Thursday, 31 March 2011

Retro vignettes

I've been having fun with the Jo bounty. Retro vignettes are cropping up everywhere!

 Pomona Arabia stoneware jars designed by Raija Uosikkinen sitting on the kitchen bench. 

Three West German pottery vases in the study. The baby vase will house the biros which keep getting lost.
Also, I hope everyone has been reading the latest online Australian design magazine called est which has just launched. It is very, very good - I wouldn't mention it if it weren't.

It has an interesting feature regarding Real or Replica. I've also discovered the world of Wonki Ware from a random photograph.

Read est mag here.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ipswich thrift

I have been initiated into the world of Ipswich op shops. Why did I not know that this was the place to go for some mid-century goodness?

Guided by the grand dame of interior design blogging, Jo from Desire to Inspire and the queen of boathouse vintage, Katherine from theoldboathouse, I felt quite the amateur fossicker.

These eagle-eye women can spot a West German pottery vase, tribal Polynesian artifact and highly collectable piece of modernist design within seconds of entering an op-shop. If you must op-shop with someone, it's good to op-shop with the best. They have an uncanny sixth sense for thrift.

Our area of op-shop concentration was on Brisbane Street - there is the Hospice Bargain Centre, Animal Welfare league, Lifeline and a few other op/antique shops.

Apparently, Vintage Advantage is quite good too but it was closed on the Monday we visited because of a weekend antique show in Brisbane.

Aida Stagen iron candle holder, West German pottery jug, white Japanese planter

At the Hospice shop, I purchased a West German pottery jug, vintage Japanese planter and small Danish iron candle holder. All in excellent condition and all for the total sum of $8.

Jason is being sent on a mission to the Cathedral shop to find 12 thin taper candles. I hope he will find some.

More goodies from Jo

The image above includes some more Jo treasures -  Midwinter Stonehenge Moon plate, West German pottery, Japanese jar, Pyrex bowl, Crown Lynn dish and funky black and white trough vase. There was also a groovy Grecian horse cushion cover for Son #1 which he loves.

Everything I will use and enjoy. For example, the large Crown Lynn casserole dish is currently in the oven with a hearty beef stew for tonight's dinner and I have three funky West German vases sitting on the desk in the study as I type.

Thanks again Jo!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A car boot load of vintage

My word! The amount of excellent vintage ceramics and glassware which Jo, from Desire to Inspire, gave me yesterday is almost embarassing.

Luckily, I got over the embarrassment!

Jo is incredibly generous. The fact that I took that much from Jo and she could not have been happier is actually quite funny (as well as heart warming).

Katherine's (from theoldboathouse) eyes, popped out of her head when Jo kept pulling out collectable piece after collectable piece from her cupboards. As a matter of fact, my eye balls nearly fell out of their sockets too!

Jo has an eye for mid-century vintage - she says everything she's bought has been a couple of dollars here and there at op shops. She's been collecting for years in anticipation for when she and her husband bought their dream house.

Well, they've got the house but they've got more things than what they need. She's in the process of decluttering. And she's moving on from her Scandinavian phase.

I feel like the chosen one. Jo's op shop treasures have found a grateful home. I will be swapping out some of my other things and donating it to charity - things which are no longer to my taste, to make room for the booty. After all, we really don't need so many tea mugs!

Feast your eyes on this:

Two West German pottery vases and an Arabia glass plate called Kastehelmi designed by Oiva Toikka. Jason's bedside table will be home for these lovely items. The book is on loan  from Mr Rooney, our well-read builder. 

Le Creuset vintage cast iron saucepan and fry pans. I have turfed my old not so non-stick Teflon fry pan.  Jo, you have made all my frittata and omelette dreams come true...

Iittala glassware, Arabia stoneware, Danish teak candle sticks and a Stavangerflint Kon Tiki casserole dish. The mother-load of Scandinavian homewares given away so readily and happily. 

But wait! There's still more. And they're not even steak knives. (Sorry for the Tim Shore line from the old Demtel ads. You'd know it if you were a daytime TV addict in the me)

I will show you the rest tomorrow and you can see where the booty will live in the Sow's Ear.

