Switching from weekly to fortnightly grocery shopping

Ever since we moved to the ‘country’ we’ve gotten better and better at grocery shopping. When we lived close to the supermarket we would do a weekly shop plus grab extra bits and pieces throughout the week. We now live more than half an hour from the grocery store, so we had to smarten up. We do have a local general store for emergencies, but it is expensive. Grabbing bits and pieces here and there no longer works for us.

In the last year or to two we got a lot better at planning our weekly grocery shop. We would go together, once per week, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and we’d get takeaway for dinner before or after. We started doing meal planning about a year or two ago and it has been so helpful. It means we know our dinner options, we know that we have all of the correct ingredients and we no longer have to run to the shops to get a missing ingredient. Since we live in an area that gets flooded and cut off, we also keep a well stocked pantry and freezer which is also helpful in limiting how often we have to go to the store.

Well recently we decided that even shopping once per week was just too much effort. It takes up our whole night by the time we drive there, shop, get some dinner and drive home. So we decided to try fortnightly shopping.

It has been………EXCELLENT!!! I cannot see us going back to weekly shopping. We started doing the fortnightly shops in about August last year and we have managed to keep it up. You would think it would take more effort but it’s actually easier.

On shopping day, we get home from work and write a list of meals. We come up with 10 to 12 meals to last us a fortnight. We find this is a good number as we might go out for dinner sometimes, have leftovers or have a ‘whatever’ night. We don’t assign the meals to a particular night, we switch them based on what we want. Anything with meat we freeze the meat into bags in the right portion for each dish. Defrosting frozen meat is actually quite fast if you freeze it in as flat of a shape as possible, rather than a rolled up ball. You can then put the bag of meat into a bowl of water. Chicken breasts are usually defrosted within half an hour maximum, mince is even less. Easy.

We’ve also started trying to team up as many meals as possible. So if we buy mince, we then use it for tacos, bolognese and rissoles during the fortnight. If we buy sausages for example, we then use it for a sausage casserole as well as sausages and salad later on. Daniel makes a fabulous steak and Guinness pie and we’ve found this is a great one to get a few meals out of. On the first night we’ll have the beef stew along with rice or potato. The next night we’ll put the filling into pies with some mushy pees. Then a few nights later we will use some spare filling for jaffles.

We’ve found shopping fortnightly also works out cheaper. We were spending about $120 to $140 on our weekly shops, yet we are now spending $180 to $200 for our fortnightly shop. We’re aiming to get our grocery bill even lower, if we could down to $160 would be great. We seem to be buying less junk, less impulse purchases and we’re being smarter about the types of meals we’re having, which I think is leading to our cheaper bill.

A lot of people have asked how the produce last for a fortnight. We manage this by buying some things throughout the fortnight. Milk lasts ages these days, so we generally buy about 3×2 litre bottles on the initial shop, and then usually I’ll have to grab a bottle of milk once or twice on the way home from work. I do find our fruit doesn’t last a whole fortnight and I usually buy a few pieces of stone fruit once during the fortnight. I’d say we would buy about $15 worth of extras apart from the original shop. But this is still far less than it had been in the past.

Overall I would say this is best change we’ve made to our way of living in years. It is well worth the effort and planning to ensure that we only have to go grocery shopping once per fortnight instead of every week. Sometimes we even find that we can push it out to three weeks if we have enough leftovers and meals stored in the freezer.

Here is an example meal list:

Sausages and salad
Chicken salad
Tacos
Sausage casserole
Chicken with avocado and tomato salsa
Rissoles
Big breakfast including bacon, tomato, beans, sausage and eggs
Omelette with ham and tomato
Homemade pizza or calzone
Tuna bake
Barbecued jerk chicken legs
Nachos
Vegetable fritters

If you’re considering giving fortnightly shopping a try, I’d say go for it, you can’t really get it that wrong!

The true cost of a home wedding

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This post covers the costs of our DIY at home wedding which we had in 2014. Daniel mentioned in our last post that he has lost motivation for doing a post on the cost of our wedding because he felt it turned out to be more expensive than we’d initially thought. To be honest, it did cost more than our original goal, however, a lot of the things he included in the tally (such as landscaping) and what pushed the total cost higher are not things that the average person would include in their wedding budget. To me, those are things that we were going to need to do for our home regardless of the wedding, so it should be a separate cost.

One thing I should be very clear on though is that an at home/backyard wedding is not the cheap way out. People may assume you are having your wedding at home to save money. I am sure this is a possibility, but for most people, this would not be the case. The majority of the major costs were things that were still required even for a home wedding. If you want the clothes, the food, the drinks, the photographer and so on, you are still going to have a lot of costs that any other wedding has. What it does give you is the ability to feel comfortable in your own home, to have control over a lot of thing you wouldn’t usually, and to have the memories of marrying the one you love in your own home.

Our original goal was for a $9000 wedding in our own home. The motivation for having it at home came from looking into venues and finding that they all had a very high minimum spend, which was likely to be unachievable with the small guest list we were wanting. We were only wanting a 30-40 person wedding, and the minimum spend for most venues was over $4000, and there very few venues suited to such a small group.

The goal of $9000 was based on how much we could save in a period of only 10 months. We knew that if we went over on our budget we had enough existing savings to take the hit, so we weren’t too concerned by that issue.

Here’s a break down of costs starting with the things you can’t really go without first.

Officiant
These are the costs of what it takes to officially be married, the celebrant, the marriage licence etc. This is the bare guts of what it costs to be married.

Marriage licence: $48
Celebrant: $595
Officiant total: $643

Food and Drinks
Keeping our guests well fed and liquored was very important to us. Especially as we chose a midday time slot which meant our guests would be hungry for lunch time. We met with a chef from a local restaurant, he recommended that with our small oven it would be best to serve large amounts of finger foods rather than go for a sit down lunch which we originally wanted. The food included about 8 different types of food which a waitress brought around, and then a dessert (which was supposed to be served alongside a piece of our wedding cake, but the caterer refused because he said it ‘didn’t go’ with his desserts…). All reports were that our guests loved the food and had plenty to eat. Daniel and I were running on so much adrenaline we could barely eat, but from what we did have it was okay, not the greatest but okay. The food cost was $35 per head, so not too bad really. We actually bought a lot more drinks than is mentioned here, but this is all that was used, which was more than enough to keep our guests feeling happy and merry, some more than others haha.

