Category

Renovation

Category

Christmas Wishes

The countdown to Christmas has begun and like most working Mums with a Web TV show I have decided to take a couple of weeks off from filming to soak up the joy of the season and help myself to de-stress a little.

But far be it from me to allow you to go without your weekly dose of FMM TV so in the tradition of all good TV shows over the holiday season we are going to run the reruns!

Starting with Episode One which received the most views on Youtube.

Following my Christmas Wishes video, just click the link to view Episode One (all 11 minutes of it), and enjoy the show.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for watching, liking, commenting and sharing my videos and blog posts throughout this year.  I look forward to journeying with you in 2016 and wish you all the Very Merriest of Christmases!

Take care over the silly season and thank you for walking a little lighter on the planet.

Love

Julia

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CLICK HERE FOR MY CHRISTMAS WISHES VIDEO

 

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH EPISODE ONE

 

Episode One !!!!!!!

FMMTV TITLE SHOT

Welcome to Farewell My Manicure WebTV.  This short program features segments on Sustainability, DIY Projects and Growing Vegetables for your family.

Please enjoy!

I hope you join us every week and if you would like a copy of the TV Guide delivered to your inbox which gives you a sneak peak of what is going to be on next weeks show then just hit the Big Green Button and SUBSCRIBE!

Foreward – There is a House in there Somewhere!

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We were spoilt for seven and a half years.  Managing a country resort on 90 acres in the Gold Coast hinterland with our own sewerage treatment plant, water treatment plant and lake we (or at least my husband) learnt heaps about living on acreage, we had space, more space than we had ever had before and that got us thinking…  when we have our own place…

 

 So after years of moving from resort managers apartment to rental property, to another resort managers apartment, to another apartment we were finally ready to buy our own place.  The search was long and disappointing.  Prices on the Gold Coast are notoriously high and anything over 4000m2 was priced like gold.  Used to camping we figured that even if we could buy a block that was large enough to put up a big shed and a deck for our BBQ and outdoor setting we would be happy.  But even that was hard to find (at our price).  

 

 We put a contract on a large peaceful block on the way to Springbrook and then backed out once we worked out that by the time we put all that we needed on the block we would be bankrupt.  After months and countless trips to view vacant blocks, out of the blue an agent phoned us!  Unheard of in this real estate market, we were stunned and surprised.  The property he described sounded like just what we were looking for in fact more than we were expecting, so automatically we knew we couldn’t afford it.  I went on the net and looked at the price and sure enough it was more than our budget.  But the agent assured me that the vendor was keen to sell having bought a block elsewhere, suffered a marriage breakup and wanted a fresh new start.

 

 We went to see the property on a day when another agent was showing another family through, so as not to run into them we decided to start at the back and work our way towards the front.  Set on two acres, we walked down one driveway to the back yard skirted by palm trees and other indistinguishable foliage was the good old Hills hoist, a couple of rubbish bins, a chook run (SOLD), a performance stage (SOLD), and a three bay garage (SOLD). We walked further down the back to see an industrial shed (husband SOLD), further on to see a mown patch of lawn surrounded by a grove of palms, mock orange and assorted other trees, a secret garden no less (SOLD).  Up we went to another level with an additional house pad already cut!  Well, needless to say by this stage we didnt need to see the house, we were already SOLD.

 

But there was a house as well, in disrepair, a swimming pool, not registered and non compliant pool fencing, a half court tennis court, no net, no posts and lots of overgrown unkempt gardens.  We were home.

 

 

 

D.I.Why?

Chapter 21
D.I.Why?

There are loads of running jokes in our family as you are probably beginning to realise.  One that doesn’t fall on me this time but on my husband happens whenever we go to home wares shops, garden centres and the like and look at things for the house, furniture, gadgets, outdoor decorations etc.  When I find something that I like (invariably with a hefty price tag), he usually says “I can make that!”.  After which we have a laugh, because we know that whilst he probably could make it, he most likely wont get around to it.  And although its admirable to be that crafty and willing to have a go I tend to think that our house is more of a lesson in D.I. DONT, rather than D.I.Y.  Now before you think that I am casting aspersions on my husband’s abilities, I am in fact referring to the couple of previous owner geniuses and their dodgy jobs around the place.

