My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Apr '13

Selling our first home

After all of our renovations to our first home, we’ve decided to put it on the market, and downsize for a while so that I can stay home with Baby Bird.  We’ve had a lot of fun renovating – moving the kitchen (which was very small) to a different room and making the house “open plan” was a great achievement.  I learned how to tile and plaster, I did a lot of painting and a lot of shopping for new appliances 😉

Our ad comes out on Monday but I thought I’d post all of our pictures here for everyone to see our end result.  The home is a 4 bedroom, 4 bath, carport on 1/2 acre plus office, laundry, butler pantry, spa bath, and 4th bedroom also serves as a self-contained unit with kitchenette and bathroom, double shower, and private outside entry.

Enjoy the pics.  If you want to see pictures from our renovations, you can use the search function on the blog above and search on the category: Renovations, and New House.

Click on each picture to enlarge.

Outside1 outside2

Outside view – side                                        Outside view – front

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Downstairs self-contained Unit                         Downstairs Unit (Teenage Retreat or Guest Room)

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Master Bath/Ensuite – double vanity                Master Bath/Ensuite – spa tub + shower for two

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Master bedroom with the best view                  Ceasar stone island bench in our renovated kitchen

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Kitchen view                                                   Dining/Livingroom – open plan

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Livingroom                                                   Living/Diningroom – open plan

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Kitchen                                                         Bedroom 2 – Nursery

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Driveway, carport and outside entry to Unit       1/2 acre property

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1/2 acre property                                          Creek at border of property

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Bottom of property looking up at the house       Back garden

Butler Pantry dog run

Butler Pantry                                 Enclosed Dog Run

Laundry master closet

Laundry                                       Master walk-in closet

Just a background on when we bought the house.  There were 2 bathrooms complete, and 2 bathrooms with only a toilet and a small sink, the kitchen was a galley kitchen very small against the back wall of the now living room.  Our now kitchen was an enclosed room that we used as a dining room but could have been used as another bedroom.  Making the house open plan was our primary goal and making a kitchen that would sell the house was a priority.  Creating the master bathroom was fun, we did most of the work ourselves with the help of a great plumber – picking out the kitchen appliances and each piece of the kitchen including colours and textures was really fun.

Looking forward to our next adventure, and maybe someday to build our own house from scratch!

Jul '11

Our Remodel Preview Party

A couple special pics from our party day, the lovely and tasty Mango Margarita – my favourite.  And of course Birdie’s famous hot wings were on hand.  More about the house and this achievement for us…

On the day we walked into this house, we knew that it was the one that we wanted to start with.  We actually were coming up to Belgrave to make an offer on another house on that day, but decided to see this open house as a last option.  Looking back now I am so glad that we made the decision to come see, it was a much better deal for the land, house, and potential.  With a very small kitchen and a couple awkward walls/rooms, no master ensuite (with the exception of a toilet), we knew there would be some work to do to make it happen.

So, off to work.  Make some cash and save save, save up for the rainy day when we can make the changes to the house that would make it livable.  We started off with renovations to our own bedroom first.

Without kids I think that our bedroom and en-suite was a major thing – so we started with the walk-in robe, laundry room and new master bathroom.  Doing this all ourselves was fun to an extent.  I like picking things out, of course, and the colour schemes… fun.  But after all that we were definitely thinking to have someone do the major work. 

You can see the first renovations in my earlier post: 21 Jul 2010: Renovating our Home.  One year later here we are with the kitchen renovations and the kitchen has been moved to a new location, lots of structural changes inside, lots and lots of changes:  Home Renovation Album.   Blog posts: Home Renovations: Week 1;  Home Renovations: Week 2.

I do have a few more projects in mind, still need to renovate the guest bedroom and bathroom in the front of the house and I’m ready to do some more tiling and start looking for some new pieces to make the bathroom more warm and inviting.  Its the bathroom that our guests use and I think it’s the worst one in the house (out of 4).  So that’s where I’m setting my sights.  Off to Bunnings for supplies, eh?

Our party was a success, as always, we had some great visitors this time.  A new American friend from our FB group: Americans in Victoria Australia and her family came out for a visit, and even our neighbours came by.  The old standards appeared, and we had Rod’s famous hot wings, some beautiful mango margaritas, chirizo sausages and lots of yummy eats.  We made a great run to Costco this week and bought some lovely things to eat.  Our Costco is the first in Australia, and Melbourne is blessed to have it.  I miss bulk shopping!  The second Costco in Melbourne will be closer to our house and I certainly can’t wait for that!

The final product:


more pictures can be seen on our photo album links below.

To everyone that came out to take a peek at the house, thank you for sharing your time with us and sharing our pride in making the accomplishment of these renovations with us.  It means a lot to us.  I know we live far from the city these days, but it’s always nice to know that our friends will make the trek out to see us for our special events.

