17 September, 2011

Dirt under the finger nails.

The sun shone today, so out into the domain of the spiders and snails did we venture.

A colony of snails, discombobulated by our 
turning of their soil, decided to pack up their 
houses and leave.

Equipped with bags of soil, rescued pots, an assortment of tools, seeds, seedlings and a pair of gardening gloves for each of us we took upon us the task of making a start on our herb garden.

We planted:  mint, oregano, parsley, purple carrots (!), coriander, marigolds and chives.

After much hauling of the extremely sodden soil we'd just bought, heaving of prickly pots, hoeing, digging, root tickling and watering I felt I'd earned the right to stand back and admire the fruits of our three hours hard labour...  

...and realised that the fruits weren't visually that impressive after all.  But it's a start, and that's the main thing.

Besides, we found a hoe in the garden, and how often can you say that?

15 August, 2011

Something funny happened on the way...

You don't even want to know what's been happening at the House at Porter Street on the way from the last post to today.

Suffice to say, there's been a concussion, a household insurance claim, motor insurance claim, a drowned computer, a new computer coupled with a corrupted  back up, shattered crockery, a badly bruised foot and an unwelcome mauling of our weekend papier mache fun by some rampant, bad mannered possums.  (I say bad mannered because they left a calling card in the shape of faeces on the terrace table in case we didn't know it was them.)

I live in hope that writing this now draws a line beneath the horrors that have been the last few weeks.

And we can move on.

The chook shed is being demolished on Thursday (weather permitting) and the remaining garden stumps ground out as well.  I'll let you know how we go.

30 July, 2011

As is.

Finally.  Here is the rear garden of the House at Porter Street.  A blank canvas of sorts.  I think I need to gaze at this for a few days in the hope inspiration will come.  Wish me luck.

Foggy days.

My brain is whirling, and not only because my head had an epic run-in with the cast iron fire screen last week.  In the delicious haze of pain relieving medications, anti-inflamatories and muscle relaxants blended with my own special brand of confusion, I am mentally grappling with a number of issues which I intend to outline below in no particular order.

The fish are doing so much better but we're battling still to get our pH and other  chemical elements more deftly aligned with the colour scale at the aquarium so we can introduce a third.  To date are graced with Mr X, the stalwart, and Sunny the lemon comet, both of whom are frisky and happy and thriving.  Such good news after the extended chain of tragedy discussed in previous entries.

The garden remains in a state of flux, awaiting the next round of works. Mum recently arranged a quote from a fine fellow called Sam, about whom Mum had good vibes.  I didn't meet him, so my vibes do not come into play in this instance.  His task is to removed the dilapidated chook shed, grind out, by hand, the stumps from the trees removed a few months ago, help us plan a garden, including veggie patch, remove the rubbish and maintain the lawns on a regular and ongoing basis.

I want to develop a vision for the garden.  But am incredibly inexperienced and wholly clueless.  So until I drift off this is where I hope my attention will settle for today.

I still have one more Malm drawer unit to assemble before the furniture element of my bedroom is completed.  My foggy brain has put a halt to any interactions with flatpack.  Rather than my extensive experience giving me the confidence to proceed equipped with just one functioning brain cell, my self-preservation and mental health alert system has warned me to steer clear until  a few more synapses are firing.  By next weekend we would hope this would be the case.

There were a couple of other incidentals requiring attention this week.  Milo's first themed party last Sunday:  Toby's pirate party.  We considered an eyepatch to be an integral component of the costumery until we saw the beard.  

And finally, the man came to complete the pool fence.  Complete? you ask.  Yes, complete, I confirm.

About a month ago, the glass fence man arrived to remove our unsightly, rusty pool fence and gate and replace it with the new and improved minimal version.

He got to work quickly, cutting out the badness and with a little bit of help from moi commenced fitting the new panels.  All good.  Very happy.

And then, a curve ball: he advised he wouldn't be able to finish the job because the factory had given one of our panels to another customer, and we were one panel short.


Many questions ensued.  Why did you start if you couldn't finish?  How long for the next panel?  What am I going to do with a party of small children due here next weekend for a party?   

It would be around 3 weeks or so before it could be complete, so after a little urging the company agreed to come back in a few days and fit a timber panel to at least make the pool area safe in the interim.

The giant piniata, the birthday boy, his wife and Milo.
Note panel just visible behind the wing of the chair next to Jane's elbow.

Eventually the pool fence was finished.

Mental note:  do something with that stupid hose.

And the timber panel was recycled into a pin board which I just have to work out how to fix to the plaster wall in the corridor outside Milo's and My bedrooms. It's bloody heavy.

