Happy birthday to me...Cape Hillsborough National Park

Last month, i turned the ripe old age of 39! I’m not entirely sure how this happened. One minute I’m pub crawling my way through uni with high hopes for the future and the next thing I know I’m knee deep in an existence that consists entirely of nappies, coffee, disney movies and laundry. Then, just as the tidal wave of one baby after the other finally starts to recede, i wake up and I’m 39. The path to 40 now seems all to short and I suddenly regret those moments when I wished the kids would hurry up and grow up so I could get stuff done, not realising that I too would age accordingly.

So, grabbing whats left of my life by the horns, I booked us a night away at one of favourite beaches in this neck of the woods…Cape Hillsborough Holiday Park. We often day trip up here, but I haven’t stayed here since I was a child so I decided to bite the bullet and book a cabin so that we could really experience the place. It didn’t disappoint.

 Building a sand mermaid on the beach on a day trip in 2016

Building a sand mermaid on the beach on a day trip in 2016

Cape Hillsborough is a hidden gem. The forest literally meets the beach which is a little bay protected by rocky cliff faces at each end. Children love all beaches, but this one has kangaroos on it at sunrise, an island that can be reached at low tide, caves to explore along the cliff face, gentle waves, and sand rich in mica which shines like flecks of gold in the sun. The kids LOVE it.

 Bubba Charlie heading back to the waves after exploring the rocks

Bubba Charlie heading back to the waves after exploring the rocks

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As much as I loved the beautiful white, sandy, surf beaches of the the sunshine coast when we lived there, the beaches up here have a lot to offer kids. There’s so much to explore amongst the rocks and rock pools. The waves are gentle and the shoreline takes a long time to fall away so except during stinger season (Nov-March), its a very safe spot for young children to splash about. Even then, you can buy stinger suits which I’m definitely going to invest in this summer. Although as kids we used to just improvise and wear a pair of pantyhose over our bathers on our legs and cut the crotch out of another pair to wear like a shirt. It did the trick.

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At low tide, you can walk out to Wedge Island, pictured above and this trip, we finally had the chance to do so. You have a two hour window either side of low tide to walk out there and not get trapped. We cut it pretty close so we didn’t get to spend much time there, but at least I can tick it off the bucket list.

 Oliver and Louie walking out to Wedge Island at low tide.

Oliver and Louie walking out to Wedge Island at low tide.

 The boys sitting on Orchard Rock overlooking the ocean before the tide quickly came back in and nearly left us stranded.

The boys sitting on Orchard Rock overlooking the ocean before the tide quickly came back in and nearly left us stranded.

The walk out there gets pretty rocky, so I would advise river shoes so as not to cut your feet up on the oyster shells. If low tide happens to fall at an inopportune time, you can also get a pretty awesome view of both Wedge Island and Orchard Rock from one of the lookouts on the bushwalking trails.

 Me with my mum and sisters on a family camping trip in 1980. Thats Wedge island in the distance. Im’m the fat one balanced on the ledge.

Me with my mum and sisters on a family camping trip in 1980. Thats Wedge island in the distance. Im’m the fat one balanced on the ledge.

 38 and half years later…..

38 and half years later…..

I was lucky enough to do some SOLO bushwalking this trip and it was great. Actually it was definitely one of the highlights for me as its so rare to have any time alone ever, let alone to do something like this.

 The views were incredible!

The views were incredible!

The other awesome thing was that we managed to time our night there with a full moon and the sunset was amazing. We all ate dinner on the beach under the full moon. It was bliss. Once we sorted out the sandflies thanks to avon skin-so-soft! Note - It’s the ONLY thing that works. Buy some, trust me!

 Sunset…the photo really doesn’t do it justice. It was just beautiful.

Sunset…the photo really doesn’t do it justice. It was just beautiful.

So here are a few more pictures from our time there….

 So many rocks, caves and cliffs to explore.

So many rocks, caves and cliffs to explore.

 Boulders on the beach.

Boulders on the beach.

 Catching and releasing toadfish in a rock pool.

Catching and releasing toadfish in a rock pool.

 Kinda gross and probably not the safest thing but they survived.

Kinda gross and probably not the safest thing but they survived.

 Catching more fish in the low tide pools.

Catching more fish in the low tide pools.

 Finding starfish for the first time.

Finding starfish for the first time.

 The “kids” loved the pool, the kiosk and the mini golf and the caravan park.

The “kids” loved the pool, the kiosk and the mini golf and the caravan park.

 And lastly, a reminder of that one time I snuck away on my own to do something fun!

