Tips on how to find the perfect home (for you)

The other day I was running late to an appointment and of course, Alexander decided that was the day to throw a tantrum and refuse to get into  his car seat. When the time I wrangled and buckled him in, I was so frazzled I actually drove off without closing my front door! Luckily, my neighbour who happened to walk past saw and rang me, asking if anyone was home and should she close the door for me?
At times like this, I feel really grateful for the community in which I live in; friendly neighbours who look out for each other, shopkeepers on first name basis who offer Alexander a lolly on the house just because he gave them an extra enthusiastic wave hello. I'm so glad this is where we've bought our first home and frankly I think we just got lucky to be have been able to find a home that's perfect for us.  Today, I'd like to share a few tips on how to find a home which is a perfect fit for you.
Property type - Are you the sort of person who enjoys gardening and tinkering about? Or do you have a dog that needs lots of space to roam about? Then a house with a backyard might be ideal for you. But if the thought of having to mow the lawn fills you with dread, then lower maintenance apartment living might be for you. Thinking about the style of home fits in with your lifestyle (stand alone house, apartment, townhouse etc) is one of the most important decision you need to make when finding a perfect home.

Location - When I was younger and single, I lived in a tiny apartment on a busy, dusty main road across the road from a noisy pub. It couldn't be more different from my current home but at that time it was perfect for me as it was close to the city's nightlife, trendy restaurants and cafes. The location you chose will affect the amount of noise you're subjected to on a daily basis, the size of your home (generally smaller closer you get to the city), proximity to leisure activities.

Sense of community - Our quiet neighbourhood and relaxed lifestyle really suits our current family life but a single, young professional may find it absolutely boring and may prefer a community filled with other young like-minded people. The key is choosing a community with similar values to you that fits with your personality and lifestyle. Lend Lease offers houses for sale in Sydney that is built around the concept of bringing like-minded people together to share a secure, enjoyable and fulfilling lifestyle, which I think is brilliant.
Opportunity to extend/rebuild - Ideally Stu and I would love a bigger house to accommodate our growing family but a 3-bedder was all we could afford. However, what made it work for us was the ability for us to extend the house, or even knock down and rebuild a bigger one later on. 

Proximity to work/transport - I much rather spend time at home with my family rather than being stuck in peak hour traffic, so finding a place that offers an easy commute to work for both Stu and I was important to us. If you take public transport to work, then proximity to public transport is another factor to consider.

Have you found the perfect home yet? Do you have any tips of your own to share?

Photo credit: Samantha Heather Photography

Review: homehello house cleaning service

A couple of weeks ago, I was just telling Stu that I'd like to look into getting a domestic cleaner every now and then to give the house a thorough clean. The very next day, I received an email from the lovely people at HomeHello, an online home cleaning services booking site, asking if I was interested in working with them on a post. The timing was so uncanny that I did not hesitate to say yes to providing an honest review of their site in exchange for a 3 hour home cleaning service. Here is my review, if you're interested...

The HomeHello website is easy to navigate and pretty straightforward. I simply chose the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that needed cleaning, plus any additional services and it provided an estimate of the amount of time required to carry out the cleaning. I also had to provide information on how the cleaner can get into the house (ie. ring the doorbell, key under mat etc). I like that there is an option to either provide the cleaning supplies or to ask the cleaner to provide them for an extra $5.

Home Hello charges on hourly rate based on how often the cleaning is required. The weekly cleaning rate is a very reasonable $25 per hour while the once off rate (which is the one I selected for this exercise) is $30 which I thought was still very good.

On the day of the booking, our assigned cleaner, Tiffany arrived on time at my door. Her friendly nature was evident and I felt right at ease with her being in my home. Did I mention she is gorgeous? I'm pretty sure Alexander has a little crush on her as he acted all coy and giggly around her.

I showed Tiffany the areas that needed cleaning and she got cracking straightaway starting with the kitchen. She wiped down all the surfaces, including fridge exterior, bench top and backsplash, cabinet fronts and sides, stove top, even the inside of the microwave! Alexander kept dragging me into whichever room she was in so he could look at her and was very pleased when Tiffany let him "help" with the chores. Just look at his face, won't you?
As Tiffany moved on to various parts of the house, I could really tell the difference the cleaning made. Three hours later, I was left with a sparkly clean house...
 and this sweet little note: (Bonus: she catches spiders too!)
All in all, a very positive experience. Tiffany was diligent, paid attention to detail and exceeded all of my expectations. I would not hesitate to use the service once or twice a month to get the house extra clean especially in the areas I absolutely hate cleaning (the oven, for example). Thank you Tiffany for the job well done and also for being so kind and patient with Alexander! 

