How I try for a stressless Christmas.

I am so excited to be joining 11 amazing Kiwi Mummy Bloggers, in the "12 Days of Christmas - A Blog Collaboration". We have a had a fantastic variety of topics of Christmas themed posts e.g. Craft Decorations, DIY gifts, Gift Inspiration ideas, Recipes and Family traditions. Yesterday, Day 10, we got a great treat from Hey Little Sweet Thing with her recipe for those yummy Dark Chocolate and Nutella Snowball Truffles. Tomorrow is the 12th Day and the last blog and we are visiting Karen from The Fruitful Homemaker  who is going to be chatting to us about making the ultimate Christmas Smoothie . Be sure to pop over after midday and have a read.

So today, Day 11, it's my turn, a little bit of stress relief in between some tasty treats!

Let me just say up front that the title of this blog maybe a bit exaggerated, not sure that one can actually have an entirely stressless Christmas. However, over the years of running around like a chicken with its head off, I have learnt a thing or two to help prevent you being taken away in a straight jacket! So I thought I`d share what I found that helped me through this crazy season!

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Plan it out!

Yes this boring old chestnut! let me say this right now, you actual have to do some planning if you want to stop simply running from one state of madness to the next. Planning does actually mean that you know what is coming next and so it actually feels like you are in some form of control.

I always started with my December calendar and marked out all the dates that I knew we had coming up. To help make sure that I got everything I would just think of all the activities and events that were coming up for all the family, such as;

  • School functions - prize giving, dinners, class picnic. lunches etc 
  • Sports functions  - end of year awards, BBQ`s
  • Family gatherings 
  • Friends get togethers
  • Work do's
  • Street parties 
  • School break dates
  • Work finish dates (if you are lucky enough to get a break)

After marking out the calendar, I worked out what was needed for each event and who had to go. I tell you that juggling the school activities while working full time is a challenge so if you can try to share this with your partner and extended family, like grandparents. Planning out the events meant that you can book in your helpers in advance, rather than ringing around the night before trying to get someone to help. Even better was working in with other parents so you can help each other out. 

Now to give yourself a bit of a treat and to help with planning, why not get yourself a Christmas Planner. I scored a Kikki K Christmas Planner in their January sales. Apart from having to re-write the December dates (2016 calendar) it's a great little planner and nice and small for your bag.

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There are also heaps of printable Christmas planners, just like this one from The Fruitful Homemaker  or a little more OTT with Brilliant Business Moms which came free this year to all her email subscribers. 

Stash it

"Stashing it" can save your bacon, and did mine so many times over the years. So quite literally this just means having a  stash of presents and food for any unplanned and forgotten events and visitors. I would just buy extra boxes of Sampler biscuits pre wrap them and just pull them out like I had planned the present..boom baby. You could also do a batch of home baking and make up wee Christmas hampers or treats in a jar...for a bit of inspiration just check out these great Christmas Truffles from Hey Little Sweet Thing that would be perfect for this.

In regards to food for events, which often were "bring a plate!" it helped me to always have a "go to" dish! This was either hokey pokey biscuits or carrots and humus, for a bbq or meal, it was potato salad.

TIP 2: Stash emergency cash in the car and at home for those emergency runs to the store for a gift or for takeaways. 

TIP 3: Stash energy bars and water in the car to hold off those starving kids who are Hangry!

Buy it

This is the fun part......who doesn't love spending up a storm on christmas present. But you don't really want to go into debt doing this.

TIP 4: Have a budget and use cash only to stop you going over the budget.

If you can, list out the presents you need to buy and try and purchase a couple per week over December. The same goes with your Christmas and Holiday food,  just add a few items (non-perishable)  into your weekly shop during December, then you only need to buy the perishables closer to the day.  I found that this really helped with the budget and pressure at the end of December.

2016 christmas , all hospice shop finds !

2016 christmas , all hospice shop finds !

 

Also don't forget to schedule in your shopping time. DO NOT....what ever you do, leave your shopping to the last minute, that is maximum stress level right there.

TIP 5: Go shopping on your own if you can, take the list, go to the mall, only shop for what's on your list, use cash only.

TIP 6: Christmas savings - set aside a small amount each week from the 1st Jan. I used a cash envelope and put in $20 a week plus $10 on the Pak'nSave Christmas club card. This essentially was our total Christmas budget.

My cash envelope system

My cash envelope system

 

Just Relax 

I always tried to get everything done by Christmas Eve so I could just sit back and relax and enjoy being with my family. So make sure when you are planning out what you need to do to actually plan for "relax day" on Christmas eve!. 

To help you get into the relaxing mood, check out this simple cocktail recipe at Parental Misadventures

So there you have it, these are the things that I found worked for me in surviving the month of madness!

Now for this year's Christmas.....well it has to be the least stressful ever!