And lastly, a reminder of that one time I snuck away on my own to do something fun!

A Mad Hatters Tea Party for Isabelle’s 6th Birthday

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Im not a very good ‘girl’ mother. I really despise licensed kids merchandise, plastic toys, jojo bows and anything mass produced in china. So basically everything my daughter loves.

Its been a few years since we’ve held a birthday party at our home but having been invited to a few this year, Isabelle was adamant that we should have a party for her 6th birthday. So, with me shuddering at the thought of having an ‘Elsa’ party, and Isabelle rolling her eyes at my idea for a knights and dragons party, we finally compromised and chose Alice in Wonderland as the theme for her birthday party. We have the Disney version of the movie and it’s well known enough for Isabelle to be able to identify with it, yet at the same time, its classic and quirky enough for me to have some fun. Plus, a mad hatter’s tea party gave me the perfect excuse to pull all of my old junk out of the shed and put it to use.

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We ate cupcakes and slices and scones with jam and cream. I’m not much of a baker so a few of my friends also brought cake despite me telling them not to so there were cupcakes galore. I think they were scared there’d be nothing edible based on my other baking disasters. But it was much appreciated and almost everything was gobbled up including the packet mix creations made by Moi. We also had tiny sandwiches, little pies and sausage rolls and cheese and spinach puffs. We drank raspberry lemonade and peach iced tea and there was tea and coffee for the grown ups.

We played musical chairs, pass the parcel, ‘paint the roses red’, croquet and had a scavenger hunt. The rest of the time was spent eating and running around our yard doing what kids do.

Here are some of the details…

I found these invitations on Etsy…they were perfect and I really didn’t have to do anything other than supply the details so that was great. I actually digitally sent most of the invitations so that saved even more time. But if you are going to print them, they have both a front and a back side. I thought they were too cute.

We made these two signs below using things I found in the shed and spray painting the frames and painting the board in chalk board paint. Jamie is artistic so he drew the pictures etc for me, copying off some pictures I found on pinterest. It’s easy to get carried away when you scourge pinterest for party ideas. I had to keep telling myself to just be creative with things we already had. We have quite a lot of old junk in the shed, so it wasn’t too difficult.

These were free printables I found on this website. I printed them on my home printer and put them in these frames which i spray painted. (I had origninally bought the frames from an op shop last year for $1 each as I intend to one day make a photo wall, but they were just sitting in the shed).

Jamie made this sign for me using bits of wood we have lying around from the renovation.

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I bought Isabelle’s ‘Alice’ costume on sale from costume box on line. It was so cute and I was surprised by how good the quality was, unlike the cheap looking costumes i looked at at spotlight, kmart, etc. They have great sales so it’s worth signing up to the mailing list and waiting if you have time.

I bought this chandelier earlier in the year as a project to do up and eventually hang in the lounge room. Its supposed to be a french antique but sadly it’s pretty rusty and in need of some major TLC so it’s been also sitting in the shed awaiting some attention. Anyway, I convinced Jamie to hang it up in the barn for me for the party and he decided to wrap it in fairy lights when he was rigging up some power and lighting. It’s still there and i dare say may become a permanent fixture.

I lined up all our tables and borrowed a couple of fold out ones from my neighbour. This party made me realise I own an abnormal amount of old chairs. 16 to be exact. And yet there still never seems to be enough.

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The rest of the chairs were borrowed from a friend who also loaned me her vintage doily tablecloths, some platters, drink dispensers and a few other bits and pieces. The teacups and saucers, cake stands, table runners and other decorations were in the shed in storage from our wedding ten years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…hoarding pays off. It also takes up an enormous amount of shed space but for that one day a decade you use it, it’s worth it ;-).

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It really was a wonderful day! The fact that we have such beautiful, down to earth people in our lives made this a day to remember and Isabelle went to bed saying it was the best day of her life.

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Chalk paint kitchen hutch makeover for little girls room

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Storage in this old house is an issue! With absolutely no built in cupboards, I have had to source storage for absolutely everything.  I love old and interesting pieces of furniture.  Luckily for me, old stuff is currently out of style and I have managed to pick up some pieces that I really love at bargain prices.

I bought this little old-style kitchen hutch off gumtree for $80 when we ripped our kitchen out and had nowhere to store our stuff.  Since then, we bought a 2nd hand kitchen (which you can read about here) so i decided to use this piece for toy storage in Isabelle's room.

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It came without handles, was half painted and had a bit of texta artwork added on the top by one of my kids. So it was definitely in need of a make-over.

