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The grass really is greener

There are so many things I love about Adelaide and Australia: some IRL friends I’ve made here, singing, the warmth of summer, the Central Markets, aubergines and mangoes (both available in NZ, but expensively so), Kangaroo Island honey, which really is rather special, my kitchen, our beautiful home, the generosity and support from some colleagues here, two in particular, the excellent public school our daughters attend, the robustness of Australian politics, Julia Gillard.

I will miss all of these things when we return home at the end of this year.

That’s right. We’re coming home.

Despite all the good things about Adelaide, I’ve been quite unhappy during the time we have been here, because I have been incorrigibly homesick. I have missed my family and my long-known friends, and I have missed the greens and blues and trees and birds and hills of home. I’ve missed kumera and manuka honey – both obtainable here, but expensively so – and Jersey Benne potatoes. I’ve missed being pākehā, and I’ve missed the cadence of te reo Māori. Aotearoa-New Zealand is in my bones.

As for exactly where we are going to… if I say that it’s not a main centre, and we will both be working at what I shall call Greenhills University (following HarvestBird’s exemplary soubriquet for Concrete University), does that give you enough to go on? I guarantee that none of you save those already in the know will be able to guess what I will be lecturing in.

One of the greatest delights of Australia for me has been the on-line community I found here, of wise and witty and feisty women. And some men, of course. I was thrilled to be invited to join the team at Larvatus Prodeo, and I hope to continue to blog for them from time to time, letting West Islanders know what’s going on in New Zealand. I hope that my on-line community here will come home with me, as my New Zealand community came to Adelaide. I shall miss meeting up with some of these wonderful women in real life, as has happened from time to time, but there are wonderful women and men to meet up with at home too, some of whom I have met already, others of whom I hope to meet for the first time (also one, two, three, four, and no doubt many more). I’m also hoping to rejoin my book group, albeit with a little bit of travel involved for me, and to see more of a beautiful group of women I used to meet for dinner every now and then. I shall miss singing duets with my friend Melissa, but at home, my friend Helen is a wonderful soprano, and we have songs to sing together.

We’ve told our girls that we will be moving, and they are both saddened and excited: sad about losing friends they have made here, but pleased to be moving closer to their beloved grandparents. We have tried to explain to them that it is possible to be both sad and happy at the same time, and that feeling glad to be back in New Zealand does not reduce the sadness of leaving Adelaide.

Lead times in academic jobs are quite long, commonly stretching to six months or even more. So we will be here enjoying Adelaide for some time yet. All going well, we will leave after the school year has finished, but in time to be home for Christmas.

Day 13 – Done!

It’s all done, bar the final patch-up painting, which is up to us to do. That should happen sometime around October.*

So now, the justification. You will recall the problem – a long narrow kitchen, with a very old small wall oven, and very little bench space. We wanted our new kitchen to have much more bench space, and a much larger oven. Like most people, we had to be careful about how much we spent on it, so we didn’t want to knock through walls, or get involved in major structural alterations at all. We knew that we could go a little further into our family room, but we didn’t want to intrude too much. The family room in this house is beautiful – it has french doors out onto a small, very private verandah, a high, pitched ceiling, and a generous amount of space. The proportions are excellent. We wanted our new kitchen to work with the family room, not dominate it. (The kitchen is just over to the left from where this photo is taken.)

We also wanted to retain a beautiful broad window just above the sink, looking out under a pergola towards the back yard. I love this window; it’s a very pleasant outlook, and I can keep an eye on what the girls are doing, mostly, until they disappear up the trees, or onto the top of the garden shed (out of sight in this photo…). All this meant working within the existing walls and the existing basic shape of the kitchen.

We came up with a kitchen that is very similar to the old one. But there are three major differences.
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First fire

The weather has turned in Adelaide. The air is chilly and damp, so we have lit the fire for the first time this year.

The cat is very pleased.

Day 7 – Pictures for Ray, and first fruits

Ray has been having issues with tilers.

Ray, these photos are for you.

One beautifully tiled splashback, corners mitred, clever alignments completed, sealed, and ready for use tomorrow morning.

One re-tiled slate floor. Extra tiles chipped out, concrete laid underneath, tiles laid on top, all grouted. We will be able to walk on it tomorrow morning, and in two or three weeks, when the slate has dried thoroughly, we will seal it.

And the first fruits from my lovely new oven.

