Friday, 30 November 2012

the summer rules

When you bring your Irish husband to Australia to live and he ends up working as a gardener and endures 40 degree days, you must never, ever complain about the heat.  Especially when you are able to sit inside under an air conditioner whilst he is in the garden at work, sweltering under our hot antipodean skies.  It was a horror of a day yesterday (just between you and me) and it's only the end of November.

Summer, I love you, but really?  This hot, this early?

And technically, it's still only spring!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

midweek snapshots

On the line...  because Tom thinks there's no place for floral doona covers in his new bedroom (not so easy to explain when you're not sharing a room with your sister anymore).
The last roses in the garden... they will bloom again, but next time it will be for new tenants.
Making...  a grapevine wreath for a Christmas lunch with friends this Saturday.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

from the desk of sophie - meet colin

The AFL (Australian Football League) is big news around this house - with the menfolk anyway!  Sophie's only interest is through the acquisition of footy cards, the number of which determines who has the most bragging rights.  Tom's on a winner there, with a collection spanning the past few years (peaking at birthdays, if that counts).  He's mad on re-drawing the footy cards, which involves copying a small playing card size picture and expanding it to A4.  But of course, when he does something, Sophie soon follows.  This is Colin Sylvia, who I'm sure will be delighted to have been immortalised by my daughter.

IN other news...

* Boxes packed - 3 large, 2 small

* Hedges clipped - 1

* Roses deadheaded - can't count!

* Garden beds weeded - 3

* Worn out, tired and exhausted people - 2 large, 3 small

2013, you can't get here soon enough!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

garden favourites: wintersweet - on the list!

I could never fill in a top 10 of plant for the garden, because there would be too many to choose from.  Instead, over the years, I've made an ever growing list (pardon the pun!) of plants from magazines and books and gardens I've visited.  As it will be summer when we move in to the house, we won't jump straight in and plant out the whole garden.  Vegetables are a must, however, and I have seedlings in pots ready to move in to bigger beds.  There are also the potted plants I've referred to before.
In the meantime, I'm thinking, planning and dreaming of the garden in its entirety.  Wintersweet is a family favourite.  It's heavily fragranced and covered in stunning, waxy flowers during the winter.  There's a huge wintersweet tree in the front garden where we rent.  None of us could believe our luck and we spent the winter snipping off its branches and bringing it inside.  Mum went mad over it and I think she visited more during that time than any other!

Monday, 26 November 2012

the 33rd house... but our first home

Joe and I have had many attempts at owning our first home.  It all started in Ireland, where Joe's from and where we lived when we first got married.  Joe inherited a small block of land from his family and we set about designing our home.  We had plans drawn up and they were priced by local builders.  All of the quotes came in too high, so we changed tack.  We went to a firm who would handle both design and build us a small home.  By the time their quotes came in, the building prices had risen so high, we were back where we started - we just couldn't afford to build.
As a teenaged observer of the 1980s Wall St crash and the impact it had worldwide, I was reluctant to put all of our financial eggs in one basket.  If we couldn't build a house on one income, we wouldn't do it at all.  Buying was out of the question - the prices were even higher that way.  It was funny, because at the time everyone in Ireland was going crazy with their money.  We were told by people to put both our incomes on the mortgage application and borrow as much as we could.  Thank goodness we didn't - we all know how the story ends there!
We moved back to Australia in 2005, with barely enough money to get ourselves established.  We moved to regional Victoria.  Joe's from the country and didn't want to move to Melbourne.  We moved to a picturesque, hilly, windswept locale that was close to family and only a couple of hours from the city.  Again, we put all of our efforts in to finding a home of our own.  The houses nearby were out of reach for us on just one income.  We wanted to get a foot in the door, so to speak, so we bought a block of land.  We spent a few years paying it off and started making plans to build.
Just as we started getting quotes from local builders, Joe was made redundant.  It was a huge shock to us and - quite literally - jolted our foundations!  We couldn't believe that once again, we were so close...  yet so far away.  Luckily he found another job within days, but it put us back to square one.  We moved closer to a bigger town and lived on the farm where Joe worked as a gardener - our sole aim remaining, to own a home of our own.
A couple of years went by and the urge for home was getting stronger.  It was now clear we didn't want to return to the place where our block of land was located, so we put it on the market.  We started looking around our nearby town and found a sweet Californian bungalow for sale.  We knew we wouldn't be able to live in it straight away, so when we applied for the mortgage, we were able to add in our projected rental income.  This is what got us over the line.  Without the rental income, we still wouldn't be able to afford a home of our own.  Which brings us to the past 12 months...
Towards the end of last year, I said to Joe that I wanted to be living in my own home by the time I was 40.  From there, things moved very fast.  We started looking at other houses.  We loved the bungalow we'd bought, but felt the garden was too small for vege gardens and fruit trees and footballs and soccer balls and netballs and swings and cubbies and parties...  I drove around the town looking, searching.  One day I came across a vacant block of land with a for sale sign... and that was it!  The planets aligned and Joe found a new job which enabled us to finally make our dream come true.
As luck would have it, we will be moving in to our new home the day before I turn 39!  It seems so quick, but in other ways, it's been a very long journey.  We first looked at building over 10 years ago and here we are now after all those false starts.  When I was younger, I never questioned that I'd own a home one day.  As such, I lived for the moment and spent money like it was going out of fashion.  We have had some very hard financial lessons, but I'd like to think we know the secret - live within your means and the rest will follow.  Oh - and living in the country helps, with cheaper land and housing.  We mightn't become millionaires, but we will have our own home.

