Welcome friends. A Jug of White Daisies is about my life and all the thoughts that come to me while I'm walking, doing the dishes, having a shower or hanging washing on the line - some of my regular activities that give me time to think. It's about all the things that make up my life - cooking, cleaning, creating, loving, learning, discovering, rolling my eyes, sighing, smiling, forgiving, making do, making the most of, looking up, gardening, hugging, being. It's about the things that I make for sale, fabulous finds, the wisdom and beauty in the world, and it's about stopping to admire the simple perfection of daisies.

And in amongst all the thinking and writing about that, I'll be doing it all, and more, so if you don't see me for a day or two, please send chocolate.

April 5, 2017

Time Passes

What can I say, time passes. Without permission sometimes... it just evaporates into weeks and months and trivial nothingness. It's busy, it's dull, it's hot, it's rainy, it's full of drama, fun, disappointments and satisfying moments; you get stuff done, you live it out. You wake up one morning and realise you have moved through a year. And, well, actually, that's not a bad thing. While there's life there's hope.

We haven't done much to the house. I've started my garden. I've painted two rooms - both of which are still unfinished. We had the external cladding tested and got the results.  Yep, the whole lot is asbestos. See our drooping shoulders and sad eyes? See our bank balance suddenly look completely inadequate?

So, we ground to a halt for a while, to rethink our thoughts, hopes, plans and bank balance. We haven't really started up again. For a while it made me hate the house, and feel very unsettled. Then I realised, it's just a bump. OK, we are going to over-capitalise on the place now, with a lot of invisible work, but we aren't doing a flip for profit, we are hoping to be living here for a long time.

We knew there was some asbestos - the lower level walls and the eaves, but we had hoped that the cladding wasn't. If we weren't going to do things, it wouldn't matter. You can live with it, if you aren't cutting into it. But if we are going to change the front door and the windows out, and extend the kitchen, we are going to be messing about with it.

The rule in Australia - at least, our part of it - is that you can remove about the equivalent of half a wall by yourself, if you use all the right precautions. But we are not interested. We will save up and get someone in to do a proper job, and clean up properly afterwards.

The problem is, you can't just "un-clad" a place and leave it half naked. You have to re-clad. The cost just doubled. We can't do it in small bites either, it's all going to go at the same time.

And... while we are half naked, so to speak, shouldn't we make the most of the opportunity and put in a pile of insulation? It makes sense to make the house as green and comfortable as possible in the future. It will be so much nicer to live in. The cost just rose another few thousand. And... now that we think about it, all those windows need to be replaced. Suddenly we aren't looking at doing one window at a time, at our leisure. Before our nice new cladding goes up, we should do the windows, because if they are a slightly different size, we'd be double working it. And maybe having to {{shudder}} patch our lovely new walls. Ugh.

Now we have a rather major job on our hands, with a rather bigger budget than we can currently cope with. And we live here, so it will be noisy and messy and gosh I hope it doesn't rain while all this happens or we will have to redo all the inside too...  Not that we will be here when the asbestos is removed. We and the cats will be out of there big time! So that is why we have ground to a halt.

The question on everyone's minds now is.... does the inside plasterboard (drywall) contain asbestos too? Gulp.

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

February 4, 2016

The Plan

You have to have a plan, right? Even if it changes, you have to start somewhere. It didn't take me long after first walking into our house way back in the middle of last year, to work out exactly what I wanted to do with this place. And really, I haven't much changed my mind about it. A few little tweaks is all.

Whenever we have anyone come to the house who want The Tour, the first thing they say is, "This is nice. I love the floors." They are usually a little surprised by how much we want to do to the place. They are also surprised with how big it is. She hides it well, but this little house isn't so little after all! It's a three bedroom split level (I've probably said that before) with one living room and a skinny little kitchen/dining area. But there is a downstairs, level three, with two biggish utility rooms. They make a big difference to the overall living area - or they will, once we have our wicked way with the place.

This is a rough plan of the top and middle levels of the house as is. It's not to scale. In fact it may be wildly inaccurate... I'm sure the kitchen is smaller than that, and there's six steps up to level 1 where the bedrooms are. But it's good enough for the moment.

Looks fairly straightforward, doesn't it? The rooms are comfortably medium sized - not big, but not small either. You can fit furniture in and get around it, but there's no wide empty spaces.

Unfortunately there's no real entry, you just walk straight into the living room. I've never been a fan, but hey ho, not much I can do here, it is what it is. There's a fireplace in the corner of the living room and an arch {{shudder}} into the kitchen, which is the original 80s pink laminate (yay) with barely any bench space and not enough cupboards, so we have a chest of drawers in the dining half of the room to help out there. And a teeny table. The steps lead you to the bedrooms and bathroom. Back to the kitchen and out the back door, down some rickety rusty steps and you can go into level 3, where there's a laundry, a loo and two rooms we aren't allowed to call real rooms because they're too short. They're livable though, and we plan to use them as rooms. They are under the bedrooms. Pity there's no internal access.

The plan is to knock out the back wall entirely and build an extension twice as deep as the porch. I will have a new kitchen right at the back and the old kitchen/dining area will become the new dining room. We will only be adding about 3.5 metres out, but it's a bit complicated because of the very low pitch to the original roof. At first I wanted to just continue the slope and make a skillion roof over the new kitchen, with clerestorey windows, but apparently that would add about $50,000 to the cost... and our budget for the whole extension including kitchen units, is way less than that! Oh well... Back to the drawing board. The plan for the new kitchen stands, we just need to rethink the roof. We want to add French doors and a little balcony off the dining room too, with steps leading down to our vegetable garden and opening up the whole space to the morning light, as it faces east.