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I removed all the doors and drawers, undercoated the entire thing with zinnser oil based primer and then painted in Rustoleum ‘Chalked’ in Blush Pink.  This retails for $42.20 a can at Bunnings.

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I also added a timber decal on the top piece to add a bit more detail. 

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I wanted to try and create more of a french provincial look rather than the shabby chic look to fit in with her other bedroom furniture.  The plain pink was a bit too one dimensional so rather than sand and distress, I attempted to do a white wash over the top.  This was my first time using chalk paint so I played it pretty safe and wiped most of it off just leaving the white to enhance the details of the edges and joins.  It was much more noticeable before I put the top sealer on, but the clear top coat altered the final appearance.

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Chalk paint needs to be sealed or else it will chip.  I wasn't going for the chippy look so I sealed it with poly acrylic which will protect it much better than wax.  I used Cabot's bench top clear which is supposed to be non-yellowing.  The clear coats did darken the pink colour somewhat and also blended the white more into the pink.  So in hindsight, if using this sealer, I would probably buy paint a shade lighter than what I am intending to achieve as final colour.

I purchased new handles from eBay for a few dollars each and lined the drawers with scented drawer liners.  I plan to also seal the paper when the scent has worn off, making them easy to wipe out.

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And lastly, i highlighted the decal and corners with this champagne coloured gilding wax in ‘white gold’ to add a bit of bling. You can find this brand on eBay for $10.

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And voila!

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A pretty storage solution for books, puzzles, hair accessories and other knick knacks that need a home in a little girls room.

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Feeling 'Enough'

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It's been a while since I've shared anything personal.  To be honest, for the better part of this year I've been battling old demons that I thought were far behind me.  Negative, self-critical thought patterns have crept in, slowly, insidiously stealing my joy and my focus away from what's actually important to my soul and instead replacing it with doubt, worry, self-judgement, perfectionism and anxiety. It sucks balls and I'm consciously committing myself to turn things around.  

It's taken getting to the point of feeling like I was having panic attacks over ordinary things, like being invited to social engagements, for me to step back and really, honestly, examine myself and try and figure out what the heck is going on.  I guess there are a lot of things that have possibly contributed to my rising stress levels over the past year.  Raising a large family - more often than not- on my own, renovating a house whilst living in it, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, quitting drinking, and frequently failing to live up to my own expectations of myself as a mother, wife, friend and person are no doubt all taking their toll.  

However, the rational part of me knows that these things are just normal parts of life and really not worthy of the anxiety i lately find myself experiencing. So what then? At the moment, what seems the most likely explanation for my lack of inner peace, is that somewhere, deep inside my being, I've taken on the lie that who I am is simply not enough.  No matter what I do, or how I do it, lately it's just never good enough and that inner critic is loud and vocal in whatever i find myself doing or NOT doing.

And so, here i am today, realising that the power to change lies within me. True self worth doesn't come from 'outer' accomplishments nor does it diminish from external criticism. I know that feeling 'enough' is not going to come from doing more or better. It comes from living in the present, feeling the moment and being grateful for it instead of comparing it to an imaginary expectation of it. It's shutting down the 'should be's' and 'should have's' and just focusing on what is and loving the people around you while you get on with it.

More and more, I find truth in old and forgotten bible verses. 'Make careful exploration of who you are the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself to others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you with your own life. - Galatians 6:4-5

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The work i've been given is to raise my little people and impart to them things that matter to me. The last couple of weeks have been a huge reminder to me to stay true to that. Right now, they are my purpose. Having a quiet, clean and ordered house aren't the memories I particularly want my children to have and yet that's exactly what I've been focusing my attention on.  Rather than pulling out the finger paints, making play dough and encouraging them to sing and dance, Jamie and I have been focusing on 2mm discrepancies between fence palings, scuff marks on the freshly painted walls and how high to hang the letterbox. Stuff that sort of matters but that shouldn't be the focus. I must remind myself that we can always go back and redo the house stuff but we only have one shot at their childhood.  There aren't any do-overs.  This is it.  This is our life.  It's more than enough just as it is and moving forward I'm choosing to believe that I am too.

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Chest of Drawers Make-over

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A couple of years ago, when in desperate need of storage and living 3 hours away from any furniture stores, I happily accepted this old chest of pine drawers that was en route to the tip.  To be completely honest, I have hated them every day since and had planned on throwing them out as soon as we had the house painted. But after searching online and in a couple of stores for a replacement, I realised that the size was actually perfect for the boys room, it was just the colour and style - and missing knobs - that were the problem.  So, rather than just get rid of them, one afternoon I got out the sander and paintbrush and gave them a bit of a makeover.