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Catering: $1152
Waitress (4 hours): $151.25
Cake: $267 (Paid for by my colleagues as a gift, so this won’t be included in the overall total)
Cake deposit: $20
Cake toppers: $26.20
Lolly buffet: $249.22 (which includes a large selection of lollies, a 3 tiered stand of Mrs Fields cookies, jars and customised lolly bags which we printed ourselves)
Nuts and pretzels served in bowls: $18 including 3 glass bowls
Misc. serviettes and cutlery: $80.76
Food total: $1697

Softdrinks and water: $137.60
Wine: $162.86
Beer: $192.65
Teacups and saucers for coffee: 23.60 and 9.95 postage
6 Drink tins to hold drinks and ice:  $80.94
Ice: $30
Shot glasses: $19.99
Misc: $29.94
Glasses: $19.99
Drinks total: $825.75

Attire and beauty
How we looked was very important to both of us. Just because we were having an at home wedding didn’t mean we wanted to go casual or go without the hair and makeup etc. I still wanted to have a proper wedding dress. A lot of people assumed I would wear a more casual dress. My Mum and Dad were also married at home, my Mum wore a beautiful simple knee length blue dress. She really encouraged me to get a ‘real dress’ as it’s something she didn’t want me to regret. I am so glad she encouraged this.

I got my dress from Sugar and Spice and then had some alterations to add more boning, bring in the sides and hem it. Daniel got me my jewellery as a birthday present, I got my shoes at Zu, garter at Spotlight and I borrowed a bag from a friend. I got my veil on etsy very cheaply and it was perfect. I had my hair and makeup done by a lovely woman who came to the house and was very affordable. In the days before I also had my brows tinted at Brow Bar (they are expensive but they know what they’re doing) and my nails done in shellac.

Daniel got his suit from Ben Sherman. We had already looked at them and he was really into the light blue suits, but on the day we went they didn’t have a complete set in the blue. This turned out really nicely as it encouraged him to mismatch the colours, he ended up with the blue trouser and waistcoat and paired it with a grey coat. He looked amazing and the outfit suited the overall look of our rustic wedding perfectly. He got his shoes from Zu, and belt from Connor. His tie was from Myer, he was totally channeling Andy from The Office with the candy stripe colours. He got his tie pin on Asos. His socks were purchased online, he really wanted ‘fun socks’, they’re perfect and he still wears them.

Wedding Dress: $695
Alterations: $290
Hair and makeup: $160
Hair and makeup trial: $100
Hair broach: $110
Garter: $15.99
Veil: $35
Shoes: $130
Nails: $59
Eyebrows: $70
Total for Bridal outfit: $1294.99

Suit from Ben Sherman: $416 on sale including shirt, waistcoat, jacket, trouser
Belt: $34.99
Shoes from Zu: $65
Socks: $37.99
Tie: $49 on clearance
Total for Groom’s outfit: $602.72

Rings and jewellery
For our wedding rings we just wanted something simple. All I wanted was a plain 18k white gold flat edged ring, this was apparently very difficult for most local jewellers who wanted to charge massive amounts for a ‘custom ring’ because I was wanting something quite narrow. I ended up finding a jeweller on Etsy who handmakes rings in her garage. It was perfect, and the quality was amazing, and about a third of the price of going to a local jeweller. Daniel’s ring was much the same situation, all of the stores we went to wanted to charge insane amounts for something very simple. He ended up with a 10k white gold ring off Etsy from a different seller to mine. The strength of his ring has been a bit of an issue, but for such a cheap price we would not be phased by having to buy a replacement if necessary.

Metal mock bridal ring: $35
Bridal ring: $167
Second bridal ring (I wear both and switch them): $264
Grooms ring: $133.90
Earrings: $23.12
Bracelet: $14.99
Double ring box: $24.40
Jewellery total: $662.72

Invitations and Stationary
We’re so lucky that between Daniel’s design skills and my DIYing abilities we were able to DIY all of our wedding invitations, save the dates, programs etc.
We made our own invitations which turned out to be adorable, I got the inspiration from Pinterest. Our save the dates were printed on photo paper and we added a magnet to the back. Our programs were also super easy to do. With thank you cards we were so over DIY at that point that we just grabbed some off the shelf. It’s hard to get a true cost of all of this, I feel it is a lot lower than the total shows, as we used some of the paper for several projects and continue to use the items that are left even now. The ink for example lasted us well beyond the wedding prep.

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Love heart cutouts for invitations $11.00
Stamps $54.50
Half size HB Pencils $2.42
Paper $3.44
Invitation Paper $6.64
Kraft Envelopes $6.85
Linen Ivory Paper $8.45
Quill A4 white paper $9.98
Photo Paper $10.28
20 Small white envelopes $11.40
White card stock $17.51
Kraft Envelopes $19.85
Thank you cards $19.96
Invitation Stationery $23.84
Printer Ink $91.96
Stationary total: $298.08

Decorations
Decorations, oh boy, this is where we went well over our intended spending. So many incidentals that you would never realise add up to so much. Daniel has always had this fantasy of getting married in front of a sheet of tulle with fairy lights. Naturally, since we were doing things our own way we decided to make this happen. Who would have known that tulle/voile would be so damn expensive! We got most of it in a half price sale and it was still ridiculous. I’ve managed to re-sell some of that, but people just do not understand the true value of this fabric. The lights were no issue, you can pick them up cheap on ebay. Hot tip though, if you’re going to put lights behind transparent fabric make sure you get the clear or white wires, not the green Christmas leftovers. Hanging voile is not the most fun job, but it was made easier by sewing them into curtains and threading them that way, and then swagging some spare material over the top. We also made window coverings, decorations for the tables, Daniel made us a lot of beautiful pieces such as a large window frame style picture and some Mary Poppins themed paintings. The DIY absolutely came at a cost more than just financial. Daniel managed to injure his finger quite badly on a drop saw and his fingernail has never quite been the same. We were also trying to DIY our own painting and Daniel was about halfway finished when the paint bled and ruined the entire thing……needless to say we went to a professional printer and got them to do it. There were definitely times where it felt like we were going crazy with all of the craft.

