Monthly Archives: September 2014

How to Make the Most of your Outdoor Rooms

An outdoor room provides the best of both worlds. A room that is both indoors and out, allows for a comfortable space that people can enjoy without being bothered by the weather, as winter storms and summer heatwaves can make your outdoor refuge uncomfortable.

On the other hand, a well-furnished and decorated outdoor room will allow you to enjoy all kinds of weather, without getting heatstroke in summer or hyperthermia in winter.

Here are some tips to make your outdoor space comfortable and practical:

Plants & greenery

The idea of an outdoor room is to enjoy all the comforts of the outdoors without actually being outdoors. You get the fresh air and natural light, but can still be protected against the harsh elements if need be. The best way to decorate an outdoor room is to use plants.

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Pot plants come in all shapes and sizes, and can provide both oxygen and atmosphere to a room. If your outdoor room sits adjacent to a garden, plants provide good flow and continuity between the garden and room.

Plants can also create a sense of enclosure and colour for your outdoor space, brightening the room and making it more liveable.

Lights, lanterns & candles

Lighting is critical to an effective outdoor space, especially at night when you have no natural light to play with. Using atmospheric subtle lights is the best way to go. Lanterns work exceptionally well, adding character to any room with a soft, inoffensive light.

Candles are always effective, you can find a range of colourful and scented candles, which add both aesthetic features and atmosphere. Fairy lights can be draped around an outdoor room, perfect for parties or Christmas time, or just some fun lighting that everyone enjoys.


During the day it’s more a case of controlling light than creating light. Obviously, you want some protection from the sun; an effective sunshade should do just fine. Alternatively, a large umbrella that is portable and easy to move around will do the job, or a surround awning that you can open and shut when needed would be perfect.


It is preferable, if not always practical, to use natural materials whenever possible. A wooden deck is always best; treated for protection against the wet and heat, wood is durable and makes for attractive flooring.

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Tie this in with some wooden beams and a thatched roof, and you have the perfect rustic outdoor room, comfortable and charming, using as many natural products as you can. Wood or cane furniture will complement your wooden floors and provide a rustic, lived-in and cosy feel.

Striking furniture

So you have your plants, wooden floors and some really cool lighting, now all you need is some furniture. With many shops selling all-weather furniture, there is no need to limit yourself when it comes to outdoor seating arrangements.

Furniture can be hardy, weather proof and comfortable, whether it’s an outdoor ottoman – yes they do exist – or four dining chairs and a table.


Fun pieces always work well in outdoor rooms, the hanging pod chair is super cool, and a great place to relax with a book, hammocks always work well and kids and adults love those 3-seater swings.

Theme your area

Go all out and turn your outdoor space into a fantasy room that transports you to another world.

Mountain lovers will love an alpine-style setting. Use rustic dark wood furnishings, wrought iron accessories like a chandelier or lamp, and plenty of throws and cushions. Light up some candles and you’re in the Alps, kind of. Views of snow-capped mountains always help, but if you don’t have that, large printed photographs of stunning Alpine scenes will do.

Tropically themed outdoor spaces are always popular, place loads of large exotic potted plants, minimal furniture and an awning or two, throw in a parrot or other exotic bird and transport yourself to the tropics.

Nautical themes always work well, especially if you live near the ocean. Shades of blue, loads of shells and surfing pics.

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You can do so much with an outdoor room. As long as it is comfortable, practical, aesthetically pleasing, appropriately furnished, and most importantly fun, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Post kindly written by the Property Institute in conjunction with Outdoor Blind Designs.

Grand Final Day Barbecues: The Experts Weigh In

Footy finals season is well and truly here!  Do you know what you’re doing for Grand Final Day yet?  If you’re not one of the lucky ones to score a ticket to the game, there’s a good chance you might be celebrating with the traditional barbecue.

At the beginning of the month we published our guide to hosting a great AFL or NRL Grand Final barbie.  Now we follow up by asking a few food, lifestyle and sporting gurus to share their thoughts on how to enjoy the day.

The Italian Chef


Annalisa Ferrari of a.ferarri kitchen

Annalisa Ferrari is a chef and food writer.  Though now based in Sydney, she grew up in Florence, Tuscany, and lived in Paris and New York City before finding her way to Australia.  If you’re craving something a little more swish than party pies and tomato sauce, then listen up: she’s bringing the noise.

