Sunday, December 23, 2012

No Scrooge here for Christmas

Yes, it's beginning to look alot like Christmas around here. 

We put the tree up (the kids do the tree by themselves now!!) and all the decorations at the beginning of December in time for our annual Christmas party, usually in the first week. It's the best thing we ever did, as not only do we clean THE ENTIRE HOUSE, it gives us a deadline for all the things we've been meaning to plant/fix/get rid of... and have our home looking its best, even for just one day as we make merry with all of our nearest and dearest friends and family. 

As our kids and their friends get older, we were concerned that they're getting too old for the obligatory chill session where late in the day they squeeze together on the sofa for a movie. After talking it over we decided to give over to the screen thing and make their bedroom a den with cushions and lots of rugs and comfy spaces to sit and play on hand held games, with optmistic hopes of cards and board games thrown into the mix. This worked beautifully at times throughout the day, but we were surprised and delighted to find them all crammed on to the sofa around the same time as in years gone by, watching kids movies - enjoying it as much as they ever did!

Some things change, some stay the same.

Our Christmas Party sets the scene for us to embark on the ridiculousness of Christmas - paves the way for the shopping, the cooking, the wrapping, the visiting, the end of year parties, concerts and presentations.  It's crazy, isn't it??

What I do love doing is singing carols at my sister's Christmas party that follows later in the month.  Our family is not one of tuneful singers, to say the least, but in recent years we have derived much joy from warbling up the back of her lounge room, crowded with neighbours and friends, some clutching instruments, some humming shyly, some belting out Good King Wenceslas for all they're worth.  It gives such a feeling of joy and release to be singing - no matter how many times and how many elevator renditions we have heard by now, nor it seems, how bad we sound!

I love it really - it's exhausting but great - a constant, progressive party if you like - whereas my husband is not so fond!  Having said that, Mr Bah Humbug insists we sit and watch Christmas movies early on the morning of his first day of holidays - usually "It's a Wonderful Life" with James Stewart, and/or "A Christmas Carol" with Alastair Sim. 

They are such lovely movies and really come back to the spirit of Christmas and the goodwill it brings - a real chance to mend breaks, boost relationship investment and take stock of all that is good in our lives.

Our motivation is renewed for the last push to get through the final stages of packing and cooking and wrapping before we set off to the weekender where the whole extended family gathers for Christmas Day. 

Emails are sent, menus are organised, beds are allocated and the boat is fuelled up for the many trips it makes from cars to house with all the trimmings and trappings needed.

However, it's only when he's up the hill, on the deck, bags unpacked, presents under the tree and food in the fridge Mr will relax entirely, as do we all.

What are your plans for Christmas and the holidays?  I hope it's a merry time for you too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vanishing Vintage, or "Oh what a mess, Mr Hart!"

OK, so I'm sitting on the sofa late at night, watching Real Estate TV.  I need a snack.  Get up in the ad break to raid the fridge and when I open the door it gives a shudder and stops working.  My first thought is "well that's typical, we had our first look at a Sub-Zero (as if!) last weekend and this grand old dame has literally paled in significance - she's finally carked it!"  But no, I'd just knocked out the plug whilst I was cleaning today (another story, don't ask!!).

I have to move the kids' homework desk next to it to reach the cord. I start to move things off the top of the desk so I can slide it..... 1, 2, 3, 4 things... It hits me when I'm moving my Snoopy money box: "Oh no!  I'm the lady in the home show!" (The one they're talking about behind their hands to camera because she's got SO MUCH STUFF crammed in to her house and no-one wants to buy it.)

Fridge whirrs to life and I'm moving things back thinking, "If that guy came into my house with a camera it'd be the same show (only less pink...)."

It's Time To De-Clutter.  Now.

I know I've got lots of stuff.  It's vintage, it's quirky, it's collectable.  But let's face it, I'm a hoarder.  Hey, it's my house - we're not selling, we're renovating, but it's all got to go into boxes and I'm thinking I may not want to get it all out again when our house is new and groovy.

