Monday, October 26, 2009

Preparing for a Christmas at Home

This is just to let you know that I have put up my first 'official' Christmas post at my new blog 'Christmas at Eden'. Visit via the link on my sidebar or type in the URL into your address bar It is all about preparing for Christmas with lots of ideas and inspiration on buying gifts, getting ready for Christmas crafting and decorating. Come over and visit me there!

With Love and Joy,

P.S I have found that the 'Recent Posts' widget on the sidebar does not work properly for users of Internet Explorer. I have now added in a picture link above the list of posts at the Christmas site. If you are using IE try clicking on the picture link rather than the Recent Posts links. Please let me know if you are still experiencing problems - thanks!

Friday, October 16, 2009

'Caravan Chic' A Teen's Renovation Project

My 14 year old daughter (about to turn 15) once said to me that she would like to one day have her own 'cottage' on our property. She never expected this dream to be fulfilled so soon but with our seventh baby due in December and bedrooms in short supply, we started to discuss as a family, extra accommodation options. Adding on another room or building a cabin were out of the question and then my husband suggested the old caravan. We had purchased this icon, that you see in every Aussie caravan park, a number of years ago with the intention of 'doing it up'. This never came to pass but in the meantime it served as 'rustic' sleeping quarters and 'Lego shack' for our son when we were building our home extension and guest accommodation for granddad on his visits from New Zealand.

It was already in a sorry state but parked in a damp location under the car port, it deteriorated even further until it was basically unlivable. Here are some shots of what it used to look like - the before photos!

We had already moved the caravan to a sunnier, drier position, a short walk from the house and painted the brown Formica units white to lighten the interior but they were rather dilapidated! As was the paneling on the walls. Cracks were starting to become craters!

We were not intending to take the caravan on the road so the stove and sink served no useful purpose. Initially, I was aghast at my husband's suggestion to rescue the caravan and to turn it into a bedroom. I thought it was 'too far gone'! My daughter thought otherwise and said she would love to renovate it and turn it into her new room. When she agreed to use her wages from her dairying job to fund the project, we gave her the go ahead. Later that day the sounds of banging, crashing and ripping were heard reverberating through the bush. I went up to investigate and half expected to see Scott Cam (presenter of Australia's Renovation Rescue TV show) pop his head out of the caravan! Not a skip or TV crew in sight - just one teenage girl with hammer in hand! She looked as if she was enjoying her demolition day!

There were other experts in demolition waiting to be assigned a job!

And no shortage of supervisors!

Having seen her motivation for this project go into top gear, we decided to make it more of a challenge. My husband who has considerable experience and talent in home building and renovation said he would be there to assist but he wanted his daughter to be the project manager and chief designer. She would draw up plans, provide measurements and a budget for every aspect of the job from relining the walls, to choosing flooring, cabinets and shelving for a room that was to function as a bedroom, private retreat and study quarters. Essentially, it became a wonderful home education project giving our daughter lots of opportunities to practically apply important skills in different subject areas such as mathematics - measurement caused her some frustration at times, as her dad kept sending her back to remeasure walls! Estimation and calculation - how many packs of floorboards would be required? And budgeting - where could savings be made? Would it be cheaper to sew cushions for seating or purchase ready made upholstery? She did not have to worry about labour costs - her dad offered his services for free! He also gave her lots of friendly advice and made practical suggestions.

The caravan was relined with timber which was painted - dad helped with carpentry but not the painting! Insulation was installed in the ceiling, using the sides and lids of polystyrene veggie boxes which would otherwise go to landfill and obtained for free from our local wholefoods store. We found an insulation product for the walls made from recycled materials manufactured by a firm that usually makes pillows. It was ultra soft and safe to handle - a much nicer alternative to fibreglass. Our daughter considered her options for flooring and decided that wooden veneer floorboards would offer the best value for money, they were easy to install and maintain and were a stylish contrast to all the white paintwork.

She had already decided that all her furniture was to be built in and her requirements included a bed, a dressing table and wardrobe and a spacious bookshelf - she is an avid reader and needed enough shelving for her favourite novels, her textbooks and her collection of Donna Hay cooking magazines!

My husband removed most of the traditional caravan louvre windows and replaced them with clear panes. The caravan is not intended to be a mode of transport - it is firmly anchored to the ground and will not be towed again so this light enhancing measure could be taken. If the caravan ever needed to be mobile again the windows would need to be converted back.

