Archives for the month of: February, 2012

One of the loveliest areas of the house is the enclosed verandah. Even though it would make a fabulous sitting area for grown ups, we’ve always let the kids have full run of it. As I type this, it’s littered with stuff: My Littlest Petshop metropolises, other toys, craft materials, Wii games, paper, pens and coloured pencils etc. I got the camera out to photograph it for this post as I never really took any ‘after’ photos back when it was done. Excuse the pigsty but that’s life, hey?

When we moved in, the only protection the verandah had from the weather was old-style bamboo blinds. They looked nice enough but they were impractical. You couldn’t roll them up and fasten them. Over time, the children’s toys, books and bean bags were ruined by mould mildew. When it was raining it felt cold and damp. And it rains BUCKETLOADS on the far North coast! We spent $7000 installing a long bank of sliding windows up the side of the house. For the front of the house we ordered casement windows. The look prettier and would be more in-keeping with the original style of the house. We used aluminium (white) as we figured they would be less maintainance in the long run. What a great investment. Suddenly the space was a real ‘room’! We can now use it; rain, hail or shine. A year or so back we bought an ol’ banger of a piano. Without the weatherproofing the windows provide, we could never have the piano in this room.

Side bank to be filled with sliders.

The front of house where we used casements.

Installing the sliders down the side.

The windows in 2012.

The craft table this arvo. Yikes!

Casements in the background.


Some time in 2007, Peach swapped her cot for a bed. I was on a minimalist bent and kept the walls in their room rather bare. Just a few pictures.  It’s a different story now, in 2012. Over the years, the art collection has grown and their rooms have become more and more cluttered. But somehow, so has my aesthetic (become more cluttered, that is).

One of the first projects I did in the girls room was to make a wallpaper tree. I’d seen these in interior design magazines. They retailed for about $490 at the time. Ridiculous price. I got onto ebay and bought some retro wallpaper for $20 and wallpaper glue for another $20. A girlfriend had some other colourful wallpaper pieces and gave me some offcuts to make the leaves. So, I got for wallpaper tree for $40 instead of $490.

Most importantly, the girls and I had so much fun putting it together! I was really rather chuffed with the final product!  It’s still on their wall 4 years later. I’ll be sad when they outgrow it and we have to peel it off.

This is the beautiful Inke wallpaper tree that sells for $490.

After fashioning the trunk we used magazine paper to cut out leaves and play around with placement.

Plum's new toy.

Peach, 3, wasn't game to climb it. Duck was, though!


And again, finished.

That's more like it! Bed unmade. Kids having fun in their room!

So, by now, the back yard was definitely a lot more child friendly than when we first moved in. But look at where the house meets the grass. It looks weird! Needed some planting to soften those hard edges. Inspired by a friend’s back yard, I chose a variety of fast-growing Vibernum bushes and Lirriope grass. I started digging and didn’t stop until I had a new garden bed. It looked good, grew quickly but was constantly plagued by mealy bug. Nasty little blighters.

Cost for this little project: labour….$0 (just lots of sweat and perseverance for a wee thing like me!) Plants…….$100. Bark Chip………..$40. Total $140.

See? House meets grass. Needs softening!

And from the upper terrace of yard. May, 2007.

Vibernum and Lirriope, newly planted. Aug, 2008.

Dec, 2008. Bit of growth and much greener!

Meanwhile on the upper terrace of the backyard…

As you can see from the following photos, the upper terrace level was dominated by a concrete driveway. Great if parking your car is your priority but we wanted to reclaim this area for our children and ourselves. It cost $300 to hire someone to come an cut it all up and take it away. Then a couple hundred for some turf. All up approx $500 – $600 to reclaim half of the backyard!

You’ll see from these pictures that I also took the drastic measure of ripping out the garden on upper terrace – the very same one that I’d lovingly established and tended since moving in. WHY DID I DO THAT!? Big mistake. I was certain that it would be better to have more grassy space for kids to play on. Turns out they had plenty anyway! You live and learn.

You can also see how we’d planted Lilipillis along the side fence. They were only about 20 cm tall when Craig planted a few months previously. Now, in 2012 they are lovely and tall and block out the neighbour’s yard and provide privacy. You’ll see them later.

