Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Our Outdoor Living Area

Who needs to go to Gloria Jeans or Starbucks when you can enjoy your coffee here each day! I wanted to share with you today a few glimpses of our new outdoor living area. I used to call it a patio but since its makeover we really are living out here. We eat lunch here, I read to the children here, have afternoon tea and love to step outside, stand at the fence and watch the birds or gaze at the tibouchina in all its purple splendour.

My husband has worked incredibly hard over summer to lay all these pavers. The paved area extends round the front of the house, there are steps that go down to the pool and a yet to be completed outdoor kitchen/ barbecue area. The old, dilapidated potting shed has gone!  We have enough pavers left over to pave round the back of the house where our utility area is located but that's a job for another summer! We lived for 10 years with an uneven, subsiding brick patio so another year is not long to wait!

As you can see it is quite a large area. We opted for large gray textured pavers that resemble slate because we wanted a natural colour that would complement the green of the surrounding forest. They do get quite hot underfoot on scorching summer days so footwear needs to be handy to the door - I know I should have included a picture of the flip flop/gumboot mountain at the door but let me enjoy my few moments of patio perfection with the leaves all swept, the water guns confiscated, the hose wound up, the tools in the shed and all the shoes in the basket. Note that I did say moments of patio perfection!

When we first came to eight acres of eden it was far from paradise. Exotic shrubbery in the garden bed edged the poorly laid, terracotta brick patio making the house feel very closed in and the height of the vegetation blocked off all views and vistas to the surrounding farmland and valley. There was one native feature we had to retain - the magnificent grass tree. It greets you as you arrive and go up the steps. No stately urns or stone lions to mark the entrance. How about a real live kelpie instead?

Keira managed to sit still for about thirty seconds and posed for the camera. Not sure where the cat was on this occasion but since we laid those pavers she is found sunbathing, stretched out to the max most days!

There is now somewhere flat and expansive for the toddler to ride his racing car!

I searched my photo albums for a before shot and came across this. A reminder of the bad old days when chickens escaped and roamed the patio leaving their deposits for me to clean up! Needless to say, chickens are now banned from the new outdoor living area. Roger the rooster (full name Roger Featherer after a certain Swiss tennis player) still manages to fly over but cannot reach the patio area and stands forlorn on the top step with his beak pressed against the glass door!

This is our old patio furniture. We used to have two of these tables and they served us well for many years but they are now rusting out and one recently went to the scrap metal yard as it was beyond a makeover. The other table and chairs are not far behind. We hope to replace this set with a new long table and chairs when we can afford it. For now we squeeze around the one table. I have resisted the temptation to 'furnish' (or clutter as my husband would call it) the outdoor living area. A grouping of pots in one corner and outdoor table and chairs are the only accessories for now but my husband has agreed that a patio swing to match the outdoor setting we eventually purchase might be in order! 

The former site of the old potting shed has been designated for a barbecue/outdoor kitchen area. This may end up being called the 'man pit'. The men can cook steaks downstairs and the girls sip iced tea on the terrace. That sounds so civilised doesn't it? Actually, this was a practical consideration. We wanted the barbecue area separate to avoid the issue of grease on the pavers and to make the patio area a safer area for little children. I have been sighing over pictures of beautiful outdoor stone fireplaces on pinterest but we will most likely opt for a stainless steel outdoor kitchen with built in barbecue or my poor husband will be cooking steaks whilst leaning over his zimmer frame! For now we continue to use our old barbecue - like the furniture it has served us well and we'll replace it when we can afford it!

Some people have asked us why we chose to have such a big outdoor living area and our answer is that we use this area all year round. We love to offer hospitality and sometimes entertain large crowds of people. We wanted to have somewhere for people to mix and enjoy fellowship so as we renovated our home we made it people and family friendly (no cream carpets!) and opened up the inside to the outside by installing French doors.

And as you can tell from the last two photographs, we are a DIY family. Everyone pitched in to help take up all the old brick pavers, even the toddler who was determined to lift them all by himself! The old spa pool you can see in the background has been turned into a pond.
One day in the not too distant future they will host their friends and family at birthday parties, engagements and maybe even choose to have their weddings or reception dinners here. I guess they will remember their contribution as children in making this house into a home and tell their own children about how they helped lay pavers and grout tiles! It's not just about renovating, it's about making memories! And speaking of memories. The first major celebration to be held at the new outdoor living area will be my daughter's 18TH birthday party at the end of the year. She's already planning her party and has worked out that now we have more room we can invite more people! Well I suppose that was the intention but I'm ready to help her prepare and know that she will want to be involved in every aspect and will not leave it all to me to organize.

