May the roof above us never fall in
And may we good companions beneath it never fall out.

~Irish blessing

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bathroom Plasterboarding: Step one, done.

The second ensuite is really taking shape now with all the plasterboard in place. Originally we were tossing up between villaboard (a water resistant under-tile cement sheeting product) or wet area plasterboard, and were glad we chose the plasterboard. With all the tricky angles and cuts that needed to be made it was a whole lot easier to score and snap the plasterboard than to don a mask and circular saw the villaboard. Remember even modern asbestos-free cement sheeting is dangerous to inhale because of silicosis etc.

We used Lafarge's Watershield, but there are several products on the market. Get it from a dedicated plasterboard shop, not the big shed where they have a limited range and in our case tried to sell us 'blue board' - a J Hardie product for exterior eaves that is often inappropriately installed in bathrooms by amateurs and provides really bad tile adhesion. The water resistant plasterboard is not waterproof so it still needs to have a waterproofing membrane applied over the top in shower and bath areas, which we will get to in a few weeks time.

This weekend: base coat plastering of the joints, limoncello bottling and a Christmas party :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flokati rugs for a nursery?

I've noticed quite a few flokati rugs being used in nurseries, and I must say I love their warm white luxuriousness.

All images via decorpad.

They're fairly inexpensive from Ikea and would break up the floorboards in our little room nicely. I'm wondering though how kid-friendly they actually are? I'm imagining food, playdough or something worse becoming squidged between those cloud-like fibers and end of story. We purchased one of those ultra-soft white sheepskins from Ikea some time ago for our dog to lie on, and frankly after a few washes it looks like roadkill. Has anyone had one of these rugs? and attempted to wash it?

Incidentally, if anyone is after a white sheepskin rug I saw them for sale even cheaper at behemoth Costco.

EDIT: On reading, Tom sent me this.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

White Alpine Strawberries

A real treat right now in the garden is foraging for these little white alpine strawberries.

There isn't a lot of them, just enough for a little snack before I get on with a bit of pruning or whatever and they are DELICIOUS. One of the great things about them is that they manage to elude the critters, perhaps because they look unripe or smell unusual. Initially they do just look like small under-ripe strawberries but on closer inspection they are yellowish and yielding. Often described as 'pineapple' or 'sherbet' flavoured, they are a little zingy but still quite sweet and we think more grape flavoured than strawberry flavoured. I don't think Tom is really crazy about them, but that's ok - more for me :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

We're in the garden

Although plasterboarding was on the books for this weekend, we spent much of it at the nursery and in the garden making the most of the the mild temperatures and consistent rain we've been getting - great for transplanting and establishing new plants before the hot dry weather hits.

Working around the pre-existing palm trees in the back has been a bit of a challenge - their roots are thick and mean business. Initially we considered having them pulled out, but a tropical getaway in Mission Beach last year made us keen to retain them so we've been trialing and erroring our little piece of Melbourne-Queensland fusion ever since. This weekend Tom took on the heat, humidity and palm tree roots like a champion to make way for the arrival of a strelizia nicolai or Giant Bird or Paradise which we'd been eyeing off at the nursery for some time. Here's a photo of one I simply had to share despite the copyright warnings.


Some plants such as the ornamental ginger are thriving with almost zero care while others like the rhododendron need regular root-soaking or they flop under the competition. The New Zealand 'Renga Renga' lillies have been fantastic around the base of the palm trees, are so easy to divide and are flowering in profusion right now. Slugs and snails seem to be their only enemy so I spent some time yesterday on the hunt with a bucket of soapy water to drop them into. I've had pretty good success with beer traps in the past too but will hang out until someone leaves some cheap tinnies of Melbourne Bitter or something similar in the fridge. The snails aren't fussy.

The rest of the spring garden is booming so I gave the beds are good feed with buckets or worm wee, seaweed and fish emulsion. David Austin Comte de Champagne, fashionably late, has emerged beautifully,

and the apricot foxgloves are so so pretty. Such shame they are only short-lived annuals. Should I have sown more seed or will these self-seed? 

I've noticed weeding is getting harder as I start to expand around the middle. Tom installed this retractable hose to make things easier for me this summer.

I love love love it but will use it mindfully, I promise, and will be keeping my fingers crossed for all those hoping and praying for rain for their farms, animals and families in the hot months ahead.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Half way there

I can't believe we're already half way to our babies due date already. We had our 20 week scan last Thursday and although we decided to hold off on finding out the sex, it was still exciting and relieving to see the heart pumping away healthily and all the right numbers of fingers and toes.

