Monday, November 9, 2015

The Indoor Plant

In the late 1980s NASA investigated the benefits of indoor plant usage as a pollution preventative solution for possible use in space stations. They were able to find several plant species that assisted in reducing pollutants in breathable air.  More recently, scientists have discovered that planting green walls and vertical gardens in urban areas, reduces the most toxic pollutants significantly.   I could keep on quoting and referencing different studies but I think that there really is no doubt now that surrounding ourselves in plants and greenery is of significant benefit to both our health and the environment.

Visitors to our house often comment on our indoor plants. Our house does have a bit of a 1970s boho vibe though, when indoor plants had their first heyday!  All the greenery inside the house looks so pretty and it just makes so much more sense economically to decorate a house with living plants. A growing plant should ideally last a lot longer than cut flowers.

The above photo was taken in our dining room.  I have a fiddle leaf fig in the corner  and monsteria growing in the Turkish canoe.  The canoe was originally home to all the Cymbidium orchids but the orchids have all been relocated to the garden and are currently part of a new garden bed I am creating out of an old wood sabot sailing boat.  More on that another day though! 

Fiddle leaf figs are super easy to take care of and are probably my favourite indoor plant.  My number one tip for taking care of them would be to wipe their leaves down every 6 weeks or so with milk.  I know it sounds crazy, but I remember seeing this tip years ago on Gardening Australia and it just works I promise you.  I have huge, over 10 feet tall plants inside the house and they look so healthy with fabulous  glossy green leaves. I literally fill a small container with milk,  I know someone will ask, so full cream ordinary milk.  I then dip an old rag into the milk and wipe the leaves down with the dampened cloth. Make sure each leaf is wiped clean of dust with the cloth.  You may need to get a fresh cloth every now and then depending upon the size of your fig.  Other tips for taking care of figs would be to only water once a week or so, allowing the roots to dry out between waterings.   If you need to re-pot, find a pot that is only a fraction bigger.  They get distressed if the new pot is significantly bigger than the old one.  

This photo is of our dining table.  Where I have Phalaenopsis Orchids and a Cyclamen that is somehow flowering in both white and fuschia!  Phalaenopsis are my second favourite house plant and I have many in the house.  They thrive on neglect.  I water them very infrequently and I only ever use the water left over from steaming vegetables.  I wait until it is cold and then give them all a splash of it.  It seems to work and mine flower regularly with multiple stems.  I also wipe their leaves down with a wet cloth once a month or so.  I have never fertilised them (apart from the old veggie water!) or re-potted them, so I can't offer any advice on either of those aspects of Phalaenopsis care!

In our entrance I have a Cymbidium Orchid.  These I have more difficulty getting to re-bloom.  I have resorted to selecting a new one each year and the old one is relegated outdoors to the garden.  The only thing I have observed over the years, is that moving them around the garden often precipitates a new flower stem!  

On the coffee table I have a little marble pot of succulents.  These thrive on neglect too.  I rarely water them, maybe if one of the boys leaves a water glass on the coffee table I might splash the remnants on top!

In the living room, I have the most spectacular Sansevieria.  I don't know what it's full name is unfortunately, but it is definitely part of the Sansevieria family and it is the most incredible looking plant.   It reminds me of seaweed drifting in the ebb and flow of the ocean, as there is a lovely fluidity to it's shape.  When we bought it the nursery staff  instructed us to be very conservative watering it.  I probably only water it 4 or 5 times a year!  I do wipe down it's leaves with a damp cloth regularly though. 

As you can see above I also have Peace Lilies in the living room.  They do like regular watering.  I empty the boys drink bottles into them after school everyday in a loose rotation.  Ensuring that each plant gets a top up of water fairly regularly.  The main thing with the lilies though I find is to pop them outside whenever it is raining.  This seems to keep them very happy.   If you do not have an outdoor area to put them to collect rain, I would just pop them under a cold shower every now and then!   

Any indoor plants I am missing that I should add to my always growing collection?  Any other tips?  I would love to hear from some other plant fans.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Halloween 2015

I am not sure if it is my upbringing attending American run International Schools or a childhood reading American children's literature, (any other Harriet the Spy fans!?), but I have completely embraced Halloween and love everything about it!  I know and can understand the many myriad of reasons people dislike Halloween.  However, on Saturday night in our neighborhood I only witnessed children having a glorious time and a true sense of community.  R took the boys out "Trick or Treating," only knocking on the doors of the houses that were obviously participating, and he reported back that they had a wonderful time.   The boys even apple bobbed for the first time at a neighbour's house, both of them returning with wet heads of hair and grins from ear to ear! I remained home to answer the door to our "Trick or Treat" visitors and delighted in all the costumes and the opportunity to chat with and also meet for the first time some neighbours.  

