Happiness is …

Happiness is a pretty rainbow of threads making a bright spot in your day.
I took this photo in the midst of the renovation horrors of last year. I was sitting on my bed in the middle of the kitchen, sewing little birds and resolutely ignoring the chaos all around.
It looks so pretty and serene, doesn’t it? – almost like something out of a magazine. But just out of shot the debris of our lives was piled up in huge, depressing, tottering stacks. I can still see it when I look at this photo.
Sometimes sewing is a real sanity-saver.

Happiness is …

Happiness is a sister to cuddle up to when you’re having trouble falling asleep.

It’s nice to remember the little things that make us happy. I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a photo series to remind myself to appreciate the everyday. A good excuse to practise my photography skills too!

They look so peaceful in this photo, don’t they? Ironic really, when you consider the hundreds of thousands of dollars we’ve just spent and the months and months of angst, living through the renovation from hell. All so that these two didn’t have to share a bedroom any more, because they fought so much.

And now they have their own bedrooms, where do I find them? Squished into a single bed together, naturally. That’s kids for you.

On the subject of the renovation, it occurs to me that I never posted a photo of the completed project. Because it is – finally! – complete, landscaping and all.

We started with this:

progressed through this:

and this:

(oh, the horror!). Till at last we arrived at this:

Renovations are a bit like childbirth. Once you have the finished product, the pain of getting there recedes into memory. It’s certainly a wonderful house now, set up to suit us perfectly. But unlike childbirth, I don’t think I’d ever line up to go through it more than once. We learned a lot of valuable lessons about dealing with builders, but the main one was: don’t.

Next time, just move.

Tales from the building site: The Big Wet

Not so long ago, Sydney was in the grip of a drought that had been going on for nearly 10 years. We’d forgotten what it was like to be able to wash our own cars. If you wanted to water your garden, there were certain times of the day – and as the drought worsened, only on certain days of the week – when that was allowed.

The newspapers were full of scaremongering. Practically every week they reported the ever-sinking levels in the dam that supplies Sydney. Most Sydneysiders could tell you to the nearest decimal place exactly what the level was. What would we do when the water ran out? For it seemed to be a question of “when”, not “if”.

If only we’d started our renovations earlier, no one need ever have worried. They needn’t have built that white elephant of a desalination plant, if only we’d had the community spirit to remove our roof a couple of years before we did. The drought finished a year or so ago, but if we’d known, we could have knocked it on the head years earlier.

Because, guess what? Ever since we started renovations in September, it’s done nothing but rain. This summer is officially the wettest in 50 years. We’ve had no more than four or five hot sunny days the whole season.

For most of its young life, our new upstairs room has looked like this:

That’s a lake at least two inches deep. And when it gets over the level of the bottom timber of the framework, it runs through the roof cavity into the rest of the house. We have regular waterfalls from our bathroom ceiling. Drips and runs and water damage in the hall and adjoining rooms.

The day after the Carnivore proudly moved his wine into the new wine cellar, even that got flooded, as water pooled in one of the bedrooms which is currently open to the elements and leaked down on to the wine racks below. Now the cellar smells digustingly of mold and damp.

We have a roof now, as I think I told you before, but since there are no walls the rain still drives in and pools on the floor, and we still get the occasional unplanned water feature in the bathroom. We’ve been waiting since November for bricks to rectify this problem, but there’s still no sign of them. It would be nice to have walls again. Just one of those things you take for granted until you don’t have them, and then all of a sudden “walls” becomes an impossible dream, the pinnacle of all your desires. Forget winning the lottery, just give me walls.

Though I guess if I won a big enough lottery, I could buy a Real House. With Walls.


Come back, Drought. All is forgiven.

Tales from the building site, Part Deux

Does this face look stressed?

No? I assure you it is.

Poor Two Planks is not enjoying the whole building experience. She can see and hear all these men who would surely love to pat her and be slurped upon, but she just can’t get to them. Some bastard has put up the old baby gate at the top of the stairs so she can’t run downstairs and tromple gaily through the mud and concrete to get to the builders.

Then there’s the problem of all the loud and often worrisome noises coming from outside. Brick saws (ye gods, what a racket!), nail guns, bobcats, trucks, tiny baby bulldozers and motorised wheelbarrows, men shouting – it never stops. How’s a dog meant to protect her people from all these monsters?

And the final indignity: since she can’t be trusted not to gallop off into the sunset whenever she sees an open door or gate, she has to go outside for toilet breaks on a leash. Bad enough not being allowed free rein in your own backyard, but the worst part is that every time the leash is produced she thinks she’s going for a walk. Talk about ripped off!