Photo albums:  Home Renovation AlbumFinal Home Remodel Album

May '11

The finishing touches

Deciding not to move out during our renovation has been a good one, we’ve been able to cope with the dust and mess – we ate take out for about a week, but overall the new kitchen was working at the end of the first week.  Now all the internal walls are down and the new brace is in – supporting the load bearing wall that was removed.  It’s all one big space now, exactaly how we envisioned it when we walked in for our initial inspection 2 years ago.  We bought this house the first day we saw it, and I’m so happy with our choice. 

I’m painting this week, the glass backsplash in the kitchen is being installed, the old kitchen area floorboards are being replaced with new, and the final touches on patching plaster, electric, and plumbing are to be finished this week.  Our new dining room table has arrived and we’re looking forward to the floor being completed so that we can push all the furniture into the right places and go back to living normally again.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a great custom kitchen design team, that have project managed all of the tradesmen working on our house, we haven’t had to lift a finger, or make a call.  Perfect as far as I’m concerned.  I’ll be posting pictures of the final look next week, I’m so ready for it all to be over, and even though it only took 3 weeks (which is fantastic), I will be so happy to be living in my dream house finally!

Getting little baby fox terrier Lulu during our renovatinos has been a challenge.  She is just so small, and not toilet trained yet.  I have a bucket ready with the mop at a moment’s notice – it’s been a chore cleaning up after her every wee.  And she’s a complete poop machine.  But with lots of newspaper, and patience, shes coming along.  I’d say about 2 more weeks and she will be potty trained.  Overall it’s been great company for Spot, and that was our main reason for getting a second dog, he needed a playmate, someone to be with.  Lulu has been a small blessing to our family.

May '11

Home Renovations : Week 2

Week 2 of the renovations have just been flying by, mostly plaster, lighting, floor, range hood, electric and plumbing.  And the big, major thing is our stone counter tops (bench tops for you Australians).  It still seems like when all the construction is finished we are going to have a LOT of work of our own to complete.  New walls and living dining room need to be painted.  Most of the walls need to be painted.  When we bought the house we noticed that most of the walls were painted this very light grey colour.  In fact, every wall in this entire house!  We’ve completed the remodel of our master bedroom and bathroom including paint and I am a big fan of colour in the home.  Most of our house is tan and brown… borrrring!  Wood floors and ceilings, cream kitchen, and tan couch, wood furniture… so we’re contemplating colours for our glass backspash and for the major living room walls.

We’re contemplating a burnt red for the glass splashback, and possibly an olive for our living/dining room.  We’re open to any suggestions!

Here’s some of the newest pictures from Week 2, and you can always refer to our photo album below.


Check out the photo album here: Home Renovation Album

After the remodel is done we paint, and the all the hardwood floors will be sanded, and re-stained a darker colour.  I think that means more dust, and a lot of furniture juggling.  Not looking forward to this part but happy to be writing my blog from my little bar stool at the new island bench tonight.

May '11

Home Renovations: Week 1

We’ve been working on our house for the last two years, we renovated the outdoor laundry to an indoor laundry/pantry, retiled the floor, put in a laundry sink and cabinetry all do-it-yourself! Then we renovated our master bedroom and bathroom, adding a large walk-in closet, added carpet and then expanded our bathroom ripping out the old vanity and putting in a double vanity, spa tub and oversized shower… also ripped out a wall and did all the tiling ourselves. After all that do-it-yourself, we figured we’d hire someone to renovate our main living space and kitchen. And thank gawd too, I can’t imagine doing this much work ourselves.

In week one, we have ripped out our old kitchen and the walls to the old kitchen. Ripped out our dining room walls (all these walls down makes the kitchen, dining and living area one big space). Our new custom kitchen cabinets have been installed, and previous doors and exterior walls have been replaced with new windows.

I almost can’t believe that all this has happened in one week. It’s actually starting to look the way we dreamed when we bought this fixer-upper!

Week 2 brings new floor boards for areas that need repairs, new windows in the living room, the new stone countertops, hook up of appliances, and all of our new light fixtures throughout the house. Week 3 and 4 will be the repair of the plaster/walls, and some additional touches. Refinishing our wood floors so all the new and old floorboards look the same, and finally the addition or our new dining room table! I’m soooo looking forward to the completion of this project, it’s been a doozey. Living out of our laundry room with only a microwave is getting a bit old too, can’t wait to cook our first meal!

I’ve got a week one Renovation Video and some pictures here as well. Click on the link to the photo album to see all of our reno pics.

