Thursday, 29 October 2009

Spooky – what lurks beneath.

We have a dungeon.

Well, not really a dungeon, but it looks dungeon-like and that must count for something. It is actually the brick cavity underneath the front external stairs. I know - not exactly à la Fritzl, sorry to disappoint.

Jason dubbed it the “naughty” dungeon which amuses the boys greatly. Those kids have such rampant imaginations – I’ve been told that there is a pair of eyes which stare out from the bricks.

the naughty dungeon
Under the Sow’s Ear is kind of spooky. Somehow knowing that the last owner of the house was a Funeral Director plays a big part to this vibe. And of course, Boo Radley’s house next door which is abandoned and boarded up doesn’t help (it gives me the creeps, especially when the crows circle Boo’s house).


My laundry is down under here. We have a spare room, toilet and Jason’s car is parked there too. There is also a heap of rubbish to clear from when we moved and the kitchen renovation.

garage doors

The Sow’s Ear has great potential to be raised and built in underneath, but as I mentioned in a previous post it will fill with water during a rain storm. For now, we have sufficient space upstairs for our young family of five. Perhaps when the boys are older, we can re-visit this proposition.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Cupboard happiness

It's amazing what a difference three extra shelves can make to your life.

Jason finished the inside of the linen/broom cupboard - I can now store my bedsheets/bedspreads, the boys can easily help themselves to a towel and the loo paper has finally found a home conveniently located near the bathroom.

To top if off, there is now free shelf space in our own built-in cupboard for our clothes.

Cheers to shelves and less clutter!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Master bedroom

I like our bedroom. This is a good thing, since I like sleep. I’m even inclined to hide myself away (when no one is looking) to have a nana nap, although that doesn’t happen often enough for my liking.

It’s a strange room; quite enormous for a room in a house of this vintage. And the reason: the addition of a faux bay window. We believe this romantic gesture was added during the "Great Refurbishment" in the 50/60s.

Cosy nook

The faux bay window floors are a darker narrower hard wood which run against the flow of the original pine boards. It was probably carpeted in its heyday, so matching the boards would never have been a consideration.

See the difference in floorboards

The walls under the bay window are fibro. When we change the windows, Jason will most probably replace it with VJs.

The windows were also replaced with single pane glass casements similar to the windows in the sunroom. We will try to recycle some of the old kitchen windows here, so at least they are the same profile to the rest of the house. The only problem is we will have a mixture of green and amber glass. Not sure what we will do about this...perhaps we will just get windows custom built?

This is also the only room to have curtains. They have remained only to give us privacy. I’m not a big fan of curtains, although I do appreciate them in other homes. Not sure what we will any suggestions are welcomed...

The master bedroom has large built-in cupboards in the same louver-style of the boys’ bedrooms. We also have air-conditioning. Yay! We can fit a queen bed, two 1960s Rosando bed-side cabinets, an old 1930s English oak dresser and still have plenty of room to move.

They must have got a bulk discount for these doors because they are in every bedroom!

With a bit of paint, some furniture rearrangement and some discrete changes here and there, I think this room will be just fine.

The beadspread is a vintage hand-stitched tifaifai made in Tahiti

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Side stairs and stump tour

For something a little different, I thought I'd take you on an outdoor tour of the Sow's Ear.

This old mango tree stump and ghastly set of stairs have been earmarked for total annihilation.

Mango tree stump, side stairs and broken path.

Stairway from hell.

Soon after we moved to the Sow's Ear in May, we obtained a quote to have the entire sunroom and side stairs repaired and rebuilt. It was the second thing on our list after the kitchen was completed, but then Jason's car was stolen at Bunnings. When he bought his new car this project went on hiatus. We are now focused on doing small DIY projects for the next little while.

Jason's comtemplating fixing the sunroom himself (re-fitting different windows, removing that lovely substance called asbestos and recladding the internal walls with VJs) but  he will definitely outsource the stairs to a builder. It's just a matter of time and money.

As you can see, the old tree’s root system has wrecked the cement path which is now a mosaic of its former self. The stump will eventually be removed or at least ground down when we re-do the path near the stairs. For now, the kids use it as their theatrical stage.

