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2011: Looking Back

2011: Looking Back

As I reflect over the year, through the photos I took and the memories they stir, I am struck by how full our year has been.  My Dad said last christmas that we would look back and wonder how we did it, that is exactly how I feel.  How?  But  we did and here we are, happy, tired and looking to the future.

January

Jars rescued from an old shed, symbolising my desire to regenerate this place that had just become ours.

February

Planning, planning, planning…

March

My beautiful boy turned 2.

April

Already addicted to our land we spent every moment we could there, despite how far we had to go it felt more like home than anywhere else.

May

Stephen’s birthday present was a big one this year!  We made our first steps towards becoming a farm as Big George joined us, a true 80’s classic.

June

After months of work and dedicated plotting we broke ground.  As the summer burst into life so to did our project, the foundations and the first floor were built.

July

Our biggest boy turned 6!  His birthday party was held at our new ‘house’ which, by the end of the month, had a second floor.

August

After a blisteringly hot July (Huwyl’s birthday saw temperatures hitting 45C) August continued in the same vein.  This was the crunch month with heating, plumbing, roofing, windows, concrete laying and polishing all needing to happen in the right order and with no delays.  This was the month that nearly killed us all.

September

Suddenly our deadline began to loom up on us and there was still so. much. to. do.  Luckily reinforcements arrived in the form of Stephen’s parents, propelling us forward with tons of help and moral support (especially during the 5 hours I spent on the phone trying to organise getting electricity on site).  By the time they went home it all seemed possible again , thanks Nana and Grandad!

October

With just a month to go until move in this month nearly finished me off.  As well as the build there was the move to organise, Stephen spent two weeks of weekends and evenings painting to house until he couldn’t move his fingers…it was crunch time and we were overwhelmed.  Luckily more reinforcements arrived!

Ahem…actually I was thinking more along the lines of…

My Dad, who picked up where Stephen’s parents left off, painting, packing and helping with the move.  We really couldn’t have done it without him (and Shawn who was a major moving star and thanks again to Lynsey for loaning him to us!) and it was a joy to share our first weeks in our home with him.

November

We basked in the sheer joy of being here, pushing aside our utter exhaustion and revelling in the wonder of our home and the beauty of the natural world around us.  November really was an unparalleled month for weather, it felt like we were being welcomed to our new home by the earth and the sky that put on its best colour just for us.

December

It was a busy month of activities and glitter, mud and ice, snow and sunrises.  And finally it was the month of settling in, of well needed rest, of being a family.

2011 is not a year I’d like to repeat!  Looking back I’m not quite sure how we got here, but I know that we had great help.  Family, friends and a great building team all worked alongside us to bring this vision to fruition.  So here we are, the future laying ahead and a seed catalogue laying on the table.

Welcome 2012, the year of farm building!

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

I know I have been remiss in my posting of house pictures, but a combination of no internet, terrible light over the last couple of weeks and busy days that mean things aren’t at their photoshoot best, means it has taken awhile.  But today we have the magical combination of sunshine, new crafts keeping the boys busy and a reasonable night of sleep leaving me somewhat motivated after lunch.  I was also super inspired by Jacinta’s pics of her beautiful new kitchen, it really looks stunning.

Ours is not quite finished, we haven’t had time to sort out the backsplash,  there is a little cladding on the island still to do and we need to finish the painting; other than that we are done!

 

So there you have it!  The cupboards are cherry wood, stained darker to get to that mid century modern colour.  The counter tops are made of concrete, one of our builders (Adrian the Reiki Master) made this for us and I love it.  He even managed to do me a sloped drainer to avoid that icky pooling of water, it’s fabulous.  I decided on a wall mounted oven for lots of reasons but basically because I’m lazy and don’t want to bend down all the time; the hob in an induction hob, it uses less energy and is safer given that the island is also our eating area.  It heats up instantly and has a cool digital slide control that makes me feel like Jean Luc Piquard, though I didn’t expect to I really love this hob.  The island is 8ft wide by 4 ft deep, the overhang is 2ft which is perfect for sitting at, just before we moved in I managed to find some great retro bar stools that are really padded and comfy, perfect for hanging out in the kitchen with a comfy bum!