Our Christmas 2017

This year Christmas is very very low key.  We are renovating our Kitchen, bathroom and ensuite also decorating the lounge, master bedroom, dinning room and two guest rooms. So one half of the house is currently a demolition zone and we are living in the other half. I don`t even have the Christmas tree up, however I have managed to find some where to hang the stockings!

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Our two kiddies, will be home for Christmas day, however as we don't really have any cooking facilities our dear friends are having us over on Christmas day and we will feast like Kings! 

The other tradition that we started last year and it was soo much fun, was to shop for gifts only at hospice shops and you can`t spend over $20 each person. We found some absolute gems, cheap and recycled ...the perfect gift, so we are doing it again this year. 

So now the kids are grown up it is certainly a lot calmer coming into Christmas, but it's funny as I kind of miss it!! 

Have a fabulous Christmas and enjoy the precious time with your family, even if they come in all excited at 4am!

 

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It's been such a privilege to have been part of the "12 Days of Christmas - A Blog Collaboration".  We have certainly been treated to some awesome blogs by 11 amazing Kiwi Mummy Bloggers. I have included a full list of all the bloggers taking part in the blog collaboration below, so you can see who has posted their blog on what day. You can also find all us on Facebook and Instagram - simply search #KMB12DaysofChristmas.

 

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Day 1 (1st December) My Other Name is Mum  

Day 2 (2nd December) Teacher by trade, Mother by nature

Day 3 (3rd December) Life With Lochlan 

Day 4 (4th December) Misses Mac 

Day 5 (5th December) Eva - The Living One

Day 6 (6th December) Caroline Larnach

Day 7 (7th December) KidsPlayNZ

Day 8 (8th December) Parental Misadventures

Day 9 (9th December)  Sweet Pea Homestead

Day 10 (10th December) Hey Little Sweet Thing

Day 11 (11th December) Tidying With Tania 

<---- YOU ARE HERE ----> 

Day 12 (12th December)  The Fruitful Homemaker



 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me eat cake or just sour cream and chive potato chips

This blog was supposed to be all about "how I organised my daughters 21st. Clearly it isn`t!  Having gotten over the excitement and emotional journey of the 21st party, the planning and hosting, I was looking forward to sharing all the details on the decorations, menu planning etc etc. But oh no my "i just can`t be bothered brain" kicked in and to be honest I just wanted curl up on the couch, binge on Netflix while eating chips and beer.....is that so bad really! It was going to be the leftover birthday cake, however I really had a bit too much of it, so I b-lined it to the chips...once the bags open thats it, I can`t stop!.  I just felt like I lost my mojo and actually felt pretty overwhelmed!   

I was feeling really excited as I could now start to "organise and plan" for the pack up and move for the renovations (only got 2 weeks to go before the builders start).  We needed to pack up all of the upstairs which consists of Kitchen, bathroom, ensuite, master bedroom, two guest rooms, dining room, lounge, hallway and entry, so the builders can start to demo and gut the areas. We were going to sit down and plan out this big job, so it could be stressless, nice and orderly! But....!!!

The Incident

I had just finished my yoga, hmm a few down dogs and farts, feeling relaxed and was starting on downloading the photos from the party when I heard, thumping and crashing noises from upstairs. Off I went to investigate and discovered Pete and the neighbour ripping up the carpet in both bedrooms!. Now to explain Pete and I thought it would be a great idea to advertise on Neighbourly (Community website) to give away the carpet as we are replacing it. It would be a great help to us to have someone take it away and reuse. In my silly head I didn`t even think about people would want to come and take it away now.  So here I was none the wiser that this was going on and was faced with carpet everywhere and furniture all over the place with stuff pulled out and displaced everywhere...yep you guessed it I was just a tad freaked out as my master plan if a stressless, nice and orderly move had just been blown to outer space...like the dudes rocket who wanted to prove the earth was flat!!!

However I had to remain calm and offer my help as it was actually a great thing that the carpet was being removed. Luckily the sheer physical work to move the furniture and roll up the carpet and move took all my energy and my freaking out anxiety...so boom! there was a sliver lining, always got to look for that bloody silver lining.

So we continued, moving onto the lounge and the dinning room, shifting the furniture to one side of the room, rolling up the carpet and underlay then shifting the furniture to the other side and rolling the last half, lifting big rolls of carpet into our neighbours Tardis of a van.  By 9pm the upstairs was pretty much empty of carpet and well it was a chaotic mess with furniture and stuff all over the place.  

 

The Reaction

One side of my brain is going, this is great to get rid of all the carpet and so quickly and easily and the other side was running around in circles going, with arms waving in the air going, "OMG...where do I start" . I am not sure about you but I find mess and disorgansiation very stressful.....well I know it's pretty obvious really!. I needed to reset myself and get my mojo back!. The cat's present of the dead mouse on the stairs didn't help much either!

The Recovery

So this blog is more about me sharing my reality at the moment and trying to get a sense of calm amongst my chaos!!! arggghhh. In some ways this is about me putting into practice what I preach!! One of the first things I always do when feeling like this is to do a brain dump, listing out everything that you need to do, no order just get it all out. It does help me to resume normal transmission. 

