Thursday, 31 January 2013

thrifting at the tip (and more!)

Our favourite thing when we were little was to go to the tip with dad and see what we could find.  It's fast becoming a new weekend ritual in our house, now we know about the shed there with castoffs rejected by the op shop!  This cute coffee canister contains seeds with expiry dates of 2000!  I thought I would plant them and at least cut them back for compost if they don't grow any veges!
I'm in the middle of a bird cage obsession - not too developed yet, as this is only my second one!  I thought that with climbers growing through them - or something or other - I could start disguising our new colourbond fences...  I will let you know when I've worked out what to do with them.  I love the blue in this - the other one is multicoloured, faded yellow and white, so I will be brightening it up as well.
Does being given plants count as thrifting?  My friend hates the colour pink and I've been the beneficiary of two of her beautiful roses.  They are sitting in pots and haven't been very happy until now.  One of them is finally covered in buds - they've been pushed back along the fence line and are enjoying not having the harsh sun for the final afternoon hours.  I will eventually plant them out along the front garden...  when we finally have some better soil to plant in to...  which could be some time away!
And finally some collateral damage from my gardening exploits.  I over-filled the tyre on the wheelbarrow on the weekend and it exploded!  I hadn't been able to work out what psi to fill the tyre to, so I just kept going...  it seemed okay until I wheeled it away and was talking to Joe a few minutes later.  It was so loud, it was as though a car had backfired!  Woops!  I don't quite know how that will help the budget, the price of a new tyre unknown so far...  hopefully it won't tip the scales too far or we will be carrying things on our head!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

brickwork apprentice

 I had a chance last week to go through our budget and face a few cold, hard realities.  The work we've been wanting to do in our garden has to be put on hold.  A particularly major part of our plans is to deck our alfresco area.  This, like the rest of the jobs, has been put on the back burner.  I had a moment of clarity on the weekend and realised we could use the left over bricks from the house to make a patio area, solving the problem of a sandy, low patch and giving us an undercover outdoor area all in one.

I thought that adopting a criss-cross type of pattern (officially known as basket weave, thanks to my old mate google) would lessen the need to keep straight lines.  It looks very...  handmade... but that's why we're here isn't it?!  We had sand left over from the mortar of the house and it needed to be put to use.  I'd also had it pegged for top-dressing the lawn/dust patch, but I had to prioritise.  The string line seen towards the top 2/3 of the picture was a late addition, and I'm not sure quite how straight everything will be once it settles in.  As per usual, we're doing it a bit backwards - should have made a nice firm sand bed first, but we kept telling ourselves it would be a temporary fix.  I'm now thinking it could be 12 months...  anyhoo!

Eventually the bricks will be replaced by decking with boxed in steps coming off it, like the ones above.  This is a great place not only for shoes, but people.  We had a lovely christening of the space over Christmas time with family...  seems like just yesterday!  By the way, the chairs in the top two pictures are new finds from the - wait for it - tip!  There is a shed there filled with things the op shop has rejected and we've been having a lovely time there!  A kennel for Minnie, old birdcages to grow climbers through, large wire baskets...  I will have to show some of my finds in another post.  Anyway, the chairs are quite grotty and will need some cleaning and covering, but they are very comfortable!

School returned today and I am looking forward to getting in to a routine again, plus sorting out the last untouched room since we moved in to the new house - my office... wish me luck!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

stitching the holidays away!

The school holidays have come to that point where I start counting down the days until normality returns.  I haven't been feeling 100% per cent lately, so we've been trying to keep quiet at home, which only holds so much interest for the kids.  I thought a bit of crafting would interest Soph and noticed Tom's ears pricking up - yes, he'd like to do something too.  Out with the embroidery hoops, a quick sketch by each of them and off they went.  Tom's is all black because he feels that was the colour of the time (they can have any colour, as long as it's black!), whilst Sophie's self portrait is decidedly colourful!  This took us through until about 10.30 when Jono became fraught with hunger and I felt I needed a break from being piggy in the middle, threading needles and undoing knotted thread...

