Thursday 27 February 2014

Be brave, take risks...

The inspiration behind this blog post was a great Paulo Coelho quote I saw last week on the wall of a fantastic show home here in the Ville.  As soon as I saw it I knew it would feature this week on our blog.
It was going to be a short (short - that's the key word here) post displaying the quote and a few words describing how it relates to our life right now, on the week that we pick up the keys to our new property.  Then I sat down and started to look through the few pictures I have from this display home and all of a sudden it snowballed into this long essay about so much more.  I just couldn't leave it as a single picture of one wall in this home, and despite not having many pictures to share, and therefore not being able to show you the full awesomeness of this property, I still felt I had to give it a go.  Read on if you're intrigued, have a few minutes spare or are just plain bored and have nothing else on! 

This quote features on the wall at Innovation House, it's a carbon neutral, technology-controlled display home at the new Sanctum Estate here in Townsville and is the brain child of Finlay Homes' Darren Finlay. 
Col and I have been lucky enough to have lived in some pretty nice houses over the last 11 years, pretty big nice houses!  Our house in the States was a quintessential all American home and we loved it, it was well positioned, in a great neighborhood (did y'all see what I did there, just for all our USA readers), had oodles of space and we really, really enjoyed living in it.
Our house in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
But despite all the positives, we knew we didn't need a massive place, bringing 
with it equally large cleaning duties, cooling and heating bills. So when we moved back here into our compact little 3 bedroom one living-room home, it was a shock to the system but a step in the right downsizing direction.
In all honesty our current house has just enough room for us as a family, BUT it doesn't adapt well to host even one extra guest as there is no spare room.  We have gotten around that so far this year, and have made it work for us when we needed it but in an ideal world we would want at least one extra bedroom.  In the huge amount of research we have done since arriving back in Australia we have come to realise that it makes much more sense to have dual purposes for things, not just furniture but entire rooms.  We feel there is no need to have a massive spare room beautifully decked out 24/7 for the guests that may come to use it 6-8 times a year.  We want a room that adapts to be what we want, as and when we want it.  A perfectly functioning guest room one week, and my sewing room or a space for the kids to do their homework the next.  The same goes for a kids playroom.  It's great to have the space for children to have their toys in their own separate area, and if that's the case their bedrooms do not need to be so big.  Yes they will use those bedrooms for 11 hours a day.. but for ten of those hours, they have their eyes closed and will be utilising a 1mx2m patch of it.  Likewise if their bedrooms are bigger they don't necessarily have the need for a separate kids room or rumpus room as they would have space in their rooms to store and play with their toys.  I get that the new thing, popping up everywhere is to have a separate decked out media room or games room too, but that is not something we would want or use.  For us it's all about using what you have and using it wisely.  So if you are a lover of huge houses, with huge rooms and matching huge energy bills and cleaning schedules, this house probably won't appeal...but feel free to read on anyway!
So (see what I mean about snowballing) back to the post.  The Innovation House is amazing...just amazing!  Unlike other display homes if you think you can just stroll through it and 'see what you think' you are mistaken.  It's one of those places where you absolutely do not benefit from just walking through it at your own pace, you need to be guided through, preferable by Darren himself and only then are you introduced to all that this home has to offer. 
Col and I both spent 25 minutes separately with Darren going through the whole house, learning all about it's features and benefits and how they were achieved.  From the perfect use of space, to the louvre windows and internal louvred partitions creating natural wind channels that rip through the building, it is all incredible.  We have visited it on two occasions and each time it has been so cool inside the home you'd think the air-con was running.  Although it has air-con installed (purely for testing purposes) they haven't needed to turn them on yet.  From the natural but quirky styling to the green energy 10 star rating, we were hooked as soon as we stepped inside.   
Ok, ok so the use of Union Jack fabrics and furnishings throughout might just have 'had me at hello' too!
Yes Poppy does it again, this time going round display villages as a flip-flop wearing, sequin hatted, flower fairy of sorts.  As a friend said recently on facebook, (I love this quote)..
'Poppyland is a special place where everything works...JB'
It has some great features including a mud room (something we love and were introduced to the concept of in the States, we actually included one in our current home) to reduce the unnecessary carting of unwanted/dirty shoes and outer garments through the house.  This helps to reduce time and energy spent cleaning/tidying/finding lost shoes!
 The children's room doors are hiding behind huge bookshelves, this obviously creates storage and adds a sense of excitement and mischievousness for little two loved it!
Even more space is created by using foldable beds inside walls in both the kids rooms and the guest room.
In the children's rooms the beds fold into the custom built wall unit, this happens in both rooms and the divider (seen below) that separates the two rooms folds back, creating the perfect space for the children to play in when they are not sleeping.  The use of clear louvre partitions in between the rooms and the dining area allows for the flow-through of the great breezes the plot captures throughout the house.
The windows are all fly-screened banks of dark timber louvres which serve three purposes, they allow for entire walls to essentially be opened up to collect those cooling breezes, they negate the need for curtains and blinds but also with them shut, it cuts out nearly all light turning the guest room into a media room when it's not in use. 
The media/guest room also has a bed that folds down from the wall, so you immediately have a double use for the room. This was something we had considered including in our next home renovation, but I was having a job trying to find anything local and in our budget.  But as luck would have it, it turns out  Finlay Homes are distributors for Tiltaway Beds hooray, one problem solved!
To create the look of more space, a feature that we all adored is the window seat in the master bedroom.  The room is kept the same size but by tacking on an external box, the space it uses up outside is not missed, and the room has a functional seat and visually looks larger and more open...ingenious.
'I want that one'
So all in all this home is superb!  It has so many features we would like to include, or at least consider in our next home.  From simple things like energy efficient motion sensor lighting, to the replacing of windows with louvres to help catch those sought after breezes.  There is so much to think about for our new 'forever home' and luckily this will be a renovation that will be 'years in the making' rather than months like this one was.  So thankfully we have lots more time to think about it and work it all out. And by the way this week has panned out, I am gonna need all the time I can get.  I am currently on day 4 of searching for the perfect bathroom cabinetry...gahhhh!  It's gonna be a loooong process.
Cheers for reading lovely people..