And so in the interests of actually documenting what happens in our lives and as Halloween is something that these two look forward to with as much joy and anticipation as they do Christmas, Easter and their Birthdays, this was Halloween 2015.  

A Vampire (he somehow always manages to look suave and elegant) and a Naughty Little Devil, a rather apt costume choice for this young man!  It is also so interesting to see their dress up choices each year and how they have evolved over time, reflecting their very different personalities.  I for one am already looking forward to Halloween 2016 for this very reason!

Monday, November 2, 2015

September school holiday wrap up (a wee bit late...)

 Now that the boys are in Week 5 at school I felt it was warranted that I update the blog, especially considering there are only 4 weeks of school remaining until they are back on holidays again. A frightening thought!

 The holidays were fabulous.  Both boys spent a week separately in Canberra visiting my parents and then a week was spent with us all together at the holiday house.  Lazy days spent surfing, bike riding,  eating,  crab catching and playing cricket on the beach.  The water was so crisp and refreshing we swam everyday despite the fact it was still on the chilly side.  Spine tingling rejuvenation therapy for all of us.

On our last evening we were sitting out on the front deck when someone walked past and called out that there was a whale and her calf frolicking in the water.  Glasses of wine and dinner preparations were quickly abandoned and we all raced down to the look out point to watch.  It was a joy for all of us to watch the whale and her baby playing together as they found somewhere safe to rest before they commenced their migration south for the summer.  I didn't take any photos as I didn't think to grab my camera or phone and I am actually glad that it turned out that way.  We were all so uplifted by the experience of watching the whale that I am delighted I was in the moment and enjoying it, not focused instead on trying to capture the perfect photo.

Lastly, I can't tell you how happy it made me that the 7 year old is still little enough to squeeze himself into a plastic storage tub for his evening bath.  My baby for a little longer.  There truly is joy to be found in the little things everywhere.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sailing - a magical and empowering sport for children

Each Sunday morning the Captain heads out with a handful of other like minded children for "Green Fleet" training.  He returns hours later, energised, with salty hair and clear, sparkling eyes.  Tales of whales and fairy penguins abound.  Sailing truly is a magical sport for children, it is one of the only sports that allows a child complete freedom.   As you can see in the photo above, my little 9 year old is the Captain of his own ship, literally.  There is no parent sitting beside him dictating how things should be done.  He is making decisions alone.  The consequences of which he will also have to accept.    He is in charge of rigging up his boat and packing it away after each sail.  Through all this he has learnt responsibility and discipline.  Sailing has also taught him about the environment, he now has a deeper understanding of the weather.  The direction of the wind.  The risks of a storm.   

A friend recently watched Nick as he sailed out one Sunday morning and commented on how quiet it was.  There was just the noise of ropes banging against masts and the odd squawk of a seagull.  The children themselves are remarkably quiet as they head out.  Each one focused, as they pop their centreboards in and settle themselves, preparing for a day on the water.  This peaceful quiet is not to be underestimated in this day and age, when children are surrounded by stimulation and noise.  Indeed, it is a true break from everyday life for a little boy.

  Nick started sailing at 6 years old.  I hope he is still sailing at 96 years old.  That is the thing with sailing.  It is a sport for a lifetime.  A sport that will allow him to explore miles of coastline.  Feel the wind in his hair and the sun or the rain on his face.  A sport that will foster a love of the outdoors and a respect for the environment.  A magnificent sport.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The brave knight turns 7!

The little guy just turned seven and to celebrate his birthday, we recently hosted a Brave Knight's Birthday party.  His school just did a unit on Knights, Castles and Fairy Tales and I believe this  might have inspired his theme of choice.  He certainly has a passion for Knights and Castles now.

He chose the "Fleur de Lis" ("We learnt about the Lily in Italian at school Mummy!" The indignant response when I asked how he knew what the Fleur de Lis signified) and the Phoenix for the banners.

The brilliant Sir Ian of KnightQuest Birthday Parties came to supervise the jousting, dragon slaying, sword fighting and generally keep the twenty five little boys, sorry brave Knights, in order!  He did an amazing job and if anyone needs a brave Knight, I can recommend Sir Ian!

The nearly 10 year old had to be persuaded to participate, refused to wear his Knight's costume, insisted on wearing his beloved Hawaiian shirt, claimed it was all going to be boring and in the end had the time of his life!

So, at seven, H you are still my darling baby (and always will be!).  You are well read.  Current favourite books are The Famous Five series, Roald Dahl, Charlotte's Web and any Atlas, book about Birds and Wildlife or similar nature guide.  The most well thumbed of these is The Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds which you leaf through regularly.  Despite the fact that it probably weighs more than you do!  It delights me no end that one of my children finally appreciates Enid Blyton and as a reward I permit you to read the original first editions.  Books that I have spent most of my lifetime collecting and are extremely valuable collectable! 

Your love of nature and the outdoors is limitless.  You would rather be outside at all times.  You rarely watch any television and have little interest in any screen time at all.  

