Monday, August 24, 2015

Winter in Somers

Following the success of our Walkerville holiday, Jenny, Astrid and I decided to organise another Mothers Group holiday house adventure for the July school holidays with all the Mums-and-kids. (Two of the Mothers Group Dads also put in guest appearances, but they were mostly stuck in Melbourne with work.)  We found a big house in a town called Somers on the Mornington Peninsula and went off for a Winter-in-Somers adventure.


The house we rented had 3 bedrooms with double beds, plus a bunk room, so we Mums shared the bunk room and split the kids into the big beds. The pairings-up were: firstborn girls, second-born girls, boys, and a cupboard in the boys' room (really a sizeable walk-in wardrobe) for Harry Potter Jen's third-born girl.  In the boys' room, Cherub eschewed sharing the big bed with his brother because he was desperate to try out our self-inflating-mattress-from-Aldi, and Astrid's boy also came with his own mattress, so Climber managed to be the most luxuriated child with a queen size bed plus electric blanket for his very own. The kids took over the downstairs living area for their own, but were quite often to be found in the upstairs living area too.  We had beautiful views from the deck out to Westernport Bay, an enormous table for mealtimes, and some comfortable lounges for lounging.

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View from the deck

Downstairs living area

Upstairs living area

The first job after sorting out the sleeping arrangements was to organise the division of labour.  We put the focussed second-borns on the job of devising the Kids' Chores Roster.

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It was an excellent roster, and was put together fairly and thoroughly.  All older children were expected to give the little kids a hand with their jobs if needed, and this happened consistently and without any adult intervention.  What a great bunch of kids.  The roster worked tremendously well all week.


No shirking, fighting or nagging.  Here it is in all its colour-coded glory.

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Jen, Astrid and I handled the cooking with a meal plan we'd put together back in Melbourne.


We enjoyed some delicious family meals while we were there, thanks to Head Chef Jenny's excellent meal planning skills.

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Rice paper rolls and fried rice.

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 Chocolate ripple cake

Hot dogs for the children, soup for the adults 

Snakes, not an actual meal but a bit of group eating nonethelesss.

I decided to poach some quinces and pears the day before we went away, proper poaching which took over 8 hours, and used them to make a delicious crumble dessert for our first night.

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It was accompanied by the lightest and fluffiest whipped cream ever, provided by Climber who put his strength to good use with the pure cream and an old-fashioned Nana egg-beater.  It was most delicious.

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 On the first day the adults decided to go for a walk down to the nearby beach, but the children declined the offer to come with us, opting instead to play games in the house.  It was a rather steep descent with a great many steps to reach the beach, and when we got to the bottom it seemed as though the beach might be inaccessible because it was high tide and that the waves came right up to wall.


However, we worked out that it was possible, in between waves, to make a dash for the next set of stairs and the next, so off we went!


Somers Beach was almost completely covered in ankle-deep seaweed, and looked, to quote Anthony, like every cassette tape in the world had been unravelled there.  We ploughed on through it for a good long walk.


We got home to find the children had discovered pillow-fighting, something they did quite a lot of over the week.

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Eventually the pillow-fighting took its toll on Cherub's inflatable mattress and we had to retire one (we'd bought 2 with us) until Fixit could do some puncture repair.  Cherub was slightly upset about his damaged bed and was afterwards very assiduous in deflating it each morning, before the pillow-fighting began.


We had decided every morning that we'd have 'Fit Club' and Jenny, being a very organised individual, had brought with her some bootcamp-ish programs and some equipment like cones and skipping ropes.  It was actually a lot of fun to do it every day, and the kids enjoyed taking part too.  The first morning we held it in the backyard, and asked a couple of the non-participating children to take some photos.

Lucky-Dip Exercise Program bootcamp.

I made them all do planks.  I'm working on my core strength this year.  There was whinging, although they're smiling here.

One morning we did Fit Club in a playground with a Flying Fox. We all had to have a go on the Flying Fox, although obviously we grown-ups had to wait a while for our turns.




We make these holidays device-free (although television was allowed) so the kids have to make their own fun, in between activities organised by us for their enjoyment.  There tended to be at least one pillow-fight per day, and quite a lot of board games were played too.  There was also some jigsaw puzzle action, and Astrid, in particular, became slightly addicted.  I think 2 or 3 puzzles were completed in total, Astrid did most of the work, with the kids crowding in at the end.

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Hide and Seek was also popular with this crowd, as usual.  This looks like  an early-morning game, judging by the onesies. Once you've been found you go around with the seeker to find the others.

