Saturday, September 03, 2011

TomTom Letterbox

I have a massive crush on the TomTom letterbox by DesignByThem. How I wish our fence accommodated a horizontal letterbox. Because it's stupid vertical railings like a Ye Olde Fashionedy Wrought Iron Pool Fence we need to have a vertical box clipped to the railings.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Window film

Frosted lower panels, clear upper panels.

Our old house is a little peculiar in that the boundaries of our property on two sides are the external walls of our house, but we aren't butted up against any other houses. On one side is the driveway we share with the matching house next door. On the other side, unfortunately, is the car park to the unit block that was built in the 1980s following the bulldozing of two more old houses like ours.

So our kitchen unit looks out onto a giant expanse of bitumen. To the right was quite a pretty herb garden tended by one of the unit block tenants, but that brought with it its own problems. Namely people tending to or hanging out in the garden, less than a foot away from where I was scrubbing dishes or preparing breakfast. It was weird. Plus sometimes if one of the neighbours wanted to have a chat with BCB they'd knock on the kitchen window if they saw either of us in the kitchen. Friendly, but... a touch intrusive. As a result we kept an ugly vinyl rollerblind down nearly all the time.

Window film is not very common in Australia, where most people have houses with fences, rather than apartment windows onto a solid brick wall, so it took me ages to think of it. But it's the perfect fix. I looked around online, and found most of the options were custom designs that were quite expensive. We ended up at Bunnings, where $30 bought us the only roll of privacy film left on the shelf.

Little rectangley-flowery shapes show up at night when the carpark lights are one. Pretty!

I wanted plain frosted, but had no choice but this kind of geometric floral. Luckily, I think I like it even better than plain. It was relatively easy to apply. I definitely recommend going heavy on the water/ dishwashing liquid spray. It made it a lot easier to move the film around to start with. Also I'd recommend checking on it a couple of hours after application. We found a couple of new air bubbles had developed, but the glue was still just tacky enough that we could squeeze them out still.

We caught a couple of bits of grit under the film, and have one crease in panel, but given that the windows are four square feet each, I think that's not bad. Took only an hour or so from measuring the windows to finish. Hopefully it will hold up okay, but so far I'm a massive fan. The sun can peek in our kitchen again, but not the neighbours.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

food from the garden

so many peas! We picked the same amount again two days later.

It's harvest time around here! The sugar snap peas are going crazy, the asparagus thinks it's Spring, and the lettuce and silverbeet is doing well. We picked all of this to take to a dinner party on Saturday. Wilted silverbeet with asparagus and peas (and homegrown lemon juice and purchased butter); and a salad of homegrown lettuce, grapefruit from dad's tree, pomegranate seeds and chestnuts.

I let the asparagus go for a bit long, I think.

Homegrown asparagus is definitely worth it, and ours are doing very well growing in pots!

A bowl of colourful lettuce.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Coffe table shopping in Melbourne

The Coffee Table of Blah, circa Christmas 2009. See the annoying raised edges?

I've been keeping half an eye out for a coffee table for, like ever. Ever since I moved in with BCB our coffee table is a hand-me-down with a broken leg that we superglued back together. It's not the ugliest thing in the world, but it's kind of cheap-looking and squat. More irritatingly, there are little ridges around the edges of the table top, which makes wiping it clean of dust and grit a nightmare. All the grot of an old house and two shedding dogs accumulates in the corners.

I have some specific needs. I want something made of quality materials, that will last in our hands or someone else's (this rules out Ikea. Soz, Ikea). That said, I want something that I'm not too afraid to get a little bit used. See references to table-grot above. It needs to be quite small, to fit on our small living room (this rules out almost every new coffee table - where are all the castles and palaces that must be Domayne's target market?), and for the same reason something that has a light and airy feeling would be good. The legs must not prevent free passage under the table. We have two dogs that play chasey round the room, and one of them will just plough into objects irrespective of whether he fits under or past them. Also for this reason, despite looking airy, the table must have a little bit of weight to it. A little bit of storage (shelf, drawers, whatever) would be awesome. Oh, and I'd like it a touch taller than the usual coffee table. At 40cm tall the current one is just at our-dogs'-nose-height, which makes it dangerous to leave tea and biscuits unguarded.

I am crazy for this rosewood coffee table from Twenty21, but it's already sold.

I'm think a mid-century-ish coffee table likely fits my long and exacting bill, but have not yet seen The One. In October I'm headed to Melbourne (in fact, I will be forth and back from That Rainy City quite a few times over the next couple of years), and it's occurred to me to spend the free weekend I have there searching for a coffee table.