A kitchenette was not being reinstalled - this allowed for another wish to be granted - a corner window seat. With all the major construction finished, my daughter was able to move onto the next stage and the one she was looking forward to most - the interior design. She had clear preferences and a colour scheme in mind. She spent lots of time on the web and put together a portfolio showcasing her intended style for bedlinen, soft furnishings, lighting and accessories.
These are just a few of the images from her design folder.

The colour purple and shades of mulberry and silver swirls and scrolls were a recurring theme. She wanted her fabrics to be satin or silk and accessories to evoke glamour and sophistication. Lots of roses were not acceptable but butterflies were just fine.

She just loves this mirror but it is not within her budget!

This lamp is on her birthday wish list. It is from Freedom.

And now for the after shots. Are you ready for the reveal? Let's take a tour! Starting at the front door, as you can see it really is a caravan! She is seriously thinking of painting the exterior silver and swapping the orange panels for purple! The exterior renovation will be her next project!

A close-up shot of her bedlinen. She wanted to buy a quilt off Ebay but I convinced her that you had to feel quality. I spotted this quilt on sale in a bedlinen store and knew she would love it. All the previous quilts I had pointed out were rejected and we had lots of debates about vintage style which my daughter calls 'grandma style'.

Her dressing table is next to her bed. She is still searching for the right mirror and hopes to find the perfect jewelery boxes. I think she also needs a glamorous stool to add to the boudoir feel!

She loves her bling and the photo frame will co ordinate with her lamp. Perfume bottles with silver tops sit in a row on a purple tray. Two are 'designer copies' - the ' if you like ....' variety, chosen more for their looks but they don't actually smell too bad but her favourite to wear is 'Intimately Beckham' by David Beckham. I love it too but will have to buy my own bottle!

A wardrobe with sufficient space for hanging clothes adjoins the dressing table and separates the dressing table from the desk at the other end of the caravan. She still needs some more storage for clothes and will search for deep baskets to go under her bed or window seat - somewhere to store her 'farm clothes' - it is somehow hard to believe that this girl milks cows, she wears pink gumboots with purple tread! Just in case she needs to check her appearance in the morning before she heads off to round up the girls (the cows!) there are two mirrors on the inside doors of her wardrobe!

Her desk awaits a laptop computer but it has to be purple or maybe pink or she could even opt for silver. She is saving for this. She would also like a desk chair but it has to be purple and chrome - not that easy to find. She was able to locate purple desk accessories from a discount store - even a purple mobile phone holder!

The window seat is so comfortable, a wonderful place to stretch out and read. The cushions came from the most unlikely of places - the Reject Shop. I buy birthday cards, candles and glass jars for preserves from here but never thought this is where we would find the perfect cushions in the perfect shades to match the bedlinen. They are actually very well made, quite sturdy and firm, they also have a little pearl beading detail in each corner of the quilted squares. I could never sew anything like this. The seat cushions cost $15 each and the smaller chair pads were $6 each. We bought out the entire stock in this colour range from two regional stores! It was probably one of her biggest outlays but she agrees it was worth it. Window coverings can wait for now but we will continue to debate - the shutters versus the curtains in an opulent fabric- guess who wants the curtains and 'hates' shutters!

And finally, the bookcase and hi-fi unit. Somewhere for her book collection and to display her ice skating badges. In one concession to vintage, she purchased a pair of vintage 1930's ice skates off Ebay but they have not been put on display yet- they are not suitable to skate in - no ankle support. Perhaps she could hang them on the front door! She is happy to showcase her badges - her other passion is ice skating. I will not be surprised if a poster of Torvill and Dean appears on the wall - if she chooses one of them skating 'Bolero' it will coordinate with the caravan - remember the purple outfits! Hey, I might even suggest that to my daughter!

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the caravan of 'chic'. It may have even given you an idea of what to do with your own shabby caravan if you happen to own one that is need of a makeover. This project has ignited a passion for interior design for my daughter - who knows where this could lead in the future. Right now she is enjoying her special retreat. We do coax her out for dinner - actually we did attach some conditions, no extended periods of time in the caravan, no access to the internet (always a wise move when computers are in bedrooms) and when she leaves home she hands over the caravan to her mother who thinks it will be the perfect sewing and craft room/guest accommodation! 'I'm taking it with me' was her response to this suggestion!

The next project she will work on together with her father, will be an outdoor living space - a deck is being considered, a cafe style outdoor table setting, a hammock between the trees and even a garden - with purple flowers of course!

