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

~Irish blessing

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Don't you love how beautiful the garden is when it's fresh with raindrops? In winter the garden required so much less maintenance and each visit provides new discoveries.

The aquadulce broadbeans have such smart black and white flowers.

The broccoli romanesco is still untouched by posssums, and I'm noticing little side shoots emerging rather than just a single head. I wonder how the purple buds will develop. They were also unexpected.

I finally had a chance to have a look through the new Diggers catalogue. I figure with the greenhouse I can finally get an early start on summer because I'm always planting out seedlings too late. Corn, beans, cucumbers, melons and tomatillos are on the top of this year's list.

Shower Screen

The glaziers came this morning and we have a shower screen! 

Looking forward to finishing off the plumbing this weekend and taking it for a spin.

Monday, July 25, 2011

TV's The Renovators

Did anyone watch The Renovators last night? Up until now, I've resisted the slew of home improvement shows on TV, mainly because they seem more about time challenges and conflict than handy DIY advice, and they're seldom in line with my personal tastes. This time though, one of those extended commercials got to me, and I can't say whether I'll watch it consistently, but being a lover of anything 'before' and 'after' I might keep an eye on it. I was glad Joanne won for all her hard work in the challenge and got first dibs on the houses. Not sure of her choice though: 

The Sixties Suburban

I think she's a smart woman and was driven by the higher value and neighbourhood. The aim is to achieve the highest increase in value though, and I just don't know what I would do with THAT SHAPE.

I was also happy to see Natalia recognised for creatively upcycling some old materials and making those lovely light boxes. It would be nice to see more of that sort of thing in the show, rather than everything being torn out and thrown into the skip.

Tom watched the show with me, and we quickly challenged each other to pick a house before they showed more details. I went for the Edwardian 'Half-done' house and he picked the inner city terrace.

The Half-Done House

Great ceilings. Good bones.

 Love the vaulted ceiling and the high windows.

 Granted this bathroom is a bit of a challenge.

But you can't go past established trees, and how gorgeous is this beautiful frangipani. If they pull it out I'll never watch the show again!

Tom might be right though, choosing the inner city terrace. How cute are these photos?

Other choices are The Shop, The Fibro Cottage and The Weatherboard. Which house would you choose?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Rooms of Edith Wharton

I started reading Edith Wharton's 'Ethan Frome' last night and couldn't stop. It's a hypnotic, haunting, richly detailed portrait of love and tragedy in rural New England. As with the ending of House of Mirth, which I read not long ago, I was so gripped by the final scenes that I lay awake for hours pondering Edith Wharton and what her life must have been like to poetise such vivid desolation.

Edith Wharton 1905

Something that really appeals to me about Edith Wharton's characters is their sensitivity to the decorations of their environment and the way rooms reflect individual dispositions. So much meaning can be extracted from the way Ethan looks at his shabby farmhouse kitchen and recalls the way his mother used to keep it gleaming and inviting, or from Mattie cheering the gloomy room Zena has assigned her with a few colourful flourishes, and how Lily Bart bristles against her aunt's dowdy, oppressive New York apartment.

Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth

Little did I know though, that in addition to creating expressive interiors in her novels, Edith Wharton was both a landscape gardener and interior designer and co-wrote the influential The Decoration of Houses.

In 1901 she designed and decorated 'The Mount', her famous house and garden at Lenox, Massachusetts which is open daily for tours. I would love to visit it.

I love this open-shelved library. It reminds me of Newland's library in The Age of Innocence which he insists on decorating in his own style despite the protests of his in-laws. Again, it's a great example of the way her characters style their rooms to express themselves, whether it be what they covet or are rebelling against.

Makes me look around and wonder, what do our rooms say about us?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ensuite Art

In small houses, the vertical wall space is precious real estate, and in our tiny ensuite any space that becomes available is highly prized. 

It looks very bare right now,

but in my mind it is filling gradually with the bits and pieces we have collected and stored over the past few months: an old meatsafe we are painting oxley green to stand next to the basin, inspired by the lovely cabinet below, 

a railway luggage rack to hold the new towels, picked up at the Restorers Barn in Castlemaine and very much like this one but in chrome,

this colourful Eames inspired door hook from Urban Outfitters,

and a few other little bits and pieces. What's missing though? Something for that blank wall above the toilet. 

At first, because storage space is so limited, I thought an old wall mounted timber shaving cabinet would do the trick. I really love little paintings and prints in the bathroom though, and sometimes I just get tired of the practical and just want something pretty, don't you?


Source: Homes and Gardens Magazine 

Source: Style at Home

 My mum has had a fantastic abstract painting in her bathroom for as long as I can remember, a mix of blues, greens and greys evoking waves and sky. An original painting is a bit out of our price range right now, so I looked up water themed prints online and found this:

I know some people might find a vintage travel poster a bit daggy, but I love the colours and it brings back wonderful memories of a holiday Tom and I had a few years ago, sort of a belated honeymoon, where we stayed in a small apartment with similar sea views on the ligurian coast.

