Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Duckabout - Darwin Harbour Cruise

One of the best things about having visitors come to stay is getting the opportunity to be a tourist in your own town. And- since we now have a seriously awesome Guest Room- we've had a lot of visitors!

My Mum came for a quick visit during the school holidays and we decided to go on a cruise on Darwin Harbour – in a duck!

"Jemima" is a LARC – an amphibious vehicle painted to look like a duck. (By the way LARC stands for Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo)

Check out the size of those tyres!

Duckabout run a few different tours- we chose a Splash 'n Dash.  
The tour starts in town and makes it’s way past a few of the city’s interesting sites before heading past the museum and driving straight into the water!

The car to boat thing was pretty awesome.

Then we went out sailing. Past the museum.  
Past Mindil beach - looking quieter than I've ever seen it!

Then, the highlight for me...Seeing heaps of beautiful dolphins frolicking around the boat.


Our guide and driver were informative, enthusiastic and funny. They even had a crocodile skull for us to look at.  
Apparently about 300 crocodiles are removed from Darwin Harbour every year- Yikes! And those people six photos up were water ski/tubing- Double Yikes!

Then they let the kids drive the boat!
Then, when our time was up, we headed back onto land and returned to the city. 

Driving past the Botanical Gardens on the way back into town inspired us to check out the new cafe.  
Lots of organic, gluten-free foods mean this little duck will be heading back there soon.
 We also saw a rather large local resident.  Can you make it out along the length of the branch? Huge!
 I kept my distance.
P.S. This is not a sponsored post.  I was not paid or reimbursed for my comments. My very generous Mum shouted this trip for us while she visited. 'Cos she's awesome like that. It was a lot of fun, though, especially for the kids and I highly recommend it!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Home Office is Awesome!

Warning: This post contains graphic "before" images of an adolescent boy's bedroom.  The incredibly messy nature of said images may cause nausea. (Actually, the floral vertical blinds alone will cause nausea!) Also, be grateful they don't come with smell too.

If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that for the last eight months I've been slowly planning, painting, decorating and hashtag-ing (that's a word, right?!) #homeofficeisgonnabeawesome. Well, now we are close enough to done for the big reveal - brace yourselves - the home office is awesome!

At the beginning of this year, my eldest son flew the nest and, while the idea of preserving his room as a kind-of shrine and hoping he'll be able to come back and use it again soon is tempting, it's not just feasible in a house with so many people.

Eventually (when we've abandoned all hope of Michael wanting to live at home with his parents again!), Liam will move into this space but for now we have decided to keep this room as a multifunctional space.  It's a home office for me to blog and (maybe someday again) scrapbook - which means our computer isn't sitting out in the hall like it used to.  It's also our library and a place to cuddle up with a good book and it's a guest room.

This room was a terrific space for an adolescent's bedroom as it was obviously designed to be a study.  It has a great built-in desk, bookcase and cupboard...   
It also has enough room for a Queen sized bed...
I was right about those blinds, hey?! 

And most of our books lived in here already...
I've been wanting to transform this space for a long time but teenage boys care very little about design (or clutter!)

Once we stripped down to the bare space - and got rid of those curtains! - all we really needed to do was paint. There are lots of great tutorials online about how to paint laminate furniture.  First up is cleaning really well and Windex is supposed to be the best to ensure a really good clean.

We started with a coat of Zinsser primer- which is supposed to be the best at sealing your laminate and getting the paint to stick. In hindsight, we probably should have done two coats as there are a few scratches now in high traffic areas.
After about three or four coats that hideous blue was finally gone! and that left the best part - decorating!

There are two main issues with our built-in desk space: firstly, there's no room for a printer (but having it under the desk is working okay for now) and secondly, the shelves above the desk are really narrow - too small for regular sized books, anyway.

Initially I decided to use this old noticeboard that I had and accessorise with a few of the goodies I'd picked up at Typo and Kikki-K back in January.
Then, on a tip to Howard's Storage World to see what could be done with my shelves, I met Orla.
Orla Kiely, that is, and her gorgeous "Stem" range of homewares- it was love at first sight!

The amazing folks at Howard's Storage World were kind enough to supply me with a lot of the products you can see on the shelves.
The magazine holders are not only gorgeous, but really well built and seem to be handling the weight of my Donna Hay collection and reams of printer paper just fine (unlike my last cheapo ones!)

The A4 storage boxes fit well on these awkward shelves and the bamboo stacking boxes (seen below in two different sizes) and just perfect for the space and are holding all those little bits and pieces that scrapbookers collect.