The brain dump

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  • Set up downstairs kitchen, including a coffee station and mini pantry
  • Decide what we need to take from kitchen to use for 3 months
  • Set up downstairs bathroom 
  • Pack up the ensuite and decide what to move
  • Pack up guest bathroom
  • Re house all the pot plants 
  • Move into the guest room - shifting wardrobe and bedroom furniture and bedding
  • Take all art work off the walls
  • Clear all furniture from the entry and dinning room
  • Pack up the kitchen
  • Get cardboard boxes for storing items
  • Buy large storage  bags 
  • Purge our wardrobe 
  • Pack up our bedroom 
  • Remove the wallpaper from the kitchen and living room
  • Get new seats for downstairs deck
  • Source power extension cords and multi boxes
  • stack the furniture up in the lounge
  • get cover clothes
  • finish removing the carpet 
  • remove all the tacks from the bare floor

For some reason it always makes me feel better getting this listed out, the good old brain dump. It's a bit like the rebooting the computer!. So starting to feel better now and like "you got this"!

The next mission is to work out what to do first, yep the good old prioritise. I find that working backwards helps, not literally of course but in terms of the timeframes. To help me do this I use this simple printable resource from Strange & Charmed . There are really good planning resources on this site and Alexis has great videos and other resources available so check it out.

I have created two "Projects" or goals;

  1. Clear out all of the upstairs by the 3rd December - For the Builders start on the 4th Dec
  2. Set up Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom and living area downstairs - For move in on the 3rd Dec

Now that I have the two goals stated it is a lot easier to work through the big to do list and "allocate" them to the appropriate goal. Having detailed the timeframe as well so I can work out what actions need to be done when to ensure I get the end goal achieved within my timeframe.

The last step is to work through the number of days left and assign the actions over each day, ideally leaving a free day on the last day. On which I will be sleeping in and watching Netflix while eating Sour cream & chive potato chips and drinking beer!!!

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Our Renovation Plans

Well I finally get to turn my old tired spaces...kitchen, bathroom and ensuite into great places!!!! I am in planning and organising heaven! It`s been a five year wait, but worth it and at least now we know exactly what we want and what will work in each of the spaces.

Our Journey began, 5 years ago when  we purchased our home, a 1960 cedar and block two story home. It certainly needed a lot of work, some more immediate than others. In reality everything needed to be updated and or totally renovated, including the garden. Surprisingly we have managed to achieve a lot already, which I`ll share in a later posts. But for today I want to take you through our plans and the planning process for this renovation project.

The Waiting game

Unlike a lot of house make over shows on TV, we did not do all renovations when we first moved in. It was tempting however there were a couple of key reasons, a lot of work was needed and that needed a lot of money. Additionally we didn't want to rush into any changes until we had lived in the house for at least a year or so. It was important for us to focus on the most urgent work first. The kitchen, bathroom and ensuite, although very old and outdated, were still functional and totally liveable. Therefore we set a timeframe of 5 years after which we would renovate. The five years allowed us time to do the priority work and to save and design the big renovations!

I have lost count of the number times I just stood in the kitchen staring at it deciding what would be the perfect kitchen. To be honest the kitchen is a really lovely space as it is now, to work and socialise in. It's open and sunny and spacious so we didn't want to lose that feeling. What is interesting is that my initial ideas for the kitchen when we first moved and those now, are somewhat different, and that applies to the ensuite and bathroom as well. I truly believe that you really need to spend time in a space and even experience all the seasons to really know how that space will work best. 

The design journey

So after 5 years of day dreaming and picturing different layouts, colours, etc in the three rooms, Pete and I had a good idea of what we wanted and what we believed would work well.  The goal was to have the renovations started at the end of the year so and we wanted to have our initial design concepts ready to go through with the builder by mid year. Many a chat was had standing in the kitchen while drying the dishes....luckily Pete and I are normally on the same wave length when it comes to renovation so there has really been no battle on that front!!! but hey we know who would win anyway!

Once we were pretty confident with the overall designs for each of the rooms we got the builder around to start to go over these. This is a fairly critical time as you learn what is possible and practical and also gauge a sense of the cost. 

We have been very fortunate to have had the same excellent builder work with us on the house and he has completed all the other work to date so we are working with him and his team on this project. He has also done a lot of bathroom renovations and recently renovated his own kitchen, so has a lot of experience and tips to give us. There were a number of things that he suggested to change that made the design and practical use of a space so much better. All in all the end designs were very close to what we proposed. The cost however was not what I had budgeted for, in fact building costs have gone up a lot since I struck the renovation budget 5 years ago. Coming to terms with the need of a higher budget has been the biggest challenge so far!.