We have a drainage problem under the house too. In a downpour, water gets in under the house and was probably the main reason the house was never built in underneath. There are about three dirty great big drains under there so it should never get too dire, but it will always be damp during a downpour.

You gotta love these old houses! Hope you enjoyed this outdoor tour.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Doors wide shut

Bow in the double lattice deck doors. Notice the overlap at the top when it is closed!

There has been a noticeable drop or bow in quite a few doors in the Sow’s Ear - the front door, the back deck lattice door and also the French doors leading out to the deck. They are not staying shut. Poor Jason is at his wits end, re-adjusting locks so that the doors stay shut. Is there anything more exasperating than a door that doesn’t catch when closed?

Brisbane weather is bone dry at the moment and I guess the wood in the house is shrinking making the doors drop. Who knows?

Even some of the newly painted VJs are splitting ever so slightly. (It’s true what they say about Queenslanders – as soon as you have finished painting the last room in the house, it’s time to start all over again!)

Perhaps a good old downpour is what we need to swell all that wood. And then we probably won’t be able to get the doors open...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

iittala and kookaburras

Simple, lustrous, transparent. Glass.

I love glass and crystal. I alway have. As a child I would marvel at the beauty of a footed turquoise bon bon dish that used to sit in my Mum's china cabinet (it now sits proudly on my kitchen shelf). Even now, I could easily spend hours in shops looking at just glassware and vases. Sad but true.

My brother recently went to a garage sale. The people having the garage sale were moving overseas and were getting rid of everything. I think he bought a washing machine and a few other bits and the people also gave him a big box of crockery and glassware which he passed on to my Mum.

I was helping her sort through it and imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon these beauties.

iittala Ultima Thule dessert bowls

iittala. Finnish crystal. Ultima Thule bowls, designed by Tapio Wirkkala in 1968, with a textured ice-like design - inspired by Finalnd's Arctic landscape.

I 've always admired iittala but I never could justify buying it for myself. They are gorgeous and I like that they were free! But really, who would give away their good crystal to a complete stranger??

The kookaburras were unexpected breakfast guests yesterday morning. Usually we have one that sits on the clothes line, but this time it got bold and brought along his mate. Funny things. They weren't even afraid.

Kookaburras on the back deck

Number 3 son making friends

Monday, 19 October 2009


t.h brown bar stools. Photo taken by Coral in Melbourne

I'm expecting some bar stools to arrive later this week. When I say expecting, I really mean they are due to arrive this week.

I've actually been waiting for them to arrive for well over a month. The stools are being transported from Melbourne and the courier company said it would take approximately a fortnight from when I made the booking. So, I've been waiting...patiently...because I do that so well.

The courier company has the word "quick" form part of its name. And there are only two words in its name.  Every time I see the courier's name, I shake my head incredulously. Clearly, there has been nothing quick about this company, apart from the quick processing of my payment....!

Jason, being a lover of fine print, did express concern when I emailed the terms and conditions when he made the payment.

Here is the extract from the courier company's email :


Persons that feel they need to call or email BLANK BLANK repeatedly without stating their concerns simply via a single email or phone message shall be refused our service.

Patience is a most desirable virtue, and the amount of unnecessary enquiries needs to be kept to a minimum..."

Perhaps, I should have read the terms and conditions first before I booked....oops!

When the stools arrive it will mean we can sit at the island bench in the kitchen. Everyone seems to hang in the kitchen while I'm cooking, so the stools will come in handy...whenever they arrive...

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Although the kitchen was finished last month, we finally had the bench tops completely sealed.

In the time that we have lived with the unsealed granite, I can now impart some valuable advice about why light coloured granite needs to be sealed. So if you are thinking about kitchen surfaces, this little post might be helpful...

Natural granite is extremely porous and I’m talking sponge-like. On light coloured granite, it absorbs water - even the condensation from a cold glass of water. The dark water marks disappear when it is dry, so it is not a problem and nothing to worry about.

Because of its porous nature, granite can stain.