And once you have your family and have your home, what more could you possibly want?!

(Gratuitous shots of the 33rd house included - the interior ones taken through the window, as it's all locked up!)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

moving on

Can you see it in the background in all its cardboardy glory?  The packing box, my friends.  You're going to see a lot more of them around here in the next few weeks.  Whilst I'm not keen on tripping over boxes, it might actually help keep the house clean.  That's the theory anyway!

When was the last time you moved?  What are your tips for packing?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

just call me spike

On the way home tonight we saw this little creature shuffling across the road.  I jumped out with the camera, trying to get pics of the echidna before it tried to hide.  Unfortunately I didn't get its face close up - that would be the few shots of dry grass I snapped while I raced from the car.  Look at those spikes though!  And see how washed out and brown the grass is already - this time last year, it was still green in November.  

We haven't had rain for about 6 weeks - it's going to be a long, hot summer.

saved by the stake!

In the spring, I gazed up at its blossom, wondering whether we'd be gorging on apricot jam this summer.  The tree's so close to our boundary, I've been worried a new fence would mean its demise.  This week, a stake has gone up and marked the apricots as safe.  Our lifetime supply of apricots is ensured!
Yesterday I inspected the fruit, mentally calculating pots of jam!  We'll have to try and net or bag the fruit as there will be a lot of competition from the local bird life.  It's so exciting to think we have our very own apricot tree.  There's also a fig, mandarin and orange - a great start!

Jam, anyone?!

Friday, 23 November 2012

too much on your plate?!

It's such a ridiculous time of year to be moving.  My to-do list keeps growing and I'm contemplating hiring a PA.  The simple truth, however, is nobody else can do these jobs.  They all need my careful attention and I have no choice but to work through them, one-by-one.

It's that awful realisation that no-one else is waiting in the wings, ready to take the reins.

It's growing up...

a space for making

At our last house, there was a chest of drawers in the kitchen.  Every morning, Sophie would search through them for something to make or do - from dotty paints to drawing, glue, paper, scissors.  It's something we haven't had room for here and her crafting sessions have had to be less spontaneous.  As much as I'm looking forward to having my own studio/office, I can't wait for the kids to have their own as well.  We have a large kitchen/living room in the new house and there's enough room for a dresser and desk for the kids to store all their crafting materials.

I look forward to more fabulous works like this!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

counting down

It's official - we have handover booked for Friday 14 December and the count down is on!  Even though the removalists won't come that day (we need to build a decking platform and steps at the front door, a few days' work), we'll load up with our beds and other necessities so we can camp in the new house until the rest of our things arrive.  Fingers crossed, this means I'll wake up on my 39th birthday in my very own home - what a present!

One of the things I'm most looking forward to is storage - we even have a walk in robe.  This is such a strange concept to me, I keep referring to it as a walk in pantry!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

"i help!"

Jono's becoming quite the green thumb - he loves filling the watering can with grass and toy cars, pulling young plants from their pots in case I'd like to move them, picking flowers and throwing them to the wind because I might be getting sick of them and, most recently, helping re-house my new vegetable seedlings.

