The bare spot near the fence gives him a nice little pathway that runs the full length of the garden, and also gives him something to hang on to while he's walking - everybody's happy :)

So there you have it! A full update on where we're at with the big vege garden. I'm so excited about how well everything is doing - but I must say, the winter crop is so much easier to grow than the summer crop up here. We have such mild winters (although it was really cold a month or so ago) that it’s a pleasure to be outside enjoying the winter sunshine and getting a good dose of Vitamin D!

And just for fun, I will leave you with a pic of the cute little marigolds I have sprinkled through the garden for no purpose but to repel pests (and look pretty) - sorry about the photo quality (still saving for the DSLR!)

I do also have some baby carrots growing, but for some reason I missed those when taking photos... oh well, next time!

Bye for now :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Backyard Blitz Part 1 : Patio Area....

This is part one of an EPIC project…  if moving out my random cupboards is my whale (still not done by the way), then I now know this job is my titanic - only it didn't hit the iceberg!  Okay well maybe the iceberg sort of caught the side of it, but not enough to sink it - just slow it down!!  Confused?  Yep, me too... let me start again!
Some time ago in this post about how I didn't feel like the jobs to be done around my house were really progressing, I mentioned that our outdoor areas were in desperate need of pressure cleaning.  Our good friends Julie and Tony brought over their pressure cleaner back in February, and it has sat in our garage from that time on, lonely and unused…  It had been such a long time in fact, that when I mentioned to Julie that I was finally going to start pressure cleaning, she offered to lend me their pressure cleaner!!  Oh the embarrassment when I had to sheepishly tell her that she'd already kindly brought it over months ago, and we were just slack slack slack and had neither used it, nor returned it.  (Shame Krispy, shame!) 
So the Saturday just gone, I had organised the lovely Judy to look after Alex for the afternoon, I had five uninterrupted hours planned, and Julie had given me a crash course in using the pressure cleaner - I was set to go.  So here was the hit list I did up for Saturday:
::  Pavers in patio and BBQ area
::  Windowsills in patio area
::  Quick wash of bricks in patio area
::  Ceiling of pergola
::  Pavers in pool area
::  Windowsill of Alex's bedroom
::  Painted concrete path down side of the house
::  Driveway
::  Letterbox
Do-able in five hours?  In my infinite wisdom (did I mention I have never used a pressure cleaner before?) I thought it was definitely achievable - five whole hours, piece of cake!  (Spoiler alert: here comes the iceberg!)  As it turns out, pressure cleaning is a lot slower going that I anticipated.  Of course my Mum, who has done this a hundred times and works on a marina, warned me that I would not get it all done in one day.  Did I listen?  No.  As daughters sometimes do, I assumed she hadn't done it recently enough, or the cleaner I was using was more powerful than the one she used, or that I am 10ft tall and bullet proof and can do anything… whatever!  So going into this, my hopes were higher than Snoop Doggy Dog…. I couldn't wait to get started!
Just for fun, here are some photos I took on Saturday morning before I started - behold the filth and general blah of the patio area:

So pretty much the moment Jude arrived to play with Alex, I moved the furniture out of the patio area and got to work.  Wow.  Well I'm not going to give you a blow by blow (because to be honest, most of the time my eyes were looking at what I was doing, but in my mind I had wandered off to my happy place… how else could I get through 5 straight hours of that?) but in the end, I didn't get nearly as far as I would have liked.  I got the windowsills, bricks and pavers in the patio and BBQ area done.  That was it.  Mum was right!!!  (Sorry for doubting you Mum!  What was I thinking?)
To be fair, the pavers that were out in the weather were really, really dirty - here is a look at cleaned ones next to uncleaned ones mid-way through the job so you can see how bad they were:

And I couldn't resist writing a pressure cleaner love message to Boofy in the filth… aaawwww, so romantic :)
So at 5pm I packed up for the day, headed inside, got myself dried and dressed, and immediately poured myself a drink (with stiff, shaking hands!)  I'd never felt more deserving of a glass of wine!
Next morning I was very stiff, sore and sorry (but thankfully not hungover).  Still, I picked up that pressure cleaner and did another hour and a half, this time on the ceiling of the pergola….  Let me tell you that looking up for an hour and a half, while holding something up with arms that are aching, pressing a trigger with fingers that are so stiff they're almost numb and having cold water pour all over you (it is winter in our neck of the woods after all) was really hard work!  But I did the whole ceiling.
After I had packed it all away, given the whole area a good sweep with the big yard broom and got myself dried off, I started to move the furniture back in.  We recently added to our shelving and I have been slowly (over time) picking up little bargain nick nacks to go on these shelves.  This was the fun part, and I had a ball putting it all back together.  I am so happy with the result in this area, I cannot stop walking past it and looking out the door!  The photos really do not do it justice, but here they are... 