So back to the garden I go, at least in my head.  First task, map it out. 

20 July, 2011

I may've been a little hasty. Part 2.

When you're walking up the driveway of the House at Porter, if you cast your eye to the right and squint at the dirt of the nearest garden bed you will spy the symbol marking the peaceful resting place of our dearly departed fish. 

It's now quite a school, with the addition yesterday of dear, sweet, quirky Otto.  Otto of the Grotto.  Otto who spent much of his day resting in the hole in the rock in the tank.  Otto who was only with us for ten days.  Otto.

An autopsy was undertaken at "Passion for Pets" in Bulleen, where Otto was acquired.  It seems he may've been unwell when he came to us.  So they're going to give us another Otto on Saturday. And in the meantime we will fondly remember our little, red-lipped friend with the big personality who has swum off this mortal coil.  RIP.

18 July, 2011


Vinyl parquetry floor, and drapes aside, we are now within two Ikea Malm drawer units of completing my bedroom.  Woo hoo.  All without a great amount of preamble or effort.  Double whooping.

Today Pat Sparks installed my new light feature:  I LOVE IT.  And (apart from the VPF) it is the finishing touch to the revamped "former study nook".  To refresh the memory:

There are no words, really.  But note the flouro light.
The light fitting, a single "Cluster", was sourced from About Space,
a place I used to be enormously enthusiastic about, but now,
after a most frustrating experience with a staff member who was having a very bad day,
find myself a little soured.

Now the bonus part of Pat's visit was he was able to explain why my very expensive 60 watt retro globes aren't bright.  

Expensive retro-style bulbs - note the length of the filament.

Sparing you the rigours of tilting your head up to look at the halogen bulb
most likely  illuminating your immediate environs.

See how the filament of the retro style bulb is really really long?  Well the 60W of power are spread over that extended distance, rather than being concentrated as it is in the normal style bulb.  Therefore the light appears dim, even though it uses the same amount of energy.  

So beware people purchasing fancy schmancy light fittings and bulbs - you may end up eating dinner in the half-light.

After Pat left we went to Ikea to get new bulbs for the family room lights, since we were now in the know about their dimness.  Whilst there we found that the Malm drawers I need for my bedroom, and which were reported online as being out of stock, were indeed available.  So we bought three.  

Hence the two drawers away from completion comment.  Of the three I have put together one.  Two boxes are mocking me from the far corner of the room.

But they can wait, until tomorrow.  After, that is, after I take my car to be repaired.  Dad accidentally got too close when backing out the driveway on Friday. He broke off the passenger side mirror and imprinted a small dent in the door which I'm pretending isn't there. The morning was foggy, my car is silver, I'd parked in a unexpected position - a recipe for a ding.  And behold it was so.

17 July, 2011

A fork in the road.

A fella from Spotlight came to the House at Porter Street about three weeks ago to talk to us about window treatments, but we weren't really sold on him.  We would've been, we DO NEED drapes, but it was a bit off putting that he couldn't be bothered bringing fabric samples in from his car for us to look at.

So instead we went to Evans Home Furnishings in Burwood, on the recommendation of Mum's friend Linda, chose some fabrics we thought might do (including one I knew we couldn't afford, just for the torture of it) and organised for Vince to come and measure up.

The main area requiring attention is the family room: two large expanses of glass (2.55m and 2.86m) currently adorned with the vertical blinds of the previous dwellers.  

For these windows, given they are common areas and not subject to my desire for injections of character, we settled on a Wilton fabric called Mint.  It's a loose weave, a little textured, reminiscent of the 1950s.  The colour is neutralish, with a hint of green and a smidgeon of gold.  It should bring a little of the outside in while complementing the sandy coloured floor tile.  Sounds a little challenging when written, but it should be good.  It was Mum's choice anyway, so her fault if it looks muddy.

The more minor but infinitely more exciting area to be draped is my bedroom - which you may or may not remember is dressed with a peach coloured, embossed vinyl, holland blind.  

Make a statement or be minimal?  Be safe, or be fabulous?   The question at this juncture has to be, "How much the fabulous?"

Given the modest price differential, I've gone the latter and ordered this:

It's called Clarise and the colour is "Hot Tamale".  It was an obvious choice.  Bold and fun in a room of white with a green door, dressing a window overlooking the garden.  FABULOUS.

Also it should be noted that I've gone against all advice and opted for the drapes to open to the left, not in the middle.  I have a myriad of justifications, none of which were shaken by the reasoning of two people far more experienced than I. So we shall see if I live to rue the decision.  I'm sure I won't.

The drapes arrive mid-September. 

16 July, 2011

Hopefully the last word on our pescatorial friends.