Jo, I have had so much fun sorting through the goodies today and finding the perfect place for them. x

Monday, 28 March 2011

E S Traders at Ipswich

I had the best day today.

Katherine, from theoldboathouse, and I went to visit Jo, from Desire to Inspire, in her new home in Ipswich (40 minutes west of Brisbane).

Wow! Jo lives in an amazing 1860s stone cottage in a lovely part of the world. She gave us the grand tour of her home in its pre-renovation state. It is an incredible space made even more incredible with her art, designer furniture and various collections of glass, ceramics and tribal artifacts.

Her home drips with style, even with the walls in its scraped back state ready for painting. I should have taken photos but we were too busy chatting to bother with the camera.

I was also the beneficiary of a car boot load of Scandinavian goodies, because Jo was doing a cupboard cleanse. Thanks Jo!!!!

Later in the day we hit the shops and Jo introduced us to Kerry who owns a design boutique called ES Traders tucked in a lane way in Ellenborough Street. Again wow!

I thought we were in a lane way in Melbourne, rather than in Ipswich. Who knew Ipswich was so edgy?

The shop, which is housed in an industrial shed, has only been open for a couple of weeks, but I tell you, it has excellent one-off furniture and architectural pieces, exquisite white-on-white hand embroidered bed linen, 1950s woolen Japanese kimonos and fabulous religious iconography and more.

Here are a few photos of the what we saw in ES Traders:

Vintage woolen kimonos

antique chaise 


Enormous Venetian mirror

French lucky dip prizes

Wrought iron candelabras and vintage lanterns
Vintage Apothecary bottles

Vintage clock faces
Although I like a mod aesthetic, I was still blown away by this beautifully curated shop. It is definitely worth a look if you love beautiful things.

After taking in a few excellent op-shops (more on that in another post), drinking great coffee and visiting ES Traders, Ipswich is top of the list for a fun day out.

ES Trader's website is not online yet.
The shop is at 17C Ellenborough St, Ipswich. Email is
It is at the end of a lane way near the coffee shop. There are no signs.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Getting butterfly chair covers made

I've taken a leaf from Jason's book and will not put off spending what I can spend today.

We have two butterfly chairs which need to be refurbished. It has been on the to-do list for quite a while. There was never the right time to organise it...until now.

I have two chair frames which are slightly different in size (probably DIY backyard jobs from the 1960s).

You can buy ready-made butterfly chair covers at quite a few places. I've done the maths and sadly, as our chairs are not standard sizes, the covers need to be tailored to the frame. This is a job for someone other than me!

My friend Chris said that he would help me make a pattern. Yesterday, he came around with one of his butterfly chair covers which fitted quite well on one of our frames. He's kindly going to lend it to us for a while so it can be used as a template.

Butterfly chairs
Chris' cover is made from thick, super heavy-duty outdoor canvas. I will probably use a similar quality canvas so we can use the chairs outdoors.

I haven't decided on the colours yet, although I am leaning towards a mod orange or sunny yellow with a contrasting white trim.

Chris also made adjustments on the old green chair cover. It was never a perfect fit on the frame as it had sagged and stretched over time. With the magic of a few pins, masking tape and carefully marked instructions, we have another good template to take to the upholsterer.

The butterfly chair frames will also need attention, but I can certainly do that myself. It is nothing that a little steel wool, elbow grease and a few cans of metal spray paint can't handle.

I'll keep you posted on our butterfly chair progress!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Driving around in our bathroom renovation

Did I ever tell you that Jason is driving around in our bathroom renovation? He has been for the past few months.

Let me go into the background for those who are new to this blog.

Jason and I are completely incompatible when it comes to the topic of money.

I'm frugal and he's not. It was the way we were raised. I have depression-era mentality parents, while Jason has baby-boomer parents. Our two worlds could not be more entirely different when we compare our financial backgrounds.

I need to save for that rainy day which may never come. However, Jason is okay with living from pay cheque to pay cheque (not that he's paid by cheque, but you get my drift).

