Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Butterfly chairs, a birthday and thanks

Good news is always welcomed around here.

Colin the upholsterer from Barabas Upholstery contacted me last week to say that our Butterfly chair covers were finally finished. He delivered them on Friday morning and we couldn't be happier with the result.

I ended up choosing a teal green colour although I had originally wanted orange. The orange in the outdoor canvas range that Colin showed me was too red for my liking. The green works better, especially with the Giotto Stoppino tables.

The covers also have white contrasting binding for a crisper look...until they get dirty. Anyway, Colin did a great job and we can finally put both our chairs to good use on the deck.

The frames still need to be repainted but that will have to wait until a free weekend when I can do some sanding and rust proofing.

It is also this little boy's birthday. He's three today. We bought him some new shoes (that makes it sound like he's never had shoes before...he has had shoes, but he needed a new pair).

Barefooted Son #3 on the deck
Lastly I'd just like to thank everyone for their kind comments and lovely emails about Jason's Nana, Belle. Your words meant a lot to us. Thank you.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


We've been melancholy at the Sow's Ear because Jason's Nana died last week. It has been a very sad time for our family - Nana has been a constant for all of Jason's life and now she is gone.

Isabel, or Belle as she was called by her many friends, was born in 1919 in the country town of Mitchell in Queensland.

The year of her birth was when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending Australia's involvement in World War I, Billy Hughes was elected as Prime Minister and King George V was the reigning monarch.

Belle was the youngest of five children. Her parents James and Elizabeth were of Scottish descent.

When she was in her 20s, Belle moved to the big smoke that was Brisbane. World War II had broken out and she took a job at Archerfield helping to repair the battle damaged war planes. She was our very own Rosie the Riveter - one of many women replacing the male workers who had answered the call to war.

Her dear brother James was killed while serving in New Guinea in 1942. Jason said she could never mention his name without tears of sadness.

Her role in the war effort must have been something she was deeply proud of, as the article below was framed and displayed in her lounge room alongside James' war portrait. Belle is pictured below right.

Grooming warplanes for the aerial offensive north of Australia is one of the big victory jobs in which women are playing an increasingly important role. It is just another example of the Australian-American co-operation, and these pictures taken at a big aircraft repair depot near Brisbane, show how Australian girls are assisting the Allied air forces to maintain their maximum strength in the air.

Japanese flak tore holes in the metal fuselage of this bombers it swept low over enemy positions. Misses Joan Elliott and Belle McCreath are removing the scars of war with the aid of metal panels and rivets. Soon it will be in action again. - The Courier Mail, 1944

In December 1945, Belle married Sid and two years later they had their only son (Jason's dad).

Belle's wedding notice

Sid and Isabel had an interesting life together. At one stage they had bought and managed a Turkish Bath business in Brisbane's Edward Street. 

Typically for Belle's generation, she was a stay-at-home wife who enjoyed gardening - she won the Courier Mail Gardening Competition three years in a row. Belle loved to cook and sew and she was involved with charity work, being a member on the Lady Mayoress' Committee for many years.

She was also the proud and indulging Nana to three grandsons.

After Sid died in the late 80s, Belle maintained an active life and had many friends. She loved to sing and was known to enjoy a drink or two. Although she never learnt to drive, Belle lived independently in her Spring Hill home until she broke her neck in a fall. 

Belle's house in Torrington Street, Spring Hill and the remnants of her adored garden.
Everyone thought that was the end of Belle, but she survived and recovered completely. Sadly, her failing vision and frailty meant she could no longer return to her beloved home of 58 years.

Despite the wonderful care she received at the nursing home during her three years there, she always mentioned, without fail, how much she missed her little home.

Belle's lounge room before the sale of her home.
Belle was a gentle, loving soul. She was the last of her siblings to pass away and she out-lived many of her  friends. There are not too many people of her generation left...

The day of her death was truly a sad, sad day.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Faux Fascia

The weekend saw more work being completed on our deck.

Earlier this year we installed an insulated ceiling on the deck but it had not been finished off. Jason and Mr Rooney, our happy builder, set to finishing what they had started - adding a new fascia board and new cornice pieces to the deck.

The white board is the faux facsia.

Mr Rooney putting the fascia board in place.

The fascia is a false one because the original is still there. Lowering the ceiling profile meant that the rain guttering and facsia needed to be moved; to make it look like it had always been there. It finishes off the work nicely.
Number 1 Son has a penchant for wearing hi-vis vests when helping.
Rain gutter and fascia completed

Jason who is recovering from man-flu had an accident-prone day on Saturday. He hit his head violently in the same spot three times, paint fell into his eyes, he dropped a cordless drill from the deck, he fell down the back steps and the kids were getting on his nerves.

Mr Rooney said Jason was having a Brown Midas day...everything he touched turned to sh*t. Beer o'clock couldn't come soon enough for poor old Jason.