Anyone seen my beetroot?!

through the window - the 33rd house

I said to a friend recently that the best part about building is everybody can see what bad taste you have.  Don't like the tiles?  You've only got yourself to blame!  Paint colour?  Carpet?  And just look what you've done in the garden!  Over the years I've built myself a healthy collection of interiors magazines (let's call it 'research') and I've fallen in love with the neutral backdrop.  We've chosen a very white white for the walls and laminate, plus light beige tiles.  The colour will be introduced once we move in - hot pink couch, beautiful artworks and ceramics.  Without the white backdrop, things would have looked too busy.

This is a glimpse through the window at our kitchen and living area - it's almost finished.  And hopefully - fingers crossed - we may even be given our handover date today.  I will keep you posted - that is, if I'm not too busy packing!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

(Re)introducing myself - a creative rediscovery

Creativity is innate within us - in the way we prepare a meal or file a report, solve arguments between children, communicate with loved ones or plant our gardens.  I've heard people say they don't have a creative bone in the bodies, but I disagree - we may have been put off because our art teacher said we couldn't draw or someone laughed at our painting.  It doesn't mean we're not creative, it just means we need to try something else.
In 2008 I entered the world of blogging, one I had observed from afar for a couple of years before I entered the fray.  I loved making things but I wasn't sure I had the confidence to share my creative life with the world.  I tentatively took the step - and jumped straight in!  It was a time of immense creativity in which I handcrafted wares and set out to live a creative life.  I sold cards to a couple of local shops and started a Madeit Store - neither of which would make me rich any time soon!  
It was great fun though - I indulged my love of photography and bought a Nikon D80 digital SLR (which I have never regretted - it takes beautiful images), fed the graphic designer's soul with an Imac computer (later purchasing Adobe InDesign - fantastic for work and home) and bought a Print Gocco for home screen printing.
These sweet images of Sophie were made then - I traced over a photo of her, created a screen and printed a run in red and then yellow.  When we are in our new house I will frame some for her room - she wants to use them in her crafting and I keep having to say no - they are just too precious!  It was a very rare, still moment in a busy toddler's life - it reminds me how like Jono is to Sophie, always going at 100 miles an hour.
I loved blogging and made connections to other creative souls around Australia and the world.  My sister Kate, from Greedy for Colour, started her blog at the same time and it was a terrific way for us to keep in touch with what we were doing.  Instead of just emailing photos between ourselves, we were sharing them with everyone else!  It made living in separate countries just that little bit easier.
I indulged my whimsy and let myself play around with many different media - painting, sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery, digital collages and more.  I combined my writing with my creativity - short, fun captions (as seen in the image above) or longer, reflective blog posts about the nature of creativity and parenting.
 I learnt many new skills - felting is one that I particularly loved.  I loved laying out tufts of bright, soft, fluffy wool, pouring over detergent and hot water and matting them into a firm, piece of cloth.  The kitchen tiles would be dripping with water, my biceps muscled and bulging!
There were pressures, though, from the real world.  Money was tight - we had to decide between maintaining our internet connection or paying for Tom and Sophie's swimming lessons.  It was an easy choice - in a hot country like Australia, swimming is essential, not only for the lifesaving aspects (!), but the sheer pleasure gained from days spent in the water, splashing with friends or floating peacefully on your back, looking up to the sky.
I decided instead to become a mobile blogger and use the computer at the library, mum's, wherever I could get an internet connection.  It became too hard though and I hadn't yet been introduced to the concept of a 'blog break' - where now they are quite commonplace, I wasn't keen on leaving my blog languishing in the ether, while I did my thing.
Instead, I took drastic action and pressed the 'delete' button - all that writing, all those images, gone!  I honestly wasn't too worried by it and I'm not now, either.  It just helps me to start over and re-enter the lovely world of blogging.  It is familiar and exciting.  I have a place for my writing and photography.  A place to connect with fellow creative people from all over the world.  A place to reignite my creativity - a place to reconnect with my passions.

Monday, 19 November 2012

of wooden floors and things

The weekends have been more of a comma than a full stop lately, as the days gallop towards the end of the year.  We've been working on our rental, pulling up carpets, sanding floors, punching down nails and covering the holes with putty.  Sometime after 7pm last night I put down the third coat of varnish on the wooden floor in the living room.