Renovating the Sow's Ear has been a great challenge in terms of working out our priorities. It must be a dilemma that many renovating couples experience.

Let me illustrate our story with some pivotal images:

Our  Jason's new car
The above image is the "Oh my God, I am 40 years old and I need a European sports car" purchase. Jason did end up buying the car after much discussion and consultation with his lovely wife. Aren't I nice?

Anyway, I call it the Bathroom Renovation. BR for short. The new car taunts me and I swear it gurgles flushing toilet noises every time I near it.

This is the second new car that Jason has purchased in as many years. Our very first car was stolen at Bunnings (the hardware shop for overseas readers) when we first moved to the Sow's Ear. It is poetic cruelty - a renovator's car stolen at the hardware store.

Jason used the renovation money set aside for the bathroom and other projects to buy a brand new runabout for work. He had it for 15 months before trading it in to buy the new sports car. We literally have been donating money to the car yards these past few years!

Full Retail business suit
This image is "I need to look like James Bond now, because I've bought the sports car" suit. Jason paid Full Retail, after telling me that he'd watch his pennies after buying the new car. How naive I was!

I look at this particular suit and think about the fly screens for all the bedrooms.

And then there was yesterday. Jason came home from work holding a suit bag. I thought it was his dry cleaning. No, my mistake. He just bought another suit!

This may or may not be the suit that Jason bought. I couldn't bear to look at it properly, I was so annoyed!

Let's get this straight, I'm not against Jason buying clothes for work. (Ironic that he loves clothes so much when he can't stand wearing clothes at home). It's just that this particular purchase is poorly timed. Buying a good work suit is very expensive. This spur-of-the-moment purchase is the equivalent to Carlo the Electrician's electrical bill for rewiring the entire house.

A few major bills have made things look a bit lean around here. Stupidly, I have been trying to watch my spending, delaying major purchases in order to save.

I know that the way I feel is my own silly fault because I am being pointlessly frugal. Please make me feel better. Am I the only one who plays the financial martyr?

Jason's new suit was on sale, thankfully. And this blog is a great form of therapy too.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Harlequin ramekins and update

Tonight's dessert is rice custard*.

There is some left-over rice which I need to use up. It makes the perfect excuse for me to whip out my favourite harlequin ramekins which were a gift from a good friend.

I've had them for years now and usually use these pastel-coloured beauties when making crème brûlée or panna cotta. The ramekins are old Villeroy & Boch Festival Ware egg poachers. I wouldn't have a clue how to poach an egg in them though...

As to their exact vintage, I'm uncertain, but judging by their shape and form they could be late 50s or early 60s. They are very "Madmen'esque" (I made that word up) and very cute.

I'm looking forward to using them again.

Villeroy and Boch harlequin ramekins

I get first dibs on the pink one.

*the recipe I use is from here

***Addendum at 4.55 pm***

I just retrieved the ramekins from the oven and it looks like we have success!

Rice custard dessert in vintage Villeroy & Boch ramekins

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Polka dot pillowcases

To alter that famous line in the movie The Sixth Sense [long pause, hoarse whisper]:

"I see polka dots."

And it's not from low blood pressure. To be more precise, it is polka dot pillowcases that I see, which makes me think we need some at the Sow's Ear.

Unfortunately sewing is not in my lexicon or range of skills. Because if it were, I'd be making polka dot pillowcases for my three boys. In truth, there is only so much domesticity that I can handle...

My mind's eye tells me the polka dots have to be a certain size and distance apart. This point is very important as not all polka dot cushions are equal.

Polka dot pillowcase 
Image courtesy of here

Castle do a range of lovely polka dot pillowcases. They are 100% cotton and made in Australia. The entire shop has an elegant range of bed linen. Take note that the polka dots are not on the the diagonal which is why they have a more modern feel. Very classy.

Polka dot pillowcases
Image from here
Pop by Sheridan have recently released a range of pillowcases which are quite nice. Take note that these dots are on the diagonal and are more traditional looking.

