Our New Loo

Well we finally did it.  We renovated our first room.  Admittedly, it is the smallest room in the house and it took us the better part of six weeks to complete, but we eventually got there, without killing one another.  So here it is, the story of our new loo....

The two toilets in the house are... how shall i put it... um...well....beyond saving. When it comes to the unique features of our house, i refer to the toilets as the 'Pièce de Résistance' which in our case translates to 'resistance to piss'. Or to go anywhere near the toilet. 

The toilets are hooked up to bore water which has left them looking like this...

Hmmmmm.

Hmmmmm.

We decided to start with the outside toilet because a), we really don't know what we are doing and b), we are probably going to be moving the inside bathroom to make way for a bigger kitchen.

So after seeing how cheap toilets are at bunnings, we jumped straight in thinking that if we fail miserably, we'd only lose a couple of hundred dollars.  How hard could it be? I called my handy dad who assured me that replacing a toilet was a piece of cake and could easily be done in less than an hour.  

Well I am here to tell you that in our case (cue Jerry Springer voice) 'That Is A Lie!'.  I can confirm however, that after we spent six weeks installing said toilet, it did take us approximately one hour to agree upon the placement of the $7 bunnings toilet roll holder.

You see, Jamie and I sit at opposite ends of the Plan it/Wing it continuum.

Jamie is what you would call a 'perfectionist', a 'planner', a 'lets have everything just right before we start' kinda guy where as I am what you would call a 'winger', a 'that'll do', a 'lets just see what happens and hope for the best' kinda girl.  And as much as I have come to appreciate the details that he pays attention to that I would otherwise overlook, 'perfection' is a painfully slow process. Like having-teeth-pulled-painfully-slow. Even more so if it's something we haven't done before.

But it is finally finished. And by finished, I mean 95% complete as we still need to hang the new door and move the light switch into the this room as its in another room for some unknown reason. But the toilet is usable and it works! With no leaks which has given us the momentum to move onto the next project. At this rate, we are on track to have the whole house finished just in time to move into a nursing home. Here's some before, during and afters...

So lets take a look at before...

Other than the toilet situation, the room is very drab.

Other than the toilet situation, the room is very drab.

After pulling out the toilet in disgust, we figured we may as well paint and tile before we installed the new one. We contemplated going all out and lining the walls to cover the besser blocks, but you know, budget, so we just gap filled and painted.

The children wanted to 'help' paint.

The children wanted to 'help' paint.

We painted the room in Taubmans untinted semi gloss white.  We did one coat of primer and two coats of paint.  Then it was on to the tiling.

We needed a little bit more height so that the new toilet would line up with the old plumbing, so we tiled over the existing tiles.

We needed a little bit more height so that the new toilet would line up with the old plumbing, so we tiled over the existing tiles.

Not really thinking ahead, I chose tiles that would cause someone with OCD - AKA Jamie - nightmares if not layed correctly. So that in itself was a process. They are encaustic-look tiles (also called cement tiles - but these ones don't need sealing). I think you either love them or hate them.  Personally, i love them.

We discovered the bunnings $30 tile cutter is actually a piece of crap.  The first few cuts were fine, but after that, the aluminium ridge had flattened at one end and turned into a big problem which caused Mr Perfectionist much anxiety.  MUCH anxiety. The project was put on hold another week until a suitable replacement was found (a particular blade for the angle grinder).

I strategically left the glueing down of the tiles to Jamie, not wanting to be held responsible if any of the tiles weren't perfectly aligned and level. I think he did a great job but he was very disappointed in himself as apparently two of the joins are slightly out of whack by a millimetre here and there.  He continued to go on about it while I was grouting and for a couple of days later, venting his extreme remorse for such carelessness. I suggested he seek counselling to move past it so that we could finally install the toilet.

Me grouting with my trusty side-kick Millie

Me grouting with my trusty side-kick Millie

Once we figured out the right fittings to extend the outlet pipe, fitting the new toilet was actually in fact, pretty easy.  Of course, making sure it was perfectly centred took most of the time.  So much time. Apparently one eighth of a millimetre out is not acceptable. By this stage, I'm starting to wonder how Jamie manages to live with someone like me.  Even deciding exactly where to place the toilet seat was a mini ordeal.

Jamie debating the pro's and con's of placing the toilet seat 1mm further forward than its current placement.

Jamie debating the pro's and con's of placing the toilet seat 1mm further forward than its current placement.