With love and joy,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Christmas at Eden

I am excited to announce that I have another blog! It is simply called 'Christmas at Eden' (link on sidebar) I have created this new blog to share my love of Christmas. All posts relating to Christmas will be on the new blog including decorating your home beautifully for Christmas, gorgeous gift ideas and wrapping, Christmas craft projects, family traditions, recipes, ways to reach out and bless others and much more! It is not just a blog for those who like to craft though. I hope to fill the blog with creativity for Christmas! Creativity is something we all possess and it goes way beyond the traditional pursuits such as knitting and sewing or cooking and crafting. You can express your creativity in so many different ways and Christmas is a wonderful time to do this. I want to offer hope, encouragement, instructions, ideas and tonnes of inspiration to help you create the most memorable Christmas for your family and friends. It is simply an invitation to come and visit me at Eden as I prepare for Christmas in the beautiful place I am blessed to call home.

I will still be here at Eight Acres of Eden and will continue to write about family life, homemaking and home education but in the lead up to Christmas you will find more of my posts at Christmas at Eden. So pop over and sign up to follow so you do not miss any Christmas posts. I will try and keep you in touch with what is happening over there too. At the moment there is just a post to welcome visitors but I hope to start the Christmas posts very soon. There is also a sneak peek at one of the first projects I have been busy working on this week. I still have to add on more gadgets and work out how to link the two blogs properly and maybe work out how to make a button for each blog but for now just click on this link

I look forward to welcoming you to spend Christmas at Eden

With Love and Joy,

P.S I have just discovered that the link I have typed into the main body of this post to my new blog is not working, I suspect that this is because eightacresofeden is a custom domain and I need to work out how to link between the two. I have now added a new gadget to the sidebar which takes you to the most recent posts at Christmas at Eden, it appears to work so click there or type the URL into your address bar!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Paw Paw Cake

The yellow pear shaped fruit in the picture above are paw paws for those who may not be familiar with them. You may have tasted them in a tropical fruit salad platter and I have to say they were not my favourite fruit - I would struggle to eat one on its own but I have discovered they make an excellent substitute for bananas in cakes! This cake is made in the same way as a banana cake but it actually turned out better than my usual banana cake! All the paw paws we have harvested so far have been used for cakes. I might use the next ones that ripen in a batch of muffins. We harvested ours before they fully ripened on the tree as we suspected they might attract the bats. They ripened quickly when brought inside.

We planted a couple of young paw paw trees in our orchard and they grew quickly appreciating the warm, dry conditions and shelter from the wind that our forested property offers. All of our fruit trees were mulched to retain moisture, very important over summer. Paw paws grow readily from seed too. My reference book to food bearing plants tells me that the sap from the green fruit is the source for papain, a commercial protein-dissolving enzyme. This enzyme is even present in the vapours from the leaves and if you hang out meat under the leaves at night it will tenderise- no, I am not about to try this! The seeds of the fruit are also said to be a cure for intestinal worms if chewed and taste like hot mustard cress which my book describes as a pleasant taste but this does not appeal to me! My preferred option would be the second suggestion, which is to have a piece of ripe fruit after a meal as an aid to digestion.

This is my recipe for Paw Paw cake and I used freshly milled wholewheat flour and rapadura. I ran out of wheat on the weekend and I had to buy a bag of conventional flour to make a cake on Sunday - my husband said it was not as good as the previous cakes made with the fresh flour which were moister. You may have a favourite banana cake recipe so simply substitute mashed paw paw for the banana. I used 2 paw paws in each cake.

250 g soft butter
3/4 cup rapadura (or brown or raw sugar)
2 free range eggs
2 ripe paw paws
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk

1. In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar and eggs
2. Slice paw paws in half, remove seeds and scoop out flesh, if it is very ripe you can mash it straight into the bowl or you may wish to puree the flesh.
3. Stir paw paw through wet mixture.
4. Sieve together dry ingredients and add to bowl alternately with milk.
5. Pour batter into prepared cake tin
6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 c for approx 20 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool before turning out and ice with your favourite icing - I made plain icing with a squeeze of fresh orange juice and grated over chocolate from a bar of Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate - the one that is infused with orange oil ( I love Green & Blacks chocolate!)
8. Decorate with slices of fresh paw paw and enjoy with coffee - we enjoyed our cake with our favourite chocolate macadamia coffee - so smooth, the perfect accompaniment for this cake!

With love and joy,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dreaming of Cleaning!

