Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bedroom Swapsies for a Whole New House


Lots of people I know are making massive moves in their living situations - shifting houses, moving towns, doing major renovations and the like.

Us, well we're staying put. No plans to move, knock down walls, or do extensions - although sometimes I've felt like we need to do SOMETHING.

[Dash's old room was less than 1.5 metres wide; it used to be the laundry; now it's my craft room]

Especially for poor Dash whose bedroom was only slightly bigger than his bed. He'd been in there for *gulp* five years, he reminded me the other day.
I shook my head, unable to accept that, I mean, it was only ever meant to be temporary. He was sharing with his baby brother, but set up a bed in the teensy ex-laundry-ex-babyroom when he found that sharing with a two year old was less than ideal.

Recently he started to experience claustrophobia at night and couldn't go to sleep in his cupboard own bedroom so we had to start looking at alternative options. How could we give him more space without spending a gazillion bucks building an extension?

[Scrag's old room which is now ours; I only painted the chalkboard wall just before Christmas]

I racked my brains and came up with a solution: We'd have to give up our giant room-with-sunroom and give it to the boys. Put french doors to close off the sunroom giving Dash his own room, which could still be opened up into a giant space when needed.
Dash's cupboard-sized bedroom would become a study/craft space. And we'd move into Scrag's old room.

The trick was to try and sell this idea to my hubby. I knew he wouldn't likely be keen - I mean, who would? Our bedroom was lush, with all that space.

I took a while to let the idea sink in, time to to bring hubby around. The fact that every night was a drama getting our big boy to sleep helped.

Finally we made the call: we'd give up our room. And do a giant bedroom swap on Easter Weekend. All systems were go.

[Our old room, now Scrag's room/rumpus. The new french doors to divide the room are still leaning against the wall waiting to be hung]

I found the perfect french doors on TradeMe for a song (rimu, with bevelled glass, just the right size); and I promised myself we'd get new carpet and fresh paint before we moved in (the carpet is completely had it, the walls dinged-up beyond belief).

We ran out of time for carpet in our new room, it would have to be an old rug to cover the spilled paint and threadbare patches. But I bought a tin of paint and set to work the day before Easter, patching up holes and painting over the giant green chalkboard wall  painted just before Christmas.


The kids and I set to work carrying armfuls of clothes and boxes of toys to their new homes on Good Friday morning, maneuvering bookshelves and relocating drawers. We left the big stuff to daddy when he came back from his game of golf.

Yes, golf. Poor Daddy went off for a game and came home to find the house in chaos, no turning back. (He'd thought we'd do it slowly over the weekend. Me, I like to get things over with).

By the end of the day we all had new homes.

[Our new room is painted in Resene Half Beryl Green - a double strength version of the soft green I painted the kitchen/dining]

Hubby and I have a peaceful sanctuary at one end of the house, overlooking the garden, opening onto the deck. We have two wardrobes and freshly painted walls. One day we'll get new carpet and that one-way film on the windows so we don't give someone a nasty surprise if they walk round the corner while we're dressing (it has happened already; I guess we could just shut the curtains??!).


The boys have a massive new space which doubles as a rumpus room. Scrag has the bunk beds AND a pull-out couch with the little TV and DVD player. It's a space perfect for sleepovers and hangouts.


Dash has a new room that is three times the size of his old cupboard. Once we get those doors hung it'll be the perfect retreat for him (and since the move, there's been no more fuss at bedtime. I think he appreciates our sacrifice).

The little room (Dash's old cupboard) has a new incarnation as a craft room/study. It's still a bit of a mess as I'm in the middle of party crafting and finishing off painting the hallway so there are cans and boxes stacked everywhere, but you get the idea. It's the perfect size for a a creative space.



We've made space for everyone without spending more than $60 on a tin of paint and $175 for some new doors. No walls knocked down, no new rooms built, but now everybody's happy and we've made the most of the space that we have.

It's like having a whole new house.



  
Wednesday, April 01, 2015

An Outdoor Movie Party for a Special Guy


We like to make a fuss for birthdays round here, for the big kids grown-ups as much as the younguns, and today is my loving hubby's birthday.

