Sunday, December 25, 2011

our aussie christmas day

We have had a lovely day celebrating Christmas with friends at home.
Looking back on the day, my overwhelming feeling is of gratitude -
grateful that we have such a lovely roof over our heads, grateful for
the delicious food we had, grateful to have such beautiful friends
to share the day with, and grateful to my
colleagues who worked today so that those of us with
younger children could spend time at home.

Merry Christmas!

the verandah neat and tidy before the guests arrive

Place settings - upside down as I can't rotate the
photo :(

pavlova - was gone in 60 seconds - the kids
inhaled it

trampolining - so much for the "only
one kid at a time" rule ....

backyard cricket - with the ubiquitous spotty dog
wanting a piece of the action

A nice end to a lovely day. Our lovely builder gave us
this bottle of champagne at handover and we wanted to
wait for a moment that felt right to open it.
The first Christmas of hopefully many felt like
the right time :)

F x

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

homemade love

When I was growing up in the UK and Germany, Christmas was always a big deal. A
large part of that, especially in Germany in the lead up to Christmas, was the food.
On the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas we would have coffee, cake and Christmas biscuits,
and light a candle for advent. My mum always had a wreath made of real fir trees especially
for this purpose - there were four deep red candles, and to this day the smell of fir trees
transports me back to that time.

I have tried to continue the tradition of Christmas baking in the lead up to the
festive season. Usually I bake for my son's class so that each child gets a little gingerbread man -
I had to let that go this year as we were getting ready to move house in the last
week of term - so supermarket bought candy canes it was. But I have been revelling
in the new kitchen and have enjoyed baking with the boy of the house for friends and colleagues.

I always think there is something a bit special about making something yourself - it's like
lovingly cooking a meal for friends. It was a nice way to spend a few hours with the boy
of the house, without it involving trampoline or pool action....

boy of the house carefully measuring ingredients


some spice biscuits just out of the oven

little gingerbread man ready to go

two of my parcels with biscuits ready to be distributed

This year I have added a new recipe to my Christmas baking - shortbread with cinnamon.
Being half Scottish I was deeply sceptical about any messing about with
shortbread - why meddle with something so perfect - but Mum assured me that
it was fabulous. She is right. Recipe follows.

Cinnamon shortbread

225 gm butter, softened
75 gm caster sugar
225 gm plain flour
50 gm cornflour
1 tsp cinnamon (I often use more than this)

Beat the butter and sugar together, though not so much that they are fluffy.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, cornflour and cinnamon, then
add them to the butter/sugar mixture.

Press the mixture into a 23 cm shallow square cake tin and smooth the
surface with the back of a wet spoon. Prick all over with a
fork then chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170 (150 fan forced) and bake for 55 min or until
pale golden. Remove from oven, cut into fingers
and sprinkle with golden caster sugar ( I usually don't sprinkle).

Leave to cool for 15 min in tin then finish cooling on rack.

Enjoy !

Friday, December 16, 2011

the art of carpentry

I love all the timber that is integral to the Queenslanders. It was inspiring to see the extension of our old girl take shape, and how the quintessential features like breezeways and archways help to make the new blend with the old. Wood must be such a wonderful medium to work with - I love the smell of new timber, and I think seeing something come together as you create it would be very satisfying. I love my current job but it has no real scope for creativity, and in idle moments when I daydream of alternate careers, I often think about carpentry. I would be hopeless of course, I am fairly clumsy (understatement if you ask my Dad) and would very quickly lose a thumb or an eye. But it's nice to dream .....

breezeway in the hall - apparently they were designed
to promote air flow into rooms and to keep cool. I just think
they look beautiful

we had a fire in the old girl with a gas fire in the hearth
we had to move it as the wall was demolished but
we retained it as a feature - our lovely builders
rebuilt the mantelpiece

looking down the hall from the front door - the
archway looks as if it has always been there but
it is a new addition suggested by our builder
to make the hall look more in proportion -
it now looks great

double hung windows at the front of the house

our builders made all the verandah railings by hand - it
was amazing to watch. Though they did tell me at the end
that it was their least favourite part of the project
as it was very labour intensive

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

men at work

One of the nicest things about being back in our house is actually being back in the
street with all of our great neighbours. There is a lovely community feeling, and
most of the men exercise together at ridiculously early times of the day.
I didn't realise how much I had missed it until we were back here.
We decided to have our closest neighbours in the street over for
drinks over the weekend. We had my new favourite drink - mojitos - mixed
by the family affectionately known as the Spaniards - they have lots of stamina and
scoff at the Queensland habit of being asleep before midnight. Needless to say
there were a few sore heads the next day.

they must be good for you with all that
fresh mint and lime juice

I have been back at work this week and the boys have been hard at work in the garden, starting the big job of landscaping.

boy of the house helping with the landscaping. I had a warm maternal glow
driving off to work thinking how good it was that he was helping the man of the house.
Apparently not 5 minutes later the novelty wore off ......

they both pushed through the heat and humidity to get the job done

spotted dog of course had to be in the photo! The driveway had
been cleared when I got home after work, with some pebbles
used around the pool and some around some paving
in the back garden.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

home sweet home

It has been a long week. We are still unpacking boxes but at least we have moved everything back to the house. I almost feel guilty typing this as there is so much still to do, but none of it is going anywhere. I feel as if I will be going back to work next week for a well earned rest.