As we’ve done throughout the house, in this room we’ve merged old and new.  The cabinets are new but they reference the mid century modern style that we love and inspired us when designing this house.  I chose light fittings that have a retro feel and there are bits and pieces such as my scales (made in Holland in 1964) and my retro feeling kitchen aid mixer and le creuset kettle that add to the vintage mood.  Though this is a modern house we wanted it to echo the styles of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that we so love.  Over time I’m sure I’ll be adding a few more details (pyrex is my friend) as well as a retro wallpaper splash back that will make this even more unique and personal.

As I imagined before we moved in, this is where I spend the majority of my time.  Being at the heart of the house makes it so easy to cook and socialise, sometimes hours go by and I realise I haven’t moved from this space!   It has plenty of room for prepping, cooking, eating and just plain sitting down with a cup of tea.  Bread rises in record time on that sunny counter; food goes from stove to plate with ease.  Even in the short time we’ve lived here, this kitchen has seen many happy times,  I’m looking forward to many, many more.

I’m Back!

I’m Back!

Well hello, remember me?  Crazy woman who nearly sent herself mad building a house, homeschooling and moving constantly?  Tis I.  A month in and we finally (finally!) have internet installed, this truly is a happy day for our household.

I should probably be all “it was great to take a break, it was so much more creative etc etc” but no, I missed being connected to the world and I missed doing this, chronicling our lives and sharing some of those special times with the people that take the time to visit my little blog.  So welcome back!  Now that I have the capacity to do so I will be updating regularly and sharing with you our new life as we settle into our house and surroundings.

So what did November look like around these parts?  Here are a few glimpses of our month,

So there you have it, a little taster of the wonderful goodness of the last month.  I will be posting lots more detailed posts about the house, the move, the land.  I guarantee you’ll be bored of reading about it before I’m bored of writing about it!

It’s good to be back; it’s good to be here.

Nearly There

Nearly There

We are 2 sleeps away from moving into our new home.  That really isn’t long.  Especially when you consider how much is left to pack.  Hey ho, we’ll do our best and see how we get on.  The last couple of days have been pretty stressful  with peak stress hitting this afternoon.  On being informed that we might not actually be able to move in on Friday despite having the movers booked, the house (sort of nearly) packed and our rental being up on Monday.  I’m pretty sure that Stephen simply held the phone away from his ear for half an hour as I screamed my lungs out in the basement, generally expressing that no I didn’t think that was a good idea.

Luckily that no longer is the case.  Despite issues with e-coli in the water (actually a common problem in new wells in case you are imagining a bubonic plague type situation), over due samples and people just basically not doing what they are supposed to be doing, we are still able to move our stuff in on Friday.  Tonight Stephen is staying at the house painting and working on hooking up computer stuff until 1am, when he will go outside into the frosty night and run a hose that will run for 6 hours or so to clear the system out after being shocked.  Then he’ll drive 30 minutes home and fall asleep, get up in the morning, go to work and then go back to the house to do a few more hours work before coming home, falling asleep to get up and move house the next day.  Seriously.  There should be some kind of medal he gets for all this, and for putting up with me but that is another story.

In the meantime my Dad is here and doing a lot of this:

And when I say a lot I mean A LOT.  He’s painted the ceilings in three bedrooms (they are 9ft high and sloped so it is quite a challenge) done Huwyl’s bedroom one coat, then a coat of white because we didn’t like the colour (without a murmur of complaint), redone a colour in Huwyl’s room, done Neirin’s room with two coats and a coat of colour in my bedroom.  And when he isn’t doing that he’s generally being super nice and keeping me on the straight and narrow.  I’m lucky to have these two men in my life that’s for sure.

My mantra is “We are nearly there”, I find myself saying it all the time whenever the panic threatens as I think about how much there is to do and how little time and energy there is to do it with.  My other mantra is “We are getting there”, and we are.  But when you find out your water is temporarily poisonous or that one of the electricians has spilled juice all over your shiny polished concrete floor, then left it there to stain it because he couldn’t be bothered to get a cloth, you can feel a little discouraged.  I can feel a little discouraged.  But really, we are getting there.