For many a year I've been wanting to hold a Pinterest-worthy outdoor movie party, complete with lanterns in trees and friends snuggled under rugs on beanbags, watching a classic movie under the stars.
Last year I planned to do it for my own birthday, but life, overseas trips and weather got in the way.
This year when I asked Mr G what he wanted to do for his 42nd birthday, he generously offered to fulfill my wish for a Movie Party, even though it wasn't exactly his idea of fun.

[Not enough Y's or R's to write "Happy Birthday Rory" on my Typo sign! Rocky is my hubby's midlife crisis name tho, so it's all good]

(My hubby is very social and watching a movie on his birthday is not his idea of a good time. But he offered to do this theme because his mission trip to the Philippines upset my birthday movie party plans back in November.)

My idea was to show a movie we all know and love, something funny and familiar which wouldn't need to be watched intensely but which we could dip in and out of as we sat under the stars munching popcorn/jaffas/icecream and laughing with friends on beanbags.

With the theme decided, the Pinterest board running hot, a borrowed movie projector stashed away and movie party ideas flowing thick and fast, the only thing which could thwart a gorgeous evening of movie watching and popcorn munching was... the Auckland weather.

[I hung up one of our woven checked mats to keep the rain and wind out, plus another went on the floor - made it cosy]

Silly me. What was I thinking? An outdoor movie party in Autumn? In Auckland??? When it has been fine for weeks??? Now that's just asking for trouble.

Yep. Sure enough, a week out, the weather forecast was not looking pretty. I could stay in denial and cling to my plans/hopes OR I could face reality and come up with a workable Plan B. Because, really, who wants to watch a movie outside in the pouring rain? It just aint no fun at all.

[I played with vintage signs in Photoshop and got these cuties printed and framed; the bunting is SEWN by me. That's a first!]

By the end of the week a Plan B was definitely needed. The predicted rain was inescapable.
I won't bore you with all the permutations of Possible Plan B's - suffice it to say that we ended up with a compromise. Part Outdoor Movie-themed party; part Indoor movie (which only the kids ended up watching).

[MOVIE PARTY FOOD & DRINK: Lemonade & Sangria; cupcakes, popcorn & potato chips]

Sometimes you just have to surrender to Plan B and make the best of it. Sure I was disappointed that there was no cosy beanbag-movie-watching under the stars. (My day will come. One day I'll pull it off. ONE DAY!)

[The birthday boy meets my cousin Cheryl and contemplates the rain on the roof while we wait for guests to arrive...]
See, the main thing that makes a party a success is not the styling. It's not the decor, the themed food or the clever little touches that most people won't even notice.
No. The main thing - the most IMPORTANT thing - is that the birthday person feels sufficiently celebrated and that everyone who comes has a good time.
By that definition our Outdoor (sort-of) Movie Party was a raving success.

[Amazing six-layer chocolate cake made by the clever and awesome Ella-Talei]
The birthday boy had a fab time hanging out with his mates having an epic spontaneous darts championship.
The female contingent had a fab time hanging out in a cosy lantern-lit corner of the carport  movie-themed pavilion. The kids watched a movie or two on the big screen (inside)...


Everyone ate popcorn and drank (decaf) coffee, sangria, lemonade (and beer or two). There were MNMs, Jaffas, tangy fruits and oddfellows. Cupcakes and chips. And popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn.


We stayed dry, we were cosy. We had fun. And it all looked fab too. 


Happy birthday wonderful husband!
You deserve to be severely celebrated.
Love from
Mrs G.
xxx


....................

PARTY STYLING: 
I used lots of red, white and gold. Trays, crates, black and white prints of movie posters, borrowed glassware, bunting. Lots of lights, lanterns and candles, cushions and old wool blankets made the outdoor space feel cosy. The black and white checked mats are the ones we use for camping (we own three); they were purchased from an Asian emporium years ago and come in handy for so many things!
  • The walls were decorated with retro Movie Posters, which I found online, played around with in Photoshop, turned B&W and printed cheaply at Warehouse Stationery for .40c each on thick A3 paper. I stuck them up with gold striped washi tape.
  • Retro "concession" prints were also found online tweaked in Photoshop, printed in colour and framed using cheap re-usable frames I had bought for $7 from Bed Bath and Beyond. 
  • Trays, crates, tablecloths, lights and bunting have all been re-used from earlier parties. 
  • Gold bunting was the string type bought from Typo which I sewed into thick bias binding (and now looks so much better)
  • Rope jar lanterns are from Kmart. 
  • Treat bags, serviettes, cupcake wrappers and chevron cups are all from Look Sharp.
  • Food was simply movie concession treats (classic chocolates, lollies (like jaffas, tangy fruits, maltesers & MnMs), popcorn, chips, plus cupcakes) and the usual drinks, including our party faves Old Fashioned Lemonade and Sangria.
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Once Were Bloggers


