09 December 2015

Our house in the middle of our street: Part 1

If you'd told me last Christmas to fast forward a year and that I'd be living in Cambridge in a new house we'd just built I would have laughed you out of the park.

Seriously.... that idea would have seemed pretty ludicrous. A grand and exciting plan but ludicrous all the same.

Now here we are that year later as we count down to moving into our new house in a new town in a new part of NZ - it's fitting to share the journey we have been on from there to here. Here's a timeline of the big events that have shaped our journey:

We met with real estate agents in Wellington with a view to putting our house on the market knowing this was the first step in the long move north.

After completing some work on the house, it went on the market with a 3 week deadline sale process. It was a nerve-wracking time especially as we were trying to sell a textured coated house with the whole 'leaky home' stigma. Even though we knew our home was solid and sound would anyone else want to buy it?!

April 1
This year there was no April Fool's for us - the house sold on April 1 at a good price and we could now look forward to our 'what next?'

April 10
After a road trip round the East Coast we finished up in the Waikato and on our joint birthdays we were going out for lunch and just happened to pop into the Cambridge Park subdivision on our way to the Olde Creamery cafe on the other side of Cambridge. We went into the Generation Home show home, took a long look around and came away incredibly excited at the thought of maybe just maybe building a home here would be a great idea. And so: the dream of building our own home was born! And in less than two months we would be leaving Wellington for good!

For the rest of this month we were in discussion with Generation Homes about securing a section and deciding on the design of our new home. We really liked the Parry plan because you could separate off the living areas from the bedroom areas. We also really liked the courtyard in the centre of the living areas with 3 sets of bi-fold doors opening out onto a central courtyard.

We did however make a few changes from the original plan - adding in a walk-in pantry (which we had loved in the showroom) and changing the windows down the side of the house.

May 4
We flew up to the Waikato for the weekend to meet with Generation Homes and further develop our plans for the new house build. We also went to visit the section we would be building on. It was hard to envisage how it might look six months later in a near finished state but it was exciting to dream all the same.

June followed by July followed by August
We moved halfway up the country at the beginning of June and settled into our rental in Cambridge which is less than a kilometre away from the new house. During the cold Waikato winter we started a new life with new schools and new jobs and waited for the title to come through on the part of the subdivision where our home would be built. Patiently we waited through the depths of sub zero frosts, chillblains and crisp winter days.

September 10 - Week 1
Then at the end of August, we got the news the title had been issued and this meant work could now begin. While Noah and Mark were away on school camp, I got the news that the digger was on the section starting the excavation work - of course I hightailed it round to see progress that afternoon. It was very exciting knowing the project had finally officially begun!

During the first week the foundations were excavated and the area of the house was pegged out with wood. We couldn't get over how small the house looked once it was pegged out.

September 17 - Week 2
During this week the concrete pad was poured.

September 24 - Week 3 
This week the wall frames went up - it changed the whole look of the house once we could see where the rooms started and finished.

October 1 - Week 4
The roof framing goes on and the shape of the roof adds a whole other dimension to a previously square looking box.

October 8 - Week 5 
This week the roof tiles were added and after a month of building we were nearly one third of the way through the build!

October 15 - Week 6
We have windows! This week all the windows were put in and we were loving the look of the bifold doors into the courtyard.

October 22 - Week 7
This week the bricks are added to the exterior - and suddenly the weeks and weeks of umming and aahing over the brick colour were worth it as it looks just how we wanted - we love the silver joinery and how the mortar matches it so well.

We'd originally been building in a black brick but after seeing some other houses go up in the subdivision we soon changed our minds as the overall look just didn't do it for us. Thank goodness we made the decision to change - we are so much happy with the lighter coloured brick!

October 29 - Week 8
More bricks and the outside of the house is looking pretty well finished (apart from the linea boards at the front which still need painting).

November 5 - Week 9
This week the walls are put up inside and all the plastering is done - now when we peer in the windows we can really envisage living in each room.

November 12 - Week 10
There's more happening inside like doors and cupboards being added but we can't see too much peeking from the outside, but we do notice the kitchen cupboards arriving and being installed.

November 19 - Week 11
This week we had an official site visit where we discovered they had put the wrong colour benchtop on - white instead of black whoops! Luckily it wasn't our mistake and this was soon rectified. We also got an extra treat when we got to walk around inside on the weekend and with some undercoat on the walls the place was looking so light and bright!

November 26 - Week 12
This week they levelled off all the dirt round the outside and inside it was all hands on deck with painting and more painting - walls, ceilings and doors.

