how to make your dream outdoor living space a reality

outdoor living0107Summer is coming! Which means more time outside! So in preparation for all that sun & also for those nights spent outside having BBQ’s & drinks with friends, I decided to give our outdoor space a bit of a tidy up & makeover. I was thinking “holidays at home” an outdoor fireplace, some new pots & plants and a few other things to create ourselves a functional and stylish outdoor room for the summer nights ahead and what better place to go but Mitre 10 with our Gem Visa card.

There are so many different options when it comes to outdoor decorating.  At Mitre 10 there is everything from BBQ’s, pizza ovens, outdoor furniture, outdoor heating, umbrellas and more AND with Gem Visa creating the perfect outdoor space is even easier with 6 months interest free on Gem Visa purchases over $250*.

To create the perfect outdoor room there are a couple of must haves:

Shade – In the NZ summers it is essential to make sure you have some shade to escape the sun’s intense heat so a good outdoor umbrella is a must if you don’t have a covered in area outside already.

Somewhere to relax – depending on the size of your outdoor area this can vary and could be as simple as a couple of bean bags, a small table and chairs or a complete outdoor sofa. Remember with all outdoor furniture to give them a good clean often and to store it all out of the weather in the winter months if possible.

outdoor living0102Somewhere to eat – of course any kiwi outdoor space is likely to already be equipped with a BBQ so it is also good to have somewhere to be able to eat outside as well. We have a large table with some long bench seats which is perfect in a large space or if the space is small maybe a couple of side tables to put your drinks while you balance your plate on your knee.

outdoor living0105Lighting – from candles to lanterns or the very fashionable right now – strung lights. Make sure to have something to give you some light at night. A couple of citronella candles are always a good idea for the light and also keeping the bugs away.

Heating – NZ is not really known for its balmy summer evenings and as the sun goes down all too often the warmth slowly disappears with it too, so some form of outdoor heating is always good! Plus if it’s an open outdoor fire you go for, this helps to create a little ambience too and somewhere for the kids to toast marshmallows maybe.

outdoor living0106Finishing touches – these little bits of detail are what lift the outdoor room to the next level, think of styling it as you would any other room. Plants are of course a great way to add some greenery and colour to your outdoor space. From potted flowers, herb & vegetable seedlings, low maintenance succulents or a lush tropical plant collection the options are endless. Plant them in varying shapes & sizes of pots and display them on the table, hanging up or even on the fence or walls. Scatter some outdoor throw cushions around and maybe a warm throw or two and add some outdoor art or sculptures.

After looking at the many outdoor heating options at Mitre 10 – from table top gas heaters to outdoor fires that even cook pizzas, we decided on the Pular Outdoor Fire in black for $399 for our space as it would not only give us some heat on those sometimes chilly Auckland summer evenings but we loved the clean lines look & the idea of an open fire too.

outdoor living0103We also picked up some kindling & logs for the fire, citronella candles in lovely blue glass, a selection of white pots in varying sizes and a few different plants both tropical and flowering to display on the table.

All up we left with:

Fireplace $399

Firewood Logs $16.70

3 x Pots: $25, $20, $17

Plants: $13.50 & $19

6 x Candles: $6 each

Total = $546.20

If you use your Gem Visa to purchase these items, that’s just $91.03 per month (plus fees) for 6 months and you would have paid off the balance during the interest free period! *

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3 easy steps to make your perfect outdoor living space a reality!

  1. Get inspiration and plan out your outdoor room, you can view the latest Mitre 10 Outdoor Living catalogue here: http://www.mitre10.co.nz/catalogues/
  2. Apply for your Gem Visa here and take advantage of their great 6 month interest free deal on all Gem Visa purchases over $250*
  3. Plan a trip to your nearest Mitre 10 store armed with your Gem Visa, your outdoor inspo and some muscle to help you load it all in the car! Easy!

What outdoor living piece do you need this summer? Tell me in the comments below!