Our friend Mike the electrician can attest to some serious scary wiring acts that have been performed around the house by one previous owner.   Using lighting cable to carry power, double dipping on the cabling to run multiple appliances etc.  Which of course have since been or will be rectified to code as we uncover them.  Also each of our sinks in bathroom and kitchen are leaking due to “do it yourself” plumbers and drainers.  In our laundry, which is another blog in itself, the plumbing there is so flung together that we cant even buy taps to fit the outlets and so have resorted to using a shifting spanner to turn the taps on and off!  
There are home made shelves that bow in the centre, home instal jobs on wall mounted air conditioners, the outdoor spa is actually an “indoor” spa set into a deck with the motor underneath the deck to supposedly protect it.  He even set it into the deck so crooked that seriously every time you look at it makes you cringe.  
 
But I think by far the best of the worst D.I.Y jobs is the ceiling insulation.  Talk about cringe worthy!  It is constructed of hundreds of styrofoam squares that are all through the bedrooms, hall and lounge room, all of them stuck with liquid nails directly to the gyprock.  They also lined our closet until we decided to remove the cat scratched panels, homemade shelves, bent rails and replace it all in a DIY job with a Bunnings modular shelving kit.  One of the jobs I am pleased to say that we had a bit of success with! 
In the office from where I operate the business one previous owner used the previous kitchen cupboards and drawers for storage, and benches as a desk.  Thankfully they employed experts to do the kitchen reno and didn’t do it themselves, as it is quite neat and tidy and well made, even if not entirely up to date.  The walls in the office are another home made job made entirely I feel out of recycled bits and pieces that he must have collected along the way, and when he ran out of bits… well, he just left gaps.  Cornice on three sides only, no skirting boards and a big hole in the wall (which I covered with a large whiteboard) where I figure he ran out of wall paneling.
We on the other hand have had some great successes with some of our do it yourself projects which ultimately give us a lot of satisfaction as well.  They never work out as smoothly as you would hope however and most of that is attributable to the things that are uncovered (caused by previous owners) once you start the demolition, and sometimes our lack of prior preparation and planning as we tend to jump in headfirst and fix the issues as we trip up on them.
When it came to the pool fencing for example, we paid a guy to come and do the timber fence running the entire length of the pool because we really didn’t know much about concreting in the posts and with such a big expanse we couldn’t afford to get it wrong.  A couple of thousand dollars later we have a lovely neat pool fence on one side.  As our aim now that the palm trees were gone was to be able to see the pool from the back yard, it seemed like the best most aesthetic option that gave us the desired effect was glass pool fencing and stainless steel bollards.  There was already a strip of concrete at the edge of the pool so we didn’t need to have that concreting skill nailed yet, so we figured we could do this bit ourselves.  Another trip to Bunnings and a couple of thousand dollars or so later and we had the materials needed for the project.  What we didn’t anticipate is the depth of the concrete being minuscule and therefor the bolts not getting a great amount of purchase.  But it is now in place and looking beautiful.  The pool itself is not glamorous but the view from the backyard is exactly what we were after.  So now when families come to play at our place while the parents are having drinks on the deck they can keep a lazy eye on the kids in the pool.
I think that what we have learnt over the past three years of renovating is that you need to know with every project that you are thinking of attempting, what you think you are capable of doing and what it will cost someone who knows what the heck they are actually doing to do it for you.  Then weight up what it will cost you to fix your efforts if they go very very wrong.  You do the math!  Also, get some quotes so you can plan in advance and save for the projects that you want to see done.  Sometimes the experts aren’t as expensive as you may have first thought.
 

The Crematorium.