While her food ideas are a far cry from the traditional fare at a Grand Final barbie, the sentiments behind them will be familiar.  We agree with her 100% that great food shouldn’t mean being stuck in the kitchen instead of enjoying the game: “If you have a great sporting event to host and you want to have fun and be part of the party you want to create dishes that need little work, time and attention while the game is on and your guests are over.  It’s much more fun to be in the party rather than cooking it!”


As a native of Italy, Annalisa is somewhat more familiar with the rounder balled version of football.  Her food ideas, though, could work just as well for an AFL or NRL game: “Last time I catered a world cup soccer event we had a pasta al forno (pasta bake) with tomato, pork&fennel sausages, herbs, parmigiano, ricotta and a sprinkle of pine nuts. This item can be put together in advance and put in the oven 30 minutes before you want to eat it, that’s it!”


“In addition, we had a huge ratatouille tart, this can also be prepared in advance.  All you have to do is stick it in the oven when you put the pasta in.”


“Then to wow them all, affogati (ice cream with espresso) for dessert”


“There you have it: a delicious, easy grand final feast!”

We then asked Annalisa a few questions:

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“So if I had to choose a menu that has to be done in part on the bbq I would get a whole rib eye fillet, cover it with fresh herbs and cook it 5 minutes per side. Let it rest (for 20 minutes) then carve thinly and serve with roasted shallots.”

image001 (2)“While you are resting the meat you can put thick slices of eggplant , zucchini and peppers, covered in sumac, oregano salt and pepper on the BBQ and grill. When these are ready drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a splash of lemon and serve with Mozzarella as a side to the  the meat.”

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“In addition this can be accompanied by a pasta with pesto, fresh tomatoes, olives and ricotta  (that can be made in advance).”

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“I finish it all off with Ice cream affogato’s and perhaps a salame dolce ( a chocolate log with nuts, coconut flakes, biscuit and dried fruit.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“For drinks you could have some mimosas to start  (champagne and  fresh orange juice) or another great drink is a sprits (Aperol, soda water and a slice of orange) This is a great low alcohol drink to kick off the day!”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start?  Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“Any time of day is a great time for a grand final celebration: it’s the final! What more of an excuse do you need to get the crew together have fun eat and drink and possibly watch your team kick the winning goal?”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“For the World Cup my Italian friends ended up playing in the garden with a pink Barbie ball, pretending to be on the national team. Their serious actions executed with the Barbie ball where priceless!  When sport is a passion, any ball will do, so long as you get the chance to kick and celebrate.”

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“When I host a party I like to do most of the cooking, but If I ask guests to bring something it’s salad, bread, crackers for cheese, beer and wine. If I have a friend who loves to make a special dessert then I let that friend go ahead and bring it.  There are never too many treats!”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Not having the sportsmanship to let people cheer for their team. There is nothing like a bad loser! Sport is a game, passion and love.  Everyone in it should be treated with respect and celebrated no matter what the results of the game are.”

The Food and Travel Writers

Amanda and Shayne Quayle

Amanda Quayle and Shane Schipper of Graze the Earth

Shane Schipper is the head chef for Cirque de Solel’s show Kooza, and an enormous NRL fan.  Amanda is a marketing and events professional with a passion for food and travel.  Together they write about their circus adventures around the world on their blog “Graze the Earth”.

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Slow roasted lamb shoulder and beer can chicken on the BBQ. This way we can watch the game and chat to our friends. We marinate the lamb a day before in garlic, chilli, basil and olive oil.For the beer can chicken we rub it with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Empty half the beer (husband to consume) and put in the can three lemon wedges, tspn garlic, tspn chicken salt and pinch of oregano.”

“Can’t go wrong with potato bake! This has become such a huge hit at our BBQ’s that we have to make two trays of it. We only make one salad, experience shows the meat and potato bake go first. Rocket, grilled asparagus, toasted pine nuts, roasted tomatoes and shavings of Parmesan.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“Drinks on grand final day are usually beers and wine. We provide soft drinks and water with raspberries and mint.”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start? Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“Nay to breakfast! To much prep and not enough time. We have friends arrive from 2pm that way we can chat and eat before the pre-match coverage starts.”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“A girlfriend of ours was backing the opposite team to us. She disappeared into our kitchen and hijacked our dessert by handing out cupcakes with blue glitter frosting to bribe everyone to support her team!”