How many days now?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

the tree after christmas

A flurry of bills in the mail this week has reminded us to batten down the hatches, finance-wise.  This left me looking at a vase of dead lillies and wondering what I'd put in their place...  until I remembered the beautiful, snaking branches we'd pruned from the apricot tree over the weekend.  I saw tissue paper tied into bon bons and attached to branches in a home design magazine somewhere (if I find it, I will attribute it here later) and thought it was such a lovely, simple thing to do.  Sophie and I got busy this morning making one of our own, but with fabric.
It was a perfect task for Sophie's nimble little fingers, helping tie knots and cut the fabric - small pieces from my stash that needed something done with them.  It looks lovely nestled beside Kate's wall - and now with a family portrait painted by Soph in the background.  And to think, otherwise I might just have been tempted to buy a bunch of flowers!!  I can't wait to have my own in the garden that I can go and pick whenever I please.  Until then, this will be a great alternative - at least until it gets dusty!
Sophie was so impressed, she wanted one of her own.  I attached it to an adhesive hook on the wall, rather than trying to balance a vase anywhere and have it returned in one piece!  Her room is really getting its own stamp on it and she loves having so many pictures up now.  The one of her jumping off the wall is one of my favourites from a family holiday when Jono was a baby.  We had a week at the beach as autumn set in, but there were still a couple of warm days for the kids to paddle by the river.  I think it will be a long time before we have another such holiday again!

Monday, 21 January 2013


I made the most of our un-netted trampoline and took some fun action shots of Tom and Soph.  It was just a matter of click-click-clicking away, then on to the computer to edit out the blurry ones.  I knelt right down by the edge of the trampoline so I could emphasise their respective flights into the air, as they jumped higher and higher.  The net is now back on - I managed to only put the base of the trampoline back together after we moved and had to wait for a quiet moment with Joe around to tackle the net.

We're delighted with the trampoline - a freebie spotted by my friend around the corner from where we were renting last year.  My friend, plus the person giving away the trampoline and I carried it down the road to our house.  I think if I tighten my muscles just so, they are still sore all these months later!!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

blank canvas - the garden of the 33rd house

Here's a look of what we have to tackle in our back garden.  Heavy, clay soil with a fill best described as treacherous shards of glass and rusty metal.  I am forever pulling bits out of the ground and remonstrating with the kids: "See, that's why dad and I keep telling you to put your shoes on!"  The clay pan effect isn't one we're keen on continuing and I think a long term garden plan is the best way to approach the situation.  By doing this, we are defining our play, living and loafing spaces and will build up the soil accordingly.  We moved the trampoline to this area in the foreground today.  Rather than fight to establish lawn underneath it and have to move it for mowing, we've decided to designate it a soft fall area instead.
Looking back towards the house there will be lawn in the foreground, then we will bring a compact crushed gravel 2 metres out from the house, forming a path and bike track.  We'll continue the gravel down the right-hand side of the house.  Here, we are still debating the merits of a pergola versus a courtyard with seasonal shade.  We have such delicious light coming in to our living area that I am loathe to jeopardise it.  I'm trying to convince Joe to give me a couple of years to experiment first with summer shading before we commit to a fixed structure.
Here is Jono happily blowing his lips together in a put-putting noise, motoring his trike around the garden.  He's not fussed with the lack of lawn and niceties, rather just happy to be outside and on the go!  Joe and I are so enjoying starting to use our garden now the fences are up.  We have just been laughing at how happy we are to be fenced in - yes, the very opposite of 'don't fence me in'!  We've had another lovely afternoon outside, pruning dead wood from the apricot tree and head high, eye-poking out branches so we can put our picnic table underneath, whilst the kids played in wading pools... summer bliss!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

saturday morning

We've been out around the town organising bits and pieces for the new garden.  We've had fences go up this week and now have a fixed area to start creating our own outdoor space.  Until we have gates on each side, we will block off the garden with lattice panels, to be delivered on Monday.  I can't wait to be able to have the kids out the back, knowing that Jono particularly won't be disappearing off down the road - and to be able to put Minnie out for a run, how exciting!  And to be able to start planting garden beds out is also very exciting - here are some salvia and geranium cuttings waiting to take root.
 We took much inspiration from the local Butter Factory which has beautiful, rambling landscaped grounds.  I will show more pictures over the next few days - I just love these old scales!  I can sense more op shopping coming on, trying to find the right vintage pieces to soften the newness of our house and garden.
The Butter Factory also provided the perfect backdrop for some photos of the kids - Jono sporting the usual lumps and bumps on his head!  He was very excitedly clutching a handful of flowers - we were not so excited about him traipsing through garden beds to get them!  I hope nobody was having a sleep in there this morning, as our kids would have soon woken them up.