Three sons and a tyre swing

The best part of the weekend for our children was the addition of a dirty old tyre and a piece of rope to hang from the mango tree; endless hours of amusement for the three boys.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Painter's trestles

The exterior house painting has been amped up another notch with Jason borrowing his Dad's painting trestles last weekend.

Back area of the Sow's Ear

It's raining trestles around here!

Expect a lot more exterior house painting posts from now on. The plan is to get the entire back end and sunroom side of the house fully painted.

The painter's trestles are aluminium and weigh a lot less than you'd think by looking at the size of them. They even have adjustable feet to make them stable on uneven ground.

Also, thanks for all your comments about our chandelier disaster. Some of you are truly hilarious and fortunately we have a sense of humour about the nuisance things that happen around here.

I need to make a very special mention to The Moerks for her comment about Warwick Capper (former Australian Rules football player).

Would you let this man hang your chandelier?
image from here
And of course to Mr Rooney who retold, almost verbatim, the conversation we had while Wazza was hanging the chandelier. A classic rendition.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

What goes up...

...must come down. Crashing down in our case.

Murano chandelier - before

Yes, this is the other story about our retro Murano chandelier.

It seems Wazza the Electrician, whom I will call Warwick forever more, was wrong when he confidently rebuffed my questioning about the chandelier's stability.

"Nah, this chandelier's going nowhere," he said good-naturedly as he made the final adjustments.

Jason installed a bayonet fitting - after
We enjoyed our lovely light for 36 hours before it all went awry on a sunny Saturday afternoon.




Jason sustained a few gashes on his leg; spilling some claret. Miraculously the dining table was spared because the weekend newspapers were strewn across it.

The almighty crash just scared the sweet bejesus out of me as I was seated at the table...No children were injured - they were zoned out in front of the television instead.

When Mr Rooney, our "find the funny side to things" builder, popped around a few hours later, the tension in the air was instantly lifted.

Earlier, Jason had been ranting. Poor old Warwick's ears would've been burning had he heard Jason's defamatory remarks about his chandelier hanging credentials. I was in an acute state of temporary depression; in the foetal position.

Mr Rooney had himself a good old belly laugh. Mostly because he was there when Warwick made his reassuring remarks to me about the chandelier going nowhere. His amusement was a welcome relief.

We inspected the "hook" that held the chandelier in place and we deduced poor old Warwick's command of the law of physics is wanting. Wazza, Wazza, Wazza!

Luckily, only nine of the Murano crystals were broken. We've put the chandelier away for now.

We are waiting for our courage to return.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Renovation update

Last week was a big one at the Sow's Ear. Last Friday also marked our second anniversary since we moved to this old Queenslander. It seems like we've been here forever.

Anyway, all the lights were finally earthed, so our risk of electrocution has been minimised. It is something to cheer about. Yay!

To enable the sunroom to be earthed we needed to take off the roof as there is next to no roof cavity. Mr Rooney, our affable builder, was on hand to assist with that task.  He also laid insulation; it was a good opportunity while the roof was off.

Warwick the electrician did all the wiring (Mr Rooney says his name is Wazza - only his mother calls him Warwick).

The sunroom has a westerly aspect and gets extremely hot during summer. Insulation will help keep it a couple of degrees cooler. It all helps, doesn't it?

We used EarthWool insulation batts which are made from recycled glass bottles and sand. Mr Rooney did not want the cheaper and itchier polyester stuff. Fair enough. Anything for Mr Rooney, right? He will be henceforth dubbed Prince Rooney.

The sunroom without its roof. 

Mr Rooney kindly took these shots as I am more afraid of heights than him. 
With all the electrical wiring sorted out, we were finally able to hang our funky retro 70s Murano chandelier.

Retro 70s Murano chandelier

Yes, finally. But there is a  whole other story with this chandelier. I'll fill you in with the next post...

Ramsign Giveaway Winner

I had a little blogging break last week. I hadn't actually intended to have one and then when Blogger was down for a few days for maintenance I thought I may as well have a whole week off.

It's good to be back though and I have lots of interesting things to talk about.

But first things first. The winner of the Ramsign Danish house number giveaway is a very lucky Jennywren. Congratulations! Please send me your email address Jenny, so I can organise everything for you.

And thanks everyone who entered!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Weatherboarding a Queenslander

The exterior of the Sow's Ear is starting to look a bit schmick.

This weekend Jason and Mr Rooney, our multi-lingual (or dab hand at Google translator) builder, have worked tirelessly to finish weatherboarding the sunroom side of the house.

Exterior - sunroom side
Mr Rooney had done most of the preparatory work during the week. Priming, cutting, sanding, removing, measuring and whatever else one needs to do to put up weatherboards.

Timber weatherboards which had been painted with an oil based primer to help prevent rot
Towards the end of the week he began nailing up some of the weatherboards. The boards had to be nailed by hand.

The Sow's Ear is made of hardwood timber which over time has become as hard as stone. According to Mr Rooney, the combination of a nail gun, new timber weatherboard and aged hardwood would have meant a lot of split boards.