Your determination to win at all costs is alarming.  You disgraced yourself at tennis lessons recently when you lost a game for the first time (against a boy much older than you!) and hurled your tennis racket over the fence.  I wish I could say that you had witnessed this sort of behaviour on television, but as you rarely watch any I can't.  This determination doesn't stop at tennis unfortunately, you are determined to be the best at everything you try.  Your school report reflects this as does your track record at almost every sport you put your mind to.  

Despite this determination and ambition you are the sweetest, most affectionate child.  You are adored by everyone.  Your best friend is Dexter.  Your favourite colour is red.  If you could be an animal you would be a lion.  Your favourite sport is cricket.   You are constantly practicing your bowling technique.  Your favourite food is pasta.  You are going to be a ski instructor when you grow up, indeed you managed to land your first 180 on your birthday last week!  A pretty cool birthday present!  Happy Birthday my darling boy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

School Holidays

The school holidays are over and I am busy trying to convince the boys that the school routine is really much more fun for all of us than the carefree days of the holidays. They remain unconvinced.

Easter, the highlight of the holidays for the 6 year old, was low key and relaxed. Last year we had Easter at Depot and the boys were desperate to return as apparently the Easter Bunny was significantly more generous there and also provided a variety of eggs previously never seen before.  Much to their disappointment though we elected to stay in Sydney as we needed to do some things around the house! As you can see, the Easter Bunny on the Northern Beaches of Sydney still provides ample eggs and bunnies for small children to ruin their teeth with.

The nine year old is now quite the salty sea dog and spent most of his holidays at sailing camp.  

The six year old is still the outdoorsy type.

He spent his holidays outside. He truly is a naturalist.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Los Angeles

 Way back in early January we visited Los Angeles for a few days en route to Canada and in the interests of actually documenting some of our life events on the blog I thought it was about time I wrote a post about it!

We have visited LA on our way to Canada (and on two occasions also on the return trip) for the past three years.  Partly because we like to break up the long trip to Canada with the kids and partly because we love it there.  My husband lived in LA for a while in his twenties and gets a hankering for a visit every now and then.  I love the shopping and the restaurants!  The boys are learning to love it!

We have stayed either in Santa Monica or in Beverley Hills.  Both are great places but if I had to choose between the two locations I would pick Santa Monica.  Choose a hotel along the promenade and then it is an easy walk to the beach, playgrounds and one of LA's best shopping precincts.   If you are travelling with kids the promenade in Santa Monica is brilliant for children and a great place for them to explore and burn off some energy!

Despite our frequent visits to LA we have never 'done' Disneyland.  The boys have never even asked us to go. Everyone from the moment we get on the plane in Sydney assumes that is why we are heading to California and asks the boys if they are looking forward to Disneyland, so it isn't even as if they don't know about it.  They just don't seem to be that interested in going.  They do get excited about our annual visit to Pizzeria Mozza though!  

Activities for kids that they have enjoyed in LA have included a visit to the California Science Centre to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour.   The exhibit wasn't complete in January 2015 but it was still well worth a visit.  The boys couldn't quite believe the size of it, nor that it had actually been into space, and multiple times at that. The rest of the Museum is well worth investigating, it is similar to Questacon in Canberra with lots of hands on exhibits 

The highlight for the boys though was a visit to the Peterson Automotive Museum, the home of the Hot Wheels Museum and all sorts of other fabulous cars.  For my two little car fanatics this was literally paradise.  

They really enjoyed the Hot Wheels exhibit but they also loved the rest of the museum.  It is home to one of the largest automotive collections in the world and of course has lots of cars that have featured in all sorts of Hollywood films.  Including multiple Batmobiles and so on!

Their father loved this one, a 1966 Jaguar XKSS formerly owned by Steve McQueen!

My favourites were a toss up between these two!  Who remembers the movie the above car came from?  I seriously must have watched that movie a hundred times with my brother.

The boys could have spent all day exploring the museum and it is well worth a visit if you are in LA. 

The highlight for me in LA is the shopping and just simply exploring.  All of these photos were taken around Melrose Place as I love it there!

If you are looking for a decent coffee in LA - ignore everything on tripadvisor and other forums. Everywhere we tried was terrible.

Alfred we just stumbled across and thank goodness.  Perfect coffee every time.  They know what a flat white is.  Enough said.

Food wise the highlight of our trip to LA each year is Pizzeria Mozza!  We have two pizza connoisseurs in the family and they rate the pizza at Mozza as they best they have ever had!  Everything that we have ordered there has been fabulous though!

The Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica is great too for breakfast.  Not so much for the coffee but do go for the atmosphere and the boys rate the pancakes highly!

Look at that bougainvillea.  A visit to the Ivy at the Shore is essential just to walk through that fabulous entryway.  Until next time LA!  


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