The plan is to knock a hole in the wall between the dining room on level 2 and the bathroom on level 1 and make a stairwell leading to the lower level 3. There's a big cupboard in the bathroom just now so we won't actually lose much of the bathroom, just a tiny bit and of course, the cupboard. But we will gain internal access to the lower level, which will mean it will actually feel like part of the house.

The plan is to add lots of storage. At the moment it's pathetic, just the one cupboard. I want proper places for the esky, the Christmas tree and decorations, the suitcases, the tool box, etc, as well as the usual things like linen and brooms. So there will be a linen cupboard in the upstairs hall, floor to ceiling storage cupboards in the laundry area, a small walk in cupboard off the family room and more storage in the study. However, we are actually doing something weird and taking out the built ins in bedrooms 2 and 3. I know, controversial... more on that later.

The plan is to knock out the wall between bedrooms 1 and 3, and put in a new built in wardrobe for bedroom 1. At the moment the wardrobe is on the end wall, making the room short and hard to place furniture in. We have to have our bed half way across the window and I hate that. Moving the wardrobe makes a lot of sense, even if it's going to be tricky - the wall we have to remove is probably a load bearing wall.

The plan is to redo the bathroom completely and to add a bath. Bliss.

The plan is to remove all the asbestos sheeting from the downstairs outer walls and extend them slightly. We will put in new walls, and lots of windows for light.

The plan downstairs on the lower level is to make a walk through laundry/lobby area with French doors, a study and a family room, and extend the existing toilet to make a shower room. And add lots of storage cupboards.

The plan is to take out all the ugly corroded aluminium sliding windows and put in nice new timber sash (double hung) windows. And have French doors or similar leading to a balcony from the dining room, and from the laundry/lobby to the Pavilion (our outdoor dining area) and to replace the solid front door with a half or mostly glass one for some light - the house is so dark, I want light, light, light!

The plan is to remove the front porch roof and put up a nice new one, new railings too, and actually to extend the porch across the front to the carport, build new steps leading to it and make it somewhere we want to hang out.

The plan is to paint and refresh absolutely everything, inside and out, ditch the carpets in the bedrooms and refinish all the beautiful wooden floors, add lots of new power points and some nice lighting, a few sky tubes for some extra natural light, and take the whole place into a contemporary fresh modern cottage feel.

And that's just the house...

love Heather x

February 1, 2016

Reassurance and Bargain Hunting

I have been itchy to start renovating for the last two months. We've lived here long enough now to know the flow and light of the place, and to work out what the first job has to be in the long chain of events, to change our minds about a few things, and make some decisions about colour, etc. Now it's time to actually get down to it.

We like this house, but we are changing things, small, medium or major, in every single room and corner, and inside and out. Oops, poor little house, I pat her now and then and reassure her that we do love her, and that we are making things better. Yes, yes, I know it's slightly eh... off-normal... to chat to a house, lol. But houses have personalities and needs too. And reassurance has never hurt anyone, right?

We have been "gathering" in the lead up to actually doing things. Not much, but a nice start to the things we need to buy. Our local big hardware store has had a bit of a sale, and we've scored a few treasures, much to our delight and to the delight particularly, of my Scottish husband... nobody loves a bargain more than a canny Scot! He sometimes goes slightly wobbly and white when I'm talking about what I want to do to the house, but I just pat him and reassure him. Actually, several of our friends have gone slightly wobbly and white too. But faint heart never won fair maiden, so I'm willing to have the brave heart and carry everyone along with me on this fabby, messy adventure.

Background before bargains: The Pavilion (which is what I am calling our outdoor dining area) is paved with slippery ugly mottled beige tiles, definitely not outdoor floor tiles. We have been thinking of decking the whole thing in either hardwood or pallet wood. I mean, slippery, for a start... and beige? They show every little speck, of which there are many in an outdoor setting. Sweep, sweep, sweep...

Yukky Outdoor Tiles

Throughout the top two levels of the house, we have lovely hardwood floors. We aren't certain what timber it is, but Coastal Blackbutt is a favourite contender. The living room and hallway have polished floors, the kitchen and bathroom have been covered over with tiles and the bedrooms all have carpet. But the timber is under all that cover up, hopefully in good condition. It feels solid anyway, but we aren't quite ready to take up the carpets. Blackbutt is fairly commonly used for flooring, decking, etc in Queensland, and is really attractive, with a warm brown to slightly pink tone. Luckily for us, it's termite and fire resistant, which is another reason to hope that's what we actually have in place.

Living Room Floor

Now, onto the fun bit: bargains!  We went to the local big hardware store just before Christmas, to pick up a couple of punnets of flowers, and ended up having to hire a ute to bring home the plunder! While I was dithering between lobelia and alyssum, Duncan had wandered right up the other end of the place and he sent me a text, "Found some flooring for the deck, come and see". Well, I don't need much encouragement.

It was pretty. It involved no work taking pallets apart. It was cheap - reduced from $80 a pack to $28.90 a pack, oh my! We ended up buying the lot, 19 packs, each pack covering 1.92 square metres (don't ask me why they couldn't round it up...), even thought we probably only needed half that. But at that price, I was happy to fling it about in all sorts of places. Visions of a plank wall in the dining room, etc floated in my head.