By this stage, I've started drinking and am rolling my eyes behind his back thinking 'just screw the flipping lid on already'.

After what seems like an eternity, the toilet is installed and fully functioning.  The children are amazed. Their parents are magicians.

After what seems like an eternity, the toilet is installed and fully functioning.  The children are amazed. Their parents are magicians.

So with the toilet finally in place , it was on to the finishing touches...

Jamie built a shelf out of pine to cover a pipe that was protruding out of the wall from the inside toilet.

Jamie built a shelf out of pine to cover a pipe that was protruding out of the wall from the inside toilet.

We hung a picture that was given to me by one of my oldest and greatest friends about 10 years ago when I was living in another run down old house south of Brisbane. I must say, it's been so great finally having a place for all my old vintage style bits and pieces that I've been carting around most of my adult life... #hoardingpaysoff

We hung a picture that was given to me by one of my oldest and greatest friends about 10 years ago when I was living in another run down old house south of Brisbane. I must say, it's been so great finally having a place for all my old vintage style bits and pieces that I've been carting around most of my adult life... #hoardingpaysoff

And last but not least, the $7 bunnings toilet roll holder...

Ergonomically positioned for easy toilet paper reaching and yet centred 'off centre' within the brick for visual appeal.  This involved sitting on the toilet and re-enacting the process of going to the toilet, taking into consideration different age groups, heights and shoulder widths and even comparing the comfort level of using other toilets and toilet roll holders. I'm. Not. Kidding.

Ergonomically positioned for easy toilet paper reaching and yet centred 'off centre' within the brick for visual appeal.  This involved sitting on the toilet and re-enacting the process of going to the toilet, taking into consideration different age groups, heights and shoulder widths and even comparing the comfort level of using other toilets and toilet roll holders. I'm. Not. Kidding.

So there you have it.  We have made some progress! It took way longer than it should have but we are pretty pleased with how it's turned out and now it's onto the next room.  Here's another picture of how it's looking now...

Voila! We have a new, sparkling, white toilet.

 

Cost Breakdown:

Paint/undercoat:  Approximately $50.00 total

(Undercoat - Taubmans 3 in 1 sealer/primer) (Taubmans Interior easy coat semi gloss white)

Gapfill:  $8.20

Silicon: $9.89 (Selley's wet area)

Tiles: $200  (2.5m @ $80m2 - The Tile Mob)

Tile Adhesive: $15.00 (half a packet of Dunlop superset tile adhesive) 

Grout: $4.50 (used half a packet of Davco grout in Basalt)

Screws: $5.00

Toilet roll holder: $7.98

Pine (for shelf): $20.00

Light fitting:$59.00 (bunnings)

Ceramic toilet: $129.00 (bunnings)

Fittings: $8.00 (bunnings)

Grand total: $516.57

 

Citrus Hedge

This weekend, we planted a hedge of citrus trees. Ever since I was little, the idea of semi self-sufficiency has appealed to me.  Now that I have children, the desire is even stronger.  

The plan is to try to get all the fruit trees in over the next couple of months so that they can get established before summer hits.  So we started with a row of various citrus trees along the Northern boundary.

The soil in this particular spot isn't great.  It's quite compacted as it was a driveway into the neighbouring property when the two were adjoined and it's pretty dense clay. We had some large holes drilled with a bobcat, however, since the ground is such heavy clay, the holes may act like a large pot, trapping water and causing the roots to go around and around rather than spreading out into the ground. 

This is the ground we are working with.  The hole is actually much deeper but a heap of dirt fell back in.

This is the ground we are working with.  The hole is actually much deeper but a heap of dirt fell back in.

Lynette from 'Have a Dig' Nursery who I bought the trees from, suggested that we use a pick axe around the edges of the holes to loosen the dirt and encourage the roots to spread. To combat the drainage issue, we have built the soil up above the ground in a mound and have begun work to improve the surrounding soil. We are hoping that in time, continual composting, fertilising and mulching will help break down the clay and create a rich growing environment for our trees.

Here's how we did it...

We used a pick axe to loosen the dirt around the edge of the hole.  We also put in a good handful of gypsum and then mixed some fertiliser and good soil in with the existing dirt.

We used a pick axe to loosen the dirt around the edge of the hole.  We also put in a good handful of gypsum and then mixed some fertiliser and good soil in with the existing dirt.

I used gypsum to break the clay and Dynamic Lifter for fertiliser.

I used gypsum to break the clay and Dynamic Lifter for fertiliser.

