Category Archives: How Do You..?

A life how-to.

Creating terrariums at the Octopus’ Garden

Living in a two-bedroom apartment with a pint-sized balcony does not allow for a whole lot of green-thumb flexing. Creating terrariums though? That’s gardening I can get on board with! Terrariums are all over the place right now and it’s easy to see why: they’re customisable and hard to kill.

Creating terrariums | Octopus' Garden |

For our lovely Lee’s hen’s weekend (you might remember her fun & colourful engagement party) we took in a terrarium workshop at Octopus’ Garden in Long Jetty on NSW’s Central Coast.

Terrarium Workshop | Octopus' Garden |

A beautiful florist and workshop space, Octopus’ Garden is a treasure trove of flower power and general plant adoration. I fell in love with the below bouquet and spent plenty of time admiring the bunches of wildflowers, wall of ferns and other odds and ends that lined the walls.

Beautiful bouquet | Octopus' Garden |

Inside the Octopus' Garden |

As part of the workshop fee, we had expert tuition from one of the Octopus’ Garden owners and everything we needed to create two terrariums – one fishbowl-sized & one pint-sized. Our places were set around the table with a selection of succulents and buckets of dirt, pebbles, twigs & moss were passed around to bring it all together.

How to make a terrarium | Octopus' Garden |

Getting your hands in dirt and inhaling its earthiness is fantastic therapy, especially when you have great company to share the time with. It also helps that you get to take home the delightful fruits of your crafternoon labour.

My big terrarium | Octopus' Garden |

Lee picked up a few cute extras to incorporate into our terrariums which I totally recommend you do if you decide to try your hand at putting one together. While they were a bit lost in the bigger fishbowl-style terrarium, they look super cute in my smaller one.

My little terrarium | Octopus' Garden |

You’ll need to be willing to get dirt under your nails to enjoy a workshop like this – so it may not be for everyone – but I love the edition of these little living sculptures in my house. And the best bit? I only have to water them once a week. Perfect for busy plant mothers!

How do you… Give a good birthday present?

It was my birthday last month. 28, no biggie. I was lucky enough to spend the vast majority of the weekend feasting at assorted eateries around town with family & friends.

While I’d never turn down a present, this year’s gifts were especially excellent. Personal, thoughtful and fun, there’s too many lessons to be had to not share some of my spoils!

Lesson #1: Think vintage

Vintage gear isn’t everyone’s jam but there’s a lot to be said for a gift that’s a one-of-a-kind with a story to tell.

From my grandmother, I got this Whiting & Davis Co purse. Still in its original box with tissue paper stuffing and all, she wasn’t sure if I’d like it but thought she’d pass it along anyway. When I called her to thank her and find out more about it, she told me she hardly used it for fear of wrecking it. She spotted it in a shop window back in the 1960s and knew she had to have it. She said my grandfather was happy to buy it for her but she wanted to pay for it herself – she wanted it to be all hers. “I bought it with my own money; it was a big deal back then.”

Vintage bag

Lesson #2: Get creative with presentation

Why always settle on a boring old giftbag? Pimp your pressie with fun packaging!

Groping through the giftwrap, it seemed my mates Lee & Meg had gifted me a DVD. A well-known non-watcher of DVDs, I was a bit weirded out at first: what DVD did they actually think I would sit down to watch? Once I unwrapped Men Seeking Women, which I’m sure is a cinematic masterpiece, my reaction fooled no one. “Ohh… Thanks. I haven’t seen this one.” (Wow I thought these people knew me!)

Once they recovered from their fits of laughter, they instructed me to open the case – the disc had been replaced with a necklace. They do know me!

DVD case as wrapping

Lesson #3: Flex your cooking muscles

Presents don’t need to be fancy or pricey – fun and personal will always go down a treat!

My life-long best friend’s little sister personalised a big disc of gingerbread for me – how good is that! Another friend also baked for me: she made cakes to share with our colleagues on the morning of my birthday at work. Nothing beats a wedge (or two! I was the b’day girl, after all) of gluten-free dark chocolate delciousness. Birthday calories don’t count, right?

Gingerbread birthday

Lesson #4: Think functional art

Sure, your mate might have salt & pepper grinders, but, are they worthy of life out & proud as an eye-catching sculpture?