Last note on the design journey is the Vision, you really do need a vision of how you want the overall space to look at the end, It is so important the builder gets that.  Be prepared to make some compromises along the way. One example was in the ensuite and bathrooms, I had in my head the perfect cabinet that I wanted. This was totally different from what the builder suggested. It look me a while to understand that my cabinet style and design was simply not going to fit into the spaces, so I have to compromise for something that worked well in the space but also gave me the look that I wanted. To help give you a sense of our vision just check out my vision board in my Pinterest page

So we are finally at the planning stage, having walked through the designs and plans for each space with the builder here is the Grand Design

The Plans

The best way to do this is to take you through each room, starting with the Kitchen. 

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The Kitchen

Looking into the kitchen from the dinning room

Looking into to corner behind the wall

Kitchen plans

  • Existing kitchen and area fully cleared- A good demo job
  • All new kitchen built and installed.
  • Shaker style cabinets - colour Spirits Bay double  
  • Stone bench top - Babylon collection Phoenician honed
  • Kitchen Island bench built and L-shaped return removed
  • All flooring in the kitchen and dinning room replaced with tile flooring, Foresta Arizona
  • Painting all walls,ceiling and trim 
  • False wall removed
  • Kitchen window replaced
  • White Subway tile for splash back and under window
  • Coffee station with second sink
  • Bench top pantry 
  • All new stainless steel appliances - including French door fridge freezer
  • Internal drawer organisers - spice holders, oils and sauces with drip tray, utensil and cutlery trays
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The Bathroom

Looking into the bathroom from the hallway

The bathroom and toilet are currently two separate rooms

 

Bathroom plans

  • Existing bathroom and toilet cleared - full demo job
  • Remove wall between the bath and toilet
  • Remove bath
  • Tiling on floor and wall, Bibulca Grey Matt
  • Wall to wall tiled shower with glass shower screen
  • Wall hung cabinet, Modena 2 draw in white
  • New toilet
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The Ensuite

Looking in from the bedroom to the wardrobe

Looking from the wardrobe to the window and shower

 

Ensuite plans

  • Existing ensuite cleared - full demo job 
  • Remove wardrobe
  • Tiling on floor and wall, Bibulca Grey Matt
  • Wall to wall tiled shower with glass shower screen
  • Wall hung cabinet, Modena 2 draw in white
  • New toilet

Other work

Wow I feel exhausted just going through this list. The builder and his crew are going to start with the bathroom and ensuite first which is expected to take about 6 weeks. Once that is done they will move onto the Kitchen. He warned us that the house will be a bit of a demolition zone for a while

During the renovation Pete and I will move in down stairs, using the laundry as a Kitchen, bathroom and laundry! I can see an organising blog coming on here! There is already a large lounge/entertainment room downstairs so it will be fine for a chilling space. Plus our home offices are downstairs and there is also a lower deck so really it will not be much of a hardship for us.

I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, ideas, tips and renovation experiences. Have a great week everyone.

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How I created my dream Potager garden

To be fair it was my husband that actually created my dream Potager garden, I just planned it and gave a helping hand, like shifting 3 square metres of compost into the garden.  However I still can`t believe that I am finally starting to plant out my beautiful new Potager garden. Since moving into our home 5 years ago I have been running a large vegetable garden for the family, essentially three large garden beds. They were not ideal to work in as they were on a sloping site and at ground level. Becoming  empty nesters meant that we didn't need the as much vegetable garden, so I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me to finally get my Potager garden...OMG so excited as I've always wanted one.

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The Design

Good things do take time! It was important to me to take my time to design and plan this out properly, thinking about how I want to use the garden in the future. I shared my thinkings, design and plans for my Potager garden in a previous post which you can access here

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Designing is certainly the fun part....oh I'll put that there and have that over there ...ohh beautiful...then you have to actually work out how to make it happen and that's the hard part , the planning stage.  The thing I love and hate about planning is the reality of what you actually need to do to achieve the goal. The time and cost it will take and therefore the changes that you may need to do because of finance or design constraints!. 

The Plan

For us the planning started with me handing Pete the design and saying....hey Baby can you build this for me ...pretty please!. Bless him as he said yes, but with my help of course. So I sat down and planned out what we needed to do.  A long list evolved from that as below;

  • Plan out the new beds in the existing garden
  • Calculate the measurements needed for the wood
  • Work out the lengths, size, type and quantity of wood 
  • Purchase and pick up of the wood
  • Building of the raised garden beds - over two weekends with clear weather
  • Create and fill the two garden paths
  • Purchase and pick up compost mix for the garden beds
  • Fill the beds with the compost mix
  • Finalise the planting plan
  • Purchase of plants
  • Planting out the beds
  • Sit back and relax

We had a budget of $2000 which we had to stick to.

the build

The measurement and working out the actual foot print of the beds was not difficult, but did take a bit of "arranging" as each one of the beds had slightly different lengths and measurements. 