December 3 - Week 13
Outside the concrete kerbing went on for the landscaping whilst inside the tiles were being laid in the kitchen, bathrooms and entrance ways.

What's left?
With only two weeks to go till our move in date on December 22/23 - there's a lot to still come together like carpets, electrical finish, and some plumbing but we know it will all happen - because it has to!

Stay tuned for Part 2 when we actually move in!

And just for fun - here's a time lapse of the build so far!

02 December 2015

How to embrace life when it's hurtling along at breakneck speed.....

.....for a start you better just hold on for dear life and hope you don't fall off!

Far out brussel sprout, it feels like the last few weeks of this year are rushing toward us at the speed of light.

It's a busy time of the year anyway with lots of end of term activities - athletics day, hip hop dance recitals, Christmas parades, cricket practices and games, and Cubs badges to be achieved. Then there's baby showers, guests coming to stay on several weekends and my photography sales which have gone better than I could possibly have imagined with over 20 calendars sold and some prints as well - I'd like to know all these sales were last year when I so desperately wanted sales when I was launching the Meghan Maloney Photography site and trying to sell at the Thorndon market which was such a disaster - ha ha - ah well I'm not complaining really!

And when you throw in the mix a looming house move that's right around the corner - it's less than 3 weeks away now and the added inevitable craziness of the lead up to Christmas sourcing gifts for friends and family - it's a sure fire recipe for high blood pressure and more than a few fraught moments as we also try to deal with slack phone/fibre providers who can't pull finger to organise an installation date and an online furniture company who cannot seem to provide good service and products despite our patience in trying to sort some issues out with them for the past few months.

Add to that it's the busiest time of the year at work too and I find all I can do is *sigh*......................

Oh and then our 13 year-old fridge decides to pack it in the last few days and it's taken to freezing everything inside - what utterly impeccable timing!

So that aside........ what else have we been up to?

For a start enjoying the warmth that is the Waikato - we have already had a few mid twenties temperatures and it's only just officially summer this week! The boys got a taste of just how hot the sun is after getting rather sun burnt at the local pool on the weekend - oops - Mark was left a bit red faced after that experience (not to mention a red body too!)

Noah's sunburnt face after the afternoon at Cambridge pool :-/

Loving these stunning red roses in the garden of our rental - we will miss the awesome big backyard and all the established garden when we move to our new place - we'll be lucky to even get grass to grow moving in the height of summer.

Loving finding the gem that is Fast Flavours - a local dairy free and gluten free takeaway option in the heart of Cambridge - it's been my Friday night go-to when the boys have had their $5 Dominoes Pizza during Friday night cricket games - this was their yummy seafood paella.

Loving recognition of playing so well at his first game of cricket - even if he was pretty peaky the next day when this photo was taken, poor poppet.

Not loving long road trips that have to be made within a single day - but loving the reason for it - so we could all celebrate my gran's 90th birthday in Taranaki with her - at least we all went together in the shuttle - it made the time pass quick enough - the boys are enjoying a quick stop at Pio Pio to stretch their legs here.

And I even got to drive the shuttle partway home again - my first time in all the years Dad has been a super shuttle driver that I've even sat in the drivers seat!

Loving being able to sneak away for an hour to watch the kids on athletics day at school.

Loving (well that might be a stretch) that I got to sleep over at school one Thursday night with Mylo and 30 other kids on the floor of his classroom. I was dreading it (I'll happily admit that) but it was actually pretty fun. I got a few hours sleep which was more than I'd bargained on - plus it was a great way to meet a few more of the parents in his class too. I was pretty tired come Friday afternoon though.....yawn.......

Tickling the kids on the Burma trail that night was pretty fun - and watching their shrieks as they came up against things they didn't recognise with their masks on!

Loving that we got an unexpected sneaky visit into the house when our good friend Jules was staying for the weekend. It felt so much lighter and brighter than just a few days earlier when Mark and I had our official visit with the builders.

Not loving that they put the wrong colour bench top on our bench - it is meant to be black - but loving that we realised pretty much straight away and it's since been fixed - an expensive error on someone's part - just glad it wasn't ours!

Loving 22 pieces of snail mail arriving from Noah's classmates back in Wellington - he enjoyed reading every single one and we must must must write an email back before the term ends in the next 2 weeks!

Loving that I made it home safely after a flying day trip (AGAIN!) to New Plymouth via the bus to drive my gran's car back home as we are buying it off her for Mark's parents to use when they arrive in January for six weeks. And loving the company of Charlie (Charlotte) to make the journey back whizz by in the blink of an eye!