We mixed the clay soil and good soil from near our creek in together to fill the holes 3/4 of the way.  Then we planted the trees partially above the ground and made a mound around them to allow for better drainage.

We mixed the clay soil and good soil from near our creek in together to fill the holes 3/4 of the way.  Then we planted the trees partially above the ground and made a mound around them to allow for better drainage.

Millie, my off-sider/horse manure stealer.

Millie, my off-sider/horse manure stealer.

Once all the trees were planted, we sprinkled gypsum and dynamic lifter on the ground in between the trees and all around them where we hope the roots will eventually grow.

Once all the trees were planted, we sprinkled gypsum and dynamic lifter on the ground in between the trees and all around them where we hope the roots will eventually grow.

Next we put down cardboard to suppress the grass and covered it in dirt and horse manure to build a mound that will breakdown into the ground below. We plan to continue adding compost and mulch to improve the soil. (Notice jamie is out of his moustache phase and has now entered into skin head phase)

Next we put down cardboard to suppress the grass and covered it in dirt and horse manure to build a mound that will breakdown into the ground below. We plan to continue adding compost and mulch to improve the soil.

(Notice jamie is out of his moustache phase and has now entered into skin head phase)

Then we put a thick layer of mulch over it and watered it in.

Then we put a thick layer of mulch over it and watered it in.

The varieties I planted are:

Eureka Lemon, Ruby Grapefruit, Tahitian Lime, Kaffir Lime, Imperial Mandarin, Empire Mandarin, 2 varieties of Valencia Orange (an early and late fruiting variety) and a Navel Orange. We are also going to add a tangerine when we can get our hands on one.

We've been told that we have to pull off all the flowers for the next three years so that the plants can put all their energy into growing rather than producing fruit.  I'm quietly hoping that they live that long. The neighbours pigs have gotten out and come to visit a few times this week so it's motivating me to get serious about our fencing. I've had another neighbours cows come wandering over once before and apparently they love fruit trees! The fence is planned for Jamie's next days off. Fingers crossed we don't get any more hoofed visitors before then. 

Here it is all finished...

And me feeling pretty happy with myself that all the trees survived the night xx

And me feeling pretty happy with myself that all the trees survived the night xx

Strawberry-coconut-lemonade Smoothies

I'm trying to utilise what we've got growing here at the moment.  We've got coconuts galore and a few lemonade's on the tree so I whipped these up for a morning snack on Labor day...

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 cups coconut milk (or thereabouts)
  • juice of 1 lemonade (it's like a sweet lemon)
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 1 heaped Tbs chia seeds

Blend in a high speed blender for 2 minutes or until smooth and serve :-)

I always taste test mid way through and add more if needed

I always taste test mid way through and add more if needed

Things that go bump in the night...

Old houses creak and make noises. Old houses in the country seem super quaint and peaceful during the day, but at night, make you think you're living in a freaking horror movie. The amount of actual sleep I've had in the past 3 weeks is less than what I had when my babies were newborns. On top of the creaks and rattles and unfamiliar tree branches-scraping-on-roof noises, turns out we also have an abundance of wildlife living both inside and right outside our house.  

Inside we've had bats, snakes, frogs, toads, geckos, lizards, mice, huntsman spiders and alien-sized cockroaches to name but a few. Real witches brew stuff.  Outside - or more aptly, not inside yet - there's possums fighting on the roof, nocturnal birds carrying on, bellowing cattle and neighbours dogs going off in the distance at god knows what. Some of these I can live with, but others, I'm struggling to come to terms with. When I named this blog a few months back, it was MEANT to be more of a metaphor for striving towards a life that has more meaning and more connection with the earth.  I didn't realise that we would literally be sharing a house with wild things that not only grow, but fly, jump, screech and eat each other. While I'm trying to sleep.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a few of our house mates...

Mr Praying Mantis....one of many insects we find inside daily. Not a big deal however they attract bigger animals.

Mr Praying Mantis....one of many insects we find inside daily. Not a big deal however they attract bigger animals.

Such as... Bella & Edward, two of the little bats that like to fly around the house at night eating insects along with the frogs and geckos.  What eats bats, frogs and gekkos though?

Such as... Bella & Edward, two of the little bats that like to fly around the house at night eating insects along with the frogs and geckos.  What eats bats, frogs and gekkos though?

You know, giant snakes like this 3m carpet snake who needed to rest on my tall boy after gobbling up my guinea pigs. This guy has since been relocated up the range thanks to my neighbours, but the previous tenants told me he was in the house often but 'don't worry, he just eats the mice and rats'!!! Yeah, no, snakes in the house is never a good thing in my world.