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First of all, I removed the remaining knobs and then sanded off all the varnish.

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Then I undercoated with Taubmans 3 in 1 primer, sealer, undercoat left over from the toilet reno.

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I made sure I didn't rush the prep time as Ive learnt from past failures that preparing the surface makes all the difference to the longevity of the paint job.

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Then I gave the whole thing two coats of paint. I really didn't want to spend any money on it in case it was a great big flop so I just used paint I had on hand which was one of the many grey sample pots I'm currently deliberating on for the exterior of the house.

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Surprisingly, once it was painted, I actually didn't hate it.  So I went and ordered 8 brand new knobs - I found these little vintage dinosaur knobs on etsy (knotty's knobs is the store name) and I LOVE them!  There are 8 different dinosaurs which was perfect for the 8 drawers.

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In hindsight, I think an enamel paint would have been better so when it comes time to repaint, I will probably go and buy some grey enamel.  Having said that, its been eight months now since I painted it, and it hasn't chipped at all and wipes clean.

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All in all, I now really like them! The boys share a room so they have four drawers each and they fit nicely under the window.  

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Cost break down:

Chest of drawers - free

Undercoat - left over from another project, approximately $5 worth or less

Paint - sample pot $6.95

Dinosaur knobs - 8 @ $7.55 each plus postage from the UK (total $79.50) ETSY

Total: $91.45 

Greenhill Beach Queensland

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I really enjoy taking my children back to places that I frequented during my own childhood.  Growing up, my family had a beach 'shed' at Greenhill Beach in Queensland.  Many of my school holidays were spent here but I haven't been back since the block was sold back in the 90's. So i decided it was time to re-visit the place with my own children in tow.

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If you google Greenhill Beach, apparently it doesn't exist but if you drive about 45 minutes south of Sarina, past Koumala, past Carmilla and then take a left at a little spot called Ilbilby and keep driving until you hit the coast, you will find it does and it's really worth the drive.  Its a very small beach community mostly made up of either holiday houses or retirees.  It's pretty out of the way and so there still aren't any shops or cafes but the beach itself is quite beautiful and a really fun place for kids to explore. There's heaps of rocks, rock pools, little caves and if you're lucky you can even find living coral in the rock pools far out on low tide.

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We arrived in the middle of the day so the light was extremely harsh and by the time the sun was easing, my camera battery died so I don't know that my photos really do the place justice. But here are some snaps of our day. The weather was beautiful and we had the entire beach to ourselves.

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The children, ran, swam, climbed, jumped in puddles and explored the rock pools.  They buried each other and me in sand which was the closest thing to a day spa I've experienced since having all these kids! 

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If you are interested in checking this part of the world out for yourself, powered camp sites are available at the Cape Palmerston Holiday Park- (07) 4950 3987 - www.capepalmerston.com or permits can be obtained through the department of national parks, sport and racing website - npsr.qld.gov.au - to camp off grid in Cape Palmerston National Park.  

We have babies!

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It's been a pretty exciting week here for the kids.  Not only is it the Easter school holidays, but we also got to watch our first lot of baby chickens hatch! Kind of fitting actually... you know, eggs, easter, transformation, new life...you get my drift ;-)

Anyway, Hei-Hei, our plymouth x wyandotte hen has been clucky on and off since november last year.  So this last time I noticed her sitting on the eggs,  I decided to let her have 3 to incubate and tried to get the other hens to lay in the other nesting boxes. Well she had other ideas and by the time the first egg hatched, there were 16 eggs under her! She'd been stealing other eggs without me noticing.  And all at different times of her sitting on the nest.

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It takes roughly 21 days for an egg to develop into a chicken and hatch.  I knew many of the eggs hadn't been under her that long and I wasn't sure how long she would continue to sit once the first one had hatched. So we just watched and waited.  Each day for 6 days, a new chicken hatched.  By then mama chook had had enough and started taking the babies out of the nest.  

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So we have 6 baby chicks, 4 black and 2 yellow.  They are super cute and growing by the day. Millie our dog has taken guardianship and likes to keep watch of the babies which is also super cute.

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With so many predators around - snakes, hawks, goannas, eagles etc. - I'm trying not to get attached and let nature do what nature does but I must admit, it really is a sweet sight to see mama chook with her babies scratching around in the sunshine.

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As for the remaining 10 eggs, Issy and I tried to save them by putting them in a basket in a small room warmed by a heater but after 3 days with no success we conceded that they must have gone too cold the day Hei-Hei left the nest so we pulled the plug (the heater plug that is).