Remind me to change the blog banner.  I think I put the moz on myself by making the "it's all happening" claim, because almost as soon as I posted it, the entire House at Porter Street fell in a ginormous exhausted, uninspired heap on the floor.

[Also, my lovely brother, came from Greece for three weeks, so we were a little distracted...]

My last post was almost a month ago.  The saga of the effing fish was the last word and that drama went on and on and on.  I don't mean to sound cruel and unfeeling.  I am completely aware that their suffering was obviously a whole lot greater than mine, but I tell you, finding them gasping, or gunk covered, or sunk, or floating or whatever first thing every morning, was bloody wearing.  

Truth told, I think there was something wrong with our water.  I was putting in the requisite ager, anti fungal and anti algae treatments and water conditioner, but still, in the end, Biggest Fish went belly up.  The water was the only variable, so I'm prepared to pin the blame firmly there.

BF was followed swiftly into the cardboard coffin and shallow burial plot in the front garden, by O'Leo, O'Steo and strike me down I can't remember the name of the other one. I have been authoritatively advised, by the man at the aquarium shop, that introducing three new fish to a bowl most likely meant there was too much ammonia in the water from their waste, and they were gassed to death. 

Oh god.  Those were very dark days.

However now we are looking onwards and upwards.  Mister X has turned his back on the pearly gates and is now rehomed in a proper tank with a filter.  His outlook has been so much improved that I have been heard to declare the tank etc to be the best $88 I ever spent.  And I have no doubt he would agree.

After a week alone and doing well, we introduced Otto  ("I like him and he likes me.  I will call him Otto.")

Otto is a curious little fella.  Totally jaunty and full of fun.  But rather partial to a nap.  He takes himself off to the grotto in the artificial rock at the bottom of the tank and has a little lie down a couple of times a day.  I've never seen a fish do this before and initially it was all I could do to stop myself from prodding him with a chopstick in case he was dead.  But patience, restraint and observation have shown that he's fine - a narcoleptic - but fine.

Anyway, tomorrow we want to get another one, just to keep Mr X company during Otto's down times, and then we can finally draw a line under the fish.  Thusly:


18 June, 2011

I may've been a little hasty.

In a small village in Guatemala, weeping mourners around an open coffin comfort one another in shared grief.  So immersed, are the bereaved, in the intensity of their feeling that they don't notice the deceased sit up and ask what's going on.

That is exactly, PRECISELY, what's happened here, at the House at Porter Street.  Except we're in the kitchen and the coffin is a Tupperware bowl.

You see, Biggest Fish LIVES.  

I THOUGHT he'd left.  He was undeniably still and lifeless, sideways on the bottom of the bowl with body and eyes and mouth covered in white stringy stuff like cobwebs.  It was all over, red rover.  

Of course burial couldn't proceed until Milo came home from kindergarten, so I put the death chamber atop the bookcase (so Poppy and Bongo wouldn't eat the corpse while I was out of the house) and went to pick him up.

Life and death discussions on the way home over a soothing Chup-a-chup and we were ready to start digging.

But then HUH?  Was that his fin moving, or just the water?  Followed swiftly by a cavalcade of exclamations because undeniably Biggest Fish was drawing breath.

It's now four days later.  Biggest Fish has shed all the cobwebs and seems to've expelled a whole lot of undigested food.  His eyes are clear and he's sitting on the bottom of the bowl.

Impossible not to wonder what's going to happen with him now...

14 June, 2011

In memory of Biggest Fish #2

In Memory
Biggest Fish #2

Beloved companion of Mister X.
Cherished goldfish of Milo.
BF2 came to us to fill a void.
His passing today creates another.
BF2, already you are missed.

06 June, 2011

Before and After: Mum's Pine Box

Mum has defeated the seemingly unconquerable obstacle of this wretched cold and has applied the finishing touches to her pine box.   


Well, pictures aren't up yet, but everything else is in place.  So prepare yourself to witness an extreme makeover of epic proportions.  

To refresh your memory - BEFORE.

So what you're seeing is a whole lot of vertical blinds covering oddly angular windows, and enough pine cladding to rival a Swedish sauna showroom.  There's also an enormous drop-down drafting table attached to the wall on the left side.

What you're not seeing, and what I don't seem to've documented, is the pine ceiling and the 1980s vanity unit right next to where I'm standing.

And now, drumroll...

The plantation shutters cost an absolute fortune
but without them the room wasn't habitable,
so they were definitely worth it.  
The paint job through the lower half of the room remains
somewhat dubious not to mention they should've been covered
in semi-gloss, not low-sheen wall paint.  But the effect is what
we were after, even if the finish isn't what a sane person
would pay for.
The tall cabinet occupies the space 
previously inhabited by the vanity unit.  