This is like a line in the sand.  This is like weight loss.  Shed a little every week and by the time we need to move out for the build, we'll be meaner, leaner and cleaner.  But I might need some help from bloggers who have gone before me...

I've got good stuff.  You just can't see it under all the... other stuff.

ps. Does Snoopy stay or go?!

Picture from the late Pro Hart's Stainmaster Carpet TV ad

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Our weekender, bought in 1962 by my Mum and Dad with what should have been the deposit on their first family home, is a place by the river that has delighted us all for years in so many different ways - a retreat, an entertaining space, a holiday resort, a place of remembrance. 

As soon as I hit the water (the house is only accessible by boat), my mind begins to yield its knots and ties and my troubles are literally offloaded in our wake.  The landscape is true Australia, the wildlife carries on around us and here I am my true self.

These days having a holiday house brings so much expectation in terms of lifestyle and all the trappings thereof.  For my family and me though, it's so much more than that.....

A visit is not complete without a dip in the river.

The fire sees us visiting all through the year - toasting marshmallows and baking rice puddings.

The boys all cook - released from the daily grind, they find solace in the art of slow cooking and are rewarded for their efforts by a hungry mob who fall upon each offering.

Off the grid - far from the maddening crowd (never was this more necessary) and into a world of quiet contemplation, of cards, scrabble and comics.
  • family
  • chats
  • gardening
  • the mosaic art of building a rock wall
Woken by wildlife each morning, we stagger to bed each night with love and humour under our belts
  • the time to take tea... again and again...
  • simple pleasures of an orange cake - a beloved recipe
  • planning our next visit
  • planning additions
  • planning to do nothing
  • cousins
  • granny rugs
  • heirloom furniture - all shabby!

These are our fondest memories.  We now have the privilege of watching our children live the experiences of our own childhood.

This is a safe place.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

On the Road.... again!

I love a good caravan.  There's one driving around our neighbourhood that's the mobile performance venue of a Gypsy Music group and it gets parked randomly around town Lolo The Gypsy Caravan Stage - I get a kick out of it's carefully placed bright red spots every time I come across it:

Our family used to go on caravaning holidays when we were kids.  I suppose it was cheaper than putting up 4 kids in motels all the way to Brisbane or Melbourne and back, visiting family for weeks at a time.... and more fun!  I remember "bagsing" beds in excitement when the van first pulled up in the cul de sac out the front of our house, Mum taking a whole day to pack the clothes, food, toys and lives of 6 people inside, ready for our big adventure.

We'd stop at roadside parks, pull up in country parks, overnight in caravan parks along the way, Mum preparing our meals from the cute little kitchen (pumping the water - such fun, we thought!).  Now that I'm a Mum I can appreciate just how much work it was - all that packing, moving and pumping...

Isn't it the journey that counts?  The road along the way - who doesn't still talk about fighting on the back seat with siblings?!   Playing "Ping!" counting white horses, I Spy! and the alphabet sign game.

We play all these games in the car with our own kids now - still such good family fun to pass the time (although on a recent trip to Adelaide, Stephen Fry got us across the State with his reading of Harry Potter books - love that man!).  We take a bit of Spike Jones for laughs, we all contribute to the music selection and occasionally just chat and look out the window.  So relaxing!

Is it simply like how washing up someone else's dishes is always more fun than doing your own?  Does a mini mobile kitchen give more appeal than the real thing, simply because of it's novelty?  Same as camping - lots of planning to keep things simple, but doesn't it pay off?

We're still just a family hanging out together but it seems more fun on the road, with a different backdrop every day and new horizons each morning....

Do you love a road trip?  Have you got or used a caravan for a trip away?

Photos via Design Sponge

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Stitch in Time

Something goes on at my place every Tuesday - we call it Stitch and Bitch.  It's a meeting of minds and bodies, hands and hearts, to share, catch up, support and sew (well, mostly we eat cake...).  Lots of tea is consumed, lots of laughs are had, lots of problems are solved, plans hatched...