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So here are our 6 babies...Hoping for hens but past experience has prepared me for the possibility of many roosters - eek! Lucky my neighbours are nice!!

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Rats nests, cockroach murals and rooster dish pigs...my kitchen update

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When we first moved into the house, i spent a considerable amount of time cleaning the kitchen before I unpacked anything. I remember calling Jamie at working telling him that I was really creeped out as I found some bones in one of the bottom cupboards under the sink behind the pipes.  At the time, I was already super freaked out about the huge carpet snake that had been in the house and subsequently ate my pet guinea pigs so finding bones just added to the 'oh my god, what have i done?!' state of mind that I was in. Then my rational mind prevailed and I told myself that the previous occupants must have kept their bin under the sink and they probably missed the bin when they threw some chicken scraps into the bin. Then I just forgot about it.

 In case you missed the post about the snake who was here to welcome us when we moved in, here he is.

In case you missed the post about the snake who was here to welcome us when we moved in, here he is.

Fast forward a few months to when we decided to pull out the old kitchen so that all the walls could be painted.  The first stage was removing the top cabinets and splash back which revealed some impressive cockroach poo markings all over the wall.  

 Heres a recap of what the kitchen was like.  Who would've guessed that behind those unassuming top cabinets dwelled a cockroach named Picasso?

Heres a recap of what the kitchen was like.  Who would've guessed that behind those unassuming top cabinets dwelled a cockroach named Picasso?

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The more I looked at it, the more it started to look like art and, just like the clouds, I began to see all sorts of weird shapes and animals amongst the cocky poo.  

 But c'mon, tell me you don't see it?! There's most definitely some sort of antelope up in the right corner sitting on a deer right?

But c'mon, tell me you don't see it?! There's most definitely some sort of antelope up in the right corner sitting on a deer right?

 Anyhoo, then we removed the splash back and in case you spotted it, no I'm not an alcoholic but since moving here, I have learnt that wine helps me to find the good in any situation.  In this situation, it was that I had wine.

Anyhoo, then we removed the splash back and in case you spotted it, no I'm not an alcoholic but since moving here, I have learnt that wine helps me to find the good in any situation.  In this situation, it was that I had wine.

The second stage, a week later, was removing the sink and all the base cabinets. By now I was already expecting to find forty years worth of cockroach poo so when Jamie called out 'Come have a look at this' I thought I knew what I was walking into.  Not so!

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There, where my kitchen once stood was a MASSIVE ghost-rats nest complete with rat skeletons spanning the entire length of the wall. The mystery of the bones found in the cabinets was solved at last.

 I must admit, I was impressed by the rat family's commitment to the philosophy of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reduce, not so much, but there is definitely a lot of ingenuity to be admired here.

I must admit, I was impressed by the rat family's commitment to the philosophy of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reduce, not so much, but there is definitely a lot of ingenuity to be admired here.

I cant even put into words how I felt.  All this time, I had been preparing meals atop of a mass rat grave. I poured myself some wine and walked away until I could cope with the thought of coming back and cleaning it all up. 

 Virgil! How shall we ever know what happened to you?! Although my friends and I have speculated. Despite the plausible love triangle murder-suicide hypothesis, I can't help but wonder if me covering up the hole in the base cabinets when we first moved in contributed to your untimely death?

Virgil! How shall we ever know what happened to you?! Although my friends and I have speculated. Despite the plausible love triangle murder-suicide hypothesis, I can't help but wonder if me covering up the hole in the base cabinets when we first moved in contributed to your untimely death?

Moving on....After the kitchen was removed I had NO kitchen.  Which meant I had to prepare food on the dining table and do the dishes with a bucket of water.  

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At first I was like 'I've camped.  I can totally manage'. But as the days turned into weeks (as the painting took way longer than expected) the novelty of alfresco dish washing started to wear off.

At that time, the chooks still had free range of the property and also liked to get involved in the dishwashing process.

 So did the dog. (Don't panic, we've all since been wormed).

So did the dog. (Don't panic, we've all since been wormed).

I'm learning that everything around here takes us WAY longer than most people.  I was expecting a week, maybe two tops but this here was my reality for the better part of a month. In the meantime, the kitchen was painted and we tried to figure out what the heck we were going to put back in to use once the painting was complete.

The long term plan is actually to extend the house out from this room to make way for a new kitchen leaving this room as a seperate dining room. Currently it's just too small to be an eat-in kitchen for a family of our size. I'm not entirely sure how much it's going to cost nor where we are going to get the money for said extension but as I like to live most of my life in an imaginary bubble where unicorns exist and dreams do come true, I have decided that at some point, along with my boob job, it WILL happen.  Therefore, we purchased a second hand kitchen for $300 off gumtree that we have just plonked in the kitchen to use until such time that the extension is built.  

