Wasting time

House renovations are progressing, not to schedule of course, but we’re nearing completion.

Four days for the initial part of the kitchen stretched to two weeks. The floor, that was scheduled for between the two kitchen stages had to be postponed, as did the second part of the kitchen.

4 days dragged into 2 weeks with kitchen completely out of working order

We’ve been doing a lot of camp style cooking in the garage whilst the kitchen’s been out of order. Fortunately, being campers, we’ve managed to roll with the delays reasonably well. The delays weren’t that unexpected, as anyone who has undertaken renovations will attest to – they rarely, if ever go to schedule.

The kitchen has now been operational for almost a week between stages, and today the floor’s being prepped for the laying of the planks. The second stage of the kitchen (the splashback) is now scheduled for next Monday.  Fingers crossed!

Drawers, cupboards, dishwasher and benches fitted – floor and splash backs still to go

With tradesmen coming and going through the days and weeks, there’s been many days that we’ve virtually been confined to the back yard on puppy minding duties. We can’t really leave Tilly in the back garden, shut out of the house with strangers indoors, and expect him not to bark persistently. It’s also been one of those renovations where one of us at least has needed to be on hand for any queries that arise as the work progresses.

Only a few days more now…..

With time on my hands you’d think I’d be well up to date with all my reading, gardening and blogging. Not so.  As is often the case when one is out of sorts with usual routine, and with too much time available to do required tasks, I’ve been stretching things out to fill up my day. The result is I get to the end of the day and there’s a multitude of things I could have done, and haven’t.

Instead I’ve succumbed to a virtual reality home staging website. In it, I’m given a painted bare shell of a room, and have to furnish it.

A bare room awaiting furnishings

All of the rooms are judged by fellow participants and scored. The highest score available is a 5 (I’ve come close, but not there yet), but anything scoring more than a 4 wins virtual prizes (more furnishings and furniture to add to my available stock). The more rooms you enter, the more furniture stock you receive as prizes for future rooms, and as you progress, you go up in stages unlocking extras, like table decorations, pot plants, and wall art to add to your future rooms.

One of my early rooms when I had very little available to me in the way in art work or pot plants

Of course, the people who have attained the higher levels have more items at their fingertips. I’m up to level 10 now, and I think it goes up to around level 40. It’s good fun, if you have time to waste. Have I been wasting to much time on it – you betcha!

A more recent entry – with bowls of lemons and a bank of artwork accumulating now to choose from, higher scores are possible

Anyone who knows me well will know I love buying and selling houses. Goodness, we’ve bought and sold more than anyone I know…. I love staging the house, the declutter, the strategically placed pot plants, the quick visit to a the local cheap homewares shop for a couple of the latest trend items to add to the house, the last minute big bunch of fresh, scented lilies for the table – Paul’s not so enamoured with it all, but I love it. To have found a virtual reality home staging website ap – I’m hooked.

Do you have any internet big time wasters?

And as a post script – I just received my first 5

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Keep the home fires burning

The fire bans have finished for the year. We don’t have an inside fire so we’ve acquired an outside fire pit – perfect to sit around for our finger food Friday nights.

Paul wanted to wait until dark – I was to impatient

As darkness fell the flames came to life

As the flames took hold a hose came over the fence – Our friend and neighbour had seen the smoke and decided he’d better come to the rescue…… LOL! Now Brian’s starting to get a bit of reputation with flames and fire (or perhaps he’s always had it) – so rather than risk him completely dousing our flames, we thought he and Kaye had better come over to share a glass of red and soak up the ambience with us.  Anyway, what’s better than sitting around a fire pit in your back yard? Having friends sitting around it with you of course!

On a recent camping trip Brian took some amazing photos of flames through a glass of red wine. Paul copied….  I couldn’t post these next two photos without acknowledging the inspiration.

A photo inspired by our friend and neighbour, Brian Love

A glass or two of red, and Casper came to visit – can you see him?

We had our sausage sizzle, then we toasted marshmallows to celebrate the first fire in our new fire pit. There’s an art to getting a marshmallow toasted perfectly. Sometimes I hold them to close to the flames and set them on fire. And sometimes I get them to perfect only to wait a second to long – and they drop off the fork into the fire. But when they’re just right, all crispy on the outside and warm and gooey in the middle…… Yum!!

Twirling marshmallows on the end of a toasting fork

I’m definitely more a summer person than a winter person, but when I sit in front of glowing fire I start to have my doubts. Each season definitely has it’s place.

