Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Review

2012 is very nearly here! If you listen to the pessimists, this is the year that the world is going to end, though I'm not so certain- I think that this year will be the best yet! (But if you are worried, I did find this forum which might help!) I have a lot to look forward to next year, but let's begin with a look back. After all, it has been quite a busy year!
via Brian Mengini
I certainly can't believe that I kept up with this blogging thing for this long -even if I did cheat a little in the middle! We started this year without a clue but with one grand scheme in mind: to renovate the kitchen! The majority of FM's early posts were all about that, so much so that friends have asked if I started the blog just to show off pictures of the kitchen?

In part the answer was of course, yes! But I also started writing this blog as an outlet for my creative side, as a sanctuary from the doldrums of my day-job and a new way of communicating and exploring fresh ideas!

I've also shown you a little of my attempts towards being self-sufficient and developing my green thumb:
 
And then, of course, the photos that had to be posted of Oreo, naughty puddy-tat that he is!
So while that was a quick recap on the main topics covered this year, what were your favourite posts? What would you like more of? Less of? What are your interests? Where do you visit Muriel from? Luckily, Blogger Stats has some of those questions covered! Out of over 6000 views(!!!!), your top three posts of 2011 (by number of hits):
  1. Wow: Breaking News
So I guess you like be teased a little, huh?! It is interesting to see that these weren't the most laborious posts to write, but were amongst the most honest!

Blogger also tells me that while the bulk of readers are here 'Downunder', you are also tuning in from the US, UK, Russia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Germany, Sweden, Indonesia and Canada! Maybe I should start greeting you with a few different languages (although I would have to learn them first)? Unfortunately though, Blogger can't tell me what you would like to read more or less of, so your feedback would be greatly appreciated! A New Year calls for change, so I hope to bring something different From Muriel in 2012 and I'm open to ideas!

However, that can wait for now because I have a NYE party to get to! Until we next meet, all of us here at FM hope you have a fantastic NYE and we'll see you NEXT YEAR!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merrrrrry Gift-mas!

So, the Christmas crush is mostly over- have you survived? Did Santa bring you everything you were hoping for? Personally, I wasn't too fussed about receiving this year because I was so excited about giving!! Here are some of the presents ready for my brother and sister, my parents, PK's parents and family:
Presents all wrapped and ready to be delivered!
Of course I couldn't show or tell you about what was inside these packages before the recipients had unwrapped them could I?! Giving presents is always quite a large part of every December in my family as we have a few birthdays as well as Christmas and New Year to celebrate. My brother was born on Christmas day, but before you start taking pity on my dear brother, he gets separate presents for birthday and Christmas just like the rest of us. Then just a few days after Christmas comes my sister's birthday. And then just a few years ago, PK's sister welcomed a daughter on Christmas Eve! So you can see that this time of year is always choc-full of celebrations for us!
Can you spot some presents hiding under the tree?
I had everything planned out in advance this year (I just had to get out and make it happen!). For my sister's birthday present: some Euros on her cash passport for her birthday; and for Christmas: some essentials that she might have forgotten or not realised she needed (eye mask, ear plugs, travel diary, travel tag and matching passport cover, washing powder, personal soap and sunscreen). For my brother: a new "K-fold" trick wallet (with some money of course) for his birthday and an assortment of international beers (awesome little shop!) with some quality schooner glasses to enjoy them in for Christmas.
PK's favourite soap
For the most important person in my life I saved and planned for quite a while. I knew what I wanted to get for him, but it was a little pricey. But then he went and splurged on a beautiful engagement ring for me, so I knew I was off the hook! I always like to give PK a few little gifts, so I had already collected some of his favourite soap, plus a new BPA-free drink bottle and a recipe book for the slow cooker. And then, just before Christmas, I picked up the final part of his gift:
A brand new Pixie Nespresso coffee maker! Now you might recall that I went through quite a coffee phase earlier this year, but to say that PK has a coffee addiction would probably be an understatement! He has been having at least two coffees a day, so I thought it would be a pretty good investment. A friend had counselled me that he might want to become more involved in the actual grinding/brewing process but I know my man! One push of a button and beautiful, silky, fragrant coffee is delivered into your cup. PK is in love and we have already used up the 16 taster pods that came with the unit! Not too bad considering we have only had full use since we got back from Denham!