Hope you're having a lovely Saturday too!

Friday, 18 January 2013

kate's wall

Over the past few years, we've been lucky to start - shall we say - amassing a collection of my sister Kate's work.  Birthdays are always a very exciting time when we are presented with beautiful art to put on our walls!  Finally, we've been able to hang everything together.  My most recent addition is the rabbit cameo - we were all so delighted with it, the whole family has requested one each for their birthdays throughout the year.  We will end up with a portrait wall of sorts!

And Kate - I bought these removeable sticky things, so my picture hanging has commenced, holes free!

My wonky placement should add to the artistic effect...

PS Tom has dubbed it Kate's wall!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

the first folder

Mum was always great at saving the best of our work when we were younger.  I sat down with Tom and Sophie and showed them a folder of my stories and poems, hoping to inspire them to put pen to paper.  Armed with a ring binder and a wad of foolscap paper, Sophie set to work.  I just had to share her story with you - I particularly love the part where it says 'no buts in this family'... wonder where she may have heard that?
The busy kitchen table where all the action happens!  The book covered in butterfly wrapping paper is from when I was 9 years old, full of interesting facts about me and pictures of my family.  I still adore that paper and can't believe my luck that mum chose something so beautiful to adorn that precious keepsake.
Sophie was intrigued I told her she could decorate her folder - both inside and out.  Usually she's told not to draw on this or that, but this time, she's been given free rein.  Now we just have to find some stickers to complete the job - I'm hoping not to find it lathered in 'Sophie loves so and so' just yet!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

lucy and lucy's crochet granny stripe blanket

Last year I started this granny stripe blanket, pattern courtesy of the very colourful and talented Lucy over at Attic24... which should explain the title of this post!  Unfinished, it's been sitting in a cupboard along with the bag of delicious Zara wool, which makes up the rug apart from the white bits (more on that later).  When we moved in to the 33rd house, I thought it would be better to bring the blanket out in to the living room - this way, I could do a couple of rows at a time, without the big push that usually brings on a cramping hand.
It turns out that the blanket has started to grow!  Just seeing it there on our very bright, hot pink couch, makes me remember why I loved the pop of colours from the wool and how excited I was when I started out on this very long crochet journey.  It's also been fantastic to do something that stills my mind after such a busy time.  As with Lucy, I started out with a foundation chain of 240.  This makes a double bed sized blanket, however I think ours will remain on the couch!
We're all loving having it out to use, perfect for tired children to snuggle up against, even on these very hot days!  I've used the colours randomly, inspired by Paul Smith - whose stripes drive me wild - and by a Mexican fiesta - go figure!  It just seems such a happy blanket, shrieking of celebration.  When I finish, I will use the white to border it, can't remember exactly the edging pattern, will check with mum and let you know when I am at that stage...  which probably won't be for a while!

Oh and the white?  It's one I had already from Bendigo Woollen Mills.  It's nice of its own accord, however it is very different from the Zara wool and will wear differently.  I definitely won't combine different wools again, but I was too far in to this project before I realised my error.  Whilst the Zara wool was expensive, it is absolutely beautiful and I would love to use it again for such a special blanket.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

lego duplo discovery

We've had Lego and Duplo around the house for about eight years now.  It was only today, as I sat down to play with Jono, that I discovered the smaller Lego bricks could be used together with the Duplo.  Amazing!  For Jono, who's just entering the world of Lego and has only the crumbs his sister's given him, it means he now has an extended play set.  I wonder if other - far smarter - people have realised this before...  who would have thunk it?!

Monday, 14 January 2013


I've used this poseable artist's model to store my necklaces on for years.  Now she's pumping victory fists in the air, having found a proper home.  A small corner of our ensuite was just perfect!  I've been unpacking the final boxes and having a lovely time putting things here and there.  We've spent all weekend here - at home - and it really feels like it is...  home.


