Friday, December 21, 2012

Lighting ideas for your Home

Lighting can transform any space from a pedestrian room to something completely different and, often, quite beautiful. The array of lights to choose from these days is growing every day and designers have better and brighter ideas constantly.

Of course, there's an interesting association with lights at this time of the year; with Christmas nearly here, many streets in Australia are lit up for permanent noon, with flashing Christmas lights galore. While these can be fun and often hilarious, this is not what we're looking at.

Lights can set the mood in a room, so it's important to choose the right colour bulb for the right room. This can range from atmospheric purposes - you want brighter lights in the kitchen, but probably more yellow lighting in the lounge area, to functional purposes - a bright yellow light is best for the room where you do your makeup.

Additionally, lights carry the theme of the home across into the ceiling - if your home is a more traditional Victorian style, then sleek LED fittings might look a little odd. As will contemporary style pendant lights. However if your home is modern, especially if it has the strong open plan entertainment set up, these LED fittings can be your best friend. Just take a look at the beautiful range of LEDs there are on offer these days...

Eyeleds LED lighting home area design ideas

Additionally, in this day and age it's very important to consider the energy usage of the light bulbs you choose; energy saving bulbs are pretty common, and will benefit you and your energy bill in the long run. As energy saving bulb last up to 6 times as long as the traditional bulbs, you won't have to change them as often, which is a relief for those out of reach spots.

There are a lot of gorgeous designs available too. From just doing a quick look through any modern lighting store and you can see the sheer range of traditional, odd and contemporary lights available, from sleek pendants to eccentric chandeliers. If you're into the more cool and sometimes crazy designs, there is a lot of choice out there...
Z Two Lights Lighting designs ideas chandeliers LED

All in all though, it comes down to what suits your home. And those themselves come in many different shapes and sizes. Check out a range of lighting providers at Complete Home.

The Complete Home bloggers will be taking a short break over Christmas, and I certainly will be back in the New Year on January 10th. We wish all our readers a wonderful holiday period and a fabulous New Year, and we look forward to bringing you all the events, designs and ideas in 2013.

PS. For more great lighting ideas, we find Pinterest to be one of the coolest places around. Check out our boards for more inspiration

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making the Jump: Tips For Settling Abroad, Part II

So you’ve accepted a position and you’re ready to move overseas. Whether you’re headed to Abu Dhabi or New York, Hong Kong or Sao Paulo, here are some pieces of universal advice to help you make a smooth transition into your new home:

(4)          Get the lay of the land.

Each city you go to is a whole new world, and while it’s tempting to stick to the highlights in the guidebook, you’ll gain more knowledge and perspective on your new home by simply taking a map (or not!) and going out exploring. This means walking around, a lot. It means riding the subway or the bus until you know the routes and become adept at navigating the system. It means knowing where the nearest bank is, and where you can find vegemite or peanut butter when you get a craving for a taste of home. If you’re moving to a city with known security issues like Johannesburg or Manila, learn “no-go” areas from a local before you go out exploring.

(5)          Learn the language.

It’s not necessarily to be fluent, but knowing the basics like numbers, please and thank you, and hello and goodbye will make navigating your daily life in a new country considerably more stress-free. If the language is written in a non-Roman script, try to learn the fundamentals as soon as possible to prevent unfortunate mix-ups – even which bathroom to go to can be a major issue if you’re illiterate! Remember that other English-speaking countries may also have speech quirks that you’re unfamiliar with, so don’t presume that there will be no learning curve.

(6)          Eat everything.

For most of us, food is overwhelmingly the easiest way into a new culture. You might struggle with the language in Sichuan, for example, but you’re likely to fall quickly in love with spicy Sichuan hot-pot. Likewise, eating is a practice that unites people the world over, so sharing a meal with work colleagues or new acquaintances is generally an all-around win. Most of all, opening your mouth to new foods is a great way of showing openness to your host culture – so whether you’re sampling chicken feet in China, fertilized duck eggs in the Philippines, or barbequed stingray in Singapore, adventurous eating seldom goes amiss.