From here you can see that the top level of back yard is still all concrete!Concrete, concrete, concrete!

Concrete, concrete, concrete!

Grass is laid. But that retaining wall still bugs me. SOOOOOO ugly!

Paving, concrete and besser block retaining walls; our new back yard radiated heat with the ferocity of a Tandoori oven! Just what one doesn’t need in the hot Murwillumbah summers. Those pavers had to go! We ordered grass to lay instead. It was a huge improvement but in retrospect we should have ordered Buffalo instead of Cooch (sp?). Eventually we would replace with Buffalo! Val and Des came round to give us a hand. The little girls chipped in too.

pavers, besser blocks and car in the drive - noice!

What to do with the pavers we were pulling up? Craig had installed a clothesline along the side of the house a couple of weeks previously and he suggested using the pavers to create a badly needed path there.  It rains a lot in Murwillumbah and the side passage was always getting slippery and boggy. Yay! Free pavers! So, cost of new path…FREE! Cost of turf…. about $150. Plants for garden….approx $150.

pulling up the pavers

The lovely Val, my mother-in-law.

Clothesline side of house where new path was to go.

Work begins

Edging and cracker dust.

Not so green - must be winter, 2007 before we I began planting Buffalo runners.

Spring, 2007. That's better!

Hard to believe this is the same backyard. Seaside daisy really softens things up!

Dining room.

Living room. Within a few weeks I moved it all around again.

The bathroom. Pretty scrappy. Still is in 2012!

The enclosed verandah becomes the play room.

The photo speaks for itself. The kitchen we “bought” was hideous. Look at that lace curtain! The facelift was really straightforward. We didn’t have any money to spend on cabinetry or a ‘proper’ renovation so we just ripped up the lino, hired a sander from Bunnings, and bought a couple of tins of paint . We headed to Harvey Norman to buy a new stove and dishwasher. We also needed a dryer and toaster. My mother-in-law, Valerie, came along.  She whittled the total price for all 4 items down by $1000! You only get that kind of discount by refraining from being rude, demanding or arrogant. Well done, Valerie!

Before. Eeeeeeeeeeew!


Work in progress.


After. So much better! New stove and dishwasher. A lick of paint.








OMG! The move! Packing with two small children is difficult. Box after box while the kids watched Teletubbies, Play School, Charlie and Lola…anything! To be honest, when I first walked into the new house (after walking through our hideous back yard)  and saw the boxes stacked up in the living room, I almost cried. What had I done? I’d packed up my life and moved to the country. My poor husband. He had to be the rock. He assured me our home would be beautiful and that we’d made the right decision.

Having bought the property, my mother in law offered to go halves in repainting the interior before we moved in. Am I a lucky girl or what?

We were still living in Sydney so we had to choose a colour scheme without actually being in the property. I thought white might be nice. Everything fresh and white.

“Which white?” asked the painter. There were literally millions of whites to choose from in the colour charts. Too hard to decide! I figured any variation of white would be an improvement on the cream and green colours that currently adorned the walls.

“Just white. Plain old, unmixed with any other tint, white,” I replied. Turned out, plain old white was fine! See for yourself!


Somewhere along the line I grew up. I got married, acquired a station wagon, had some children and bought a house. So it was only inevitable that ownership of a white picket should become my destiny.

With two very small children, the lack of fencing on the property required urgent attention. Craig and Des (my father in law) got straight onto it. On went the Blundstones and the digging started. Within a couple of days it was ‘finito’. A few months later I planted a Vibernum hedge.

These are the photos that were used by the real estate agency when the property was on the market. The photos of the backyard are rather deceiving. They don’t really depict the concrete jungle that was the backyard.  The only shrubs that existed were really scrappy and not at all pretty. I was not an experienced gardener but I knew enough to know that those mothers were out of there! Best to start from scratch. We kept the christmas bush on the back fence line, of course. There was one small patch of grass for my girls to play on but the Hills Hoist was right in the centre of it. So, the Hills Hoist had to go too!

I remember feeling pretty bummed about the backyard. It wasn’t the lush oasis I had imagined for my little girls and I still didn’t have any concept of just how FAST things grow up here on the north coast.