The road to making our dream a reality

Six months ago Mark and I bought a dilapidated and neglected house on a picturesque street in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It is a relic from an era bygone – a beauty in its day perhaps but the years have not been kind and any salvageable features have most certainly been lost over time.

The block it sits on however is large, flat and filled with sunshine – it backs on to a bush reserve and captures distant views over the bays of Pittwater. As a property it met our criteria perfectly. We weren’t looking to renovate again, we wanted to build a home and in order to do that we had to find vacant land or a suitable ‘knock-down’. We had, without question, found the latter and acted as quickly as possible on the exciting opportunity.

Our choice of architect, or more accurately architects, came easily. We were so happy to enlist the help of a local husband and wife team, former neighbours and friends who we worked with on our previous home and who have always wholeheartedly understood our aesthetic and design ideals.

back-of-house-shotAnd so began visits to the site and chats over cups of tea about what we wanted from our new home, how we imagined it would look and function. It was a process that required us to hold a mirror up to our family and ask questions such as – how big does it need to be? What are the most important design features? How do we want this home to work and feel? It was an inspiring and thought-provoking time and after much careful consideration and discussion we felt happy and confident with the brief we’d created.

To our immense delight, our architects interpreted the brief sensitively and smartly, presenting us with plans that immediately felt and looked right. They have designed a contemporary home that sits beautifully in the landscape and which also meets our family’s practical needs perfectly. The house layout itself is open and spacious and through a series of internal courtyards they have managed to dissolve the indoor and outdoor divide, making the spaces seamlessly link and form an inviting whole.

I was so captivated by these little courtyards. Part of our brief had been to create a home which made people feel as if, on arrival, they have stepped into an unexpected, natural oasis. These spaces definitely help to achieve that but they also do something so much more. They provide areas where the children can be with their friends, where Mark and I can read a book, enjoy a cuppa or entertain guests and where we all have the freedom to be individuals within our family unit.

The design has been given a name by our architects – ‘Cove House’ – which, for me, feels dreamy and soft. It is a name that pays homage to the connected waterways throughout Pittwater while also encapsulating what the house itself will represent.

Through a series of linked rooms and courtyards, our house will unfold like a collection of coves and as someone who is inspired daily from nature and my environment, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

At this point in time, our plans have been submitted to council, the Development Application sign has been erected on site and we are somewhat anxiously awaiting planning approval. Once approved, we can set about demolishing the existing house to make way for our new one. While there is no question that this is a thrilling phase in our lives for me beauty of this process exists just as much, if not more so, in its collaborative nature. It will enable us to work with many local and talented trades-people, designers, builders, craftsmen and artists – all integral in transforming a long-held dream of ours into a tangible reality.

I look forward to taking you on our building journey and sharing the ups and downs along the way.Lyndal---sign-off

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Making memories together, far from home

Travel has always been an important part of Mark’s and my life. Pre-children, we enjoyed some amazing trips together – trips that were filled with adventure, excitement and wonder, which opened our hearts and minds to the big and very beautiful world. Since becoming parents, our holidays have been fewer and farther apart, but we have been lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful trips (both big and small) away with the kids. There is something so magical and freeing about making memories together far from home, where regular routine, comforts and familiarity don’t exist.

It goes without saying that travelling with a young family is a vastly different experience to taking trips solo or as a couple – the packing alone can be enough to send me into a spin! There have been times, when, knee deep in clothes, kid’s paraphernalia, passports and luggage that I have felt completely incredulous and bewildered….how could we possibly think it reasonable to cart our little family halfway across the world in search of adventure? Days spent at home, where we have every book, toy, movie, puzzle and crayon at our fingertips can be chaotic and demanding enough – surely jumping on a long-haul flight with our three little ones is the stuff of lunacy? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay put?

Of course it would be. Travelling with kids is, at times, not easy or relaxing. It can be stressful, exhausting and confronting – as a Mum it has challenged me in ways I never imagined I’d be challenged. Being flung out of our comfort zones as grown-ups can be daunting – adding innocent little people into the equation, who need round the clock protection, love and care, can prove extremely trying.