The house is looking fabulous.  The bathrooms are almost finished (glass doors in the main bathroom  and glass screen for our bathroom tomorrow), the appliances are all in (not switched on but that is being resolved tomorrow), the HVAC needs to be balanced (next week) and there is some finishing to be done inside and out.  But.  We can move in.  On Saturday morning I will wake up to the sky outside and know that we are in.

Worth it.

I’m also sending love out to my dear friend who is having to be braver than anyone should have to be.  I am reminded that the things I am facing really aren’t so bad and that life and love need to be held very tightly while we have them.  Even those who don’t know her, please take a second to send a moment of strength, I know she’ll feel it and I really believe it will help a little.  But as I know better than anyone, even a little help goes a long way.  

Carpets

Carpets

Due to the fact that my sister who may talk nice but is in fact a deadly ninja smurf kindly requested pictures, I was motivated to take a few snaps of our lovely new carpets.  They were installed on Friday and I spent today hoovering them to get up all of the fluff, two hoovers worth and counting…but totally worth it.

Behold the carpeted bliss,

The dark grey carpet runs up the stairs, along the landing and into our bedroom and the guest bedroom (soon to be occupied by my Papa who has flown over to help with the painting and the move), with the light blue/grey in both the boy’s bedrooms.

Having carpets down has turned this from a shell to a home.  The boys were running around upstairs and playing, a taste of things to come, and I could happily let them do it.  There were no building materials to trip over, no sharp nails to worry about, no dust to get covered in.  I am really starting to feel what living here will be like, in just a few days this will be our permanent home.

Even as the inside of the house becomes more and more lovely, I still enjoy the beautiful glimpses of outside that can be found in every room of the house.  Nature is never very far away and always seems to be calling us out to play, just for a little while.

5 sleeps to go!

Countdown

Countdown

I apologise in advance for any madness or general not-making-sense that is likely to take over for the forseeable. This is the final week before our move, that’s right we are on a clock people.  This is the last Sunday living somewhere else, we are nearly there.  This week I will be packing, panicking and attempting to stay sane.  Really the main thing is the packing, the rest is optional.

Say it with me, the stucco is finished!  I will try and take lots of pics over the coming days as the house gets finished off and the madness of moving commences or else I think I might be getting a slap in the post from my sister (she’s tiny but mighty).

5 Days to go!

Attitood

Attitood

Throughout this build process I’ve tried (I really have tried) to remain calm and professional.  I’ve been helping with the project management of the build, which has been a lot of work and effort.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of it, being so involved in building my own home has been really rewarding, but there have been many frustrations.  This, it appears, is the nature of building.  But throughout it all I’ve tried to be realistic, helpful and persistent in achieving our goals.  In short I have been a reasonable individual.

I fear that this is no longer the case.  The days of ‘let’s find a compromise’ Emmalina are over.  Instead we have ‘fit my cooker or I will cut you’ Emmalina; I think she is here to stay.  I find myself unable to brook any delay and have made some pretty terrifying threats against anyone who stands in my way.  Of course they don’t know that but if the nervous laughter of our GC (Dave The Man) is anything to go by, I sound convincing.

Probably because I really do mean it.

I mean, we all have a dark side don’t we?  Mine is perhaps slightly more developed than some, but still I feel pretty justified.  I mean, shouldn’t people turn up when you are paying them to do a job?  Isn’t this a prerequisite?  And shouldn’t they do the thing they are being paid to do within the time frame they promised to do it?  Is this so unreasonable to expect?

Apparently.

Sigh.  We are just so close, we really are nearly there.  It’s not that there isn’t more work to do, there is, but really we are a hairsbreadth away.  Our kitchen appliances are being delivered on Thursday and I am collecting all of our light fittings tomorrow.  So this Friday the electricians need to turn up and fit.  my.  cooker.  You really don’t want to be the man who stands between me and my cooker.  You will end up with and Emmalina shaped hole right through your middle and I will still expect you to fit my appliances.  That’s where I’m at.

