12 things I learned in home-ec.

I think it won’t come as a great shock when I say that I had home-ec in high school. It wasn’t a particularly popular subject, except when we did practicals when all the boys would line up at the door to share in the spoils. But what most people don’t know, is that home-ec is one of the most useful subjects in school and actually does something to prepare you for real life. Here are my top 12 reasons:

1} Basic nutrition, food groups, portions and composition of food. Why fast-food is bad and veggies are good. I also know what Kwashiorkor looks like: the image is etched in my mind forever. This is not necessarily useful except that it is something I want to definitely avoid getting.

2} What vitamins and minerals are in which foods. In fact, we went through this so much that I remember about carotenoids, riboflavin, cyanocobalamin and ascorbic acid. Especially useful when you want to treat scurvy and other irritating ailments.

3} How to add cold eggs to hot sauces without the protein in the eggs shriveling up and ruining everything.

4} Food safety: why you shouldn’t cut raw chicken and cooked chicken using the same utensils for instance. You know, basics.

5} To plan mealtimes so that the kitchen is tidy and the table is set at the same time as when the food is done – which should be a balanced meal with varied textures and colours. *You should also ensure that your hair is done, make-up has been touched up, the kids are fed and bathed and you’re dressed for dinner. Your husband does not want to walk in on an untidy wife. {Read important footnote on this!}

6} It’s polite to write and promptly post a beautiful thank-you card to your host{ess} after you went to a dinner party. Or since it’s 2014, send an email or at least an sms – it’s the right thing to do!

7} Wipe the plate after you’ve dished food. It’s something small but presentation counts for a lot.

8} Women should not have more than 3 babies in 4 years since their bodies can’t properly recuperate. This is valid advice – having 3 kids under 4 years old is not for the faint-hearted!

9} Maslow’s pyramid. If you don’t know what that is, you obviously didn’t have home-ec. Click here.

10} How to make a proper B√©chamel and B√©arnaise. How to caramelize, poach, saut√©, sweat (vegetables!), broil, grill, bake, flamb√© and blanch. And souffles. I think we spent a whole term on souffles. Even if you don’t particularly like cooking, it’s necessary to impress someone every once in a while.

11} Budgeting: you can only buy the new black trousers or the grey knitted sweater, not both. So what are your options? Make the trousers or knit the sweater, of course! Or save if you can’t sew or knit.

12} Ergonomics: place your laundry basket on a chair while you hang the washing out. That way your back won’t get sore.

So why are these things useful? Because it’s everyday stuff. I also remember a lot about biology, art history and a couple of things from my math-textbook. But I don’t use them every day unless I have to know if the triangle between the kitchen and the playroom is obtuse or acute of course!

* Note on the getting ready for your husband thing: I went to high school in the 90’s and my textbook was printed in the late 60’s if I remember correctly. While a lot of the content was timeless {like scurvy}, some things were a bit outdated. Like bringing your husband his slippers. We skipped over that.

the last place.

I am not at all embarrassed to admit that I am one of those people who can never find my keys. I am generally quite organized, but when you walk through the doors with 2 toddlers, a nappy bag, 4 bottles of milk and need to prevent the dogs from escaping, where the keys land up are just not the first priority.

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So every time I need to leave the house, an epic search ensues that usually ends up with the keys being found in the last place you’d look, like the shopping bag that’s by now in the bin. That statement has always confused me though: of course it’s in the last place. It’s not like you’ll keep searching somewhere else once you’ve found it in the second last place, is it?

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While this ritual game of “let’s look for Mommy’s keys and glasses” can be entertaining, it’s also exhausting and continually causes said Mommy to be late. Which she hates.

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And that’s how I came with the idea for the last place. Now I can just go there first and get it over and done with. I have inherited about 12 of these little wooden boxes of unknown origin {prepare to see a lot more of them in coming weeks!}. A few brass hooks and some sticky letters and I’m good to go. On time!

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Winter Herb Garden

With the colder weather settling in, the things that we can do in the garden are getting less and less. Now is the time to move plants around though, so I thought it the perfect opportunity to transplant my herb garden.

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I made a small herb & veggie garden with my kids at the top of the garden a couple of years ago, but because it is not right by the kitchen, I tended not to really use it that much.

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I had this very dull, boring and extremely uninspiring space in my utility yard, right next to the kitchen back door. Horrible pipes, weeds and sand completed the sad picture. It was by far the most neglected¬†space in my entire garden, so I decided it’s the perfect space for some much needed attention.

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And this is the result of about 4 hours of work! I covered half of the space with river stones (living on a farm, I do have some interesting natural resources!) and planted the other half with rosemary, chilli, lavender and oregano. Oregano is a wonderful creeper so I only needed to lift the shallow roots and place them onto fresh soil in their new home. A little bit of wood-chip mulch from the local saw mill finishes things of nicely.

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The ancient wheelbarrow is finally coming into its own as a planter – it is so full of holes that it works perfectly. The basil, parsley and chives were already settled in their pots in the older version of the garden so I just put the pots in the wheelbarrow without transplanting them.

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The screen has to be my favourite addition to the area: it provides a lovely back drop to the space and also covers the horrible pipes.

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Here is my list of herbs – it’s so fresh and pretty right outside the back door that they inspire me to greatness when I cook!

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And it’s not only a great play area for the kids – it’s also a great learning tool for teaching them about different tastes and flavours. Except for the chillies of course!