I did of course, have gifts for other family members- but apart from the first picture above I didn't grab any evidence! I just enjoy living in the moment so much that I forgot to snap away :)

So that's more or less my gifting round-up, how did you go? Were your gifts as well received as you had hoped? Perhaps you had a Secret Santa at work or among your extended family or friends? I'd love to hear about it all! Share the gift-mas love!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ho! Ho! Ho! And Off We Go!

Morning everyone! Christmas is finally upon us and I don't think I could have left anything later, but I am happy with all my efforts. I managed to finish 'trimming' the tree, got all of my gifts organised and I even slipped in a little baking (although I'm not sure how successful I was with that!). And now it's time for a little 'me' time. The 'Forrie' (ie PK's pride and joy as below)
Subaru Forester image via CarAdvice
is packed, the presents are all wrapped
Christmas presents image via Australian Traveller
and by the time that this post publishes, PK and I will be on the road! We're off for a few days to visit with PK's sister's family- about 10 hours drive north. It will be a special Christmas, as her three kids are quite young and no-one enjoys this time of year quite like young children!

I'm looking forward to a little time away as well because this might be my last chance for a breather for a while! Being new at work means that I don't have a lot of leave built up, so I'm taking the bare minimum and making it worthwhile. Hopefully I'll remember to take some pictures (on the iPhone at the very least) to provide some proof of relaxation!

So that's what PK and I are doing this Christmas week, what are your plans? Will you be relaxing by the pool after a full traditional lunch? Or perhaps a game of beach cricket with some mates? Whatever you are looking forward to this holiday season, PK, Oreo and myself wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May the food be delicious and may there be laughs and smiles a-plenty! And I hope you've all been very good this year so Santa will be generous ;)
Santa via SeasonChristmas.com 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Its (finally) beginning to look (a little) like Christmas!

Good morning everyone! I'm feeling good this morning because I finally managed to spread some Christmas cheer around Muriel. I've been a little slow off the blocks this year and December just seemed to appear out of thin air! I love this time of year but it just streams by so quickly!

I managed to have the tree up in the first weekend, but I didn't progress any further than putting lights on it. Although the tree doesn't look too bad with just lights, I always like to have a well dressed tree to herald the holiday season.

I think it looks so cheery with all of its finery! And a few presents underneath certainly help as well :) I don't have a particular 'theme' for decorating (especially because we don't have that many decorations as it is) but I make sure that all of my favourites are there. Like this bear ornament that we picked up in the States back in '08:
And this little balloon-dog-but-actually-metallic ornament I picked up in the post Chrissy sales last year- he's so shiny!

A few decorations have also found their way around the house away from the tree- but nothing too fancy. After all, anything that is within paw reach needs to be Oreo-proof- or at least not too precious!

He is especially found of eating the lights on the tree- if anyone has any bright ideas about how to stop him from doing this, I'd be much obliged! I bought this little tree in the sales as well. I have it on the kitchen bench so I'm hoping Oreo doesn't find it because the tiny ornaments are definitely small enough to swallow!
Now all that's left to do in the last few mad days before the big day to pick up the final few presents, wrap them up and do some Christmas baking (nom nom nom)! Oh, and a few days of work as well... I hope I can fit it all in!
What are your plans for Christmas? Are you feasting with family? Catching up with friends? Or just taking a loooong break away from it all? I'd love to know!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kitchen Accounting