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I’m just going to put the full total, because it’s so hard to decipher what was used for what. But pretty much, anything at our wedding other than simple tablecloths, was DIYed by us. You need to take this with a grain of salt though. We absolutely got carried away, but we also underestimated the cost of DIYing with quality materials, and this is even with cheapskating our way through by getting a lot of items off ebay! The fabric alone for the fairy lights was about a thousand. Several of our projects we have kept and now decorate our house too, so I consider a lot of this an investment.

Decorations total $2752.17 

Furniture hire
We hired chairs, tables and bar tables from our local hire place. The price was about average for that sort of thing. The biggest let down was how filthy all of the chairs were on arrival. Daniel and I spent a total of 6 hours cleaning these chairs with Jif about 3 nights before the wedding. It was a nightmare, but they were so dirty that we were worried our guests were actually going to get dirty from sitting on them. They came up nicely, but it was the last thing you want to be doing a few days before your wedding. We also hired a signing table and some small decorations from another place on the South side which was another let down. The signing table was filthy again and the cover had biro marks all over it. The little topiary balls were also mostly broken. We ended up going on an expedition to find something else to use as a signing table and ended up with a little table from Big W and a tablecloth. That turned out fine, but we were so upset about having to race around looking for something at the last minute (this was 2 days before the wedding). I think it’s the closest I came to breaking point on that day.

Local hire chairs and tables: $700
Specialty wedding store hire of singing table and topiary balls: $67
Hire total: $767

Furniture
We ended up buying a few bits and pieces of furniture for the wedding. This included a hall table to hold gifts and cards and to serve as a welcoming area, as well as a bench seat from Ikea which was used on the patio. Both of these items we have kept and use regularly. We also bought two tall lack tables which were used in the ceremony area to hold the cameras, lights and laptop for the music.

Furniture total: $449.31

Photography
We were very fortunate to have a a recommendation from a friend whose brother in law does photography on the side. He gave us an amazing deal of only $900!!! Honestly, he was amazing, he was the most professional vendor we dealt with throughout the entirety of the wedding. He was also the nicest guy and we got along so well with him which helped us to feel comfortable for the photos. The photos turned out just wonderfully! We then did our own photo albums through an online vendor, Daniel photoshopped each page together so that it was flawless. We can highly recommend going with someone who may not be employed solely as a photographer.

Videography
Daniel always used to joke that he would not trust anyone else to film his own wedding. Having been to film school and having a keen interest in film and editing, we (he) decided the best option for us was to film our own wedding. Having a videographer just didn’t make sense in such a small space, especially when we wanted our photographer to have room to move as well. Daniel purchased various video cameras off ebay and strategically mounted and set them up to capture the ceremony and reception. This didn’t necessarily turn out that cheap, but he was able to re-sell the cameras for a very good price so we made some of the money back, but ultimately this was the only option anyway in terms of space. It also gave us full control over the final edit. On the day, it meant Daniel had a few extra tasks on his to do list, but it all went fairly well.

Videography total $3,523.92

Flowers
For flowers we had a combination of options. For my bouquet and Daniel’s boutonniere we went to our local florist at Giraween Flowers in Samford. They were beautiful and very reasonably priced. We got boutonnieres for the parents from Etsy. Honestly this was something I think we could have skipped, it’s just not very necessary, but hopefully the parents have at least kept them since they were not disposable. For table decoration we went to the flower market in Stafford the day before and just grabbed a few bunches of flowers and we arranged them ourselves into little milk bottle vases.

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milk bottle vases (12): $30
Bunches from the flower market: $51.50
Parents boutonnieres: $36.80
Bouquet and boutonniere: $178
Flowers total: $296.30

Entertainment for the kids
We made some little fun bags for the children attending our wedding. It was only for 4 kids, but each bag just included a little toy, a colouring book and a disposable camera. Other than that they kept themselves entertained by running around the yard and playing with the games we provided for our guests on the lawn.

Entertainment total: $54.21

Miscellaneous
There a few little incidentals along the way which don’t really fit with anything else. This included extra toilet paper (you don’t really wanna run out with so many people around) and also some bins to put around.

Miscellaneous total: $29.94

Honeymoon
Our honeymoon is something that I will mention here but is not included in the budget. From most budgets I have seen, people do not include this in their budgets as a wedding cost. However, it was still something we had to save for. We went to Hamilton Island for 5 nights and it was wonderful. It’s a very expensive island, but we knew to expect this. A lot of people thought we were crazy for not just going to Bali or somewhere like that, but we had always wanted to go to Hamilton Island so it was a good option for us. Please note below the airport parking price, for us as we live so far from the airport a taxi would cost us close to $300 there and back, so airport parking is a really good option for a set price. We also didn’t keep track of spending money as we took some of the cash we were given as gifts.

Airport parking: $90
Honeymoon activities (parasailing etc): $370
Flights: $470.40
Accommodation: $1450
Honeymoon total: $2380

Landscaping
When we decided to have our wedding at home, we seriously had a house surrounded by red dirt. We had not made any headway on landscaping at that point. We were in our house for a year with dirt being tracked through the place constantly. I am so glad we didn’t let this scare us, because this wedding gave us the most motivation we could ever have hoped for. We worked hard on a daily basis to do a lot of our landscaping by hand, apart from getting an excavator in at the beginning to shape the land. It was a serious undertaking, but we did it. I also don’t include these costs in the wedding budget, but for us it was also a necessary cost enabling us to even have the wedding at all.