I know for a fact that a pregnant woman eating chocolate before bedtime is a sure recipe for a nightmare during sleep but I could not resist sharing a bar of 'Green & Black's Organic Butterscotch' chocolate with my husband as we enjoyed our mugs of hot chocolate the other evening. That night I was dreaming of cleaning but I did not know where to start - my house was in a mess, a trail of chaos and clutter started at the kitchen door and scenes of total disorder greeted me in every room. One particular kitchen drawer was in need of cleaning and reorganizing but I was unable to take on this task for crawling out of the drawer was a snake! Now this is not the nightmarish part of my dream - I have in reality had two encounters with snakes inside my house! - no, the nightmare for me was the fact that I had just spent two days spring cleaning my home! I was very relieved to wake up and discover that it had all been a dream! It was very satisfying to find a house that was clean, tidy, neat and ordered and to pull open my kitchen utensil drawer to see everything organized and no, there was no evidence of a snake!

I have blogged about nesting and now I am blogging about cleaning which can be a nightmare for some people, they dream of having a clean and tidy house but the reality is toddlers who kiss the window you have just cleaned, a husband who loves the convenience of a recently cleared benchtop - somewhere to put down the drill he was going to return to his workshop when he was interrupted by a phone call - maybe one day I'll be tempted to use the drill to mix my cake batter! Once upon a time, these sort of incidents would cause me undue stress but I have been able to let go of my desire for the perfect home by realizing that a home is for living in, not a showpiece to impress the neighbours. I'd rather be 'family proud' than 'house proud' and that sometimes means allowing the family to make messes- glue and glitter on the dining room table, as children produce creative works, spills in the kitchen as they learn to cook, blankets pulled out of linen cupboards to make 'houses' in the living room during imaginative play. All of these 'messes' can be cleaned up, it is just a case of teaching children that 'clean up' is part of the process. This means when it comes to tackling the bigger cleaning tasks, the job is not so arduous. Over the years I have found some principles and methods that have helped me keep messes to a minimum and have a home that is pleasant to live in because it is kept clean and is in order. I'd love to share them with you.

1. De clutter but allow yourself some corners to arrange the things you love!
Being English I was always drawn to the country, cluttered look - I loved china, vintage tinware, Victorian lamps and trinkets, pictures and photo frames and much more. A few years ago I realized it was all too much and decided to have a big clean out. I decided what I would keep and what would go - the tins on top of the fridge were dust attractors, yes, they had lovely designs but I was not using them in practical ways. The few tins I kept became containers for buttons and thread spools and went into the craft cupboard. Pottery casserole dishes I never used which sat in the back of kitchen cupboard went too, as did the crystal whiskey glasses I loved because they sparkled but we never used ( we do not drink whiskey!) I went through every room, through every cupboard and was fairly ruthless, the same applied for toys, books and clothes.

Allowing myself some corners to arrange the things I love was fun - this involved choosing appropriate places for precious possessions. I created a family gallery on the wall above the piano in the formal living room. I grouped similar frames together- my old black and white photos look lovely in pewter frames. An old Singer sewing machine table is also used to display these frames. Another family gallery is to be found in the hallway, here wooden frames mix with some of my husband's favourite pieces such as old compasses and a reproduction telescope I bought back for him on a trip to England. Don't forget your husband's treasures - it is easy to display all our feminine pieces - find somewhere in your home to display more masculine items that reflect his tastes and interests too.

I do love my 'Willow Tree' figurines - most were gifts from family and friends. I love to collect those that relate to my life - among the ones in my collection are 'The angel of Learning', The angel of Good Health and many of those depicting family life such as 'Two Alike' - my sister in England sent me this figurine after I had my twin girls. She had no idea I collected Willow Tree! I also have the Nativity scene which I display during the Christmas season.

When it came to collections I made a conscious decision of what I would collect - I love the Willow tree figurines and angels but decided to only collect those which had specific meaning for me. This helps to reduce clutter. Perhaps china is your weakness - if it is starting to take over your home could you bear to reduce your collection by choosing to collect just your favourite ranges or colours?
I chose one corner of my kitchen to display my reproduction scales, pots of herbs and freshly baked cakes. The cake does not stay on display for long! This is a Paw Paw cake - recipe coming soon! I try to keep all the other surfaces clutter free.

2. Have a place for everything and try to keep everything in its place.

Homeschool and office clutter is always an issue but keeping it all in one area makes life much easier. When we extended our home and built a new bathroom my husband gave me two options for the old bathroom which was located just off the dining room - a walk in pantry or an office/library. I was very tempted to choose the pantry but I am so pleased I went with the office. All our homeschool books line the shelves. Resources are stored in clear plastic boxes, clearly labelled and easy to locate. The filing cabinet, desk and computer are in here. It can all be closed off by a sliding door. I also relocated the family noticeboards and front of fridge paraphernalia to the office (no more clutter on front of the fridge which has to be taken down for cleaning!) Cork floorboards were attached to the wall to create huge pin boards for photos, notices, calendars and cards.