I think I have Grandfather's Axe and Twenty21 on the list. Is there anywhere else I should be heading? And is it wrong to put a dark wood furniture on a jarrah floor?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

rose prunings


The last of the roses. These are actually the buds and flowers that were pruned off by my mama this afternoon when she cut the bushes back for their dormant time. I still get her to prune my roses, because I have no idea what I'm doing. The prunings look so wild and wintery on the kitchen table. And they smell good too. Camp David variety. Drought tolerant, generous with flowering, strongly perfumed, and the new growth comes through burgundy-coloured. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 05, 2011

crimson flowering broad beans

They're behind chookwire because SmallDog(TM) finds the raised bed manure irresistible.

When we were living at our old place, and we had no money to improve the sand that passed for soil, the only thing I successfully grew was broad beans. Down the path at the side of the house. Don't know what I did to make them work out (not much else did), but ever since then they've been a favourite.

When I saw that Diggers Club offered crimson flowering broad beans, I had to have a go. I bought a packet for our neighbours, for my mum, and for me. They're expensive - only 12 beans in a packet. And sadly, I didn't let my raised bed rest properly before I got all gung ho about my beans, and I burned the first nine in some undiluted chicken manure. Damn.

But I carefully planted out the remaining three beans, and have been rewarded with these amazing magenta coloured flowers. The plants are nowhere near as tall as the aquadulce variety I've previously grown. Mine are taller than mum's and the neighbour's (I obviously have a magic beanstalk touch. Just call me Jack). Unfortunately, they're a bit hidden behind some sugar snap peas that got a little bit out of control. Lucky I took this photo, to prove that they exist. Definitely pretty little things. And the number of flowers is amazing! If they all pod up we'll have a bumper crop.

Which is just as well, because given the price, I want to save some of this season's seed!

I've only just seen all the other beautiful coloured-flowering beans that Digger's Club have... I might have to find some space in the new bed for a painted lady, a sunset, or something scarlet.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More Trove updates

Because I can't get enough of researching the history of my place. I found, via our local Council website that the land in our area was released as part of an estate in the mid-1890s. So I tried searching Trove for the estate name. With some great results! In order to release the land, the joint venture had to go to court to have some Chinese market gardeners who had been squatting in the area evicted. The joint venture won. Shortly after the estate was released, a white man was charged with assaulting an Aboriginal woman who lived in a camp near the estate. He chose to go to jail rather than pay a £3 fine. She was fined a few shillings for public drunkeness. And according to a letter to the editor, there was quite a problem with the local pub (long since gone) letting its rubbish pile fester!

When we first got our house, it seemed like countless numbers of people could have lived in it. Being able to trawl the papers and see the actual names, and you start to realise how few families have h

Friday, July 29, 2011

First asparagus

Last winter I bought two asparagus crowns. Because we didn't have any garden beds ready, I put them in a pot (in a 50/50 blend of potting mix and straight manure) and hoped for the best. Every time I was doing something else in the garden, they got a handful of compost or manure or a bit of seasol. Asparagus are apparently heavy feeders. They did extremely well in their pots! You aren't supposed to eat the spears the first year, so I let them all grow into tall, ferny fronds. More and more shoots kept popping up - even well into early Autumn!

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I decided that the fronds looked dead enough to cut back - as you're supposed to do with asparagus in winter. Only a couple of days later, one of the crowns had some little shoots peeping up through the dirt. It's supposed to be dormant! Well, a couple of days of heavy rain and those little shoots were over a foot long! So I decided enough was enough, and cut two for eating.

We've nibbled on the woody stem end in that photo. Couldn't help it. They taste amazing - like the best bought asparagus I've had, only sweeter. We'll be eating these on pizza, along with the homegrown silverbeet and some brie. Yum.

Conclusion: Perth is quite the place for asparagus to grow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A sheepish aside

A handsome Cormo

There hasn't been loads on here recently about my spinning and knitting, but believe me I am. I'm nearly done with a handspun cardigan, and just finished a handspun cabled beret last night. But I think this is worthy of a public announcement.

In 1959 an Australian farmer looked at his prizewinning merino flock and decided the sheep weren't productive enough - that is, they weren't making enough lambies on the dodgy Australian pastures. So he crossed in some Corriedale lines - all the while selecting for the best possible fleece - and developed the Cormo breed. The fleece is as soft as merino, but stronger, and the sheep are more pest resistant, produce more young, and are better parents.

In the late 20th century more and more wool processing facilities closed down in Australia. We even lost the small-scale, innovative research facility, the CSIRO scour, a few years ago.