All righty ladies and gents, it's (past) time to cross the t's, dot the i's and carry the ones. This post is all about whether the reno actually matched up to what we were aiming for, if we are happy and the actual* COSTS of it all!! Firstly, the objectives- (you'll remember these from this post of old):
  • Dishwasher- big enough to fit dishes from a dinner for six (for when we entertain or alternatively, three days worth of dinners if it's just the two of us) Check!
  • Rangehood- no more stinky house! Added benefit of extra lighting too Check!
  • Knock out the ledge- no more separation from the party for me! Check!
  • Increase bench space (by dropping oven to below bench)- definite requirement in such a small space  Check!
  • Increase storage with cabinetry above fridge and also over the bench on the eastern (stove) wall  Check!
  • More drawers- also to increase functional storage Check!
  • Soft closing drawers and doors- Mmmmm no more banging (noise that is!) Check!
  • Undermount sink- we think these look stylish and no more grit sitting underneath the rim  Check!
  • Large new tap to allow easier cleaning of pots and other large items Check!  
  • Hidey hole for the microwave (it really is an ugly but necessary invention isn't it?) Check!
  • Glass, full height splashback- super stylish, but too exxy? Check!
  • Utilise dead space made by the dishwasher (? extra cupboard/shelves) Check!
  • New lighting Still contemplating this one...
  • Unified flooring throughout the great room Check!
Our beloved deep undermount sink!
Next: Are we happy? Too right we are! There have been a couple of compromises along the way though:
  • Originally, we had planned to have the glass splashback on the back (oven) wall and the window wall. But after consulting with a few suppliers, we found out that we couldn't do the window wall in one piece as the section underneath the window was too narrow. So we decided to do something else for that area rather than have joins in the glass which we thought would be ugly and avoided the hassle -and the added cost of another wall of glass- altogether!
  • The stone benchtop supplier stuffed up and cut our template too short, so now there is no overhang to protect the cabinets from cascading water. We didn't actually notice at first so we weren't too concerned, but we were a bit annoyed when they tried to pass it off as 'modern and minimalist'! But it is a liveable compromise on our original design- plus it means more of the cabinet is on display!
  • The appliance cubby when originally installed was NOTHING like what we understood from the plans or what we had asked for- it was shallow and had a shelf installed through the middle of it. Not conducive to storing a microwave inside! But KitchenHaus modified a module for us and installed it how we wanted it. Win! 
The (now) awesome microwave cubby
The dinner results:
  • Pizza- 3 times
  • McDonalds- at least 4 times
  • Hungry Jacks- once
  • Wok King- twice
  • Nandos- once
  • Indian- once
  • Thai- once 
  • Chicken Treat - once
  • Mee Goreng noodles- at least 5 times (me only)
  • Tinned Baked Beans- at least 5 times (PK only)
  • My parents'- twice 
  • Family BBQ- once
  • PK's Boss' BBQ- twice (a little scary but helpful!)
  • PK's brother-  about 7 times (his big portion sizes = left overs)
  • Friends- twice 
So you can see why I was so excited to finally do some grocery shopping for some real food!! More than a month on takeaway is not great for your body or mind!
Another reason we are so enthusiastic about our little vegie patch!
And finally, the total monetary cost... *well, its actually a little vague! Because we did some things ourselves, we saved some money in some places on labour certainly, but we may have spent extra on materials as we aren't professionals! I guestimate that we spent around $500 ish at the hardware store? It might be a little more because I can't seem to find all of the receipts... good accountants we are not!

I can tell you that after totally up all the payments we've made to KitchenHaus, the electrician, the plumber, the supplier/installer for the floor tiles and the wall tiles... it comes to more than $20,000!! So not exactly the cheap, easy and quick(!!) renovation that I was envisioning when PK and I first started talking about this project. But would we change anything now that it's done? I don't think so!

So tell me, are you shocked? Did you think it was more/less? Are you disgusted by how much takeaway we ended up consuming? Would you have done anything different? I'd love to know what you think!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Early Morning Riser

Good Morning All! PK wasn't able to sleep this morning, so we got up and went for a (very) early morning walk along the beach. It was quite relaxing with a light breeze blowing, the waves softly breaking on the sand while the sun rose behind us.

PK was feeling energetic, so while he jogged ahead of me, I took a more leisurely stroll along the breakline. I did a little bit of beachcombing while I was at it:
Pretty!
While I'm putting up pics of prettiness, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you a very small addition to the Muriel household as well...
Loving Instagram right now!
Can you spy it there? That sparkly thing in the middle shell? Can you guess?