Red wine is a natural enemy of light coloured granite, so too are oil and fat. If spills are not wiped up straight away, you will have a permanent record of that nice glass of merlot or extra dollop of aioli...ingrained in the stone.

Acid being acid just etches away the polished surface. It is vital to wipe up spills when using citrus fruit or other acidic food.

We have been fortunate not to have any serious damage since the stone was installed. There are a few small marks from spilt milk (and I did nearly cry...) and cooking oil splatter, but nothing too obvious because of the patterning in the stone.

If you use stone in your kitchen it generally comes to you polished, but it is still unsealed. Sealing is a separate service that you have to consider in your costs – something we didn’t.

It was pretty interesting to see how they sealed the granite. They give the bench tops a thorough clean with acetone (like nail polish remover) and rub it clean with a towel. It is then given the first of two coats of a sealer to fill up the large holes which exist in the stone. After it has soaked in, the second coat is applied. You can not get the bench top wet for at least eight hours.

The next day, the final step of the sealing process is to apply one coat of a top sealer. This is to fill the finer holes in the granite. It is then buffed with a clean towel and must be left to dry for another eight hours.

Water beading on the sealed granite surface

I quizzed the guy who sealed the bench tops about the effectiveness of the sealer. He said what the sealer provided was reaction time. He demonstrated how a liquid spill would bead or pool on the sealed surface, giving you plenty of time to wipe it up before it soaked in.

I also asked him, hypothetically, what would happen if I spilt red wine and didn’t get to it right away. He looked at me and replied, “Luv, if you’re spilling red wine and you leave it on the bench top, then maybe you should give up drinking!”

Let's hope this seal stuff works...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Small project - cupboard

Jason recently started his DIY repair on the cupboard in the sunroom. I'm finally getting shelves and the major cracks in the VJs have been closed. Woo hoo!

Finally, there will be a place to neatly store the linen and at least a small semblance of order will be restored (at the moment the bed linen is spread across several rooms in the Sow's Ear).

The work begins

Oh, the simple things in life are often the best.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Monika at eco-stylista has been talking about knowing one's style which I found rather interesting. So how do you know what style you have?

I just look around me. After many years, I have collected various bits and bobs and it is quite evident what my style has become.

Lounge room with our furniture

Another perspective of the lounge room

I have an extreme leaning to Australian-made mid century furniture mixed with some older antique pieces with a sprinkling of 1970s.

We actually don't have a lot of furniture and have kept it deliberately sparse so as not to clutter our lives (I do that anyway with my ineptitude at filing paper work - you should see the piles I never seem to get to).

It is also impractical with small children, who run as their main mode of transport. When # 3 son is older, we will have more flexibility with our furniture and objects..

My lounge room is definitely a blast from the past. Those brown tones are something else? The mustard vinyl lounge will be reupholstered at a later stage. But for now I love how the boys can use it, without me being pedantic about them being squeaky clean - vinyl and a sponge are a mum's best friend.

The Persian rug is nearly 100 years old and was orginally housed in a doctor's surgery in London. It was  passed on to us from a friend of a friend nearly five years ago. It's like a loan. She couldn't fit it in her own house but wanted it to be put to good use as it was a family heirloom. The proviso is that we can never sell it and if we don't want it any longer, we have to give it back or find a good home for it. Not a bad deal.

The walls will be painted in the next little while, which will give it a much needed lift.  As it is, the room is very much a work in progress.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Not so enlightening

Pendant light in the lounge room - I actually don't mind it but the orange light it emits is hard to get used to. It looks original and seems to be made of painted shell.

As I am chronicling the "before" shots of all the rooms in anticipation for the "happily ever after" shots, I couldn't resist taking photos of the lighting situation in the Sow's Ear. It is definitely a situation!

It seems light and mood was ignored in this sad little home.

Bathroom light shade - this is an old glass shade with bakelite fitting

And I don't think I have improved matters either, since we had the Climate Smart Home Service electrician come to the house.

Sadly, this sits above our dining room table.

(For those who do not reside in Queensland, this service is a State Government initiative to help reduce energy consumption. For $50 an electrician replaces up to 15 incandescent lightbulbs with compact flourescent bulbs, fits a water-wise showerhead and supplies a wireless energy monitor which tells you how much energy you are using - the $50 is then refundable via a grant through your local council.)

