Big Guy is 5

Happy 5th Birthday Orlando! For me it’s hard to reconcile that 5 years have passed already since we brought that starry eyed little love home from the hospital, but after a brief conversation with Himself sometimes it’s more perplexing that he isn’t much older. Orlando is a practical little gentleman, thoughtful and sincere, as well as being capable of Maximum Silly.

For example, I was distressed in the week(s) leading up to going to New York. How was I going to leave my babies? I was teary and a bit maudlin until Orlando gave me a little pep talk one morning as we were getting ready to go to school. He explained that they would be ok at home with Daddo, and that I should be sure to not forget about them, to Skype often, and most importantly to get New York City all ready for their arrival in July. Well! If he was going to be so reasonable about everything, who was I to quibble?

Om nom nom

One thing I was not going to miss out on though, was the Big 5 Party. We held it a few weeks early and, at Orlando’s request, the celebrations were held at our house. If you were anything like me as a small person, one of the most fun parts of an impending birthday is picking out what kind of cake you’ll have. This year it had to be a red ladybird. Evil Aunty Delana was most enthusiastic about assisting with the decorating – we made a ladybird and her magical garden! The ladybird body was strawberry cake ( bug guts! ) and the head and little garden mounds were vegan carrot cake. Something for everyone. Most of the kids wanted the carrot cake, but maybe that had more to do with me calling the cake “bug guts”?

Orlando’s Ladybird Garden Birthday Cake

For games we played Pin The Tail on the Pikachu, we ate doughnuts hanging by strings from the washing line ( no hands! ), played Pass The Parcel (what’s with the prize on every layer thing? I don’t think it improves the game) and of course there was a mighty Treasure Hunt in the garden – which we’ve made into a very fun place for small people.

Treasure hunting

Delana made little sculpey creatures for our guests to take home, tied to their helium balloon party favours. I love home birthday parties! Especially when Orlando has such superlative taste in friends – what a great bunch of funny little loves.

Today is Orlando’s for real birthday and I don’t mind admitting to you that I’m having a hard time being on my own on the other side of the planet. 15 more sleeps until I can cuddle my wee wonders again. I don’t know if New York is ready for you, big guy, but come on over. They’re going to love you.

Lucky Stars Christmas Tree

Orlando & our Lucky Stars Christmas Tree

I’ve always liked decorating a living tree for Christmas, but as we haven’t had much luck with houseplants since moving to the Southern Hemisphere that was not an option this year. Our collection of Christmas ornaments is very thin, but our little boys are old enough to be enraptured with the magic of the season. I needed to get a bit inventive.

We have two Chinese Pepper Trees in the garden that need to be pruned constantly – which gave me an idea. I saved some of the branches & stripped off all the leaves, then let the sap dry out for a day or two. There was my tree, but what about the decorations?

It’s been a year of epic highs and crushing lows, but with hindsight being 20/20 I can see that every one of those lows was a blessing in disguise. Origami Lucky Stars seemed to be poetically perfect.

lucky stars in 'nikkuware' bowl by Nicole Fenton

origami lucky stars in my 'nikkuware' bowl by Nicole Fenton

And cheap, too! I found some paper ( long forgotten) in my stash of crafty bits, but it is easy to find at any time of year in one of the Asian stationary and gift shops – morning glory shops, for example. I was ready to give up on my project after folding three stars, but the fiddliness is irresistible. Soon I had a whole bowl full. Orlando was keen to help and tried most conscientiously to fold a few without success, but he compromised by “putting the dreams in” after I folded each one.

I painted the branches with quick drying chrome spray paint and found a suitable pot from the collection in the shed. Then we just needed to put it all together. Rubber bands hold the branches together at the base. Orlando & I collected pine cones from around the neighbourhood and used them to fill up the gaps in the pot – keeping the branches upright. The pepper tree branches and pine cones smell delicious!
Digging into my stash again I found a spool of silver thread. Using a needle I threaded each star on to the silver string leaving gaps in between – quilter’s knots keep each star in place. Then came the fun part, decorating the tree!

lucky stars christmas tree

homemade with love & luck

Brian tells me the result looks “witchy” – coming from him I know that’s a compliment. I’m really happy with how it turned out – our bright & religiously inclusive symbol for celebrating the people we love.

