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Being a housewife in Australia


It is a pleasant late Summer morning here in Oz, a Jasmine Green Tea freshly brewed sits beside me. Curls of steam, steady and reassuring, trail north from the teacup. The day ahead holds expected highs of around 31°C (87°F), which feels more like a hot midsummer in England and most alien to not be ‘on holiday’ in such clement weather. The locals are claiming this to be the last week of the season but we still have 35+°C days on the horizon for the weekend ahead, I am melting at the thought…

Arlo has happily left for another day at school which he is enjoying immensely (“the teachers are so much more relaxed here mummy”), and I’m looking out over the back deck towards the garden I hope to bring a bit of life to over the coming years. With two rose bushes and a dahlia patiently waiting to be planted, and an 8ft mature Camellia bush I’m promised will bloom in vivid pink this wintertime, there is much promise for a happy life in “the little things” for us here in Australia.

Homemaking_blog_australiaRoses, Dahlia's & "Barry's Gaff" in the background

While the towels are currently spinning away in the top-loader washing machine (a long-time dream to have one after falling in love with them in Canada), I have some time to share some things with you before the lunch hour beckons.


Learning to be a homemaker when you move abroad takes time

I must admit, I’m finding that I feel like a bit of a fish out of water with my homemaking at the moment. One probably shouldn’t be surprised about it given that we have travelled nearly 10,000 miles from what I have known for so long as “home” and the routines and familiarity I had there, but it’s taking longer than I thought to settle in.

Spending two months in an AirBnB while we house hunted wasn’t easy. I learned a lot about myself in those two months! I am most definitely one for “creature comforts” and routine. Feeling displaced and in a home that was not my style, or being able to express my love for my family in the usual “acts of service” way, even though I knew it was only temporary, really triggered me emotionally. I’ve shared before that a sense of home is one of the things I need most in my life to feel secure, and it was certainly a test.

We had many fun adventures in that time, exploring and making the most of the city. Not to mention enjoying the company of lots of visiting friends who flew in from all corners of Australia to see us for the first time in years, but I need roots! In lieu of not being able to properly cook in the tiny kitchen with sparse provisions, I retreated into reading when I could, and went out window shopping to “plan” and look forward to making the home I knew would materialise soon.


Julia and Anastasia’s content and gorgeous book are pure joyful escapism, and filled my nature living country-girl cup while “city living”. They are based right here in Australia, and they raise ducks! I have a bit of a thing for ducks.

I had planned to share the story of our new home with you, and perhaps a few pictures of updates we are making to it here and there, but we had word this morning that our crate has finally arrived in port after a much delayed journey aboard the container ship (desperately avoiding the drama of the Red Sea). So I have decided to pop it on hold for now as this place doesn’t quite feel like my own yet. I’m a bit of a sentimental sort, and can’t wait to truly unpack and have our much loved things dotted about the place! I just know it’ll feel like Christmas to open those boxes again and lay my hands on our most treasured things. The kettle and my Emma Bridgewater mugs have probably been my most “missed” items. How British does that sound? Weirdly too, one very specific frying pan.

The one thing that surprised me the most about sharing my news with you last time was that I hadn’t quite realised just how many Australian readers I had! It blew me away, and if I’m honest made me feel very happy. Having blogged for so long from England, I had a feeling I was leaving it all behind, but instead I really did walk into the next chapter! Not a new story, just a new adventure in a place where I have been made to feel incredibly welcome.

A close friend of mine had this same adventure over a decade ago and lived in Alice Springs for a few years - she also frequently visits Australia for work now and knows it well. She shared with me at our leaving party that she had a feeling I’d fit in “much more” over here. Not only are people incredibly relaxed, but the whole housewife thing really is a “you do you” situation and not quite as judged as it felt back in the UK. Only time will tell if she is right, but given the people I have met so far, she might be onto something.