*Credit and Lending criteria, $55 establishment fee and $52 annual account fee apply. Prevailing interest rate (currently 25.45% p.a.) applies after 6 months interest free period.  Gem Visa is provided by Latitude Financial Services.

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A little look at my garden

I have had so many people say they would love to see my garden whenever I post pics of my home-grown cut flowers so here it is, a little look at my garden!

I am guessing it will not be what a lot of people may of imagined, there are no rolling meadows of flowers or overflowing garden beds, there are just buckets & buckets and pots & pots of flowers, some are in their prime, many still to bloom and others are dying off (I like to collect all of the dead seed heads to plant next year where possible) Truth be told I don’t have the time for huge garden beds at the moment and so having the buckets & pots right near my front door is perfect.

One day I hope to have those overflowing garden beds, flowers everywhere and bursting vegetable patches but for now its my beloved buckets and pots. I think this goes to show that anyone can grow a few flowers any time, some flexi buckets and soil is all you really need….and the plants, seed or bulbs of course and then a little TLC.

I would love to hear what you think, are you surprised at the lack of garden beds? Do you grow your flowers like this? Would you give growing flowers like this a go?

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the buckets & buckets and pots & pots of flowers

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my girls little collection of succulents

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from another angle

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more succulents, hellebores, geranium, freesias and some old kale & sage that need to be replaced

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All of the flowers in these pics are from my garden, it just goes to show you don’t need a lot of space or even a big budget just some buckets, pots, soil, seeds or bulbs and dirty hands! Give it a go you won’t be disappointed!

You can see more of my posts on gardening here

 

homegrown strawberries in time for summer

Now is the time to plant your homegrown strawberries if you want to have them ready in time for summer, I always used to think that strawberries were meant to be planted IN the summer time, but NO the time is now if you want to be actually harvesting and eating them in summer & serving them with that delicious Christmas Pavlova!

We have grown strawberries every year but our plants all needed replacing as they had done their dash. So this year we popped into Mitre 10 and grabbed 2 lots of their strawberry punnets, in which you get 6 very healthy plants. We are members of the Mitre 10 Garden Club which is super easy to sign up to, just click on the link here to sign up and then go in-store to get yourself some of their beautiful strawberry plants. With the Mitre 10 Garden Club there are also lots of fantastic offers, great deals & gardening advice to take advantage of too.

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This year we planted our strawberries in flexi tub buckets (see more on these here), the kids got involved, getting their hands dirty doing the planting. We planted 12 plants (2 punnets) in a large flexi tub, using a mixture of standard garden mix and TUI Strawberry Mix, we made sure to give the plants a good drink both before and after planting and then used some garden mulch we already had to put around the plants to keep the moisture in, being careful not to have it too close to the plants so that they don’t get too damp & rot. You can see more on how to plant and grow strawberries here.

The kids have been carefully caring for and checking on the plants daily and also asking when they will be ready (I feel it might be a long wait for them) All going well we will have our own strawberries ready for Christmas day, and I intend to make this delicious pavlova with berry compote I found over at The Bubbalino Kitchen.

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Make sure you sign up to the Mitre 10 Garden Club, nab some of those beautiful strawberry plants for yourself and get those plants in quick smart so that you too can enjoy home-grown strawberries in time for Christmas if not before.

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Thanks to Mitre 10 Garden Club for this post. All ideas, thoughts and opinions are my own. You can see more about the Mitre 10 Garden Club here

 

 

Modern Terrarium Studio – a little book review

I LOVE plants & I LOVE books so when the very lovely Megan George from The Zen Succulent got in touch with me to see if I would like to be one of the very first lucky ones to receive a copy of her brand new book called Modern Terrarium Studio,  I guess you could say I was a little chuffed…..okay a LOT and when I sat down and had a read I was even more chuffed to see what a fantastic book it was, the ideas & pictures are just beautiful and the clear and straightforward step by step instructions for making your own terrariums are perfect for anyone from beginner to expert.

the modern terrarium

If you are looking for a beautiful book that not only looks good on your coffee table or bookshelf but can actually help you to create your own terrariums and look after them as well, then this is the book for you. I am very inspired to try at least a few of the projects in the book, so stay tuned for my upcoming creations.