Disclaimer:  HomeHello had provided me with a 3 hour cleaning service voucher for a trial cleaning service and review however all opinions are my own.


Lemon curd layer cake

My lovely neighbour has kindly given me some of her homemade lemon curd and it is deliciously tangy. Alexander and I have been enjoying it with toast but I couldn't stop thinking about how amazing it would taste sandwiched between layers of butter cake and cream to balance out the tartness. So on the weekend, I made a lemon curd layer cake, topped with fresh fruits and candied lemon. It tasted as good as as I'd expected!
Lemon curd layer cake

Butter cake mix
300ml cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
3-4 tablespoon Lemon curd


Candied lemon slices:
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Fresh strawberries and blueberries for garnishing (optional)

Method:

1. Bake cake as per instructions in cake tin.

2. Allow to cool, then trim off tops of cake to make level. Carefully slice cake into 3 even horizontal layers.

3. To make candied lemon slices, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water and add lemon slices. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Remove and place on baking paper to completely cool.

3. Whip the cream with sugar until it holds its shape.

4. Place bottom layer of cake on serving plate or cake stand.

5. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon curd and spread evenly on cake layer. Add 1-2 tablespoons of whipped cream on cake and spread with spatula. Repeat with cake layers, lemon curd and cream until desired height is achieved.

6. Garnish with candied lemon, fresh blueberries and strawberries.

Eden Gardens

Alexander and I have found ourselves a new favourite hangout - Eden Gardens at North Ryde, an easy 15 minutes drive from home. For a few months now, we have been visiting the gardens at least once a week, sometimes on our own and sometimes with his little friend. (Aren't they sweet?)
We take long walks together and admire the gardens, the fish in the reservoir, Alexander likes to check out the busy bees amongst the flowers and we have also spotted the odd frog and blue tongue lizard on the grounds before. I love that Alexander has learnt to stop and smell the flowers.
Eden Gardens has everything we love - a playground with a massive sand pit, a slide and "beehive" cubby and a cafe where we get our morning tea.
 
There is also a vegetable patch with cabbages, herbs, nasturtiums and strawberries where Alexander goes to point at every single strawberry (as he knows it's naughty to pick).
The highlight of every trip to the gardens is visiting the two resident chickens. Alexander is a bit obsessed with them and says,"Cluck cluck!" to them. They are the biggest fattest chickens I've ever seen and they seem to enjoy our company too.
Where is your favourite hangout?

Fab five:hydrating face mask

Hydrating masks are my skin's best friend, throughout the year but especially during the cold wintry months. Every weekend when Stu's home to give me a little break from mummy duties, the one thing I love to do is lie in bed all relaxed, eyes closed with a generous layer of creamy concoction spread all over my face, working its magic. It really is the best treat - not just for the skin but for all of the senses! Here are five of my favourite hydrating masks that will instantly calm, soothe and quench your skin's thirst.
Dr LeWinn's Ultra R4 Recovery Masque - A hydrating clay mask sounds like an oxymoron to me; I've always avoided clay masks as I thought they are only good for oily skin types. But this product, despite having a clay consistency, somehow still manages to moisturise my skin, leaving it smooth, plump and super clean. I use this in the summer months when my skin is prone to congestion.

Dirty Works Rose and Glow Moisture Mask - My go-to product when I'm pressed for time as five minutes is all it takes to give dry skin a quick moisture boost. It has a light creamy texture, pleasant rose scent and provides effective hydrating treatment at a great price point.

Sephora Jelly Mask Moisturising and Energising - A cocktail of vitamins for the skin, this jelly mask is fun to use and great for cooling, calming and rehydrating the skin. Love its single serve packaging which makes it ideal for travelling.

Dr Hauschka Hydrating Mask - A very rich and luxurious cream which can also be used in the eye contour area as an eye mask for intense hydration. Great for the cold winter months when skin is most in need of TLC. It leaves my skin feeling so soft I literally can't stop touching it! Pricey but worth it.

L'Occitane Immortelle Cream Mask - I can't decide what I love most about this mask; is it its heavenly scent, its velvety smooth texture that glides on or the fact that it makes my skin feel silky smooth and absolutely radiant after just one use? Perhaps it's a tie but nonetheless, this is a five star product that I simply can't fault.