The New Blackbutt Flooring

I turned slightly to the left and found stacks and stacks of tiles also reduced to clear. I didn't have a plan for the bathroom tiles, but I had a feeling I was about to make a quick decision! We ended up with big plain white tiles teamed with some gorgeous blue and green glass tiles for a feature stripe. The white tiles were reduced from $12.99 a pack to $8 a pack and the glass tiles were reduced from $20 a strip to a lovely $2 a strip! I overbought, of course. Better to have too many than to find, six months down the line, we didn't get enough. The plan (hastily cobbled together while I stood there) is to do both the upstairs bathroom and the new downstairs shower room the same. It makes it a lot easier and will give the place a sense of continuity. Also, it simplified the whole choosing tiles thing. The more I look at them the more I like them.

Bathroom Tiles

Since then, we have bought our cooker hood for $300 off, a gorgeous little handbasin reduced from $342 to $37... yes, $37! That one is the perfect size for the downstairs shower room. It wasn't what I had in mind, but sometimes the Universe knows better, lol and who am I to argue?

Little Handbasin

And yesterday, the kitchen and living room windows came home with us. Oh sooo excited about them! All the windows in the house need to be replaced, they are really disgusting old corroded aluminium sliders - ick. I'd love to replace them all with timber sash (double hung) windows. As in... I will, haha. Yesterday we went to a demolition/renovation barn to see if there was anything that would fit any of our windows. And there was, approximately.

We found two matching timber sash windows exactly the right size for my new kitchen (when it's built) and a set of three obviously from the same demolition that we can use for the living room. We will have to modify the frame for them, as they will end up wider, but that's just perfect in my eyes! I was wishing the living room window was wider, so woo hoo, now it will be :-) Total thumbs up. And the best bit is that the windows are only varnished, not covered in twenty layers of old paint. Bonus! I will be painting them, but avoiding the stripping stage suits me just fine. I forgot to take a photo of them, but I will.

It'll be a little while until all these things are in use, but I'm glad we found them at their bargain prices. Our budget is tiny for all the things we have to do, so bargains are a must.

Oh, and guess what? Excitement! The flooring we bought matches the living room floor! I can use it in my kitchen extension, and there is enough for the downstairs room too. Oh my goodness - JOY!

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

October 25, 2015

Making a Start

We have now been living in our new house for about four months. Did we ever live anywhere else? I seem to recall we did, but we have settled in here so well, and it feels so comfortable, that it's hard to remember the feeling before of being accidentally itinerant.

Work is slow - well, we have hardly done anything really. It would be tempting to just jump in and do everything before you move in, decisions all made and once you're in you're in, but that's not us. Houses have their own personality and it's better, especially when the house isn't brand spanking new, to let it have it's say. To slowly reveal secrets of lighting and flow. To encourage you to see past what's there to possibilities you didn't think about the first little while. Living in a house allows insights and nice little aha moments to flourish, if you stay aware. And it has to be said, having to be frugal helps, because it stimulates creativity!

What we bought, is a split level house built in 1986 on a block of land that is 759 square metres. It's not exactly pretty, and there's a lot of bits needing some loving, but it's a good house, solidly built from brick and hardiplank, with a little asbestos thrown in for fun (yay), but with no other little nasties like white ants or rot. The walls and ceiling are all nice and flat, which tells us the frame is good. There's roof insulation, and solar panels, and lovely hardwood floors, mmmm.

You go up a short flight of steps to the middle section, that has a little front porch, a back porch, a living room and small kitchen/diner. There are three decent sized bedrooms and a bathroom (no bath though) on the top floor, and under that, downstairs, are two "utility" rooms, a laundry and a toilet. Legally we aren't allowed to call them rooms, because the ceilings are only 2.1m high. Drat it, why didn't the builders just break out and add 30 measley centimetres? Oh well... they are entirely livable (even if we can't put in any ceiling fans or chandeliers) and we have plenty of ideas for them. And there is a lovely big covered area out the back that I christened The Pavilion. It's such a bonus.

(Note, I take photos with my iphone, it's all I have. Sometimes I will have better photos, but not usually.)

OK so the window shutters and the front porch roof and railings are a little "granny" but that's easy enough to update. We are going to gently undress this little house and give her a nice new look. I'm thinking less of the 1980s Granny and more of the Contemporary Cottage. You'll see. But there's going to be a lot of work to get her there. Not in an Extreme Makeover kind of way though, more like a gentle unveiling of her own inner beauty, shedding the shabby clothes and making the most of what we have.

We haven't just been sitting around doing nothing, but it's only been small steps so far. Funny what a big difference they've made to how I feel though. The very first thing I did was to take down the Grungy Golden Globe light fitting in the hallway at the top of the stairs and replace it with something a little more Glamorous and Girly. I think I forgot to take a photo of GGG, but it was kind of like this, without the fluting:

Yeah... SO not the look I want in my life. We took it to a charity shop. Now it has a white organza ribbon and crystal thing in place, that I picked up at K-Mart would you believe, for about ten dollars. It makes the whole stair and hallway so much brighter! It's probably not the final choice for here, but the brown light thing was just not going to live through the first week with me!