The amount of emails I received wishing us luck and saying how happy you were for us was truly touching. The invites too to meet up, and the offer of advice should I need it was so kind. Thank you too Ali and Rebecca for the “flat whites”, that was really sweet :)

I can only apologise that I’m unable to write back to you all! Instead, I thought you could humour me and you might have a laugh about “this Pom’s” assumptions and first impressions about life here in Australia, and it could be something I re-visit from time to time. I know some of you might also be curious about life here too. This is what I know (but mostly feel) so far…


The wildlife is dangerous in Australia, and house spiders are the worst

It is, yes, but not as in-your-face as I expected! When I first visited back in 2002, my Dad made sure to instil a habit in me to check my shoes before I put them on. Shake out the bedsheets before you get in, and NEVER leave clothes on the floor. I have been really pedantic myself in nagging Arlo about that one in particular! When going to the loo in unfamiliar places I tend to do a nervous check of the ceilings and behind the door before I commit to a cubicle. Too many horror stories of being trapped in a toilet mid-wee while a giant spider looms overhead. Waaaaaah!!! Talk about peeing-yourself.

Two friends of ours have both been bitten at night by Whitetails who came for an unexpected sleepover in their sheets… there goes my love of line-drying outside!

So far I have only met “Barry” (so named by the Mr), the resident Huntsman spider that lives in the boys’ den at the bottom of the garden and pictured above with the roses (the den, not the spider - I’m not cruel). I actually thought he was dead when I first spotted him while on FaceTime with my Mum, giving her the grand tour. He was so still I got frighteningly close, but I’ve since learned he was “sleeping”. Unfortunately he hasn’t paid rent so he may soon be evicted, but those in the know say having him there is a good thing, because he will eat the ones that would kill me via venom, as opposed to just mere heart attack from fright. As someone who is petrified of spiders, this move still doesn’t make sense to me either…

Snakes also aren’t my favourite, but I don’t have plans for bush hiking, and the suburbs aren’t their ideal habitat anyway, or so I’m told.

It does give me anxiety, I’ll admit. Walking home from having coffee with a new friend yesterday I was constantly scanning the verges “just in case”. A question to the Australians - is this good practice? Or should I relax a bit?

The one thing I have been pleasantly surprised by is the birds! Oh they’re just incredible.

I’ve seen Blackbirds, Wrens, Doves of all kinds, and Swallows which make me smile and think of “home”, but the Parrots are just pure entertainment. Gentle twittering has given way to insane and very loud SQUAWKING but every evening a flock of thirty or more Cockatoos come and delight us in the front garden. We have front row seats to their acrobatics and antics, and it’s such fun, I wonder if it’ll ever get old. The King Parrots, Galahs, and Lorikeets are pretty too.

A Magpie couple also visit every morning and come right up onto the porch, wiping their feet on the coir mat (I kid you not), and I’m told if we feed them, they’ll learn to trust us and not “swoop” us during breeding season. It’s something I’m keen to try.

Ringtail possums frequent the telephone lines at dusk, as huge species of Flying-Fox Megabats (yes, mega) come home to roost, all following the same flight path over our garden. Of these, I am not frightened, even though they are 100x the size of the Pipistrelles that used to dart about in the night sky in our old garden.

Cockatoos_australiaFree afternoon entertainment in the front garden (and Arlo leaning into the Aussie "look")

Australian supermarkets are boring

I’m sorry, but I said it. That’s obviously just in comparison to what I’m used to, but there are only two main choices - Coles or Woolworths (Aldi is here, but its not as comprehensive and missing many of my favourite items). I’m also miffed that they don’t yet have the self-scan barcode handsets so you can “scan as you shop” and see your running tally. It is horrible not knowing what total spend you’ll be faced with at the tills. It makes my weekly budget so hard to manage, which was something I had locked down tight back in England. Getting used to a new currency is hard too! I have to mentally halve most prices to get a sense of their “worth”, but I’m assured I’ll get used to it in time.

However, for the lack of fun seasonal items and variety of options (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Asda, Co-Op, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, M&S et al…) we had back in England - the availability and proximity of the supermarkets is incredible! They are everywhere. I used to have to travel quite far to visit some of them back home, but now I have no less than ten or more within a five minute drive in any given direction.

What Australia does do better is the Butcher, Baker, Greengrocer and Food Markets! There are also so many organic and bulk food stores! The sustainability options are mind-blowing and so encouraging! They were dying out back in the UK, and if found, somewhat expensive - and while not exactly cheap here, there are many of them, you can always find one right on your doorstep. The independent business model is still thriving, and I’m happy to support it. Not to mention the natural/low-tox products on offer. I’m very happy about that!