Joe and I never set out to own a rental property.  We bought this house to be our first home, but at the time we couldn't move in due to his work commitments.  Instead, we rented it out through an agency, hoping to move in at some stage.  In the meantime, we found a larger block of land and decided to build...  the fruits of which we should be enjoying sometime this side of Christmas.
Now, we're gearing up to put the house on the market, or re-let if it doesn't sell.  We fell in love with the outside straight away - a charming Californian bungalow, circa 1920s.  The inside, however, was in need of some dire TLC.  We've rewired, replaced weatherboards, straightened up the old shed which rivalled Pisa, stripped dodgy wallpaper and started to repaint.
 The hallway needs another coat of varnish on the floor and the walls to be painted white.  These beautiful baltic pine floorboards were lurking under the grotty carpet featured above.  Joe, the kids and I ripped up the carpet as a team - even Jono joined in!  I'm sure the dust is still in our lungs, but we had such a fun time doing it and the kids loved being involved.
 On Saturday afternoon, nana and Pa looked after the kids while we worked away.  Joe tackled the lawns, whipper-snippered and cleaned the dining room ceiling, ready for painting.  I kept working on the floors and acquainted myself with the nail punch.  I am pleased to report I still have two hands and 10 fingers and, as is now evident, am far more coordinated than any of use ever suspected!
 This is after the second coat of varnish in the living room.  What a difference it made even just doing something as simple as taking down an ugly net curtain?  We have a friend working there today putting down beading to hide the gap between the skirting boards and where the carpet was pulled up.  We still have a long way to go, but now we're starting to see it come together we are delighted with the results.
And whilst I may feel slightly creatively stifled, I look at these pictures and remind myself that I am being creative - it's just on a different and larger scale than usual!

caught in the middle...

Don't you just love it when your older brother is throwing tanbark at you from one direction and your younger brother is behind you, pulling your hair?!  This was before Sophie's now infamous hair cut, in which she remade herself as Madame Mullet.  It explains why she was so desperate for a new do that she gave up and did it herself.

(And no, I wasn't standing idly by, watching it happen - the boys moved quickly, sensing I was distracted with the camera!)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

hollyhock light

I love the transparency of hollyhock petals, especially in the late afternoon light.  Yesterday Joe and I were working on our rental and I took the camera along to get some shots of the newly varnished wooden floors.  As I walked into the garden, I was distracted - for more than a moment - by the light streaming on to the hollyhocks.
I surprised this bee, dusty with pollen.
The next moment it was gone, looking for an uninterrupted feed.
These other hollyhocks are already taller than me (no mean feat, but nonetheless impressive!).  Here they are reaching up into the sky - can you believe that blue?!
The petals are much more ruffled than the pink variety and I can't see anything similar in my quick google search, leading to my unqualified opinion that they must be quite rare!
Regardless, I won't trust these hollyhocks to seed collection alone - I will be digging them up and taking them with me to the garden of the 33rd house.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

the garden of the 33rd house - tree dahlias

There are pots around the perimeters of the garden here, waiting to be moved to their new home.  Daphne, basil, succulents, geraniums, lavender and port wine magnolias.  Roses and rose cuttings (perhaps that should be 'cutting' as it looks as though most of them died, so I could just be watering dead sticks and one cutting).
I have many garden favourites, including the tree dahlia (above), whose flowers look like tutus dancing minus the ballerinas.  Until last autumn, it had never been on my radar before.  I mustn't have spent enough time looking at the gardens in town, as they really are everywhere.  Tree dahlias grow ever taller, often toppling over in the wind before their flowers are finished.  I took cuttings of this one, but I think they were too woody and didn't last.  I will need to track down a healthy young plant for the garden of the 33rd house - it's non-negotiable!

Friday, 16 November 2012

favourite places - the couch

I am often found here, snuggled under my blanket, my head supported by these beautiful, splurgy Marimekko cushions.  It's a great place for a quiet afternoon rest when Jono is pretending to sleep in his cot.  It used to be a very dull, faded and grotty blue.  The hot pink indian cotton cover was cleverly whipped up by mum and another friend made the cushion covers.  The perfect resting place indeed.