The next thing to go was the revolting and very large and dirty shadecloth thing that had been put up out the back. Presumably it was to give shade to the back porch and enclosed concrete patio area - it gets pretty hot where we live in the summer. But people, the back faces south, and in the southern hemisphere that means away from the sun. 

The kitchen, which looked out to that area, just felt dark and OMG, did I say the thing was dirty? Ugh. Green algae, black mould, leaf stains, and general ickiness. Really, I don't have a place in my life for ugly. Not to mention, we couldn't see the sky! There is something beautiful and blue up there, or beautiful and stormy, or dark and starry, with birds and bats and clouds and the light of sun or moon! And lovely big trees in the garden next door that we couldn't see either. All we could see was ugly fence, trellis (more on that later) and mould. 

But then Duncan started taking the shadecloth down. Oh my goodness, what a relief, I could just feel this claustrophobic weight lifting and I'm sure the house did too! The light was amazing. After a few months, looking at these photos again makes me just cringe! So bad.

Gotta love seeing your man at work being all manly and all. He so earned his Brownie Points that day! We folded the ugliness up and put it out near the bin. And then there was just this: 

I spent days just grinning at the sky, lol. It was bliss. 

love Heather x

 To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

July 10, 2015

Owning It

We are reluctant renters no more. That house I spoke of in the last post? We got it! It wasn't quite a smooth sail, but it is indeed ours now.

After our offer on the R Street house had been rejected, we had driven out to look at a house again that we had previously looked at, that was not quite right. We knew it wasn't quite right, but we just wanted to make sure, you know? And we were right. It was OK, but not The One. Then I suggested we go look at this other house that was for sale, in a street nearby. I hadn't told my husband about it before because he'd made noises about not really thinking much of that kind of style of house. But we pulled up in front and he got out and peeked in over the gate. The lady who owned it noticed and invited us in. I didn't find it all that appealing actually, but as we walked around, Duncan and our daughter both really liked it and I let them sweep me up in their feelings.

We arranged an official inspection, talked to our mortgage consultant, researched flood plains information and possible new Ikea kitchens, had a pest inspection done, met with a solicitor, and did all the usual pre purchase things.

It felt like a compromise though. I really struggled with my feelings of it being "just another house" for weeks, while going along with the whole purchase thing. Once the loan was approved, neither of us felt like woo-hooing and it was all a bit anti-climax. People who know us were all so excited for us, but we were like, "yay" instead of YAAAAAYYYY and that felt a bit scary. What had we done?

The first thing that strikes me about buying a house is that you stand in it and look around for maybe 20 minutes or so making a decision about a very large and important part of your life. You mull over it later, you think about it (a lot) and discuss it with other people, you wonder about living there, actually being and living there, and you work out the trek to work and the shops from there.... but really, it's that few minutes while you are in it that decide you. You don't really know what the neighbours are like, which is important for all sorts of reasons - whether they like cats for instance; what it will be like in different seasons, what little nasties may lie concealed within the walls or roof, what the soil is like for growing things in, whether there are wild teenagers up the road that will burn rubber past your doorstep. You just get a feeling and for whatever reason, think it will all be OK. Luckily for most of us, that works well enough.

When we were on our way to sign the papers at the solicitors, the agent from the R street house phoned and said that the offer that gazumped ours had fallen through and did we still want it. Eeep! We didn't until then.... so the solicitor said she'd wait and start her searches etc the next week. We went back and had another look at R Street and you know what? We didn't like it nearly as much! It had SO much work to do on it, and we both felt like we had a lucky escape! Suddenly the house we were buying looked a whole lot nicer!

Even so, it wasn't until two days after we had picked up our keys and started moving in that I had that feeling of belonging, of being in the right place, and that it wasn't "just another house". I smiled because it was home, simple as that.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

May 6, 2015

Reluctant Renters

We are going to buy a house. We have been reluctant renters for seventeen years. Seventeen years of 3-monthly inspections by sometimes rude and dismissive agents, who expect the world to smell of fresh paint and carpet shampoo, just like it does for the Queen; but are super reluctant to have any repairs done, whatever the need or urgency might be. Seventeen long years of not being allowed to hang any pictures, choose a colour or a window dressing, put up a useful shelf, or make a place ours.

We have, in that time, lived in six different rental houses, three of which we have had to leave because the owners put them on the market. It makes for unhappy children and cats, and too much packing and unpacking, unsettling and resettling, and that's not even considering removal costs and all the gardens I've started and had to leave, just when they were starting to finally look nice.

However, I'm grateful and glad to say that we are now in a position to look for a house. I've been trolling the online sites for a few months now, while we were still not quite ready, and keeping a bit of an eye on the market, learning a few interesting things as I have gone along. These things, for instance:
* how many chickens you're allowed to keep in town, and how far from the boundary fence they have to be
* that you have to get permission for almost anything with the council, from a retaining wall to lopping dead branches and how much all that will cost
* how much it costs to replace rusted through guttering
* the right way a deck should be supported as opposed to the unsafe and scary way
* what it takes to bribe your builder friend to take a look at a place (a loaf of herb bread)

And a whole lot more. I'm happy really, that we didn't go for some of the houses we've viewed, with all the lessons I've had afterwards. I have become a much more discerning viewer.