Chapter 20
The Crematorium
I love to cook.  Some of you will know that I was once, a lifetime ago, a High School Home Economics teacher.  Cooking and sewing are some of my favorite things to do and hand in hand with the cooking is the entertaining, which I know I have talked about previously.  Every weekend (bar very few) we have people over for one meal or another and I, given the required amount of time on my own, love to research the recipe, shop for the ingredients and if the ingredients allow it, harvest from my own garden to prepare an awesome meal.  These are usually meals I couldn’t make unless other people were coming over as the two fussy eaters that I live with wouldn’t be happy being served it as a regular meal.  Now whilst most of my creations revolve around the glamorous six burner barbecue which allows me to be outside and surrounded by friends as I cook, some accompaniments are best prepared in the oven, otherwise referred to as, you guessed it The Crematorium.
When we bought the house we were so pleased to see that the kitchen had been remodeled, whilst not in our style it was to say the least serviceable.  It contained the basics of cupboards, drawers, a large pantry with a light that comes on as you open the door (gotta love that), more cupboards, an oven, cooktop, more cupboards and a dishwasher.  Whilst the cooktop isn’t gas as I would love it to be, it does the job and whilst the oven is there in its little niche in the wall, it is constantly on duty.  Yep it doesn’t turn off.  Here we are approaching the end of our third year of ownership and we STILL have an oven that is hot all the time.  Whilst this works well to dry the tea towels that are hung on the door and to keep rust away from the oven trays that live in it, it really isn’t ideal.  Downside number one is cleaning an oven that you cant touch the inside of for fear of singeing off your arm hairs.  Therefore it remains uncleaned (I swear thats the reason!).  Downside number two   is the amount of electricity that it must be chewing up remaining ON all the time and its total non compliance to everything safe to do with electrical equipment, especially things that are hot.  
The worst downside though is the oven’s complete contravention of the international table governing appropriate cooking temperatures and recommended cooking times for various dishes.  When it comes to baking I need to do a conversion of my own, not from imperial to metric but from metric to volcanic!  Divide cooking time in half and adjust temperature down by 100 degrees, and even then stand by the oven in the last third of the cooking time peering through the grease laden glass to observe the colour of the dish before it goes from golden brown to black in a matter of seconds whenever it feels like it.  I have literally cooked a quiche without physically turning the oven on!
Some of our poor friends who to their credit are always polite have had to endure the most beautiful homemade cheese and pesto bread, but soft fluffy insides only because the cremated crust was inedible, garlic toast which once again has to be eaten inside out, muffins that look like spewing volcanos because the outside crust cooks first and the molten inner pours out of the conical fissure to harden as a strange protruding.  Just weird believe me.  This week it was corn muffins or johnny cakes, a packet mix I spied in a shop full of USA produce and reminded me of my time in the States on student exchange.  I made up the very simple recipe, loaded the muffin tray into the oven, set the timer and walked away (and now you see my folly) for just a minute to have to race back when I smelt the black smoke billowing out of the cracks in the oven door.  
The only dish I seem to not have any worries with is the potato bake (old fashioned I know but goes well with a big juicy steak on the BBQ), which because it is covered in foil and quite liquid for most of the cooking time, can withstand the torturous temperatures and doesn’t blacken as other things would.  Every other dish is either a labour I don’t have time for or brings a disastrous result.
Now I am aware that we have many priorities in this house all of which require time and money.  Of course we need to have chains sharpened at $30 a pop, new chains for $45 (almost two a month), petrol for the mower, engines serviced, mowers replaced, pool water tested and litres of acid and kilos of salt bought every week, bigger better chainsaws, compressors that are newer than the one we bought two years ago… but look, if I am to cook spectacular dinners every weekend I must be given the right tools to work with, any tradesman worth his salt would have to agree.  
So now, we are on the hunt for a new oven as it has finally taken on the priority it deserves and I swear when the installation of the new oven and the exorcism of the old one is complete, I am going to give it a bit of its own medicine and throw it into our weekend bon fire and incinerate the volcanic beast good and proper!
 