The shelves hold all sorts of things that are cute and fun for the great outdoors... there are a few cute little plants, a stereo, candles, watering cans and some boxes with useful things in them (like gardening gloves, seeds to plant and cleaners for the BBQ).

I couldn't go past these plants - especially the kale in the middle there - isn't it beautiful?

A few lanterns are always handy to have around - this one is resting on my favourite placemats that Mum bought me from Freedom about 5 years ago...

And what sort of area, devoted entirely to relaxing, would be complete without some light reading material...

Of course my little tropical windowsill from this post fits in perfectly too:

And just for fun, before and afters one after the other:

Now that I've started on this task, I really REALLY want to finish it off.  So I have organised Jude for next Saturday afternoon as well, when I'll be doing it all over again.  At least my list isn't as long any more - here is how its looking now:
::  Pavers in patio and BBQ area
::  Windowsills in patio area
::  Quick wash of bricks in patio area
::  Ceiling of pergola
::  Pavers in pool area
::  Windowsill of Alex's bedroom
::  Painted concrete path down side of the house
::  Driveway
::  Letterbox
I honestly don't know if I will finish it next Saturday either - there is a fair amount of square meterage around the pool and it is all exposed to the elements, so very dirty - as is Alex's windowsill (I don't know why but it seems to catch sludge there and its just black).  So with my new found respect for the pressure cleaner, I suspect I'll be pushing just to get the pool area done next Saturday, but we'll see.  
I do have a little trick up my sleeve though... dependent on weather, I am going to coat the whole area in an industrial strength mould remover some between now and then - I am hoping this will make my pressure cleaning a lot quicker going!  Fingers crossed!!  The pressure is on for Saturday, as we have Church Sunday morning and on Sunday afternoon I am getting around to one of those things that was on my July list that I didn't get done - I am using the massage, facial and pedi voucher Boofy bought me for Christmas!  Hooray - I'm sure a massage after all that pressure cleaning will be absolute heaven!
So what do you think of the transformation, friends?  You like it? 
Coincidentally, I have achieved this makeover right on time to link up to this week CSI Project's Porches, Terraces & Patios Challenge, so that's exactly what I'm doing!
Bye for now :)

A tropical windowsill...

Our kitchen window looks out into our patio area.  The windowsill outside the kitchen window has a wooden shelf underneath it, and both the windowsill and the shelf seem to be attractors to all sorts of junk (imagine paper towels, cleaning products, gardening gloves, watering cans and other random paraphernalia).

I recently decided that if I wanted stuff to stop accumulating in this spot, I would have to put something there as a physical deterrent!  And what did I decide on?  You got it - plants :)

Off I went to Bunnings (again!) in search of some flowering plants that liked full shade.  Short of buying African Violets, there wasn't much doing - it seems most of those plants flower in spring (huh - who would've guessed! Lol)  So I started looking at shade loving plants with interesting foliage instead.  I loved the look of the bromeliads - nice and tropical which suits our yard with all the palms - but I'm not wild about the fact that bromeliads like their water in a little pool inside its leaves (it's like a little well in there that holds it)…  The mozzies take hold really quickly where we are so we can't leave any water pooled anywhere or we're instantly over run…  So with a perfect pool inside the bromeliad for mozzies to breed in, I moved on!

I was just about to give up when I came across a display that had a bunch of tiny little plants for indoors….  There were lots of plants, but the ones I chose in the end were parlour palms and mini crotons - so cute!  And still in keeping with the tropical theme of our yard.  I wandered back inside in search of two long rectangle plastic planters, and came across these ones - perfect colour to match my shelves outside (more on those to come) and self watering!  Even better.  So a bag of potting mix was thrown into my trolley too, and I was on my way.

Once home, I planted my little seedlings into the planters and gave them a good watering.  I then put them in place on the windowsill - and they look great!

I also added this gorgeous pair of elephants I got on sale from Freedom (they're currently having a floorstock clearance - bonus!)  I'm loving the look…. aren't they beautiful?