I've shared about my craft cupboard before, click on this label on the sidebar to learn more about how I organize all my craft supplies - having it all in one place close to the area where you actually use it is very practical and keeps your wardrobes free for storing clothes!
If you are not blessed with a separate study or home office find an area in your home for an office area but I would avoid bedrooms which ought to be restful places. We used to have a desk in our bedroom in a previous home. This was in the early days of having internet access and it was always failing which meant having to take the telephone technician down to the bedroom. Tip - to avoid embarrassment ensure you pick up all clothing (especially underwear) from the floor before the technician arrives! I'm speaking from experience here!

3. Have a method for cleaning

Whether you are just doing a quick but thorough tidy up or major spring cleaning, a method cuts through all the madness! I use two methods, one I first read about in an article in an American home magazine some years ago, which I find mentioned on some blogs too - the 'Mount Vernon' method as used to clean the estate of America's first President George Washington, which involves starting at the entrance - the door where your visitors first arrive and cleaning each room thoroughly before moving onto the next. I worked through my home in two days in the following order.

Day 1

1. The patio - no point in having a tidy kitchen if all the dust and debris is trekked in from the patio or your visitors trip over the shoes in the entrance way - something I am constantly having to educate my children about, as we operate a shoe free household- this reduces the dirt trekked in but can create 'shoe mountain and gumboot alley' outside the door! Anyone else identify with this not so scenic attraction at the doorstep?! Baskets are provided but I'm hoping to find a better method for shoe storage on the patio. I have some friends who use an old fashioned, wooden wine rack which keeps all their pairs of shoes together.

2. The kitchen- On my spring cleaning day I cleared off bench tops in order to clean behind and under appliances. I prioritized drawers and cupboards in need of deep cleaning, the rest just needed wiping out. The fridge was given priority over the oven on this particular day, on the next deep cleaning day it will be the oven's turn. I did clean the stove top and polish up the stainless steel appliances.

3. Dining room - Windows were cleaned in the morning when the sunlight streaming in showed up all the smears and hand prints. I have lots of windows - full length glass doors and French doors - if I was to attempt all window cleaning on the same day I would be exhausted- this is where the Mount Vernon method works a treat. Cobwebs were vacuumed away, as were the culprits, those pesky daddy long legs. The bigger scarier spiders (not scary to me!- I'm used to them!) such as the Huntsmen are allowed to stay because they help to keep other insects under control. Tables and buffet units were decluttered and polished and children were deployed to return all tools to the husband's workshop! Floors were vacuumed and finally mopped.

4. Living room - Lots more polishing in this room and a sofa to vacuum but because this room is mainly used in the evening it tends to stay tidier, except for the blanket cities which can sometimes appear when mum is writing blog posts - I suspect one is under construction right now!

Day 2

5. Hallway, Laundry and Linen cupboards

6. Bedrooms, room by room As a result of my days of nesting many of the cupboards and wardrobes were already decluttered and organized. On spring cleaning day I just had to clean and my oldest son told me to stay out of his room - he would organize it and clean it himself- his messy little brother has been relocated and big brother now has his own room. He wanted to work out important stuff such as the placement of speakers for his surround sound system. I was happy to comply- less cleaning for me!

We found an inexpensive wire wardrobe system purchased at Aldi to work well. Cable ties are used to hold the compartments together and stop the shelves from collapsing which can be a problem with cheaper systems. I try to hang as many clothes as possible - this means drawers stay tidier. I created a 'Star Wars' display in the corner of my younger son's wardrobe, as I did not want to clutter up his bedroom with lots of posters or different themes. I like to keep bedrooms restful places for sleep - too many posters, toys, mobiles and clutter in a bedroom can over stimulate a child - it is no wonder some children have trouble getting to sleep when there is so much going on in their room, so I keep the decor simple without being stark. Consider finding an alternate area for displaying a child's different treasures if his room is becoming too hectic. Could you create a corner in the games or rumpus room for a display of his sporting treasures and trophies? Perhaps you could create a rock hound's refuge in the corner of the family room putting his rock collection on display for visitors to enjoy?