First World Problems

Chapter 18
First World Problems
 
As many of you would be aware our family have an interesting living arrangement.We currently divide our time between the beach resort Benny manages and “the farm”, spending four nights at one and three at the other.  This arrangement hopefully will change in the future and we can live wholly and solely at our little slice of heaven.  But until then, we have the best and worst of both worlds.  This Chapter may appear trite but I wish to assure everyone that we are eternally grateful for both our living situations, its just sometimes…
Problem No. 1 – The Bush vs the Beach.
Many of our friends think that we are crazy to want to give up the apartment on the beach for a full time gig in the Hinterland.  Just recently whilst we have been enjoying the six am walks on the sand together we have silently been contemplating the same thing.  Why would you give up the proximity to the glorious sunrise over the ocean, and falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves?  The first glimpses of breaching whales in July.  Why give up the casual saunter to the local coffee joint and staggering distance from the Club?  Why lose the clean, cool, supplied for free (apart from Benny’s hard work, blood, sweat and tears), four bedroom apartment to live in a ramshackle, dusty, chook poo infested, suck every penny out of your bank account, mortgaged to the hilt home?  Crazy first world problem really, but the answer is in the last sentence, one of them is “home”.
And we aren’t really what you would call “beach people”.  When we were living in the Hinterland previously for seven and a half years only fifteen to twenty minutes away from the beach, how often did we go to the beach…. once a year on holidays!  Now that we live at the beach, only in the last month have we gone walking together on the sand, and we’ve been living there for four years!  To say we are not beach people is an understatement.  Even from a young age Lawson was genuinely disgusted by sand on his feet and even more than that hated the feeling of the salty water on his body so much that he would need to be carried up to the showers and cleaned off immediately upon exiting the ocean often in a flood of tears.  His father, I might add has also been that way for years, minus the tears (although I should ask his mother about that one).  In four years we have entered the ocean maybe twice as adults and perhaps an additional two times for the child.  So yes it is lovely to wake up to and go to sleep to and gaze out at and all that, but we only truly take advantage of the beach when we are in holiday mode.  At the ranch we are out in the open air every waking minute, soaking up the sun, or soaking in the rain, going about our various chores and projects, inevitably collecting fire wood for the evenings warmth and loving every minute of it, wishing we were there when we aren’t.
Problem No. 2 – Where did I leave the….
Two wardrobes full of clothes, two pantries full of food, two fridges full of perishables, two piles of DVDs, two washing machines full of dirties, two driers full of folding, two desks full of paperwork/homework, a million opportunities to leave something at the wrong house!  Ever go to make a lovely diner and open the pantry to grab the essential ingredient only to find it is at another house?  Definitely a first world problem I know but still bloody annoying.  “Mum,where is the thumb drive with my assignment on it that is due in today?”.  “Mum, where is that pair of shorts that goes with this shirt that I really need for the costume for the play that I am in today?”  “Mum, where is my script, mum, where is my iphone, my laptop, my school bag, lunchbox” etc etc you get the picture.  “Honey, where are my black socks?”  “Honey have you seen my sunglasses?”  “Honey, where are my shoes, boots, hat, iphone, credit cards” etc etc you get the picture.
Problem No. 3 – The animals.
Now I know that to some extent I brought this one on myself.  Once you get a pet or multiples thereof you are making a bit of a rod for your own back when the time comes that you have to be away from them.  Everyone who has a pet can appreciate that at some point they need to be minded, farmed out, put up in pet motels or you do what we do and get someone to house sit and mind the lock stock and barrel.  But during the week is a different scenario.  
Now you have got to realize that before we owned Scruffy our dog, he would stay over night at our place regardless of the fact that we weren’t living there.  He would be on our back door mat when I left at the end of the day and on our front door mat when I came to work in the morning.  Nothing has changed in this respect except that he now gives us this “look” that is almost disdainful when we pack up and leave for the night.  Now however, he has a full belly, a bowl full of water and is tucked in and wrapped up to keep him warm if he should chose not to move off his bed.  The look is a killer and tears my heart out but we know that he is safe and probably no different than loads of guard dogs that patrol premises over night.
The chickens, well, those have to be locked away to protect them from predators, so I coerce them into their run with the promise of a tasty treat and shut them safely in.  Because we free range them, I like to get back there in the morning and let them out again, but on the rare occasion that we don’t get back until later in the day they have sufficient space, food and water to be (less than) happy for the day.  On days like today however, a weekend, we’ve stayed at the resort because of a meeting and friends are coming to join me for coffee and it probably wont be until late that I get to the house, I’ve got to admit I stress a little about my babies.  Cant do anything about this.
There are plenty of other occasions where having two houses presents problems but I don’t want to bore you or least of all make you jealous, but as I sit here on the deck, log fire burning in the trailer trash, half 44 gallon drum, sipping my champagne, watching the chickens graze around me, laptop on my knee, dog curled up at my feet… you can keep the beach, I’ll be quite happy to have this every day thanks!
 