In terms of the self-watering thing (because these planters can harbour perfect conditions for mozzies too) I used the labels that came on the planters and stuck them over the opening.  I can still peel them back to add water, but in the mean time the mozzies can't get in there to breed - take that blood suckers!!

Overall I'm pretty happy, although that wood shelf really does need a good sand and stain!  Oh well - another day!

Not only am I loving the little bit of something tropical it adds when we're outside, it's a lovely view from the kitchen window also. 

What do you think?  Have you done any planting lately?  I've done heaps, but you'll be hearing all about that soon...

Bye for now :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thirty Things in Thirty Days - Final Update...

So we have come to the end of July (actually we're waaay past that now!)….  I would love to say that I finished everything on my list, but sadly, I did not!  In fact the last week of this challenge is a bit of a let down - I really hoped I'd get more done :(
In any case, here is the round up….
1. Go on a date night with Boofy
2. Cook something with an ingredient I've never used before
3. Use the massage/ pedi/ facial voucher Boofy bought me for Xmas
4. Write a letter to Alex about how funny he is at this age and put it away in his box of treasures
5. Spend a day totally unplugged from the internet
6. Organise the cupboard in the spare room
7. Cull Alex's toys (soooo overdue!)
8. Plant out the vege garden
9. Do something special with Alex, just the two of us
10. Complete some new sewing projects
11. Have a movie night at home with my 2 favourite boys
12. Read a book
13. Put on a BBQ brekky for our friends Julie & Tony and their kids
14. Go and see my Grandma
15. Go op-shopping in my local area
16. Revamp an op shop find
17. Clean up my desk at work and make it look a bit nicer (at the moment, it's just depressing!)
18. Look after Julie & Tony's kids for a day so they can have some kid-free time
19. Try a project I've seen in Blogland
20. Try a project I've seen on Pinterest
21. Organise and send out invites for Alex's Baptism (in August)
22. Redecorate the area where my random cupboards are
23. Finish off the cabinet of Nanna's treasures (as started in this post)
24. Go out for dinner as a family
25. Take Alex to mini golf
26. Write a long letter to Jo Jo
27. Hang painting in the laundry
28. Go and see the new Harry Potter movie
29. Bake some savoury muffins to take in for my work mates
30. Print and frame a free printable from the internet (there are so many to choose from)
In the end I got just over half of my list done….  It’s not as much as I hoped, but I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t had this list to keep me going, I wouldn’t have even achieved that!  And in my defence… I did have pneumonia this month J
So update on the last things to be crossed off the list….
9. Do something special with Alex, just the two of us
The answer to this one is not special in that it’s not something we usually do (because it has been done before, lots of times!) but special in that it is special time between Alex and me that I will always remember and will yearn for in 10 years when he doesn’t want to know me!  Lol…
Last Sunday morning when Alex woke at 4.50am (I know!), I broke one of my own rules… but just barely!  Boofy was in the spare room, doing time for snoring, so I had the king bed to myself.  Our rule is that Alex does not come into our bed before 5am… but it was nearly 5, and there was no way he was going back to sleep (I’d already tried tricking him by saying it was the middle of the night once!) so I scooped him up and in he came.  We snuggled in bed for about 10 mins – I tried to go back to sleep, hoping he would follow my lead… he decided tickling me was more fun!  So in the end, I gave in and put the TV on, and we watched Springtime With Roo, snuggled together nice and cosy in bed  :)
When the movie was over (the Winnie the Pooh ones only go for an hour or so) I asked him what he would like for brekky and he said “Let’s make scrambled eggs Mummy – can we?”  So I said “sure!”  We got out all the stuff, made the scrambled eggs and toast together (getting him to press the microwave buttons is great for practising his number recognition!) and we set the table, opened up the blind to let the sunshine in and ate our eggies together looking out to the front garden.  When we were done I sipped my mug of tea, Alex sipped his mug of milk, and sang along to the radio together.  Until 5 mins later when Alex got bored and I heard the inevitable “please leave the table?”  *sigh*  It was all over – but... we did the same thing again today :)
15. Go op shopping in my local area
This one was just a chance thing actually!  Last week Boofy and I got our tax done.  Boofy attended the appointment and took all our documentation in, as I was still at work – so all I needed to do was swing by on my way home, sign the tax return and we were done!  After signing and walking back to my car, I noticed I was wandering right past the local Salvos (well, only a tiny detour!)
I wandered around and didn’t really see much of interest… until a little desk caught my eye!  It was sooo cute – a bit banged up, but good bones.  I stared at it and thought about how it would look painted white with a pretty chair in front of it, or painted dark grey in Alex’s future room….  I liked what I saw!  It had a $30 label on it… I may have mentioned once or twice that we’re being very tight on the budget at the moment, so with this in mind, I walked away.
When I got home, I told Boofy about it and said really, its only $30 and how much would it cost us to buy Alex a desk one day (especially one small enough to fit in his bedroom)?  Boofy agreed (kind of… but good enough for me!) so I got on the phone, told the lady I wanted it and would be back the following day – she agreed to hold it for me until then.
Next day I went back and paid my money, but it wouldn’t fit in my car.  The lady said it was fine to leave there (since I’d paid for it) and Boofy went back with his hatchback the next day and collected it – so here it is!!
I’m in love with it.  I can see it all done up in Alex’s room, he with books sprawled all over it.... but it is very cute and a great little space saver, so maybe I could do it up all pretty for Mum’s future place when she moves up here one day…. secretly I want to keep it for myself!  (oops, that’s not a secret anymore is it?!)
For now it lives in the garage as there is not much point doing any work to it until I’ve decided what its purpose will be – but I’m glad I snapped it up, it makes me swoon with possibility every time I walk in there!
23. Finish off the cabinet of Nanna’s treasures
I’m almost cheating with this one because actually, I finished most of this back in February… its just taken me this long to finish off the last little bits and get around to blogging about it!
You see back in February, I was really keen to get Nanna’s things out of storage and into the cabinet….  So what would be the perfect day to do that?  You guessed it – they day you are having visitors over for lunch!!  My stepbrother Adrian, his wife Amber, my nephew Elijah and Amber’s brother Dion were heading over for lunch.  I’d prepared most of it (a super easy, super tasty oven baked chicken dish – I promise I will share the recipe here one of these days) and it was sizzling away in the oven….  So I trundled out to the garage and selected some boxes of Nanna’s things (and other random items we hadn’t unpacked since moving in).
When I started unpacking, I noticed that all of the silverware was tarnished, and the glasses and dishes I unpacked were filthy… bugger!  It couldn’t go into the cabinet like that – so out came the Silvo!  Pretty soon my bench looked like this… (note: I'd already polished the big coffee pot when I took these photos!)