There's nothing quite like it!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

home making

Bit by bit, it's beginning to look like home around here.  We're pulling lamps, paintings and assorted knick knacks from cardboard boxes and putting our own stamp on the 33rd house.  At the end of last year, mum had Sophie and Tom do some paintings at her house.  She bought frames from the op shop and painted them all white, then framed the kids' paintings for their Christmas presents.  Sophie's newsreader would make a bright addition to the evening news!
I just love the colours against the stark white of the frames.  It also makes me eager to hurry up and put up the rest of our own paintings around the house.  Now comes the fun task of working out where to put everything.  Thanks to an enormously talented bunch of family and friends, we have no shortage of paintings to fill the walls.  It's just a matter of taking the time to work out what goes best where - a job to do without the kids around, so nothing gets broken!
I think I'll have to buy some bigger frames and ask Sophie to paint some larger pictures for the rest of the house!  Tom's painting is stunning too - I will save it for a blog post of its own.  It's funny how much I'm enjoying Sophie's very girly room.  I was a real tom boy when I was younger - didn't wear pink and wasn't really in to dolls.  When we lived in Melbourne, I used to hang out with the boys from down the street.  I was right up there with most things they did, but drew the line at cricket.  I used to turn cartwheels on the oval to register my boredom.  Over 30 years later, cricket still makes me want to turn cartwheels - the boys are watching it at the moment.

Hang on a moment while I limber up...

Saturday, 12 January 2013


Jono was my smallest baby, so small compared to Tom and Soph that Joe had to buy new babygros to fit him.  It's hard to believe - looking at my big bruiser now - that he was once so small.  He was the most adorable baby - as they all were - and completed our family.  Actually, at the time, he was such a good baby we even considered four...  Then, that winter all of the kids were sick at the same time and we soon changed our minds.

I must admit I still feel the odd stirring when I'm around babies - as does Joe - but lately it just feels as though it would all be too hard.  While I'm on that roll, I've been boxing up all of our baby gear to hand on to someone else.  Quick, out of the house with it before I change my mind!

And away from the computer - these baby pics are making me clucky!

Friday, 11 January 2013

juggle, juggle

I find it hard to string a thought together during the school holidays, let alone do any work.  For the past week, I've been struggling to do one smallish job - only an hour's worth - but trying to find the time has been impossible.  Thankfully today saw the kids playing with their new neighbour and the chance for me to sneak down in to the office, popping out to check on them every now and then.  Working from home is good to a point, but hard to meet other people's deadlines, when the kids have ideas of their own... 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

wacky races

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, however I'd like to think that motherhood necessitates invention...  The hot days are proving tedious as far as the school holidays and family entertainment goes.  The length of the kitchen/living room and the front hallway provide a long stretch of tiles perfect for wearing out children with an abundance of energy.  Perfect for say...  sliding races?!  The easiest seems to be when they're on their backs sliding along, although here you see Jono hitting a Hairy Maclary book and turning circles...
...  again and again....
... and again.  The race with the highest degree of difficulty is on their stomachs, it seems to slow them down a lot and draw out the time!

We've also played animal charades - just mimicking animal movements without any noises.  Some have proved easier than others.  Tom employed his encyclopaedic knowledge and tested us with obscure entries such as the Hercules Beetle and the Dung Beetle.  Obviously we lost!

How are you passing the time cooped up indoors?

Monday, 7 January 2013


We woke this morning to cries from children exasperated to find there wasn't any weetbix, we'd run out of dried fruit for their homemade muesli and the milk was running low.  I wasn't keen on taking Joe to work - 20 minutes from town - just to have the car, so I resigned myself to thinking I'd have to wait until this afternoon to get supplies.  The fruit bowl filled with Christmas decorations as we took down the tree, whilst I formed an outrageous plan...
Home delivery!  Our locally owned supermarket delivers for only $2.20 - today I would have paid double that (okay, even $10 - probably more).  I emailed the list through, only to find there was only one delivery today and it wouldn't be until after 4pm, close to when Joe gets home anyway...  It didn't take me long to reconcile this fact and realise it would save me the effort and save Joe from being dumped with tired, housebound kids as soon as he walked through the door.
The groceries arrived just after 4pm and the kids and I had a delicious gorge of fruit salad, then I set to work roasting veges and making salads for dinner.  I can't tell you what a treat it was to have the whole week's worth of food and other necessities delivered straight to our door...  Trying to keep out of the heat has become a habit of mine over the past few stinking hot days and one I plan to continue.  This hot little boy didn't sleep today and ended up going to bed early, grumpy and overtired.  And just think what a trip to the supermarket might have done to him!  And me!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

what lay beneath

At the bottom of the wardrobe in our rental's spare room lay two very grotty carpet squares.  This morning as I was cleaning in preparation for our new tenant, I figured it would be more hygienic to throw them out and just have the bare boards exposed.  Much to my delight, I found these vintage lino strips!

