Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our cemetery

This month we discovered the cemetery here in Mount Victoria. It's tucked away in the bush off Victoria Falls Road and we had to ask where it was to find it. I thought we could do a leisurely stroll from town but you do have to drive there (and off road too).

But what a find! It is very sweet - I don't think more than 40 odd graves all dating back from 1800's.

I'm loving how we are slowly discovering such treasures in Mount Victoria.

Our little ones also love having a look through the graves and pointing out the elaborate stones. It's a pity these days that gravestones aren't so beautiful!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas street party

We had a Christmas street party last Saturday evening which myself and a neighbour put together. Having only been here since March 2012 I wasn't sure if there were already xmas party plans in preparation or if perhaps we were stepping on toes. Mt Vic is a very quiet place and sometimes you don't see neighbours at all - especially the holiday houses - so I did ask a couple of neighbours when I saw them out and they were pretty excited at the prospect of a party right there in our neighbourhood.

So... not knowing who was around, we delivered little flyers to our street and a couple either side. We thought we might get 10 people if we were lucky. Well - we had about 50 people from the neighbourhood, a roaring party, way too much food and a bloody good time.

It will definitely become a tradition! It also mean that people got to meet each other. I think we have lost that familiarity these days and I definitely want to be involved in a lovely community.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dust mites... a step back in time

This afternoon I thought I'd have a look at the Mount Victoria & District Historical Society Inc. Museum. It's just a block away and since moving to Mt Vic in March I have been meaning to check it out and somehow never have.

Sadly, I think the museum is a little like everything else here in Mt Vic of late. Dusty, cracked ceilings, unloved and unwanted. Room after room of relics of the past, a lot of stuff on display but not sure why it is on display and most of it does not have an explanation as to what or why it is there.

But getting talking to the volunteers at the desk and there is suddenly a warm glow about it all. They are dedicated to preserving our history and probably need a lot of help to do it.

A room upstairs filled with scary old dusty emus, cassowary and a threadbare kangaroo. Aboriginal art and even things on Papua New Guinea. Again, none if it has an explanation as to why it is there.

I asked why there were so many picture windows of Papua New Guinea upstairs? The reply: these came from the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath and were owned by historian, naturalist and curator Mel Ward (1903-1966). And you know what? I DO remember these there! In the glass cases along the corrider they were and I never questioned why they were there because my childhood nostalgia just knew they were part of my memories and should be there.

I miss the Hydro. It featured so strongly in my childhood memories and I remember staying there with a boyfriend when I was around 20. We'd come back from the Central West and were too tired to continue back home to Annandale in the city. We walked in and he booked a room... walked towards me white at the price but it was too late as he'd paid! He'd been told what time dinner was served and to wear a collared shirt. Of course, we didn't have a collared shirt for him as we weren't expecting to stay overnight. We went up to wash in our sad little Art Deco room (freezing cold and a 50's metal bar heater was supplied to us... hmmmm) then came down. He had my shirt on under a jumper as it was too small - but at least he showed he was wearing a collar!

Remember the old casino room? Each room was divine and yes, I do remember it all being a little dusty til the last renovation. I loved the big old club lounges along the landing with the sweeping views of the valley below. And even if it did cost a pretty penny to be there - whether for tea or accommodation - it was all a bit odd. Strange rooms, expensive tea, scones not quite up to scratch and the bain marie wheeled out into the front room to sell a variety of food. Yucko!

It was to reopen in 2012. This has been blacked out on the sign and I have heard it's now opening in 2013. I hope Emirates does a good job of the renovation (is it Emirates?) and doesn't get it wrong. The Blue Mountains needs the Hydro open ready for business. It needs to be stylish and it needs to be nostalgic.

So, from pottering around a dusty old museum where the chinese tourists in front of me seemed bewildered as to what they were looking at and why they'd just spent $5 each, to reminiscing about the funny old Hydro Majestic I realise that this is just what I want and what I'm looking for.

Quirky nostalgia!

Friday, December 14, 2012

My kitchen

The kitchen is the last thing we have done in terms of renovating our gorgeous little cottage. I should probably start with earlier projects but this was really exciting and the outcome is great. I'm just so happy with it.

Originally we thought we'd do a cheap IKEA kitchen. For about $4000 we could get a new kitchen and we'd intended to put it in ourselves. Our kitchen has a sloping roof and soon we realised that the new IKEA kitchen wouldn't particularly fit all that well. The original kitchen (c 1970's I think?) has been professionally built in so there wouldn't be weird dark hidey holes on top of the cupboards if we stuck with them. Hmmm... what to do?

The kitchen also had a gorgeous vintage dresser (you can see in the photo above left with the wooden benchtop), which although is really lovely, was too big for the space and meant it was hard to open fridge doors in the middle of the tiny thoroughfare. But the worst for me, and yes I have lived in many old houses with kitchens MUCH worse than this, was just the darkness of the kitchen. The avacado green benchtops and dark wood veneer made it very dark and you needed a light on even during the day.