Cold weather pleasures

 

Pioneering spirit

I’m sure anyone who enjoys a bit of camping must have a bit of pioneer spirit in them. I think I have. Renovations that would turn many into princesses seeking short term, alternative accommodation will see me embracing the challenge of getting back to basics, and managing as best I can.

Many years ago we had slate laid through all the living areas in our house. At the same time we were having new carpets laid in the bedrooms, and new skirting boards throughout. We couldn’t access the house through any of the external doors for over a week. We moved all the beds out under the pergola, and prayed it wouldn’t rain. We moved the fridge outdoors under cover, and cooked nightly on the barbecue. Our camp sink came in handy for washing the dishes,  and we climbed through a window to access the toilet and shower.

Kelvin was in his early teens, and Alice around ten. We lived like that for close on two weeks. It was a great bonding experience, and we all loved it.

Our current kitchen and ensuite are undergoing a bit of an overhaul. The kitchen’s completely out of action, our ensuite only has the vanity unit undergoing changes.

The gutted kitchen

New kitchen equipment is stored in lounge

For this renovation we’ve set the garage up with a couple of spare tables to double as storage shelves and preparation benches.

I bet our pioneering ancestors would have loved a microwave

Our laundry trough is our washing up sink. Most things from the kitchen are packed into boxes, and we only have enough things out to get by with. I imagine what we’re managing with though is most likely still considerably more than our poor forefathers would have had. Our microwave is certainly getting good use.

The laundry trough makes a great kitchen sink

By Monday of next week the kitchen should be ready for the sink and dishwasher to be plumbed in. Tuesday should see the kitchen operational, but not complete. The splashback can’t be ordered until this afternoon when a few things are in place to allow for measurements. It should all be complete by 9th May.

But there’s more…..We’ll have time to get things packed back into their rightful place in the kitchen, and then preparation for the new living area floors will begin. That’s going to mean moving all the living room and dining room room furniture as well as the fridge into the garage. We’ll have a few nights when we won’t be able to sit in the lounge with the heating on, nor will we be able to watch TV. Just like our great, great grandparents, we’ll have the choice of lighting a fire pit in our back yard and watching the flames dance as darkness sets in, or we can have early nights with a good book. Fire bans have finished now, so I rather fancy getting the fire pit out! It’ll be just like camping – only in our own back yard, and with our bed to snuggle into when the day is done.

An almost minimalistic kitchen

I subscribe to several blogs. There’s no common thread running through them. I choose them either because of the content, because I like the way the writer writes, or I like the personality of the writer. Often it’s a combination of all three that keeps me hooked and looking forward to my next good read.

In any one day I can read on subjects from travel, to minimalistic small house living, to recipes, and kitchen gadgets. This post has been inspired by some of the posts I’ve read today.

This morning I read a post by one of my favourite bloggers. Diane has all manner of kitchen gadgets. I’m sure her kitchen must be almost the size of our house so as to store it all. Sometimes I’m envious……

In a past life (the one before the life on the road, which was the one before this current  living phase in a house), we had all manner of things in our kitchen. We sold almost all of it when we hit the road. We now have a small kitchen. It’s soon to be updated, but the update won’t give us more space, and will only slightly improve our storage capacity.

The machine that does it all

We’ve managed for a long time with basics. One of our basics that I wouldn’t like to be without is my Thermomix. This wonderful little machine takes the place of so many other gadgets – food processors, mixers, blenders, steamers, and even a coffee machine. For someone starting out, this one gadget although expensive, makes a lot of sense, especially for space saving. It looks attractive too, so it tends to sit on the bench rather than stuck away in a cupboard. I use mine almost every day, sometimes several times in one day.

 

Having a house somewhere between a house that qualifies as ‘a tiny house (11 square metres)’, and a normal 3 x 2 house, we have to err on the side of minimalism. Our house is at best only the size of a very moderate apartment. So what gadgets do we have that I wouldn’t like to do without:

Cappuccino made in the thermomix

First and foremost, as already mentioned,  is my Thermomix. In it I can cook and blend soups. I use it to cook a smooth custard or hollandaise sauce. It does all the stirring for me as it cooks to perfection. I can grate cheese and carrots with it, and use it to make a pretty good coleslaw. I can steam fish and veggies, or vietnamese spring rolls. It’s a pretty good rice cooker, it cooks perfect boiled eggs, and it kneads a good loaf of bread in around 2 minutes. I can grind spices, or coffee beans, and I can froth milk for cappuccino. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I could probably live without my Thermomix, but I wouldn’t want to.

Next, I have pyrolytic (self cleaning oven). There’s no way I’m getting on my hands and knees to breath in caustic oven cleaner as I scrub the grease off the walls of the oven after cooking a roast of pork. I’ve done it before, but it’s not for this girl – not anymore.