In the end, your new home is what you make of it. Taking your life abroad might seem like a big step at first, but with a little patience, curiosity and humour, you’ll hit the ground running.

Friday, December 14, 2012

6 simple tips for the perfect Christmas home

Christmas is a wonderfully doubled-edged sword. On one hand, you have the feel good version of Christmas which exists in our collective consciousness. This is the Christmas of our childhoods, the one with the magic, and the fluffy white snow, and the one that exists in the more traditional Christmas films. It's the Christmas of Dean Martin and Eartha Kitt and ice-skating in Central Park.

On the other hand, we have the stressful Christmas period, which turns everyone over 17 into grinches. This is a Christmas that exists in reality for far more people; the stress of using lunch breaks to finish your gift shopping, the stress of fitting 12 potentially drunk family members into your tiny dining room, and even worse, having to cook for this mass of relations. It's the stress that families encounter because not only is it Christmas, but it's the end of the school year and university semester and New Years is looming around the corner. Feeling stressed yet? I sure am.

But in our homes we don't want that stress to show through; most people take pride in their homes looking their best for guests and visitors, but especially at Christmas time. When hosting Christmas day for your family and friends, you want to ensure you can create the perfect setting with your home.

Here are a few simple tips on how to prepare your home for Christmas day:

  1. Don't buy all new decorations every year. Yes, the displays in the homewares stores can be especially seductive, seeing the way everything is made for each other and the way the entire collection works. But this looks beautiful in a store; to invest in the entire story (such as a scandinavian themed Christmas collection, or a sparkly girly themed one) would be madness (and very expensive). Homewares look so different in the home compared to the immaculate shop fronts. The beauty is in the sheer mix of years of different Christmases, including the old-fashioned baubles you inherited from your grandmother, and the children's first decorations. 
  2. Tinsel can be an acquired taste. In Australia with our hot Christmases and lack of snow, tinsel can look a bit too fluffy and severe (and a bit kitschy at times). It can be used well sparingly, like along the top of the mantle, or one dainty pretty silver tinsel on the tree. Replace the big old fluffy tree tinsel with garlands - it can make your tree look a little more individual and interesting.
  3. Organise extra seating and tables ahead of time. With some houses expecting far more relatives than there are chairs at the dining room table, it can be tough to accommodate and keep your home looking neat. Chair covers can make your home look like a function centre, but a light Christmas deco on the back of each chair, such as some gold and silver ribbons, can achieve a better streamlined look. Organise larger tablecloths to throw over the dining table to hide the extra tables at each end. And while it's old fashioned, a kids table can be very handy - as long as you give them something special there too and keep them involved in the celebrations.
  4. Get any big jobs for the home done during the week before Christmas. You don't want to get to 23rd December and realise you should have had the carpet cleaned or the curtains steamed. 
  5. Figure out the music playlist ahead of time, and include minimal Christmas carols. By the time Christmas day rolls around, everyone is sick to death of Christmas carols due to shopping centres playing them since September. So create a playlist of music that will provide a nice background and will please all family members of all ages (our family's standard Christmas album is Dean Martin's greatest hits. They're not carols but they have a charming sensibility that suits Christmas day).
  6. It isn't necessary to have a traditional Christmas. There's many fun and relaxing ways to enjoy Christmas lunch without it destroying your home and your wits. Suggest having a Christmas picnic, with every family member bringing a dish and a rug. Be inventive - have a pool party, or make completely non-traditional Christmas food, like a curry or yum cha. Keep it fresh (but maybe make a small amount of hot lunch to please the oldies)

All in all, remember that it's important to have your home looking beautiful and neat, not perfect and spotless; it needs a welcoming comfortable air rather than a sterile one. And Christmas is about enjoying the day with your family and friends, and if that happens, then the day is a success, whether the curtains have been steamed or not.

PS. Use our Pinterest page to see the prettiest and most interesting Christmas decorations

Friday, December 7, 2012

Saving water in your home is only too easy

These days we hear all the time about the sky falling in, particularly in Australia, particularly in regards to our water usage. Water usage is a valid concern of the modern home, along with energy consumption and recycling, but there are ways to control it at the source itself.