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But anything worth doing in life is usually not entirely easy – looking back, the times when I have felt challenged or confronted are also the times when I have grown the most as a person and parent. In learning to accept and embrace the challenges that have arisen while travelling with our children, I have simultaneously been able to enjoy the extraordinary rewards and these, for me, have far surpassed any of the difficulties.

Last Christmas Mark and I took the kids to Samoa for three weeks (I look forward to sharing our Samoa story with you in this space soon) – they were, without question, three of the most magical weeks of our lives. We were awestruck by the island’s untouched natural beauty and learnt so much from the Samoan’s simple approach to life and living, where family, home and respect for the land are paramount.

When we boarded our flight back to Australia my eyes were literally brimming with tears. I was completely overcome with emotion and joy, feeling both humbled and grateful for all this tiny country in the South Pacific Ocean had offered my family.

It was a trip that exceeded any expectation I had and we returned home changed people, filled with newfound gratitude, appreciation, wonder and love for a place which only weeks before had been unknown to us.

Rarely a day passes now when Jack doesn’t ask if he can ‘go on a plane to Samoa’ and each time he spots a coconut, pineapple or papaya he says ‘like in Samoa Mummy.’ For a little boy who was only two when we visited, its impact on him was huge and as a Mum, I couldn’t be happier. Exploring the world offers our little ones an education like no other – it broadens their minds and opens their precious little hearts.

It will be my pleasure to share our travel stories with you.

Lyndal---sign-off

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Falling in love with a beach-side village life

Mark and I moved from Sydney’s Lower North Shore to a village on the Northern Beaches six years ago. We felt so drawn to the area’s spectacular, untamed beauty and the house prices were also within our reach – it became immediately apparent that the decision to move was not only right but possibly one of the best we had ever made.

We fell instantly in love with the laid back, relaxed lifestyle – the area seemed to possess a rustic, old fashioned charm which struck such a chord with us. New neighbours warmly chatted to us about ‘popping round for a cuppa’, ‘grabbing a quick surf’, ‘throwing a line in’ and ‘heading out in the tinny with the kids’ on the weekend – we felt an openness and a kindness and an immediate sense of belonging.

The village, we quickly discovered, was home to an array of cute cafes, schools and shops – a magnet for young families, designers, writers, tradies, artists, hippies, surfers, greenies, boaters, professionals and fashionistas alike. Difference, it seemed, was not only accepted but encouraged and to this day, I feel enormously lucky to be living here and raising our young family.

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For our children, Sienna, Chloe and Jack, life here is somewhat idyllic. On summer days, when the school bell rings at 3.25pm and a sea of hot little bodies swarm out of the classrooms, families head for the beach pool to cool off.

Amidst a flurry of cossies and clambering little arms and legs, I sit and watch the kids and their friends jumping, diving, splashing and playing with a joy-filled heart. This is what I dreamt for their childhood – to be carefree and happy in a place that both comforts and inspires.

Mark and I ourselves have also been extraordinarily privileged to make friends here which, without question, will be lifelong. They are the sort of people who would drop everything to lend a helping hand or offer support when you need it most – refreshingly different souls but all linked by a common thread – their passion for family life and appreciation for the beautiful environment in which we live.

As I was bringing this piece to a close I decided to take a break from writing and head off on one of my favourite runs. It is off-road – a beautiful bush track which hugs the incredible coastline. I was concentrating…carefully navigating the natural rock stairs when a lady sung out to me, “Quick, come and have a look, there’s whales!” When I reached her, she grabbed my arm and I noticed that her face was literally glistening with joy…we stood together, looking out towards the horizon as two giants of the sea arched out of the water. It was magical and in the morning winter sunshine I felt blessed. She looked straight at me – her eyes filled with warmth and said, “You know it’s going to be a good day when you see that.”

That, I said, is a certainty.

I look forward to sharing with you all that is wonderful about our life on the Northern Beaches. This space will also provide a platform to celebrate local talent, which exists in abundance.

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