Loving having dinner cooked for us by Charlie while she stayed - what a rare treat for us not to have to cook on a weeknight!

Loving that hubby's Saturday morning coffees rival anything you might get served up at a cafe...I think I'll keep him on!

Loving this indoors temperature one day last week - ah yes I feel summer right down into my bones!

Loving being able to get to assembly to watch Noah get his Principals award in the final assembly of the year.

Loving drinking bubbly from Batman cups at Friday night cricket and that the rain held off (just!) till the end of the game.

Loving having Charlie to stay so we could enjoy a rainy Saturday in putting up the Christmas tree, making and consuming mulled wine, painting Christmas nails (red and green) and helping Nana and Poppa choose their Christmas tree...

Might need to wait another year or two for that one though Mylo!

Loving that I live close enough to family now to be able to take part in my lovely sister-in-law Alesha's baby shower, and loving that it's only six weeks or so till I get to be an aunty again to a precious new babe in the family!

And last but not least loving that I can still find things to love despite the madness that is our lives right now....

This weekend it's Noah's hip hop performance, plus we have tickets to the UCI world track cycling champs at the velodrome, the Cubs (and therefore Noah) will be parading in the Christmas parade and we have friends coming for a BBQ as well.

The garden desperately needs a tidy, the windows need washing and we are really struggling to find the time to get any packing done...I know there will come a day (very soon) where we will just have to knuckle down and get to it if we ever want to move out at all!

30 November 2015

Gluten-free paleo chocolate tart with an extra special secret ingredient

The first time I made this tart I couldn't quite believe just how tasty it was, especially knowing it was gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and refined sugar free too! And you'd never guess the special secret ingredient....pumpkin!

I used one butternut pumpkin (the small ones shaped like a pear) and roasted this up the day before. Once roasted, scoop out the flesh and add to the food processor with a tiny bit of water - just enough to turn into a thick, smooth puree.

For the crust:

3 Tbsp coconut oil melted
3  Tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6-7 Tbsp pumpkin puree (keep the rest for the filling)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut flour
3 Tbsp tapioca flour or arrowroot

Filling ingredients:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (or the rest of the puree you have)
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey or other sweetener)
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves, nutmeg, mixed spice

To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a pie dish.

Place coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the coconut flour and arrowroot/tapioca flour and mix well by hand until combined.

Press mixture into a greased pie tin and evenly press up around the walls to form the crust. Use a fork to pierce some holes along the base of the crust to prevent bubbling during baking. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, place all chocolate filling ingredients in the food processor and process until mixture is smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times. Once the crust has cooled, pour the filling into the tart and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Chill tart in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours prior to slicing. It will remain solid (and mousse-like) at room temperature after that so long as it's not too hot where you live, or you can keep it chilled if you prefer.


For other tasty and healthy recipes, visit my Cooking page.

24 November 2015

That carrot and chia seed cake with honey mascarpone cream....{recipe}

I have to apologise for the long delay in posting this recipe since I know a fair few of you were keen to get this a few weeks ago. This is actually one of my favourite gluten-free dairy-free sugar-free muffin recipes which I was really hoping would go equally as well turned into a cake.

Life keeps getting in the way of regular blogging at the moment but I'll just snatch a few snippets of time as and when I can...like now.....so without further ado...that cake!


3 free range eggs
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
3/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 cups ground almonds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
150g grated carrots (1 cup tightly packed)
grated zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease/line a 20 cm tin. Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix until well combined. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.

Optional mascarpone cream icing:

1 cup mascarpone cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

Put the mascarpone, lemon zest and honey in a bowl. Using a spoon, mix until well combined. Gently spoon the mascarpone cream on the top of the cooled cake and spread out evenly with a knife. Sprinkle with seeds to decorate.

Enjoy knowing you're indulging in one healthy yet very tasty morsel!

For more gluten-free, healthy and tasty recipes, visit my Cooking page

18 November 2015

A Home made of Happiness {review of Chelsea Winter's new recipe book}

When I heard that Chelsea Winter had a new recipe book coming out called Homemade Happiness, my heart did a little happy dance. We are already big fans of her previous book Everyday Delicious and so I had high hopes for the new book too. I think the thing I love most about her books is that the recipes are all easy to make and we often find we have all (or most) of the ingredients we need already in the house. In my opinion, there's nothing more frustrating for a parent-chef than a fiddly recipe which a) takes ages to prepare and b) has ingredients in it that I've never heard of.