For anyone wanting to purchase the book in New Zealand you can do so here and you can check out and follow The Zen Succulent on Instagram here

And here is a little sneak peek of some of the beautiful pictures from the book and an idea of some of the projects included. I am so making those structural brass planters that is for sure! and I have already had a request from my girls to have a “dinosaur just like that!” for their room.

Modern Terrarium Studio - Cascading Rock Collection beauty image

Modern Terrarium Studio - Dino Menagerie beauty image II

Modern Terrarium Studio - Structural Brass Planters beauty image

* this book was gifted to me but all thoughts and opinions are my own – this book ROCKS! and I would have happily gone out and bought it myself!

a little winter up-cycle

As any parent knows kids grow out of shoes FAST! In our house we normally donate any clothes and shoes that are now too small but still in good condition to the local hospice shop, but for this little up-cycle project we had a pair of gumboots that no longer fitted miss nearly 4 and decided we would do a little winter up-cycle and use them in the garden instead.

It’s no secret that I love gardening and I also love up-cycling and sharing these things with my girls is really important to me. This little gumboot up-cycle is so super easy that the girls practically did the whole thing themselves.

gumboot garden

You will need:

An old pair of gumboots (you could of course buy a new pair if there are no little feet growing like weeds in your house)

Some potting mix

A selection of plants – for this one we just broke off some pieces of a succulent already growing in the garden

gumboot garden

Then simply fill the gumboots with the soil, depending on the plants you are using you may wish to then punch some drainage holes in the gumboots using a screwdriver. I would put the holes at the back near the heel area of the gumboot so that they cannot be seen at the front.

gumboot garden

Plant the plants into the gumboots, give them a little water, choose where you want to display them making sure they get some sunshine and you are done. My girls added some little fairies to theirs (you cannot see them in the pics) and were very proud of their work. It also feels like I can hold onto the memory of those little feet in little gumboots just a little bit longer.

gumboot garden

 

My top 5 easy care house plants & tips to keep them alive

So we all know that house plants are in or the ‘new black’ as they say and that suits me just fine as I do manage to keep them alive fairly easily, although not every plant I have owned has survived and it seems that there are many others out there who cannot keep even one plant alive. This does not mean that it’s impossible, just because every plant you have owned so far has died it doesn’t mean it will continue to happen. I will share with you my top 5 easy care house plants and give you some tips on keeping them alive.

babys tears
1. Baby’s Tears (Helxine soleirolii) – this plant prefers to not be in direct sunlight but not in the dark either, do not over water but keep the soil damp, you will know it needs a drink if it starts to droop

The first mistake it seems that many people make is killing these poor plants with kindness, way too much kindness! Now kindness is a good thing and we should be spreading that kindness everywhere….except for with our house plants, sometimes less is more and not all plants need lots of water, in fact some plants would prefer you kept that water stuff well away from them most of the time. So know your plants, they are all different, they usually come with some care information and this information can be really helpful when it comes to how much water they need.

Kalanchoe
2. Kalanchoe – you can buy these at most supermarkets and they normally have flowers – they do not need to be watered much at all and can tolerate most light settings just not direct sunlight. If anyone knows the secret to getting them to flower again I would love to know
Succulent
3. The succulent is by far the easiest house plant to grow and keep alive they really do need nothing, in fact you can pick a piece and put in a little vase with nothing at all and it will continue to grow. Here I have mine in a bottle with some water and it is happy. If you do have them in soil (or sand) hold back on the water they really are better off without it
Spanish Moss
4. Spanish Moss – again very easy, this is literally stuffed inside this vessel, there is no soil and I only spray it with a fine mist of water every 6 or so weeks, the key to keeping it alive is that it does not get any direct sunlight, in fact here it gets no real sunlight at all and is happy as!