30 Minute Make-Over: Window Box

Here’s a super easy, quick and cost-effective little tutorial for a Mother’s Day gift: a window flower box made out of a broken palette. A great project to do with your kids!

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You’ll need a broken palette (get one from your local hardware store or Agri / Co-Op if you live in the country -they throw them away!), some paint and a few plants.

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First, remove the one end, keeping the top and bottom plank as well as the support blocks intact

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Next, remove the central support block only. If your palette was put together by a hammer-happy individual, this might be the most difficult thing you do all day. I first tried to remove the 6 nails holding it in place and then ended up hammering through them by driving a flat screw driver between the plank and support block {much easier than option 1!}.

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Fix 2 more planks above the original 2 to completely cover the support blocks. If you have any old nails that you just cannot remove {prime example above}, just flatten them into the wood. Then add a 5th plank to the bottom, making sure that there are gaps so that water can drain out.

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I used my favourite Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White, because it requires no prep and will weather nicely to a vintage finish. Shop your chalk paint online here!

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I screw-fixed the planter to the wall as well as supported it underneath with 2 L-brackets.

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I kept the plants in the pots so that I can replace them easily without having to unscrew the box. And it looks just adorable!

DIY Herby Hanger

This is a very quick and easy way to add some country to your autumn kitchen. A herb hanger not only looks really impressive and bountiful, but just working with all these lovely smelling herbs really brought a smile to my nose!

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I worked with 1.6mm steel wire: it’s stable enough to keep its shape but easy enough to bend. Working with the natural coiled shape of the wire will help you to measure the lengths (full circle / half circle lengths).

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First, make a circle with 1 and a half lengths of wire and secure the ends by twisting it around itself.

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For the top hanger: Start with a full circle length and bend right over left.

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Then twist the bend to secure, and twist the ends to create loops.

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Hook the hanger’s loops over the circle that you made earlier and secure the ends by twisting it around the circle.

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For the lower hangers, you will follow the same steps as for the top hanger, but you’ll use half circle lengths.

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Bend right over left.

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Twist the loop that you’ve created to secure it.

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Then create loops at the top by bending over the ends.

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Hook the lower hangers onto the circle.

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I made simple little S-hooks by bending the ends of 100mm lengths of wire.

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I have plenty of parsley, rosemary, lavender and also some chillies. So far, it already smells amazing!

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Using different kinds of ribbon, string up the herbs in roughly equal length bushes and hang onto the lower hangers using the S-hooks.

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The bunch of chili in the center really makes the whole thing for me. And as an added bonus, it keeps the flies out of the kitchen!

Play Room Make-over

The playroom is finally finished! It was the one room in the house that I was most looking forward to getting stuck into but then when I started, I just got totally and completely stuck.

I started venturing away from my original idea because I simply couldn’t get it to work, no matter how hard I tried.

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In the end, I let the room guide me and I am really pleased with the result! Although it is not really about me being pleased, I do spend a LOT of time here so I needed to be happy with it. The first priority was that my kids should love it and thankfully, they do!

You’ve seen some of my more recent additions to the room, like the tent and the dress-up trunk. But here is what I have been able to do with R1000!

Paint                     R135
Curtain Pole        R180
Fabric                   R386
Cushion                R120
Foam                    R150
Fairy Lights         R60
 
Total:                   R1004

Many of the things that I used here I already had: the curtains are old ones from our last house; the bed and chest of drawers I grew up with; the picture frames were laying in the storeroom unused. But even so, I love how using all these old elements and giving them new life just automatically adds something to a room.

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I found the lovely graphics free on Vectorstock.com and played around with the colours in Photoshop until it suited the scheme.

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A bit of Annie Sloan Chalk paint quickly transformed the old frames. I used the Old Violet and just adjusted the colour slightly by adding a bit of white before I painted the second and again the third frame. I think the 3 colours make it a bit more interesting!

Shop your chalk paint online here!

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My old bed was transformed into a day bed with the help of a loose cover over a piece of medium density foam and another denim loose cover that I cut to a fitted sheet. The yellow chevron cushion is from Mr Price Home – I love the pop of colour!

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This horrid dusty pink ceramic base was claimed from my parents’ attic and brought into this century with some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite.

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I used an old wire-frame shade with it and made a simple slipcover for it. Like most things in my house, I need to be able to wash it should dirty hands find their way to it!

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One of my favourite things in this room has got to be the JOY light: I used a jigsaw to cut the “joy” out of a piece of ply and painted it to match the wall colour. I then used my staple gun with u-shaped staples to secure fairy lights to it. It’s so simple but it’s fun and really does bring joy to an otherwise bland wall. Just be careful when you use the staple gun – I lost a set of lights in the process because I stapled right through it! For the how-to on this light, you’re going to have to wait for the new book!

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The retro chest of drawers was destined to be painted from top to toe. But as soon as I removed the old handles and saw the beautiful light oak underneath, I decided to gently sand down the old girl. I resprayed the original coppery handles with a metallic charcoal spray paint and she not only looks brand new, but she also smells amazing after I treated her with some raw linseed oil.

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I repainted the wall 4 times before I was happy with the colour. It started off to be the wonderful warm yellow that I am so fond of, then white, then grey and finally this duck-egg which I ended up mixing myself from paint I had. Point is this: I am a professional interior designer and I seriously get it wrong sometimes! So take heart next time when you are not happy after you’ve finished a room – it happens to everyone!

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And just to show you that we live a completely normal life, this is the playroom 10 minutes after I finished the photo shoot!