Well, we had all the bulbs replaced - and they are butt ugly! Especially with the style of lighting here. As evil as incandescent bulbs have become, they were kind of discrete.

Study light. What can one say?

Fortunately, I can console myself that I am saving the planet from needless carbon emmissions. A shame it just accentuated the ugliness of the light fittings.

Light in the entry

Master bedroom light fitting.  This light is really appalling when I view this picture! The ceiling rose is divine though.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Bedroom - #1 Son

French doors with a glimpse of a spider droid in the foreground

Number 1 Son (his birth order and not blatant favouritism) has a room to himself. He probably has the nicest bedroom in the Sow's Ear because it is near the back with a set of French doors opening onto the deck. And I mean nice in terms of aspect and situation. It is, in fact, the bedroom in the poorest condition.

The water damage on the vjs

The VJ walls have suffered some water damage; the paint work is particularly flakey - filo pastry in texture (if you are like me and imagine only in food analogy). The original wide pine floor boards are mostly in excellent condition.The thinner pine replacement boards which are found randomly in the room (we think termites made a meal of the missing wide boards) seem to have a little more spring in them than required.

It is the smallest of all the bedrooms, however the high ceiling certainly gives the space a capacious feel. Number 1, who is seven years old, can fit a king single bed and good size desk in his room. There is also a narrow built-in cupboard with again just hanging space for his clothes.

Another ugly cupboard

Due to its poor condition, this bedroom will be the first to be re-painted and repaired.

Number 1 is asking for colour on the walls. Blue. that has put a spanner in the works of the simple white house plan.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Bedrooms - son #2 and son #3

Ceiling rose with plastic light fitting

I have been putting off taking photos of the bedrooms because they are never tidy - ever. If  I was paid to do house-keeping, I would have got the sack. Lucky for me, it is an unpaid role and Jason has tolerated my indifference to house work (he is very tidy!).

But back to the topic of this post...the bedrooms. Son #2 and Son #3 share a room. They are ages 4 years and 16 months respectively. We think their room may have been the original master bedroom as it is at the front end of the house; its door opening out into the lounge room.

It is also very large allowing us to put in a cot, change table and king size single bed. It has built-in cupboards but it only allows for hanging space - no shelving.

I kind of made the bed in this shot - half-baked, isn't it? bad as they look, the built-in cupboards are very handy

My favourite things about this room, apart from its occupants, are the lovely ceiling rose (but not that hideous shade) and how it gets the morning sun (but not how the kids wake up at the crack of dawn).

As you can see, there is much to do. Mostly cosmetic. We will probably wait until Son #3 progresses to a bed.  Luckily they are not too discerning.

The occupants

Monday, 5 October 2009

How could you?

Sidedoor knob in sunroom
Window handles in the sunroom

Although Jason and I differ on a range of topics (brass vs. chrome, Queenslander vs. modernist, reproduction vs. old), there is one thing we always agree on in terms of renovating – painting over light switches, door knobs, hinges, window hardware and glass is unacceptable.

The Sow’s Ear is the third house we have owned – and this poor house has been over-painted to within an inch of its life. Nothing was spared in the Sow’s Ear and I mean nothing - brass, chrome, nickel, plastic and glass.

What is it with people who paint over stuff like light switches? We just don’t understand it.

Each night at the dinner table, I gaze forlornly at the seven sets of windows with their handles and cock spurs painted in an unfortunate shade of vanilla custard gloss paint. Luckily these windows will eventually be replaced to match the original window profile in the Sow's Ear. Sadly, that will be later rather than sooner...

Jason is very keen to replace all the original door knobs. I said "over my dead body". This may not be the house of my dreams, but it does have a lot of character which are in its original features.

So the ironic twist to this tale is that as a temporary fix we have painted over the door knobs in a gloss black to contrast the sharp white we have painted the vjs. I know, I know - it's not ideal.

Do you think when we move on from this house someone will rant about the black painted door knobs?

Study door knob

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