Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 renovation review

It's been a productive year, one which has flown too quickly for my liking.

This blog has been brilliant for keeping a record of what we have achieved at the Sow's Ear and is a great reminder of what we haven't achieved. It keeps us accountable, particularly as there is now an audience reading our travails.

In January and February 2010, we renovated the lounge room and started planting in our front garden.

Agaves and agapanthus December 2010

Agave and agapanthus January 2010

March 2010 saw us purchase salvaged timber casement windows to install into the master bedroom. Jason spent many a night re-puttying the glass and repainting them.

Master bedroom
October 2009
April 2010
Windows and new VJ board installed in this part of the master bedroom

April 2010 was when Jason agonisingly installed the 10 casement windows into our room and re-sheeted the lower walls with VJ boards. As you know, Jason is currently finishing off this room. Hooray!

Happily his shirtless efforts were rewarded, as Fun and VJs was named as one of the best Brisbane blogs by the Brisbane Times. Yay!

May and June were quieter months, but we did have the Sow's Ear's electrical wiring earthed at that time. It is still incomplete, with the sunroom wiring still to be done.

July saw Son #1's bedroom renovated and repaired. It's a gorgeous little room now...when there aren't toys strewn on the floor!

Water damage in #1 Son's bedroom
A nicer room for son #1

August was about clearing and planting on one side of the backyard and I started my very first herb garden. All this rain, recently, has been great for getting the plants established. I also purchased some outdoor Casala chairs and restored them with a lot of elbow grease.

Lilly-pillies August 2010
Lilly-pillies December 2010
Lots of growth in the space of four months.

In September 2010, Jason started painting the exterior of the house. For those unaware, sub-tropical Brisbane has received record-breaking rainfall since this time. Life is cruel.

Knowing Jason's luck, when he ever finishes painting the exterior with the incessant rain, Brisbane will be in drought again...

October and November saw Mr Rooney, our holidaying builder, step in to relieve time-poor Jason from some of the renovation work. He's been a lot of fun to have around and has invigorated Jason's enthusiasm to renovate. Work began on our exterior side staircase and new sunroom windows. Stay tuned for more activity in 2011.

Mr Rooney, the carpenter who loves working with steel, and Jason on smoko

December saw the removal of the cracked asbestos fibro sheeting in the sunroom. Thanks Mr Rooney! And Jason has been painting the deck (despite the rain) and finishing off our master bedroom.


Asbestos gone. December 2010

Asbestos walls. May 2009

I'm not one for resolutions, but prefer to have a plan. The plan is to finish the projects we have already started - side staircase, sunroom windows, earthing of the electrical wiring in the sunroom and to continue the exterior painting, one side at a time.

That's it, I think, for now. It pays not to think too big...sometimes.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2011 brings much good health and prosperity to you all. xx

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Deck repaired

The section of wood rot on the deck rails is now repaired.

Jason replaced the rotted bottom rail on Christmas Eve and today he replaced the rotted timber balustrades.

Before Mr Rooney, our vacationing builder, came on the scene, Jason would never have dreamed to replace balustrades by himself. 

The weekends he's spent with Mr Rooney working on the Sow's Ear has certainly given him more confidence to tackle jobs like this. 

I wasn't that keen on him doing it just in case he stuffed it up and we'd have to board up the dangerous gaping hole on our very high deck. She of little faith...

He's done a splendid job. What do you reckon, Mr Rooney? I know you're reading...Is very nice?

Jason painting the deck rails

A reminder of what the wood rot looked like after we inadvertently water blasted it with the power washer.

Painted deck balustrades on a Queenslander
 Jason's been busy with his paint brush. He told me he's developed calluses on his fingers. Sadly, there is more to do.

Our master bedroom is progressing nicely too. One final coat is needed on the VJs in this section only.
The next project is to remove the wardrobe doors and paint those in stages. Fun, fun, fun!

Jason painting the frame of the wardrobe

All in all, it has been a highly productive festive season at the Sow's Ear.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Work, work, work and play

Did I mention that I got a new camera for Christmas? It is still a point and shoot but it has more features than just the basic model I had previously.

Today, I've been playing with the automatic and the manual settings on my new toy.

Jason, on the other hand has been working hard, as illustrated in the next picture.

Jason painting the undercoat onto our bedroom walls. Automatic shot
Jason's taking advantage of the drier weather to finish painting the deck and our bedroom. The incessant rain and the high humidity over the past few days has made painting inside really difficult too. Today is much better.

Anyway, I stumbled on a great little post about taking better interior shots for one's blog. It is from Centsational Girl and it explains how to use your manual setting and to disregard your automatic flash. Very cool and useful post.

It takes me back to when I used to have an old Canon SLR when I studied photojournalism back in the days of the darkroom. Ha! Who knew that digital would make that all obsolete?

