Monday, November 29, 2010

A recipe for you

Ellie's class does cooking in the classroom. The children work in pairs on one recipe per term. This term, it has been gingerbread men. Ellie enjoyed cooking yesterday, and this morning, she was telling me the recipe. She got three ingredients into the list before I knew I had to write it down and share with you.

Gingerbread recipe, just as Ellie tells it

2 cups of flour
2 cups of ginger
1 cup of teaspoon
1 cup of butter
You have to scoop the butter with a spoon. You have to smoosh it all up with your fingers. Then, we have to add one egg and four cups of golden syrup. I tasted it before. If it is left over, we can taste it and I tasted it before. And then we mix it, not in the big bowl, only the little glass bowl with the egg. Then, we pour the bowl in the big bowl then we mix it in the big bowl then we mix it with our little fingers. While someone is stirring, someone has to mix. Even then you put it up into a big ball and make it all flat into a big ball and then you roll it out and then you cut it. That's it!
And then you put it in the oven.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas card sneak peek

Last night, I ordered our annual photo cards for Christmas, and hopefully they will get to us in time for me to send them out to you before Christmas. We captured some sweet family photos while down south a couple of weeks ago, but it was cold and rainy and that just didn't feel right for our cards. After all, it's quite unusual for it to be cold and rainy here, especially around Christmas time (summer!). Instead, we thought we'd set up our tripod and a picnic blanket and snap some pictures at the river overlook near our new house. You can see the city of Perth in the distance. Peppermint Grove yacht club is down to the left. It's an amazing vista. Every time I see it, I stop and marvel. "I actually get to live here?!" Wow. Thank you.

To keep it real, our pictures were taken by us on a timer. We'd been to the beach in the morning and the river in the afternoon. The girls are still wet and drippy from the river. We're all sandy. None of us has brushed our hair. It took some convincing to get the girls to acknowledge the camera at all. And yet, we still think these may be the best Christmas cards yet! Ellie had some cute ideas that we had to include in the final cut. For now, you can have a little sneak peek (test snap during set-up) and take in that beautiful background.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New house: the entryway and attached spaces

Disclaimer: In the interests of honesty, I did not tidy or organize ANYTHING for this sharing series, so you get to see it as is, in full transitional messy state. Please to forgive.

Yesterday, I promised to share more about the grand entryway, so we'll head into there today and the various spaces coming off of it. You can see from the outside picture of the house the big glass double doors and windows. Those open into quite a large entryway. I tried unsuccessfully to get a good picture of it (bright Aussie sun washing me out!), but this will allow you to get the idea.

This house lacks a coat closet (as many modern homes do, I'm told), so until we come up with an attractive solution, our coats and assorted bits have exploded onto the stairwell (the stairs lead up to the master bedroom and "parent's retreat"). The space where they sit now will make an ideal place for the Christmas tree next month (there is actually an electrical outlet at the base of the stairs), so next time you see it, we hope it will look a lot more sparkly and less bomb-like.

The entryway opens into the "formal living room", but since we aren't formal people, this is our living room, period (the intended "TV room" is what we use as our playroom, which is right off the kitchen; I edited that entry to include it for you to see). It's big and long, so we placed one couch across the center (facing the TV) to define the TV/lounge space a bit. Between the two torch-like wall sconces was a great and obvious home for the piano. Right now, all of our pictures and wall decor are stacked around too, waiting for me to get myself organized and arrange for them to be professionally hung (the necessities of a renter).

Leading down a short, sharply angled hallway

is a powder room

and the laundry room. Look, it's laundry day!

Between those two doors is the door to the large garage. Although there is more than enough space inside for two cars, the garage door and driveway are such that only one car can use it.

I can park my car and Markus parks the Vespa inside, so our daily transport is blessedly out of the vicious Aussie summer sun (heat wave this week and we're already a little worn out with the summer heat!). At least that means we have lots of guaranteed covered storage space, easily accessible.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New home: the kitchen

It's been a bit hard to motivate sharing about this house, because it so does not feel like a home (yet). I get a bit frustrated because I was so excited about the Walter St house. I loved the way it looked. I loved its high ceilings, hardwood floors and period details. The fact that the owners and previous real estate agents are being totally unethical (still!) about our move prevents me from feeling too much nostalgia, but the look and feel of this house are so very different that it's hard to feel at home here. The last house was old and surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens. This house is new and HUGE and looks like this:

