Life has been very quiet of late - no concerts, theatre, ballet, dinners out or trips away. Instead I've had evenings filled with children's music recitals, school concerts and school parent's drinks evenings, and during the day the hum of domesticity - cleaning, cooking, organising, with a smattering of paid professional work.

This week I had some friends over for morning tea. One of my friends is a Celiac, which means she is highly allergic to gluten. I have a gluten insensitivity (it sets off my eczema), however as it is not life threatening, I admit that I often cheat.. and deal with the itchy consequences. On Monday morning, I went to bake something for morning tea and found that I had no gluten- free flour left.



Essentially a lot of my baking stems from a sort of laziness - I just can't be bothered driving down to the shops to buy ingredients (let alone a finished product). It's easier to work with what I have. So I decided to make a Sponge Cake. There are a lot of different recipes for Sponge Cake, but this one is gluten free, so is perfect as a Morning Tea cake. I posted the photo to Instagram, and was inundated with requests for the recipe (well, two people asked), so here it is. Firstly, do not be afraid of a Sponge Cake - it will not sink! They are actually quite easy if you follow a few simple steps in the mixing process which I've included below.

Gluten Free Sponge Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs (at room temperature, place in a dish of warm water for 10 minutes if you need to bring them up to room temperature)
  • 1/2 Cup Castor Sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 Cup Cornflour + 2 Tbsp extra (ensure it is marked Gluten free on the packet as some contain gluten)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar


Method

  • Preheat oven to 175C, less if you use a fan forced oven.
  • line the base and sides, or butter and flour (using gluten free flour) two 20cm cake tins
  • Using the whisk attachment on a mixer, whisk the eggs,  sugar and vanilla together on high speed until it is pale, thick, and has a lot of volume (approximately 4 minutes), then turn the speed down to medium and continue to mix for another 2 minutes to stabilise the air bubbles.
  • Sieve the remaining dry ingredients together 3-4 times, then gently fold them into the egg mixture using a fork (do not use the mixer for this part) until just combined.
  • Divide evenly between the two cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. To check if it is finished, press lightly into the centre of the sponge. If it springs back it is ready.
  • Remove from the oven, wait 5 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Sandwich the two halves together with whipped cream and strawberry jam, dust the top with icing sugar or slather more whipped cream on the top with strawberries.
I did manage one grown up escape the past week - meeting up with blogger Cilla, who is lovely, and was in town for a conference. We went to Proof (bar) just off Waymouth Street. For a Thursday night it was quite buzzy, and we had a good chat and catch up. Weirdly, the weather last Thursday was freezing again and I was in knee high boots and layers of wool, but overall we're having balmy Spring weather now.



The new garden has been blossoming like crazy and already the new plants are growing. The crabapples are particularly pretty, and I certainly don't mind doing dishes with them as the view from my kitchen sink.


With thoughts of the Spring and Summer ahead, I've been casting my eye over my Summer wardrobe, and a couple of new Summer dresses arrived in the post from Tory Burch last week. A few weekends ago there was a Labour Day sale with an extra 30% off the entire website, including sale items. These two new dresses ended up being well priced, and I know they will be staples in my wardrobe when the inevitable baking hot Adelaide Summer begins in ernest in January. This is the green patterned Queen Anne's Lace, and this is the blue one.

I was also in Burnside Village last week (I rarely go shopping, I hate it), and popped into Zara to see if I could find Naomi's dress (and Dani's dress too), however no luck, it was nowhere to be seen - mustn't have made it to Oz. I had a bit of a browse around though, and thought two things. One is that Zara in Australia is not that cheap compared to Europe and the US, and secondly that a lot of the things are very badly cut. 



This was a shirt I tried on, above, where the two pockets are sewn at different heights, one quite crooked, and both weirdly puckered. Other blouses that looked nice on the hanger were cut strangely on the shoulders and not flattering. I think the temptation in there is to think that it is cheap, therefore these flaws can be overlooked. But I am now old enough and wise enough to know that if I have a bit of a niggle that something isn't quite right with it then I am better off leaving it behind, as it will inevitably be something that sits relatively unworn in the wardrobe and then gets donated a few seasons later. The reject pile in the Zara change room was large. But I did find this shirt/ tunic top, which I've already worn a couple of times, and that I love. It's cut nicely, sits well, and the cheery colours lift a boring skinny jeans clad lower half. It's a good transeasonal piece and goes well with a few pairs of my ballet flats. I think it was $69. 