If this post were a song from the sixties, it might go,
"Where have all the Bloggers gone... gone to Instagram every one..."
Ha ha. It's true though. So many bloggers I "know" have stopped blogging for one reason or another, but where I thought I'd lost them forever when they abandoned shop, I found that they were alive and kicking it over on Instagram.

On Friday night when we were up in Whangarei for our Cake Escape, we finished off a great day with a "Bloggers Dinner" at a Middle Eastern restaurant (with complimentary Belly Dancer, he he).


At one point someone asked the question, "Hey who here is still actually blogging?".
Giggling, silence, a couple of hands raised.

Then the comments started. "Haha I haven't blogged in forever..." "I gave it up, Instagram is so much easier..." "Yeah people talk to you on Instagram..." "When I was blogging I would get comments from the same four faithful people..."

The funny thing is that these girls - who Once Were Bloggers - had formed such tight connections while blogging that even though most of them had abandoned their blogs long ago, they still see each other as a group. And all you have to say is "Bloggy dinner"! and they're there.



That's one of the things I love most about Blogging - the connections I've made. The real, hearty, online friendships. I have to admit that I MISS SO MANY OF YOU who have stopped blogging.

I understand that blogging is not for everyone. Sometimes you do it for a season. Sometimes you dip your toe in the water, write a few posts, and decide it's not for you after all. Sometimes life and circumstances, new jobs, family drama and general busyness all conspire to put blogging in the too-hard basket.

It becomes just One More Thing on the endless to-do list, and something's gotta give.

I know. I get it. But I still Miss you, my once-were-blog-friends.

I miss Widge, Mon, Rebecca, Weza, Anya, FaerySarah. Gail and Penny I get to see in real life, but I still miss your blog posts. Jackie, Tania, Lyns, Neetz, Rachel, Emma, Vix - some have officially stopped, others just have tumbleweeds rolling through their blogs.

If I look on my blog list at so many of my blog faves it reads: "Last update 1 year ago..." "...4 months ago..." "8 months ago..."
Sigh.


I live in hope that some of my faves will pick it up again once life calms down and I console myself with the fact that I can still connect with my faves on Instagram. Yay for Instagram with it's quick and easy pictorial awesomeness - but it's not really the same.

There's something about a blog. It's a glimpse into someone's world in a way that IG just can't compete with. It's the difference between a snack and a meal.

Bloggers are good peeps. I've never met a blogger (whose blog I love) that I didn't love in Real Life.
I'm glad there are still enough of us old-timers still hangin' on in Blogland.
PaisleyJade, Deb, Miriam, Meghan and Sammy are still here... and a bunch of newbies are churning out posts like there's no tomorrow. (I hope they can keep up the pace).

Whatever happens, I plan on being here for a while yet.
I love blogging, and bloggers and writing stories and having this little window on my world, which I hope you, my lovely readers, find an encouraging place to be.
I hope you'll stick around too.

..........................


PHOTOS THIS POST: From our "Bloggers" dinner on Friday night, where I got to meet one of my all-time faves Neetz in real life. Oh man, she is so awesome! Everyone who knows her told me how lovely she is, but meeting her was even better than I'd imagined. Wish she lived next door; she's a beautiful soul. And so FUNNY! 

Now to the Belly Dancer - he he. That was so AWKWARD! We all didn't know where to look, but her brassiere was impressive - aye Jackie?? (Nothing moved, even with all the shimmying and shaking). 

And then I completely embarrassed myself when I blanked on the name of my blog-friend Tracy, at whose home we Auckland gals had spent the entire afternoon. Someone said "Tracy blah blah blah..." and I had a blank moment where the name rang NO BELLS and I blurted out, "Who's Tracy?"
Oh man. Duh. Sorry Tracy, erm, Janice, uh, Margaret... Lucy?
Yeah, sometimes my brain just blanks and the result is a bit embarrassing. Anyone else ever blank out like that?