Some things I learned this week about moving house:

  • Men and women have different priorities when it comes to unpacking. Women like to have clean sheets on the bed, maybe some cutlery and plates to eat off, some food to eat and maybe some towels. Men want to set up the television and internet, to the exclusion of anything else. Trying to re-align these priorities will lead to some interesting discussions.
  • It's not that great an idea to get excited the week before moving and invite 50 of your friends and neighbours to drinks 5 days after you have moved in. This leads to slight tension as you both wonder "what were we thinking" and then sheepish text messages to cancel the drinks.
  • Being self righteous and not installing a clothes dryer due to their energy guzzling habits is all well and good, but when you are moving house and it is pouring rain you might feel that eco-warrier halo slip a little and curse that decision.....
  • There is nothing wrong with IKEA plastic kids cutlery and beakers when you can't find anything else for 5 days - the wine tastes just as good and has the desired effect of numbing the stress brought on by the above mentioned issues.

The house itself is wonderful, though we are still pinching ourselves that we actually live here now. Once we have unpacked everything, the really fun part will begin for me - finding a home for all of our furniture, paintings and photos. Most of the house is still a series of rooms with boxes, but I thought I would put up some shots of the verandah to start with.

Spotty dog previously had the run of the house. I am sure I will relent,
but at the moment she is staying outside - mainly because she sheds so
much hair. We'll see how long that lasts, but she looks aggrieved.

front door with Christmas wreath

wreath on the front verandah door - I am tempted to leave it
on all year round

the verandah outside the kitchen/living area. All the furniture is
second hand, mostly from the WAC. It looks so neat I feel I should
add a disclaimer*

* photo is for illustrative purposes only and bears no resemblance to
the way it looks 99% of the time

I discovered this magazine today and while as yet I haven't had the chance
to sit down and read it, I am looking forward to some down time this weekend
to savour it. I hadn't seen it before, but with a focus on recycling,
sustainability and making things by hand, I think I'll love it.
It also mentions my clever friend Tammy :)

I'm looking forward to the weekend - hope everyone has a good one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

3 days to go .......

We get "handover" from the builder this Friday. I think this means he hands us back our keys (symbolically) while at the same time handing us the bill for the final installment of the project. I feel like an elastic band that is stretched to the limit and is about to snap - work/home/child/end of school year all contributing in their own way to this. We are moving as much as we can ourselves this weekend, then movers will help with the big stuff on Monday. I have next week off work - the thought of having a cup of tea in the morning on the new verandah and a glass of wine at night is my silver lining this week.

I just have a random selection of photos - will post more next week once I surface.

shiny floors

shower in ensuite

bring on next week

more gratuitous Poinciana photos

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

king sized comfort

Since we will soon have the luxury of a spare bedroom, we had to go bed shopping today.
We will move our existing bed into the spare bedroom, and will have a brand new bed in our bedroom. The house we have been renting/house sitting has a king sized bed which has been fantastic. Previously we have had a queen which gets a bit cosy when the boy of the house inevitably wanders in for a cuddle in the early hours. It also has a latex mattress - the man of the house has the unsocial habit of getting up at 4:30 am to cycle with his posse, and latex has this wonderful property called "minimal partner disturbance" - I don't hear or feel him get up and leave. This is a good thing.

We went to the mattress shop today - unfortunately due to timing we had to take the boy of the house with us. This was not a good thing. Lots of excitement, jumping on all the beds, and strained smiles from the saleswoman who clearly didn't believe my repeated assurances that "he's not normally like this". The photo below shows him streaking through the store.
We had to buy a mattress after all that.....

blink and you'll miss him

So we decided on a King sized ensemble - but not latex. Too many $$$ and also we think maybe too hot in those summer months in Queensland. Our bedroom is small and the bed will take up a lot of the room but so be it. We have also decided on a bed head from here - Richmond in Catalina Storm. It won't be ready until February, but I'm excited!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the grass is greener

The garden is looking a bit more loved after some attention today. We have laid some turf and it's amazing the difference it makes. The challenge of course will be keeping the grass alive in this heat and the dry conditions. There is rain forecast for the end of the week, and I might get the boy of the house to do a little rain dance for us all.