They are 60% cotton/40% polyester but the price is reflective of that point as they are quite affordable. At the moment, there is free shipping in Australia which makes it even more attractive. There is no mention as to where they are made, but I suspect our overseas friends are involved.

As I am El-cheapo (note well, the capital E) and like free postage, I bought three different coloured Pop pillowcases. They should arrive later this week. I'll test them out for you, with my boys being the guinea pigs. I'll also let you know whether you should bother with them.

I'm good that way.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Nose to the grindstone

After a couple of weekends off, Jason has his nose to the grindstone.

Back to the salt mines. Once more into the breach. Rolling up his (imaginary) sleeves. Same sh*t, different day.

So many idioms, so little time for painting the sunroom.

Jason is painting the bathroom door which used to be green, then mushroom, then cream and now white! Layer upon layer of history on that door.
The sunroom is slowly becoming the white room. Clearly, we will bore you with its progress until it's finished.

Our newly painted linen cupboard to the left of the bathroom door.
This photo is for Sarah B.xx

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bed linen for the boys' room

I made an impromptu purchase of some new quilt covers for the youngest boys' beds.

Bedding for boys is tricky if you don't want to take the TV/movie character path and want something fairly simple but affordable.

The new cotton covers are Sheridan factory seconds. Yeah, and they were B Grade seconds too. We ooze class at the Sow's Ear. Yes, we do.

Apparently, the colours on the fabric are meant to be more vibrant. I thought they were just fine myself and bought them because they were not at all expensive.

The pattern reminds me of something comforting like pyjamas or even flannelette sheets. They'll look even better when the room is finally painted...sometime in the near future.

The boys like their new covers. Fortunately, they are easy to please. Tout nouveau, tout beau.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Pinning and hair

Jason will not be pleased to hear that I have found another way to while away my time...when there is dust to dust.

Pinterest has finally piqued my interest. It is a place where you can easily flick images of things which take your fancy - it works very much in the way a mood board does.

While I was pinning today I found this new to me blog called Hair Romance and it's all about hair. Yeah, I know this is a renovation blog but just humor me during our short renovation hiatus.

Image courtesy of HERE

Above is an image for a French roll twist and pin (bun mohawk) that I tried while Son #3 was asleep. My hair is quite long at the moment and I tie it up quite a lot during summer. This style will do the trick when I need to go out somewhere more exciting than doing the groceries.

Me and my hair. A self portrait.

Hmmm...I am yet to master it, but with practice it will join the repertoire of hair styles that will come in handy.

Anyway, if you have long to medium length hair and need inspiration, Hair Romance is a fabulous place to visit.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Peg baskets: part two

Following on from the post about the cost of the designer peg basket...

Well done to East of Hudson for having the closest guess!  You other people clearly don't know the worth of a peg basket...

Perhaps you're all out of touch in Peg Basket World. And fair enough I say.

Image from here

So, how much?

You can buy it online for the amount of $152.90. And that's discounted from $170.00.

"Hhhhun..nnn.ddred...and ffff..iiffff...,"was all that I could stutter (royally) when I saw the discounted price.

I fainted when I saw the real price.

Not all peg baskets are equal to others it would seem in this world. I hope they throw in the wooden pegs for that price (and schedule someone to come over to hang out the washing too).

It's absolutely hilarious that the humble peg basket has become something much more. Prudently, I will stick to my stripey peg bag until it dies.

But you know, I have yet to come across a peg basket that has not completely disintegrated and become land fill. My peg basket is used nearly everyday - it's an important piece of equipment.

Someone reading this needs to go and design an affordable peg basket that will see me out. Preferably something I can pick up when I'm at Big W.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Peg baskets

My peg basket died the other day.

So, I went looking for a new one. And bought this flimsy thing from Coles for $3. It is striped polypropylene material with a white plastic hanger.

El-cheapo peg bag

Frankly, I think I was ripped off, but then after a little investigation into the world of peg baskets, I think not.

Robert Plumb Peggy Peg Basket
image from here

This basket would have to be the Rolls Royce in Peg Basket World. Who knew there could be designer peg baskets?