The picture of modern suburbia (eek!). I tease Markus that he is secretly preparing me for life in Houston. Although I know we are incredibly fortunate to be able to live in a place like this, nothing about this place feels like us. We feel like caricatures of ourselves, especially in the mornings. For me, it's backing my big, relatively new car out of the large garage to drive my daughter to private school (yikes). For Markus, it's when he grabs his workbag and walks through the grand entryway (more on that another post) to leave for the office. We can hardly stop ourselves from feeling very '50s fabulous. I am tempted to don fancy dress, make-up, heels, pearls and a hostess apron, ready to great him with a drink when he returns home in the evenings. Seriously. Might as well have fun with it, because we have as yet been unable to shake the feeling that we are living someone else's life. We never had this feeling before. The house is a lot like Qatar, but at least in Qatar, all the houses were like that so there was no alternative (and there we definitely felt we were living an artificial life for soooo many reasons anyway). Anyway, moving on. You want to know about THIS house, so here we go!

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so I thought we'd share that space today. The location and layout of the kitchen is one of the reasons I ultimately selected this home. At first, it's corner position struck me as odd, but I really like how I can survey the dining area, playroom, and backyard from behind the kitchen counters. If I am in any one room for an extended period of time, that room would be the kitchen. It's good for me to be able to see what's going on.

The door you see leading off to the side from the kitchen (near Ellie playing with the bulletin board) goes into the playroom. This is meant to be a "TV room" (heavily wired for cable and satellite), but we aren't TV watchers, making the playroom solution even more obvious. It's a nice, big, open space. The girls really like it. I do too. The position is ideal.

As the hub, the kitchen is the first room I sort out when we move. I need to be able to cook to settle into a place, so I have to get everything put away. Here, I quickly learned how this is an architecturally designed kitchen, rather than a functional one. The many cabinets are shallow, with two (too tall) shelves rather than a more practical three, meaning that there is very little storage despite having more cabinets than I had in the other house. I had to reorganize at least three times as I unpacked boxes, trying to figure out the most efficient way to maximize the space and keep it as useful as possible. Another (minor) woe is the oven is somehow slightly smaller than standard size (which is already significantly smaller than American ovens), giving me strong misgivings about roasting a turkey in there late next week. Hm...

My favorite feature is the glass walls between the countertops and the cabinets. I've always wanted a chalkboard painted space in my kitchen, but this serves the purpose just as well with a more modern feel. I write notes to myself about meals, menu prep and groceries right on the wall with Vis-a-Vis markers. So handy!

Stephanie's favorite feature is the pantry. In our other house, all food was kept in Mama-height cabinets, well out of reach. Now, it's self-serve all the time (even if that's not exactly what Mama intended)! If Stephanie goes missing for an extended period, you can guess you'll find her hiding in the pantry, probably eating something verboten (like Nutella by the fistful). She almost completely shuts herself in there, only leaving the door cracked enough for her fingers to pull it shut and a small sliver of light to illuminate her mischievous deeds. I wish I had a picture for you, but alas, none have come out yet. The two-fisted Nutella morning was rather amusing, though I was slightly concerned about the half-full jar (it had been almost new). Ahem.

We were able to cart over our fridge from the other house. We had purchased it to fit that limited space (that kitchen was designed with the fridge as an afterthought, since the owners weren't providing one), and we were lucky it fit in here too. The dishwasher is a bottom-dollar throw-in (is quite small and only "cleans" if you have heavily pre-rinsed), but it seems to serve the purpose. There is no microwave, so we'll probably buy one though thus far we're getting by just fine without.

The trickiest part to organizing this house is the open plan structure. There is no obvious place to set things like keys, sunscreen and tissue boxes, because everything is always out in the open.

Even daily (constant) use stuff looks like clutter, which drives Markus crazy and makes even me feel like it should be put away...though there is no place to put it. We really want to avoid the trap of buying furniture for the bigger house (never a great plan), but we're having a hard time seeing a way around it in some instances.

On the upside, this open plan kitchen makes it a very easy central space when entertaining. Everyone can hang out in and around the kitchen (where everyone ends up anyway) without everyone tripping on each other. Would you like to come over for dinner?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New home: The Indoor Pool AKA Bali bath

I am tempted to carry on about our time down south (which was so fabulous!). Of course, you'd want to hear all about how much the girls LOVED herding the sheep and alpacas back into their paddock each evening. How our little Jungle Jane would approach slowly and in a sweet, gentle voice say, "Come, little sheep. Come, alpacas. It's time to go to bed. It's time to go to your paddock. Come, come, come now." How Ellie so proudly recalled that alpacas lift their tails out of the way to go pee, assuring us that she would show us just how it happened in case they needed to do it again.

Or maybe you want to hear about how despite the fact that it was unseasonably cold and rainy we let them swim buck-naked in the ocean, because really, why not?