Are you a Once-Were-Blogger? What made you stop? Are you a long-time blogger? What keeps you going?
Monday, March 23, 2015

The Cake Escape - with Bloggers & KiwiCakes


A few months ago I got cupcake envy, when I saw one of my friends posting pics on Instagram of her rosette cupcakes, which she declared "easy". For all my love of parties I am very much an amateur cake decorator, making do with frosting squirters and tips from the $2 Shop and trying to be as clever as I can with my limited skills.

But after seeing those "easy" rosettes on my friend's IG feed, I felt inspired to up my game. I wanted to be able to make rosette cupcakes too, dammit! And I knew just the lady to help me.

So I emailed my lovely Party Partner, Sandra from KiwiCakes in Whangarei, and said, hey I need to learn how to do this stuff better, could I come to a workshop - or would you be interested in hosting a workshop for me and some other bloggers? Sandra was keen, gave me a date, I started a Facebook thread for those I thought might be keen, and the The Great Cake Escape was born.

[Our Intrepid cupcake decorators. L-R: Tracy, Lisa Jackie LisaKristy and me]
We ended up with a group of six bloggers - three of us who made the trek in my people mover from Auckland, and three blog pals from Whangarei.

All of us were amateurs and cupcake novices, keen to absorb as much as we could from our very clever cake guru who assured us that we would be able to create cool cupcakes by the end of the day (some of us were not so sure - just look at Jackie's face!)


We brought with us a batch of "nude" cupcakes (some of them sunburnt, hehe Lisa!), and spent the afternoon learning a whole lot of cake decorating skills. Man it was fun! My idea of awesome, hanging out with lovely blog-pals while creating edible works of art...


Here's a few of my humble creations:


I was by no means a natural. in fact I am pretty kack-handed, holding the piping bag wrong and wasting loads of buttercream while trying to perfect my rosettes. I will have to keep practising I think!

[The Paris-themed cupcakes are practise for Miss fab's next Party = Paris; the brick wall is an idea for our TMNT Party coming up]
Sandra was awesome - she put us at ease and gave us her best tips and tricks. Turns out the $2 Shop gear I've been using just doesn't cut it. If I want to do awesome cakes I need the right gear. So I got Sandra to put together an Essentials pack for me, so I could take what I've learned and do it at home.


A few things I learnt:

Piping bags - use disposable ones. You can make perfect two-toned frosting by putting two separate colours inside two separate small piping bags and then putting them both inside a large one... and out will come two-toned buttercream frosting.
Crisco - this is the secret ingredient to having buttercream that (a) holds it's shape and (b) is nice and white. Where your recipe calls for butter, use half Crisco.
Tylo Powder - When you're making fondant shapes and toppers for cupcakes, work a little Tylo powder into your fondant and it will harden nicely to give nice non-floppy cut-outs and molds that hold their shape and stand up stiff.
Cornflour: Dust your fondant with cornflour before pressing it into molds so it pops out nice and easy
Equipment: Use the proper equipment to get a proper result. No more $2 Shop gear, if I invest in the basics the job will be so much easier and the result, so much better...


  1. Large Coupler for fixing tips to piping bags
  2. Closed Tip for piping swirls (start on the outside and work your way in)
  3. Open tip for piping rosettes (start on the inside and work your way out)
  4. Squiggle tip for piping grass, fur etc
  5. Standard Coupler
  6. Edible Glue for fixing on decorations 
  7. Tylo powder for hardening fondant decorations (work a small amount into a lump of fondant before using
The two-toned frosting applied (by Sandra) using different tips:

[Top left: closed tip; top right open tip for making a rosette]
And here's the awesome squiggle tip which makes such cute "grass" (of course we use gel colours not the liquid supermarket ones - but you already know THAT aye?)...


[Me and Sandra - finally got to meet in person after years of party partnering]
We can't thank Sandra enough for giving up a whole afternoon to patiently teach us novices! I know one thing - my cupcakes will never be the same.

SOME OTHER CAKE ESCAPEES' TAKE ON OUR CUPCAKE ADVENTURE: