Nearly May, which means Winter is here!

In South East Queensland, it is generally accepted there are two seasons: hot and humid, and not. Living in the subtropics as I do, I have to confess I really hate January through March here in Brisbane. When late April/May arrives, though, it’s the best place in the world. I’m in two minds about November-December. Sometimes it’s blazing hot, other times it’s mild and warm. Good for old bones at any rate. September is nearly always gorgeous but we usually get overrun by southerners trying to warm up after a long dark winter. They go to Noosa. Which is a little slice of heaven that I can never return to because it’s full of southerners. 😉

Winter in Brisbane is like everyone else’s awesome Autumn. The days are mild, bright and sunny (mostly – it’s proving me wrong this week), the nights cool and crisp. The frantic never-ending heat and humidity of the last few months has ended, and I stop sweating into my eyes. Top temperatures are about 22 degrees Celsius, nighttime temps from 6 – 15 degrees.

That being said, of course, this is the first Winter in our new house, and we have a feeling it will be a cool one. Most Queenslander tin and timber homes are too hot in summer and too cold in winter, and even though I’m sure this old girl is insulated in all the new sections, the old wall sections can’t really be well insulated without a lot of retrofitting, which is difficult and expensive. So we make do with insulated ceiling cavities, warm jumpers and ugg boots, snuggly rugs and hope that there are no ill fitting windows. There’s no natural heating in the house – the two working air conditioners are reverse cycle, which means they can heat a house in winter, but I’m not really fussed – a little chill never hurt anyone, and the air is quite still in winter – very few breezes and we’ve fixed all the window cracks and creaks.

We’ve had a “little man” come round and do a few odd jobs for us. He’s not little, really, he’s Scottish and has a dear broad Scottish accent – oh aye, quoth he (like, literally, he says “ooh aye”. Never heard anything like it). He’s been fixing holes in ceilings from when we moved the light fittings, a bit of cupboard hinge repair work, and he’s been repairing and cleaning up our front fence. We do intend to replace our front picket fence in the next few years, but a good refresh with a coat of paint never hurt. Already the painted sections look brighter and crisper.

We don’t really have the funds to paint the entire exterior – I got a quote that was nearly $30,000!!! So we’re taking the much cheaper option of painting the trim, fence, rails, bannisters and decking posts a bright Dulux Natural White. This has a cream base but is much brighter than the current colour, which is a deep cream. And we’re looking at a lovely mid green called Taubmans Sweet Clover for the contrast colour, which we will use sparingly on the window trims. We’re playing with a strong black/brown Dulux Klavier for the decking boards – everything is a dreary, miserable dark green at the moment, so this will provide a much needed lift. At some point we will need to replace the boards but not this decade – when we do we’ll go with a natural timber colour. Silver paint will be used for all the window hoods – we could replace them but the metal is solid, so painting over them is better, IMHO. And finally, of course, we will be painting the front door a divine Taubman Sachet Pink to match its glass insert.

The colours we have chosen look like this:

Klavier is a bit darker and the Linseed is as close as I could get to the dreary main house colour – it’s a tiny touch more green – hence the green contrast trim colour, but these colours work well together. It’s been a bit of a sad journey to put aside the crisp white, grey and blue combo I was investigating, but these colours will serve us well into the future and won’t cost us all the monies, and the Linseed does not yet need repainting.

I promised months ago to show you another architect I’m investigating for our never never renovation. I’ve been looking at Alexandra Buchanan Architects. One of the reasons I like this architect firm is because it was started by a woman, and women have a pretty terrible time of it in architecture, as they do in many other fields. The designs are comfortable, bright and clean, and really well suited to our sub tropical climate, but I really like the designs that are more oriented towards a bush feel. In our back yard we have about 20 trees and palms, and it has a really cool, forested vibe out there. So I want to honour that look and feel, and include a lap pool at the back – I really enjoy swimming but the nearest public pool is a bit icky. Below are some examples of her work – all copyrighted to Alexandra Buchanan Architects, of course. The first three are of a house in Warrandyte, Melbourne. I love the mix of stone and wood textures and clever use of the butterfly roof line that enables a good clerestory window action. The final two are of a new build here in Brisbane. I love the use of white and natural stone, and the pale cement. We have plenty of room under the house to build – about 4 metres high, so I’m not worried about the light or anything. But like all good ideas, ours is super expensive as we need to upgrade the upstairs wet areas too. So this might be on the back burner for good! Argh.

Pros and Cons of travelling interstate

So I blithely decided to visit my extended family in Melbourne on the 24th January because the borders finally flew open and I hadn’t seen them for a billion years. I had a lovely time, hubby came south too and we had a few stunning days in Melbourne staying at a gorgeous boutique hotel, eating dumplings and yum cha, visiting some of my favourite places and seeing some wonderful shows before he returned to warmer climes. And avoided the border closures by 3 days. Because, drum roll please, I decided to stay an extra week, hanging with the fam and just being a bit helpful. And got caught by a COVID-19 quarantine breach.

I was going to fly out Sunday Feb 14, but I’ve gotten caught in a 5-day hard lockdown here – no leaving the house for anything other than exercise, work, compassionate/ health grounds or food shopping. And when we DO leave the house we need to wear a mask. In truth this hasn’t been too hard because it’s mostly what I do all day every day anyway, but QLD have SHUT THE BORDER! This means that until I hear otherwise, I have to assume I can’t re-enter QLD without 14 days in hotel quarantine that I have to pay for.

The very funny and highly appropriate Jimmy Rees posts YouTube videos about lockdown in Australia. He has numbered them because everything changes so rapidly. Video number 10 was published on January 19: watch it here. Another video was published at the end of January and now: video number 12. Take a look and you will understand what I mean when I yell in caps: SHUT THE BORDER!!!

I’m now waiting for news about the QLD border, because at this point I won’t get home until March, and will miss hubby’s birthday. I admire QLD’s conservatism and over-abundance of caution, but it is a bit grating experiencing this on the other side of the border line (also known as the Dark Side). I’d rather avoid hotel quarantine, because at least here I can go for walks and see my family, and from Thursday I have free movement around Melbourne. Mum and dad’s house is large, they have the world’s sweetest dog, they live by the beach and I have good internet access. I can work from here as I brought my computer, and there’s no excuse not to work on The Book or the research I’m actually being paid to do. This means I won’t be leaving until QLD release the border again, which could be 14 days (Feb 27), could be 28 days (forever). But anyhoo, I’m not complaining because I’m loving the weather here and Mabel the mini labradoodle is the cutest girl ever, and I don’t have to sweat all the time. But I DO miss the hubby and my dogs, and I know hubby is also finding life lonely without me.

While we’re waiting, though, I had a design epiphany. Anyone who follows me on Insta will have seen my posts about a couple of wonderful QLD architects: well, I’ve seen the light. I want to create a surprisingly different downstairs room that will function as the kitchen and family living area, and I want to do it in a modernist style. YUP. You heard me. MODERNISM. What IS the world coming to?!

The top floor of our house sits at street level, but there is an immediate drop of some 1.5 metres from the street, and a clever person built a gantry from the street to the house so that if one of us suddenly became non-ambulant that at least we could be rolled into the house without too many dramas. This of course also means that there’s heaps of room downstairs – with potentially nice high ceilings of up to 4 metres (16ft). Have a look at these images from Shaun Lockyer Architects to see what I mean. The ones I’m posting are from their website and this is in no way a paid endorsement, rather a chance to spread the love of this very talented company.

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So, what are we looking at here? Things of stone and wood, that’s what. I’m thinking a matte-polished concrete floor (or if not that, then a travertine flagstone – and while I hate the non-eco friendly state of concrete, the current area is already concreted, so it makes sense to carry this through), black aluminium-framed windows and doors, and a lined wood ceiling. There’s lots about this that is already a bit out of date (concrete floors are SO 2010, and wood-lined ceilings are not always well finished), but there are parts of these designs that are already 90 years old and have withstood the time test. Stone, for one. Or rammed earth. Not sure I’d get either of these in the design because expensive but at least this is an idea for me to grasp. Basically the room would be about 8 x 8 metres, with the kitchen and associated working areas along the south eastern side. There would be a step-down from the stairwell foyer into this large room. There would be windows on 3 sides and the kitchen backsplash would be a window to allow more light from that side. I would recommend a clerestory window system all around the room as it sits low on the block, and there would be an all glass sliding door system right along the wall facing the garden, that would lead onto the deck and the pool.