But the Cormo is still a rare breed. A Melbourne woman, Kylie Gusset, is crowdsourcing the raise funds to process the smallest batch of Cormo that one of our few remaining scours will alow - a ton. It's operating like a co-op, so you can buy in to receive yarn or handspinning fibre from a super-high quality flock of Cormo sheep that are sustainably farmed in Tassie. Doesn't matter if you're Australian or international (I don't think). Go donate at Ton of Wool, and you can follow her efforts on the ravelry thread here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dreamy homes

Even though we've only had our little house for about a year, my eye can't help wandering. I don't think I'm cut out to be a home monogamist. I have my eye on the mid-century places. Unlike federation-era houses, which people think are charming, there's still a risk that people will buy some modernist gem then rip its guts out. They need protecting, y'know?

I really hope that 8 Elimatta Way is bought by someone who doesn't want it for the "triplex development potential."

Floreat and City Beach are the places to find the grander 50s and 60s houses. Pity the public transport round that way is so lousy.

10 Orana Crescent was designed in 1969, so doesn't have that boxy airiness of the mid-century houses that are a bit fashionable right now. It's warmer, cosier. The slate flooring is to die for.

And 20 Leithdale Rd (not a mid-century place, but with the same feel - my guess is 80s, maybe?) has been a favourite of mine for a while. Really it's pretty much a dream home. It's been on the market for a few months now, and the price has dropped quite a bit. Of course, I still don't have $1.5 million to spend on a place that would really only be a weekender (what, you mean people commute from Darlington?! No! Not possible! I am becoming quite inner-city snob).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Living and dying in our little house

207 Young (a fantastic new blog about renovating a pre-federation house on the east coast of Australia) recently put me on to Trove, which is the digitised archives of the National Library of Australia. It has all kinds of old newspapers, scanned and text-searchable. It's truly amazing.

I'd actually been to Trove before, because there's some great old knitting patterns and stitch patterns on Ravelry that have been pulled from various old newspapers on Trove, but I hadn't though to search for my street address before!

Such good fun! On 21 November 1903 Mrs Cooper gave birth to a daughter at our house, while her husband was in Marble Bar. Poor old Mrs Macmillan held her mother's wake at our house in 1928, and her husband died (in our house) only three years later. Mrs Macmillan must have had some kids though, because Miss Ruby Macmillan won a crossword prize in 1932, a year after her father's death!

Curiously, though, our place is listed as being for rent in the middle of all of this, in 1929. I know that originally there were eight townhouses like ours on a single block, so perhaps some of the houses were sharing numbers? That would seem to make sense, as in October 1929 the property is listed as being "four rooms, conveniences," but only a month later a property at the same address is described as "6 rooms, cons, lawns, etc."

The four room property is listed as being "near running shed." I wonder what that means?

Monday, March 21, 2011


Look at that! Our first crop of blueberries! It's cheating a bit, because all those berries were on the bush when I bought it. I should have pulled them off so the plant puts its efforts into growing, but I couldn't help myself. This variety is ripe when it's pinky blue, which I find a bit more appetising than the usual deep purple-blue, to be honest.

Blueberries are so, so expensive here ($4 to $8 for about 5oz/ 150g), so I thought I'd try growing my own. Apparently the low chill varieties do quite well in Perth. I got one bush berry (Sunshine Blue) good for our climate, which is the shrubby one, and one, um... taller one (high bush they might be called?) called Delite. I can't find out much about it, but the label says it's low chill. I can't wait for them to start flowing for next season.

I'd planned to plant out the garlic today, but I'm laid up in bed, sick. I got bitten by someone else's dog at the dog park, and it got a nasty infection that's completely wiped me out, which is about the strangest reason I've ever had for a sick day. My boss told me that if anyone complained to him that work from me was late, he was going to tell them that "the dog ate my employee." Groan.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

High seas

From the Cabbages and Roses website

I'm mad for this grey ships fabric from Cabbages and Roses (they also do some great women's clothing). It comes in a duvet cover, but only for a single bed. I think they're implying the print is too childish for adults. I do not accept this. I could buy the fabric by the metre and make a duvet cover, but we all know that won't actually happen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Peace through organisation

Thanks to Our Fearless Leader and her tutorial on folding fitted sheets, my linen closet is a little oasis of calm. All my bedding actually fits in its alotted shelf. Try it, you'll like it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Roses with thorns

I planted out some new roses in our front garden this weekend. I'd never given great thought to roses, but before we moved into our place it was vacant for a year, and the only things that were still alive were the roses (and seven(!) grapevines out the back). Since then I've killed a couple of drought-tolerant natives, but the roses have just happily bloomed away.

We had three red Camp David roses. Not what I'd've chosen, but they're tough and they smell good. A really fifties-style, velvety, bright red hybrid tea rose. I've just cut a couple of put them in a vase for the first time. I can never decide whether to cut flowers and enjoy them inside or leave them outside to admire whenever I leave the house!