We put in an offer on one last week. It was not the first one we wanted, but it was the first one we had a chance with, really, because the houses have not really been hanging about long. The owner accepted our offer and it was quite exciting because it had so much potential and so much lovely garden space. Our joy lasted almost 24 hours, until someone put in an offer higher than we were prepared to go and it slipped through our fingers like fairy dust. I wanted to stamp my foot (at the very least), although I was very brave and said through slightly gritted teeth, oh well, it wasn't to be.

And people are so philosophical at you.... and I know they are right, but I wanted them all to bring me tissues and wine, not knowing smiles and "Oh well it wasn't to be" commiserations.

The trouble is, you have to fall in love with a house, to make a move on it. You have to see yourself there, to imagine the daisies you will plant, the shelves you will hang, and how your stuff will look in it. You have to sit on the porch with a cup of tea, if only in your imagination, and watch where the sun goes down. Only then do you know that you could live there. And by then you're invested in it, emotionally.

It's kind of scary though, how quickly you can switch allegiances, lol.... oooh, does that mean I am fickle? Or that, having lived in eleven houses since I was married 27 years ago, that I could make a home anywhere?

So... we had a house for almost a day, and I was very reluctant to believe I wouldn't be living there. Then three days later, I found a new one I could love. We're both pretty excited about it, although I know that's a slippery slope... but.... I can imagine growing daisies there, and putting up shelves, and sitting on the porch, and .... well, you get the picture. Duncan's been doing all the calculations and I've been designing a new kitchen for it and we've been trying not to let our imaginations run too wild until we get past a few hurdles. But it's fun to dream and I'm happy to do that with a few if it takes a few to find The One.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

February 5, 2015

Fixing Chairs, Part 1

I have a confession. People who know me know this, but people who don't know me may be surprised. Or horrified. Or intrigued.... I not-so-secretly have an old chair fetish/hoard/issue. What can I say, they are attracted to me - they just follow me home, honest.

I have too many for the house, more than any sane person could ever need even in a bigger house than we have. Which I will probably never have. And they are mostly the kind that look like rats have been nesting in them for a while, or that someone put out on the street for garbage collection (which is true in quite a few cases...), but they have potential, even if it's only me who can see it.

I have quite a collection in the house, but the garage holds the worst ones, the ones needing to be done up. I'm not showing you a picture of the stacks. I do have some pride... Oh alright then, I have no pride, lol.

There are dining chairs picked up curbside by a friend who thought I might like them. She lugged them home two at a time in the rain, bless her, by hand. I do like them, but my darling doesn't. He has the strangest aversions to things, like mango and lavender for instance, but when he doesn't like something, he really doesn't. So the dining chairs aren't for me. But I will do them up regardless and pass them on, useful again.

There are old armchairs from the Victorian period, swing back chairs from the 1940s and one Edwardian armchair with very nice lines that we picked up out of a skip/dumpster one night in Portobello, near Edinburgh, when we lived in Scotland. There's a little cane chair for a child, and probably a few others actually... And there's a few in the house that need some TLC too.

They are diverse and generally in terrible condition, but they all share something in common. They have good bones, they are - well they were - well made and they have character and they deserve another chance, poor things. Oh and the other common factor is that they are very patient. They've all been waiting ages for me to do something useful with them.

I started today. I picked out the two matching 1940's Swing Back chairs (I have two others that don't match, but let's not go there...). These were from a dear old lady who put them on Freecycle, hoping that someone would take them on. They were given to her parents when they were married and she always loved them, but she couldn't do them up and it was too expensive for her to get someone to do it. She made me promise that if I decided not to do them, I would offer them up again for someone else. Fat chance, I love them! They were a bit disgusting and my husband was a bit grossed out, but he has come to trust me (silly boy) so he loaded them in the car and took them home with glee (on my part). That was a mere four years ago. You can't rush these things!

Here they are. They're the same, just been painted a few times and put in different rooms, apparently. They're pretty gross, Duncan was right after all.

 Too much paint, too much dirt and too much sag. 

 The side view. See, they have nice lines, very curvy and they are surprisingly comfortable to sit in too. I've always like this style. 

OK, they are pretty disgusting... One can only assume those stains are sweat. Ick. And the paintwork is filthy too. I guess they were in the garage for a while even before they came to live in mine. 

So. I started on the yellow one. I tipped it upside down to start hauling out the upholstery. Everything had to go.

There were a few tacks. A few billion. OK maybe not billion... Would you believe thousand? ... Any takers for a few hundred? 

 What I'm saying here is that it was well tacked. But it was obviously the original fabric, because there was no double tacking, it was one lot only. Just plenty of one lot. 

Top and bottom. 

Once the seat was completely free of tacks, I had to get the back off. The bolt thingy was rusted up a bit, but Duncan's trusty wrench thingy (technical terms) did that job for me. I have no idea whether that was the right tool for the job but it worked. I think it might be vintage too, it has a certain character as well. **I am reliably informed by my better half that it's not a wrench thingy, it's a shifter, which is an adjustable spanner. And it was the right tool. Hurrah!

Of course, there were more tacks. A lot more... 

Not so many on the flip side, thank goodness. 

The last few tacks! Yahoo. Hardly any blood and not many bruises to show for it all either. Some but not many... it's darned hard on the knuckles to slip and bash into the wood. My thumb was really sore too from all that levering. Oh my goodness, the levering out of the tacks. Blah! They were well pounded in and it was slow work. And it was really dirty work, I have to say. Putrid even. I could hardly believe how much dirt fell out of it. I mean you expect a little but some of this was dirt, not just compost, it had gone beyond the compost stage. 