boy of the house enjoying the new verandah and
practicing his rain dance moves

after - taken from the verandah

side of the house - before

side of the house - after

I have embarked on some little projects with some of my WAC treasures. The first was easy - repainting a vintage style mirror to suit the colours in our powder room area. The second thing I am planning is to revamp the vintage Casala chairs - they need to be sanded and then painted. That sounds as if I know what I am doing - so far I don't think I am fooling anyone, including the helpful man at the paint shop. At least I have chosen a colour - I am loving the Resene colours and Guardsman Red is my favourite:

One of the girls who has an office next to mine at work today had these beauties on her desk and their beautiful scent filled the air:

I wonder if I would tire of these if they flowered all
year round. I doubt it

Monday, November 21, 2011

any day now

The date for moving back into our house is getting closer every day. The floors are still being sanded and polished (the sander is a man obsessed and a perfectionist - good for us of course, but he doesn't work quickly). White goods are arriving and all the little jobs seem to be being tackled one by one. It will be strange not to speak to our builder every day.

While we haven't been able to get into the house we have been using the pool most days which has been bliss - in the mornings on the weekends, and after school during the week. It has been fantastic. It has been so hot and dry here that it is a relief to dive into the water.

We are getting some turf laid tomorrow to hopefully make the back garden less of a dust bowl. The rest of the landscaping will have to wait.
The Poinciana in the front garden is starting to bloom which is gorgeous.

view from the front verandah

I am looking out all the Christmas decorations in anticipation, and I think one of the first things I'll do when we move back in is put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house. All the other stuff can wait. I love Christmas - my favourite of course is the cold climate, northern Christmas that I grew up with. I always get a little homesick at this time of year, and I think that's why I throw myself into the festive season.

Monday, November 14, 2011

little things i love this week

We have been banished from the house this week as the floors are being polished. Feels very strange not to be dropping in every day as I usually do on my way home from work. So I just have some photos of a few things that have gone in that I particularly like:

the long awaited new bath - not quite as tiny as anticipated

this is one of the original doors in the house that my Dad lovingly
restored about ten years ago. I really wanted to keep these doors
in the renovation, and they have all gone back in - this door leads to the little toilet

tapware in the kitchen - the smaller one is a fancy
schmancy water filter

chrome lights above the kitchen bench - not the best
photo but the only one I have

As it gets closer to the day that we move back in, there are also a few choices I have made and things that are now installed where I am not so happy with the decisions made. None of them major but we'll see how things feel after 6 months of living in the house, when I will hopefully be less obsessed and have gained some perspective ....... I wonder if everyone doing a project like this gets obsessed by the details, and if it's normal to be feeling slightly anxious as the final stages are ticked off ? Maybe it's just me - which is why it was so nice to spend the weekend at Byron and to have lunch with some girlfriends here:

view from the Byron Beach Cafe

Brisbane, renovations, and probably most importantly work seemed like a million miles away as we all enjoyed a beautiful long weekend, remembering that what is important is the company of family and friends.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Visiting the house this afternoon I noticed how beautiful the jacaranda tree on the footpath is looking. This is the first year that it has really burst into flower like this. Maybe it's because of all the rain we have had this year, after all those years of drought. I am hoping the same will be true for our Poinciana tree.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

come over for a swim

We still can't quite believe that we have a pool. After waiting until the boy of the house was a competent swimmer, we finally decided that the time was right to build a pool, and it made sense to do this before the renovation started while access to the back garden was very easy and there was plenty of space to move around in.

The pool was originally scheduled to start in January 2011, but that of course was the time of the terrible floods in Brisbane. Luckily we were not affected by any flooding, but the ground was so water logged from all the rain that they had to delay digging the pool by about 6 weeks to avoid it caving in. Scary thought. We felt so lucky to have escaped unscathed from the floods compared to so many people who lost everything. It did mean our pool was eventually ready just in time for winter, with the boy of the house declaring that he would get frostbite if he swam in it. Clearly he has not inherited many of my hardy Scottish genes....

We didn't finish the landscaping as we moved out at that stage for the major part of the renovation to begin. In the past week we have been doing some more work around the pool so I thought I would post the progress photos over the year. It makes me a bit sad to see how much lovely back garden we have lost - both to the pool and now to the extension of the house - but of course you can't have everything.

the garden before the pool

this is what it looked like when we moved out

In the past week we have had Eco decking (bamboo composite) laid along one side, and have tidied up the conifers and the jasmine that were planted just before moving out. The pool builder only recommended a small area of coping down one side which sounded good at the time, but we have reconsidered and wanted more room for kids to play. I hope that by next summer the jasmine will have flourished and grown along the trellis to camouflage the fence. We have also moved the pool filter and paraphenalia into a shed.

There is still a bit of work to be done, but I am really looking forward to being able to say to friends "why don't you come over for a swim?"