You can see HSW's Orla Kiely collection here and the bamboo stacking boxes are part of this range here.

The acrylic charging station on the left is also from HSW.
All of the white storage boxes are ones that I've picked up from Officeworks. I've styled the rest of the shelves with a few little bits I've collected that will increase my storage and add a bit of pretty.  There are even a few little tiny, books that fit too!
The white really lifts the space.
We've been able to get rid of some of the clutter by downsizing and storing our board game collection in the cupboard.  It joins some of my scrapbooking supplies, computer games and card games too.
I said close-enough to reveal because I have a couple of jobs left - one is replacing that awful light fixture (I'm not convinced about the "READ" yet, either - what do you think?  Different colours?)
The second task left is to have the coffee table restored.  It was made out of a massive Kauri log that was found on the farm my hubby grew up on back in NZ and is in need of a bit of TLC.

The coffee table sits on the other side of the room which is our reading nook and guest accommodation. The largest of our board games (that were too long for the cupboard) live in storage baskets under the coffee table. 

How much of a difference do the timber venetian blinds make?
The Hemnes day bed is from Ikea and I love it!  It's a sofa, a single bed and pulls out into a King-sized bed too! It even has storage underneath which makes it even better. (I'm told it's pretty comfy too) 
We replaced the black knobs on the bed with chrome to tie in with the handles we chose for the desk and the lamps I wanted to use. There's a bit more Orla love on this side of the room too...
It might not always look this neat and tidy, but it makes me smile every time I walk past.
And once I sort out some really annoying internet issues I'm hoping it'll be where you find me most days.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Harry Potter!

We had our second annual Harry Potter Birthday Party on Saturday.

Last year - after reading the second book (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and having a little afternoon tea party on Harry's birthday while watching the film version - we decided to make this a yearly occurrence.  

After reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this year, we had so many great ideas for what to serve at our party.

In the book, Harry and his friends get to visit the local village of Hogsmeade.  Whilst in the village they visit The Three Broomsticks pub for a Butterbeer and,  our favourite, Honeydukes Sweet Shop.
In a feeble attempt to lessen the amount of sugar consumed we started the party with some pies and pumpkin pasties. The boys weren't as keen to dress-up this year, it was mainly about the food...
I made a popcorn-filled 'broomstick'...
And we washed our savouries down with some of The Three Broomsticks famous Butterbeer... 
I used the third recipe on this website - the one labelled the "not so simple but tastier recipe".  This used a mix of brown sugar, butter and rum essence stirred into some creaming soda with whipped cream on top.
For a family who don't have often have softdrink, this was incredibly sweet and a bit too sickly for the kids to drink.  I think the rum essence flavour put them off a bit too.

We enjoyed our lunch while watching the film...
...and put Rohan to bed just before the scary Dementor appeared on the train! 
 One part of the book we love is this description of Honeydukes...
"There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavour Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitation sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were 'Special Effects' sweets: Droobles Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps ('breathe fire for your friends!'), Ice Mice ('hear your teeth chatter and squeak!'), peppermint creams shaped like toads ('hop realistically in the stomach!), fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons."
So we tried to recreate Honeydukes on a smaller scale...
I made chocolate frogs boxes, like last year, and printed some collector cards too.
You may recall that last year I ordered some authentic Every Flavour Beans that didn't arrive in time to put into the boxes I made. Well, they did eventually arrive and while we were very impressed with the novelty of having a variety of disgusting flavours, we were very disappointed that it was only the disgusting ones we found in our packets. Out of all the beans in the three boxes we had only one "chocolate" and twelve "vomit". We did have a small nibble on some of the 'lesser' revolting flavours (earthworm, dirt and pepper) but ended up with pretty severe nausea and indigestion.

So this year I stuck with Gourmet Jelly Beans to pop in our boxes...
We had all the old favourites... well as a selction of items featured in the book (don't worry, they're not really Cockroaches in the Cockroach Clusters!)
The boys had a lot of fun choosing a selection of their favourites...

So. Much. Sugar! 

We gave the remaining treats away to the other children in our street but I feel like I'm still recovering from my sugar-hangover!

The Prisoner of Azkaban was always my favourite of the books, but I didn't like the film much at all and Liam seemed to agree with me. Hamish lost interest towards the end - it's quite dark, this film, and the story is a bit complex for a five year old.

Have you read the books? Which is your favourite? What do you think of the movies?