The leftover detritus - it doesn't look like much but this was a black bin bag full!

But the afternoon's hard work paid off, because this one at least, is up to stage 2. 

One down, one to go. Plus a lot more work, because they are a bit shaky too. I guess that means I will have to actually pull them apart to re-glue. And strip and sand them. And refinish. And recover. I don't think they'll be done in a flash. 

I discovered under all that fabric that the frame is all silky oak. Now I'm not sure whether to make them back up the way they were, with the frame part covered, or to make a base and put a cushion on it, to let the silky oak show. It seems a shame to waste it. I'll see what the other one looks like. If it's still all silky oak too, I might just cushion them. I will have to ask Duncan about the practicalities of making and securing a wooden base. 

I'm pretty excited to have started. I hope to get the other one done before the end of the weekend, and the joints fixed too if possible. Wish me luck. 

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

January 21, 2015

Coconut Slice Recipe

Well the slice is all gone! Time to make another one.... I have to report that sorghum flour is excellent! It gave the base a whole different texture that took it from "ricey/shortbready" to a really lovely dense moist texture much much more like something between wholemeal and white wheat flour. But with a definite non-white feel. Love it! I've since made some waffles using sorghum flour in the mix too and they were great too. Yahoo! Pity it's so expensive, but it doesn't matter really, when you find something that works for you. I'm not diagnosed Celiac but I do react badly and for weeks when I have the smallest bit of gluten. I'm not even tempted.

My DH loooved the slice, by the way. He was in raptures with every bite.

So... what did it look like? This is how it came out of the oven (told you I can't do food porn - look at the state of that pan! On second thoughts, don't, lol):

And this is how it looks on my plate. Mmmm. No crumbly bits, just moist and excellent deliciousness. That's a small fork by the way, not a dinner fork, just in case you were worried about the size of my slice.

And now I think you would like the recipe. I have no idea at all who originally made up this recipe, or how much it's been changed over the years, but this is what my new GF version is, which I'm now sticking to. The original was brought home from school cooking classes by my big sister ... a few years back. OK a few decades.... lol.

Please note that I'm in Australia so my measurements are Australian standard measurements.

Also, I just use a generic brand of plain and self raising flours, from my supermarket. I like most of them, they work well enough for most things and it saves having fourteen different flours in the cupboard.

Gluten Free Coconut Slice
125 g butter
2/3 cup Self Raising GF flour
1/3 cup plain GF flour
1/3 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Melt the butter gently until only just melted, then add to dry ingredients, which have been sifted together into a bowl to mix them. Add the egg and mix into a soft dough. Press or spread into a greased and lined slice tray, 18 x 28cm.

1/3 cup jam (jelly for my American friends)

Warm the jam briefly in the microwave and spread carefully over the base - the base is soft so be gentle.

1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs

Beat all ingredients together with a fork and gently spread over the filling. Bake it in a moderate oven for 20-30  minutes or until the coconut is beginning to toast nicely. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares or fingers and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

So there you go. Easy and delicious, old fashioned slice. Enjoy some with your favourite cup of tea or coffee soon. :-)

love Heather x

 To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

January 11, 2015

Paper Stacks and Coconut Slice

I can't believe how tardy I am when it comes to my blog. Pathetic.... but maybe there is hope. 2015 feels like a much more positive and forward moving year. Do you have years that feel different from others, right from the start? It's not like this year hasn't had it's share of dramas, even eleven days in, it's just that it "feels" better.

I didn't make any resolutions. Didn't even think, "I'm not making any!" I just skipped that senseless moment and forgot to notice that it even happened. I have developed a few plans over the last few days though. Blog (haha), more cooking, less eating (that can work, can't it?), actually decluttering till it's all gone, and not just in fits and starts and then giving up, parenting more wisely, getting my drivers license, staying (getting) healthy, finding some more friends and not being so stuck at home, doing up that furniture at last... But if none of that happens, I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about it, I'm just going to shrug my shoulders and know that everything happens in the right time and life is pretty good even so.

I'm cooking at the moment actually. I need something sweet. It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, sweet is good. Sweet will help me get through this stack of papers I need to reduce. Honestly, why did I even keep that receipt, and no, I don't need that old magazine clipping anymore. And do I need every hospital record from my children's childhoods, now that they are 20 and 27?

But let's not go there just now... I am cooking a slice. I'm converting the old family favourite Coconut Slice, that my big sister brought home from high school in the 1960s, to my favourite version of Gluten Free. I'd like to convert all my recipes and actually print myself out a new book, instead of just trying to remember what I did last time. This time I'm using a bit of sorghum flour. It's supposed to be nice, but I haven't tried it yet so I'm looking forward to it. I will let you know how it goes when it's out of the oven and on my plate - but please don't expect food porn. I'm not a food porn blogger, this is just family life going on here people.

OK, back to those paper stacks. Photo of coconut slice later. :-)

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

October 4, 2014

Do I Really Want That?

Months later I am still decluttering... don't judge me, lol. I do have a lot of stuff, but I haven't been doing it all that time, it's been in fits and starts. In fact I'm not entirely sure I account for all the time between May and now. Certainly not in emptied spaces, though they are there, lurking in cupboards and drawers. I emptied two whole drawers in my craft cupboard. They've since been filled again, but the whole point was to get stuff in there I actually use instead of like it used to be, which was full of stuff I didn't use and was just hiding. And thereby clear another area, that had a few boxes lurking.