We purchased the wood from the local Mitre 10, cost came out at $900 all up. It was a lot of wood and it's all H4-5 as it needs to be treated for outdoors so it does not rot. Word of warning that means it's heavy!. 

The biggest challenge was getting a break in the weather. The spring in Auckland has been, well, rubbish!!!  so the actual construction took place over about 3 weekends. I recall at one stage Pete trying to skill saw between rain showers and hoping not to electrocute himself.

Once that massive job was completed we wheelbarrowed 3 cubic square meters of compost, super rich organic vege compost from our local, Central Landscape & Garden Supplies around to the actual beds. This was backbreaking and expensive ($500). I was hoping that I could fill the beds up with my home made compost but there was no way that I could make that much compost!!!!  I was pretty naive about that aspect of the job.

The key improvement for me in the new garden was to have paths in between the beds and also have a frame on the top edges. This meant that I can have much easier access to the gardens and actually sit comfortably on the edge and attend to the garden...this really helps to prevent the old "garden back pain". To avoid having more lawns to cut we used the left over white chip from the East garden landscaping job for the paths in between the beds. I have to say I am in love with these paths and it's great that they connect to the upper garden.

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The Planting

Whoop, Whoop the fun part!. I now have four lovely new garden beds.  In the true style of a  Potager garden I planned the planting to ensure that I achieved good companion planting so I could reduce the use of pest control and improve my crops. There are really good resources on companion planting, however it can be a bit overwhelming. So what I did was list out the vegtable crops that I knew we wanted to plant now and then slowly worked through the guides on what are the best companion plants for each. My main resource for this was my new book Companion Planting in New Zealand by Brenda Little.  This book really helped me to plan out each garden bed. 

The Berry Patch

Blueberries, Boysenberries and Raspberries

The Strawberry Patch

I moved all my strawberry plants from the wee garden that they were in into their very own patch. I have companion planted Borage for the bees and Sage for the berries. 

The Lettuce Bed

A mix of spinach, cos , red and green leaf lettuce and Lebanese cucumber, surrounded by marigolds. Coriander herb planted in the corner.

The Potato Patch

My all time favourite Jersey Bennies , sweet peas, beans, capsicums , and zucchini. Nasturtiums to border them.

The Corn Fields

Sweetcorn, tomatoes, carrots, spring onions with basil companioned to the tomatoes and borders of marigolds. 

To do

https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

Poor Pete still has a couple of build jobs to do, build permanent staking for the tomatoes and berry patch, similar to the illustration.  

My to do list includes adding in more herbs into the garden, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme. These are mainly for companion planting purposes. Herbs for cooking I grow in pots in the kitchen..that's another post for another day. Did you know that Basil is a great herb to have in the house to help keep flies away?

Developing more permanent hedging in the garden beds is longer term goal. Ideally I want to have a combination of lavender and Buxus or Mock Box. 

I am so going to enjoy this spring and summer season in my new Potager garden...I just hope that the weather improves so I can actually get out into it without being rained on.

On a closing note I came across this planting journal for $7 at our local Warehouse Stationery store and I will be trying this out to help track my plantings and growth. I have always done this in my own ratty journal but thought hey why not have a pretty one! 

Now I think Pete and I will have a wee sit down and just admire all our hard work.

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Take care my friends and enjoy your gardens

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Spring Cleaning the House - How I avoid it

Spring time often feels like we are bears crawling out of our caves into the bright sunlight....my eyeballs hurt!!! It is such a lovely time of year, and then we notice all the winter grime that has built up in the house due to us being depressed by seasonal affective disorder, or just surviving the cold!. So out comes buckets, cleaners, brushes for a good old scrub down...the old "spring clean"  ........really is that what you want to be doing! wouldn't you rather be outside enjoying the sunshine! I certainly do so I actually try and avoid spring cleaning.  

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The Secret 

The honest truth, avoiding spring cleaning actually takes planning and organising and most importantly routine! So don't think you can avoid spring cleaning by doing nothing...well you can of course but you will be living in filth! 

So what is the secret to avoiding spring cleaning? Is it very simple, all you need to do is to have a regular and consistent cleaning routine. This means a daily, weekly, and monthly routine which you follow. The good news is that it is actually just a small amount of cleaning needed to be done on a regular basis. Essentially you can just build it into your normal daily routine and it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes each time.

If you are still with me, then read on McDuff and I`ll take you through my cleaning routine.

The Routine

First up this is my routine and so it is perfect for our house and family, you will need to work out what is best for you and your family.  I'll explain how I developed the routine and this should help you to develop your own.

Break it up baby! This is the key to developing the routine, breaking up all the cleaning jobs into tasks that you can then spread out over your time frames.  This is often what it referred to as zone cleaning.  I do not following this method exactly however it is a really good approach to developing a routine. There are really good blogs and videos all about zone cleaning. I have some blogs posted on my pintererst page here . A good You Tube channel to watch on zone cleaning is How Jen does it

This is my routine which I find works best for me. It did take some trialling and changing to get to work really well and just become part of our daily routine.