A shallow basket helps to keep the surface of a child's bedroom chest of drawers tidy and his possessions organized. This also prevents stuff from falling down the back and when it comes to polishing the top all I need to do is remove the basket - not every single item. If you give him a deeper basket he will fill it with stuff and he will not be able to find the things he needs!

7. Bathrooms I have two bathrooms to clean but because they are new with streamlined surfaces and cleverly designed storage they are much easier to clean. See my post on 'The Family Bathroom' for more pictures of our main bathroom. Don't forget to declutter your bathroom cabinets too - how many of us have half used bottles of lotions and potions tucked away in here. Find your favourite product ranges and make them your signature scents. This also helps to create a co ordinated look if you choose to have the bottles and tubes on display.

The second method I use almost on a daily basis is Emilie Barnes 's 15 minute manager of your home approach which involves allocating 15 minutes to various tasks that would otherwise be neglected. Choose one drawer, one shelf or one corner which needs to be tidied- I often choose the cutlery drawer or one shelf in the pantry. This means when you come to deep clean a room you do not have to sort and clean out every single cupboard and drawer.

4. Allocate a time for cleaning every day and allocate tasks and responsibilities to specific individuals.

My house would not stay clean and tidy without us all working together so we share the workload and set specific times for household chores.

Breakfast dishes are cleared immediately and tables wiped down before weetbix has time to go hard. One child is responsible for taking down composting and feeding and checking the chicken's water (combining tasks like this saves time). Another child takes down recycling. The oldest son feeds the dog on return from milking (my teens leave for work at 4.45am each weekday morning! They also milk two afternoons together - I have to take this into account when organizing our household schedule) The family dog is also employed at the farm!

Laundry is also shared out, older bigger children hang out bigger stuff. Younger ones peg out the smaller stuff... this means no sheets are dragged along the ground! My teenage son does all his own washing - this gives me time to tackle the folding and ironing and frees me up to help teach the younger ones the basics - how to sort clothes, operate the machine and peg out properly - still working on this one!

Beds are made in the morning, rooms tidied and bathrooms checked and cleaned. We aim to have these tasks completed by 8.30am, because we are early risers this is achievable - except on Saturdays when we leave home at 7.30 am and drive to the city to do our grocery shopping and attend ice skating lessons and maybe a garage sale or two (or more- it is spring and there are lots of bargains to be had at the garage sales at the moment - the trick is to only buy what you actually need rather than other people's clutter from their spring cleaning efforts!)

We always have a quick tidy up through the house in the late afternoon before dad arrives home- blankets from tent houses are returned to cupboards, toys tossed into baskets, books returned to shelves. The table is set and I always try to have dinner ready. It makes my husband's return from work so much more pleasant when he returns to a house that is tidy and in order. He is able to relax and enjoy his evening with the family.

We have a roster for after dinner kitchen clean up, older children supervise a younger sibling, except on Friday nights when they have youth group. I use this night as training night for the 9 and 12 year old. The floor is mopped every evening - this is a daily task when you have white tiles!

5. Find the right tools for the job

For me these are:-

1. A vacuum cleaner that is lightweight, easy to carry and manoeuvre My house is fairly big and the old upright model I used to lug around made this task hard work. When it needed replacing we chose a Dyson which I love, no bags to empty or replace. The filter is easy to clean. As we have tiles rather than carpets, an upright model was no longer necessary. The Dyson's special hard floor tool is great for avoiding scratches to tiles and wooden floors. I do not miss cleaning carpets!

2. Environmentally friendly cleaners which offer good value for money with pleasant scents which make cleaning tasks pleasurable. No chemical fumes to inhale, no pollution of our septic system and groundwater. I do use baking soda and vinegar on occasion but find I need to use copious amounts of water for rinsing to avoid a chalky residue on surfaces. Anyone know how to avoid this without the need for lots of rinsing? I often use lemon juice to wipe down the stainless steel surfaces though! Our household water is in limited supply at the moment so I'm having to be careful about how much water I use when cleaning. I have tried different brands of commercial 'green' cleaners but my favourite by far is the 'Method' range found at Woolworths. The shower cleaner works really well, makes my bathroom smell heavenly and saves me lots of time scrubbing. Their wood polish is lovely too, it smells of sweet almonds and reminds me of 'Bakewell' tarts from England.

3. Nappies for cleaning cloths - the old fashioned terry toweling type
I bought 3 dozen at a garage sale for $5 and they have proved to be invaluable. So absorbent, they make wonderful cloths for cleaning and mopping up spills. We also use them to shuffle across newly mopped floors if we need to cross them. And to clean them they are simply tossed into the washing machine.