Landscaping total: $6779

Items we were able to sell

We were able to make some money back by selling cameras, one half of the wedding fabric and lights, the lack tables from Ikea and a lot of other wedding paraphernalia.
Sold total: $1872

The full total
So the full total for our wedding came to $13422. This does not include the cost of our honeymoon or landscaping. Definitely over our original budget of $9000 but with no regrets. We look back on our wedding day with such fond memories, and it’s pretty amazing to sit on your couch at night knowing that you got married just metres away. With an at home wedding it’s a little different, there are so many things that we have kept and have become part of our usual household that I no longer even consider them to have been wedding costs. The biggest thing I underestimated was the cost involved for videography. When we made the original budget Daniel had not yet told me he even intended for us to film our own wedding, so it wasn’t part of the budget. Decorations were the other major blowout. We just severely underestimated how many incidentals there would be like tools and paint and little bits and pieces that all add up.

There it is, no regrets.

Dining Philosophers

It has been a while since we’ve blogged anything new here.  We’ve moved the blog away from Blogspot as we ran into some limitations there.  For weeks I worked on doing a Wedding Budget post, you see we never really kept accurate records of our spendings – we had a rough amount in mind and it seemed like we did a lot with very little which would make for a very interesting breakdown.  Once I tallied up all the receipts though, which took quite a bit of effort, it wound up being a lot more than we thought!  I was very thorough though and included a lot of stuff other people wouldn’t, like the landscaping and the honeymoon – who knows maybe it’s worth revisiting but I really lost motivation for it once I saw the totals.

So I bring you to my current topic, and that is DIY and furniture, specifically regarding our dining table.  When we moved in to the new house we got a hand-me-down table from my brother, which I believe I’d seen living outside on his patio earlier.  It was great for throwing junk on, but we never used it, it wasn’t nice to look at, it was old and broken and didn’t suit the space.

Seriously, yikes!
Seriously, yikes!
Two years of this.  Notice the previous owner's attempt to spray paint a chair...
Two years of this. Notice the previous owner’s attempt to spray paint a chair…

I tried to give it away on a Buy Sell and Swap facebook page.  Three people said they’d take it, but nobody did.  Somebody replied claiming it was a priceless Ercol table with Ercol Windsor chairs.   I looked into that but if anything I’d say it was a knockoff.

We found a great new dining table at Vast Interiors with a bench seat – but we’d always wanted chairs down one side.  We drove around to furniture shops and looked at different options, they were either cheap and uncomfortable, or didn’t look right with the table, or were too expensive.

As bad as the condition was of the Ercol knockoffs they were quite fine to sit on, and the shape was pretty nice too.   I proposed to Lauren that we fix them up and paint them, and it took quite a bit of convincing – I was even taking photos and photoshopping the chairs with paint and showing her what the table would look like with them.

We got to work stripping the old varnish off the chairs, this was quite an effort with several bottles of horrid paint stripper and wire brushes.   This went on for a while until I thought of a dirty little trick – to coat the chairs with paint stripper and then use a Pressure Cleaner to strip the paint.   It was quite an intense approach, with paint stripper globs flying back into my face, and threads of timber peeling off from getting too close, but it was much faster and helped to really expose the bare timber beneath.

Paint stripping, and using the old table as a workbench :P
Paint stripping, and using the old table as a workbench :P
Lauren working as a stripper.
Lauren working as a stripper.
A before and after comparison of stripping the chairs.
A before and after comparison of stripping the chairs.

We also had to fix the chairs up with planing, wood filler, and wood glue.

Gluing, filling, sanding.
Gluing, filling, sanding.

The next step was to paint them.  I decided to use spray-paint in layers: a grey protective undercoat, a matte black paint, a metallic charcoal paint, and a clear coat.  There were 2 or 3 thin coats of each paint, so this took quite a lot of work.

I built myself a spray-paint booth which looked like something out of the Dexter TV show, except even dodgier.   It was unventilated and even with a ventilator mask and goggles I could only stand to be in there for 5 minutes at a time.  For the few weeks I was doing this I felt constantly sick.

 Light stands, chairs, tape to the garage door mechanism - some of the techniques I used to hold up the sheets of plastic for my killing spray-paint booth.
Light stands, chairs, tape to the garage door mechanism – some of the techniques I used to hold up the sheets of plastic for my killing spray-paint booth.
Jokes aside though, it really was a death-trap in there.  Not to mention how STICKY the floor would get, so just walking around was difficult.
Jokes aside though, it really was a death-trap in there. Not to mention how STICKY the floor would get, so just walking around was difficult.
Comparison of various stages of painting.
Comparison of various stages of painting.

The chairs came up quite nicely, but I would never take on a big spray-paint project like this again.  I’ve probably taken years off my life by doing this.

One thing was left though – that old dining table.  So I figured I would turn it into some quirky desks to put in the spare rooms.   I basically did the same thing as with the chairs, but using a paint brush this time 🙂   The colour scheme was inspired by Monica’s apartment from Friends.  The tops are stained with a walnut colour.  I’ve used new slats of timber for the back legs and modesty panel at the back, which kinda doesn’t go with the front, but it does the job and hopefully when it’s against the wall people won’t think too much about that.  I did try aging the new timber so I could stain it to match the tops but it was just never going to look right.

Working on the "desks"
Working on the “desks”
The yellow desk, you can see one of the chairs beside it.
The yellow desk, you can see one of the chairs beside it.
What it might look like in action.
What it might look like in action.

Now for the big reveal, our new dining table complete with upcycled chairs.  There are six chairs in total, but it looks better with only four.

New dining table complete with upcycled chairs.

Mr & Mrs

We’re married!! We’re currently over 6 months into wedded bliss and celebrated 9 years together a little while ago.

On Saturday the 6th of September 2014 Daniel and I were married at our home in Samford with our family and friends as witnesses.

It was absolutely amazing, and it was the most fun day of my life! What they say is true, it went by so fast. We’re so happy that almost everything went off without a hitch thanks to some very thorough planning on our part.

We had a fairly short engagement of almost 11 months to the day, so the past year has been extremely busy for us as we transformed our house into a home and prepared for the wedding.