I spent some time gardening over the weekend. Eagle eyed readers may have noticed this attractive garbage bin pot with a sad looking standard ficus in it in the background of my photos over the past two years. 


Approximately 3 years ago, one of the children knocked the old pot off the old back terrace of the house, and it smashed. I stuck it in a handy garbage bin as a temporary measure. So 3 years later, with it having always struggled due to not being properly potted up, I finally repotted it into a large terracotta pot and put it on the new back terrace. I had to give it all a significant prune (it's 20 years old), so it doesn't look so pretty at the moment, but I'm sure it will now flourish. I've underplanted with a pretty trailing white creeper. Thank goodness Ficus are almost impossible to kill off.


Finally, to round off this random post, I was nominated by the lovely KL at the blog eternalicions for the Tour Through Blogland - it's for bloggers renovating properties. KL has been building a beautiful home in New South Wales for the past few years with her builder husband. While I know KL finds that it's often frustratingly slow when you have a builder DIYing it in his time off, the results are definitely worth it. Pop over and have a look if you haven't before. 

1. What are you working on
I'm currently trying to finish off the garden and pool (slow), and clean out the new library in time for the new book cases to arrive. I'm also trying to restore these lawn chairs from the old tennis court that came with the house.


2. How does my work differ from others in the DIY/ Decorating blog world
I guess the main point of difference is that I am an Architect, while a lot of Architects design their own houses, I haven't come across any other blogging Architects yet… but also, I've done no DIY at all on this project (aside from the design of course), so don't really fit that category of blog. Our last house would have made perfect blog fodder, had they been around back in the early 2000's as we did do all of that ourselves and did it on a shoestring. It was the typical young, married, no money, first home scenario.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I enjoy writing, and like sharing information. Before I started blogging I used to find other people's blogs great sources of information. I do feel ambivalent about blogging to some extent, and probably only write about a superficial 5% of my life on it. 

4. How does your writing/ creative process work
I wait until the muse strikes. Usually something will spark a post, and it writes itself fairly quickly. But that is why there can sometimes be large gaps between posts - this is definitely a hobby rather than a job for me.


So I'm supposed to nominate someone else, and that is Laura from Elsee Blog, who has done the most beautiful kitchen renovation recently - the before is above, the after below. She has exquisite taste, and is DIYing most of the work too. If you haven't visited her blog before, then you'll find it full of lovely things that she is making - she sews, bakes, paper crafts, does calligraphy… she is a very talented young Mum who also works full time and lives in Sydney.


Enjoy the Spring weather!

There's been quite a bit of progress on the back garden and pool in the past couple of weeks. For a few weeks after the concrete shell of the swimming pool was poured, it frustratingly all sat idle. So to see a large team buzzing around outside the windows every day has been pleasing indeed. The upside of it taking over 3.5 months for our local council to approve the swimming pool (why did it need to go to the Heritage planners for approval??), is that we decided we could now afford a large proportion of the plants. They are still small, but will grow.

Now, regarding the garden - I did not design it. I wrote about it a year and a half ago here, but I decided that it would be better to hand over to a professional. While I love gardening, I have not studied it, and did not want to make expensive mistakes that I'd be forever correcting and fiddling with, rather than watching plants grow into maturity. Naturally I always advocate having an Architect involved in a house Renovation or build, and I thought I should take my own advice and use a professional, rather than thinking that I should save the money on that fee. I'd also suggest it's really valuable to have the come in early in the design process so that you can adjust parts of the Architecture to work better with the garden. Our stairs down to the garden from the verandah were rejigged, and work much better than they would have if we'd just built them as they were originally planned and then had a garden designed around them.


My landscape Designer has more than paid for herself! I'm already so pleased with her design and plant choices. She really understood all that I loved in gardens, and the vision I had for the back, and her layout and planting schemes have been spot on. This photo above is of the Outdoor Living space, and as it's close to the swimming pool and the new formal side garden, it has transitional planting of sculptural spheres that are looser than the side garden planting. There's a white Crepe Myrtle tree, and Cycads, Japanese Box and softer plantings in between.

All the plants are selected to be water wise - we have very hot, very dry summers, and while we have a watering system (the brown drip hose you can see in all the photos due to lack of mulch at this stage), we need to try to minimise our water use as much as possible.