That's all Folks! The points that I have listed out are the methods of cleaning and organization that help keep me sane and my house in a state of reasonable order and cleanliness. I like to strike a balance - I have been in homes where everything was in such perfect order that I suspected obsession and the pursuit of perfectionism, which is very hard to live with and can make your family and guests feel very uncomfortable. I used to have an aunt (not a real aunt but a friend of my parents) who stood over me as a child with her dustpan and brush in hand ready to sweep up any crumbs from the biscuit she had just given to me. She would sweep up every crumb as it fell to the floor! This same lady had never removed the plastic sheets from her couch which made for slippery, sweaty uncomfortable seating at her home! She never had children by the way! And I have been in homes where you cannot find a place to sit down, with laundry piles on every sofa and chair, last week's newspapers littering tables. Disordered and unkempt homes where clutter reigns supreme are not pleasant places to spend time in either.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a homemaker who loves to keep her house clean, tidy and functional where the people who live there can locate what they need without calling out a search and rescue party.... and sometimes the solutions are so simple - a key holder at the door is one remedy that comes to mind. Her home has good storage systems and less stuff... for me, this is what has made cleaning and organizing so much easier. She implements routines that work for her family (lots of trial and error involved) and make housekeeping a much more pleasant and 'doable' task.
It may mean giving up some indulgences such as collecting 'country treasures' and being much more disciplined - choosing only what you truly love to display. Do not neglect those finishing touches which take a home from a clinical show home - the row of 3 succulent spiky plants in square pots on the coffee table look, you see in real estate brochures to a cherished family home which reflects the personalities of the people who live there whilst avoiding clutter on every wall and surface. This involves letting go of sentimentality - the past ( I recently tossed out all my old O.T college files - I have never needed to refer to notes from Anatomy and Physiology classes or old wheelchair assessment forms!) and too much forward planning - the future the 'this might come in useful one day' kind of thinking.

And in conclusion - I also need to be around to ensure that all of the above can happen. Too many commitments outside of the home and the system fails. I don't even need to leave home for this to happen, too much time at the computer and it does not take long for things to fall apart, which is why I am finishing this post and signing off and returning to my real post! My homemaker's post - one I am glad to occupy.
I hope this has helped in some way and let me know what works for you! And to finish off with a flourish some words of inspiration from an unknown author.

The beauty of the house is order
The blessing of the house is contentment
The glory of the house is hospitality
The crown of the house is Godliness

With love and joy,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Blog or to Nest ? That is the Question!

Above A twin daughter waiting for her mum to organize her new room!

I chose nesting! For not only is Christmas coming but with my baby due in early December the nesting instinct has taken over. I have spent the last week

Changing Rooms - My oldest daughter has moved out of her room and into her new fashionable and feminine abode - the caravan that she together with help from her dad totally made over, we are talking full renovation rescue! It looks absolutely amazing and I intend to devote a whole post to the transformation. You will be inspired. It is totally her design and she rejected all my suggestions - she thinks vintage style is 'grandma' style and I'm not even a grandma! Not a pink rose in sight but if you like shiny, satin, sheer, purple, contemporary, chrome and crystal you will enjoy seeing what one motivated teenage girl achieved.
She used to share the biggest bedroom in the house with her younger sister, so we decided to free up another bedroom for the new baby by moving our twin girls in with their sister. To do this we needed to move furniture which meant dismantling their vintage wrought iron beds - help from husband and teenage son was required!
I have now put the room in order, arranged the wardrobe, hung lots of pretty dresses on hangers, attached butterfly mobiles to beams, made up their beds with their vintage style quilts... pink roses in bloom and flower fairies everywhere! I still have to hang some more pictures but I am really pleased with the arrangement of the room and how it is coming together. I promise to take some more photos of the finished result and devote a post to decorating a room for three girls.

I then moved onto the next room - the room that is to be the baby's room - I cannot show you one corner of that room - so no photos yet! If I do I will not be able to announce in December - 'It's a .........!' This room is next to the master bedroom, our new baby will room in with us for a while and I have taken down the antique cane bassinet ready to clean - the white drapes which attach to the basket are folded waiting to be soaked, washed and ironed. Darling baby clothes I have found at garage sales are already washed and folded, organized into baskets - one for bibs and singlets, another for everyday wear, clothes that need to be hung are already on the hangers. Oh, how I relished every moment of this task - this was true nesting, preparing for the arrival of another blessing, not just spring cleaning! But speaking of cleaning

Cleaning Rooms - could not stop myself. I had to clean the rooms and with furniture being moved from room to room this was the perfect time to vacuum, mop, dust and clean hand prints off walls or in the case of my youngest son should I say scrub hand prints off walls. Yes, I even tackled his room and found enough lego to restock the toy store, in every corner, behind every chest of drawers, in every drawer I unearthed lego bricks, marbles, 'Knex', money (mainly foreign coins!), stamps, rocks and even sapphires ( from our fossicking excursions), plastic soldiers, 3 pairs of missing scissors, 20 ball point pens and the entire Australian cricket team (on Weetbix collector cards!)