It is made from brushed stainless steel and is perforated for drainage.

Now, I thought it would be fun to ask you how much such a basket would retail? What price would you pay for a designer peg basket?

I'll let you know in my next post if you guess correctly.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Danish teardrop and exterior light

Carlo the Electrician sent Warwick the Electrician to the Sow's Ear to fit some lights today.

The Danish teardrop light which I bought last year was finally hung. It is in the room that Son #2 and Son #3 share. 

This bedroom is in its un-renovated state. It is always in a state of disarray. Always. And if it is tidy, it only lasts a mere few minutes.

The new light doesn't look fabulous at the moment, but it will. When the room and ceiling are painted in our signature bright white and we re-arrange the decor in the room, it will tie in much better. You must have faith in me.

Danish teardrop light
Warwick told me that he throws out light fittings like this all the time when they refit an entire house. Apparently, the owners no longer want them. I wept silent tears when he said that to me.

Below is an image of the old light fitting. The shade was just an el-cheapo white plastic thing which, from my perspective, just highlighted the ugly compact fluro light bulb. At least now, the bulb is hidden from sight.

Old light shade

Warwick also fitted the exterior lights which I ordered on very short notice. I ordered them yesterday afternoon via email and picked them up at 6:30 this morning from the electrical store. Lucky I'm an early riser.

They are just small and simple and the light is ambient. The ceiling is yet to be completed in terms of painting and other finishing off bits, but at least we have light out there in the meantime.

Exterior ceiling light 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Retro House

A couple of weekends ago, Jason and I went to inspect a retro 1970s open house. Don't fret, we're not moving or anything, it was just out of curiosity because these kind of homes don't often crop up on our side of town.

retro 1970s house

It was quite grand and it was like we stepped back into 1976, baby!

image from here

I could totally see myself in a lairy patio dress, attending to my imaginary guests, topping up champagne cocktails and pulling devils on horsebacks out of the oven, with The Girl from Ipanema playing gently in the background.

You too?

This was the dining room off the kitchen. Check out the curvy kitchen bench tops. You can also glimpse the view from the windows.

It is high up in the suburb of Upper Mount Gravatt, backing onto bushland, and has the most spectacular panorama from the house. It was designed by Gold Coast architect Russel Gibbons according to the real estate agent. Not that that means much to me but I guess it is still good to know.

Open plan living room with original built-in cabinetry.
It truly was designed with the panorama in mind, because from nearly every room in the main living area there is a view as the backdrop. There was an interesting L-shaped enclosed atrium (for want of a better word) with large sliding windows, where you could soak up the magnificent views to Moreton Bay.

Original retro kitchen

What I liked most about the house was that it had largely been left untouched. Everything seemed to be original which is so rare these day, however it was extremely tired looking. 

I could see this house being restored  to its former mid-century glory, with a few modern injections though.

Our eldest two boys loved the house. The winner for them was the laundry chute and two sets of  internal stairs. Easy to please.

Floor plan

Jason looked at the house and groaned about the amount of work and paint it would need. I looked at it and thought I could live here if it we had a spare million and more patio dresses.

Apparently, the house next door had sold for $1.3 million and was being extensively renovated. The real-estate agent was optimistically expecting a similar amount for this home when it goes to auction.

Jason said if we had a million dollars or more to spend on a house, he would hope that he wouldn't have to renovate it. And I responded, fair enough.

Whoever buys it will get themselves a fabulous blank canvas mid-century home. And with a bit of money and TLC, it will be spectacular. 

Let's just hope whoever buys it doesn't render it and can enjoy its 1970'ness, baby!

*all house photos courtesy of here

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mr Rooney-isms

I'm compiling a glossary of the expressions that get bandied around here, as we renovate the Sow's Ear.

We don't hear Australian expressions or words as much these days...people speak much differently now than they used to a generation or so ago. I must admit that business management terminology, computer and tech words and Americanisms have crept into my vocabulary.

Mr Rooney, our over-educated builder, speaks like an old grandpa, except he's not that old. With his interesting turn of phrase and choice of words, it's like stepping back in time. 