Despite my excitement it was a longer wait than I'd have liked before it actually arrived... which was entirely my fault for forgetting to change my address on the courier package. But as soon as it did arrive, I found myself entirely distracted from all the things I should have been doing at that moment, and I couldn't but help sit down and thumb through each page - making a mental note of each one that appealed, which let's face it was pretty much every single recipe in there!

After a flying visit to New Plymouth to visit my gran last Saturday for her 90th! birthday, we arrived back to empty cupboards and a dire need to visit the supermarket before any cooking of any kind could be contemplated. Normally we do our shop online on a week night but it was quite nice to sit down with an old school pencil and paper and add in a few extra ingredients for the recipes we'd earmarked to make.

While I was out doing the shopping, Mark couldn't bear to wait and got cracking starting the Sausage and Leek Frittata we had decided on for lunch, and I was then given strict instructions not to take too long with the shopping as the leek and eggs in my shopping trolley were all important ingredients to be able to complete our lunch menu.

After such a full-on day before, it was rather lovely to have a sit-down lunch and Mark and I both commented how we would pay good money in a cafe for such a nice-looking (and tasting!) frittata.

With no rest for the wicked, we made the most of a rare rainy day and also cooked the Kiwi Shepherd's Pie recipe for dinner. It's a 'Kiwi' version due to the fact it has lamb inside and kumara on top rather than potato. It may have been more appropriate to use a purple kumara as it's more like a potato but we are especially fond of orange kumara so went with that instead. Mark had cooked a combination of lamb shanks and lamb chops in the slow cooker all day so the meat was super moist and just fell apart before it even got baked in the pie. It was such a warming, hearty dish and the cheesy topping really added to the flavour.

Weeknights for us are a bit of a mission, we have activities on with the kids most nights around dinnertime so spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing tasty family dinners is a big ask. But one of the things I do love about Chelsea Winter's recipes is that none of them involve hours slaving in the kitchen. So for our Monday night meal we'd decided on Sneaky Rissoles with Potato and Leek Smash. Mark prepared the rissole mixture in the morning and stored it in the fridge all day, as well as cutting up the leek and potato for me so that all I had to do was cook the rissoles and leek/potatoes and we were good to go. We also added some sauteed asparagus and green beans (can't get enough greens into the kids!) but the sneaky rissoles also had grated courgette and beetroot in too so they got way more vege that night than they even realised - ha ha!

Tuesday night was no less busy with swimming lessons and Pilates smack bang after each other, so with Moroccan Chicken and Apricot Salad on the menu Mark was able to prepare the chicken marinade in the morning, cook up the apricot mixture and also made the dressing too. It meant that all I had to do in the afternoon was cook the couscous for the boys / cauliflower rice for me and then BBQ the chicken on the Weber in the short window between arriving home from swimming and dashing out to Pilates when I left Mark in charge to plate it all up. So in the end, I had to wait an extra hour to eat which was nothing short of torture when I saw it all going on the plate. Fast forward an hour, and I raced in the door - I could hardly wait to sit down. If you ask hubby (he will attest that this is no lie), he'll tell you I raved and raved and raved some more about this as I was eating it. I do eat a lot of salads so I like to think I can tell a bad salad from a good salad and a good salad from a phenomenal one. And THIS salad is most definitely in the latter category. In fact I made a very big call and said this could quite possibly be my new favourite Chelsea Winter recipe. I cannot wait to make this one again.....and soon.

Last but not least, I wanted to make the boys a healthy treat for the week. Mark is still sugar-free (6 weeks and counting!) and we are trying to limit how much sugar the boys are having too so the Crispy Apricot and Chocolate Muesli Bars appealed as they only had honey to sweeten and we switched out the dark chocolate for 3 tablespoons of cocoa and voila! a tasty treat that will last all week (it made about 20 slices). I especially loved Chelsea's stroke of genius to include rice bubbles in the muesli bars for some extra crunch. So not only do I have happy boys enjoying a great refined sugar-free energy boost - which was very important with athletics day falling this week at school, but there will still be enough left for me to take along to the Year 1 and 2 school sleepover on Thursday night as well - yes I am that silly mum who volunteered to sleep with 30 other children on a week night - what was I thinking?!

I think I'll need a quiet weekend after that - and if I have anything to do with it that will also include more time in my happy place - at home in the kitchen with some more new Homemade Happiness recipes.

Homemade Happiness is published by Penguin Random House and is available from all major booksellers in NZ.

RRP: $50.00

I was provided a copy of Homemade Happiness in exchange for my review. I am not being compensated in any other way. 


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