We are kind of expecting to move again soon. We have moved too many times. I grew up in one house, after my parents moved there when I was a baby. Since I first left home at the tender age of 18 though, I have lived in 20 houses and flats. That's twenty moves in 37 years folks. TWENTY. Let's just take a moment to come to terms with the sheer number of boxes I've packed in 20 moves! And unpacked, finding new homes for the pretties within. Most of the moves were within one state (NSW), but I did move to Scotland and back to Australia too, and then to a new state (Qld).

I used to have a vet who was a good friend, and one day when I went to see him with my cat, he had to start a new card for me for his file. He put my name and then "No fixed abode" where it said address. I was amused of course, but also a bit miffed, not sure whether to laugh or cry about it (but I whacked his arm just the same, lol) and you know what? I'm still not sure!

I crave deep roots. I want to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, not just annuals. I want to put in wisteria and let it curl up a verandah and send it's yearly load of flowers cascading down, covering more and more of the verandah each year till I can hardly see through it. I have started gardens in each of the places I've lived but they have only ever just started to look good when I have to go again. I take stuff in pots from house to house, I plant out cuttings and seedlings, I dream of how it might look when it's grown a bit. I know by now that I will be moving again as soon as the plants have grown enough to start touching each other.

Honestly, it's not my fault lol! It's because I have left a job, or my husband has, or I've left a husband, or a house we're renting has sold, or we've moved for a job, or... well... on it goes.

I pretty much know the next house won't be a forever house either. But maybe it will be for a while. And maybe the one after that will be a long term house.

Because of all this moving, I am a good packer. But for some reason I am also an accumulator. I'm not entirely sure why this is... maybe it's a psychological thing. I can't keep houses but I can keep stuff to put in them. I'm not quite a hoarder, but I do have too much stuff. And the next house we are going to find is probably going to be a lot smaller, because we are going to move from renting to buying again, although renting gets you a whole lot more house these days. We are renting a 4 bed, 2 bath, 2 garage for the same amount we will be able to buy a 3 bed, 1 bath, 1 garage house with the deposit we will have. Probably... there is the occasional real fixer upper that might have a little extra.

Fixer uppers are not very usual in our suburb (where I am quite happy to stay) but I am hoping for one. I want to put my own stamp all over whatever we buy. I wonder how long it will take me to find The Right One. I have found a few Almost Right Ones in the last month. And it's fun looking. Well it is for me. My dear one doesn't enjoy the process.

And in the meantime, I continue to clear out stuff. My new question for every item that passes my sight or hands is, "Do I want to unpack you in a smaller house?"

love Heather x

 To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

May 31, 2014

Stuff be Gone

This week I have been sorting through drawers and boxes, clearing out stuff that I don't love or want to have any more. I have been a crafter of many persuasions my whole life and as every crafter knows that means stuff! Stuff, stuff, stuff. Paper crafting stuff, sewing stuff, beading stuff, inspirational stuff, quilting stuff, tools to do it all, stuff that will come in handy one day... some of it hasn't even been unpacked into this house. It's still in boxes from our move 6 months ago.

And it's not just craft stuff. Being my age (Which I don't believe I am - how can that be true? There's a mix up, I'm sure.) means I have been around long enough to accumulate a - well - a lifetimes worth of purchases and gifts, equipment, supplies and goods.

I get this itch now and then, and usually I scratch it just enough to ease the discomfort. I go through my wardrobe, or tidy out my kitchen or desk drawers, or buy a new storage system. It feels good. It feels satisfying.

But it doesn't really solve the problem. Rather, it is just a first step, and it's like when you go on a diet and avoid cake all the first day so you reward yourself the second day. (oops, did I just admit that out loud?) You need to keep doing it to actually fix the problem!

Don't get me wrong - I don't want minimalist. I like my pretty little bits and pieces around the place, and the things that have no value except emotional. I don't want to walk into a room that looks staged rather than lived in (although I do rather like it to be tidy) and I don't want to start over completely. I just want less accumulation. Less so that I can see more clearly who I am.

And I have changed in the last few years, from liking one style to liking a different style. Which means a lot of the things in my house, my craft room and my wardrobe don't "fit" anymore. Have you ever felt that way? I was quite surprised by the shift actually. I thought I was who I was and that was it. But change does happen.

Anyway, clearing the clutter: it's something that's often talked about. There are whole sections of books in the shops full of advice. You can hardly go online these days without seeing something about it. Tips, hints, schedules... so many of us seem to need a shove, or to be guilted into it.

I'm old enough now to shed guilt as well. Pfft, who needs it, it didn't work all these years, to heck with it! I am looking at this journey in a positive way. I have such abundance in my life! And I am letting some of it go to where it's needed more, and letting myself breathe again and open up to new possibilities. Much like Mother Nature, I'm shaking off the autumn leaves and getting ready to unfurl some fresh growth.

One drawer, one box, one shelf, one pile of stuff at a time. Just deal with this one thing, and it's not overwhelming. I have taken some of that online advice, such as things like if you don't find it useful or beautiful, then don't keep it. Really? I needed to find that wisdom online? Well, obviously I do. Some of the advice is ridiculous. Who'd have thought the tips on decluttering need to be decluttered as well? Ha!