As for food and baking, we recently had a birthday to celebrate, and I paid homage to an Aussie favourite - the Pavlova (but make it chocolate). It only took me about an hour to find the ingredients - new supermarket layout to navigate you see. I used my Mum’s recipe (which is actually Nigella’s), but it’s become a classic staple and so frequently served, Mum can now lay claim to it if she wishes. We’ll allow it.

The baking of said item also made harder with the fact I had to borrow scales and a mixing bowl last minute, but we managed!

Chocolate_pavlova_recipe_australiaChocolate Pavlova a la Mum (a la Nigella)

I really miss Sainsbury’s and M&S in particular. Waitrose was always a nice morning out too, if only to browse and pretending you were a Middleton with millions.

Grocery shopping was fun back in England, but for the moment I’m just finding it stressful! First world problems I know, and I’m glad that there is food availability but the difference in such a big part of my routine for the week is startling and jarring. Aussies, or those who have also emigrated, what are your best tips?

Vintage shopping in Australia is amazing!

Now this was something I was really worried about. Haha! As many of you know I had to sell a lot of things in order to help with the move both budget-wise and to lighten the load… we were really strict on the space in our crate and really had to do a “Kon-Mari” on every item in our home. If it didn’t spark joy and I wouldn’t feel bereft without it, it had to go. So much of my lovely collection of vintage things were re-homed with people who I knew would cherish them, and I was really concerned there would be nothing but “modern” available here in Oz.

I tried looking for bloggers with similar tastes to mine to be reassured, but it was fruitless. The trend/fashion for interiors here is very Scandinavian/Japandi and while that’s lovely - I do tend to lean towards more of a classic and traditional look.

I had seen comments on social media in the past too from Australians saying either there was hardly any good vintage here, or that is was wildly expensive. How wrong I was to assume this! How incredibly wrong I was. It’s better!!!

Now, I am in the suburbs of a major city, so that probably helps - but I’m glad it doesn’t apply to my location. Phew! One of my favourite pastimes would be lost to time forever and I’d be very sad…

Vintage_blog_australiaYou'd never go short of a teacup - I've even spotted Beryl!

I suppose this all hinges on personal taste, but the hey-day of “building Australia” coincides with my favourite time periods, and lots of people made their home here in the mid-century, which is totally my jam! So it is great for me… I’ve already frequented many of the local antiques emporiums, not to mention the “op-shops” (translation: charity/thrift shop) and have come home with some wonderful treasures. If I had to put a name to my choice of treasures, there is a distinct happy Doris Day feel to it all - not bad considering we now live in a 1950s Californian Cottage!

Housewife_blog_australiaSecondhand baskets and embroideries decorate the pantry

There are many Victorian things too in the Antique shops, and (this is just personal taste) there is so much stuff that reminds me of the homely feel of the 90s and early 00’s! Very Laura Ashley, mismatched but warm and inviting, somewhat eclectic and “gathered”. Just like Lorelai’s house in Gilmore Girls. Those tones of yellow and warm white, different tones of wood, and things that make you smile really capture my heart. If you know me, you know I’m not in the least bit fashionable, or able to put things together very well - I just like what I like and flit about according to what interests me (which is many things). I don’t want to shoehorn myself into anything specific in terms of style, I just want to be myself surrounded by the people I love, and things that are pretty, interesting, and inviting. 

Lorelai Gilmore House InteriorLorelai's house - we have an arched doorway just like this

I’ve given up trying to decorate according to a specific style or era, and instead am simply embracing the attitude of “if we love it, it deserves a place in our home”. Back in England I used to be a bit uptight about the boys’ electronics being on display, and wanted my home to be “Pinterest worthy” (not that I ever achieved it, but I tried - yeah, not my talent). This old attitude has all but died an “aesthetic death” since I left instagram! Life definitely feels a lot more relaxed in this way and it’s something I’m considering writing about further… this “idol” we have created out of our homes and certain aesthetics in recent years. They’re lovely to look at, but in practice, incredibly restrictive!

I’ve been in people’s houses where they’ve not wanted certain angles photographed less it “ruin the perfectly curated image”. What a life… I’m glad to leave that behind now. I appreciate pretty, yes, but not at the expense of comfort, or my family’s opinion. Especially not for anyone’s approval online! One grumpy Italian man online once said my thrifted (incredibly stunning IMO) Colefax and Fowler curtains that would have cost thousands new, reminded him of “hanging sausages”. We cannot please them all! Haha!