Check out the photo album here: Home Renovation Album

Nov '10

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Aug '10

The Australian Electoriate – today I hit the polling booth for the first time (…then went shopping)

It will be my first and certainly not my last vote, as a new Australian citizen I have now accepted that voting in this country is compulsory (that means mandatory, for you Americans).  I think Birdie said something like it’s a $299 fine for not voting today, or something of that nature. 

I’ve been taking in the politics since I came here and I think that Birdie has really explained the system best to me, being that I’m from the U.S.: The American political system of “Democrat” and “Republican” is like north and south, where as the Australian system is more like east and west.  They certainly in no way align.  It makes it difficult for me especially since the parties in Australia are called “Labour” and “Liberal” – I looked at this and just at first glance thought “ah ha! Liberal – that’s me”.  But were we think of left and right as two different ends of the spectrum of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ minded – “Liberal” does not mean the same thing here in Australia.  In general what I can see is that we have many different topics for discussion in Australia and some things that are big ticket issues in the U.S. have no meaning here or are real non-issues in Australia.  Abortion and gay marriage, for example, are non-issues, I don’t think anyone here really cares too much about opposing these issues and so they just aren’t what our politicians focusing on. Top ten major issues here, in no particular order:

1. Immigration /Asylum Seekers (In the last 34 years [from 1st January 1976 to 30th April 2010] we have had a total of 23,024 people come by boat to Australia seeking asylum, yes small in comparison to the U.S. however the population of Australia is only the same as the state of California)
2. Paid maternity leave for mothers AND fathers
3. Baby Bonus (overturned last year, each baby earned a family $6000+)
4. Childcare facilities and adequate staff
5. Education (school and university teachers wages and schools levels of performance)
6. Ease on affordable housing (before we’ve had a home owners grant for first time buyers that was quite effective) – but also to release more government owned land for building
7. Taxes (of course – currently there has been the threat of a tax on our lucrative mining industry)
8. Troops in Afghanistan
9. The building of a National Broadband Network
10. Climate Change

Only some of the issues, but some of the major ones.  Doesn’t sound like we have a lot to worry about… and you’re probably right.  Sometimes I think that people here have no idea really how good they have it.  In 2000 Australia had a rate of 16% homicides with firearms (only legal here for hunting), as opposed to the whopping 65% in America.  It’s really just a different kettle of fish. 

And back to the voting structure, it’s definitely different from what I am used to.  Not only the parties, but the voting structure – basically you don’t cast a vote for the Prime Minister, you cast your vote for the local party or representative of the Senate and Congress in your area.  A vote for your local rep is a vote for the party and translates all the way up to the office of Prime Minister.  This has been a very difficult thing for me to grasp, so what if you don’t like the local party representative and what they are doing but you do like their party candidate for Prime Minister, or vise versa.  OH! My head is aching.  I’ve taking a different route this year, and although some may not agree I have gone with a non-party party. I don’t usually share my vote but this year I have voted Green.  They do share a lot of my views, however, because they are not a major party and have no chance of winning they are able to transfer their votes to the party of their choice (which I believe happens to be Labour).

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As for the major candidates…

julia.bmpWe have our first ever female Prime Minister – Julia Gillard.  She’s the Labour’s candidate.  Her party has been in office for a while and her party ousted our previous Prime Minister – Kevin Rudd to put Julia in office.  Kevin made a few mistakes,  and so did the party, we can go into that later. 

tony.jpgOn the other end we have the Liberal party candidate Tony Abbott.  Tony hasn’t had the most successful of political careers.  He might have been a good candidate until he pushed forward his Christian beliefs onto the campaign trail… something that here isn’t really looked highly upon.  Mainly because we are a very religiously diverse country, but also it is a non-issue.  I think he would have done much better just leaving it out religious beliefs.

So I headed off to the polling booth this morning with Birdie, at our local secondary school (elementary) and queued (lined) up to cast our vote.  As with most polling stations there was a ‘sausage sizzle’ going on and although the line was long, it was quick.  Different from home I found it funny that you could put up posters on the voting grounds for your candidate and basically hand out literature all the way up to the door to vote.  Very interesting experience for me.

I found this great thing online today, it asks you opinions on the major Australian issues and then tells you who you should be voting for.  Give it a try! 

Explained: How the Australian federal voting system works

I gave it a shot and, low and behold I came up with a match to my vote today.



As you know we have finished our renovations in the master bedroom, en-suite master bath, and laundry.  We’ve been doing our final touches and getting the last bits we need to complete before we move on to our next project.

Last week we finished the flooring and had our new bedroom and walk-in closed carpeted, it is so much warmer in there now.  Some have said, oh beautiful hardwood floors, and yes that is true HOWEVER, the entire house has hardwood and the break in the bedroom has been a very welcome change. Here’s some before and after shots:

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We found our new double front doors today, and found a beautiful bedroom set for our master bedroom.  Our current set will go down in our guest room / apartment downstairs for visitors.  The new set is a King – finally no more dog kicking me in the back, and no, I’m not talking about Birdie.  I took some pictures our our final touches.