We love an excuse for a proper Tea Party - Melbourne Cup (champagne and hats), one of us leaving for a Parisian holiday (eclairs and berets), a new baby due (pink frocks, pink plates, pink cakes - she's a girl!).  Whatever productivity we lack in terms of thread in cloth, we more than make up for as the threads of friendship are woven together, reinforced and overlocked as strong and colourful as any tapestry you can name. 

My oldest son is coming up to twelve, so for almost as long, what started as a Mothers Group has burgeoned into an institution that not one of us would be without.  Lives have changed, houses have been bought and sold, kids have grown up, moved schools, but we remain a group of women who are alike and unalike, similar and different - all having something to give and something to take away.

It's school holidays now so we generally have a break (alas, my house no longer fits all the growing bodies of our children!) or we all meet together in a local park one Tuesday during the holidays for a good run around and a picnic.

Many of us have returned to work and can no longer come on Tuesdays - some make the odd cameo appearance when rosters permit, but we none of us are prepared to give up our little group entirely.  Kids and spouses all know the drill - Tuesdays are sacred, even if just for a few stolen hours.  For my part, I value the support and wisdom of my fellow Stitchettes enormously - seek their guidance, their input, cherish their style, their sense, their sewing ability...!

Speaking of, I recently indulged in a spot of online retail therapy here and am itching to start my next project (above) after the holidays.  It's been a while between cups of tea, but I think I can still remember how to cross stitch....  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Plunge or Percolate...

Can we really be bothered to renovate?  Or should we buy that other old house in the next street that actually, really is next to the train tracks??  It's bigger.  It's just as falling-down as ours is.  Well, not that I've been inside and not that I know for sure if ours is sliding down the hill (I'm just assuming, since all balls roll into the same corner behind the TV).

How do you make the decision to move or renovate?  How do you take that plunge?  What's the catalyst?  How many times do you talk yourself into love with another person's home before it really does become yours (and all the problems they didn't tell you about)?

I love our home.  I love it's old leaking roof, it's rotten weatherboards, it's wonky ceilings, it's jammed windows and 100 years of DIY dodginess.  I love that I can't put anything new into it's rooms without it shrieking loud and clear against knocked-about walls and cornices.  I love how it forgives all my decorating faux pas and rejoices in my successes.  It loves me back too - fits us all in, stands still whilst we paint it, breathes in while we hammer stuff into it's armpits, turns a blind eye when we don't bother with a second coat...
But there's only so much love a 2 bedroom weatherboard with a postage stamp garden and small back deck can give a family of four.  We squeeze over 50 people in here every Christmas and though it never complains, it's a big effort all round!  Those 2 boys can't always share a room, can they?  Pretty soon they'll look like the guy in the Dr Seuss book whose feet hang out one end, or head out the other. 

Maybe I'll just percolate the idea some more.....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Or did I dream it.....?

It's been a long while and lots has happened, and nothing really - that's life, isn't it?  This bench seat, for a start, is a project so long completed it's almost time to re-recover (note to self, water/stain resistant fabric required for outdoor furniture). 

The colour was the driving force behind the decision to use that fabric (and the fact that it was already the perfect size so no excuse to procrastinate further) so I could be forgiven for thinking it would last in its pristine state.  It still looks great though and has brought to life our "outdoor room" in a way nothing else has.  Having a comfy seat at the outdoor table is so much more inviting than the hard outdoor chairs and we've all been spending more time out on the deck as a result.

The other addition is this chandelier (featured here with Moore & Moore Wallpaper). 

Whilst my outdoor space is nowhere near as divine as this setting, I just love the difference candlelight makes to an evening of entertaining - we all like a little ambience, don't we?  Save for the pathetic Sydney summer we're (not) enjoying - too cold and/or rainy to sit outside much, day or night.  So sadly the chandelier hasn't had a chance to come into it's own.  Although a friend (who spent an evening with us, juggling plastic cups to protect our precious flames from wind) found this idea...

Here, and I thought that could work. I'm now on the lookout for jam jars - though a warm, still summer evening would be preferable...