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They also played outside with the soccer balls and netballs. I don't think the deck was the best place for playing soccer.

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We even had a bit of tap-dancing, not in tap shoes though.


And then there were the organised activities. Walks on the beach for a game of Run To The Next Safe Spot Before The Wave Gets You.


A visit to the market at Bittern, where we started our collection of photographs featuring each person with an item that rhymed with their name for the now traditional Holiday Gif (see below).  In adherence to another Mothers Group tradition, we also asked the kids to pose for a photograph in age order, which is a different concept to height order.  They are all holding up the stuff they bought with the five dollars they'd each been given to spend at the market.  (The money was predominantly spend on sugar, quelle surprise.)

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How did this even work? asked Cherub.


We went to the nice and mostly seaweed-free beach at Point Leo, where the kids decided to re-create the town of Plumbington (basically a sand town with drainage channels) that they'd made together in Walkerville.

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The water is the invading enemy in Plumbington.  You have to try and keep it out.

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It was cold, which you maybe can't tell from seeing all these children in swimwear?
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This is how sensible people were dressed for that expedition. Brrrr.
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Afterwards we went to Balnarring in search of sausage rolls (not as easy as we'd thought it would be, there was a temporary shortage right when we wanted them in bulk) and then sweet treats from the bakery.


Fixit rode his bike down to have dinner with us on the Sunday.  His mean work were being mean about giving him holidays. Again.


Jenny's horse-mad daughter made good use of our proximity to my horse-mad sister, who owns a horse and let Bell ride it.  My Mum was also visiting my sister during our time in Somers so it was nice and easy to pop over and visit them all.


We also took the kids to the historic homestead and bird-watching/wetland grounds at Coolart.  The kids were not made aware of the fact that there'd be a big walk as part of this activity.  Look at them heading in. So unsuspecting.

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The middle kids even practiced their leapfrog skills.

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We headed off down the walking trail, and the kids posed for the camera.  This is right before they started a game of pretending to pose for Jen and Astrid and then running off before the cameras could be brought to bear.

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Meanwhile my two took the walk at a more leisurely pace.

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We caught up  eventually.


We saw lagoons and bridges.

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We sat in the hides and watch some waterbirds.

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Then we went to the nice barbecue area for a reviving lunch. Some of the kids climbed trees whilst waiting for the sausages to cook.


We finished off by going inside the house, which the adults enjoyed for history and the kids enjoyed for exploring.  We dissuaded the children from sliding down the banister of the grand staircase.

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Then it was time for the boys and I to go home, collecting my Mum from my sister's house and bringing her back with us to Melbourne so she could see our new house.

Mum visits our new house.

I love these Mothers Group holidays. Not too much work, and plenty of fun, as a good holiday should be.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sparkly Street


It has been three months since we moved in to our new house, and we are feeling pretty settled now. The bad old house is fading fast from my memory. As I packed the school lunches the other morning, I tried to recall how and where I did it at the ex-house, and I could barely picture it.  This pleases me greatly.  I am so happy every day living here, and love so many things about this location, both in terms of how much easier my life is now, but also in terms of how much nicer this place is.


The new place is a long house that appears to have been put in as a sub-divide of the house-next-door's backyard. It has pretty features such as cut-glass doors and windows, chandeliers, polished floorboards, and picture rails, as well as comfort features such as a television aerial on the roof (we can now watch any free-to-air channel just by CLICKING THE REMOTE CONTROL, no agonising jiggling of the indoor aerial for us!), central heating, a remote-control roller door to the driveway (which is full of crap from the move so its not a feature we're making use of of just now) and best of all, some proper cupboard and storage options. I can't even begin to tell you how much better this is, storage in the ex-house consisted of 3 crappy secondhand wardrobes that the landlords had distributed in the bedrooms.

the hallway following moving day

The picture above was taken the day after we moved in, but we're almost fully unpacked now. Inside the house, there are three boxes left for me to sort in the computer room, but Fixit has much more work to do; because of his knee operation and his Mum's death just before we moved, he was not in a state to sort through his crap, so all of that just got picked up and dumped here.  And then of course, he still has to work long hours every day and do our other life things (soccer training etc) so he's often way too tired to pitch in at home. But over the last week, and especially on days when the sun comes out, he has started to sort it out.  The carport which is to be his new open-air shed is starting to take shape and he also began to organise the back yard this weekend. As for stuff he needs to sort inside, well at least it's mostly out of sight (the beauty of proper storage options!) and can be tackled when he's ready.