You know, giant snakes like this 3m carpet snake who needed to rest on my tall boy after gobbling up my guinea pigs. This guy has since been relocated up the range thanks to my neighbours, but the previous tenants told me he was in the house often but 'don't worry, he just eats the mice and rats'!!! Yeah, no, snakes in the house is never a good thing in my world.

A couple of nights ago, just as I was about to drift off, I heard knocking on the back door.  My eyes jolted wide awake and I lay there, frozen. I heard it again.  My brain instantly jumped to the most logical conclusion - that being that the house was haunted and I froze, motionless in my bed.  Cos, you know, ghosts are less likely to get you if you keep still.  Then my mind started to drift to another likely probability that a snake had slithered in under the door, eaten the cat or worse still, one of the children and was knocking the door as it tried to get out with a big bulging belly. Believe it or not, this kind of thing has actually happened several times around the world. Google it. So, driven by a desire to protect the remaining children and/or cat, I forced myself to get up and investigate.  

I've started sleeping with the lights on in the living room due to aforementioned scary noises so as I opened my bedroom door I saw instantly that the cat, who no longer goes on the floor since massive-guinea-pig-eating-snake episode, was still alive and well, albeit somewhat freaked out, on the table.  I checked the children were all still in their beds and then heard the knocking on the back door again. It was coming from down low.

There's two back doors along the same wall that lead to the back entryway and the sound was coming from the door off the lounge room.  Apprehensively, I tip-toed towards the other door off the kitchen and slowly slid it open. My sleep deprived imagination was now conjuring up images of small goblins poised on the other side of door preparing to ambush. So it was a surprise to find the cause of the noise was in fact, six great big cane toads jumping up to catch the moths that were trying to get in to the light through the cracks in the door. Thats right.  There are toads IN my house. 

Now as disgusting as this is, I felt very relieved that it wasn't a) a ghost, b) a snake or c) a troll.  It also got me to consider that perhaps the last time I was convinced my house was haunted back in 2014, the time that I went so far as to having the house blessed was maybe, possibly, not ghosts either. But still, there's toads in my house and this is not cool.

So, no longer feeling the need to call in the pastor - which, mind you, would have been a lot easier as apparently ghosts, unlike toads will leave at the mention of Jesus' name - we are now on a mission to make our home less appealing to the wildlife.

I command thee Toads be gone!

I command thee Toads be gone!

First up, we had Edward from Sarina Pest Control come in and take care of the cockroaches in the house and termites in the sheds. We had to wait 3 weeks before he could get to us and I've never been as excited to see a man other than my husband as I was to see Edward. The house was literally teeming with roaches and even though I'm not a fan of either chemicals or killing things, something had to be done. On a side note, all the cockroaches reminded me of a girl that I worked with in high school and I told Jamie how she told me that her and her friends used to smoke them! True story. Jamie stared at me like he does when he realises how sheltered a life I've led, raised an eyebrow and said 'Roaches?' before he shook his head and walked away.

Anyway, Edward told us that cane toads eat cockroaches so that would be why the toads keep coming in. The good news is Edward got up in the ceiling and under the floorboards and said there aren't presently any snakes, mice or rats living above or below us. 

By the way, have you ever smelled toad poo? Until a couple of weeks ago, I had somehow managed to avoid even contemplating such a smell.  That was until Oliver stood on one in the bathroom and we all nearly DIED. It is the most god-awful thing we have ever smelled. It's like a noxious mixture of rotting meat, poison and dog poo all rolled up into one tiny, little, unsuspecting package. We've since discovered, they only smell if they are squashed or, worse still vacuumed up by mistake. Even after changing the bag and thoroughly cleaning the vacuum cleaner, every time I turn it on now, the smell of death lingers in the air and the children run away in disgust. New vacuum cleaner is on the list. Until then, I can guarantee some 'me' time by switching on the vacuum cleaner.

Back to the problem at hand though...just how do all these creatures get in the house in the first place?  Why, through our back 'security' door! 

'Security' grill which allows any animal smaller than a giraffe free passage into our house.

'Security' grill which allows any animal smaller than a giraffe free passage into our house.

So, our next mission is to replace the back grill with solid doors so that nothing can get in when the house is closed up. At the moment I'm putting up a knee high barrier so the toads can't jump in, but I'm still super paranoid about snakes eating the children and I'd prefer it if there weren't bats flying around our heads while we watch TV so I want to get this happening soon.

