December 22, 2011

On Christmas and Murphy's Law

Okay, so this post was originally going to be about the pre-Christmas rush to prepare the House on Chambers for the arrival of my husband's relatives. I was going to tell you all about the very clever three step plan I had developed to make everything respectable (Step One: Complete any renovation jobs that time and budget will allow; Step Two: Do a cheap and cheerful temporary makeover where it counts, and; Step Three: Tidy up whatever can't be improved with Step One and Two). All accompanied with lovely (though probably slightly blurry) images of our progress.

And then things didn't go quite as planned....

First, the hardware for our new front doors never arrived. So (sans handles) our new doors are unusable, and remain closed only by the weight of a hefty bronze horse statue. Our guests will be greeted on Christmas Day by me leaning out the laundry window and shouting 'Come round the back!'. Not quite the elegant arrival I was hoping for...

Our Chinese bronze horse, valiantly holding the
new front doors closed against the wind

Then our garden, in what can only have been a planned act of sabotage, has decided to begin dying en-mass. A  large topiary English box that sits prominently beside the new (handle-less) front doors has turned up toes. It is one of a pair, of course, and I have been assured by the nurseryman that I have absolutely no hope of  finding a matching replacement. Meanwhile, five very large London Planes decided that they'd seen one gust of hot wind too many and promptly dropped dead. Farmer Joe and I have redirected part of the Christmas budget to replace three of the trees and are now spending each evening soaking the newcomers with a farm fire fighter unit - (as the nurseryman said "Remember, London's a swamp. You've gotta drown them!").

One of the replacement London Planes. Possibly the
most carefully tended tree in Australia.

The commissioned painting that would have hung in the entrance and greeted our guests as they arrived is no where to be seen, despite having been commissioned in August with many assurances from the artist that it absolutely would be ready for Christmas. But as our guests are no longer coming through the front door, I don't suppose that one matters anymore, anyway.

Considering these events, I've decided that Murphy's Law is nature's way of balancing out slightly obsessive perfectionists like myself. A bit of a reminder that some deceased plants and absent home accessories is not actually the greatest disaster that can befall a Christmas celebration. The crayfish is ordered, our relatives are still coming, and we've got enough good wine in the fridge, pantry and buffet to stock a modest sized liquor store. So at this point, I'm going to pour myself a chilled Sauv Blanc, head to the kitchen and get baking. Sincere warm wishes to you all for a wonderful Christmas, and thank you for sharing this second year of our House on Chambers journey. See you in January!

When all else fails...

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2011

Cracker Christmas desserts

delicious magazine

The Christmas day menu is the only area where I'm not a traditionalist, so you won't find any puddings here. In my opinion, hot summer days call for a seafood buffet with fresh salads and a refreshing dessert. Last year I discovered the Festive Baileys Dacquoise (above) - suitably spectacular, amazing flavour and you can make the whole thing the night before (assemble on the day). Just one note - check that you have a cake stand with a tall enough lid to accommodate the finished product. Last year I was all set to proudly haul my dacquoise over to my in-laws' house, only to pop the lid on and watch it sink under the weight, sending cream oozing everywhere. You can find the recipe {here}.

jamie oliver

This year we're hosting and there will be lots of kids to cater for (we don't have children, but I assume alcohol-laced desserts are a no-no). So I'll be serving Jamie Oliver's Marathon Semifreddo - a home-made icecream dessert flavoured with vanilla pods, 70% dark chocolate and (of all things) finely chopped Snickers bars. The recipe is available {here}.

December 19, 2011

A very Etsy Christmas...

As a committed addict of this wonderful online marketplace, I thought I'd show you a little of the Christmas loveliness that I purchased from Etsy this year...

My burlap Christmas tree skirt was from Larues Line (less than $20, why even consider sewing it myself?). Our gift-wrapping ribbon came from Lucky Lady Paper Crafts and Craft Supply Co, and gift-tags from Shabby Pea Designs.

From Letter Love Designs (one of my all-time favourites), I've bought personalised stationery as gifts for some lovely ladies. This little bundle is for my sister-in-law...

And from K is for Calligraphy I bought a set of 12 days of Christmas swing tags that will be used as part of our table setting...

image via k is for calligraphy

It's a very Etsy Christmas, really!


December 17, 2011

Too much?

Mary McDonald

Hmmm... Stunning, but I do believe that's a peacock on top of the tree. I'm a little undecided - is this overwhelmingly fabulous or just overwhelming?


December 16, 2011

Meanwhile, on the farm...