He now has a new room and a girl's free- standing, 1920's vintage (painted antique white by me) wardrobe has been converted into a lego closet - I just need to disguise the pair of stenciled pink roses (stenciled by me!) on the doors - I will be off to Spotlight this week to buy wooden stars to paint for this very purpose! I even organized his lego for him - now that is what I call mother/son devotion, it took ages! He also has a new bed. He was sleeping on the bottom level of an old dark timber bunk bed. Now that his sister has a new in-built bed in her caravan, he has inherited her old vintage hospital bed - there is only one problem, it is painted pink - bright pink much to his disdain but I have promised him we will be painting it blue, he's just hoping we make that trip to the paint aisle at Bunnings very soon! I have a thing for vintage iron beds and the timber bunks are going to a friend who prefers the look of timber and she has lots of boys! Perfect - the beds will be re-used rather than discarded.

After inhaling more dust inside from cleaning the boy's room, than I did outside from the NSW dust storms! It was on to other forms of nesting - such as decorating my kitchen bench with jars of freshly cut herbs from the garden. The aniseed aroma of fennel filled the kitchen. I infused some olive oil with fennel to use with fish and chicken. I also roasted fennel to accompany our fish that evening. Then I tossed our harvest of mulberries into the pan to make some jars of apple and mulberry jam. Further productivity followed - I made my all-time favourite apricot loaf, a Jo Seager recipe - try her website for the recipe

The creamy blooms of the elderflower reminded me it was time to try my hand at making a batch of elderflower cordial. It was ever so easy. I found a recipe in one of my favourite 'country wisdom' reference books.

The book is actually called 'Country Wisdom'. I have owned it for many years and it is packed with advice for homemakers and gardeners with recipes for using herbs and flowers and natural ingredients from the country pantry to make delicious 'wild' food, refreshing drinks, beauty treatments and eco-friendly cleaning products. My favourite tip from this book - use a cut onion to clean fly marks from window glass - works every time!

The recipe for elder flower cordial uses about 20 flower heads which you basically steep in cool boiled water (approx 1.8 litres or 3 pints) for 24 hours together with sugar - about 1.5 kilos or 3 and1/2lbs... I cut back on the amount of sugar and found 1 kilo to be sufficient plus 50g or 2oz tartaric acid and 1 sliced lemon. I added in an extra ingredient - flowers and leaves from the pineapple sage plant which fills a corner of one of my flower beds. Did you realize you can add the leaves and flowers from this herb to salads?

The following day it was just a case of straining and bottling. It will keep for several weeks but is ready to drink straight way. It needs to be diluted of course and sparkling mineral water is the perfect addition. It did not last long in my house and disappeared before I could even take a picture of it looking lovely in a glass decanter! There are more blooms on the elderflower so I will be making another batch shortly!

Following my productive day of nesting in the kitchen, I moved onto the spring cleaning, working my way through the house from the patio, to the kitchen and dining room and lounge room. The hallway, master bedroom and bathrooms await. I began my mammoth spring clean yesterday on 'Labour Day' which is a public holiday in NSW (and the start of the school holidays) - a very apt name for I laboured, sweeping and cleaning windows - so much dust had settled from those dreadful storms last week! I am going to save the details for my next post and tell you how I clean, what I clean, what I would like to clean but dare not at the moment (involves going up tall ladders, not a good idea when pregnant!) and basically how I declutter, organize and keep my home to make it a place of rest rather than chaos. A sweet place to be!
I am grateful that my daughter has cooked dinner and dessert tonight. It gave me the time to nest and blog on the same day, otherwise I would not be publishing this today! And therein, lies a secret weapon - a well trained child who can be relied on to help out - she also painted the cupboard in the hallway which is to be our new linen closet. My husband will be putting in shelves and attaching some doors which means guess what - more nesting for me - folding linen and maybe this time around adding in some fragrant finishing touches - scented liners for the shelves, sewing lavender sachets to place between sheets - oh how I love being a homemaker!

With love and joy,


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