 A glorious Day! Jamie put our old sink back in so as not to have to much around with the plumbing too much as its all going to be moved in the future.

A glorious Day! Jamie put our old sink back in so as not to have to much around with the plumbing too much as its all going to be moved in the future.

So here it is.  Not yet my dream kitchen but there are no rat nests and there is running water. Winning! The $300 gumtree kitchen is super functional with all the drawers and there's still more of it in the shed that we may install at some point so I'm pretty happy.

 We painted the walls and ceiling in Dulux Natural White and the trims are white enamel 'Quarter Ash'.  I'm really happy with the colour as it's got enough warmth without throwing any pink or cream - which I've experienced with other whites in the past. Not too stark, but definitely still white.

We painted the walls and ceiling in Dulux Natural White and the trims are white enamel 'Quarter Ash'.  I'm really happy with the colour as it's got enough warmth without throwing any pink or cream - which I've experienced with other whites in the past. Not too stark, but definitely still white.

 The 'new' second hand kitchen is Tasmanian oak and is very solid.  I'm actually planning on using it when we do the extension but I'll replace the handles and bench tops and possibly even paint the cabinets. Not sure yet.

The 'new' second hand kitchen is Tasmanian oak and is very solid.  I'm actually planning on using it when we do the extension but I'll replace the handles and bench tops and possibly even paint the cabinets. Not sure yet.

 As you can see, we closed in one of the doorways on this wall to allow for a longer kitchen.

As you can see, we closed in one of the doorways on this wall to allow for a longer kitchen.

 I bought this chandelier off eBay for $19.  It did however cost four times that much in postage to get it up from Sydney but for $100 all up, I still consider it a bargain and much nicer than the old fluorescent wall light pictured below. As I said earlier, the plan is to make this the dining room eventually so the chandelier will hang over the dining table.

I bought this chandelier off eBay for $19.  It did however cost four times that much in postage to get it up from Sydney but for $100 all up, I still consider it a bargain and much nicer than the old fluorescent wall light pictured below. As I said earlier, the plan is to make this the dining room eventually so the chandelier will hang over the dining table.

 Old light in kitchen before.

Old light in kitchen before.

 Another eBay score is this old kitchen hutch which i bought for $275 for some extra free standing storage. Surprisingly, it holds more than you would think.

Another eBay score is this old kitchen hutch which i bought for $275 for some extra free standing storage. Surprisingly, it holds more than you would think.

 The cabinets are not actually installed, rather they are just sitting on the floor and the bench top is balanced on top.  Seems to work for now.

The cabinets are not actually installed, rather they are just sitting on the floor and the bench top is balanced on top.  Seems to work for now.

 So there it is.  It's only a temporary solution but it undoubtedly will stay like this for some time while we work on other projects and save for the extension which I am super excited about!

So there it is.  It's only a temporary solution but it undoubtedly will stay like this for some time while we work on other projects and save for the extension which I am super excited about!

 After discovering all the cockroach poo and rat remains, I can honestly say 'Good Riddance!' to this old 70's kitchen!

After discovering all the cockroach poo and rat remains, I can honestly say 'Good Riddance!' to this old 70's kitchen!

Rome wasn't built in a day....and neither was our chook pen

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Many (many) moons ago, I got the brilliant idea that 'we' should build a chook pen out of the timber from the falling down house next door.  After a little bit of persuading, Jamie agreed and so began the next adventure of our home farm. One that took slightly longer than expected but was definitely worth the wait.

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Most people, from what I hear, knock up a chook house in a weekend. Not us. The little cottage next door was actually built from timber that was the existing Queenslander where our house now stands so rather than let it all go to ruin, I loved the idea of preserving some of that history here on our property. The entire cottage is made of hardwood, which seemed awesome to me, I love old hardwood, but as it turns out, is not the easiest material to work with and definitely led to several broken drill bits and many curse words uttered from Jamie's mouth throughout the entire, lengthy process. 

Here are some pictures of 'us' building our chook pen...

 The four posts in the ground are treated pine. Things got more difficult after that.

The four posts in the ground are treated pine. Things got more difficult after that.

 Note Jamie's facial hair which is the true indicator of just how long this process took. Also note my daughters keen fashion sense. 

Note Jamie's facial hair which is the true indicator of just how long this process took. Also note my daughters keen fashion sense. 