Imagine how beautiful that floor would have been back in the day?  And where was it?  All through the house or just in this room?  We think the house was built around the 1930s, however haven't anything solid to back up this notion.  It was the time of Californian Bungalows though, so somewhere around there anyway.
This view gives you an idea of how the lino could have been laid.  The black paint in the corner of the cupboard featured around the edges of all the rooms and was very hard to get off.  It was called Black Japan and formed a decorative feature, much like a matboard on a picture frame.  I would like to think of it as Joe's nemesis, stubborn and not wanting to be removed.  Lots of grit and determination finally took it off - and by grit I mean hard sandpaper grit!  Is that a renovator's joke?!

And the lino?  I pulled it up and brought it home...  it was wasted in the bottom of the cupboard!

Saturday, 5 January 2013


Our island bench proved the perfect venue for an impromptu bullfight one rare, quiet evening during the festive period.  Sophie brandished her small summer blanket - crocheted by mum in an (unsuccessful) attempt to wean her from her larger blanket during the hot summer nights - whilst a nappy-clad Jono charged.
Other direction Jono!
Playing to the crowd - not only do I fight bulls, I fly...

Friday, 4 January 2013

the renovation rules - number one

The past few weeks have been a marathon - if I look back over my blog posts, I'm sure I will find an endless string of similar comments.  There has been a physical and emotional toll from all this work and I'm so glad that today we should finally finish our renovations on our rental.  Joe's around there now painting and once he's done, I need to do a final clean (including the stove, ugh!) and one more coat of varnish on the floors in the other half of the house.  As it's going to rise towards - or climb over - 40 degrees today, I may well wait til later in the evening when the cool change is expected.
Despite the blood, sweat and tears, it is immensely satisfying to see the swan appear from this once ugly duckling.  The former colour scheme - and carpet circa 1950s - didn't do our rental any favours.  It now enjoys the neutral backdrop we've favoured in our own home.  The wooden floorboards of the living room and cork parquetry in the dining room look so warm against the stark white walls.

As time goes by, I will delve more into our renovation journey and bring you some of the many lessons we've learnt along the way.  Number 1, for today, is simple:

Double or triple your estimations of how long a job will take.

We thought we'd knock the painting over in a few days - this didn't allow for the slower, more tedious tasks such as hand painting doors, skirting boards and window frames.  It's been possible to use a roller everywhere else, but if we ever paint again...  oh wait... we've said never paint again!  Anyway I would recommend hiring a spray machine.  Better yet, find a painter!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

meet rudolph

This is our only reindeer left standing.  The others have toppled off shelves and lost legs and antlers in unsuccessful attempts to fly back to the North Pole.  Rudolph and his buddies were part of our presents in the crafty Kris Kringle last year and have managed to decorate our kitchen all year - the result of absolutely no storage space in the house we were renting.  Would you believe I found more Christmas supplies today?!  The kids' stockings turned up in a box of wool... just in time to be put away again!
We've had mixed efforts at school holiday activities today.  Sophie worked for a while on her babushka paper mache kit, but the session ended prematurely with some, shall we say, behavioural differences...!
Jono had his painting induction and had such a lovely time smooshing the paint together - I used a sacrificial soap dish to hold paint, not able to find anything else at the time.  Tom meanwhile earned himself $1.00 by folding up all the washing and helping me hang out another load - amazing what the incentive of pocket money can do!
I managed to crochet one row of my very slow rug, pattern from the very clever Lucy at Attic 24.  I started quite some time ago, however don't usually get much done before my hand gets sore.  It was so satisfying to see a small touch of progress and I've decided to leave it out on the couch now to inspire me to do more.
Minnie's just hanging out, looking cute and playing with the kids' toys when they're not looking.  Bus ride anyone?!