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Once everything is in it’s place I’ll take some pictures of the finished rooms to post.  Hope you have enjoyed coming along for our renovation ride, I don’t plan to do it again.  When we build our new kitchen next year, we’re gonna be hiring a crew!  Renovations are hard on the back!

Health and Recovery

I have been moving forward, finally off my chemo drugs for a couple months now and going well. I’ve been working on ridding my life of stress and focusing on life, my life, what I enjoy, my work and career, and thinking about family – a family, a family for us.  Good news is that my doctors have given me a green light to do start to get ready to try IVF.  We’re gonna give it a go, so fingers crossed that it all works out for us.  I don’t think I can hang on for the 5+ year wait for adoption in this country so this could be our last opportunity.  Your blessings and wishes for us are welcome!  Unfortunately the chemo drugs have completely wiped out my egg supply so we have carefully selected a wonderful person in our lives to be our egg donor – we are very very excited.

Jul '10

Renovating our Home

Hey guys things are going well on our side of the world!  We’ve just finished some renovations in the house, have been working hard on my recovery, and are making plans for the future.  Hope you enjoy my winter update (yes, it’s winter here!).

The house has been crazy, we decided when we moved in to convert a long unused hallway space near our master bedroom into a walk in closet, change the entry to our bedroom and expand our bathroom into a master ensuite.  We’re almost done now, but so far we’ve made our way to the painting, and soon -to-be carpeting stage of our bedroom/walk-in closet.  When we were on our trip to Asia earlier in the year we picked up some really nice artwork for the bath and bedroom walls.  We can’t wait to finish painting and get everything into place.

The Walk-In Closet: Our first job

closet3.jpgOnce a long and boring hallway, dreams of closet space came to mind.  Rod’s mind.  He’s so good.  Close off the end of the hallway and create a perfect space for our mounds of clothes, shoes, handbags… well those are all mine, and some of Rod’s clothes too. As nice as the hallway was it just didn’t suit us and this house has a major lack of storage and closet space.  This is our remedy! Rod put this together by hand, and we purchased the drawers, 3-each from Ikea.  SO HAPPY with the results. 

To see from beginning to end click on the pics below:

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Next we are on to the other areas of the house that are small but of the most use to us.  Ultimately we want to move our current kitchen to a different place in the house and that is going to be the biggest job, but if all the little job are out of the way first, we can move on to the “biggie”.


The Laundry Room: From outside to inside

finished-laundry.jpgThe laundry room used to be outside the back door, in a little room that was hooked up for water and had a basin sink.  But going inside and outside all the time, especially in the very cold winter here, is really a pain in my ass (arse).  So… We decided to convert one of our four bathrooms into a laundry slash shower/toilet.  It’s in the middle of the house and eventually will be attached to the new kitchen.  We have a pantry that feeds into this dual laundry/bath room. 

First things first, we had some really nasty vinal floor blue and white checkerboard.  Horrible.  Tile is the answer, we picked a white/opal tile for the laundry to match the white shelving and appliances.  Overall I love this room, we do our ironing here, Birdie can use this shower to clean up after working outdoors cutting wood or the grass, everything goes straight into the front loader!  The above cabinets, basin sink, lower cabinet and benchtop we purchased at Bunnings (Home Depot) and Birdie hung them himself. 

 I did all the tiling and grouting myself!  Yay me!

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Master Ensuite (Master Bath): New everything

The bathroom that ajoins our master bedroom had a toilet and a very small sink with one single under sink cabinet.  The bathroom itself is enourmous and it looked quite silly really.  No shower or bath tub, so we had to use the shower in the now laundry room.  We wanted to do a bit of work so we started by ripping out a small hallway wall that led into the bathroom itself to make it larger.  Then we had to rip up that old vinal flooring that was in all the bathrooms and replace with tiles.  We picked a chocolate floor tile with small pebble accents and a tan shower tile with the same pebble accents.  Rod did most of this tiling, including the shower.  We had a plumber come out and redo all the pipes in the bathroom including running new pipes for the double vanity and the new tub and shower.  Click on any picture below to enlarge.

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This bathroom was a lot of work as you can see but man it is beautiful.  We live on an acre property so I had the drapes (which looked old and heavy) taken down and replaced with a one way dark tint so we can see out and nobody can see in.  The house is surrounded by bush and all the neighbours are so far away anyway, I didn’t want to lose the view. 

Closet, check.  Laundry, check.  Master Ensuite, check check check.

Next is carpeting in our bedroom and maybe some new window treatments.  Then back to saving up for our ultimate kitchen and main renovations which includes ripping out walls.