Here are my shots from around the house with the new camera:

Our lovely ceiling rose in the bedroom. We will install another light sometime down the track. Automatic shot.

Iittala Festivo candlesticks on our dining table. Manual shot

Jason's brother bought us this vase for Christmas. We are using it as a planter. I transplanted a Rheo plant from our yard  into a small plastic pot which fits nicely into the vase. Manual shot.

This is a very dark corner of the lounge room which I photographed in a manual setting without flash. It is not a perfect shot but the result is not bad.
I'll never be a gun photographer but I'm always open to all hints and tips about taking better photographs.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Artwork by Sarah Bishop

I just wanted to show-off the art photography I received from Sarah at Molly's Maison when I won her wonderful giveaway just before Christmas.

Sarah holds a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of Tasmania majoring in photography, but also creates wearable art, fashion and jewellery design. She is truly a creative soul. Have a look in Sarah's Etsy store here

She is also chronicling the renovation of her 100 year old home in Tasmania via her blog Molly's Maison - it is a blog which I can really relate to! And she has the greenest thumb out of all the blogs I follow - her iceberg roses are superb.

Artwork by Sarah Bishop

I am overjoyed to own Sarah's art work - they are even better in person. I was able to choose two pieces: Blue Anemone No 3 and Hellebore No.2.

Sarah was also very sweet and included a couple of printed postcards and envelope seals. Thanks Sarah!

old painted VJ walls in a Queenslander

And this is where I plan to display the new artwork when I have them framed. The photograph above is in our half-painted master bedroom.

Check out the yellow ochre colour under the cream. It always surprises me the colours chosen for internal walls in old Queenslanders when you scrape them back.  Jason will be adding the next layer of history onto the VJs tomorrow - plain old white!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day 2010

Boxing Day 2010 in Brisbane has been miserably wet.

It started off well with Panettone for breakfast with our morning coffee.

Panettone. It wasn't as nice as the one we had on Christmas day. This one was too dry...we still ate it though!

Afterwards, Jason decided he should tackle painting our master bedroom which has been in a confused state of custard cream and stark white for the past eight months.

This is a picture of our bedroom as it looked a day or so ago.
I bought new Orla Kiely pillowcases on sale a week ago at Myer. I blatantly copied this look from Captain KK. Thanks Captain!
See what I mean by confused. This is a really old and daggy photo, but it shows the half-arsedness of renovating a bedroom.

Today was the day to finally finish what was started when the windows were renovated all those months ago. I can't wait! 

It will be really good to have a nice bedroom.

Shirtless Jason preparing the drop sheets for the walls and floors. This photo is dedicated to Jane, whom I hope is recovering well after surgery.x

Tarped up!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas 2010

Jason's office has closed for the Christmas holidays and he won't have to go back until the New Year.  This will be the longest he will be off work since last Christmas.

And there is not a moment to waste, it would seem, on the renovation you will note from the images below:

Jason removing the rotted deck rails

Replacing the rotted timber. He bought the timber just before the timber place shut at midday today!
I asked Jason if it was plantation timber, but he didn't give me a direct answer so I suspect we have orangutan blood on our hands!

Jason is realising the impromptu renovating is harder than he initially thought!

You have to love his industrious ways.

There are many incomplete jobs to be finished around the house, so Jason will tackle those one by one. Our bedroom is only half painted, there is a half slab of concrete waiting to be smashed up and the deck painting will need to be finished. There is plenty to do and no time to get restless.

He assured me that tomorrow, Christmas Day, he won't do anything around the house. (Just between you and me, I'm assuming the inclement weather, with rain predicted, was responsible for that decision.)

We are having another quiet one here, at home. I know, we are a bit anti-social this time of year, preferring to socialise with family and friends after the Christmas period.

For us Christmas Day is for the children and for them to play at is a nice way to spend the day, watching them play with their new toys while we slowly get sloshed.

French bubbles for the festive season. Thanks to Jason's work colleagues!

Tonight I will be roasting a duck for our Christmas Eve dinner and making some profiteroles for dessert. Jason's work colleagues have generously provided our Christmas beverages again.

So, with that Jason and I will say cheers to you all.

Thank you for another fun year of blogging and for the fabulous comments. May the year 2011 be equally as fun.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

White Christmas

My blood was boiling this morning when I read an email, forwarded by an in-law, that I normally would've deleted. But stupid me read it. What was I thinking?

The title was "Being proud to be White".

It is utter shite that doesn't deserve to be repeated; no doubt originally created to propagate racial hatred. And forwarded by simpletons who have little understanding of the intent of such an email.

You probably know the type of email I'm talking about and if you don't, consider yourself lucky.

The in-law who sent it is disappointingly ignorant. Clearly. Because you wouldn't send such a thing to someone who has my ethnic background; an eclectic melange of the world!