 My hunk of burning love pulling old iron off the roof to fulfil my vision...he was mostly swearing at the hardwood by this stage so I took all my photos from a safe distance where I could ignore him and pretend he really enjoyed what 'we' were doing.

My hunk of burning love pulling old iron off the roof to fulfil my vision...he was mostly swearing at the hardwood by this stage so I took all my photos from a safe distance where I could ignore him and pretend he really enjoyed what 'we' were doing.

 Giving the hardwood a break, we went on to building the fence.

Giving the hardwood a break, we went on to building the fence.

 The nesting boxes are on the side of the house and can be accessed without having to go into the chook pen.

The nesting boxes are on the side of the house and can be accessed without having to go into the chook pen.

 I bought an old set of french doors along with heap of old casement windows and a few other bits and bobs from a beautiful old queenslander in Bulimba.  The little square windows and the rectangular one that you can see in the picture before and below this one, were left over from the french doors that we installed in our back entry way.  The rest of these gorgeous casement windows are going to be used to enclose part of the barn sometime in the future.

I bought an old set of french doors along with heap of old casement windows and a few other bits and bobs from a beautiful old queenslander in Bulimba.  The little square windows and the rectangular one that you can see in the picture before and below this one, were left over from the french doors that we installed in our back entry way.  The rest of these gorgeous casement windows are going to be used to enclose part of the barn sometime in the future.

 Chook house hangs...charlie is entertaining his siblings with his new party trick doing the 'tuck'.

Chook house hangs...charlie is entertaining his siblings with his new party trick doing the 'tuck'.

 So close! Jamie is just figuring out how to attach the rooster weather vane.

So close! Jamie is just figuring out how to attach the rooster weather vane.

 Jamie actually made me this rooster as a birthday present about 8 years ago, but we moved house before it made it to the chook pen.  It's been in the shed ever since waiting for this very moment.

Jamie actually made me this rooster as a birthday present about 8 years ago, but we moved house before it made it to the chook pen.  It's been in the shed ever since waiting for this very moment.

 We used old branches for the roosting perches.  Apparantly natural branches are better for the chickens feet than uniform dowel perches and they have the benefit of costing nothing.

We used old branches for the roosting perches.  Apparantly natural branches are better for the chickens feet than uniform dowel perches and they have the benefit of costing nothing.

 Errmagod! Can you believe it? After about six or seven months, the chook pen is finally ready! Jamie survived and we still haven't filed for divorce.

Errmagod! Can you believe it? After about six or seven months, the chook pen is finally ready! Jamie survived and we still haven't filed for divorce.

So here is our chook pen! It's everything I could have asked for and more. It's rustic, charming, practical and built to last.  I love that its almost entirely made of recycled materials and all of it has a story to tell.  

 The 'Palais du Poulet' aka chicken palace

The 'Palais du Poulet' aka chicken palace

 Complete with windows and flower baskets

Complete with windows and flower baskets

 I sanded graffiti off the old door which resulted in this beautiful distressed look due to all the coats of old paint.

I sanded graffiti off the old door which resulted in this beautiful distressed look due to all the coats of old paint.

 The old door before

The old door before

 My little egg collector with his wooden eggs as despite all the effort, the chooks still refuse to lay. Probably has something to do with the fact that half of them have turned out to be roosters. But that's a whole other story!

My little egg collector with his wooden eggs as despite all the effort, the chooks still refuse to lay. Probably has something to do with the fact that half of them have turned out to be roosters. But that's a whole other story!

 Hardwood floors (which we've covered in black plastic and wood shavings for easy cleaning)

Hardwood floors (which we've covered in black plastic and wood shavings for easy cleaning)

 Their grain is kept in a sealed bin to deter rodents (and therefore snakes).

Their grain is kept in a sealed bin to deter rodents (and therefore snakes).

 The casement windows open and we are going to put some mosquito mesh over the opening so that they can be left open for ventilation at night whilst keeping the chooks in and snakes out.

The casement windows open and we are going to put some mosquito mesh over the opening so that they can be left open for ventilation at night whilst keeping the chooks in and snakes out.

 The nesting boxes open from the outside so the eggs can be collected without going in the pen but we are still fine tuning the lid as the hardwood is a bit heavy for the kids.  We also are yet to partition the space into smaller boxes as the chooks like privacy for laying. That will be next weeks job, as i mentioned earlier, the chooks aren't laying yet anyway.

The nesting boxes open from the outside so the eggs can be collected without going in the pen but we are still fine tuning the lid as the hardwood is a bit heavy for the kids.  We also are yet to partition the space into smaller boxes as the chooks like privacy for laying. That will be next weeks job, as i mentioned earlier, the chooks aren't laying yet anyway.