Our home has always been a sacred place for us, we feel so lucky to now have such beautiful memories of getting married in our home which will stay with us forever.

Landscaping at last

After a year long delay, we finally got an excavator in to shape the land around our house in early January. For us, step one was excavating, there wasn’t much point doing anything until that was done. We had a local guy come, we’d had some work done by him in the past too. He shaped our land really well and ended up making large mounds/levies beside our gully, which means we don’t even have to build retaining walls like we expected. Originally we were expecting we would have a sharp cut which would definitely need reinforcing. It was well worth the wait, even the work (and money) he has saved us in not having to build 25 metres (or more) of retaining walls is so unbelievably worth it. Just ask our backs! So if anyone is looking for a recommendation for a good excavator or machine operator around Samford, let us know!

Here’s a comparison of before and after excavating:

Before excavation, note the very
close cut down the right
side of the house
After excavation, note the large
area down the right side, we can even
fit several parked cars in.

Seriously, it doesn’t come off well in the photos, but we have so much more space! When I came home and saw it the first time, I honestly felt like they had moved the gully further away somehow. Insane! We started imagining all of the areas we have where we could have swing sets and trampolines in the future. Flat space is hard to come by around here, so this is really exciting. Our excavating guy found tons of HUGE (I’m talking 1-2 metres) rocks which we slowly gave away on Gumtree to a few different people.

This is what it looked like, mid excavation, it had to get ugly before it got pretty. 

Here’s what it looked like when the excavating was getting closer to the finish line.

Since the excavating, we’ve had a lot on our plate. I’ve never been so busy in all my life. We’ve been simultaneously wedding planing and gardening on an almost daily basis since December last year. It’s amazing how you can feel so incredibly busy when you are just at home every day. Other than going to Bunnings, we barely get to go anywhere these days. Although we have fit in a few fun things lately like a trip to the Dayboro Day fair, and a night away at the Gold Coast. Our days mostly consist of going to work, racing to get some yard work done each afternoon before it gets dark (we were able to stay out until about 7pm right in the middle of summer, now it’s starting to get dark by 5:00pm). Then nights are spent doing wedding craft and planning. Every weekend we spend about 10 to 12 hours outside gardening. I would say we are at a point now though where we’re starting to slow down a bit.

Just this weekend we hired a Kanga mini loader, which Daniel operated so that we could move mulch more easily. Carting mulch up our steep driveway in a wheelbarrow is backbreaking and incredibly slow going. We managed to move 20 metres of mulch in just a few hours. Unfortunately, the Kanga absolutely ripped up our grass which we had just finally got growing well from seed. Oh well, we’ve laid more seed yesterday and today, and it will hopefully grow back quickly.

Daniel on the Kanga mini loader.

So what have we been doing outside?
We laid 60 square metres of turf in the front yard in 3 sections. We did this ourselves, we spent a week preparing the area with top soil after work. The actual turfing we did in about 4 hours all up. We were pretty impressed with how easy it was. We purchased a lawn roller on gumtree for $30, which is only $10 more than the cost of hiring one for 24 hours. We’ve used the lawn roller heaps since then. We started off watering the turf twice daily, then once daily, and then every second afternoon. We treated it like our precious little baby, and it’s really paying off now. We chose Empire Zoysia turf, we are so impressed with it. We chose it because it’s extremely drought tolerant (it will grow roots up to 4 metres down in search of water), it stays green in the winter, it’s very soft to walk on, and it looks lovely.

Top soil prep and pavers which we changed our mind on.

Voila, instant grass! Plus an additional stepping stone project which I fill you in on a few paragraphs down
We did our best to cordon off an area, as you can see there are some skid marks riiiiight on the edge, grr.

We even ended up going back for a second round of turf to extend an area we didn’t finish. So we have about 85sqm of turf in total now. Since the turfing we’ve tilled and prepared the area all around our house for seed. Daniel got the seed down one afternoon just before it was due to rain. It grew in fairly well, so it’s shame that the Kanga ripped it up so much with it’s ‘skid steer’ ‘technology’. One day we plan to turf that area too, but for now seed will have to do.

We also planted New Zealand Cabbage Trees alongside our gully, the idea being that when they grow their stalk they will act as a barricade so that people don’t drive into our gully. I live in fear that this could happen one day! People seem to become absolute idiots when it comes to parking/driving in our yard, and the amount of times people have driven on our turf already, even with orange tape around it! OMG!

New Zealand Cabbage Trees planted alongside the gully to act as a barricade.
There are 12 in total, and they’re going strong. They’re short now, but eventually they will grow a large stalk.

We’ve made several new garden beds. We’ve got some Agapanthus planted in our bay window garden, They’ve been in for at least a month or so now. We also have a small skinny garden leading up to the front door, we haven’t figured out what to plant there yet- something small that doesn’t spread would be good. We’ve also built a little garden bed outside of the guest bedroom. We’ve planted some Liriope’s and a Blechnum Camfieldi (fern) there, I think it will be great having a garden there, as the window in the guest room is floor to ceiling, so it should grow in and look lovely.

We purchased a few different types of ferns, they continually looked like they were going to die, but when winter came along that seemed to give them a bit of a boost. Here are 2 ferns which popped up on their own. Amazing! We have them everywhere, to the point where they often get mowed over.

We have several other areas we’ve planted up too. On our big mound along the gully, we’ve planted about 25 plants including Coppertops, Alcantarea brasiliana and Alcantarea Vinicolour (Bromeliades), several Alocasia, more than enough Lomandra, several Evovulus, several Gardenia, a few Philodendron and some bunches of Tradescantia. I mulched a lot of the mound by hand using the wheelbarrow. We’ve just finished it off with the dingo thank goodness! We’ve been getting our mulch from local tree loppers, which is a much cheaper way to buy mulch. I’ve had a number of people at work say they wouldn’t be happy with the quality of the mulch buying it this way, but seriously, it’s fine, and it’s just mulch, it all dries out and looks the same eventually anyway. At least this looks natural.