I wrote a reply and thankfully I didn't send it because it was written in anger.

I've gotten over the anger. There is no point wasting energy over it. And if I take a cold hard look at myself, I am not without my own prejudices...although white supremacist, I am not!!

Jason told me to block the sender's emails in future. There is no easy way of telling someone close they are a racist and that they should know better...unless they read this blog...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

In the garden: Rheo and herbs

There are benefits to this incessant rain we've been having in Brisbane...

Here are a few random shots of plant life at the Sow's Ear:

Rheo plants under the water tank
I had lots of Rheo plants (oyster plants) cascading over the garden bed in our front yard. Last week I planted the excess around the rainwater tank which had previously been scatty with weeds.

Rheos are a native succulent of Mexico and are a ridiculously simple but interesting ground cover. They look after themselves which make them a good choice for the lazy gardener like me. They do have a weed like tendency, so I think they'll be okay in the contained space near the tank.

I love the purple underside of its leaves.
Herb garden in an old laundry tub
My herbs which I planted a few months ago have done exceptionally well. The only casualty was basil. And the coriander is now finished.

The mint and parsley have been fantastic for Moroccan inspired meals (thanks to a Nigella Lawson recipe book). A leg of lamb rubbed with ras-el-hanout and roasted until tender served with a simple salad of chopped mint and parsley, thin slivers of red onion and then tossed in lemon juice...deliriously yum!

The sage has been fabulous for roast chickens and last Sunday for the in-law Christmas dinner, I baked a large turkey stuffed with traditional sage stuffing. It was Good. Take note of the capital G.

Dracaena in a bullet planter
And speaking of stuffing, I stuffed my new anodised bullet planter with a Dracaena cutting. I'm not sure how it will survive but the disco blue tinsel and silver baubles might help disguise its death...festive, isn't it?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Scouting homes for a TV commercial

It seems the Sow's Ear is destined to be always the bridesmaid.

We were contacted again by Nat Duncan at Queensland Film Locations because our house was shortlisted for another TV commercial. Nat is a location scout for film, television and press.

They were after an older style home to film a Queensland Government community announcement. The Sow's Ear was on the shortlist with four other homes, but the director of the ad chose this place:

A home in Tarragindi.
Notice the retro wall divider and boomerang chair

When Nat called me to say we had missed out, we got to chatting about what producers and directors are looking for when choosing a location. It's really interesting.

She said it is hard to pick but there was a definite leaning, with certain directors, towards homes which have an air of nostalgia. Old fashioned furniture (like ours) and concrete breeze blocks are some of the things which appeal.

breeze block image from here

The Sow's Ear missed out on the pizza ad (a half day backyard shoot) earlier this month. It went to another location which was geographically closer to the production premises, plus it had an original Hills Hoist clothesline. That was what sealed the deal.

Damn our newer green Hills Hoist!!

Newer green Hills hoist
Nostalgia sells, people. Get your retro wares out and think twice before you yank out the old Hills Hoist...

Monday, 20 December 2010

The reason you shouldn't paint when it looks like rain...

Dripping paint in the rain. Jason doesn't know I took photographic evidence.

Jason's gamble with the weather and deck painting didn't pay off yesterday.

It started bucketing down during an early morning paint session and did not stop all day.

Oh dear.

To say he was upset would be an understatement. The man is gutted.

Saying, "What did you imagine would happen?" didn't improve his mood either...I'm keeping a low profile for a while.

Friday, 17 December 2010

For Jane

I feel incredibly sad. This morning I found out that Jane was unwell. I don't really feel like writing what I was intending to blog about this afternoon...

I always try to find sunshine during dark days. It is all about FUN here after all; it says so in the title header.

So, I went through some of my old blog posts for the most hilarious Jane comments. We always look forward to a Jane comment because you know for sure your blog post was worthy!

Here are my favourites:

In response to Julia Gillard becoming PM and about Julia's humble home in Altona:

I personally am pretty excited -a female GG swearing in a female PM I never thought I would live to see the day.
Regardless of what you think of her political leanings and her Coon and Cabana accent.
The house is very Australian isn't it. But much more worrying are her ill fitting suits. We need someone to fix that. Desperately.
But that hair. How I love that deep auburn colour

Her commentary on the $5,000 mouth-blown Poppy lamp I was coveting:

You are like me. I always want the most expensive thing in the room. The thing I like the most about it is the MOUTH blown glass. What other bit of your body would you use to blow the glass I wonder?

On discovering Mr Rooney was not an old fart:

I must be a bit daft but I had this idea in my head of Mr Rooney as a slightly paunchy silver haired middle aged man on the edge of retirement.
I am quite stunned to see his perky form complete with rather nice thighs.
A competitor for Jason.
Forgive me. It has been a long week. Already

When Jason was outed by the press for being "sexy and shirtless":

HA - love it. 'Sexy shirtless behind the scenes glimpses'. Much better than 'creepy overweight beer bellied behind the scenes glimpses'. Go Jason. !! My lord it could be a different kind of blog with a few more images of Jason. The mind boggles. 