Seasons Greetings, Everyone!

The Home Front

Soon after moving in to our little nest but before the Zo Babe made his entrance, B, O & I spent a lot of time in the garden getting ready. I wanted lots of flowers to greet the new baby – never mind the winter weather.

One of my projects was to prettify the front of the house. Here is the real estate agent’s photo from just over a year ago:

That big bushy thing by the front gate had a nasty bug and a funny smell. It did hide the split-system airconditioner but No Way was I having disease at the front door – so I chopped it down. Just like most first home owners there wasn’t a great deal in the piggy bank for me to play with, but I knew exactly what I wanted and where to find it.

My sister had introduced me to the wonders of native plants soon after we moved back to Australia (drought tolerant, fast growing, bird and butterfly attracting and p r e t t y), and took me to State Flora nursery in the Belair National Park. It’s been my nursery of choice ever since. There are *lots* of reasons for a nice long visit to Belair National Park in a good pair of walking shoes (especially in October: wild native orchids! everywhere!) so I try to sneak in a little look-see in the nursery while we are there on other business. The gardens around the nursery are really inspirational – I’ve never forgotten the sight of a trio of hardenbergia alba bushes in full bloom near one of the cubby houses. That is what the front of our house needed. To start with, anyway. Tube stock are only $2.95 each, and will out-grow more established nursery plants, often inside of a year.

6 tiny little shoots came home with me one day, and made their way into the ground while we chatted with our new neighbour Lottie and her lovely pooch Heidi.

Here they are one year later
and there’s that one year old baby Azaro, too.

While I was looking through our photos for this post I found this photo of me sneaking up on the baby tulips, taken in secret while I was on my morning prowl. I’ve asked Orlando to take photos of the tulips for me as I suspect I’ll be in China when they are blooming.

Nest

We did it! Our very own house :D And it’s keeping us very busy too – garden designs, paint samples and curtains…
But before any of that, before we even contemplated moving into our cream brick veneer (with arches!) suburban semi-beachside (we can see the water!) 3br mortgage, there was . . . dun dun dun!!! The Carpet. It had to go. Oh yes. Nothing spells ol’ nana quite like a certain colour of carpet, coupled with floral curtains and brown wood veneer built in cupboards of random placement and no apparent function. Just like the end of year sale at Mr Bankrupts, it all had to go.

With 2 weeks before moving day we thought there was oodles of time. Built in furniture out, check. Not too hard. Carpet up and in the mini skip, easy peasy. Underlay up… hang on, what the heck is this black shite?

Apparently black rubber underlay was all the rage in the 70s. Nanna Robyn and the Back Breaking scrapeageUnfortunately it likes to become one with the wood floor underneath. Get out your putty knives, kids, it’s time to spend 3 days scraping the floor! …what is that funny smell? Try not to think about it, possibly just over-active pregnant nose. Thanks for your help, Nanna Robyn! Get all the staples out, hammer in the nails. Orlando is good at that bit.

Daddo gets to itMum doesn't like the smell

Great! Floor is scraped, random bits found underneath are removed. Lets squeeze the hire equipment into the back of our infinitesimally small car. No problems. What! This is taking forever, and there’s still black stuff ingrained in the floor. Only a week left and we still have a long way to go… Call in the reinforcements!! Yay for Barry and Lyndall!! Why you crazy people want to help us with this back breaking labour is a mystery, but we ask no questions. Lets get another machine, speed things up a bit… good idea Barry. FYI: anyone in Australia attempting this DIY project should listen to the Kennards Hire Man when he says it’s a b1tch of a project, leave their antique machine where it is and go get the good machine from Bunnings; called a Deva 10. Practically does the job for you.

Hmm, what’s this strange staining and why does is smell so bad here… OH GOD NO!!! The final revenge of someone’s small and untrained house pet… in nearly every room in the house X_X Okay, all of “The Bsssh” as Orlando dubbed the sanding equipment, is complete. Time to put the goo down. hard work pays off‘relia makes 3am trips to the new house in order to get all the coats on before moving day arrives…

And yay we are done! In the nic of time, too. Looks soooooooo much better and cleaner and less old nana, or “modern” as the realtor says when she stops by to see what we’ve done to the place. What do you mean the wardrobe won’t fit through the bedroom door??