Alocasia Brisbanesis
Lomandra
Evolvulus (Blue Eyes)
Tradescantia Discolor (Moses in the Cradle). We have SUCH a hard time keeping these alive, for a plant which is apparently non fuss, they just keep up and dying on us. This our last bunch alive, and they aren’t looking great. 
Alacantarea Vinicolor
Alacantarea Brasiliana
Lavendar, we’ve got two lots of this, both planted at the same time,
but this one is double the size of the other already. 
This little gem is another Alocasia, which popped up on its own!
It’s already so much stronger and bigger than the ones we purchased.

My Mum just brought down a heap of cuttings which she took from my Aunt’s garden, so in the next few weeks I will get around to planting them too.

There are 18 plants here, and we only know about 5 of them, the rest are mystery plants.
Additionally, we’ve got a few more manicured looking areas. At the front of the house we’ve added some lovely concrete sleepers as stepping stones leading up to the front door. They’re surrounded by gravel. We’re also using the gravel around the entire house. Anywhere that has garden beds up against the house, we’ve put about 30cm of gravel between the garden and the edge of our termite barrier. This should help to prevent any issues with termites, as you are not supposed to put gardens/garden mulch up against a house.

Concrete sleepers with gravel and a small garden. Doesn’t that grass look green!

Last week we brought in a load of road base and spread this across an area of our driveway which was previously just dirt. It makes a clearer road for people, it goes across to the bridge for the gully, and also bends around the house.

Roadbase driveway extension. Previously this was just dirt.

Aside from the pretty landscaped areas we’ve been able to create. We’ve also had to do some things which don’t necessarily leave visible results, but still took a lot of time and energy. Daniel had to make a french drain (or an agriculture drain) as there was an area which continually held water in the yard.

It’s hard to explain to people how much work we’ve done. Across such a big area, it can seem as if we haven’t done much. But trust me, this is months and months of hard effort to get it to this point. Daniel and I think it is a massive improvement from where things were only 6 months ago. Especially considering we lived with absolutely no landscaping for more than a year when we moved in.
Here’s some general progress pictures to give you an idea:

Daniel designed this area, it has a little escape stairway at the back, doesn’t it look like a fun spot to explore!

This is near our back patio, this cute path leads you up to the top of the gully.
This gives you a good idea of what it looks like driving up. Gully is in the right of the picture.

This is what you see when you first drive in our entrance. The area near the watertanks will hopefully one day have a massive garden around it (with access for water trucks etc)

Taken from up on the hill. Really all we need now is for the grass that got ripped up down the side of the house to grow in again and we’ll be going pretty well. 

On the long term to do list, we have a lot to do around our water tanks to get the area looking more presentable. We also have an embankment down the side of the house, which is one of the first things people see when they drive in, we need to extend the retaining wall at the bottom of it, we need to backfill with more dirt, we need to mulch it, and get it looking like a garden eventually. We’d really like to get more gardens happening along our driveway so that it feels very inviting when people drive in. We of course need to keep planting up our gardens. We also want to level an area of our hill in the next few years so that we can build a shed. In the meantime we hope to build a little tool shed. We also need to invest in gutter guard- I’m excited about that one. We also wouldn’t mind turfing the backyard too. Long, long term, maybe a fantasy even, includes building boardwalks over the top of our gully. Adding a hot tub up in the bush. Building a hidden outdoor area up in the bush. Adding wooden steps from up where the house is down to the bottom level. If you ask Daniel there’ll be an aquatic centre somewhere too. There’s sooooo much potential to work with the beautiful bushland and rainforest here in our very own backyard. We are well on our way, and we’ve done a huge amount in a very short time. We just have to pace ourselves, as you could really keep going forever.

Wood

It has gotten a little girly on this blog with Lauren’s posts about engagements and pumpkins, though I admit I’m to blame for both.

I thought I’d share some of the woodwork I’ve done since moving in.  This might turn into a little hobby of mine.  Since doing this stuff I’ve gotten better tools and bigger ideas.

Firstly, when we were building the house our neighbours led us to believe they never need to use the air-con in this area, so we didn’t plan for that.  It was a particularly hot summer, but we’re also particularly wimpy when it comes to the heat.  At about christmas time we caved and bought an in-window air con.  We weren’t going to splash out on central air, which we would love, but we also didn’t want to install a split system if we would eventually want central air.

An in-window air con is cheap and non-destructive… just pop it in the window and switch it on, right?  WRONG!

It seems the people who make air-conditioners assume you will cut an air-con sized hole in the side of your house… i.e… the “window”.   It doesn’t come with any kind of bracket or anything that would enable you to put it into an actual window.

Well I would have to come up with something, so out of necessity I spent a few days on the floor of the garage, in my underwear, dripping with sweat as I rushed to build a frame we could use to mount the air-con into our en-suite window.

It’s quite elaborate and uses a lot of timber, but I never took any good photos of it.  It fits into the window frame on the inside, and holds the air-conditioner in a hole as well as having bars out the back that take the weight of the air-conditioner and cantilever it into place.

Air-con frame in en-suite

That is literally the first woodworking DIY project I’ve ever done, and I only did it because I was so uncomfortable in summer.  However the sense of accomplishment has got me thinking about more things we can do ourselves, maybe some more permanent things…

The big project we’ve been working on is retaining walls, which is something we might be doing for a few years here and there.   We started by building small walls around a tree, ultimately when we fill the area around the tree, it will help the tree survive by allowing it to keep it’s original soil level around the base of the tree.

Retaining walls always start with heaps of digging and measuring.

Kookaburras freaking love you when you’re gardening.  You constantly dig up worms or overturn rocks and reveal a centipede… I always try to signal my approval to them for finding the snack, but they do scare you when they almost land on you to get at a bug.

I wet the holes before concreting.  Also please understand that I’m using a hose in this picture.

Our first foray into constructing walls used the technique of putting the upright supports in first….

…trying to keep everything aligned with some string as a guide…

…and then adding the sleepers that go across.

I also use some geofabric and drainage gravel to take some pressure off the wall.  Not much is needed here.