I bought a fourth Camp David to keep things symmetrical, and then two Jude the Obscures (one for each side of the path). I love their big, creamy cabbage-heads, and they smell so beautiful - like roses mixed with grapefruit! A funny match with the crisp red Camp Davids, but I like it! I also like the name. Hardy's Jude the Obscure is such a grim, dreary novel that it seems like a nice gift to the fictional Jude, that, one hundred years after publication, one of the best David Austin roses was named after him. That's got to be worth something.

Hopefully they're not planted too close together. I'm hoping they'll make a bit of a thicket to screen our house. And, as BCB just told me that a couple of girls that live in our street were assaulted last week, and the word around is that someone in the street is dealing, I think we can do with all the thorniness we can get!

(our street has a pretty unusual composition. Drugs and muggings are simultaneously expected and completely unexpected. I might blog about it sometime, I think).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't see Miss Manners doing this, do ya?

So Australia's Queen of Ettiquette, Ms Ita Buttrose, has released her first book in, um, I'm not sure how long. A while. And this is how Penguin have chosen to go viral with the advertising.

Yep, it's pretty terrible. But I don't see Miss Manners willing to give rapping a shot, do I? My mum loaned me her copy of Every Occasion: The Guide to Modern Etiquette before my wedding and whilst it cracked me up (it has sections on how to address anyone, from the Pope to an Able Seaman; and an illustrated section on how brides can dress to suit their figure, with an extremely grumpy looking bride labelled 'heavyset') it was full of solid, practical advice. I'm going to have to see if the Heavyset Bride made it in to the new Guide to Australian Etiquette.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Spring Planting

Image from The Shifted Librarian

The spring bulb catalogues are coming out here, and I'm all about the pretty flowers this year. I think I can be organised enough to put lots of stuff in our front yard. I just hope it gets enough sun. It faces South. The basil and the roses and the spring onions have done well, the agapanthus (which I do not care for much anyway) and the lavender has done poorly.

I'm planning loads of jonquils and freesias for the scent, and ranunculas for the colour. I know the freesias will do okay, because we've got some naturalised ones in the area. I'm crazy about parrot tulips, but I don't know if they're tricky to grow or not... I suspect in our slightly dingy and deshabille terrace garden they may come more tatty than rococo.

Tell me, are parrot tulips tricky things?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

amateur floral arrangements

At my request, BCB bought me three bunches of flowers from the Vietnamese (?) florists on Beaufort St, so I could arrange them myself. Emerson Merrick + We Like It Wild on DesignSponge have me totally convinced I can arrange flowers. I got daisies, lisianthus (?) and orchids, all a little wilty, because it was Sunday.

In one of my favourite wedding gifts, a Wembley Ware vase that came with a note saying "I chose a gift I hope will increase in value over time, as the value of your relationship with each other no doubt will." Love the vase, love the sentiment.

In a jug my uncle gave my mum as a birthday present in the 70s. It's Danish, but mum can't remember from who, and she doesn't seem too fussed about it. I'm wild for it.

There was a third vase, rectangular and brown and white speckled, with a tall arrangement of just white daisies, but I forgot to take a photo.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

new wheel

I'd been feeling I've reached the limit of my Ashford traditional (inherited from mah mama) for a while, and had saved enough for a new wheel of my choice, but had so many Life Things happening (new dogs, new house, wedding) that I held off buying one until I had some time to savour it.

Now is the time. Majacraft Suzie Pro, with custom black whorl and flywheel instead of the standard green, because green doesn't go with the colourscheme of my study (yeah, I'm serious).

I've had it for only 48 hours and I heart it. It's a dream to spin on. And I love how little floorspace it takes up compared to the Traditional. I love castle wheels for that reason.

birthday present

One thing our house came without, that I really wanted, is a bath. I love having baths. I've totally worked out the relatively minor reno that will need to be done to move the 'laundry' out of the main bathroom and into the unrenovated, 1950s wet area (it's a bit scary to call it a bathroom), and stick a bath in the main bathroom instead.

Anyway, I was looking at reproduction clawfoot baths (our house is 113 years old, she can take a clawfoot with grace) when BCB, unbeknownst to me, saw an ad on a local noticeboard for an antique clawfoot bath. Two kids were selling it (along with some other salvage from their family home) to save up for a puppy.

For a third the price of an acrylic repro, BCB bought me a cast iron real deal. As you can see, it needs refinishing, but even then we should still come out ahead. Not to mention it is really solid and comfortable, and it has these excellent solid brass feet.

Until we can actually afford to put it in, the bath is sitting in our back courtyard (along with the daybed, the potted lime, the dogs' wading pool, the raised vege bed, and a failed DIY chair project, in case you're curious). Sometimes I sit in it and just pretend it's full of hot water.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

handspun stash

I was trying to build an impromptu lightbox when Buddy, our comically sooky rescue dog, wandered into the middle of the all action and decided it was the right spot for a nap. He didn't even mind when I shoved all this yarn under his arm.