I love this room.  The potential was always there for it to be interesting and stunning, and now it's been realised.  

Mum's made it into her bedroom, although with all the light it gets (having big windows facing north and east, and a small window facing west) it could've also been a lovely dayroom.  

Yes, very happy with the outcome here, overall...

05 June, 2011

Pass the kleenex.

The House at Porter Street has been battling an outbreak of pestilence frivolously dubbed "The Common Cold".

It started, as all these things do, with Milo who brought it home with him from kinder.  Then it moved to me and has now invaded Mum.  Papou thinks he's avoided it by having two naps yesterday, but I'm not confident.

All this coughing, sneezing, wheezing and grumpiness has put a halt to advances in the progress of our home-making efforts which is particularly frustrating given our proximity to completion.

Hopefully we will all improve with the aid of these beauties.  

Grown in our garden they are perfectly formed and thanks to this cold I can't taste anything, so their reputed sourness has passed me by...

02 June, 2011

Coveting #3: Montecito CA

I've spent a few minutes this morning with Beverly Hills Realtors to the Stars, The Westside Agency.  Amongst their listings I found a most spectacular 5 bed / 5.5 bathroom house.  It's a modernist masterpiece. It is "impressive beyond words".  

[All pictures are from the property's online listing]

It's set amongst 3.5 acres of rolling lawns and treed outcrops, so you can shelve any concerns about the full glass wall between bathroom and great outdoors.  And the 32 car garage / art gallery would surely be able to accommodate an inflatable mattress if guests were staying over.

In May 2010, this property was listed at US$30 million.  Today, it's on the market for US$19,990,000.

Whichever way you look at it, it's gorgeous.

PS  I would be prepared to veer from my strict policy of exclusive VW car ownership, for the 1950s gullwing Merc.

31 May, 2011

Yeah yeah yeah.

I ordered the stools for the kitchen from Matt Blatt's online store.  And while I was there I found my birthday present to me.

It's hard to deny that Ringo's looking a little bilious.  But then that's Ringo...

Happy birthday to me.

PS  My bedroom shelves were finally finished on Sunday too.  My Beatles babushkas have been photographed on their glossy whiteness.  

29 May, 2011

The big reveal: Kitchen Edition

[and I tell you, this picture is very very forgiving]


An enormous standing ovation for the two fellas who've worked slavishly for the past four days to deliver us a complete and flawless kitchen.  Not to mention immersing themselves wholly and completely in the surreal experience, that is the non-stop chatter of Milo, for the duration.  

Props to Sam the tiler, plasterer and cornice man.  And snaps to John the painter who not only did an incredible job, but offered to start the job on Saturday, and finish it on Sunday (no weekend penalty rates) just because.

We were so horribly demoralised by the experience with the painters from hell at the beginning of this journey.  So we can be nothing short of elated as we sit back and gaze and gaze and gaze at what's been achieved at the close of this chapter.


27 May, 2011

We have running water in the kitchen

- and not down the walls!

With the hard work and diligence of Nick Plumber, Shane Sparks and Sam Tiles and Plaster, the kitchen has come along beautifully.  Appliances in and functioning.  Floors finished, walls tiles and ceilings corniced, all ready for paint.  

And you know the days, weeks, months of agonising about the floor?  Well you're not going to believe how it was resolved.  Thanks to our open fire love, and the gradual emptying of the wooded underhouse hell, I managed to locate, on the morning Sam started, jammed in a corner, under a box of pool tiles, various kitchen wall tiles and paving stones, a glimmer of hope in the shape of a broken shard of kitchen floor tile. This in turn spurred me deeper, past old clothes, chicken wire, foil insulation, piled up slate, kindling and a vital colony of daddy long legs to an entire box of unsullied floor tiles.

Such a victory.  Such great timing.  

So the floor has been finished with matching tiles.  There is no patchwork.  There is no slate (the stuff we bought was too thick, anyway).  It's all matchy matchy in the best possible way.  And its remarkable that the tiles that've been down since the house was built haven't faded or aged in any meaningful way since they were put down.  Ugly then.  Ugly now.  But at least consistently ugly across the board.

Tomorrow, David (or is it John) Paint will start undercoating the bulkheads and by early next week 

So, too will be the shelves in my room - which is almost incomprehensible.

It's hard to understand, when you think about the adversity that some people have to live with (I'm thinking about carting fresh water, no food, bugs, etc) that surviving in a house with no kitchen would be such a trial.  But my word!  For this family of anti-campers, the last twenty-something days have certainly been no picnic.