Controlling your water usage by buying efficient products and appliances is one of the best things you can do for your households green rating. By having, say, a shower head that reduces the number of litres per minute, this could mean that your teenager's endless showers aren't hurting the environment as much as they once might have.

The Australian government have developed a program for water rating labels to be applied to all sorts of water using devices and appliances. These appliances are:
  • Washing machines (including combination washer/dryers)
  • Dishwashers
  • Showers
  • Urinals
  • Toilets
  • Taps
  • Flow controllers (optional)
You'll find that most of these you see in the shops will have a label on it that looks a little like:

Wels Water Rating Label
The product will have a certain number of stars assigned to it. The more stars, the more water efficient the product is. 

To learn more about this simply visit the Water Rating and Efficiency Labelling scheme's website.

So before you invest in a new washing machine, dishwasher, or shower, ensure you check out how it compares to it's competitors. You might be surprised how much if benefits you, the environment, and your water bill.

PS. For more tips and ideas on saving water and Eco-friendly homes, take a look at some of our articles and pages:

Some Like it Hot – How to pick your perfect pizza maker

Most of us have accepted that we can’t compete with the pizza industry; we don’t import our tomatoes from the fertile volcanic soil of Pompeii, we don’t have the equipment to reach 400°C without serious injury, we don’t have the skill to knead and toss a pizza or the time and energy to do it. We’re poor, talentless and lazy. Besides, pizza delivers. Pizza’s a party food and not for every day, right? Wrong! Behold! A new range of electrical appliances to save the common man a whole heap of time and effort, while allowing us to become chef de cuisine extraordinaire for a night.

So if you haven’t already started building your pizza oven, brick by brick in the backyard, I suggest you take advantage of the new electric pizza maker products that have erupted onto the scene (รก la Vesuvius). There are a range of different brands to choose from but most of the brands (bar Breville) are not familiar to the Australian shopper, so you need to instead, ensure you’re getting a product which has all the best features to create your marinara in the Napolitano style.

A stone base is essential for the even distribution of heat. As with a regular oven, the top will always cook before the bottom - unless you’re smart enough to prebake your base, you will end up with a smoky top and soggy bottom and Nona would not approve. A pizza stone will retain the heat of the oven, cooking the bottom at a faster rate and evenly throughout to ensure you’re base is bubbly crisp. As well as the crispy goodness of a stone, pizza ovens should have a dual heating element top and bottom to ensure that it is cooked both sides. If you’re not inclined to splurge on a pizza maker in the first place (as they are expensive, and a large appliance) just buy yourself a pizza stone and use your regular oven, this is a pretty good alternative for your regular pizza lover.

However, if you are like me, a pizza aficionado, and if you need it in 5 and not 20, we’re back on the path of the Electric Pizza Maker. The next important thing to ensure is that you get a pizza maker that goes to a solidly hot temperature. A regular conventional oven will get to around 250° so you obviously need to make sure you buy a product with a hotter temperature than this.  Most pizza ovens stand at around 300° but I would recommend finding one that reaches 350°, and there are even a few rare ones out there that reach 400°. These should cook a whole pizza in less than six minutes depending. The rule goes: the hotter the better, traditional pizzas in Naples can be cooked in temperatures of up to 900° and ready in 1 minute. Be aware, most of these bad boys have an exposed outer rim which will reach up to 100° so try and get a pizza maker that has a fully covered handle to save accidents. I would also try to get a compact and attractive model as they are quite large appliances and might have to live on your bench depending on your storage situation.

If you like pizza, it’s probably not worth the effort, expense or hassle of cooking your own, so I suggest continue collecting those mailed coupons. But if you are really and truly a pizzaiola at heart, a devoted lover, admirer and soul mate of the slice, then you can’t really be without one. They create perfectly delicious pizzas, as good as any nearby restaurant and in the time it takes them to process the order.

If a bench-top pizza maker doesn't light your fire, there are lots of solutions for extreme bakers, both inside and out. See our articles on firing up your backyard:

And if you're looking for the best kitchen appliance (and pizza oven) suppliers, look no further - Complete Home is a fantastic source