I mean, it really was quite rainy and cold. Unexpectedly so. We had to borrow jackets from the farmstay owner. Not that we minded the weather much at all.

The rain gave us a great excuse to explore the great Mammoth Cave! See those colored lights? Those are the girls in motion. Glo-sticks took the fear away and made the cave exciting.

We're fairly sure you don't want to hear about how incredibly delicious the food and wine was at the Voyager Estate or the Xanadu winery (especially Xanadu. YUM!). No one wants to hear about that. So instead, I'll move along to introducing our new house, starting with everyone's favorite feature: the indoor pool.

Okay, so we don't really have an indoor pool. It's the master bath...and boy, is it ever. It is huge! After two years of no bathtub, it looks like an indoor pool to us! And then, you look out the windows and see the neighbor's beautiful blooming bougainvillea and think perhaps, just perhaps, you've been transported to a lovely spa in Bali.

The first night we spent in this house, we awoke to the loudest cacophony of birdsong AT 4 AM (which of course woke Stephanie too). It was a bit unholy. By 5, the sun was up as well and it was time to surrender. I stumbled (not just a little grumpy) into the bathroom, rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and saw this:

Wow. At the time, the entire house was still in boxes (with the exception of our bedroom, which my intrepid husband insisted on finishing before allowing either of us to sleep) and I was not loving the move. But this...I took a shower and just looked out the window (this photo is actually taken from inside the shower door), not caring who might have seen me, because this view made me feel like I was on holiday. And I'm not the only fan.

The girls LOVE it! What's not to love? Our good friends and previous neighbors came by this afternoon to play at the river and see our new house. Before we knew it, there were four kids having a blast in that tub. It's a happening place!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Skipping ahead

As you know, we moved house the first week of November. My, what a week that was. Markus and I had been sick the week before. We were all drained and totally out of whack...and then the moving truck shows up, as if we were in any way prepared. Ha. Ellie went to school and Markus had a ridiculously intensive week at work while Stephanie and I did our best to manage packers, movers, unpackers, and cleaners on our own. I know this was a "normal" move, but I'm not a normal person. It's very unusual for me to move from one house to another in the same place. Managing people at two houses at the same time was a bit much. The first day I didn't have strangers in the house (Friday) was a good day.

And's over! Markus cannot abide boxes, no matter how hard he tries to deny it, so he worked like a madman to unpack. He springs out of bed at unholy hours (granted, the kids are up first) to get at it again. He wants it done! He wants it all put away! He wants it organized and finalized and finished! I am not nearly playing at that level (I like sleep and downtime), so the credit for most of the orderliness around us is due to him alone. There are still a lot of spaces that are unfinished, but most big areas are completely done. The kitchen was first (I did that!), the bedrooms, the playroom, the garage (we have a garage now!)...all done. The living room is getting there. The common spaces in this house are massive, so we need to do some tweaking and possibly some furniture buying...but that will come over time. I'd love to go through everything with you, but that would make for one massive post. I'll spread it out over the coming week. For now, I'm skipping ahead to explain a bit about the photo I shared yesterday.

On Monday, we ran away from the mayhem that is our new house and headed down to Margaret River for some much needed R&R. We stayed again at the Margaret River Hideaway farmstay, where the girls had such a brilliant time last time and were doubly thrilled to discover two new joeys have been added to the animals on the place. They were over the moon each time they got close to Patsy (8 months) and Je Quoi (4 months). Je Quoi spends most of her time heavily tucked into a basket under the owner's desk, but Patsy is old enough and trained enough that she goes wherever he goes. She bounds after his motorbike as he zooms around the grounds. She goes with him in a backpack when he's in town at a cafe or at the grocery store. She is his shadow, and I thought more than once that I surely need a baby kangaroo to keep under my desk and to follow me around on my scooter.

Julian (the owner) did let Ellie and I take Je Quoi in her backpack in our car when we followed him to a cafe one rainy day. We weren't allowed to open it (she is so little she gets scared, and she's still bonding with/to Julian), but that did not in any way diminish Ellie's joy at the responsibility.

While the sweet joeys were a definite highlight (we're sure the girls will be talking about that for weeks!), we had so many good times down south. It was wonderful to get away! More updates to come over the coming days. I think this one is long enough.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back online and back at home

Hello! Did you miss us? We missed you!
The move, while generally un-fun, went off quite well. I promise to fill you in on all the details soon, as I'd hoped to do earlier. Internet has only just now been restored. We should have had it by last Friday, but no. At least we have it now, and I'll be updating soon.
For the moment, I'll just share a favorite image from this week:

Chillin' in a cafe on a rainy day with a baby kangaroo.
As you do.
Updates soon!