Man Cave

Chapter 17
Man Cave
Do you have parents that have retired, decided to downsize and have moved house.  What that means is that everything they have stored for umpteen years and never used now gets transferred surreptitiously to your house, box by box, one per visit, usually accompanied by “We thought you might like to keep this…” and a trip down memory lane.  Most people with limited storage space in their suburban residence find this creates a problem, unless you have an attic, a roof space or like one of our friends, a container sunken under their floor (if ever any people go missing in their area…).  We however are lucky enough to have a good deal of storage space both at the house and at the resort so can manage to take most things that need to be saved for future generations to throw out.
At the farm we are spoilt for choice.  Up on the top level, there is the three bay garage, home to one car, some craft equipment slowly collecting dust and gecko poo, all my yard tools, mulch, fencing wire and my mobile potting trolley.  All within easy reach of the house yard and vegie garden.  This brick building was apparently built by one of the neighbours (since moved on).  The fact that this amateur builder cum brain surgeon laid the bricks on the ground outside the concrete slab means that the subsiding of the land has created massive cracks in both side walls that you can see the light of day through!  One day it will fall down or be pushed down by the weight of climbing cherry tomato trees, but for now we have painted it to look all brand new and it is quite a convenient storage space.
Traveling down to the block further there is a tall carport structure or covered area under which the previous owner stored his bob cat and excavator, but could conceivably be used to protect a yacht building project from the elements.  It stores our camper (currently for sale $7,500), occasional vehicles, random furniture and for the first year our friend Glen’s boat refurbishing project.
Forming the back wall of this space is an old, blue shipping container.  How handy are they to have!  It contains all my archived dress making patterns, half a dozen different industrial sewing machines, stacks of boxes of excess sample stock, and just recently Christmas Decorations and assorted memorabilia.  The container has a timber floor, light and power which used to connect to a heater because the previous owner used it to house his much loved motorbikes (which suffer from the cold apparently?).

To the right of the “boat port” is the Man Cave with full length benches, hooks and brackets, a pulley system for lifting and manoeuvring a car engine (not that we will ever do that mind you), more lights than Beacons Lighting and of course its own stereo system with speakers and amp (who doesn’t need that?).  There are steel racks on one side and a mobile timber rack on the other.  A shelf dedicated to camping equipment, plastic boxes on wheels and assorted crates full of who knows what.  There was once a bar fridge but when that decided to heat rather than cool it had to be discarded and so far has not been replaced.  Lets face it, it’s hard enough to drag visiting men away from Cave when it’s time to have dinner.  I sometimes think that if we just moved a bed in there Benny wouldn’t come up to the house for days!

So eventually when Brent’s parents decided that their yard was too much work and the house way too big for just the two of them we knew what was coming and instead of being dismayed at having to take on a whole heap of their stuff, we silently clapped our hands.  You see we already had a place in the shed set aside for a drill press, projects earmarked for a welder, and benches just waiting to be filled with bits and bobs and tools of every kind.  Bring it on!  So they moved to a smaller house with a teeny tiny shed and all the other tools that couldn’t fit in came to us over several trips in a trailer.  There was also a load of steel, some pieces of assorted wood, and duplicates for most of the tools Benny already owns.

Benny pretends that he doesn’t share his shed well.  The fact that he doesn’t allow any of my stuff in it (except some wood from picture framing and a drop saw that he gave to me as a present!) lends some credence to this.  But in reality he likes to show off this space and has done the typical Dad thing and helped Lawson build his first Billy cart, given some of his friends lessons in using the drill press to make candle holders for their Mums and every so often his Dad comes from Brisbane to use the shed for a project of his own.  On these occasions Mum packs Dad a lunch, his thermos full of coffee and a bottle of water and we don’t see him until five o’clock rolls around and its time to go home. We occasionally hear some sounds that lend us to think he is working but more often silence when we figure he is just chillin and watching the world go by, or more likely having a snooze.

Now, I should warn you that if you suffer from “shed envy” then best you don’t come and visit our house.  You will no doubt be taken down to the Man Cave for a tour and if your lucky a sneaky beer.  Benny will tell you about all the equipment and even the history of some.  He will also inevitably proclaim that in his shed he could almost mend a broken heart!