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“A good host should provide the food for the BBQ, non alcoholic drinks and eskys or buckets of ice to keep guests drinks cold. Guest can bring their alcoholic drinks of choice.”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Offend other guests who are supporting the opposite team. Yelling at them does not help, they’re not playing the game! Sport brings out passion in people but it can also make them a little irrational. Remember to keep your cool and have a good time.”

The Barbecue Fanatic


Chris Girvan-Brown of Urban Griller

The phrase “avid barbecue fiend” doesn’t seem to appear in any dictionary I own, but if you find it in yours, what probably follows afterwards is a description of Chris Girvan-Brown.  Chris is the founding president of the Australian BBQ Association (ABBQA) and is head BBQ chef of the Urban Griller BBQ Cooking School and Catering Company in Western Australia.  He also appears on barbecue cooking segments on local radio, and has been operating BBQ cooking schools for 14 years.

What are your favourite food ideas for a Grand Final day barbecue?

“You need good finger food, nothing too complex, little boys are great grilled in the BBQ, wrap them in bacon if you want to go upmarket, but just grilling them is enough! Sprinkle some BBQ rub on chunks of corn, Frenched lamb chops are great, they come with their own handle, just hit them with salt and pepper and grill them off, serve with a herby mayonnaise.”

What do you recommend in the way of drinks for the day?

“Mostly the drinks will look after themselves as people bring what they want, have plenty of clean glasses and bottle openers. I would make sure to have some soda and lemon slices. Watch that your bins don’t fill up with empties!”

What’s the best time for Grand Final day celebrations to start?  Grand Final breakfast, yea or nay?

“I think an early start is good, but it’s a long day if you have a Grand Final Breakfast, make sure it’s a hearty affair, there is a long way to go!”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen at a Grand Final day barbecue?

“Not really funny at the time, but I’ve seen a serious BBQ fat fire from the host being distracted by a crucial goal and never quite getting back to the job at hand! Tragic, but we did laugh after a bit of hose work!

What should the host provide at a Grand Final day barbecue, and what should guests bring?

“It’s a no-brainer: the Host provides the meat, ice and backup beer, the guests bring beer, salads and nibbles.”

What’s the worst thing anyone can say or do at a Grand Final day barbecue?

” ‘Can someone move that car, I need to go home.’ it’s the beginning of the end!”

“Rule No 38 of good BBQ:  Make sure your “best mate” doesn’t have to move his car to let out some wimp who wants to go home too early.”

Make Your Grand Final Day Barbecue a Winner

It’s September!

September means a few things in Australia.  For a start, we’re finally done with winter.  Spring has sprung!  If you happen to be reading this from Darwin or Cooktown, this change of seasons might not seem a big deal.  For those of us who live south of the Tweed – and this includes every single writing to you from Outdoor Living Direct central HQ – we can assure you tropical types that winter definitely happens.  We’ve had some solid months of chill setting in our bones.  After so much winter, and despite the fact that we’ve all been through this before and we all learnt about the tilt of the Earth’s axis to explain the changing of the seasons way back in primary school and basically we really just ought to know better by know.. well.. after so much winter it started getting a bit hard to avoid the nagging, dragging feeling that maybe this time it was permanent.  These icy mornings and afternoon sunsets might just go on forever.  They were never going away.  We finally resigned ourselves to a cruel eternal frost, when, all of a sudden the sun now shines and we can happily venture outside.

More than this, though, September in Australia means footy finals.  This is happening on either side of the Barassi Line: the AFL finals season happens entirely in September, while the NRL season finishes in the first week of October.  For a lot of us, this end of our winter hibernation coincides with the winding up of both major codes to make Grand Final day the first time in a while that the barbie gets a thorough cleaning out, and everyone can enjoy a leisurely get-together in the backyard before all pouring into the lounge room to watch the game.

Are you considering hosting a Grand Final barbie?  Good on ya.  Hosting a barbecue on Grand Final day is truly a superb modern Australian tradition.  Some might call it the finest side of patriotism.