After we've painted all the windows (hopefully before next summer) we will also put screens on. Less insects means less geckos and frogs which means less snakes which means I will be able to sleep through the night again.  It's going to be a long year.  So friends, if you see me in the next few months and notice I've aged heaps, now you know why.

 

Current style - Heroin Chic

In an effort to keep things real, I want to do a tour of the current state of the inside of our house.  It's a mess. There's work everywhere I look.  We've got stuff all over the place and I'm pretty sure it looks like we are junkies.  Despite all this, I think the house has a certain charm. I'm calling it 'Heroin Chic'.  

A couple of decades ago before Facebook and googling cats with brain freeze was a thing, I occasionally entertained myself by purchasing fashion magazines. At one point during the mid nineties, it became fashionable to look like you never washed and spent all your money on drugs and alcohol.  The trend was labelled Heroin Chic and it was very cutting edge.  Artsy even.  Pale, skinny, sombre looking models with smeared makeup, disheveled hair, cigarettes and designer jeans graced billboards and magazine covers.  

However, the key to this look, which I unfortunately discovered the hard way, is that you actually needed to be stunningly beautiful in the first place.  Looking like you belonged in Vogue as opposed to on Jerry Springer came down to genetics. And so it is with my house. She has the bone structure of a supermodel, in my eyes at least, but in it's current state, looks like we never wash and have spent all our money on drugs and alcohol.  Actually 'Heroin' chic might even be pushing it.  It looks more like we can't afford drugs and have spent all our money on VB and cask wine. 

There's paint flaking off the walls, the varnish is peeling off the floorboards, there's holes in doors, broken windows, graffiti and every single surface is covered in a thick layer of grime.  But, underneath it all, she's beautiful. Just like Kate Moss, who's still beautifully intriguing on the verge of rehab, my house draws me in and despite even the ants, spiders and cockroaches, I am pinching myself that she's ours.

She needs a lot of love, a lot of work, hours of cleaning, storage, and pest control but here she is, our home....

The living room has 6 doorways and two windows coming off it which is proving really difficult for furniture placement.

The living room has 6 doorways and two windows coming off it which is proving really difficult for furniture placement.

Our furniture is too big for the living room but we are just squeezing around it for now.

Our furniture is too big for the living room but we are just squeezing around it for now.

Oliver and Louie are now sharing which is working out really great.

Oliver and Louie are now sharing which is working out really great.

All the bedrooms are really big and bright.  Just need storage and painting.

All the bedrooms are really big and bright.  Just need storage and painting.

French doors off the boys bedroom.

French doors off the boys bedroom.

Big bay windows temporarily housing our 2nd TV.

Big bay windows temporarily housing our 2nd TV.

I'm slowly getting my seventies kitchen in order. It took a full week to clean the cupboards. I'm yet to tackle the walls. That'll be this weeks job.

I'm slowly getting my seventies kitchen in order. It took a full week to clean the cupboards. I'm yet to tackle the walls. That'll be this weeks job.

Kitchen window.

Kitchen window.

Little bit of decoupage above the stove for that artistic touch. In all seriousness though, I actually prefer full gas stoves, so even though this one is a little worse for wear, I'm pleased it's not electric.

Little bit of decoupage above the stove for that artistic touch. In all seriousness though, I actually prefer full gas stoves, so even though this one is a little worse for wear, I'm pleased it's not electric.

I love that old houses are solid and built to last. As ugly as my wood laminate kitchen is, there's no way kitchens mass produced today will be in as good condition in 40 years as this one is. 

I love that old houses are solid and built to last. As ugly as my wood laminate kitchen is, there's no way kitchens mass produced today will be in as good condition in 40 years as this one is. 

Jamie cleaning the front porch.

Jamie cleaning the front porch.

Looking towards our bedroom. 

Looking towards our bedroom. 

The bathroom mid scrub.

The bathroom mid scrub.

Such a relaxing place to unwind after a long day.

Such a relaxing place to unwind after a long day.

Cockroach home base

Cockroach home base

The absolute bomb site that is Isabelle & Charlie's room.  Current floor-drobe is taking up the entire floor. You know it's bad when you couldn't even be bothered shutting the drawer for the photo.

The absolute bomb site that is Isabelle & Charlie's room.  Current floor-drobe is taking up the entire floor. You know it's bad when you couldn't even be bothered shutting the drawer for the photo.

Looking past the mess, I love the depth of the window frames.