This is where we’re up to now. Still on track to finish before Christmas, fingers crossed. Just hope we don’t get any more rain. No rain dances, please!

Tales from the building site, Part the First

This is what my house looks like at the moment. The Carnivore and I are sleeping in the kitchen; the girls have set up their bedroom in the lounge room. Everything is Chaos, Confusion and Covered in Crap.

You know when you’re on a beach holiday, how you sit on the edge of your bed every night and brush the sand off your feet? It’s like that, only with dirt instead of sand. In spite of frenzied sweepings and moppings, there’s so much dirt and clay outside I just can’t keep it out.

It will all be worth it in the end, of course. We’ll have a new office for the Carnivore, freeing up a bedroom so the girls don’t have to share. There’ll be lots more storage and a big attic room up top. Can’t wait. In the meantime we’re crammed into one end of the house falling all over each other.

Last Saturday night the Carnivore and I came home from a night out to be greeted by the babysitter telling us the girls were in our bed, as their room was leaking. Sure enough, water was running down the walls in there. The builders had taken off part of the roof and clearly done a less-than-optimum job with the tarpaulins. More problematic, they’d also removed the outer bricks, leaving the inner walls (and their power points) exposed to the weather. And man, did we have Weather that night! It bucketed down.

Not surprisingly, the power went off about three o’clock in the morning, and we didn’t get it back on till after lunch on Sunday, after the builders had clambered around on the roof in the pouring rain to make it all watertight again.

When they came back on Monday they removed those power points. Seems to me it might have been smarter to do that before they removed the brick walls, but hey, it’s all part of the adventure, right? What’s a building project without a few horror stories to tell later?

Fingers crossed that that’s as bad as it gets! At least the ceiling didn’t collapse on the bed, as happened to a friend of mine when she was doing extensions.

How about you? Survived some building works and lived to tell the tale? Tell me your horror stories to make me feel better!

In which the dreaded green wall makes another appearance

The two elder ducklings helped me paint a picture last week for our green feature wall. See? I knew I’d find a use for all those green sample pots.

Baby Duck was all keen to help paint circles too until it was made plain to him that he couldn’t just paint one giant circle on the canvas. He couldn’t even have one little corner to paint whatever he liked. The Pout made its appearance, quickly followed by the Venomous Look. Some people have such dreadful mothers.

Drama Duck pointed out when we were finished that it looked rather Aboriginal. Not sure how that happened, since the piece that inspired us looked nothing like an Aboriginal painting. It was pink and gorgeous but I can’t tell you any more than that because it was just in the background of a photo I ripped out of a magazine when the painting caught my eye.

Still, I’m happy. It’s quite big, about 3′ x 3′. It combines the greens and apricots I needed to tie the colours of the room together, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. Demon Duck took particular joy in accidentally-on-purpose wiping a great deal of paint over the white pants she was wearing (they were old). I think it made her feel more artistic. And it beats letting them watch TV.

In which I apologise for cornering the world market in green paint

If you’ve had trouble finding green paint at your local hardware store recently, sorry. That was me. Who would have thought it could be so hard to pick a colour for one piddling little feature wall? With all that practice at combining colours for quilts and scrapbook pages it ought to be easy, but the green sample pots continue to mount up. My beloved reckons we’d have enough to paint the whole house green if we just combined them all. Such a helpful man. This is why I make the decorating decisions at our house.

When I can decide, that is. So far we’ve had greens that belonged in a lolly shop, greens that were too dark, greens with too much yellow, greens with too much blue and the dreaded green-that-looks-like-something-the-cat-sicked-up. The perfect Goldilocks “just right” green remains elusive.

On top of that, I don’t think the young guy at the paint counter is talking to me any more. Admittedly he’s not exactly on my Christmas card list either after stuffing up a previous paint order, but still. On yet another trip to the paint department recently Drama Duck was with me. He was in the middle of helping us and had just turned away to find some more colour samples when she said in one of those thunderous stage whispers kids use:

“Mum! Don’t trust him – he’s the one who gave us the wrong paint before!”

“Do you want to get us thrown out of Bunnings?” I hissed back.

Then, last weekend, the whole family went along (yes, we have a very exciting social life). The five of us walked up to the paint counter, saw he was the only assistant free, wheeled in unison and walked straight back out again. Plaintive cries of “but why are we going?” from Baby Duck floated in the air as we disappeared. With moves like that we could join a marching band.

But I think I’ll have to start going to another Bunnings.