Attempting Sustainability

Chapter 15
Attempting Sustainability
 
Managing a rural property on 90 acres in the Hinterland had given both of us, particularly Brent a greater understanding of sustainable living.  The resort had its own water treatment plant, sewerage treatment plant and was in its own way trying to be self sufficient.  Over the seven and a half years we spent there Benny was able to learn how the intricacies of each of these things worked and so had a store house of information that was inevitably going to be of help to us in the future.
Several years ago now we lived up the Sunshine Coast and hung with a progressive bunch who clearly knew more about sustainable living than we did.  Since we had always lived in resorts that provided us with roof over our head, our power, phone, in some cases food and drink, we had lost the understanding of how much all of these things cost, until we went back to fending for ourselves.  A rude shock!  So when we went into debt for this property and started to run the business out of it, received hefty electricity and water bills coupled with ever increasing cost of living expenses we started to rethink how we could not only ease the financial burden but also stand alone if things around us went to the dogs.
With the house already decked out with solar hot water and a septic system, storing rain water was our first priority.  You may know only too well how much water has fallen in the great south east over the last three years.  That first Christmas was the big flood of 2011 and whilst our property, in order to flood would have to endure a major tsunami tantamount to a meteor hitting the Earth (as per that Bruce Willis movie), it was so sad to watch all of that wonderful water come out of our downpipes and leaky guttering and flow into the creek.  When you have had the taste of rainwater and have to endure the swimming pool water that comes out of our taps here on the Gold Coast, you know what you really want for your family. 
Benny will hate me telling this story BUT, that Christmas I bought him a  surprise gift of a Macbook Pro laptop computer because I thought he deserved it.  Anyway, Christmas Day he seemed stunned when he opened the gift and asked straight away if we could take it back.  Why?  Because the same amount of money could buy us a water tank!  Okey dokey then.  Luckily we could and we did ,and several months later the excavator leveled the pad, the truck came with the cracker dust base and the big blue tank was rolled into place.  Not quite the same expense as a lap top computer after the pump and the plumber and the pipe locating guy etc but that first rain we danced in!  Since then we bang on the side wall of the tank to note the level after every heavy rain storm.  We have the luxury of being able to go back on to mains if we run out of tank but we all hate doing that.  We are planning a second tank as we hate to see the tank overflow and all that precious water go to the creek again, but we’ll need to save up another couple of thousand before we can get that one happening.
Next on the agenda was photo voltaic panels to produce electricity from the sun.  Our electricity bill was enormous ($750/quarter) and we weren’t even living at the house full time!  So when we felt we could we called up our lovely friend Michael from Australian Solar Installations and asked him for a quote.  We had become friends relatively recently in the grand scheme of things because the boys were mates at school and attended the same after school activities, but he was kind enough to give us a “mates rates” deal on a 5 kwt system which to the layman is 20 panels and a 5kwt inverter.  The slope of our metal roof meant we needed some brackets to get the panels at the right angle, but with the deal done the guys came and installed it in just two days!  Now we watch the meter with delight as we produce almost as much as we use on average.  Cant wait for the next bill.
Once a few years ago, I remember one of my other Sunny Coast friends saying that food shortage was going to be a real problem for us all in maybe not ours but our kids life time.  That really stuck with me and even though at this point in time my crops couldn’t sustain us for a day let alone a year, I’m giving it a go and learning more about it as I plant each seed.  Last year we had a rush of excrement to the brain and decided we should plant an orchard….US!  So we bought enough pipe and fittings and fixtures to take water from the tank up to the back house pad and put it in place.   Even whacked in a star picket with a tap attached.  Stage one complete we went to the Nursery (can you see our folly) only to find that to buy the sorts of plants we wanted was going to cost us as much as it would to buy the second water tank!  Okay so now a year later we haven’t done anything up there, not to say we wont but it may need to be done in stages when there aren’t more pressing priorities, like leaking gutters, falling down fences, rendering and painting the house….but ah, that’s for another blog.