Anyway, here are some of our favourite (and somewhat least offensive) Mr Rooney-isms which have entered the Fun and VJs vernacular:

  1. Same mother, same father - consistently themed, if not exactly matching
  2. Necking a few frosty treats - drinking cold beer
  3. Cracker - really good
  4. Goes off like Chinese New Year - an enthusiastic bedroom performer (how does this come up in building conversation?)
  5. Has a face like a kicked-in sh*t can - someone ugly
  6. Dropping a grogan - going to the toilet
  7. Bum-nuts - eggs
  8. Blowing smoke up other people's fundaments - giving praise
  9. Blunt as my knob - "this chisel needs sharpening"
  10. Ooroo - good-bye
Do you have any old expressions that you use regularly?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Just hanging around

I finally had a few art prints framed. I don't know why it takes me so long to get around to doing it...because they look great on the wall!

Since I started blogging I discovered that IKEA is a great place for buying frames with ready-cut mats. The RIBBA frames are my favourite. They come in white, black, walnut and birch.

I bought two small white deep-set frames and an A4 sized birch-coloured frame - absolutely perfect for my latest prints.

Departure Lounge 1971 Giclee Print A4 by Inaluxe

I love all the prints at Inaluxe. They are fun and have a mid-century vibe that I really like.

It makes this corner look groovy!
I was also very happy to finally hang the lovely photographic prints by Tasmanian artist, Sarah Bishop from the blog Molly's Maison. Now this chick is extremely talented. If you love botanical art, she is definitely one to keep your eye on. You can find her HERE.

I had actually planned to hang these in my bedroom, but they were too good to hide away. They are on display outside our bedroom wall.

Fine art photographic prints by Sarah Bishop
The top photograph is Blue Anemone, the bottom photograph is Hellebore.

Aren't they just lovely?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Brisbane buses

I am sharing with you the best Letter to the Editor I have ever read in The Courier Mail. It was featured today and it is about the sorry state of Brisbane's public transport system and the lack of courtesy that some students exhibit. 

It is also the reason why Jason now drives to work after 20 years struggling with the Bombay Bus Service (his words, not mine) and why I avoid buses like the plague. 
This letter describes perfectly how we feel whenever we use the bus. If you like, imagine dapper, suit-wearing Jason (as opposed to the shirtless one that you all know and love) on his way to work in the City as you read it...  

Sweet images of revenge
AS the crammed bus jerks nauseatingly along the Western Freeway towards Indooroopilly, murderously childish intentions flicker in my mind like a movie of sweet commuter revenge.
With my work gear clutched between my legs, fingers grasping for the nearest pole to break a fall, my back aching and my work uniform clinging to me, I plan and plot my revenge.
See that schoolboy slouching in the seat to my front. I walk past and flick that stupid wicker hat off his red hair. I do the same to all the other schoolboys who take up the seats along the aisle. Flick, flick, flick.
See that university student with the green concession go card that gives her discounted fares. I will punt that $2500 notebook computer out of her grasp or accidentally dislodge the USB connecting her sleek iPod, probably with the aid of my blue go card, the expensive one for workers on medium wages who don't own any of the above technology because their money goes on bus fares.
See those schoolgirls, giggling and whispering in a group of chairs, watching as I struggle to surf around a corner. Out goes my foot as they depart the bus. Trip, trip, trip.
The grey-haired grandmother standing behind me and the pregnant woman cheer as I block the way of the young school children rising from their seats.
Soon enough, we reach Indooroopilly and I realise I am 34 years old and beyond such adolescent antics. Still, as they stream past me and my sore feet, I grin to myself.
Briohny Dixon, Fig Tree Pocket  letter from here

Briohny for Lord Mayor!!!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Builder's chic

A new purchase was made at the Sow's Ear during Jason's week off.

New tool belt with quick release buckle

I fear this building gig has rushed to Jason's head somewhat. So far, he's just been parading around the house with the new belt.

He's embracing Builder's Chic.

If he buys himself a high visibility vest and runs away to join a construction site, I'll be sure to let you know.
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