Harvest is finally over and we have plunged full-steam ahead (is that a mixed metaphor?) into hay-making. Farmer Joe has been starting work after midnight, when the conditions are right for the hay. As I work off-farm during the day, we aren't seeing much of each other. But we did both manage to see this beautiful sunset...


December 15, 2011

A few Christmas touches...

The Christmas decorations are finally in place. Traditional and simple (we are technically still a building site after all), but enough to make the house feel festive and welcoming.

It was a delight to hang a wreath on our new front door. I'll show it to you in another post soon, it still has no handles and is propped shut from the inside with a very hefty Chinese bronze horse.

The tree is an annual highlight for Belly the Ragdoll. Her current favourite hobby is to stand on the entrance table and swat at the glass ornaments with her paw.

I managed to break the perspex N from the Noel last week. Luckily, Farmer Joe was able to superglue it back together (and also memorialise his thumb print for all time inside the letter). Then he got a little over-excited, tried to repair the garage door handle, and superglued it shut. Not sure how he'll fix that one...


December 14, 2011

A mini break and a Liebster...

So I snuck away from Blogland for a few days to enjoy time with a lovely guest and look what happens in my absence... A Liebster Award! I was very kindly nominated by two wonderful bloggers - KL from eternalicons and Mellissa from Down Ruby Lane (thank you ladies!).

Liebster is a German word meaning "dearest" and the award is given to blogs with fewer than 200 followers. The award acceptance has a few requirements:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal the five blogs you have chosen and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Request that people you have sent the award to forward it on to their favourite bloggers.

Here are five fabulous blogs that I would like to nominate:
Gild & Grace - I'll be shocked if Abbey hasn't received Liebster nominations before. Her blog is overflowing with beautiful and inspirational images of interiors, fashion, entertaining and all things wonderful. The way Abbey's following is growing this might be the last chance to nominate her!
B is building a house - B's blog follows her journey in building a new home and often invites followers to give their thoughts on her choices along the way. After offering my (amateur) advice on B's handle selections, vanity heights, room layouts and more, I feel so involved with the process that I'm well and truly hooked.
allumer * decor - A gorgeous blog embracing a classic, sophisticated and timeless design aesthetic.
Swoon style & home - Sisters-in-law Shanna and Jamie blog on all things swoon-worthy, especially homes, fashion and fabulous DIY transformations.
decor therapy - Nic began a beautiful blog earlier in the year and then was drawn away from Blogland by the real world. With a gorgeous, playful design style and some serious culinary talent, this is one blogger I want to hear more from. So this Liebster is my way of saying "You're wonderful, please come back!".

Happy reading!

December 8, 2011

A Country Christmas...

all images

It's all a bit frantic on Chambers today. Our brand new front doors are going in after I finished the last coat of paint at 6am yesterday (glutton for punishment). Our antique bench has been repaired and needs collecting tonight, and I'm desperately trying to make the garden respectable for a lovely house guest coming this weekend. Farmer Joe is a whisker away from finishing harvest, but that's no help because he's announced that hay-making will begin immediately.

So, I'm taking a moment to enjoy some festive farmhouses that are a whole lot more serene than ours...


December 7, 2011

Christmas greetings...

Please excuse the cat - our pets unfailingly throw themselves
in front of any camera that appears

Our Christmas cards are in the mail! I'm a little bit proud of myself this year, having ordered custom cards via Minted. Worth a few dollars extra if I do say so myself. Sorry Mum, Nic & Clare, you'll have to pretend it's new and novel when it arrives in the mail.


December 5, 2011

Kitchen herb garden

Note to self: Next time, wipe off dirty potting mix
finger-prints before taking photographs.

Amazing how Christmas can motivate you to get stuck in to the 'to-do' list. Six months ago, I was inspired by the potted kitchen herbs in Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals TV series. I've had all the components sitting out in the shed ever since. On Sunday (with Christmas looming), I finally put it all together.

The vintage silverware plant markers are made to order from me2 on madeit. The woven tray was from Balhannah by Design, and is very handy for popping the whole lot outside into the sun each morning.

That's one job off the list, only another two dozen or so to go...


December 1, 2011

Christmas inspiration...

I thought I'd celebrate the official start to the festive season with a little Christmas inspiration from the folks at Traditional Home. I'm not sure what I love more - that tree or those windows!

Now I know that here in Oz, Christmas Day can hit 40 degrees. But there's something about a crackling fire that is just so festive...