What a Performance

Chapter 14
What a Performance
Our home is full of oddities.  A mix and blend of all the owners who have gone before us and their idiosyncrasies and hoarding habits, some of which are good and some not so good.  One of the more odd and appealing features of this house when we bought it was the Performance Stage.  How many houses do you know that come with their very own performance stage?  Now I’m not talking a raised dais or platform in the backyard, I’m talking a full three sides and a roof amphitheater!  Our son Lawson has been acting and singing most of his life and this just seemed to fit with us, definitely one of the house’s positive selling features.  
We could tell that the space had seen several incarnations.  There was a curtain in camouflage fabric strung across on a wire that could be drawn across to signal the start of the next performance, a dart board with a chalk board for keeping score on the back wall and a dusty, half working disco ball hung from a beam in the roof.  There was a sheet of white board, the type with holes all through it for hanging tools on and a big electrical chord rolled up and hung on a nail in one corner probably to ensure the missing bar fridge remained cold at all times.
To the left was a wall with a door which clearly hid some sort of little room.  We were so surprised when we opened it on the day of inspection to discover a small, unlined, bathroom with shower, hand basin and toilet!  The space was still quite open to the elements and was littered with bodies of dead insects, gecko poo and old dusty webs.  Also, when we followed the pipes we found the toilet drained into a makeshift holding tank with overflow to the creek so decided this was not to be used until properly plumbed into the septic tank (a future project).  The water to the room that was plumbed in was only cold but there was the signs that maybe in the past or the future there was to be an instant hot water system installed.  But in all fairness the basics of a bathroom was there, if ever the inclination was to create a guest house out of this space.
Given that the house was partially taken over with the business, it didn’t have a space for entertaining or a place to feed more than just the three of us.  Since our inclination was (and always will be) to entertain every weekend the Performance Stage went through yet another incarnation.  First we added our outdoor lounges that we had had for many years, and a collection of random outdoor furniture, a corner unit for storage and a large coffee table with hinged sections under which to store spare blankets, the bocce and badminton sets and numerous tea light candles to illuminated and add ambience to the setting.  Then the  addition of a trestle table on which to prepare and serve meals was needed when they weren’t in use for other purposes. 
Because my husband and my son cant be without some form of media intervention Brent ran TV cables to the deck, made a bracket for the projector and stored a spare laptop, set top box and stereo in the corner cabinet.  We strung up a big sheet of white fabric cut from a roll and hey presto, our outdoor theatre was born!

Eventually we realized that we needed to ask Brent’s Mum and Dad for our bar fridge back.  They had been “minding’ it for us as we didn’t have a place to use it at the resort.  They had used it constantly and now I felt a little like an Indian Giver asking for it back.  Turns out I didn’t have to stress as they recognised the need and offered to buy us a brand new bar fridge for our deck as a house warming gift.  That Christmas I was surprised to be given a great six burner flat plate barbecue, big enough to feed the hoards.  I quickly seconded Brent’s Dad into welding a frame for a corrugated iron bar to hide the BBQ and provide a wind break for the burners.

Together after one of our many trips to Bunnings one day Benny and I built a timber bench to cover the bar fridge and replace the trestle.  On one occasion when we had visitors from the Sunshine Coast our good friend Andy (bored with just lazing about) offered to paint the deck walls (which were forest green) if we supplied the paint.  Quickly before he changed his mind I drove back to Bunnings for the mud colour we had already decided to go with and several hours later it was taking on a much more modern look.
Nowadays we spend an inordinate amount of time on the deck.  When it is cold we light a fire in the half 44 gallon drum on the grass in front, which is very “trailer trash” I know, but it heats the space beautifully and provides the vehicle for toasting marshmallows, an easy desert for visiting kids.  We are even contemplating a “Noosa Fan” to move the air around when it gets a bit hot on Summer evenings, but seriously where does one stop?  
The Performance Stage has on two New Years Eve occasions been cleared of furniture and transformed into a “real” stage to host our ad hoc band by the salubrious name of  “Pond Scum”.  A remnant from our time managing a rural resort up the road which needed entertainment for New Years Eve.  Some local, musical friends came to the rescue and formed a band in a hurry with Brent as drummer.  On our outdoor screen we have hosted concerts by Robbie Williams, Pink and ACDC and danced till the wee small hours on the grass.   Ironically when we went looking for a property almost three years ago we agreed that all we needed was a deck with a toilet and shower and our camper.  We got more than that by far at this property but some weekends the house is almost superfluous.  For on our deck many a beverage has been consumed, many a meal has been devoured, many a person has fallen asleep under the stars and many a good time has been had.
 

Friends With Benefits

Chapter 11
Friends with Benefits
 

There have been many friends who have chilled out at our place on the weekend.  Soaked up the sun by the pool, enjoyed butterflied mediterranean lamb on the barbecue and copious amounts of chardonnay, champagne and beer on our deck.  Hospitality runs in our veins as it turns out and I often wonder if in our latter years we should own a B&B to make sure that we are constantly surrounded by people to share our lives and home with.