On the home front, the nesting continues unabated although in our small house I'm finding I need to clear out twice the amount of stuff for everything that's coming in. I am more frustrated than ever with any kind of clutter and feel an overwhelming need to have everything clean, simple and organised in preparation for what I'm imagining will be chaos, at least to begin with With only 19 and a bit weeks left there is some pressure on getting the second ensuite finished, as we can't set up the nursery until it's done because of all the plaster dust and whatnot that inevitably fills the room.

This is what the nursery looks like now

and I think it will have to remain that way until at least the new year. In the mean time, here are a few more favourite childrens' room photos from my collection.

Isn't that pirate ship room unreal? Love it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Installing a bath

Okay, l'll keep this one quick and to the point. This was our first time installing a bath and after sifting through all kinds of advice this is what we did it. 

1. We started off by building a timber frame that supports the top lip of the bath all the way around. Because ours is a shower/bath it had to be inset into the wall studs a little to ensure the waterproofed gyprock sits on the inside of the bath lip to prevent leakage.

2. The acrylic bath we were using recommends supporting the base with either timber battens or mortar and  we decided to go with mortar. 

Tip: Don't use expanding foam - it eventually crumbles, and in many cases is voids the warranty!

 The installation instructions call for a minimum of 20mm of 4:1 sand cement mix. We used a basic mortar preparation from Bunnings, mixed it to a damp sand consistency in buckets and made 3 'sand castles' in the middle then squashed them together.

3. We lowered the bath in, squishing it into the mortar, then used a few timber off-cuts to prevent the mortar from spreading too much.

Tip: Don't fill the bath with water unless the instructions call for it - it can cause the base to lift and float above the set mortar once emptied, defeating the purpose.

 4. And yes, it's level, phew!

So the bath is in, not the grandest of baths, but still deeper and more comfortable than the one that was there before and it will be perfect for bathing kids. This weekend is quite busy but there should be time to get the electrics attended to, and perhaps pull up some of the slate floor which we've decided to be sensible about and remove. If anyone is after some free slate let me know :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spring Garden Update

It's been yet another busy week that's come and gone in a flash, but in view of the rain predicted for the long weekend I did find time to enjoy a spot of gardening yesterday, getting the tomato seedlings planted out for Cup Day and taking a few snaps of the Spring blooms...

The apricot foxgloves, sewn from the tiniest seed over a year ago, have finally fulfilled their promise of gorgeous speckle-throated flowers.

 I'm glad to say that all the bare-rooted roses we planted in June now have flower buds on them, but this Heidesommer has been the second to open and it's a show-stopper along the side of the house with beautiful cream to white flowers and an amazing honey scent.

I'm loving the little pink bells on this sollya vine, so pretty and delicate for an Australian native,

as is this 'Ivory Whip' grevillea which the possums are finally giving a rest, perhaps because spring has brought an end to the wintry garden famine elsewhere.

Another plant finally getting a thankful reprieve from the possums is the avocado tree which you may remember in August was being eaten to the bone. Can't say whether it was the Quassia or the plastic spikes we put along the fence, but as you can see it's at last making a healthy come back.

As for the other edibles, the Summer garden is coming along nicely with few dramas other than the sowing of the sweetcorn which has been a bit of a challenge. You'd thinking living just a few kms out of the CBD that we wouldn't have so much wildlife to contend with, but the morning after sowing the sweetcorn I found each and every corn kernel had been dug up and presumably eaten. No problem, I had plenty more in the packet so I just re-sowed them and covered the patch with these wire baskets...

but my plan was foiled.

The size and shape of the tunnel suggests a mouse to me, and I have seen the odd common house mouse around the place including a particularly brazen kitchen visitor that we've named Pierre. Unless I actually dig the wire down into the earth, I can't really see a way around this one, so I've just sewn the rest of the corn seed in pots and will have to transplant them when they become less-tempting seedlings.

Hope everyone's gardens get a good soaking this long weekend in preparation for Summer. Tom and I will be making the most of the time off getting a head-start on the bathroom, but will take some time out with friends to watch the ponies (and amazing roses) at Flemington on Tuesday. Good luck to all the punters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breaking Rock

One of my close friends has a paleontology background and occasionally volunteers during the holidays at a fossil site in Inverloch which is affectionately known as 'the dig'. Over the years I've been privy to many exciting post-dig discussions centering around 'breaking rock' and the interesting things that may have been discovered that week such as a prehistoric bird bone or carnivorous dinosaur tooth. 