I have to say, I’ve scored big time on a mother-in-law that knows how give good presents! That fluro orange ball below is the knob with which I now grind my pepper, and the little guy to his right houses my himalayan pink salt crystals. To steal her present idea completely, they’re the Tom Dixon Tower Salt & Pepper Grinders. Here’s a tip: my mother-in-law occasionally peruses my Pinterest boards – it’s a pretty good way to get more insight into your giftee’s tastes!

Eclectic grinders and picnic set

Lesson #5: Create experiences

Take one basic picnic basket. Pack it with delectable treats you know your giftee will love.

My aforementioned bestie created this (above right) beautiful present for me this year. A bottle of red, a jar of stuffed olives, crackers & a block of this totally delicious chocolate made for a delightfully personalised present, let alone when they were packaged up in this super cute picnic port. We haven’t taken it picnicking yet but we’ve certainly sampled the wine & chocolate already with great results.

So tell us…

What are the best presents you’ve received? Or, have you given a present that went down really well?

How do you… throw an engagement party?

Engagement parties, like weddings, are one of those events that everyone has an opinion on. I’m not engaged but it still doesn’t stop me being asked what I’ll do when the time comes.

You’ve probably been to plenty of such functions & I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what you liked and what you would’ve improved! While you should obviously go for the option that best reflects you & your partner, there’s so much that goes into putting it all together that it’s worth doing a bit of research.

Do you have an all-in affair or do you just do a backyard barbecue with friends? Do you do speeches? And, do you really have to invite your Mum’s third cousin Bertha that you apparently once met, age 4?

I thought I’d grill a mate of mine Lee Isherwood (graphic designer & the bird behind Bluebirdmill) to get the behind the scenes scoop on her recent engagement party.

Us with the happy couple

Us with the happy couple

Being the wonderfully creative type she is, Lee quickly found a hall to hire, locked in a Mexican theme for the evening and then got to planning the important stuff – the decorations!

“I love decorations,” Lee gushes. “My favourite place to look for ideas was Pinterest. I allocated a decent budget for decorations but I shopped around to get the best price so I didn’t blow it all on a handful of things.”

“I also had a few friends & family members get in on some DIY projects too.”

The card-eating pinata was a definite decoration win!

The card-eating pinata was a definite decoration win!

Budgeting is always the elephant in the room with anything wedding-related. The optimal price range varies for everyone & how much you spend on each component of your night will always depend on your priorities. Be sure to think through what matters most to you & your partner & allocate your funds accordingly.

While Lee & her partner had chosen a budget for the party, the addition of catering pushed them beyond what they originally wanted to spend overall, let alone on feeding everyone.

“While we really wanted to stick to our budget, we decided to book a caterer to minimise stress on the night,” Lee said. “We also organised a couple of friends to make some Mexican-themed nibbles to go around before the catering was to start.”

“For the catering, we opted for canapé style food which, while it was tasty, I probably wouldn’t choose if I had to do it all again.”

“I spoke to a few people after the night & although they all enjoyed the food, some people just didn’t get enough of it.”

Lee found a picture of this cake on Pinterest & her sister-in-law had it made as our present.

Lee found a picture of this cake on Pinterest & her sister-in-law had it made as our present.

It can be tempting to try & do everything yourself but, when it comes to your engagement party, it just isn’t worth missing out on sitting back & actually enjoying yourself.

Lee said the most special part of the evening was seeing all the family & friends who had travelled to share the event with her & her partner.

“Most of my partner’s family live a few hours away & we have friends interstate so it was lovely they were all able to join us,” she said. “I really felt like it was important for me to focus on having a great night, no matter what, as everyone was there because they love me & my partner.”

“Keeping in mind that everyone was there to celebrate our love for each other also helped me not sweat the small things!”

Stunning bride-to-be Lee & her proud mum

Stunning bride-to-be Lee & her proud mum

Lee said she definitely couldn’t have done it all on her own & greatly appreciated all the help she got from her friends and family.

“My mum and dad were absolutely amazing,” Lee said. “They got up super early & spent the entire day setting up & then spent most of the night running around making sure everything was running smoothly.”