We did cut the trees outside back to provide us with more light as this faces north and is the most important aspect to any house in Australia, especially high up in the cold Mountains. So straight away we had a lot more light. I thought I'd be able to live with our sad old kitchen but soon realised it didn't offer a lot of space to cook in, was dark, dirty and depressing, and I really didn't feel inspired to cook or be in there!

Since hubby is a tiler, we had decided we might be able to do this renovation pretty cheaply. We were considering IKEA cupboards and we'd tile the benchtop ourselves (a look we love but not many choose to do it. Definitely more popular in Europe and USA). But not having a properly 'fitted' kitchen and still needing a builder to get the IKEA kitchen ship-shape, we decided we'd just update what we had.

I took off all the doors and the frame was still really good. Just got cracking on painting everything I could which involved laminate paint. Laminate paint. Gah! Not for the faint hearted. Not for small kids and sharp objects. Definitely not for us. I did soooo many coats, sanded and watched this stuff cure. Only to have someone scrape a door trying to get a fork or something and bang, it would be scratched. So we then got a local builder to make new doors in ply which I got stuck into painting again. I'm crazy about duck egg blue so chose a vintage greeny blue colour called 'Meadow Lane' (half) for the doors and one wall. The rest is just 'Whisper White' (all by Dulux too) and chose antique white 300 x 100 tiles for the walls, a black strip to give the kitchen a more old fashioned finish and all my gorgeous vintage bits and pieces looked great in place. We got some cheap grey floor tiles at Bunnings ($27 pm I think?), gorgeous dirty bronze looking door handles from Hartley and Geoff tiled the benchtop in square 35mm tiles (again from Bunnings dirt cheap) in cream and black with dark grey grout.

With the heavy old dresser (I think it was originally a 1920's shop counter) out of the way, we could see just how much space we had and didn't want the old piece back in. I had also cleaned it up, painted it a rough/pared back white underneath the timber benchtop and put in a curtain to hide stuff - which looked lovely - but realised it shouldn't go in (have other plans for it!).

So we got the builder to make us a small corner counter which means we have space to prepare food but also keep the openness of the kitchen.

So all up how much did it cost?

$1000 approx. That's it. Of course, if you didn't have a tiler it would cost more. Or you could have a go at doing it yourself. The kitchen is so light, spacious, airy and easy to use. We finished it by permantely removing some doors on the cupboards, reusing the wicker baskets that were in the old dresser (see below), new lights from IKEA, and made a cute vintage inspired curtain over the window, and added other small pieces.

I also managed to score a beautiful rag rug (or 'braided rug') from ebay somewhere up near Noosa for $60 including delivery. I will have to buy more from her!

I couldn't be happier with my kitchen. It is totally my style and just want I wanted. We don't have a big house so it couldn't have been extended or made any bigger. And the $1000 tag on it means that if the kids do scrape or wreck it in some way, it's not the end of the world! I have to admit it was hard. With two very small children, I was often painting with them both sitting crying on my lap demanding attention. But we did it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Old Mt Vic

So now we have this lovely house... and several months into it I still pinch myself! We are doing renovations slowly. It doesn't actually need much but has a very old bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen has JUST been finished so I will write about that soon. The bathroom was set to get started in beginning of January but we've just upgraded our dodgy car so it may have to wait.

My mother got talking to someone in the park here in Mt Vic a couple of weeks ago. She asked about the grottos or caves there and this person assured her that it had never been a zoo or housed animals (and yes this person was a local). So Mum came home and said it wasn't true. We have a great facebook group 'Mt Victoria Network' and one of the guys there had asked the Local Studies Librarian at Springwood Library and come up with this photo. It seems to be 1980's from the cars at the Motel... this article below describes the zoo.

(Middle column)... 'During the 1930's the park across the street was converted into a small zoo where Australian native animals were kept and several mock stone shelters were erected in similar style to those in the Sydney Zoological Gardens.'

Sadly, so far no one seems to have photos of the animals in the cages but if you do, please contact me!

Photos we took at the park at Mt Vic a couple of months ago. Here is the entrance to 'Imperial Park & Museum' across the road from the Imperial Hotel.

Another grotto shot. This, I believe, seems to be a pond and fountain. It has a sweet little bridge running across which now is hidden underneath the Hebe bushes.

One of the grottos at the park in Mount Victoria. I read somewhere (and of course now I can't find it) that these grottos which are scattered throughout the Blue Mountains were made by unemployed men during WWII. The positioning of these grottos seems to have changed from the original photo I have added from the book above.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How I got to Mt Vic

I've decided to blog about my life here in Mount Victoria. In front of my computer now, children are quiet and I have a cup of tea and some gorgeous little hazelnut wafer biscuits which seem to be disappearing fast.

We moved here in March 2005 and I find each day I love it more as I discover more about this little town. It inspires me, the community is slowly being revealed to me and I love that Mt Victoria is the last remaining town in the Blue Mountains that remains untouched by development. It is truly the last Mountains village and is a wonderful secret.