Sometimes I like to think that renovating a house built over 100 years ago draws some parallels with this kind of excavation. In honesty, it's mostly  the newer extensions that we're dealing with - the kitchen and two ensuites - and while the peach and gold tiles at first suggested a renovation in the 1980s, we found things weren't necessarily so. The former owners had no idea when the extensions were built, being at least the third owners since then, and at the time it didn't really seem to matter. It wasn't until Tom started removing the kitchen splashback that it occurred to us that we didn't know if the cement sheeting we were decimating was asbestos, and without knowing what year the kitchen was built, it was very difficult to find out. After examining the fibres and comparing them to various online pictures we decided to err on the side of caution and stopped work until a lab provided us with an analysis proving there was no asbestos in the board. Still, we went on thinking the rooms were probably done some time in the later 80s until we started demolition of the first ensuite and found a clue. It was about half a page of newspaper behind the gyprock, date torn off, but still complete with a movie review of a highly anticipated feature film about to open nationally... it was 1993 and the film was no other than Jurassic Park. I had a good laugh with my paleo friend about 'dating' our bathroom with that one.

Anyway, fast forward six months to this past weekend and the mystery deepens. We always assumed that the 'peaches and cream' ensuites were the originals and therefor the extensions were done in 1993, but when Tom pulled up the cream floor tiles this weekend he revealed an older slate tiled floor. 

I know there must be builders and other experts reading this and thinking if we just looked at the bricks, mortar, roof etc we could clear this all up in an instant, but experts we are not, so in our Scooby Doo-esque detective style we continue to speculate on what we've found.

 I don't think it can be very old, but it does suggest something was there before the 1993 peach revolution. The tiles are in pretty good nick except for one or two, and we're thinking we like them and may ditch the white penny mosaics, buy some sort of slate sealant and leave it as it is.

I did a quick google search of bathrooms with slate floors and these two lovelies caught my eye. 

So what does everyone think. Should the slate tiles stay or should they go?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby Proofing

It's been another busy week, with the wardrobes all painted now, and the second bathroom ready for the sledgehammer. I still need to find places for my hairdryer etc in the interim, but for now I'm sitting here drinking my decaf latte and thinking about baby proofing. Yes, it's a wee bit early I know, with the baby not even due until March and all, but I can't help but start to see potential hazards, not just for our precious baby but for my precious vases.

For instance these vases here...

As you can see, the low tv unit they're on provides easy access for little hands. I know stuff is just stuff, and you can't take it with you, but the floral vase did come back with me in my suitcase from a trip to Vietnam, and the ribbed ceramic vase is a special piece from a pottery near Tom's parents house on the south coast. Neither  are heirlooms or expensive but I'd be sorry for them to be broken. 

It reminds me of an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where the parents are going away for the weekend and the mum picks up a vase and says to the boys 'This is the one thing left in this house that I still care about', then she smashes it on the ground and says 'Now I don't have to worry.'

I enjoyed Anna Spiro's post back in May titled 'No!' where she wrote:

 " I have always been a firm believer in leaving all my precious objects around the house and teaching  my children to respect my things which will eventually become theirs {whether they like it or not}."  

I really admire this philosophy but I really wonder whether it could possibly work for me.

This ceramic umbrella stand is another example...

and silver 'lucky cat'... he's sturdy but he could hurt a little person if they pulled him over.

Also potentially dangerous is this old wooden ironing board that I've never found a home for so it remains precariously propped up against the wall in the laundry loo.

And this antique Japanese tea chest. Tom secured the Ikea shoe cabinet and bookshelf to the wall, but to fix this to the wall, we'd have to drill holes in it.

People with babies, is this thing climbable? Do I need to worry?

Would love to know what everybody else does about their breakable/potentially dangerous possessions when their babies start crawling. Do you leave it all out and teach them from the beginning, temporarily hide it all away or just decide that nothing lasts forever?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ensuite: Before, During and After

Finally, as promised here, here and here, I have some before and after pics of the ensuite. While it's been a joint effort, thank you thank you thank you to Tom for making my little dream for this formerly pink and pokey room materialise.

So without further ado, the before...

the during...

and the after...

Walls and meatsafe: Murobond Marble

Methven Satinjet

White penny mosiac and subway tiles, grout in Dunlop Misty Grey

It's been quite a long haul, beginning with demolition some time before last Christmas where as you might remember we discovered no waterproofing under the old tiles and a chipboard subfloor that was decaying and riddled with earthworms! Perhaps it was for the best though, as it meant we had to completely pull out the old shower base, allowing us to get a bit more creative with the teeny tiny space.

For those wondering what happened to the print I purchased for this spot above the loo here,

my lovely Mum had it framed for me to match the print in our bedroom.

Pop Music by Violet May

Thing is, it's so beautifully framed I'm now not sure about hanging it in a foggy bathroom and am thinking it ought to go in the hallway. Mum thinks maybe a little unframed oil or acrylic painting might stand up better under the humidity of the bathroom? Or should we just leave it as is? I guess these things are never entirely 'finished'. Next weekend, demolition of ensuite #2 begins...