“Other friends made food & decorations, lent cars to transport the ice & booze, & my high school best friend even hit the early morning markets in Sydney to fill the hall with dozens of flowers.”

“If you’re planning an engagement party, I’d recommend getting over any fears you might have about asking for help!”

Lee's friend hit the early morning flower markets to decorate the hall with fresh blooms.

Lee’s friend hit the early morning flower markets to decorate the hall with fresh blooms.

As a reveller that had a fantastic time, I’d have to say Lee’s function was a success! Planning is obviously a big part of the night but I loved Lee’s sentiment that it’s so important to take the time to share the night with your family & friends.

Preparation is the key, as well as having a great support crew – having some trusted friends and family you can rely on to handle any problems during the party will help diffuse your stress levels & keep you smiling throughout.

How do you… (fashionably) prepare to turn 30?

It’s only a couple of years until I hit 30 and while the number certainly doesn’t bother me, there are one or two things I’d like to have ticked off before I blow out those candles.

After reading 11 things to buy before you turn 30 though, Harpers Bazaar would have you believe I need a longer list if I wish to ring in my 30s as a ‘fashionable woman’. Not wanting to relinquish my fashionability, here’s my scorecard on where I stand.

1. Classic shoe
It took until I was about 25 but I can now confidently say that cheap pleather treads have no power over me, whatever the disposable trend I could achieve by handing over a $20. I flash my Wittner card with pride and revel in my classic leather insoles.

Score: 9/10 (Mainly because 9’s my shoe size – in case you were wondering)

Wittner shoes

2. A great suit
I’ve got a nice pair of Cue work slacks… Will that do? Honestly though, I don’t think I’ve spent even a minute pining for a great suit. I’m yet to see how I’d justify the investment.

Score: 5/10 (I’m halfway there with the pants right?)

3. A signature flower
So firstly, really? I mean, really?? Do people truly need a signature flower? I’m stoked with a bloom of any variety!

Score: 6/10 (…provided my signature flowers can be a randomised posey)

4. A beautiful timepiece
I have quite a nice watch. It’s a chocolate brown Kenneth Cole with rose gold flashes & a partially transparent face. While I regularly get compliments about it, I certainly wouldn’t call it a ‘beautiful timepiece’. It’s a nice watch.

Score: 7/10 (Hey, it may not be a Hermes but at least it’s got a leather band)

5. A go-to lip colour
Does paw-paw cream count?

Score: 1/10 (Head straight to the MAC counter, do not pass GO, but do collect $200 – you’re gonna need it)

6. A personal scent
So I think I’ve got this one down: while I certainly dabble, my one true scent has been the original DKNY. I chose it based solely on the pretty bottle at age 14.

Score: 10/10 (C’mon, I gotta get a 10 for something!)

7. Jewellery you never take off
The example in the Bazaar list comes in just short of $17000. While I can’t compete on dollars, my grandma’s hand-me-down sapphire & diamond ring is a regular on my right-hand.

Score: 7/10 (Room for advancement but I’m ticking the box!)

8. Original art you love
We’ve got this IKEA print of some fish on a plate. It’s in the kitchen.

Score: 2/10 (Shut it, I know)

ikea fish print

9. A forever bag
Santa left me a beautifully soft black Mimco bag this Christmas. It’ll be as ‘forever’ as I can get it to be.

Score: 9/10 (Just in case I ever score some wild designer IT bag)

10. A killer winter coat
I bought a black leather bomber in 2007 and it’s still going strong. I’d love an amazing coat but as a coastal-dwelling Aussie kid, there’s really not much calling for swathes of wool, even in the depths of winter.

Score: 6/10 (& unless I move to New York, that one ain’t improving)

11. The perfect little black dress
A sculpted black dress with cream peplum detail was an investment early last year. I wouldn’t say it’s the ‘perfect’ LBD but it certainly saw me stylishly through a bunch of functions.

Score: 8/10 (Points off for the peplum)

So what’ve we learnt from this exercise?
There are people who have a signature flower! If your name isn’t Poppy, Daisy or Rose and you aren’t a botanist, why?? How have you given flowers this much thought?

We also learnt I need to put away the paw paw & befriend an artist.

Eh, I’ve still got 2-and-a-bit years.