To avoid that Mr Rooney had to drill a hole for each nail before manually hammering them into the boards - a laborious yet necessary process.

Mr Rooney in action on Friday
On Saturday Jason was free to help. The day operated very much like a factory production line - Jason cutting the weatherboards and Mr Rooney nailing them up.

Jason having some power tool time

Mr Rooney suffers from vertigo. Not a good thing when scaffolding forms a big part of your life.

Timber weatherboards on a Queenslander sunroom
By Saturday afternoon, most of the hard work was done - the weatherboards and window stops (the timber on the side of the windows) were up. Jason also re-puttied all the windows.

Jason painting the exterior of the sunroom wall and windows

After our Mothers' Day celebrations this morning, Jason squeezed in a couple of hours painting while the scaffolding was still in place. Mr Rooney has kindly lent us his scaffolding allowing us to make a start with the exterior painting.

Painting the entire house is going to be a big, big job. We plan to do it one wall at a time...

P.S Don't forget to enter the Danish house number giveaway HERE

Friday, 6 May 2011

Win a Danish house number!

It is cool when you are contacted by a business offering gifts for one of your readers. That it is actually relevant to the Fun & VJs ethos - free, house related and Danish - makes it a bonus!

Ramsign is a Danish firm which produces old fashioned, hand stencilled signs in thick glossy enamel.

Apparently this type of sign has a long tradition in Europe. Each sign is carefully stencilled and then burned to 800 degrees Celsius. The hardness of the enamel provides resistance to sun, water and dirt and is covered by a 30 year warranty.

I think they look pretty funky. Sadly, we can't enter the competition, but if we could this is what I would choose for the Sow's Ear. There are a few different designs from which to choose.

Ramsign enamel house numbers: Engelhardt design
image from here

It would look brilliant on a white picket fence (which we will have one day ...) or on the front of our house.

Jason and I will also magically transform into beautiful Scandinavians...like in the Ramsign website and wear beige sweaters while we snuggle together with a cuppa. Look how satisfied we are with our new Danish sign!

Ramsign testimonial image
How hirsute Jason is! How blonde I am! We'd be living the dream. You too could have this dream. I can make it happen for you.

Win a Ramsign house number sign (up to five digits) in one of the five styles available on their website.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post. If you put a link on your blog, facebook page or retweet about this offer then you get another entry. Just let me know in the comments if you do so.

This competition is open worldwide to all!! (You don't even have to follow this blog and be subjected to our house renovation travails)

Entries close on Friday 13 May at midnight (AEST) and I will select a winner randomly.

So, get to it. And good luck!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Mr Rooney's Back

Is it Australia Post? Is it Avon?  No, it's Mr Rooney!

The glint of hi-visibility workwear can only mean one thing around here; Mr Rooney, our intrepid builder, is back on the job.

His unenviable task is to replace the missing exterior timber weatherboards from where we installed the salvaged windows in the sunroom. Mr Rooney must stagger all of the joins to ensure the weatherboards appear seamless.  Ha! I think Jason is grateful not to be assisting with this one.

There is quite a bit of preparatory work involved but it will be worth it to make sure it is done properly. 

Mr Rooney assured us that we won't be able to pick the difference between the new and old weatherboards when it is finished and painted.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Italian military blanket

I picked up an old Italian military blanket to keep us warm this winter. It will come in handy in this draughty Queenslander on those cold nights.

Italian military blanket
That's number 3 son getting into the picture!!
Who needs to go to Target when you can buy at an Army Disposal?  Right?

Actually, most of our blankets are from Target, but I thought I'd mix it up a bit with some vintage military drab in this mostly male household. And since I have an Italian father, it didn't seem too unpatriotic...

The blanket is very heavy and is 100% wool. It wasn't terribly expensive given its quality. However, it does reek heavily of naphthalene, so it will need a few days on the line to lose its strong scent.

Apart from the moth ball smell, I'm very happy with it!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

New improved sunroom

The sunroom painting is done. 

All the furniture is back in and we are very pleased to reclaim the space again.

It is still not entirely done as we want to insulate the ceiling to make it more comfortable in summer and we need to fix up the lighting situation in the room. 

This requires the roof to be lifted up in places as there is no crawl space. Mr Rooney, our Pippa Middleton loving builder, and Carlo the Electrician will be contacted shortly to assist with this project.

It is a HUGE improvement from when we saw the room during the first house inspection two long years ago. There is a more uniform look and if feels more like a proper room rather than a tacked on afterthought.

Jason clearly had a vision during the first inspection because I thought he was freakin' crazy. You'll see why in the last two images below. 

I like seeing it to remind us how far we've come.

Salvaged windows, new VJ (vertical join) walls.
Our mid-century furniture is back in position

The leather recliner and footstool plus the two Danish style chairs are from 1970s and made in Brisbane.

The sunroom is also our dining room

Sunroom during the first inspection

Empty sunroom before we moved in.
Windows and asbestos wall lining on the left have been replaced.

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