ITS AN ENGAGEMENT RING!!! Now for those of you that have already heard, this is not 'new' news, but it has taken me this long to get my butt in gear and post about it! After about 7 and a half years of (mostly) very happy monogamy, PK finally decided that this was 'it' and asked me to marry him (about 2 months ago now)!! :D

Its all still very new and exciting and weird to me but we're just enjoying the 'engagement' period at the moment. I'm glad that we've finished with the kitchen renovation, because I would be tearing my hair out trying to co-ordinate that, navigate a new job and start wedding planning all at once! We don't have any firm plans just yet, but I'm sure I'll be drip feeding information through the blog as I have it!

So what do you think? Is it exciting? Do you want to hear the engagement story? Do you want to share your engagement story with me? Or perhaps you also found some pretty shells at the beach today? I'd love to hear all about it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hibernation

Howdy Folks!

I er... have been absent quite a while haven't I?!! I have been thinking that I needed to get back onto the blog-writing horse for a while, but I guess it has taken me a little longer than I thought! *sheepish face!*

I can assure you that not much has changed around here in the interim few months. Well, I guess a little might be different, let me remember where I left off...

In Budget Blooms I showed you how I was trying to make my farewell flowers last as long as possible. Well, I'm sure you can imagine- they did eventually all perish. After all, the only kind of flowers that could possibly last this long would be fake! But it was great having flowers around while I did!

If At First You Don't Succeed told our sorry tale about the attempt PK and I made at wall tiling. I am happy to say that the tiles eventually made their way onto the wall as planned, but it did take us a little while! And er... we didn't actually do it ourselves. But I think that deserves a post of its own, don't you think? At least one with some photos of the finished product ;)

My most recent Monday Meditation was "I will celebrate my successes. I deserve it." And indeed, starting my new job was a huge success that deserved celebrating! I think I have been celebrating ever since to be honest- which might explain to some extent why I been absent from the blogosphere for some time! I think I've settled in now and I'm slowly starting to get into a rhythm with all of my new tasks. Bit by bit I'm feeling less like the new kid!

It looks like that's all I managed for August- how embarrassing! I guess there is a little catching up I need to do- and I do have some MASSIVE news to spill that is completely not house-related! I think I may do a little tidy up around here first, get you some new images to look at and think about how I want to tell you. Until then though, rest assured that I plan to be back here again! I may be inconsistent, but I'm not yet done with this little blog o' mine!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WOW: Budget Blooms

In last week's post I told you how I am trying to make the bouquet I received as a farewell gift last as long as possible, just like John and Sherry do at Young House Love. I do wish that I had taken a picture of what the bouquet looked like when I was first presented it- the overall effect was very cheerful! Here's the pic I showed you in that post:
I love receiving flowers, though it doesn't happen very often, so I thought that I'd make this one last for as long as I possibly could- with minimal effort of course! No taking the blooms out every day and snipping them or fancy liquid for my flowers! They lasted quite well in the first week in their original arrangement- I just gave them a light misting of water every day to keep them watered. Then PK and I went to Albany for a few days and I forgot all about them while watching the whales do their thing.
When we returned, I realised that flowers really don't last long without water as a few had past their peak- as you can see above. So, I took them out of their wrappings, discarded the wilty blooms and arranged them in a glass vase that I have "borrowed" (like many things) from my mum. The result was the bouquet in the first picture- notice the difference? Here's another angle for comparison.
I was pleasantly surprised that more of the iris buds opened after that transplant and enjoyed the cheerful colours for another week. Then this weekend, I repeated the culling of wilty flowers. Unfortunately, that meant the last of the irises met their maker. But I am still left with a few of the brightest of the flowers!
I've cut them down again and arranged them in a shot glass (because I'm fancy like that). Currently they are in the bathroom for a shock of cheery colour in the morning. I'm so happy that I have been able to enjoy the blooms for a little while longer- and all for free!
Thanks YHL for giving me the idea to save my blooms!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed

As I write this, PK is in the kitchen, wielding his newest man-toy: a rotary hammer drill- I'll explain why in a moment. You'll remember last week I showed you that we had made a start on the final part of the kitchen reno, tiling the back-splash above the sink with mosaics. Here is PK, prepping the area in question.
You can see a couple of the glass mosaic sheets in the foreground. We ummed and ahhed over these tiles for quite a while before eventually purchasing them- which is why it has taken us sooooo long to get this last little bit completed (the purchase was on the list from the beginning of June and that was after ages of inactivity!). We even had another pattern/ colour mix picked out originally and then on the day that we were going in to buy them, decided on a different set. Unfortunately, our champagne tastes caught us out again as our final choice was only stocked interstate and cost a fair bit more. Doh! The tiles of our choice look like this:
Image from giant.co.uk
We loved that they have texture and would tie in the current colours of the walls, cabinets and glass back-splash, but would also introduce a bit of variety. The image makes them looks quite bright with hits of aqua here, but in person they are more of a light blue/ sky blue with splashes of pale green. Sort of like the ocean on a warm summers day... Definitely something pretty to look at while washing the dishes!

So after a few weeks of waiting for our lovely tiles to come in from over east, we were finally ready to tile. We thought we'd give it a go ourselves- after all, how hard could it really be, right? The guys that had laid our floor tiles had left a bit of mastic behind and PK decided that with that, a spatula (previously used to patch the ceiling and walls) and a little "I can totally do this" bravado, he could get it done. Mistake! Although PK definitely gave it his best shot, we weren't using the correct tools or adhesive. We now know that there is special glue required for glass mosaics so that they don't slip. We are also now aware that we need a notched trowel to give an even and textured layer of said adhesive. Hindsight is definitely 20-20!
The finished job didn't look too terrible (as you can see above), but the mastic was so thick that it squished into the gaps between the tiles, leaving little room for grout. That meant that the dirty grey colour of the adhesive would always be visible. Also, in some places a few tiles were not even sticking and as soon as we peeled off the plastic sheet (that holds the tiles together for application), tiles came with it. Not cool.
Farewell Mosaics Ver 1.0!
So that is why PK was in the kitchen over the weekend, new power tool in hand, removing our first attempt. We've ordered another batch of tiles and with our new-found knowledge (and the correct tools), I'm confident that attempt number two will be perfect. I just wish this lesson hadn't been such an expensive one!
The blank slate- ready for Ver 2.0

Have you ever learned to DIY the hard way like us?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Meditation

Mornin' all! How was your weekend? Did you accomplish everything you set out to? I know that there were still a few things left on my list but I did get a lot of important tasks completed. A little more on that later!

I know I haven't had a lot of commitment to this feature since I started it, but now that I'm getting used to waking up at the same time every morning and beginning to follow a routine, the posts might pop up a little more frequently. Let me know your thoughts!

"I will celebrate my successes. I deserve it." 

I think that this is a good one for me to try to remember- I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I tend to focus on the failures! Must work on that! Recent successes that I can celebrate... getting through my first week of my new job unscathed, making new friends and gaining confidence. I also cooked some pretty awesome meals last week! Later on this week I'll be showing you a bit of a DIY failure, but I think PK and I should celebrate the lesson we learned and the way we've picked ourselves up afterwards.

What do you have to celebrate?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Its Been A While!

Hey there guys and gals! Its been a while since I've popped in and I promise I've been trying to catch up but I just don't know where all my time goes! There have been a few things going on recently that I'd love to share with you:
We finally made a start on the last part of the kitchen reno- the mosaic backsplash!
I managed to get my hands in the dirt and re-plant the vegie patch!
I received a beautiful bunch of flowers as part of a farewell gift and I'm trying to keep them going as long as possible, as the Petersiks often do.
PK and I took a short trip down to Albany to do some whale watching and check out the local sights!

So that's a few things that we've been filling our time with lately. PK and I are really enjoying having time to spend together! I'll post again in more detail later but right now I'm off- its day three of my new job!!

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