Monday 17 February 2014

Oooh-er, look at me posting twice in two days...!

I just had to pop back online again tonight to add this little update to yesterday's post... you remember the Lego 'Brick by Brick' exhibit at the local art gallery, well, part of the exhibit (in the room with the Lego creation wall) was a table full of colouring pages for the littlies and a writing competition for the older kids.  The competition was to write a story about the first ever Lego set you owned OR a story about a brand new Lego set that you would like to invent. Sasha grabbed an entry form and took it home to 'think about it later'. 

One day while she was having an impromptu 'go to work with daddy day' she sat at a little table amongst Townsville's 'finance finest', and put pen to paper.  She chose to write about a new set and she based it on The Magic Faraway Tree books (thanks goes to my UK bestie Karen for introducing her to that series).   Unfortunately I didn't take a copy of her entry so I can't tell you exactly what it had in it but she wrote a wonderfully creative and descriptive piece.  Well I am sure you have guessed by now but...we received a message to come in to the gallery today because ... SHE WON!!  She was totally over the moon and couldn't wait for school to finish so we could go in and find out what her prize was...

She won a set from her favourite Lego characters - Lego friends.
As soon as she arrived home from Irish she set to work and before we knew it she was parading round the house with her new fave toy!  Well done little girl, you're a star!

Whilst we were there we got to see some of the new exhibits including this AMAZING set of James Bond portraits.  The girls had no idea who they were but were still mesmerised looking at them.

Just incredible!

So that's all folks...and for the record that will probably be the first and last time I will ever blog on two consecutive days!

K xx

Sunday 16 February 2014

The long awaited update...

..yes we're back!

