Making My Father Proud

My Father is a gardener. Not just an occasional gardener, a hard-core, get out there every night and weed, weed, weed gardner. And, despite his insistance that I must have the gardening gene passed down from my grandparents, I’m not sure I’ll ever LOVE gardening.

But I am learning to like it, especially now that our backyard no longer looks like this:

I took this photo in 2008 after our house renovation, during which a bulldozer came in and basically demolished what was left of our backyard. I haven’t looked at this photo in a long time and, now that I do, I’m pretty impressed with what we’ve achieved – even if it took about 5 years.

I didn’t manage to get a photo from the second floor for comparison but here’s a quick one from the deck (on a very sunny day).

In five years we’ve added french doors, a back deck, a patio, a veggie garden and a shed. Not to mention a good place to put my wine while I take photos. We’ve planted grass off to the right but currently the weeds are winning so I’ll spare you the trauma of that view.

Here’s closer look at the veggie garden.

Our snap peas are coming along nicely. Samuel spent at least 30 minutes grazing on them last night.

I have my fingers crossed that our warm early summer will produce a few peppers/capsicums.

I used to grow Strawberries in the hanging baskets but this year I planted some ground cover flowers. The basket linings also provide nest material for our hummingbird visitors. That red thing is a hummingbird feeder and it’s attracted at least one return visitor who was too quick for me to take a photo. I may have to plane a stake out to catch him.

Carrots, brussels sprouts and chard. How do you know when a carrot is ready? We pulled one last week and it was a teeny tiny little thing. I was embarrassed for it.

I also planted a flower garden this year and filled it with things that smell good like lavender, thyme and sage. I can’t wait until they threaten to take over the yard. (I find pruning quite therapeutic).

I have high hopes for this peony.

And, finally, my bother and sister-in-law’s contribution. I think they bought it from a dollar store in Melbourne. I’d say it’s a little bit of Australiana in our backyard but if you look closely you’ll notice that the flag is backwards. How many people can say they have a backwards Aussie flag in their veggie garden? I think that makes it all the more special.

I can see us spending a lot of time out here over the Summer watering, weeding and simply enjoying our backyard, all while I wait for our hummingbird friend to return.

Five Things Friday: The Happy Edition

The sun’s out, the weekend is about to commence – it truly is a happy Friday. Here are five things that made me smile today – including one that should be preceded by a chorus of Angels.

1. Boys who insist on wearing one gumboot and one sneaker to school – and Mums who let them because it’s truly not worth arguing about and, hey, it’s cute. (P.S. Socks are mismatched too)

2. Pixar characters in real life (seen on the way to school)

3. Cuteness that comes in pairs

4. Buskers that literally make you want to dance in the street (I think they were called The Glue Horses but I can’t find them online. Fantastic bluegrass-style. Please leave a comment if you know who they are).

AND, FINALLY (this is where the choir of angels comes in)…

5. A finished deck that’s just inviting me to come and take a seat with a nice glass of wine. (still waiting for the elves to come and finish painting our back room).

Plans for the weekend include more sightseeing around Portland with our Japanese guests – The weather will decide whether we make it to Powell’s or the Japanese gardens – or maybe we’ll be adventurous and try both.

Hope your Friday is as happy as mine.

Making Our Own Fun

Kei and I bought each other a new TV and Blu Ray player for Christmas. Which meant we were able to give away our 150 pound tube TV and regain our peace of mind now that there is no longer the danger of it falling on one of our children. Not to mention the fact that I am ecstatis that we never have to move that thing again. I shiver to think about the time we nearly dropped it pulling it out of the back our rented station wagon the day we bought it.

A new TV also meant a trip to Ikea – because a sleek, shiny, sparkly flat screen is just calling out for a piece of minimalist, hard-to-assemble, swedish furniture.

I. Love. Ikea. I have been known to visit on one of my rare days off without a real purpose – to simply browse the many aisles of the “marketplace”. I dream of a day when I can visit without my children and, ok, and my husband, whining and crying to leave.

Good thing they have play areas for the kids every few feet, although it did slow down the shopping experience somewhat.

After about 2 hours of browsing and lunch and more browsing, we finally made it to the labyrinth. We were close to naptime so while Kei searched for our box of unassembled goodness, I managed to keep the kids entertained by chasing them up and down one of the aisles.

Our Ikea trek was on a Sunday (one of the worst days to visit the store) so this was literally  the only square footage that was not crammed with people.

We kept this up for about 20 minutes. It’s amazing how easy it is to keep those boys entertained when there is limitless room to  scream and laugh and run without running into other people.

So in summary, these are some of the highlights of  my life at 34 – a new TV that makes up for the fact that I rarely see movies in a theatre anymore, dreaming of three hours uninterrupted in a furniture store, lunch for under $4 (!) and chasing two little boys until they are exhausted enough to take a nice long nap.

Not bad at all. 🙂

Before and After

It was ugly

Very ugly

But just in time… only weeks before our 12 month deadline to protect the siding from our new renovation…

We finally got around to the painful process of getting the house painted.

We settled on a neutral colour. Safe.

Of course now you can REALLY see the horrible shrubs in the front yard. They used to blend into the green house, but there’s no more hiding the truth…

We REALLY need to do something with that garden. Next year.

Snags – April 20th, 2009

Dusting off the BBQ for the first time this year… and quickly realizing how badly we need a new one…and a yard that we can sit in…and an umbrella…and the list goes on and on. How easy it is to push those things out of your mind when the weather is damp and dreary. Suddenly the sun peeks through the clouds for a couple of blissful days, and these things become urgent. How will we survive all summer without garden furniture and play equipment? How did we survive for the last three years?

Swedish Organization – March 24th, 2009

Did I mention how much I love Ikea? Oh yes, I love Ikea. Our last visit was “operation playroom”. It’s amazing how much two shelves can totally change your life. Oh, you think I’m kidding? Check this out.

See what I mean? Those little baskets hanging at the bottom were a brilliant idea I saw on some website somewhere (I think it was Ohdeedoh). I think it was two dollars for the rail they are hanging on and another couple for each of the baskets. A place for paint brushes, crayons and all other sorts of bits and pieces for $10.

Oh, yes. I love Ikea. Of course I’m not going to mention all the things we bought that we don’t really need… But it was worth it.

1923 – February 26th, 2009

When we began our renovation project last year, we made it clear to our contractor that we were working on a renovation, not a restoration.

Our house was built in 1923 and, while I appreciate the classic touches like these cabinet pulls, I dream of a house that is classic on the outside but modern on the inside.

Oh, and the paint on the cabinet pulls needs to go. The people who lived here before us didn’t consider removing hardward when they painted so we have a layer of paint on almost every knob and hinge in our downstairs rooms. I know replacing the hardware would freshen up the space and it seems like a small thing, but we have so much we need to do that I’ll just add it to our list. Ahh the joys pof buying an old house…


I thought the red chairs deserved a post of their own. Isn’t this one pretty? We have both red chairs in the study right now but I may have to change that when (if) we manage to clear the upstairs landing of painting supplies.

Oh, and did I mention the chairs were free? I am all about cheap – or free – decorating these days.