I use a microwave, that’s mainly for re-heating or defrosting. It’s very useful.

Whilst I can, and have been living without a dishwasher, we’re succumbing to that little luxury when our kitchen gets it’s update. We absolutely don’t mind washing our dishes by hand, and we find the kitchen remains cleaner with hand dishwashing as we always wipe over the stove top and benches, and dry them when finishing up. Sometimes that gets overlooked when stacking a dishwasher. Why are we succumbing to this luxury then? Simply because our track record of staying put in one house for any length of time isn’t great in recent years. If we again decide to move on, the lack of a dishwasher can hamper a sale. Will we use it – absolutely. I don’t want anything in my house that isn’t loved and used, so I’ll use it, and I’ll love doing so for sure.

We have a small deep fryer but to date we haven’t used that very much. The reason for that is we don’t have a great kitchen exhaust system and it makes the house smell greasy. Part of our kitchen update is to have a good exhaust system fitted with an external motor so as the noise doesn’t make it unbearable to use. We still won’t use the small fryer a great deal, but I do like it for safely cooking up things like samosas or fried spring rolls when we have guests. I can cook them in a wok or frypan of course, but a minute or two of distraction can prove dangerous with deep frying at an uncontrolled temperature. So, we have a little deep fryer.

We also have an electric frypan. That’s mainly for our caravan though and barely gets used in the house. In the caravan it allows us to cook barbecue style when in a powered site without using our own gas.

Another luxury I have is my hot food trolley (hostess trolley). This was a very special gift which Paul arranged to have made for me in the UK many years ago. The purchase of it, and it’s transportation to Australia, as well as getting it through customs is a story on it’s own. Alice took care of it when we were travelling. I was pleased to have it returned safe and sound when we returned to WA. I’ll tell you the story behind the acquisition of this little beauty one day.

Squashing my sandwich down in a frypan as it cooks

Apart from that, we try to make do. We don’t have a slow cooker, we manage between a heavy based saucepan and the oven. We don’t have a sandwich toaster, we butter the outside of our bread and cook it in a frypan on the stove top. We do have a toaster though  for ordinary toast.

Perhaps not as good as in a sandwich press, but it does me

We don’t have a coffee machine. We do have a small stove top percolator though (currently in transit on it’s way back from Tassie). And we have the Thermomix if we want our coffee cappuccino style.

I love my old hand whisk (rust and all)

We poach our eggs in a normal saucepan. We either use an old style hand whisk for beating, or if it’s a bigger quantity we’ll use the Thermomix. We do have good, heavy based saucepans and frypans, and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

Gee whiz, – I had thought I had a fairly minimised amount of kitchen gadgets. Now I list it all, perhaps it’s not as minimalistic as I thought!!!  From what I’ve read though minimalism is defined as only having what you love, and what makes you happy. If you don’t love it, and/or use it often, out it should go. I do love the few life style enhancing gadgets I have, and I’ll love the addition of a dishwasher and good exhaust canopy when they’re fitted.

Our china and glassware though – that’s another matter. We’ve been in this house less than 18 months, and we are definitely starting to bulge a bit in those areas. Some of it is definitely not what I want, and not what I love. I can sense a cull coming on……

Where to next….


As everyone who knows us will attest, that title will sound like business as usual. However, surprise, surprise! The answer is we’re staying put in the Summer House, at least during the summers, for a few years to come yet.

We’ve been at sixes and sevens finding it hard to put down roots again. We had been thinking we’d need to rent this little house out at some stage so as we could go over to Tassie and get our house there ready for market. That wouldn’t have been any hardship, as we would have enjoyed spending another year over there. It would have been renting out the Summer House that would have been difficult. We’ve put so much into the garden here.  It would have been hard to trust that to the care of a tenant.

We floated the Tassie house on the market not expecting much to come of it, not with a tenant in place. However, we received three offers in quick succession (one of which was from the tenant) which means we don’t have to go down that road. The sale will settle next week, so Paul is currently over there sorting through our stored goods and selecting what needs to be brought back here. The removalist is meeting him there on Monday, so Paul will be on the plane to come back home early on Tuesday morning.

We’ve found ourselves often saying, “we’ve got that – but it’s in Tassie”, high pressure cleaners, hedge trimmers, crystal glasses, coffee percolator, the good TV, the good DVD player, my jewellery…… that’s coming back now, and with it’s arrival, and the Tassie house gone, we’re hoping we’ll be able to settle to where we are. It’s felt a bit like we’ve had a foot in two different states.