Looking past the mess, I love the depth of the window frames.

Our very unromantic bedroom...birth control right there.

Our very unromantic bedroom...birth control right there.

Back entry/place I've dumped a heap of crap until I find somewhere to put it.

Back entry/place I've dumped a heap of crap until I find somewhere to put it.

What is supposed to be the study.

What is supposed to be the study.

Outside toilet which we've just pulled out to replace.

Outside toilet which we've just pulled out to replace.

Outside shower

Outside shower

What will eventually be Sam's bedroom

What will eventually be Sam's bedroom

Laundry

Laundry

And there you have it. It's going to be a long road to fixing her up as we will be doing much of the work ourselves. We're still moving the furniture around trying to fit everything in so it's very, very crazy around here at the moment. It's kind of fun though, and very rewarding as we slowly get rooms semi-sorted. I'm a little bit nervous about starting the renovation as I really want to get it right and I don't have any natural flair whatsoever for that sort of thing. But, at the end of the day, it's our home, not a designer's showpiece and as long as it's clean, comfortable, safe and functional we will be happy.  If I manage to pull off some sort of style in the process, preferably one not drug related, it'll be a bonus.

We are finally in our new home!

homefront (1 of 1).jpg

We're in! After months of waiting and a couple of really full on weeks we are now officially living in our new home. The last two weeks have been really challenging! We finally settled and were about to move when cyclone Debbie hit. We lost power for days, and roads were cut and so we weren't even sure if we would still have a house to move into.  Fortunately the house came out unscathed but there were a couple of trees down and the yard was a big mess. No big deal really, but it pushed our moving date back by five days which meant we had to work tirelessly to get completely out of the rental house and into this one in a matter of days before Jamie went back to work.

We've been here almost a week now and it's a gigantic, big, jumbled mess! On top of all our stuff which needs a big culling, the house also needs to be cleaned before I can unpack anything. I've had definite moments of 'Ermagod...what have I done?!' and I'm feeling a bit engulfed by all the stuff everywhere with no where to put it.  Jamie is a bit of a hoarder and he also has this OCD streak where everything has to be neat and organised or else he walks around complaining.  Not a good combination at the best of times, let alone when you move into a small house with zero storage.  Its going to be an interesting few months...

But despite the feelings of overwhelm which I am curbing nicely with alcohol, I have to say, I LOVE it here! I'm getting used to the frogs and the bats and the geckos that we share the house with and in some weird way, I'm sort of enjoying scrubbing the walls and the benches as I'm really getting to know the house inside and out. 

The children have just fit right in and when I catch glimpses of them playing out the window as I scrub, I know this is all going to be worth it. There's so much here for them to explore. I'm honestly feeling really, really lucky to have found this little place. It ticks all the boxes for me and even though theres a tonne of work to be done, the elements that are already in place are priceless in my eyes.  We've got heaps of mature fruit trees, rustic out buildings, a beautiful lawn, really good bore water, rainwater tanks and most importantly our own creek with a swimming hole. The synchronicities that led to us being able to buy this property make me believe it was just meant to be and I cant wait to get started on actualizing all the dreams I've been carrying around for so long.

Here's a few pics from our first week here ...

Oh did I mention the creek?  Yeah I know I did, but it's seriously so great! Thanks to all the rain it's quite deep at the moment and it's crystal clear.

Well back to sorting through the mess for me for now and trying to get our home into some sort of liveable state!  I actually lost my phone this week in the mess and it hasn't resurfaced yet, that's how bad it is.  I keep telling myself to stay calm and just accept this is what it is for now until we can build storage etc.  I'm sure there's a lesson in all this and I suspect it's that we really need to be proactive in letting go of 'stuff' that doesn't serve us, probably both literally and figuratively, so that we can live more peaceful lives.  Perhaps the lack of storage is actually a blessing.  If we had cupboards, the stuff would be shoved in there and not used nor looked at for years anyway.  Out of sight, out of mind but not actually dealt with. Does anyone else have this problem?  I would love some help trying to live more minimalistically and how to get my life in order!

An afternoon at Blacks Beach & Drugs are Bad mmmm'kay?

I go through periods of being rather reclusive.  I'm an introvert by nature and tend to get overwhelmed by life easily.  I always feel better though when I push myself to get outdoors, even if it is insanely hot.  When I'm on my own with the kids - which is a lot as hubby works away - I find the beach to be the least challenging place to hang with the ratbags.  It's free, I can see them in every direction and if I don't feel like swimming, I can easily keep them out of the water by scaring them with jelly fish stories. They're not scared of me.  Jellyfish and crocodiles however are another story.