I must have hoarding tendencies though (I can see my friend raise her eyebrows here in a "ya think?" kind of way) because each thing has a story, and I have to touch it all and decide on each piece individually. I kind of have to justify everything going. Ugh... I hate that. But it's part of my journey so I am just letting it happen. But I am making it happen fast, and I am trying not to dither. I heard someone say on the radio just recently that if you are dithering it's a no. A yes is a yes. She wasn't talking about clutter, but it works just as well.

I find that I am redistributing some things rather than moving them on, but that's OK too, to a certain degree, because some things are semi precious and I'm not ready to let them go ... yet. (Does it sound like I'm justifying here? Dang...) I will be doing this for a while, so I can revisit everything and continue the process and maybe next time around I will let those things go too. Or maybe now that I've recognised this by putting it down here, I will go pick them up right now and move them on. Dither, dither... oh yeah, dithering means no.

And that leads us to the other feeling about clutter that lurks in hidden corners. As much as it feels great and totally satisfying at the end, and a huge relief even, there is this other part that... eh... lurks in hidden corners... that feels a bit resentful during the process. I'm learning to calm that part. It's no good to just tell it to shut up, then it just feels justified. But to soothe it, and see it as part of the process, does help. Resentment is just fear. You don't scold a fearful child, you soothe them.

So, what have I learned so far this week? (Or rediscovered..)

1. It feels good to have an empty drawer.
2. It feels good to only have things I love surrounding me.
3. It can feel great, a relief or worrying to let things go but
4. My life is abundant enough and
5. I am getting a clearer picture of Me as I work.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

May 4, 2014

Lost and Found

Shall we just start again? I want to make another go of this poor neglected blog. The last year has been a roller coaster ride of good times and bad, health/family/personal/financial highs and lows, and life lessons, but it goes on, and there will no doubt be more of the same, so I'm just going to let it all pass without much comment and start over tomorrow, with what is in front of me, and just try and make sense of that. That's quite enough, really, on anyone's plate.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

April 27, 2012

A New Adventure

A few days ago, I saw a recipe for Oreo Cookies online. Then I clicked on a link for gluten free Oreo Cookies. I thought I would print it out for my mother, who went gluten free a few months ago. After all, who doesn't like Oreo Cookies? The link was to Gluten Free Girl and I was happily trapped there for quite some time, I have to say... and I realised from reading the information there that I was probably gluten intolerant myself, without realising it.

It was pretty amazing to me, because I have been involved in food intolerance issues for nearly 15 years because of my daughter, and have a reasonable amount of knowledge about it all. I have several gluten intolerant friends too, but I never picked up that it could be my problem too. I guess it was because their problems were mainly with their gut - but being gluten intolerant can affect pretty much everything else too, it seems. So anyway, I thought it was worth a try. Everything is worth a try once, don't you think? For an adventurous life?

I read a few different blogs and websites and informed myself enough in that afternoon to know in my heart that I was gluten intolerant. I knew. And I think I know quite a few other people who are as well. What really clinched it for me was not necessarily the articles I was reading, but the hundreds of comments left by people for whom going gluten free has been a transforming choice, and the happiness they describe at their symptoms disappearing.

There will always be people who scoff about any dietary changes and who resist as if their lives depended on it - I saw that when I had to put my daughter on a special diet - but what they want to think has nothing to do with me. It's not a question of right and wrong, just their choice, my choice. Parents often say to their children about food, "You can't say you don't like it if you haven't tried it," but we don't say that to ourselves as adults very often. In fact, sometimes we resist like crazy.

So anyway, I tried it. The very next day. I noticed changes before the day was out - positive changes. I couldn't go shopping for a few days, but we had stuff in the house that I could use and I was challenged to make nice things like Carrot and Lentil Soup, instead of just bunging some stuff in a sandwich and calling it lunch. What's not to like about facing the prospect of this for lunch?

One of the most amazing things to me was that I wasn't hungry all the time. I am usually never satisfied, always almost desperate for "something" else, although whatever it might be always eluded me. I realise now that it was a lack of something that was required.

Here is what these first few days have done for me: My feeling of desperate wanting and checking the kitchen for whatever it might be has vanished. I no longer feel bloated and uncomfortable - in fact, I can no longer feel my belly at all, I am not aware of it all the time like I used to be just a week ago. My chronically itchy and sore scalp is no longer itchy and sore, it just feels like the rest of my skin now. No chronic headache. The joint pain in my knees has disappeared (hips are still sore, but my knees feel great). I feel alert and alive and actually, I feel like laughing out loud! Which is no small thing let me tell you. I suffered from depression and although I have now recovered, I still didn't feel like I was on top of the world. I lost 3kg in the first few days. I'm not tired. Or grumpy. I am sleeping like a log for at least an hour longer than usual, getting closer to normal range. Probably something else too, but that'll do for starters. I just feel better all over.

So, do I regret my decision or choices? Nope. Do I miss gluten? Nope - as far as I can tell, there isn't anything to miss. There are so many fabulous recipes out there to try and flavours to tempt me, that I can't see how I will miss it. It just doesn't loom on my horizon any more. I don't see that I'm saying a big no to anything important, but rather a big yes to a whole lot more.

And the point of this post is to say (apart from, thanks for listening to me) is that, it doesn't matter where we are in life, things can get better if we are open to change and possibility.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert
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