Up against the house, we've done some planting to screen the less desirable "borrowed view" of our neighbour's house. They have a large, reasonably unattractive rain water tank adjacent to our fence, and our fence is at the maximum height allowable. So there are 5 pencil pines planted there, which will grow to 6 meters in height. A fig has also been planted to replace the one we had to remove for the swimming pool.


The ornamental Manchurian Pear trees and underplanting of Murraya (mock orange) hedging were planted 3 years ago along our boundary fence, so are already maturing nicely. Eventually the hedge will cover the fence completely. In front of each pear tree is a Viburnum topiary ball, which mimics the formal garden at the front. Planted in amongst all of this are to be masses of blue toned salvias, a few different varieties which I'll grow from cuttings. This will give a looser, more relaxed feel to the garden, but the balls will give structure when the salvias are cut back in Winter.



The lawn is roughly divided into thirds, with the second third being larger than the other two. This protruding garden bed has a Maple in it, and more Japanese Box balls. They will grow eventually and be huge. Ignore the irrigation system being laid in the turf, plus the chair/box/ramp thing the kids had constructed (I believe it was a spaceship).


In the last protruding section of the garden bed on the South side, we have 5 pencil pines planted which will give height to this part of the garden. In front is a Forest Pansy (tree) and behind the pines are another row of Murraya (mock orange) hedging. This is the Boules Court, which is going to be a separate space. It will be used as a hard play area for a basketball hoop, and will have a small seating area in this little secret garden room. 



There are some stakes in the photo above showing the position of the new Manchurian Pears. They actually arrived today, and were planted, but I didn't have a chance to photograph anything. The surface of the boules court is also changing to be a darker colour - this is just the base that you can see.


On either side to the boules court there are a pair of Crabapples. The garden will be full of blossom in Spring, which will be beautiful.



The old roller you can see in the photos came with the house, it's from the old lawn tennis court that was originally in this area, and which we have reclaimed as garden.




The swimming pool is looking very unexciting. It is going to be tiled in a greenish ceramic mosaic. I couldn't face the thought of the extra cost for glass mosaics (3 x's the price). There's a wall being built this week behind the pool which will screen the ugly shed at the back of our garden, and the utility area of pool pump/ heating etc.


The side garden is complete, having been redug up for the solar pipes for the swimming pool heating being dug in to go up to their position on the roof. The gravel is out under the Viburnum balls and pears, and the tiny Japanese box hedges have already doubled in size (not hard, they were microscopic when planted). I have been pouring fertiliser on them all.





Inside, it's been busy. I've been quite unwell for the past month or so with Shingles, of all things. It's the remnant of the Chicken Pox virus, which I had when I was nine. It apparently can reappear when you are immune suppressed and run down. It's been a bad few months with sick children in the house, and not a lot of undisturbed nights sleeps for me as a result, hence why I became ill myself. You don't get the actual Pox, but an ugly rash instead and a viral flu like thing. I've been very tired as a result.

So it was nice, after a month or so of boring inactivity and a lot of time in bed sleeping to go out to dinner with Mr AV on a Saturday night. We went to Giallo in Kent Town, where it's cosy and the food is always good. I wore a lot of pink in a nod to Spring, with a lot of black as well as it was still cold.

Pink silk floral skirt, pink patent clutch and pale pink Clic Clac. Black knee heigh suede boots 

I managed to rally enough to have the Dad's over for Father's Day. My younger sister and her boyfriend came too, so there were 10 of us for lunch.


I had no flowers in the garden so cut off some of the blossoming pears for the flowers. I made a leg of lamb roast with mushroom and onion gravy, just as my Mum used to for all our family lunches. There were roast potatoes and a salad of slow roasted veggies with avocado and rocket.


For desert I cheated a bit. I'd made Lemon Curd a few weeks before, and had a jar of it in the fridge, so I made these little tartlet cases out of Careme sweet vanilla bean shortcrust pastry that I blind baked the day before, and filled them with a dollop of lemon curd and topped them with a strawberry and blueberries. Easy and delicious.


This week I'm clearing out the "Library"(that would be the junk room without books at present) as we've given the go ahead to the new bookcases I designed a few weeks ago. I have a lot of paperwork to get rid of and a big shredding bin that was delivered this morning to fill.

 gratuitous shot of Lillies in the kitchen.