I think this is where the 90s stuff is winning a place in my heart… it reminds me of a time within my own living history when life felt simpler, and we just lived in our homes rather than behaved narcissistically about them, not believing it gave us a sense of self-importance. A topic for another day perhaps?

This trio of Redoute’s roses were a happy find for AU$5 each! (That’s about £2.58 or $3.92US). I just need to paint the black/navy wall of the sitting room in my chosen shade of warm white before they can be hung. I’ve yet to float the idea of yellow walls in there with the Mr, but there is always time…

Thrifting_vintage_australia_vinniesFound it at Vinnie's!

I love a thrifted home, and these give me such old school Victoria Magazine vibes that make me feel all cosy. This Pinterest Board will give you all the feels if you too are looking for a “return to loveliness”.

Australian gardens are verdant and lush

I blame it on the mainstream media (as I do many things). Or perhaps it’s the fault of the Australian Tourist Board, but I had such a dim-witted and ignorant view of Australian wildlife and countryside, despite having been here before.

I imagined all it to be a dust bowl. Yellow and full of Kangaroos, tumbleweed towns and not much else - but the sheer green of the place I’ve now laid my eyes on as an adult! The exotic flowers, the gardens, the farmlands, vineyards, forests, mature trees lining every suburban road, and reserves with creeks flowing through them was a real surprise to me. Obviously my memories from 25 years ago had faded and instead been replaced with made-up scenes from Crocodile Dundee on walkabout! Idiot.

Plans are afoot for creating a “cottage garden” style bed at the back of our garden, and a vegetable bed or two will also be put in place in the Spring. I’ve been collecting inspiration from gardens I have passed by and if you’re interested, Petrina Blooms, and Zenaya are the ladies I’ll be looking to to learn a new ‘gardening rhythm’ for my little flower beds and veggie patch. I texted a friend just the other day asking “when do we plant Spring bulbs in Australia? My whole calendar and sense of what to do each month is completely upside down now”...

Not that we have the space, or that I’m game enough, but Sophie Kovic’s natural swimming pool and garden is just out of this world.

Vegetable_gardening_homesteading_australiaA front lawn put to good use

Breakfast isn’t worth making at home

If I’m questioning my judgement when it comes to the spiders, I am definitely not when it comes to the food culture! Of all the meals of the day, brunch (or brekkie), will forever be my favourite!

Served pretty much all day, they really go to town for breakfast here in Australia - and it makes my heart sing! A far cry from the standard “fry up” back in England, the options here are light, and incredibly nutritious, and always a work of art.

Brekkie_in_australiaPoached Eggs & Avo with a side of Violas

The only issue I have found is that half the time I don’t know whether to eat it or just admire it!

While groceries so far seem marginally more expensive - eating out is wildly cheaper! When the bill comes we are always a bit surprised. At the moment we are really enjoying the options available for eating out, especially until the rest of my “kitchen bits” arrive. However I do miss cooking at home, and am still unfamiliar with the oven in our new house. So too am I experiencing a distinct lack of inspiration in the kitchen - because cooking in hot weather has never been my favourite.

With Autumn approaching (apparently), and the promise of the arrival of what ‘makes me feel at home’, like my favourite pots, pans, and cookbooks soon to be here, I am looking forward to settling into a routine and really making this place our home.


For now I must return to my job of painting dark walls white, making lunch, and waiting for my boys to return from school and step away from work for the day. This evening we shall bask in the last heat of the day, listen to the noisy chatter of the Cockatoos, and dream of what’s to come…

With love as always,

Alena x

Didn't get mail? Send me some instead!

While we were moving, we decided to de-activate the mailing program from this blog as it costs us every month to email these posts out - a waste of money if you’re not currently writing! As such, this post will not have been emailed to you.

I’m aiming to get it up and running as soon as possible, (which, in translation means “as soon as my husband can get to it alongside his paid work”).

In the meantime, if you have anything you’d like to see on the blog, or topics you’d like me to cover, please feel free to message me via the contact page! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, even if I cannot personally reply.

As ever, thank you to everyone who has supported the blog and my writing over the years. Thank you for being a part of this community. I hope you enjoyed this update, if you like our values here at The Darling Academy and found this post useful or inspiring, would you kindly consider supporting the blog.

Alena xxx


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