We’re on our way to sorting out the other problem we have with our little house – the sometimes very loud highway noise. There’s a wide verge of peppermint trees between our house and the highway, but it could be denser. I’ve approached the shire, and they’re coming to the party. Several more trees have been ordered and will be added to the verge as soon as the winter rains arrive. We’re adding to that with our own plantings of native shrubs on our side of the fence. However, at times like Christmas and Easter holiday periods, no amount of trees come close to blocking the traffic noise. So, onto plan B……

And what’s plan B you ask? It’s taken a lot of research to come up with. This is it:

White noise machine

We’ve invested in a white noise machine for our bedroom. It puts out a noise like a fan, and we have it on our window sill. It’s brilliant. We can have our window wide open and when the traffic starts up at 5am, we hear it if we try hard, but it now sounds very distant.

Next, we’ve researched water features, which apparently will do a similar job outside of distracting from the highway noise if placed properly in the garden. However, we’d need several in different spots. Instead we’ve purchased a wilderness stream and nature sounds CD. Wherever we’ve placed it so far, it seems to be doing the trick. Next thing is to get speakers strategically placed in the verandah ceiling and get the pleasant nature sounds to all the needed places. Fingers crossed!

Yeh! I love it when solutions to problems are found. It took a while, but I think it’s going to work.

What a pleasure it’s going to be to sit outside listening to the sounds of nature and watching our garden grow. Our plumbago is now in full bloom, and by next summer it should be creating the display it was planted for. The lacy plumbago can look somewhat scraggly on it’s own, but several years ago I saw one growing full and beautiful with a solid border of blue agapanthus. It looked magnificent, and I’ve wanted to duplicate it ever since. It’s well on the way.

Hopefully by next year the plumbago will be dwarfing the agapanthus as planned

Our neighbour’s honeysuckle pokes through our fence. Rather than snip it off we’ve been training it along our side too. It’s starting to cover well now, and smells divine.

Two chairs for Paul and I, and two near by that can be brought close for a visitor or two

Paul’s painted our old chairs and we sourced some new cushions for them. We still have our big patio out the back with a big table and chairs under it, but now we also have a little veranda setting on the quiet side of our house. It’s very peaceful to sit there in the summer with our lunch and a glass of iced water.

I think we’re going to settle into our little Summer House for a few years to come yet. It’ll only be for the summer of course. Our new caravan should arrive at the beginning of winter, and that should see us hitting the road for few months of Gypsy life style, to ensure boredom doesn’t get a chance to take hold –  best of both worlds.

Not the most glamorous of footwear, except when they’re compared to a moon-boot

Oh – and I forgot to mention, my moon-boot came off on Tuesday, so I’m now seeing a physiotherapist. It’ll still be a while before I can wear normal shoes. Currently it’s either back-less shoes that don’t press on the scar (Birkenstocks), or my hiking boots for walking. I’m a way off being able to tackle beach sand in bare feet yet, but hey – compared to a moon-boot, I’m in seventh heaven.

Life’s becoming settled. Life’s good!

My orchid plant 25 years on

In 1993 Alice bought me an orchid plant for mother’s day. The following year we lugged it from Perth to Donnybrook, where it lived for six months under a make shift shelter down near the sheep paddock. We were working 13 hours a day, seven days a week in the cafe, so there wasn’t a lot of time for pampering pot plants. It survived despite the neglect.

We moved back to Perth, and the orchid came too. For a dozen or so more years it lived in relative peace throwing out at least of couple of flower spikes most years. Then we extended our Duncraig home. Whilst the extension was happening all of our pot plants including the orchid were bundled closely together with some shade cloth thrown over the top. We gave them all a hose down through the shade cloth almost daily, but quite honestly, the fact that any of them survived at all was more good luck than good management. But survive they all did, including my orchid.

We moved to Regent Waters the following year. That year we had our best ever show from the orchid plant – 17 flower spikes.

17 flower spikes

Then in 2014 we set off on our travels, donating our pot plants to Alice. I think the first year it shot off one flower spike, but that was it for the duration of our trip. When we returned to house living last year, Alice decided to give the orchid back to me in the hopes I could nurse it back to good health again. It was looking a little sad, but it was a long way from completely turning up it’s toes.

I repotted it last year, but there was no signs of any flower spikes. I again repotted it, and divided it a few months ago. This year the main plant has thrown up one flower spike so far, and the second plant from the division looks to be thriving.

Still flowering after 25 years

So many people think orchids are delicate. They’re definitely not. In fact, I’d say they’re about as hardy as roses. Neglect them, and providing they’re getting a little bit of water, they won’t do well but they’ll survive. Then give then a bit of TLC and they’ll come back rewarding you with up to 17 flower spikes in one year for your effort. Mine did.