...but don't get too excited just yet as this is quite possibly definitely the worst blog post I have ever written, with crappy photos that are nearly all taken from my equally crappy phone!  But after I promised yesterday on my facebook page that I'd have a published post up by today, I couldn't renege and had to put something together no matter how good or bad it would be.   Once I started looking for content I realised that throughout the last few weeks of mayhem it seems my camera has been snug in it's bag and not really been out to party much.  So huge apologies to those who were hoping for a picture perfect, insightful, inspiring or just plain interesting post...this unfortunately will be none of those. But here goes anyway...

So after a great, relaxing, first (and last) Christmas in this little house we spent new year with friends having a chilled out night meeting new people and partaking in the odd cocktail while the children swam for 4 hours straight!  We spent the next day having a Mexican feast with the girls complete with non alquaholic (as Poppy calls it) sangria. 

That evening, inspired by the sparklers we'd had at midnight the previous night, I decided to try out light painting with my camera...soooo much fun, the girls loved it, and got used to writing backwards pretty quickly.

The first few months of each year are always super busy for us in terms of events, birthdays, school holidays then school going back etc. (For those UK and USA readers, Australian school (summer) holidays are 6 weeks long and go from approximately half way through December to the last week in January, depending on which state you live in). So following the new year our calendar goes into overdrive with our wedding anniversary, my mum's birthday, my niece's birthday, Poppy's birthday, Col's birthday, Valentine's day, my mum and step dad's anniversary, Col's nieces birthday and a few others too.   And of course this year on top of all that we also had to see our wee lass Poppy off to school for the first time!  (Oh and Mother Nature decided to throw a cyclone threat in the mix too, just for fun...more on that another time).
One of the main reasons this blog was neglected was because I wanted Poppy's last few weeks of being a little-person-of-leisure, to be choc-a-bloc full of fun.  So she had a list of things she wanted to do before school got in her way, a pre-prep bucket list if you like, which despite illnesses and me hurting my back in the last week of school holidays, we managed to cross most things off.

Chinese brush painting

Bike riding

Lots of swimming

Beach combing

Picnics at the ocean

The taking of terrible selfies using my forward facing only camera phone so we can never quite tell if we are in the shot or not...this one was one of the more lucky guesses!

Playground visits

Dress ups...even though she chose the day we were going to have the car serviced as the day she wanted to be the Gruffalo

Awesome paint your own shoes craft.. (thanks for the idea Kylie)

Finishing off all their Christmas craft gifts

Dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Tropical Queensland

Paleontologist Poppy
The amazing Lego exhibit at Perc Tucker Gallery...we all loved this.  My rubbish pictures don't do it justice
There was a list of famous people you could find within the ship, Leo and Kate, Darth Vader, Samuel L Jackson for example.  I swear this was Vicky Pollard - but strangely I couldn't see her on the list...
There was a huge room within the gallery filled with Lego where the kids could add their name or creation to the wall.
This was incredible, again a very poor photo, but this Ned Kelly picture is made up entirely of 'single dot' Lego bricks, 23 colours and consists of just under 50,000 bricks!
More bike riding
Poppy's first Irish Dance Workshop

A touch of crazy golf

More beach combing and palm frond flag flying...are you bored of our beach shots yet?

Before we knew it, and with her pre-prep bucket list completed, the 6 weeks of holidays were over and it was time for Poppy's birthday and the first day of school.  I found it very hard to send her off to school, as I said before with Sasha it was far easier as Poppy was born the same week Sasha started so I had no time to worry or dwell, this time it was different...sob sob

But this little monkey was so ridiculously excited to begin her schooling career!

Poppy's birthday was a fun but decidedly more quiet affair compared to last years big 4 in Vegas!

And with that we are almost up to date, Col's 40th was a great affair over on the island with 40 of our great friends, but as I was busy organising things I didn't take one single photo!  I know, I am quite disgusted with myself, so until I get my hands on some picture evidence I can't really blog on that.  But I hope this fills a void for now and shows that I haven't been sitting on my jacksie these last few months.  The house is all but finished and soon (like a few weeks time type soon) I start the first of the mini-renos all over again on our new watch this space!
See y'all and thanks for sticking with us...all three of you (you know who you are ;o))