Hope all is well in your world.
My bedroom


The late, great Interior Decorator Stuart Rattle was reported to have said that every design scheme he did started and ended with the Bedroom as it was "The first place you see and the last". I am also of the mindset that it is the most important room in a house, as it's also the most private room. Generally visitors don't see a bedroom, so it can be a true expression of all that you like and hold dear. It can be a fantasy get away, a sanctuary and a haven. But many people leave this as the last room that they decorate, perhaps because you are not held accountable in the same way that you are with an undecorated living area. With other financial priorities, such as purchasing furniture and decorating a room for children pushed to the forefront, I have seen some fairly depressing bedrooms in my time.


my bedroom - bay window

I have been interested in Interior Design for a very long time, and have always noticed details. I can clearly remember being invited to a school friend's house when I was 12. She had a beautifully decorated pink bedroom with wallpaper, matching curtains, coordinated furniture - all very girly and frilly (it was the 80's). The main living rooms in the house were also highly decorated with coordinating sofas, lamps, pictures on the walls etc. I can clearly remember the shock of then walking into her parent's bedroom with her for some reason or another, and finding that the room was undecorated. It was such a contrast to the rest of the house. The ensemble mattress was pushed up against the wall without a bedhead. The bedside tables were unattractive, small and perfunctory without lamps, there were white walls and no pictures. Bedding was mismatched. Two years later her parent's divorced. If ever there was evidence that there was little effort going into maintaining their relationship, it was in the decor of the bedroom which was clearly considered the most unimportant space in their house - everything else came first.


So with that said, there are things that I believe should never be in a bedroom. They include:


  • Paperwork, computers and other office related things
  • Exercise equipment, especially large treadmills and weights
  • The furniture you don't want to have in the publicly viewable parts of your home
  • Clutter and junk

You will never see these things in Interior Design magazines, so the best way to make your bedroom resemble one found in a magazine, or like you'd find in a boutique hotel, is to banish these things from your own space.


I'd also suggest that colour schemes should be restful - you can certainly use red or yellow in a room, but balance it out with neutral or cooler colours. A room that is predominantly red or yellow is not a restful space. Televisions should ideally be banished, but if you do have one, try to hide it somewhere, as black screens are voids.



Bedside tables should be a generous size - as Stuart Rattle said in an interview with The Sunday Age it should be "big enough to hold "a lamp, a radio or clock, a glass and water jug, a cup of tea, a glass of whisky and a stack of books. There it is, my whole life sitting next to me."" I like mine to have a drawer so that you can hide a notepad and pen, lip balm and any other bits and pieces you want next to you, but I don't think that they have to match, either. For a very long time I had a skirted bedside table on my side of the bed, and Mr AV had a small Georgian side table (now our hall table) on his side. The thing they had in common was that they had matching lamps, and were both a generous size. Small chests of drawers can make excellent bedside tables.


Making the bed as the focal point of the room is obvious - an ensemble mattress, no matter how artfully placed or bohemian dishevelled it may be when styled in a magazine does not scream comfort or luxury - you want something that is visually inviting for rest. I'm very fond of upholstered bedheads, having one in my own bedroom, but a decadent four poster bed, or canopy are also wonderful. As it is a bedroom you can go a little crazy with fabric - don't play it safe, choose something that you really love, and it will always feel special to you. As you only use a few metres for a bedhead, if you'd prefer not to spend the money on curtains this is a way of using a beautiful fabric in a more cost effective yet impactful way.


I love the sweep of curtains in a bedroom to both block out the outside world at night, and to give a luxurious element to the room - fabrics will always do that. Again, I don't think that doing cream curtains or blinds is the best way to go. The cost is the same for cream curtains as it is for patterned curtains, but the patterned curtains will have a much bigger impact on a decorative scheme.


And it goes without saying that a quality mattress and bedlinen are imperative. I always like to make my bed look comfortable - that means large European pillows, and two other standard pillows behind them. Don't get caught up on thread count with your linen either. This has become something that is being used as a marketing tool. It is definitely quality over quantity - Target 1000 thread count bed linen is not in fact equal to Frette or Sheridan 400 thread count bedlinen in the comfort stakes. Buy the best you can afford, but don't be afraid to go down in thread count between brands as it is not an indication of the quality of the cotton.


If you have space an armchair, or pair, or a sofa are also good - somewhere to hide away from the world with a book, or to chat with your significant other at the end of the day. Lighting your room with lamps is also a way to make it feel cosy. I rarely put the overhead lighting on - the room is lit by bedside table lamps and a lamp on the Secretaire in the corner.