Hope you enjoyed these glimpses of our outdoor living area. Do you like to 'live outdoors' during summer and on pleasant days during the other seasons? How do you make good use of your patios, verandas, decks and outdoor living areas together as a family? Have you ever taken on a major renovation project with your family?  Do share!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jumping for Joy!

It's a leap year so it seemed like a great time to share with you some pictures of the family enjoying their new trampoline. This was a very special Christmas gift which they had to wait until the new year for, as the company had sold out of the size that we wanted but it was worth the wait! Our previous trampoline was a typical 'old fashioned' rectangular trampoline which had to be decommissioned a couple of years ago after the mat finally disintegrated, so this time we wanted to replace it with a quality trampoline that would be suitable for both toddlers and teenagers. We opted for the biggest model available - a 14 foot one which amply fills the only flat ground we have on this property. The dogs also love this spot, it makes a super sized shade house for them and they sleep underneath when no one is bouncing!

Our eldest son was putting money towards our trampoline - he's been blessed with many earning opportunities throughout the last year so he went trampoline shopping at the department stores and when he was out I decided to do some research on trampolines and hopped on the internet which led me to a review which compared the chain store brand we were about to purchase with the one we chose to purchase which is made by an Australian company based in Brisbane called Vuly. There was a big price difference but after a few discussions with my husband and son over the phone, we decided to come up with the extra money and invest in a trampoline we hope will last us for many years.

And thus far we are thrilled with our Vuly trampoline and the service we received from the company who rang the other week to see if everything was going well with our trampoline. The galvanised frame is exceptionally well made and just last week a mini cyclone went through that brought down trees and sent our market umbrella flying through the air like a scene out of Mary Poppins. The trampoline was not anchored to the ground but it did not budge, not even an inch!

The net as you can see in the picture has extra reinforcing webbing so it stays sturdy and in place. It also fastens on the inside of the padded mats so there is absolutely no chance of a child putting a foot through a gap in the springs. It makes for a very safe jumping experience and gives this mum peace of mind as she watches from the kitchen window and knows no one is going to topple off the edge! It has exceptional bounce and has been tested out by every member of the family including moi. The mat is a bit special as it is a game mat - the printed symbols can be used for all manner of games, some are suggested in the company brochure but we preferred to invent our own! On one fine day I spent over 2 hours chasing a toddler around the mat and being the referee for bouncing games made up by the twins. Our trampoline also came with a free tent that you place over the net that turns it into an indoor jumping room or even a sleepover spot. Just check the weather forecast before the kids drag out the sleeping bags. It's been a wet summer here and when a  day without any precipitation finally arrived they begged me to allow them to camp in the 'big tent' on the trampoline. Permission was granted and later regretted when I had to go out in pitch darkness and rescue three bedraggled, sleepy girls when a sudden heavy downpour arrived in the middle of the night! The tent has now been dried out and will come out again during a drought year!


A trampoline is a wonderful place to enjoy being with your children. You cannot help but have fun together. Don't just supervise them when they are little - hop on with them and jump together! When I was a child I longed to have a trampoline but my tiny concrete backyard at our terraced house in England put paid to that. Ever seen that bank ad where the swing hits the back fence which hints that it might be time to move house? Yep, that was my life and we never did move. I'm making up now for all those trampoline deprived childhood years!

I cannot yet report on the longevity of the trampoline but we were impressed with the company's commitment to customer and after sales service and they also offer those who purchase a trampoline from them replacement parts at half price. We hope to purchase the basketball hoop that attaches to the trampoline at some stage. In the meantime, if you are looking to purchase a trampoline for your family this one is well worth considering if you can afford it. Consider that most families spend more on their flat screen televisions than they do on a backyard trampoline and that puts it all into perspective.

I must let you know that this review was of my own volition and I was not contacted by the company or offered any form of compensation. I'm just happy to share with you our experience of purchasing a trampoline this year. We almost made the mistake of opting for the biggest one at the cheapest price and I'm so glad I found a review about the Vuly. We are also very happy to support an Australian company. My blog is about family life and nearly every family I know has a trampoline so it seemed a good subject to blog about, especially in leap year (sorry!) I'm timing this post to show up on the 29TH Feb too, even though March has arrived down under! If you have any questions about our trampoline don't hesiate to ask or google the company name for further information.

Happy Leap Day everybody!


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