I appreciate that this may seem a little unhinged but it has been a very long year.  And I am moving in 16 days, we are on a countdown people.  Here is the list of some of the jobs that will be cleared off the docket this week:

Collect lights – mark up locations

Appliances to be delivered

Lights, sockets, light switches and appliances fitted

Septic bed covered over

Stucco finished (turn up damn you!)

Roof finished

Chimney finished

Fire inspected

Tiles ordered and fitted

Ceilings painted

Shower screen ordered

Bathroom fittings collected

Clean house in preparation for carpet fitters

Kitchen counters fitted (hopefully without shattering into 50 bajillion pieces)

And this week is relatively slow.  But the brilliant bit is, the really fabulous and wonderful bit, when each one of these jobs is done there is no next stage.  They are done.  Complete.  Finished.  Finito.  Fini.  Fait Accompli.  If only everyone will turn up, we’ll be fine.  And I won’t have to get angry.

They won’t like me when I’m angry.

Fire

Fire

Have you ever painted your entire house?  Have you ever painted your entire house all at once?  You are probably thinking that doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend Thanksgiving weekend and you would be correct.  Oh how correct you are.

But.  When you have the electricians coming next week (allegedly), the appliances being delivered and the following week the carpets are going in, well painting has to be done.  In order for the final fix of electrical to go in the ceilings and wall need to be primed and, ideally, the ceilings painted.  That’s a lot of painting.  We (and when I say we I clearly mean mainly Stephen with a bit of Emmalina assistance and company keeping) went through 8 gallons of paint since yesterday.  Probably more by now as Stephen is still painting.  Oh and that doesn’t include the paint that Stephen used when working late all week.

To top it off the weather was stunning.  Amazing.  The best weather ever, and we were stuck inside painting, as were the children as they can’t be trusted near the still to be covered up septic bed without supervision and they seem drawn to it likes moths to a…well you can imagine.

It could have sucked.   It didn’t.

For lots of reasons really.   We were all together, we were all together for 3 days, we could see the good weather and enjoy it on brief trips outside and through the windows, we were painting the house we are going to live in for a really long time.  And we are moving in 3 weeks, let’s not forget that part.

Then Stephen had the genius idea of building an outdoor stove out of breeze blocks.   I’m telling you I don’t know how all of his brains fit in his head sometimes.  On a Value Village trip I bought plates and cutlery as well as a grill that fit our bbq perfectly.  I just love the zen of thrifting.  So on Saturday we had a mini bbq and yesterday I cooked tortellini over the flames (avidly watched by a certain 6 year old pyromaniac).

Last night, under the light of a gibbous moon, we cranked up the fire again and ate takeaway pizza and baked beans warmed over the flames.  In the darkness the debri of the building site disappeared, leaving instead our family circled around the glowing logs.  The boys were in heaven, sitting out there in the darkness with a real fire blazing away; Stephen and I shared a few moments of (relative) peace, our exhausted brains freshened up by the warm autumn winds and our hearts lifted by the knowledge that we are only weeks away from burning as many logs as we want whenever we want, outside or inside.

It’s amazing to me how something so simple can make all the difference in the world.  I hope I never forget our special little gathering.

Happy Thanksgiving to all xxx

Yellow Kettle

Yellow Kettle

On Saturday we said goodbye to Nana and Grandad who returned to old Blighty after a 3 week stay.  Apparently warmly inviting your relatives to stay by stealing their passports and removing them to a remote location is termed as ‘kidnapping’ (damn you Lady Justice, damn you) so we reluctantly let them leave.

It was brilliant having them here, they helped us massively with work on the house and with the boys so that we could get a seemingly never ending list of errands done in half the time.  But it wasn’t all work, there was a bit of time for some cooking, chatting, tea drinking and a little shopping.  And what does a gel with a new kitchen in the works shop for?

This little beauty is my new (highly reduced in price) kettle.  I chose to get a stove top kettle rather than an electric for a couple of reasons, 1) My stove top is on the island and I wanted to be able to boil water right there as it is the main prep and serving space and 2) They are much cooler and come in better colours.

I chose this retro yellow and this 50’s style shape because it fits in with the feel we want for the kitchen, a modern spin on vintage style.  In addition my Mother-In-Law Kath, helped us buy a whole new set of pans!  Granted ours were 12 years old and the worse for wear but we needed to replace them regardless as our new stove top is an induction so all pans require a conductive bottom to work (insert own joke here).  Again we were able to find a set with a retro styling feel which made me exceptionally happy!