I do plan to post pictures of our bedroom at some stage - it is still mentally 'unfinished' for me (proper lamps!). It was a room that I planned a long time ago when we still lived in Melbourne, and was decorated exactly as it is in the photos above for us to move into. While other rooms in the house were more transitional or unfinished prior to building the extension, I wanted a sanctuary from family life and renovations, so it was important to have this done when we moved in. I have to say that the fabric choice is reasonably bold, but nearly 4 years later is not something that either of us are tired of, and that is the key - choose something that you love and that suits you, and you'll always feel good when you're in your space.

More beautiful bedroom pictures on my Pinterest Bedroom board
It's a fairly recent thing that we buy clothes in standardised sizes off the rack. Not that long ago you would make all your own clothes, or have them made for you.  I remember watching the Television show Mr Selfridge (about the creation of the Selfridge's department store in London) and the radical concept of off- the- rack dress shopping was discussed (it is set circa 1910)- women would buy sized garments off the rack and then have to alter them themselves. It was though that women would never take to it. Of course we all now buy this way, and the reverse is true that it is rare to have a garment made to measure.

We are all squashed and squeezed into 'standard' sizes (which frustratingly vary from brand to brand and country to country. And don't even get me started on vanity sizing that has seen me drop several dress sizes despite having had 3 children and carrying a bit more weight than I used to in my teenage years). It's rare to find a woman who is the ideal fit for those standardised sizes, but it seems that in this day of cheap fast fashion few are willing to put the expense and effort into having clothes altered to suit.

this one was altered to fit

I have often mentioned in previous blog posts on clothes that I take things in to be altered by my alterations lady in the city. Most often this is for a dress that is designed for women with small waists and pneumatic breasts. I fit only one of those descriptions (sadly), so generally my dresses require that they be taken in on the top. Sometimes I might have a hem taken up (as I am not model tall, quite the opposite) to make a dress sit in a less awkward position than at the fattest point on my calves. All of these things mean that the clothes fit better, suit me, and are things that I'll reach for as they are comfortable to wear and flatter me. The dress above had the top altered to take it in around the bust region, and then hemmed to sit just on my knee (covering my knee, but not awkwardly placed as it had previously been).


Recently I posted a picture of my Max Mara coat (highly flattering night shot above) asking for opinions on what to do with it. To recap, I bought it in 2001 in Melbourne, it was too long for me and was swamping my frame- I used to wear heels to work so it was ok, but in flats I looked like I was playing dress ups with someone else's coat. The shape was still current, so I took it to my alterations woman to have it shortened, and look!  I've got a new coat! Just in the nick of time for Spring….

 Yes, I have legs.

The buttons were also replaced - the old ones had shattered after being exposed to dry-cleaning fluid over the years. I chose these charcoal coloured buttons with some subtle silver edging to them.





While I was having that done, I also had a navy blue silk Carolina Herrera evening coat taken up on the sleeves. I bought it recently on eBay for $210 - it looks almost unworn and would have cost around $2000 new. It's a pet hate of mine to have sleeves that end in the middle of your hand  (on men as well as women). It just looks ill fitted, and as you can see in the very poor quality photo above, the sleeves came down to my fingers). I remember reading many years ago that an old couture trick was to cut a sleeve just above the wrist bone as it makes your arms look thinner and more elegant. At any rate the sleeves had to come up, so ta-da, here is my new evening coat

all photos taken from the view point of a 6 year old

I also went to the Button Bar in Adelaide Arcade and bought some new buttons for my JCrew schoolboy blazer. It came with shiny brass buttons that gave a faux Military Club type feel to it. The ones I chose as replacements are a little more subtle (for some reason the colour came out as black here, but the blazer is navy and so are the buttons). I have to admit that it was tedious to sew 8 buttons on the jacket, but well worth it.


the old, very shiny, brass buttons

So all this, coupled with a trip to the cobbler to fix 5 pairs of shoes up with new heels and soles ready for Summer (won't have to buy new ones, so that's a win), and I've ticked off a bit of satisfying wardrobe maintenance.

I've always felt that if you buy good quality things they're worth investing effort in maintaining them (such as my shoes), and occasionally something that is not such good quality can be improved by a few small alterations that make the proportions sit better on your body. Certainly I think the rise in popularity of dressing in separates has come about from the difficulties in fitting into a standard size in a dress for most women. I love a dress, and am certainly not a standard size, but alterations are well worth investing in if you find something you love.
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Architect, Interior Designer, Mother of three, Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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