And finally, wouldn't you love a house that was large enough to justify a second enormous Christmas tree?...

all images Traditional Home

Our tree is waiting at home to be decorated this evening. With a few glasses of sparkling and Bing Crosby's White Christmas album, it's a little tradition that always marks the start of the season for us.


November 29, 2011

Libraries with ladders


Even since before we moved in, the study has been the room I have been most excited about renovating. Being very sensible (at times), I agreed to hold off until the public living areas and bathroom were finished. But that hasn't stopped me from busily planning my fabulous new study, and one must-have is a library cabinet with a ladder...

source unknown

The image above was my first inspiration, and has been in my renovation folder since long before I blogged. The inspiration folder has grown a little since then...



design sponge



Don't you get the feeling that the most interesting books are all on the top shelves?


November 28, 2011

Loving... Rebekka Seale House Portraits

Yet another fabulous Etsy find, I'm besotted with these adorable custom house portraits by Rebekka Seale. Rebekka creates original, hand-painted watercolours of your home, and even offers high res digital files of the image if you want to use it for a blog header or Christmas cards.

And with the lettering of your choice! Can you imagine a better house warming gift?

all images Rebekka Seale Art & Illustration

This is some serious motivation to get to work on the exterior of The House on Chambers...


November 27, 2011

Fence wars...

Most fencing disputes are between neighbours. But here on Chambers, a rather heated disagreement is bubbling away between Farmer Joe and myself about our front fence. For the last twelve months we've been 'discussing' the removal of this fence which currently separates our front lawn from the farm driveway. To summarise the key arguments...

Farmer Joe's position:
1. The fence is perfectly practical and in good condition (or at least it was, until Farmer Joe dropped a giant hay bale on it last week).
2. The fence is necessary to move sheep past the house without them destroying the lawn.
3. Removing a fence is a huge amount of work, and we have lots of other priorities at the moment.

B's position:
1. It's a chicken wire rabbit-proof fence.
2. It is the first thing visitors see when they pull into the farm driveway.
2. It disrupts the view from the living room, entrance, master bedroom and study.
3. I'm pouring every little bit of money, time and energy I have into trying to make this house nice. That fence kind of undermines my efforts...
4. It's a chicken wire rabbit-proof fence.

Finally, out of sheer frustration, I may have threatened to hire workers to remove the fence while Farmer Joe was out at work.

So, with martial harmony very much on the line, I'm throwing this one into the blogosphere. Here are some images of the fence. I'm open to all suggestions. If you think it absolutely has to go, if you don't mind it, or if you have an idea of how I could disguise or alter it, I would love to hear from you!


November 25, 2011

Connecticut farmhouse inspiration

This gorgeous 18th century Connecticut home was featured in Dalani Home & Living Magazine and I just had to share..

A light and minimal palette, simply decorated with vintage and antique touches...

And here's the bathroom - check out the copper bath tub...

all images Dalani Home & Living Magazine

If you haven't discovered Dalani (I hadn't until last week, thank you Miss Clare!), they do great flash sales in a similar style to Joss & Main or The Foundry, except with the added bonus that they actually ship to Australia. If anyone needs an invitation to join, just flick me an email!


P.S. I'm planning a six hour (return) interstate road-trip to Hamilton, VIC tomorrow to collect the perfect Christmas stockings, stocking hooks and bon bons. What do you think - too much or is any trip justified by the perfect Christmas decorations?

November 24, 2011

A pumpkin and a publican...

Giant pumpkin seedling - two weeks old

In March of each year, the tiny country town of Mundulla holds a hotly contested Giant Pumpkin Competition. George, the local publican in Mundulla and an avid vegetable gardener, looks like a front runner for next year. He imported special giant pumpkin seeds from the US, and is known to play ACDC to his plant, believing that the heavy vibrations encourage growth. George's pumpkin plant has the other locals a little nervous. In fact, there are rumours circling of a plot to kidnap George's giant pumpkin on the night before the competition.

Last week, in the greatest compliment to my gardening skills ever, George entrusted me with the last seedling from his secret American seed stock. He seems quite sure that next year's competition will now come down to a race between him and me. The pressure is on, so I'm going to keep you all in the loop on this one. Here is the little seedling, today, at two weeks old. We've got until March. Let's see how she grows...


November 22, 2011

A gallery wall and a third attempt...

Following my post on photo gallery walls (here), I've put together this (modest) version above the main bedroom chest of drawers.

And yes, this is Take 3 for decorating this little spot. Here is it's 'evolution' over the past twelve months...

I think I'm ready to call it all done!