Here’s our guide to making the day a winner:

Catering is important when hosting a Grand Final barbecue. Be prepared for lots of hungry footy fans and a very long day! With the games starting around 2pm expect your guests to arrive around 12pm, and they’ll be hungry. After all it is lunch time! Be prepared with food as soon as your first guest arrives. Chips and nibbles are a great starting point. Whilst your guests are enjoying these nibbles this is your perfect chance to fire up the barbeque and starting cooking all those handmade burgers you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen preparing. Definitely fire up the barbecue sooner rather than later.  Who wants to be cooking at bounce time? I know I don’t! Anyone who shows up after the bounce can source their own food, I’m sure there’ll be the odd chip or cheese cube lying around still. Expect your guests to enjoy the barbecued food during the match and being the good host that you are remember that serving party pies and sausage rolls, with lots of tomato sauce, at half time is a very good move. It’s also important not to forget the vegetarians and gluten free people amongst the bunch. Ensuring you look after these people who make for a happier day, and even the most ardent carnivore knows in his heart of hearts that vegetarian spring rolls are delicious.  By 3/4 time the alcohol will be well and truly flowing. By the end of the match you’ll most likely have people drinking hard. This may be because they’re celebrating a great win or drowning their sorrows using the alcohol to numb their feelings.  Now, we’re not trying to tell you that binge drinking is a smart move.. but realistically, these things are known to happen sometimes. To ensure you don’t have people passed out in your lounge or outdoor area why not heat up another batch of hot food? Most people at this stage would most likely run out of food, but this is the crucial time when food is important. It is at this point you fire up the barbeque and serve your hungry, and maybe a little intoxicated friends a hearty barbecue dinner. Food is important on any given day but on Grand Final day, it’s crucial! You can never over cater – there is no such thing on Grand Final day.

Pick a Team

Okay, so only two teams make it through to the last game of the season, which means odds are good that it’s probably not yours.  Or maybe you’re really not into footy at all?  For the next few hours, let go of all this.  This is a Grand Final day barbie.  Get in the spirit of things.  Nothing dulls the excitement of match day like the person who visibly doesn’t care.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s because your team didn’t make it or you just don’t care for the sport or the code.  Either way, it’s a buzzkill.  Don’t be that guy.  Nobody likes that guy.  Even those “I hate football” people who loudly proclaim from pre-season onwards to the world at large just how much they can’t stand football.. even they don’t like “who cares” guy.  Genuine, committed footy haters will instead go to an event like the Anti Grand Final Day Lunch as a strident expression of their contempt for the leather ball.  This is well within the spirit of the day – because it’s about passion.

So pick a team.  Back them to the hilt: for the duration of the game, at least.  If you can’t bring yourself to support one of the teams, at least choose one that you really want to lose.  If you can’t make up your mind on this, try to work out who in the room is the most passionate about their team, and make a clear point of supporting the other one.

Prepare for Tears

It’s the tragic fate of those who truly love their footy to see this love so often answered with cruelty.  Of all the teams in the competition, only two can make it to the Grand Final.  And of those two teams, only one actually wins.  Supporters of the losing team have spent most of the year, from before the pre-season really, watching their boys edge ever closer to the ultimate victory, only for it to all go wrong for them right at the very end.  This can be the most devastating blow of all.

For the truly passionate supporter, a Grand Final loss can be highly distressing.  There’s also a good chance that by the end of the game, he or she might be somewhat intoxicated and uninhibited.  This can be one of life’s best chances to see an adult break down and cry.  Prepare for this.  Ensure your smartphone has enough battery at the end of the game to capture the moment on video.  After all, it’s pretty funny.

Food Ideas

Here are some of our favourite Grand Final food ideas:  You can’t go past the famous chilli dog.  Yes, that may sound American and nothing to do with Australian Rules Football.  But consider the facts: It’s a dog in bread loaded with chilli sauce and cheesy goodness.  Why would you talk yourself out of that?  Don’t.  It’s stupid.  For the vegetarians of the group why not try nachos? Corn chips, guacomole, beans and sour cream, yum yum!  Chances are good that non vegetarians of the group might want a piece of this too.  Sausage rolls, chicken wings, mini beef burgers and party pies will also sure to be a hit amongst your guests at this years party! Remember to keep it simple and easy. The last thing you want to be doing is slaving away in a hot kitchen all afternoon and missing the match. Keep your ideas quick and easy and we guarantee success and enjoyments amongst the group!  Finger food is king.  As interesting as it can be to try new things, there’s also quite a lot to be said for the classics:  Snags on the barbeque wrapped in bread with some tomato sauce are a huge winner as are homemade burgers, chicken skewers or lamb chops.  If there’s half a chance you might find yourself drinking a cold refreshing beer at some point during the day then these are a great accompaniment.