Daily

Morning 

  • Make the beds
  • Wipe down and clear kitchen benchs

Evening

  • Clean kitchen sinks 
  • Clean and clear bench tops
  • Clean and wipe front of fridge, microwave, dishwasher
  • Clean and wipe cooking hob and backsplash
  • Wipe around bathroom sink

Weekly

  • Monday - wash all towels and sheets/ dusting and mirrors
  • Tuesday - clean kitchen rubbish and recycle bins/refill all essential oil scent bags/wet floors
  • Wednesday - toliets/bathrooms
  • Thursday - vacuum
  • Sunday - fridge and pantry (I clean this when we do our shopping)

Monthly

I just extend my weekly routine to include

  • Cleaning of window sills and frames
  • Dusting of all window blinds
  • Window cleaning - kitchen
  • Skirting boards 
  • Stair hand rails
  • silver and brass cleaning

Six monthly

  • Windows 
  • silver polish
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Tips and Tricks

When cleaning in a room always wipe the door and door handles. e.g when I clean the toliets and bathrooms I include cleaning down the doors and handles.

Include wall hanging, picture frames etc in your dusting routine. Also dust along the tops of the walls and corners to capture cob webs.

Get yourself a cord free, hand stick vacuum. I have a Dyson and it's the best thing since sliced bread!

Be flexible as your life is busy and things change so adjust the routine as you need to. I always weekly plan and so make any changes to the cleaning routine that I need to. 

Try and try again. Getting the best routine will take some working out, so be prepared to adjust and change the tasks in the routine to get it working for you.

Biggest tip of all is to get into the routine of cleaning often and consistently. It just saves so much time because the cleaning itself takes little time as it is never very dirty! 

Document the task list and routine so you can share it with the family and "delegate" task to other members. 

Cleaning the windows is a half day job in my house so generally we do them six monthly, normally at the end of winter and summer. So yep, it's window cleaning time now...

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The only actual spring cleaning chore I do need to do is to clean the washing machine. Ours is a front end loader and they can get a bit grimy around the rubber seal. See this link from Clean and Sensible which has a great blog on cleaning a front end loader.  

See avoiding spring cleaning isn't that big a deal, just breaking the cleaning into tasks and spreading them out. Actually you can apply that method to any thing you want to achieve. The key is doing each task and sticking to it as it will save you time. I promise you that!

So off you go and enjoy spring with no spring cleaning!

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Getting my garden ready for spring

Spring time in the garden is the best!!! Beautiful blossoms out on the trees and the scent of fresh blooms and newly cut grass...hmmm just take it all in. Spring time in my garden has to be the busiest time in the garden all year and I love it. This year spring has been somewhat wet and I am feeling very frustrated at not being able to get out into the garden. However this weekend wet or shine will have me in the garden getting the garden ready for spring and the coming summer. So let me take you through how I "spring clean" my garden!. 

Twiggy, My little helper in the garden.

Twiggy, My little helper in the garden.

 

the Lawn

Now I am no expert when it comes to lawns and I don't even mow the lawns, however I hate weeds in my lawn. Over the years I have used a few different approaches to the old lawn weed issue, nothing actually beats digging out the weed root and all, however it's very labour intensive. So I simply just spot spray the weed with a natural weed killer .  Sprinkle a bit of lime over the lawn to help balance the ph level and replenish the nutrients. A quicker and easier option is to use Weed n Feed which I have used before and works well.

It's also a good time to sew some lawn seed if you have patches to repair. We have had a bit of damage to the lawn on the west side of the house that we have landscaped, so it just needs some seeds sown around. When doing lawn patch repair try and make sure you get the same grass seed as the exisiting lawn, otherwise your lawn might look a bit patchy. A good way to do this is to take a close up photo of the grass and take it into a garden centre, they will be able to match you up with the right seed.

the edges

There is nothing like a tidy and neat lawn edge. I am a bit particular about my lawn edges and this time of year they can get away on you, so giving the lawns and garden path edges a good trim can make a big difference. It's good to do this now to prepare for the the spring and summer growth. 

I also do some trimming and light pruning of bushes and trees, mainly my roses. Here in Auckland you do not get the cold frost so the roses tend not to go dormant, so I wait until September to give them a good prune and stake them in preparation for the rapid expansion of size with the spring and summer growth.

the garden Weeds

A good old dose of Round up on paths and driveways is needed at this time of year. I just make up a concentrate mix and use a spray applicator and walk around the house attacking these little blighters!.

It's also a perfect time to weed your garden beds. I do not use any weed sprays on my garden beds, just dig them up with my trusty trowel. Over the spring and summer months you do have to regularly weed the garden other wise the weeds can get out of control, but hey it's a great work out. A good weeding job once a month should be sufficient to manage the weeds.

the food

All plants get very hungry in spring with all their new growth so it's really good time to provide as much food and nutrient to your plants now to prepare them.