Our main reason for getting into retaining walls is to stop erosion on our ridiculously scary embankment.  I’d like to eventually do levels so we can have several garden wall sections.  Lauren’s brothers helped us get started one day, showing us a different technique of screwing timber together prior to concreting – it helps to get the level of the top horizontal piece perfect, which is the most obvious thing you’ll see if there is a problem with levels.

Here you can see the embankment between our tanks and house.

Things got a little carried away here and too much timber was screwed together before being concreted, that made it very hard to push the wall into place. (I just cringed because I remembered the back pain)

Most of the time was spent on digging out large rocks.  This particular one is so big it couldn’t be lifted or levered out of the hole.  I wound up digging another hole next to it and shoving it over.  I crushed my hand a few times on this one too.
Before and after photos of a rock I angle grinded out of the way bit by bit like a mango.

It took 2 diamond blades and 8 hours (over 2 weeks), and a lot of vigilant supervising by Lauren in case the blade shattered and broke my face.
Looking down from the house.

I mixed the concrete by hand in a wheelbarrow.  *cringe* more backpain…
A pretty retaining wall needs a pretty dress.  Not really.. this is geofabric to allow water to pass through but not let the dirt rest directly on the wall.  It takes a lot of pressure off the wall and helps the timber last longer.

I’ve also partially backfilled with gravel for drainage.  Once more soil is in there I’ll do a bit more gravel up higher.

A section of completed wall.

This picture shows the slotted agpipe wrapped in the bottom of the geofabric, for better drainage.

Those kookaburras can’t get enough of my work.

And finally, when we moved in I put up a cheap shelf in the store room for the network equipment.  I had a contractor in fixing a bad connection a couple months ago and he must have pulled his fat arse up using that shelf because after he left all the screws had popped out and that thing was barely hanging on.   I needed a final solution that nobody could pull down.  I reckon you could climb onto this and sit on it, but I don’t think I’ll try.
I stole the style of design from the way our pantry is built.  However I used much larger and stronger timber.

This thing is anchored into the studs on 3 sides in several places, some using 100mm screws.  It is mostly butt-joined but there was one lap join necessary which makes me very proud. 
This shelf is now big and strong enough for me to add a big meaty UPS and a server.

And this all lives up in the end of the store room.
I’ll try to do more DIY posts in the future!

Is it the look in your eyes? No it’s just my happy tears!

We have some exciting news to share. On Saturday, we went for a drive to our favourite creek, for a swim. Well, at least, I thought that’s what we were doing. I was excited to be going to the creek, it was such a hot morning, and we’d been keen to go for a swim ever since winter went away.

This particular creek leads to an amazing water hole if you trek far enough. Many people don’t know this and stop to swim in the much smaller, often murkier holes. We walked up the creek for quite a while, clambering over rocks. It was heaps of fun. Daniel took me there in our first year of dating, and I was blown away that a place like it could exist so close to Brisbane. We stopped a few times for breaks along the way, and to take a few selfies on Daniel’s phone.

We were almost at the best part when we had to climb a huge rock which is taller than both of us, it’s pretty much vertical, so you have to find little spots to pull yourself up on. In my haste, I accidentally scraped my back on another rock when I went to stand up at the top. Ouch!

Not to worry though, once we were both up and over the rock, we’d made it to the water hole. It looked absolutely pristine. Nobody else was there. I’ve never seen it unadulterated by people before. It was quite exciting to see it like that. This also gave us the opportunity to pick a good spot to setup. We claimed the spot right beside the waterfall which is up on it’s own little rock platform.

My back was stinging so I asked Daniel to take a look for me, luckily it was just a little scrape. I turned back around to find the most amazing sight I have ever seen!!

There was Daniel, down on one knee as I turned around, with a little white box in his hands. I am sketchy on the details of exactly what happened during this time. I just remember saying yes and nodding as Daniel said my full name and asked ‘will you marry me’? I was crying the happiest tears I’ve ever cried! It’s such an excitable hazy blur. There was a lot of hugging. It was an amazing feeling, Daniel even told me later that it was a similar feeling to having a first kiss. In one moment I even thought my brain had played an elaborate prank on me and that it was just a dream. Daniel assured me it was real.

There was lots of hugging and kissing before the ring ended up on my finger. Daniel had brought along his phone and after I said yes he turned on the Bruno Mars song, ‘Marry You’. It was all just absolutely perfect. The whole thing was so ‘us’, the spot was beautiful and was already very special to us. For there to have been no other people there was an absolute miracle. There was not one cloud in the sky. Just perfect. We took a few pictures together, a few of them are of me crying while also smiling. This boy knows me well, he really planned everything perfectly, and it suited who we are so well.

I was so surprised. I knew it was going to happen at some stage in the future, but did not suspect a single thing in the weeks, days and hours leading up to this. Daniel says he was feeling very nervous that morning and was very quiet. I wasn’t suspicious in the slightest. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have this man propose to me on what seemed like a very casual and normal visit to the creek. Simply amazing!!

A few other people turned up at the water hole a little while later, we stayed for a little longer just enjoying the moment together, taking more pictures and talking. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to focus on swimming after that, so we made our way back to the car to return home.

We spent some time at home just ringing family and being generally excited (this takes way longer than I would have expected). We went out for lunch in Samford Village. It was nice being out in public as a newly engaged couple. I felt as if everyone in the world probably must have known what was going on just by the permanent smile on my face.

Later that night we went to the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil. It was absolutely fantastic and just followed on from the amazing tone that had been set earlier in the day. I spent most of the day beaming, and occasionally tearing up as I remembered seeing Daniel down on one knee and realising what was happening.

Daniel is the most thoughtful, caring, loving, clever, gorgeous, creative man I have ever known. I feel so lucky to have him. We’ve been through both good and challenging times during our 7 years together and we’re so excited to start the next chapter in our lives!!

Might have to give it another attempt to go for an actual swim soon…

Is it the look in your eyes?
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares, baby
I think I wanna marry you!