I don't want to whinge (actually I do, but I won't) but instead I will observe.  

The experience of living in the House at Porter Street, when there was no kitchen, was akin to the experience of living at Riverside, the house with no drawers, but worse.  It's all piles and shuffling. And that is, every, EVERY time you need something.  No task is sufficient in itself.  Everything requires the dance around the boxes, the pondering of where things might be, the consideration of where things may reasonably and cleanly be undertaken and whether on earth it's worthwhile doing after all.

There is no room in this environment for autopilot.  Tiring.

And now, thank heavens, the end is in sight.

Stay tuned for the big reveal...coming soon.

24 May, 2011

Pipe Dream status: reinstated.

I've got a migraine so can't wax lyrical.  Am just here to say that the stone is in.  Suddenly, unexpectedly, magically, yesterday morning.  

Plumber, electrician today.

Tiler, plasterer tomorrow.

Painter tbc.

Looking good, Randolph.  Looking good, Mortimer.

Photos to come.

22 May, 2011

I used a cross-stitch project I undertook a decade ago as an analogy to explain my preferred approach to overhauling the garden.

In My Life - the Needlework. 
Started 2001.  Completed 2003

That is, to start with an idea, at the bottom, and work my way along, all the while conceiving, refining, linking and evolving.

The benefit of gardening over this piece, however, is that unless my poison fingers are more potent than my green thumbs, the garden is dynamic in its own right and therefore presents an ongoing challenge and delight.

My conversation was with Mum.  She is of a different school.  In her eyes, the plan and destination must be set in stone before we begin.  This should really be of no surprise:  she is not a person who flies happily by the seat of her pants.

It will be interesting to see how we move forward.  I'm anticipating a need to research and do diagrams.  

I'll begin by googling Australian Natives and a passionfruit vine for the side fence...

21 May, 2011


The People didn't ring, so the stone isn't in.  The flow on of the no show by "Architectural Stone" means our hopes of a functioning kitchen by end of day Monday is now a pipe dream.

To quote my dear, departed, aged aunt, in response, "Poo.  Bum.  Bugger.  Blast."

Mum and I ventured into the backyard early this arvie as the realisation dawned and summarily took out our disappointment on the wasp riddled lemon tree, which hadn't been pruned back hard enough on Thursday. 

Captured incidentally in a photo of my cat Bongo's posterior a few months ago, you can see the tree in all its leafy glory.  It's the bush behind that concrete pillar-thing at the top, centre of this frame.

When the tree people left on Thursday it was reduced to a very mini version of itself.

And today, with all the lumps cut out, we have shrunk him thusly

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.  Life's like that.  I'll feed it some Seasol and citrus food tomorrow and keep fingers crossed for a healthier tomorrow.

20 May, 2011

Kitchen Update : The Sequel Part 2

After the tree people left yesterday afternoon, as Mum and I enjoyed the sun streaming onto the patio...

(as opposed to "Before the tree people came, as Mum and I sat in the darkened kitchen resenting the dense, sun-blocking canopy of bay leaves outside, with its teeming community of spiders and insects...")

...and talked with renewed enthusiasm about the next steps, my thoughts, after 22 days without a kitchen, naturally fell once again upon the topic of Caesarstone and when our benchtops might be installed.

A couple of quick calls led me to Vince At-the-Factory who advised that there is a good chance they will be coming on Saturday morning.  Saturday morning!  That is, as I type, tomorrow.  Tomorrow!

Of course we have to wait for confirmation which will come today. 

I live in hope.

19 May, 2011

All it took was just one day.

With one figurative yet masterful stroke of the chainsaw, the last vestige of gloom from the previous inhabitants was purged from the House at Porter Street.  

Hip hip hooray.  Hip hip hooray.  You get the message.  

Props to the fellas from Out on a Limb (0419 882 740).  They were ace.

The only personages bemoaning the great expunging are relatively small and therefore voiceless:  the  league of snails inhabiting walls formerly clad in ivy blankets,

the flock of oversized mosquitoes displaced from the bay tree,  the hapless praying mantis who'd been minding his own business in a miscellaneous sap-leaking fruit tree,

and Poppy and Bongo who went to sleep inside when the heavy machinery started and woke five hours later to find the landscape somewhat altered:  

from this

to this

It's actually hard to conceive of just how oppressive all those conifers and the baytrees were, not to mention the oversized and unruly, overplanted everything else.  But now, actually from the instant that bank of conifers was gone, the garden has been opened up to a whole world of light and prettiness and movement and functionality.

It is up to us now to do what it takes to make that happen, one garden bed at a time...