In my vege patch I add in my home grown compost mix, it smells really good and the vegetables love it. I also add in sheep pooh pellets as the vegetables plants start to produce. Make sure that you have a good watering system also set up. This year Pete is putting in some water tanks so we can use the rain water off the roof to the vege garden in summer. 

fresh compost on the vege garden

fresh compost on the vege garden

 

My citrus plants get a good dose of fish compost, any organic citrus fertiliser is good and pea straw around the base to keep the moisture in over the drier summer months.

Last winter I planted out a Hydrangea garden, two plants so far and will be adding another one soon. Over the flowering months, the flowers changed colour from blue/white to a pink/red.  I have read that you can actually change the colours of the flowers by changing the ph levels in the soil. My research has identified that I have a more alkaline soil and therefore a high ph level, probably over 7. Therefore I need to add aluminum sulfate to bring down the ph levels, ideally to 5. I could also try adding in coffee grounds and or fruit and vege scraps as this would also help to bring the ph levels down. To fertilise the bed I need to add low phosphorus and high potassium. As we produce a lot of coffee grounds I will give that a go and see if this can help and add in the appropriate fertiliser, fingers crossed

my white flowering hydrangea

my white flowering hydrangea

 

New plants

Early spring is a good time to plant out any new plants that you want in your garden. This year I will be adding another Hydrangea and some Hostas, so I am on the hunt for these in the garden centres.

Other Spring chores

Besides the actual garden, there are a number of spring chores we also do around the outside of the house;

  • Clean the outside windows and walls
  • Wash down patios and outside furniture
  • Spider spray around the external doors and windows

Although it sounds like a lot of work, it is not really, generally with two days of solid work in the weekend you will tick off most of these chores and have your garden and outdoors space all ready for the arrival of spring and summer...so you can sit back and relax and enjoy your beautiful outside space.

Happy Gardening everyone! 

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If you like this post , check out my post this time last year on creating a seasonal vegetable garden. 

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Taming the mess under the sink

To be honest I was never that concerned about the state of affairs under my kitchen sink. Ok, there was a bit of a mess at times, it was a catch all for cloths, sponges, cleaners, buckets, brushes etc however on the whole I always found what I needed. Upon moving into our current home, now 5 years ago, the under sink area was pretty awful due to the age of the kitchen. There had been a number of leaks over the years so plenty of water stains, grim and no functional storage space at all. As I knew that I would not be getting to update the kitchen for some time , like 5 years, I wanted to do something with this space, making it functional and well, even a bit pretty!!!

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Clear it out

At time of moving into the house I just sort of threw everything under the sink. To get this space back in order the first thing I did, and this is actually rule # 1 with organising a space, was to clear out all the items. I threw out all the old sponges, the tiny bits of left over steelo, the dirty ice cream containers, stained tea towels, expired hand cream and old cleaning products.

I keep the items that were still in ok condition and that I actually used, which surprisingly was not a lot.

Sort it out

The next step was to decide what I actually wanted, essentially sorting out what I used in the kitchen that would be useful to be stored under the sink. I managed to narrow it down to few items!!

  • Water bottles - watering plants and filling the coffee machine tank
  • Tea towels
  • Sponges
  • General cleaner
  • Sink cleaner
  • Table spray
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Essential oils
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Dish scrubbers
  • Dish scourer
  • Dishwash tablets
  • Kitchen sink plugs
  • Spare sponges and cloths
  • Hand cream
  • Fly spray

I have to confess at this point I did a bit of a shopping trip to replace all my towels, sponges , gloves, and brushes....ohhh shame! It did mean that I could actually colour coordinate everything. 

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Store it 

So now that I had all the items that I needed to be stored under the sink, I had to work out how I was going to house everything.

I grouped items together based on how I would use them,  such as the cleaning cloths with the general cleaner. The rubber gloves with the scrubbers and sponges, watering bottles together. Then I worked out how often I would use the items and therefore where I would  place them, e.g sponges, gloves and scrubbers within easy reach.

I still had no storage at all so I decided to purchase some storage containers, measuring them first to ensure that they would fit into the space properly. I also shopped the house and found an old spice rack, which I put to great use on the inside of the cupboard door. Using two command hooks, I simply placed the small spice rack onto the hooks. A colour coordinated paper clip holds the gloves together so they can be hung onto a command hook too. I got a couple of tiny little plastic bins/buckets from the $2 Shop, that I put into the rack. The perfect storage spot for the rubber gloves, sink plugs and scrubbers. 

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Another storage option that I used was glass jars.  Again, these were some that I had in the house and I was not using.  Jars are great as you can see the products, so always know when you are running low. The jars store the Dishwash tabs, Baking Soda for the sink cleaner, essential oils and tea lights and of course they are labelled.

To cover all the horrid water stains and years of grime, on the bottom of the cupboard I used a roll of non slip drawer liner. I just cut it to size and used double sided tape to hold it in place. I really loved how this worked out, makes the space look so new! And it's easy to keep clean. 