Life since we moved into our new house

I was inspired by Ash at Mick and Ash’s Build to give an update on what life has been like since we got the keys to our house. Things have turned out a little differently to what we expected.

We moved into the house in early October 2012. It was a bit of a frenzy getting ourselves in and sorted with only 1 week of leave from work (That included cleaning up the old place). Slowly but surely we got ourselves more furniture. This included an awesome couch for the media room, which we freaking LOVE! We excitedly bought a rug for the media room too. We ordered some couches for the lounge room. We didn’t really go all that crazy with purchases though, as we still knew we needed to put a lot of cash toward landscaping.

In November Daniel was the first to have his birthday in the new house, which was fantastic. Shortly after this we got some crushing news that Daniel would have to take a 20% pay cut. This absolutely changed the excitable flow of progress we were on. Luckily we had savings, and the only debt we have is the mortgage, so we were able to budget and work out that we could continue to survive. But basically, everything came to a massive, grinding halt…

We had already planned with Daniel’s Brother to get him over to concrete our driveway and patio, it was too late to cancel at this point, plus we really needed a driveway so we could get our cars in the garage before storm season!

So we got our concreting done in November. We then got our new couch set delivered in December for the lounge room (we had already paid for them in full in October, pre-budgeting). It was around this time that Daniel’s brother also donated his old dining table to us. We also got our blinds installed in December (which we had also booked and paid the deposit for prior to our budgeting hurdle). So we went ahead with a few big expenses, but didn’t feel there was a lot of choice.

Despite all of the unexpected stress we had our first Christmas in the house. It was lovely, and it was really nice to put up the Christmas tree out in the lounge room, and I decorated all of our little nooks and niches with Christmas decor.

Throughout the build, Daniel was under the impression that he would actually be getting a pay rise in the new year. The company obviously didn’t foresee such huge issues as a result of the global financial crisis, they probably should have, but that’s another story. So this was really a huge shock to the both of us, it came out of nowhere. As someone who works in the public sector, we thought it was my job at risk, not his. It’s really hard to see Daniel go though this, he works hard at his job as it is, and none of this is his fault. It’s hard to feel valued in your work when you aren’t being compensated appropriately.

In some ways this has made us realise we can live on a lot less than we were. We are still able to save, but at a snail’s pace. A lot of plans were put on hold, not just landscaping, but a lot of life changing plans that we were beginning to seriously consider. We also look back and think thank goodness this didn’t happen sooner, as chances are we would not have gone ahead with building our house at all if we had known.

So for now, we are just doing the things that we can manage. We do a lot of things by hand that we would have preferred to just get a bobcat in to do. We use a push mower while our neighbours have ride on’s. Despite these worries, there are certain things that need to be done in the yard that just can’t wait. To the side of the house we need to build a retaining wall, as we are losing good soil each time it rains, this will also greatly improve the look of the house when you first enter the property. We also need to get an excavator in to level the soil around the house and dig out one side of the yard a bit further so we can build a retaining wall there too.  As it is now, it’s just dirt all around the house, with a bit more grass than there was during building. Since the ground isn’t flat, it makes mowing a bit of a bitch. We also would like gardens, decks, pathways, a shed, and the list goes on. This would really be the bare minimum that needs to be done.

8 months in, this is really not where we saw ourselves at this point. So we are here, just the two of us, with this beautiful house surrounded by an unruly yard. It’s hard to be content when life has taken a bit of a turn down a different path to what you expected. But ultimately, we are happy, we have each other, we have this house which we have worked so hard for. Massive lessons have been learned. So for now, we must focus on what we have, and not what we are missing out on. I’m not religious at all, but I remind myself as often as I can to be grateful for what we do have, and to be more content with what we have now.

The wall of colour!

We are almost finished our gallery wall finally. It’s surpisingly hard to choose things to put in them. I also hit a bit of a motivation issue along the way, so it had been half finished for at least a month or more. 
It started out with me trawling gumtree and finding someone was selling a heap of secondhand Ikea Ribba frames. A whole bunch for about half the price!
I bought them on the way home from work one afternoon. And wouldn’t you know it, the one day I’m driving a long with a whole heap of fragile glass front frames, a weird neighbourhood dog decided to bolt toward my car. I had to slam on my brakes really suddenly and ended up breaking a few of the frames in the process. Stupid dog was acting psycho and proceeded to act like it was going to attack the car even after I stopped. As I drove away it actually chased the car and it wasn’t until I was going at quite a speed that it finally stopped chasing me. Bizarre!!!!!
Anyway… We were initially thinking of a more random arrangement. I like the look of that type of arrangement. Daniel and I played around for ages and came to this:
I don’t know if it’s that I was too chicken, or just not very daring, but I changed my mind about the random arrangement after a few days. I just felt like it was too much for a living room area. I wanted it to be fun, but still a bit more formal. It just wasn’t me. Plus I feel like a more traditional arrangement might last longer in terms of style. 

The following are what we ended up with:

For the last month or so we have only had that one lonely print in them. It’s a print I found on Etsy from Homely Creatures. I love buying local products, Homely Creatures is based in Brisbane! I am utterly convinced that the print looks like a cartoon version of me…well apart from the moustache I guess. 

Well yesterday I suddenly had a burst of motivation and decided it was time we put something in the frames. I ended up pulling out all of my old art supplies. I did a few with paints but they weren’t very good. Then I pulled out my pastels and did a few bright numbers. For a simple idea, I think it turned out pretty well. Really, I think anything can look good once it’s mounted and framed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they turned out pretty darn well, lots of texture and colour.

Totally accidental, but turns out a lot of the colours go with our Charlie piece. Daniel thought I had planned it, but no haha.

So now we just need to find 2 more pieces to go in the bigger frames. I would love to find the boy equivalent of the mo-girl one for Daniel to go on the other side. One day we will look for some nicer decorations for the table, but the Babushka dolls are special to us. 
Hopefully we will have some new updates soon, with wait for it……retaining walls….excitement plus haha. Hopefully some excavation work coming up soon once the rain goes away too.