 The home made rooster weather vane sitting proud atop the home made house.

The home made rooster weather vane sitting proud atop the home made house.

 The chook run is huge and is shaded by a big mango tree.

The chook run is huge and is shaded by a big mango tree.

 I'm growing passionfruit along the front and side fences and star jasmine on the back boundary for a bit more shade and privacy.

I'm growing passionfruit along the front and side fences and star jasmine on the back boundary for a bit more shade and privacy.

 I still let the chooks out for a run every afternoon, even though I say I won't as they really enjoy attacking my herb garden and scratching the mulch off my fruit trees every single day.

I still let the chooks out for a run every afternoon, even though I say I won't as they really enjoy attacking my herb garden and scratching the mulch off my fruit trees every single day.

 Millie our maltese x shitzu thinks she is miniature old english sheep dog.  She likes to guard the chooks. She fits through the gate on the chook pen so spends quite a bit of time in there just sleeping under the tree and keeping an eye on the chooks.

Millie our maltese x shitzu thinks she is miniature old english sheep dog.  She likes to guard the chooks. She fits through the gate on the chook pen so spends quite a bit of time in there just sleeping under the tree and keeping an eye on the chooks.

 We have the funniest little kitten Tiger-lilly who has been joining in on most of our adventures. The chicken about to peck her is the nastiest chook I've ever met.  She beats up on all of the other hens and fights all the roosters except her brother pictured above who has taken a liking to her and only her.  Thus we've named her Cersei - if you're a GOT fan, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, moving on....

We have the funniest little kitten Tiger-lilly who has been joining in on most of our adventures. The chicken about to peck her is the nastiest chook I've ever met.  She beats up on all of the other hens and fights all the roosters except her brother pictured above who has taken a liking to her and only her.  Thus we've named her Cersei - if you're a GOT fan, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, moving on....

 Strangely despite the enormous labour of love, the ten chooks are still choosing to sleep in the tiny guinea pig hutch at night but they like to hang out in the house during the day.  As you can see, my animals are all a bit different and somewhat confused. I don't know where they get that from.

Strangely despite the enormous labour of love, the ten chooks are still choosing to sleep in the tiny guinea pig hutch at night but they like to hang out in the house during the day.  As you can see, my animals are all a bit different and somewhat confused. I don't know where they get that from.

 Caught the chickens hanging out in the house.  As soon as they hear me they come running out.

Caught the chickens hanging out in the house.  As soon as they hear me they come running out.

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And that's it.  I am just in love with my chook pen. It was worth all the cursing, fighting and broken tools. I really appreciate all the hard work that Jamie put in to make it for me. It's the best present ever. We will be finishing  a few things off over the coming week or so, making some signs, running a water pipe and building a herb garden around the outside edge of the fence so the chooks can peck through for supplementation. Then it's on to the next project...the pony stable!

 Happy days!

Happy days!

Making memories out of the mundane

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Lately I've been very conscious of how fast time is flying by.  My eldest boy is now a teenager and I've realised that before I know it, these little people will be all grown up and leaving home.  Unless I make a concerted effort to do so, I won't get around to doing all the things I imagined myself doing as a mum before I had kids.

Motherhood can be really monotonous some weeks and as Jamie travels away for work, it can often feel like one big load of never ending laundry interpersed with dishes and the occasional bit of vomit. With that in mind, i'm trying to make some of our ordinary, everyday tasks just a little more special. Having dinner outside, putting sparklers in dessert, finding a new nook in the garden for a picnic, turning off the television and playing music and dancing with the children are all simple things that not only really bring them joy, they also help break up the monotony of solo-parenting for me. 

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As John Lennon says 'life is what happens while your busy making other plans' and I'm trying to be more present in the 'busy-ness', aware that we are making memories everyday not just on the special occasions. Jamie is really good at playing with the children.  He genuinely enjoys their company and getting down on their level playing games with them for hours at a time.  I have to work a bit harder at it as my mind is always thinking about what I 'should' be doing next.

I'm setting myself a goal for the next four weeks to consciously make one ordinary occurrence everyday into something just a little bit different.  Tonight we will have a candle lit dinner with the rain as our background music.  I haven't thought as far ahead as tomorrow and like most things, I'm going to wing it but I am hoping it will become more and more second nature to make the most of each and everyday I get to spend with my little loves rather than wishing the week would hurry up and end so Jamie would be home again.

Here's to being present, being creative and making memories our children can tell us about when we've totally lost the plot and can no longer figure out how to use Facebook  ;-)

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