The other thing to know is how much light they like, some plants will tolerate lots of bright light but many don’t, if you are not sure or the care information does not tell you, you can always do a quick Google to see if you can find the answer. If you have a dark corner that you want to brighten with some greenery then find a plant that does not need a lot of light, and of course the opposite for a really sunny spot, you will need to find a plant that can tolerate that amount of light. You will find that most staff at any good garden centre can tell you which plants will suit the area depending on the light it gets. So before you buy a plant on a whim have an idea of where it is going to go and buy for that spot.

ZeeZee Plant
5. The ZeeZee plant, this plant tolerates low to bright light and does require much water, you need to let it dry right out before watering again, it grows very slowly which is not a bad thing for a house plant.

Lastly do not give up, plants can be expensive so look to trying some cuttings of succulents first, maybe from your friends or families garden, just break a piece off and stick it in a vase or bottle. Spanish Moss is a cheap option too and can be picked up from most garden centres for a under $5. If you are going to invest a little more money in a house plant then do your home work first, have a look at the garden centres and get the names of some of the plants you like (I take pics on my phone of the labels so I know exactly what its called) and then read up on what they like and if they are easy care, know where in your house the plant is going to go and if it will be happy there.

If all else fails there seems to be more and more fake house plants appearing everywhere so you can always invest in one of those 😉

 

 

Kenyan inspired up-cycled gunny sack gardens

A up-cycled gunny sack garden is something that ChildFund families in Kenya are using to grow nutritious vegetables for their children, you can make one yourself too (see my tips below) and even better you can give more mums in Kenya the same opportunity by purchasing a Nutrition Training Voucher or other garden-related gifts from ChildFund’s Gifts that Grow collection in honour of Mothers Day, the gift options of range from just $7! I have personally just donated a Gunny Sack Garden.

These gardens are environmentally-friendly in more ways than one, made simply from up-cycled coffee sacks which after producing vegetables for several months slowly decompose and break down and leave no waste. You can find the materials list and full instructions on how to build a gunny sack garden on the ChildFund site, these are the instructions I followed and it was very straight forward.

Gunny Sack Garden materials
Gunny Sack Garden materials

The gravel channel that helps disperse the water evenly through the gunny sack garden is genius, in fact I will be using this idea with my next lot of bucket gardening and the fact that you can cut holes in the sack and plant seedlings all the way up is a great way of getting as many vegetables growing at once as possible. I planted Pak Choi and ‘frilly’ lettuce in mine, it does not go as high up as it should as I ran out of soil, but I am sure I will be making more and will make sure I have enough soil next time.

In Kenya a single gunny sack garden can provide a family of 6 with supplementary vegetables for 3 months and they are also grown in schools to provide for nutritious school lunches. Why not give these a go yourself? A great activity to do as a family, maybe get your hands dirty on Mothers Day and even better you could purchase a gunny sack garden to gift to a family or preschool in Kenya as well.

My Gunny Sack Garden
My Gunny Sack Garden

Cinderella adventures at home

“Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic!”

Ever since last year when seeing the first sneak peeks of the new Disney Cinderella movie I have been excited to take my girls to see it, they have always loved the Cinderella story and I love that one of the main messages of the movie is “have courage and be kind” two things we as a family discuss and endeavour to emulate daily.

While we wait to be able to go and see Cinderella at the movies, we have watched the trailer a few…OK dozens of times. The cinematography looks amazing, the costumes WOW! I love the Ellie Goulding song that features and Cate Blanchett as the wicked Step Mother is the icing on the already delicious cake – but that’s just what I think, my girls of course love the magic and they love the mice and then when the mice turn into horses they are transfixed, but most of all its the pumpkin carriage that they are mesmerized by, the reason being our neighbours have a giant pumpkin growing in their garden and the girls now think that maybe this is the pumpkin that Cinderella rode in to the ball. Oh to still have their imagination and belief in magic.