The set we bought (again on sale) is by Lagostina and as well as having practical sizes that I will actually use, they have Bakelite handles and lids on the pans.  They actually really remind me of some pans my Mum had when I was little, which was reason enough to buy them; I know I’m going to enjoy cooking in them for years to come.  Something of the new and something of the old.  Lovely.

Kitchen

Kitchen

The day has finally come, I have a kitchen.  After a lot of planning, waiting, reorganising, ordering, chivvying and lots of hard work on the part of the installers (Stephen and his Dad) the kitchen is in.  We’ve gone for a Mid Century Modern brown tone for all of the cupboards as part of our modern/vintage aesthetic.  I really wasn’t sure if the colour would come out as we have imagined but now it is up I love it.  A lot.

The colour is even better than I imagined it, the lines are crisp and sharp, the storage….oh the storage….

As well as a bajillion cupboards (yes that is a lot) I have a large pantry cupboard with 5 slide out shelves to store all our lovely cooking supplies easily.  Next to it is the fridge freezer so I’m thinking of this as the food storage area.  Next to that is the wall oven, something I’ve wanted for as long as I’ve known about wall ovens.     It doesn’t hurt that Nigella has one.

Right now it is an empty space, but it will be filled with a shiny new wall oven which will not burn or undercook everything that goes in it.  It is also the perfect distance from the island for easy prep and cooking as well as the perfect eye line from the living room to keep an eye on things cooking.  Perfect, oh wait I said that already.

Next to oven is the appliance garage, that is a cupboard on the counter in which to store my blender and food processor so that I can get them out and use them without snapping my back in half.  Those puppies are heavy.

Yes this is indeed a kitchen designed just for me with the way I cook in mind, bliss, bliss, bliss.  Yet again Stephen’s design skills have come to the fore and I have a kitchen that I couldn’t love more.  It also doesn’t hurt that we have a genius carpenter in the family able to sort out any kinks in our grand scheme, making it truly custom and truly a family kitchen.

The bit that I love the most I’m actually not going to show yet.  Until it is fully finished I don’t want to post pics, I only want it seen in it’s fully glory.  But I will gush for a moment if I may.  I am talking, of course, about the island.  8ft by 4 ft it sits in the middle of the house with a picture window straight in front of it.  The induction cooktop sits in the middle with prep areas on either side and there is an overhang where the boys (or guests) can sit and eat, chat, enjoy tea and cakes, while I work away in the kitchen.  The island has 8 large drawers (2 of them could comfortably house the children) into which I will put all my pans, bakeware, cutlery, children…and anything else I can think of.  I really don’t think space is going to be an issue.

Please excuse my hideous bragfest, I know I must seem like Gloaty McGloatyson, but I really am that excited.  After 10 years of dreaming, moving, planning, more dreaming, selling, looking, not finding, nearly finding, crazy people and other moving dream madness; we are finally there.  This will be our 8th address in 7 years and, I hope, will be our address for many years/decades to come.  This last year and a bit has been one of dedicated hard work, real graft and has taken pretty much everything Stephen and I have.  We’ve been immensely lucky to have the help of family and friends along the way but even with that, we are done.

In that process, that focus on getting the work done, clearing the to do list that fills up just moments later, it has been easy to lose sight of what it is we are working for.  We’ve created something that I can hardly believe, a house that is beautiful, unique and ours.  So I won’t lie, when I stood in my kitchen, with the cupboards on the walls and the island in place, I cried.  Not a few sparkly ‘for camera’ tears, but really cried.  I just can’t believe I’m this lucky.

So while we will spend the rest of our natural lives paying our mortgage, will probably be able to ‘retire’ about 6 months after we are dead and will spend every moment working on the land that we have promised to be the loving custodians of, I really don’t think a day will go by when I won’t look at this house, this kitchen, our home and be totally dazzled.

Tea anyone?

PS Yes that is a bit of the island, but not all of it and not in the finished state.  Please focus on the cute child now.