In January 2012 I came up to the Mountains from Helensburgh to look at houses to buy. I had moved down to Helensburgh from Blackheath after meeting my husband Geoff, marrying and adding another little girl to our mix. I had never truly taken to the area down there (despite awesome neighbours and some fabulous girlfriends collected on my travels). Always in the back of my mind was the thinking that I would eventually return here. We finally had a tiny deposit saved and thought 'it's now or never' and time to get into the market.

My husband was working and I was only with one child that weekend so thought it wouldn't be too hard. My girlfriend Bec said she would come too with her little boy and had suggested we make a weekend of it staying the night at her inlaws holiday house in Mount Victoria. 'By the way,' she said, 'their little house is up for sale too. It's 2 bedrooms and is really cute.' How I snorted! 'No way would I move allllll the way to Mount Victoria - it's the end of the earth! And no way would I consider a 2 bedroom house!'

So off we went... 2 hours drive with two kids in the back and a long list of properties we could JUST afford in the mid-mountains. We started at Hazelbrook and it got more and more depressing from there. Anything with character, heritage or quirkiness was not on the cards in my measly price range. We had a bevy of awful 80's dark brick houses to choose from. All positioned badly for much needed sunlight in the Mountains, arched hacienda finishes (not my style) and apricot kitchens & bathrooms, small living areas, often beautiful garden spaces, and of course - at our price range - very very very far from any sort of school or public transport.

It was not looking good. After a few properties and the two kids screaming to be let out in the back we finally gave in. We got all the way up to Mount Victoria (the highest point in the Blue Mountains at 1064m elevation) where suddenly Bec couldn't quite remember which house it was. 'I think it's down there,' she said as we wandered down pretty tree-lined streets. I remember thinking how much I always loved this street in particular as I drove. 'Ummm maybe turn right and go up that one? It's sort of overgrown and you can't see the house from the street.' Now, a lot of the houses couldn't be seen from the street and I was beginning to wonder where we were staying - especially with two completely overwrought children in the back screaming their heads off.

We pulled up a steep drive with a bush frontage, the light rain was drizzling away as it permanently does up here, and suddenly the most gorgeous old holiday cottage appeared in front of us. 'Oh my god,' I said, 'It's divine!' 'I knew you'd like it,' she simply said. We bustled the kids in, got the gas fire going (January this was I must remind you - us Helensburgher's were not used to it) and the red wine and cheese quickly followed.

About an hour later - maybe not even that - I was playing with my 6 month old on the floor. She was trying to stand/hold herself up and I was supporting her so she could. Suddenly she sort of slipped, turned her body so fell to the floor with me still hanging on. She screamed and I tried to calm her. She kept pulling her leg up and wouldn't support any weight on it. Bec and I didn't know what to do and since we'd already had red wine we thought it best to ring an ambulance. Of course we rang at roster changeover and no one could get to us too quickly from Katoomba. The lady on the line assured us that we would have support very soon as she organised for SES volunteers to show up to help until paramedics arrived. I wasn't sure what that meant but we were told to lay my daughter down on the ground, keep her happy and wait. About 5 mins later we had 2 local volunteers arrive, then another 3 from Bell/Dargan area, then another 2 from Springwood. We couldn't believe it! There was nothing much they could do so all stood around chatting with us and staring at this child on the ground who by then was pulling her legs in the air with her hands and rocking side to side like nothing had happened. We asked lots of questions about living in Mt Vic and the 2 locals had said that they too had never seen this house before as it was so well secluded! About 10 mins later the paramedics arrived and didn't see anything wrong with my gurgling happy daughter. UNTIL I stood her up and got her to hold her weight. Then she screamed. So off we went in the ambulance while Bec and her little one went to bed. Meanwhile I'd called Geoff in a flurry and he'd knocked off work and was madly driving up.

After a long wait at Katoomba Hospital the paed decided she was fine and it was just sprained. Geoff had showed up but didn't have the baby carseat in his car. One of the lovely SES volunteers from Mt Vic had said for me to call him anytime through the night and he'd come back to the hospital (15 min drive though no street lights/bush most of the way) as he had his grandsons carseat in the back. He came out before midnight and got us home with Geoff following.

So we get back to the house and I said, 'what do you think?' He just kept saying 'Wow! It's great'. So by the morning, everyone sleeping in after such an ordeal, I sat up early and started to calculate and work out what sort of a deposit we'd need.

By the end of the weekend, after dropping back Bec to her place in Helensburgh and finally getting home, I'd said to her to find out from her inlaws if they really did want to sell.

Lucky for us they did... and by the first week of March we'd moved. Ann (the owner) had said that it was karma. She wouldn't just sell to anyone and she wanted the people buying it to love it. We got this place at a great price and every day we have to pinch ourselves and tell ourselves how lucky we are.

Moving: Exhausting, hopefully never doing it again, and certainly not with a 3 year old and 9 month old!