building a little shed
Building a little mini-shed so he can have somewhere to lock up tools.

herb garden by climber
Climber is putting in some herbs by the backdoor


The cat is the one who has been least happy about the move, and he was in a highly-stressed out state for a couple of weeks, but he seems relaxed and happy now.  We kept him locked in for a long time so he didn't try to run away, and introduced him gently to his new territory. He is now free to roam but seems pretty tentative about this new outside world, and as such, hasn't really availed himself of this freedom.  On the upside, we are enjoying having him hanging round us more.

la chat dans au camellias
Basil having a little explore in the first week, he was not at all fond of the harness and it was abandoned within a fortnight

Here then, are a few of the things about the house that are making me so happy.

I love walking to school every day with Cherub. He loves it too.  I love having 2 hours back in my day because I'm not driving up and back for school drop-offs and pick-ups. It's fantastic!

Walking to school
Walk to School Day, our first time we've participated in this that we could do the whole journey on foot.

I love having a nice bathroom.  Our previous bathroom was so cramped and skanky. This new one has plenty of room, no cracked tiles, a highly satisfactory bathtub and a separate shower. Plus the ducted heating vent is right underneath where I hang my towel so I have a warmed towel when I get out of the shower each morning.

drinking from the shower

I just LOVE having baths again.


I love the efficiency of the little kitchen, which is much more pleasant to cook in.

kids in the kitchen

It also has a much nicer view for when we're washing the dishes.  This was the view from the old house, the side of the Vampires' McMansion through a crappy curtain.

Ex house view from the kitchen window.

SO much nicer now...

Sunrise through a cut glass window.

I am happy to report that I now have a decent oven and burnt cakes are a thing of the past.

 our new oven doesn't burn the cakes

I love the central heating (although I didn't love the first bill, but it has been a cold winter), and I love that we have decent carpet in the bedrooms and nice floorboards in the living areas. We spent 12 resentful years with horrid carpets that didn't even cover the entire floor in our ex-bedroom and pale cracked tiles that showed every speck of dirt.  Of course, being a rental we had to pay $200 to clean those foul carpets and they were immediately ripped up and thrown out once we moved out.

hiding in the cupboards
decent carpets and proper storage

catch the string

I love the camellia trees in the back garden and the daphne plant by the front door.



I love arranging things to my satisfaction, I love that I have engaged with this house enough to have pulled out my old posters and started to hang them up, something I never did at the ex-house.


Most of all I love the location. When we lived in the bad old house, Fixit and I used to half-joke that we only slept in that suburb, and that we lived most of our lives (school, shops, cafes, friends, socialising) in the suburb where we came from and to whence we've now returned. I love this neighbourhood so much, always have. I have to fight the urge to tell people who were used to seeing me in the neighbourhood anyway that I REALLY LIVE HERE NOW, I'm not just faking it..

The move was HARD work: physically, mentally and emotionally. My chiropractor was shocked by the state of my body afterwards. So much holding everything together. Fixit got a van from his work and we gratefully accepted the kind offers of help from a few of his strongman friends, and my Dad, and my sister and her partner, and Nell.  But Fixit and I did most of the work - I did the organising and sorting and cleaning, and he did the lifting and deconstructing and reconstructing. Fortunately moving house is a bit like childbirth; you do fairly quickly forget the pain, and focus instead on the new baby. And like childbirth, I don't want to do it again any time soon, but I'm very glad to have done it. Plus, it is a really good feeling to clear out your old stuff.

last night in the bad old house, the moving house crew and  our celebration dinner
Dinner at the ex-local restaurant round the corner with Nell and my sister and her family who were our moving stalwarts, on our final evening at the bad old house.

last night at the ex-house
The front door at the bad old house on the last night.

This is me waving good-bye to the bad old house after spending two weeks scrubbing my fingers to the bone. I was determined that we would have our full bond refunded, which we did, and the agent later told me that the landlords were highly impressed at the level of cleanliness. They have since gone in and renovated some of the more obvious problems such as the bathroom and the tiles that used randomly crash to the floor, but I still pity the people who are renting it, in a detached way. I am enjoying that detachment too, that I have put that house so thoroughly behind me. I love that I don't live there any more (are you sick of me saying that yet?) and I am so very, very happy here.

bye ex-house! i hated you.

Seeya ex-house, I never liked you. Hello, new house. You're ace.

Welcome to my house