If however you’re looking for something a little different to snags in bread why not make pizzas? Pizzas are always a great idea as you can throw a whole lot of toppings together to create delicious snacks for all your guests. The beauty of making your own pizzas is that you know exactly what you’re putting on there without any online or over the phone mix ups. Another idea could be to invite your guests over earlier and you could all make pizzas together. Have bowls out filled with delicious fillings and invite everyone to make their own. Not only is this a fun idea to do with your mates before the bounce, it’s also a great way of ensuring everyone is 100% happy with what their eating and if there’s people at your party who may have not met before this is a great opportunity for people to mingle and get to know one another.  Cook your pizza on an outdoor fire pit BBQ and you won’t even need to head into the kitchen.

Grand Final Breakfast

Like some footy fanatics, you may be one of the early risers, too excited to sleep, waiting for the first bounce. If that sounds like you why not consider a Grand Final Breakfast. This could be breakfast for one or you could invite your mates around to enjoy the delicious food and the highly anticipated first bounce. Who doesn’t love a good, hearty breakfast?  Especially on the morning of Grand Final Day. If you do find you’re not the only one up early, invite your early riser mates around to enjoy a few of these yummy treats: Why not consider a bacon and egg roll?  If you wanted to make it a little more fancy you could add some avocado, relish, egg or beans.  Another idea is the breakfast bruschetta or even pancakes topped with your favourite toppings. And if you wanted to really get into the AFL spirit why not top your pancake with your teams colours? That may be going over board, but for the footy fanatic within this could sound reasonably inviting!

Half Time Kick-to-Kick

Have a ball handy for a bit of kick-to-kick at half time.  Also have some thought to where to do this, so that your barbecue, outdoor furniture, television set and so on are well out of the way.

Make Some Effort to Not Set People on Fire

This might be the first time in a while that you’ve used your barbecue.  It’s a good idea to check that everything works, and works safely.  Get on top of this before the big day: before your guests arrive and the drinks might start flowing freely.  Examine the cylinder for rust or damage, and check the hose and connections for leaks.  Last year the MFB published an article on Grand Final day barbecue safety that’s well worth the read.

A few antics are all par for the course on this great day.  We here at the Outdoor Living Direct team highly recommend you limit your shenanigans to the non-flammable, non-explosive variety.  Poorly maintained gas barbecues can be dangerous.  The only thing you want to see burnt on Grand Final day is maybe the odd snag.

Watch the Game Outside

If it’s not raining, this is probably your first time since winter hibernation to enjoy a backyard bash.  If it’s practical, try setting your TV up outside so that you don’t have to relocate inside.  If your outdoor seating is sorted for everyone then this is the best way to enjoy the game without interrupting the flow of your day.  It also means that if any barbecueing still needs to be done after the bounce then nobody has to choose between tending the food and watching the game.


Set up a boom box or hi-fi, because tunes are always a good idea.  Remember though to switch it off for the pre-match entertainment.  You might see something really special: who can forget Meat Loaf at the 2011 AFL Grand Final?  Each league might do its very best to organise competent and able performers for the year’s most important match, but we in the audience understand that it’s the disasters that really make the day.  The more tragic, the better.

You should also keep the music off, or at least have the volume turned way down during the match.  You are going to want to hear the commentary team.  Chances are they will say a lot of really dumb things over the course of the game.  It’s okay to bag them for it, or more to the point, you’re letting everyone down if you don’t.  Paying out on idiotic statements by football commentators is an important Aussie tradition.  It must be maintained.

Cleaning Up

Expect mess.  You might not get around to cleaning up until the next day.  This is okay.  If you overindulged a little bit the day before, you might be cleaning up with a sore head and a twist in the guts.  This is also okay.  Have plenty of bags organised ahead of time to clear the myriad of rubbish and recycling materials into, and be sure you’re not short of surface spray and other such items as well.

Have Fun

This is the most important rule.

We hope these tips make your Grand Final day great, whoever you’re barracking for.