I need to get it framed and can't decide on a frame colour. I'm thinking white or grey frame with no mask. Any suggestions would be appreciated :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Perpetual Spinach

A simple cheese tortellini called for some fresh greens from the garden last night. Wet with rain - how fantastic is Perpetual Spinach. Cut it off at the base and it grows right back, and so delicious. Next winter I'll be planting more.

DIY Shower Niche

The renovation scene on the weekend was fairly lazy. Once the dog had been taken to the park, the wet and woolly weather ushered us inside and our to-do list was quickly surrendered to the lure of the open fire, the crossword, chunky homemade soup and some of Smitten Kitchen's rosemary flatbreads. Heaven.

Tom did get around to fixing one of the new taps we noticed was dripping - a bit of loose metal from manufacturing was stuck beneath the washer. Exciting stuff, I know. And after some deliberations over the merits of caulk vs grout for the final inner seams of the shower niche, and deciding on grout (easier to clean), we finished it off and I must say it looks pretty darn good.

When I initially suggested a shower niche I was a bit unsure it was within our DIY skill set, but pictures of uncluttered beautiful showers like the one below spurred me on.

Marie Claire Maison

Tom, always up for a challenge, took it on like a champ but I have to admit it was a little tricky. If you're not up for cutting, joining and waterproofing pieces of wall lining, then you can buy premade niches that you tile over like this EasyNiche by Atlantis.

Otherwise, what we did was make a timber frame for the niche between the wall studs, line it with the same water resistant plasterboard (Lafarge WaterShield) we were using to line the rest of the walls, and waterproof it thoroughly with fabric bond breaker then two coats of Crommelin Wetite.

Since we were unable to find bullnose subway tiles, we used white tile strip to cover the tile edges at the front which was fiddly but worked well. 

It's important to chock up the tiles at the back of the base slightly, so that there's a slight slope to prevent water from pooling on the shelf. Don't worry, it won't make the toiletries slide off!

So that's where we are with the ensuite. Can't do much more until the shower screen has been installed and at this stage I doubt it will happen this week as promised, but hey, it's a nice excuse to take some time off over the weekend :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Winter Vegetables

The first half of Winter has been a quiet time in the edible garden. With our limited planting space, by the time I pull out the summer crops it always takes awhile to get the winter seedlings going. But while I've been focusing on the ornamental garden, planting roses and the like, the winter vegetables have crept up quietly.

The aqua dulce broadbeans in the far bed are now tall and strong with the pretty black and white flowers forming.

Perpetual spinach (I think a silvertbeet hybrid) is almost at harvesting size and the broccoli romanesco is forming beautiful fractal lime and purple heads. Possums please stay away - I really want to taste these!

The beginnings of white alpine strawberries are appearing under the apple trees.

 And I've got more leafy greens on the way including this Baby Leaf Provencal Mix from Diggers which they describe as having "Hints of pepper and aniseed and the bitter sweet combination of baby lettuce leaf and endive. The complexity of flavours is reminiscent of Provence." Can't wait to try this one.

Plus more spinach...

 ...and Cavalo Nero (Tuscan Black Cabbage) emerging in pots. 

A little late but hopefully will make it into a soup or two before the weather heats up too much. It's icy today so that feels like a long time away!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In this corner...

This tricky little corner was the only place in our bedroom for a chest of drawers, but too small to fit the large antique tallboy we'd previously been using. Luckily the tallboy - a beautiful antique Tom's parents brought over on the boat from Belfast - fits perfectly in the second bedroom. However with hanging space only in our built in robes, we really needed some more drawer space and I picked up this little art deco hardwood beauty on ebay for only $170. 

Fits perfectly, is a good size for socks and undies and since we don't have overhead lighting in the bedrooms, is just the right height to have a convenient lamp just inside the door. We'll think about adding some sconces at some point, but for now this works just fine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Running Water!

With only the final touches to go now, the ensuite has really come together. As of this weekend we have running water in the basin, hurray! Plus a shelf and mirror so we're now doing our teeth in there and Tom finally has a decent place to shave. 

Savern mirror $79 from Ikea!

One of the things I love about sourcing bargains like this from ebay and Ikea is having  money leftover to splurge on little extras like these 'Perpetual Blooms' towels from Anthropologie.

We bought a mix of turquoise, light grey and dark grey...

 but I also really love the gold.

Wish they still had the bathmat pictured above in stock, although I do also love this 'Pansy Pop' mat - just wish it was a wee bit smaller for our tiny ensuite.

Speaking of size, every bathroom bin I find is enormous. We just need something simple with a lid for cotton balls and the like, but I've trawled Ikea, Howard's Storage and Big W to no avail. Any suggestions?