So one afternoon recently, I pushed through the resistance to leave the airconditioning and took the camera and the children down to Blacks Beach.

I rarely take my camera out when I'm the only grown up as I have to cart all the towels, clothes, water bottles and children who conveniently forget they have legs.  Consequently, I was having a really phat time taking photos.  The light was really interesting, the kids were happily doing their thing and the scorching mackay summer heat was tempered by a cool ocean breeze. So, being in my own little world, I wasn't really paying too much attention to what the boys were actually playing with. It wasn't until a massive fight broke out between Oliver and Louie that I realised my children had been entertaining themselves for so long by playing with, wait for it, a BONG!  See that thing in Oliver's hand in the picture above? Ah blacks beach, you never dissapoint.  The boys rarely get physical with one another, but this was like a scene out of a wildlife documentary. I was sitting quite a distance from them so I only noticed the fight through my lens. 

By the time I got over there to break it up, I learned that they were fighting over a 'really cool water bottle' that Oliver found and a stick that Louie found which fit perfectly into the hose of the 'really cool water bottle'.  Somewhat amused by the fact that they had no idea what they were playing with and that drug paraphanalia was the cause of their first real serious fight, I did what any parent who was a teenager in the nineties would do, and put on my best Mr Mackey from southpark accent and tried to diffuse the situation.

Once, I separated the boys, they went back to playing, the sun started to set and I went back to taking photographs.

Later when I looked back over my photo's and zoomed in, I saw the bong was there all along.   When it was time to leave, Oliver who didn't want to come in the first place said 'That was the best day ever! Only because of that really cool water bottle.  It was SO fun.'

And that my friends, is why I love the great outdoors.  You just never know what you're going to get.

Boulder Creek, Calen

We finally have a moving date! Yay! We've been waiting for what seems like for ever (3 months) to get a settlement date for our new house and its all happening this Friday! So of course, instead of packing, I now feel the sudden and pressing urge to go exploring all the places up this way that I haven't yet been to.

Jamie, being a fellow procrastinator is totally onboard, so a couple of days ago, we drove out to have a picnic and a swim at Boulder Creek near Calen.  It took us about an hour to get there from Mackay and it was really lovely.  There's actually a free camping area, toilets, picnic tables, swings and a BBQ, and of course the creek.  We went on a weekday so there were only a handful of people there - a couple of grey nomads and a group of friendly old hippies having a few drinks around one of the picnic tables.  

The creek itself is easily accessible for children and there's lots of places to explore.  It was quite shallow with a few deeper little rock pools so it was perfect for my tribe.  The boys had a blast sliding down the rocks, rock hopping and swimming in the rock pools while Jamie and Isabelle took off upstream to collect rocks.  Charlie and I chilled out in one of the deeper pools, watching all the fish, dragonflies and the biggest Ulysses butterflies I've ever seen,

The vibe at the picnic area was very chilled (mostly due to the second-hand hippy smoke floating around).  One of the locals was selling rainforest honey so we bought 1KG of that and another man cut open a young coconut and gave it to me which I devoured while the kids played on the swings and annoyed the fun parent.

With the children sufficiently worn out, we drove home taking the scenic route back through mirani as suggested by the locals.  We had a lovely day out and we will definitely come back and camp here in sometime the future. 

Gratitude

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Lately I’ve been seeing #gratitude everywhere I look.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen inspirational quotes, articles and a multitude of social media posts all espousing the benefits of gratefulness.  These posts give the impression that a life cultivated with gratitude is beautiful, serene and basically picture perfect.

First off, let me just say, I’m a bit reluctant to write about this.  Mostly because I tend to poke fun at anyone who takes themselves too seriously and secondly, because I’m getting the vibe that #gratitude is quite hip at the moment, something I try really hard not to be.

Anyhoo, with a high probability of sounding like Derek Zoolander, I feel the need to discuss Gratitude, what it means to me and what I think of all the ‘inspirational’ posts floating about social media of late.

The concept of Gratitude is something I personally REALLY believe in.  Changing one’s perspective by cultivating a grateful heart really does have the potential to completely transform one’s outlook on life.  And whilst I totally agree that looking for the good things in your life is beneficial, I can’t help but feel that the true power of gratitude is being overlooked by a misguided desire to search out and focus on the superficial and obviously wonderful things in life.