CINDERELLA

This weekend after watching the trailer again the girls decided to dress up in their Cinderella costumes and equipped with glitter, flowers and golden slippers (we don’t have any glass ones) we went to visit the giant pumpkin to create some of our own magic and take some photos (of course). It was also a good moment to practise our courage and kindness, courage to get right in amongst the garden and through the thick and prickly pumpkin vines to be able to stand with the pumpkin and kindness in helping each other with that task and taking turns sprinkling the glitter (yes there were a few tense moments – kids & glitter!!!)

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We got some fantastic photos and the girl’s loved every minute of our magic adventure, they are now even more excited to see the movie – hurry up March 26th we want to see Cinderella! In the meantime we will be watching the trailer (0ver and over), if you haven’t seen it already check out the trailer here

COMPETITION CLOSED – THE WINNER IS JANEL

To celebrate the release of Cinderella and to help you turn something in your life from a pumpkin into magic, I have a $250 prezzy card to giveaway, simply comment below with your favourite moment from the trailer and you will be in the draw to win. Competition is open to NZ only and will be drawn on Thursday 26th of March.

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bucket gardens

Sometimes the main reason we don’t grow vegetables is not because we don’t want to, but more because we have nowhere to grow them and the thought of having to dig out or build a vegetable garden sends us rushing to the supermarket or fruit and veg shop instead. With a few simple flexi tub buckets, some garden/container mix and vegetable plants and seeds that problem is solved! My bucket gardens and perfect for small spaces and tight budgets!

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I love growing my own vegetables! I have no dreams of being self-sufficient and will still be seen buying a bag “oh so convenient, when in a hurry” coleslaw from the supermarket that’s guaranteed, but picking your own tomatoes or pulling your own carrots brings so much satisfaction and its also a great way to get kids involved in learning about gardening, how things grow and possibly even eating the produce.

For my bucket garden as I like to call it, I purchased some flexi tubs from The Warehouse they were on special when I got them as there was of course a sale, so they cost me $5 each, I went for bright colours because that’s how I roll and I was wary of the black ones getting too hot, then some garden mix from our local garden centre, look for garden or container mix and preferably something that says its good for growing vegetables and then of course the plants. I currently have a cherry tomato, yellow courgette (you will need a big bucket for these), eggplant, capsicum, carrots and lettuces growing, but you can grow just about anything and a lot of garden centres now sell container varieties that are do not grow as big. I also added some marigolds for a spot of colour.

bucket garden

The buckets will need to have drainage holes in the bottom for the water to drain out when they are watered otherwise the plants will drown. It’s best to fill the buckets with the soil first and then use a phillips head screwdriver to punch holes about 10cm apart around the outside and 2cm up from the base of the bucket.

Then plant the plants in the buckets, I go with tomato, eggplant and capsicum in the middle of each bucket and then some lettuces around the outside and some marigolds too if you want the colour. Remember with tomatoes they need to be staked as they can get quite tall. With carrots they really need to be on their own in the bucket and are best grown from seed. The courgette plant can get really big so again are best on their own.

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The buckets are great as the handles make them really easy to move around so you can make sure they get lots of sun or move them into the shade if it’s too hot. Make sure the plants get plenty of water so if it hasn’t rained then a good water with the hose will be needed once a day and make sure to do it in the early morning or at night when the sun is not so hot.

Remember not everything will necessarily thrive and some plants will give you nothing whilst others give you so much you end up looking for tomato sauce recipes on pinterest! Most of all enjoy, enjoy growing them and eating them. There is still plenty of time to grow lots of vegetables for all the summer BBQ’s we tend to have at this time of year.

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