Lay it out

Finally, having sorted out my storage containers and what I needed to store. I set about laying them out in the cupboard, for me I wanted to get as much at the front as possible so they are easy to get to.

At the front I placed the watering jugs and tea towels and then on the riser I put the dishtabs and cleaning container. All of these items I reach for daily and so they needed to be easily accessible. 

I put my essential oils under the riser as I do not need to access them every day. At the back of the cupboard I have the spare sponges and other items that I only need to access once a month or so.

On the top of the bench I have the dishwash liquid, hand wash, dish brush and hand cream, all keep together for easy reach.

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So now this space works so well for me, everything is so easy to get to and because everything has its place it does not end up a big mess after a couple of months.

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So how is your space under the sink? Need a bit of attention? This could be a great wee project for you to kick into spring or autumn!

Have a great week my friends , and until next time...

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Planning my Potager garden

Pronounced  'Pot-Ah-jay', this french term basically means "Kitchen garden" and was seen in Monastery gardens as far back as the 1500's.  The vegetable beds are essentially laid out in a way that the produce is grown and easily accessible from the kitchen by the cook. In more modern times there are Chefs kitchens still used in large estates and some restaurants. For those keen vegetable gardeners, like myself, it is a way to have a more ornamental vegetable garden, mixing veges, flowers, fruits and herbs.

Reference: Photo by Gil Hanly from the book New Zealand Potager The Ornamental Vegetable Garden, Author Diana Anthony

Reference: Photo by Gil Hanly from the book New Zealand Potager The Ornamental Vegetable Garden, Author Diana Anthony

I was in one of my favourite Hospice shops late last year and came upon a book on Potager gardens, it was all of $3. At the time I was starting to think about what I was going to do with my large vegetable garden. As empty nesters, overproduction in my vegetable garden was becoming a norm and there is only so much you can give away to your neighbours.  It was this book, and that absolutely stunning cover picture,  that sparked my idea of downsizing my vegetable garden into a Potager garden. 

Fast forward 6 months and one major landscaping project nearly finished, I have Pete out in the vege patch measuring up and redesigning the new Potager garden....excited oh yes just a little!! 

So here is what I am thinking, of course with some, as always sensible, reality check suggestions from Pete.

Our Current Garden

At present we have three garden beds. Two are large, one being the original garden bed and one that Pete and Chris rotary hoed up for me about 4 years ago. The third is actually a small raised bed which I just grow lettuce and spinach in.

On the east side of the garden, along the fence line, I have a grapevine and a patch of strawberries.

Our current needs

As newly empty nesters, we are discovering the needs of a two person household are certainly different from a four person household. In terms of the vegetable patch this has seen a big reduction in the amount and type of produce that needs to be grown. 

To help in the layout of the new Potager garden, I thought about what changes I wanted to make to the gardens in terms of production and use, such as the veges, herbs, flowers and fruit.

Peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, sweet peas, beans, corn, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, chillis, asparagus, potatoes, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage were the main vegetables still to be produced.

Additional to the usual vegetables, I want to expand the berry patch. I have already got some blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries, however I want to increase production.

I also did a lot of research looking on companion planting as I wanted to improve the use of other helpful plants to reduce pest in the garden and introduce more herbs and flowers.  Annabel Langbein, who is awesome, has a great blog on vegetable gardening and provides information on companion planting. There is also some great guides that you can download from various gardening blogs on this topic, such as this one from Tui  

Layout and structure

At this point I thought about the layout of the garden and how I could redesign it in the Potager style. As I am reducing the crop production, I can take space out of the existing beds, which I thought I would turn into paths. 

One of the biggest issues I have currently with the garden beds is that they are on a slope. Apart from a mowing strip there is no frame around the beds to keep the soil in. It's a pain really, especially on the downward slope of the beds. It seemed to perfect opportunity to fix this by making the beds into raised gardens...poor Mr P he was not that impressed when I mentioned that. Ideally I wanted the frames to be made of railway sleepers...but budget brought me back to reality so just the usual timber frames will have to do.

The plan 

The two large beds will be split into four by creating a path through the middle of each of them. The third bed, which is the only raised garden bed I have, will remain. 

So all in all there will be 5 small raised garden beds and it will look like this;

The new beds will be framed up as raised gardens and level...yeah so much easier for my gardening. The paths will be created by removing that section of the garden. The existing dirt will be used to build up the new garden beds, so I will not lose too much good soil. 

Also look to build more permanent wooden structures for the plants, like the A-frame, Teepee and Flat Trellis.

For the paths, we have leftover white stone chip from the east side garden landscaping, so will use that to lay out the paths. 

There you have it folks, the plans for my Potager garden, easy as that !!! well now all we have to do is to make it!

What do you think?  Any suggestions?  I would love to hear from you , leave comments below. 

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