I also find it incredibly ironic that many inspirational posts combine words such as ‘be grateful for all the beauty in your life’ with a picture of posed perfection unattainable to most (much like my beautiful niece in the picture above, don't worry I see the irony there too).  It’s almost as if 'gratitude' is a perfect lifestyle to strive towards, and one that is more readily available if you are both genetically and financially #blessed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for self-love, positivity and striving to live a life that makes you happy. I love that in this day and age people are able to take selfies and share their lives with the world.  And, honestly, if I managed to hike up Mount Everest in a gold bikini to watch the sun set and do some yoga, right after giving birth with hair and make up on pointe, I’d be putting that all over insta too. And yes, I would be grateful, but my hashtags would more likely be #Imfreakingawesome #somuchcoolerthanyou & #checkmeout.

Well-edited totally contrived selfies under the guise of #gratitude, in my opinion, miss the point of what gratitude is really about. True gratitude is enmeshed with humility, it doesn’t seek approval and it is available to all, no matter what conditions you find yourself in.  In fact, drawing on the power of gratitude in my darkest hours, as strange as that sounds, has allowed me to step outside of my ‘problems’ and realise that all seasons of life are beautiful in their own way.

You see, it’s easy to be happy and feel grateful when life is great. When you’re in good health, surrounded by loved ones, have money in the bank and feel like you’re on the right path, there’s much to be grateful for.  But experiencing pain, loss and disappointment are inevitable parts of life. For some, it’s constant.  There are days and seasons in life which are difficult and wrought with suffering.  Through my experience, it is in these times that the power of gratitude has the ability to transform us into better versions of ourselves, helping us to cope with our problems, connecting us to others and making us more compassionate human beings.   I’m not referring to the ability to look outside of one’s problems and see good things, such as noticing a beautiful sunset despite the fact that you’ve just written off your car, I mean being able to look head on at your suffering and finding beauty in it.

True gratitude only comes when you can let go of your judgements about yourself and what life is supposed to look like. Then you can begin to focus on the lessons, the reasons and ultimately the blessings that arise from adversity.  It’s about going ‘This is effing awful.  What can I gain from this?’ It’s not about going ‘this is effing awful, but I’m grateful there’s a rainbow out the window’.  Looking for the good things in your life helps shape a positive attitude and this is definitely helpful to get us through the tough times and not to dwell too long on the darkness, however, once you’re brave enough to accept the darkness and appreciate it for what it is, you will be freed from your fear of it, and instead it becomes a huge opportunity for growth. 

I can only speak of my own experiences and to be honest, I’m well aware that the problems I’ve encountered are small in comparison to many, but finding gratitude during hardships has allowed me to no longer be a victim of circumstance and instead take ownership of all the many facets of my life.  Through health problems that turned many of my core beliefs upside down, I’ve come to truly understand how many people are walking around with debilitating pain.  It’s taught me not to judge anyone nor take anything personally from strangers as you just don’t know what people are feeling inside even though they look normal on the outside.  It also taught me that I really don’t know much about anything even if I thought I knew it all and for that I am grateful. 

Through caring for my mother who suffers among many things, dementia, I have gained compassion for the elderly and for families with special needs children. Actually I've just gained an awareness that for some people, life is hard.  Ordinary tasks for people with disabilites are extremely difficult and it’s also incredibly taxing on their families. Small improvements are a huge deal. I never understood this until I lived it.  I also never realised how many selfless people there are within our community.  I’ve had the privilege to meet some incredible yet ordinary people who have a genuine heart for helping others.  Their work is not glamourous nor interesting but it’s so very honourable and makes such a difference to the people they care for.  I’ve witnessed true strength and beauty in others and for that I’m grateful.

I was recently talking with someone who had a breakthrough moment about her addictions where she suddenly realised through tears of joy, sadness and apprecitation that her addictions were a tool that were absolutely necessary to numb the pain of her childhood.  She spoke of being so thankful for the addictions for protecting her from things she wasn’t ready to face until now.  That’s gratitude.  

Life is an unpredictable journey.  The sun isn’t always shining but I'm learning there’s a different, softer, quieter beauty illuminated by the moonlight.  One that shows us our strengths and highlights our weaknesses.  One that reminds us we are a part of something greater even though it doesn't always make sense. Gratitude allows me to embrace the parts of my life that I don't like and realise that all things are temporary.  For life, I am grateful. 

Though the beauty may be in the butterfly, the struggle and growth occur in the cocoon
— Unknown