I know – with less than 2 hours until guests were due to arrive – what was I thinking?  So I polished like I’d never polished before, washed every single plate, tea cup and ornament (really I did – by hand – every single one!), threw open the cabinet doors and in it all went!  
It’s was all a bit thrown together, so my mission was just to tidy it up a bit.  So a bit of tweaking, this is how it looks now:

And a couple of close ups...  this is the family coffee pot.  I had never seen this before until Nanna moved and gave it to me - it was not something she had on display, but I think its gorgeous!

And these are the tea cups of Nanna's that I lusted after since before I even knew lust was a word!  Nanna had these displayed in pride of place, and as a little girl I was so drawn to these delicate treasures with their little flowers on the handles...  Very occasionally Nanna would let me drink from them - I was so careful I almost didn't breathe the whole time!  They meant a lot to her too :)

And this is not one of Nanna's treasures, but one of mine.  My sista Nadine (my brother's wife) gave me these some years ago - they are little Willow Tree carvings and the tag reads: 
Sisters by Heart
Celebrating a treasured friendship of sharing and understanding.

I’m happy that its all together in the cupboard, and I think it looks neat enough, I’m just not sure it’s interesting enough.  But oh well, its done for now.  I think in the future I may back those cupboards with some interesting paper or something though… you never know….  So watch this space!
So that’s it, the whole box and dice on the July list!  How did you guys go?  I hope you accomplished more than I did! Lol….
I have moved on from my list, and now I have a new goal.  Alex’s Baptism is on Sunday 28th August and there will be a party afterwards, so I am using it as an excuse to try to get as much done as possible before then, so the house looks super slick!  We’ll have lots of relatives around who haven’t seen the house in ages, so I want it to look its absolute best.
I’ve already been taking advantage of the sunshine to get outside and get busy, so stay tuned for an update (and a couple of before and afters) on what’s been happening there!  I've actually been so busy completing projects lately, that I haven't had time to post about them... a nice position to be in for a change!
Bye for now :)