A batch of Anzac biscuits, made according to the recipe that is traditional in my family. I have often cooked Anzac biccies in new (to me) ovens; I know the recipe so well that I can make a reasonable assessment of the oven by the quality of the biscuits. These are just a little hard for my liking: I should have taken them out at 9 minutes. That tells me that I have gotten too used to the old temperamental gas oven. I need to turn the temperature down in this oven, and remember that electric ovens are more drying than gas ovens.

Earlier posts in this series: Day 1 – The problem, Day 2 – Deconstruction, Day 3 – Frustration, Day 6 – The 80 / 20 stage

Day 6 – The 80 / 20 stage

80% done, 20% still to go, and that 20% will take 80% of the time. Nothing much happened over the weekend, bar some plastering on Saturday (Day 4). On Sunday, Day 5, dinner at Chez Strange Land looked like this.

(Description: Four bowls of pumpkin soup, each with a teaspoon of sour cream in the middle, four glasses of water, four side plates, all placed very close together on a small table, bread and butter and a breadboard perched on a standard size chair drawn up alongside the small table.)

There was nowhere to sit other than the children’s table. On Saturday night, we fired up the barbie, and sat outside, but it was too cold on Sunday evening.

Today, there has been… progress.

I took this photo just a few moments after the tradies left for the day. The bench is in, the cupboards and drawers have handles, the sink is secured, the dishwasher is back in place and all hooked up, we have running water.

(Description: Long kitchen bench, darkish patterned grey, off-white cupboard doors with vertical grooves, wooden lip at near end of bench, dishwasher, sink, stove, down to corner with above bench cupboards and a microwave cabinet. Dirty and dusty, with random objets d’mess about the place.)

On the other side of the kitchen, the pantry is in place. Those open shelves are for my recipe books. And wine glasses.

(Description: Tall off-white cupboards. On the top layer, four doors, and one set of open shelves. Underneath, six doors.)

Best of all, the stove is in place. Gas hob, electric oven. It’s 800mm wide, so it has a good sized oven. I wanted an oven big enough to cook 60 biscuits at a time, or a leg of lamb and a large tray of roast vegies. This one seems to fit the bill. A 900mm stove would have been fun, but our space is limited. The 800mm oven was a good compromise. Tomorrow I will test it, with Anzac biscuits.

(Description: Steel stove. Gas hob with five rings, large oven with standard controls – bake, grill, fan bake and so on.)

So that’s the 80%. The remaining 20% is a flue for the rangehood, and a bulkhead to go at the top of the cupboards at the end of the kitchen. We weren’t fussed about having one, but our designer was very keen on reducing the perceived length of the kitchen, so we decided to trust his judgement. A tiler is coming in tomorrow to do the splashback, and patch the hole in the slate floor where the new bench does not quite cover the footprint left by the old kitchen, which is … obvious.

(Description: L-shape of old red bricks, showing through grey slate floor.)

Once the tiler is done, it will just be a matter of putting everything back. Simple, surely!

I promise one further post when absolutely everything is done, telling you what decisions we made, and why. On the 80 / 20 rule, that should be in about 10 days time.

Earlier posts in this series: Day 1 – The problem, Day 2 – Deconstruction, Day 3 – Frustration

Day 3 – Frustration

Hmmm…. despite commitments to the contrary, the cabinets are not all installed, and not much more will be done until Monday. A plasterer will be coming in tomorrow to tidy up the walls ready for tiling, but otherwise, nothing will be happening for the next few days. And that’s as it should be – tradies are entitled to their weekends.

Take a look at my pantry.

(Description: Table covered with bottles and jars and tins and packets – standard pantry contents)

One table is covered with food stuffs, the other is covered with crockery, we have no stove, no sink, no dishwasher. All that we have is some promising gaps in the kitchen where such appliances will go, on Monday, or so I’m told.

Mr Strange Land is philosophical about the delays. But he is not the person who (mostly) does all the food organising and preparing around here, he has an office elsewhere to escape to, and even better for him, he’s heading out of the country for a few days, and by the time he gets back, it should all be done.

So here’s where we’re at. If you find it frustrating not finding out any more just yet, I promise you that your frustration is nothing, a mere soupçon, a bagatelle, compared to mine.

(Description: kitchen cupboards, covered with long bench, angular piece of wood on top of bench, at far end, various cabinets, general air of half-way there)

Earlier posts in this series: Day 1 – The problem, Day 2 – Deconstruction

Day 2 – Deconstruction

This is what my kitchen looks like today.

(Description: long narrow empty room, completely husked, with only electric cables and capped off pipes showing.)

Earlier post in this series: Day 1 – The problem