So, if you live somewhere warm and you’ve always wanted to grow orchids, but thought they were too delicate, think again. Give them some water, afternoon shade,  morning sun, and repot them every few years in some orchid potting mix. Apart from that you can pretty much ignore them, except of course when they’re in bloom. Then you’ll want to give them pride of place where everyone can admire them and think you’re pretty talented. You won’t  need to let on that they’re weed easy to grow (I’ll keep your secret).  Give them a go. They’re really easy.

New momentum on the home front

No matter how easy care a house is supposed to be there is always something that will need attending to. We don’t have a large plot of land but there’s always plenty to do to ensure it looks okay.

We go through periods of inertia on the home front, times when we have a tendency to do nothing much except the basics. During such periods it would be great if things remained unchanged. But no, it appears if the forces that keep a house developing and progressing aren’t in evidence, decline starts to set in. When we bought this house 18 months or so ago, it was clear then that although the house was less than 20 years old inertia had long reigned. The house was in a sad state of decline.

Of course, we moved in and attacked it with gusto to get things going in the right direction. Things then seemed to reach a bit of a stand still. We’ve just come through a few months of, not exactly complete inertia on the home front, but a period of time where we’ve only been keeping on top of the basics – the house cleaning, the garden watering, weeding, and dead-heading of spent flowers.

Now it’s time to get things moving forward again.

I don’t know if you remember our little scare with Mr Tilly over the Christmas period, the time when he escaped onto the highway…… We ordered perimeter fence with self closing gates for our verandah shortly afterwards so as to provide an extra barrier between the front door and the roads. Today it arrived. What a relief it is to have that erected. I’d thought it would look a bit out of place, but surprisingly it actually looks quite good and as if it belongs. Hopefully it’ll keep Mr Tilly safe until he reaches maturity and develops Road sense.

Safety fence to keep Mr Tilly safe

We’ve finally ordered our new kitchen which will be fitted early in April. We’ve also had a guy out to measure up for new flooring, which will follow behind the kitchen. The current kitchen is not only dated and dull, but it’s deteriorated way beyond it’s age too. That’s  all going to be happening soon. It’s going to be great too get all the dull, moss green kitchen updated with glossy white, and the dull, green floor tiles covered with some bleached oak look vinyl plank. I’m excited!

Freshly oiled jarrah table (WA’s hard wood equivalent of English mahogany)

Apart from organising tradies to do some of our updating, we’ve not had idol hands ourselves either. I’ve spent a few days giving our jarrah outdoor dining setting a rub back with fine steel wool, and re-coating it with protective oil. The setting was donated to us last summer by our good friends and neighbours, Kaye and Brian when they changed to a modern wicker setting. I originally had plans to shabby chic the setting with chalk paint in beachie colours of white and duck egg blue. I’m so pleased I didn’t. The oil has brought out the rich red/brown tones of the jarrah – a look that remains classical and never dates.

Paul’s commenced the painting of our side picket fence – not an easy task. It meant removing plant hangers and reticulation and working between and around garden plants. The plants have been re-hung on the section he’s completed, and compared to how it was looking, it now looks a treat.

The picket fence is on the quieter side of our house, furtherest away from the noise of busy Bussell Highway. The outdoor jarrah dining setting is too big for this quieter area, so we have that housed under a free standing pergola at the rear of the house. Although noisier, that area is good for when we have bigger groups of people here. We’re trying to create a more intimate seating area for just ourselves and perhaps a couple of others on the quieter side of the house so we went looking for a new, small, comfortable lounge (or dining setting) for this area. No such luck. Everything was either way too big, or just didn’t come close to being as comfortable as our existing outdoor seats, which are nearly 20 years old.

Instead we’ve sourced some new high backed cushions for our old chairs, and Paul’s going too give the heritage green aluminium bases an undercoat of primer followed by a coat of gloss white enamel. We have a small, round, glass topped outdoor table, you know the kind that you can pick up in Bunnings for only a few dollars. They’re not the most attractive of tables, but with a nice, toile table cloth, and with the new cushions on the freshly painted chairs we figure we’re going to be a lot happier than we would be spending a fortune on a new setting that lacks the current comfort factor of our antiquated existing chairs.

Freshly painted picket fence, with our antiquated chairs (awaiting a re-vamp). The painting of the gates at the end will follow shortly.

So, things are developing on the home front. What a pleasure it is to be in a domestic state of momentum! Watch this space – I’m sure I won’t be able to resist the before and after photos as things evolve.