Now I don’t want to be labeled for taking advantage of our friends, but they sure are good to have around, particularly when you buy a run down, over grown, ramshackle place like ours.  I know it was probably a bit presumptuous and naughty of me but in the first week that we took ownership of the property I put out an invitation to friends and family, not to a “housewarming party” but to a Working Bee!  I figured that many of our friends and family would be curious to see what we had purchased and some if not all wouldn’t mind being a part of the first phase of our renovations.  Being able to see the “before” and be a small part of the “after”.  
We put out the offer of food and grog and protective gear, accommodation if needed and a celebration dinner in the evening if anyone was up to it.  They were to bring no presents but their presence would be much appreciated, as would be their spare chainsaw, rakes, pruning shears, gardening gloves, wheelbarrows etc.  My hunch was right on track as it turns out and we were rewarded with a number of RSVPs from as far away as the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and of course some local friends.  

We hired a big chipper and borrowed a large box trailer to cart away the debris.  People started arriving early and were given their gardening gloves, a new but cheap pair of garden shears, and told where to find their refreshments which were to be provided by another friend whose back wouldn’t stand the bending, stretching and lifting but still didn’t want to miss out on being a part of the day. 

There were several challenges, so plenty to keep several teams of people busy.  We couldn’t actually see the house from the street because of all the overgrown trees, shrubs, bushes and weeds in the front yard.  There was a bent flag pole to be removed and a stand of seven large golden cane palms which obscured totally the view of the swimming pool from the back yard.  Six massive jasmine vines were entangled in the tennis court fence and at risk of bringing it down with their weight and all the floor coverings in the house had to come out before the weekend was over.  
I may have mentioned that the previous owner had five cats that were allowed to live inside the house and three pet snakes.  Now I don’t mind snakes and they had been kept in tanks so they didn’t leave a mess around the place but I just thought they were worth mentioning.  The cats however were a real problem for me.  There was remnant cat fur and kitty litter everywhere and I am totally allergic and couldn’t even walk into the house without that itchy eye feeling and sneazing all over the place.  So I stayed out of the way while one of our good friends from the Sunshine Coast took the floor covering challenge over with gusto.  He pulled up lino (not stuck down in many places thankfully), lifted and rolled carpet and jimmied up the nasty spiked edge strip before anyone could gouge their feet on it.  The debris filled the trailer so one run was made to the dump.
A team of ladies aided by some of the kids that accompanied their parents, attacked the palm trees.  It was awesome to see the difference that removing all the little low fronds and lifting the canopy higher made to the view to the pool.  The downside was that most of the non compliant pool fencing was relying on these fronds for stability!  Some cable ties and wire fixed this problem temporarily.
Did you know that you are not meant to feed palm fronds into a chipper?  Neither did we, until it jammed!  With it all turned off and the blades disengaged someone had to climb inside and release the tangled mess so that the work could continue. 
 
One trailer load of chipped foliage was sent to the compost heap to break down over the next six months and inevitably become what filled the pumpkin patch in Chapter 8.  The chipper ran all day turning all the chainsawed trees into potential mulch.  I learnt the first of may valuable lessons about giving detailed instructions to the person most in charge of the chainsaw.  Once I had finished helping the ladies at the back of the house I came round the front to find every plant, and I mean every, all cut to one metre in height.  Now granted they did what I had asked and revealed the front of the house (although in hindsight was it such a great thing to be able to see?) but were very unaesthetic about it!
The Jasmine vines were mainly the job for tall people, my brother being one of them and he neatly pruned each of the vines down to about one metre from the ground and untangled the mess from the tennis court fence.  They remained that way for the best part of six months but now, I’m ashamed to say, they are about the same height and weight as they were back then.   They are extremely beautiful when they flower, the perfume wafts through the house for about a month each year, and as I am not much for pruning we just tend to let them go.  Sorry brother dear!
 

Many weary people went home that day to bathe in Radox and Dencorub sore muscles but some hale and hearty ones came back to the Resort for beer, wine and a well earned feed.  Little did they know that thanks to them the next BBQ and every one to come, would be enjoyed at our Funny Farm.

 
 
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