Jason doesn't mind to be objectified for a good cause. Photo dedicated to Jane

Comment when Jason returned to his shirtless state after the winter months:

Well it's about time we saw more Topless Jason. I was beginning to notice his laziness and fully dressedness around the house. Good job on the deck. I hate doing that.

When I started blogging, never did I realise that I would encounter such lovely people. People I could classify as friends.

Take care Jane. We are thinking of you and we will be waiting to read your wonderful My Pear Tree House and looking forward to your golden comments when you return. xx

P.S Just Martha from Jelly Shane has come up with a lovely suggestion if you are a fan of Jane (or if you know anyone you care about going through challenging times). Click here to join forces.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Asbestos Removal and the talented Mr Rooney

Mr Rooney, our builder of many talents, is licensed to remove asbestos.

And that is what he did this morning at the Sow's Ear. The fibro sheeting in the sunroom was removed in preparation for the installation of the new old windows.

Here is a pictorial of the morning:

Asbestos removal sign
Mr Rooney barricaded the area and hung out his shingle.

Mr Rooney in his lovely outfit
Mr Rooney suited up in his disposable white coveralls. I swear he would've been singing Suspicious Minds a la Elvis, if it wasn't so disgustingly hot and humid today. He has a nice lower register.

Thick black plastic is used to contain any dust.
Image courtesy of Mr Rooney

Thirsty work
Mr Rooney's beverage of choice before he commenced work on this hot day was Powerade.

Old lino on the floorboards.
image courtesy Mr Rooney

There were remnants of old green lino which Mr Rooney discovered when he removed the fibro sheeting.  Interesting to see an image of house history, now long gone in an asbestos bin somewhere.

Unsheeted walls in the sunroom

The walls are now denuded of their old fibro lining. They will remain like that until Mr Rooney returns, which is most likely after Christmas.

After the storm

Not long after Mr Rooney left, a massive electrical storm hit over Brisbane. The rain came in at all different directions and it became eerily dark at 1.30pm. Buster the budgie's cage was blown over and smashed during the storm, but he's okay.

You know it is a bad storm when the undercover deck is completed saturated and your budgie is blown off his perch!!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Books, endings and winner

Uummm... I've been a member of a book club for the past six years. Yeah, I know what you're going to say and stop rolling your eyes.

Last night we had our last book club ever to be hosted at L and R's place.

They rent two old flats on the River. The owners recently sold the property for a multi-million dollar sum - the poor rickety building will be knocked down and the land will be redeveloped. L has already found a new place to call home while R will have to find new digs in 2011.

R lived in the bottom flat, while L lived in the top flat

We were all sad. It was a nice green and character-laced oasis in a sea of schmick building developments.

Whenever R or L hosted a book club evening, we always admired the priceless views of the City; lights sparkling in the river. It was just a lovely location.

Vale to one of my favourite spots in Brisbane. It will be missed.

Anyway, on to books.

L catalogued the books we have read over the past six years. It is always great to look back at what we loved reading and what we hated. The discussions are always animated and downright hilarious.

For your interest, here are the book titles we read in 2010 :

January - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
February - The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
March - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
April - The Women in Black by Madeline St John
May - The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
June - Indignation by Philip Roth
July - The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
August - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
September - Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
October  - The Invisible Man by H.G Wells
November - Like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
December - Squirrel seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

And I am pleased to announce the winner of the Ferrero Rocher by BKH Christmas Centrepiece is Leah from Sugar Snapped.

Congratulations Leah!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fellow bloggers

Ana from Travelling with Ana paid us a visit today.

She's a pretty groovy chick. I think she may be one of Fun and VJs' youngest readers. She is pure cuteness and we get along like old pals.

Ana coordinating nicely with the furniture on our deck

And because she is such a mover and shaker, she brought along a new Brisbane blogger on the scene - Fiona from The Self-Raising Kitchen. She's another groovy chick.

Veteran blogger Ana gave Fiona and I a few blogging tips, while she was here. One can learn a lot from an 11 month old. Isn't that right, Fiona?

Appropriately, Fiona brought along these cupcakes in miniature for our gourmet pleasure.

Fiona's blog is brand spanking new and it's about her gastronomical-educational adventures (and she is a great writer by the way).

Her first post includes a very cool Thai Green Curry paste recipe which would make a thoughtful Christmas gift for your foodie friends.

I'm going to give it a try because we have a family Christmas dinner this weekend and I always like to include "homemade" into the gift equation.

Anyway, I hope you will all give Fiona a warm welcome.
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