Here are two images: the first is the current layout, and the second is the proposed mud map:

See? Very simple. The new room would extend to where the main bedroom ends, but that’s it. The current “car port” is just a concreted space under the house, mostly useless as we don’t really use it for anything other than temporary storage. And puhlease, I’m using a really ordinary drawing program that sucks, hence the crappy design – and I don’t know how to use CAD or anything like that – don’t hate me! The GBs are vegetable garden beds, and the pool is blue. The downstairs bathroom would stay in place but made slightly smaller and updated. We would need to demolish the upstairs deck and install a gorgeous gable-roofed covered deck that would reach to the back of the master bedroom. We would then change out the windows in the bedroom for louvred glass French doors so we could have the doors open all night in the summer, as we do with our windows. Yes, it gets dusty and noisy, but it’s worth it. And, of course, upstairs would not only get a new deck but a new family bathroom, and an ensuite and WIR in the main bedroom. It would also get a sweet little drinks area/ kitchenette for when we’re too blah to go downstairs for the coffee. Here’s its current plan:

Imagine that deck extending to the back bedroom wall, and then removing the kitchen and reorganising all the wet areas…!!! We’d have to replace some of the upstairs windows as they are wonky, but other than that the bones of the original house would stay exactly as we found them. They are lovely. In terms of the external appearance of the extension – well, again I think I’d prefer to surprise people and keep it wood siding like the original. Three sides would be glass, of course, but the remaining wall would be hidden by the car port too. Maybe a stone pillar on the south western border… and I’m no fan of the black kitchen, so I’d have to come up with a gorgeous alternative. Lucky me!

Next post I’ll show you another architect that’s got people talking in QLD.

All things solar and save-the-planet related!

Here comes the sun, doo dn doo doo! I write this on the first day of Biden’s US Presidency. The US political system I can assure you has affected every single Australian since late 2016, so Biden and the Democrats getting in is a blessing. So, because this is SO NOT a political blog – I save that for my Facebook rants 😉 I thought I’d talk to you about our new solar electrical system and the ways we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint. I keep going to write solar system, but that’s a little too celestial, dontcha think!

Just over a month ago we had solar installed through GI Energy – a nice little company that gave us a reasonable price, but more importantly, suggested we install our solar panels in the very best roof sections. The sales representative for GI Energy was lovely, very laid back and thoughtful – a touch tired and aged in his late fifties, in truth. So I liked him! He recommended we install 17 QCell 385W panels with 17 Enphase IQ 7A microinverters, with the Enphase Envoy monitoring system:

The two other companies were competitive, but recommended we install our panels in the weirdest way that in the end made no sense given our roof size and orientation. The other company who sent out a rep, sent us a person who was super intense and cheerful and about 20 (to my jaded eyes – she was probably in her mid 30s!), but the product was $1000 more expensive because of doohickey attachment thingies and they couldn’t install until late January. So we went with GI Energy.

See the price on the right of the image in green? That’s the price of solar WITH the Australian Government rebate of $3600. It’s expensive installing solar, okay? Don’t believe the other people when they say they can install solar for only $3000 – the system will be a shoddy, cheap system with very poor installation and poor customer service. GI Energy gave us the option of Hyundai panels, but went with QCells as they have a proven track record and the Hyundai brand are quite new, and again, not available until 2021. Why the hurry, you ask me? Well, we just wanted to start the new year off well, as it has been a shit show 2020. So no reason, really.

Here’s an overview of our savings potential:

We in Australia have a very crap feed in tariff as electricity companies and our stoopid federal gummint try to haul back some money from those who’ve taken the solar plunge. We get pretty poor return on our investment for 7-odd years. But after that, we will have paid off our system (we’re paying up front so this is all somewhat hypothetical) and will start to come out in front. But the financial savings is not what we’re about. I’m going to get a bit climate-y now – look away if you’re squeamish about the climate or money or saving the planet.

We (the residents and custodians of the only planet we live on) have about 9 years to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and start re-vegetating the planet before we enter slow death by planetary cascade (a cascade is when one thing fails, then another, etc until it reaches tipping point and nothing can stop it: for example flying insects are in steep decline, which will reduce populations of all things that eat them, which will reduce our ability to fertilise crops, which will reduce our ability to feed our populations of all sentient beings, and then death. So, quite a big thing, those insects dying). As one of the 1% world’s wealthiest population – see this website to do your own sums here, hubby and I have a duty to reduce, reuse, recycle, and to DO OUR BIT for the world. The world’s wealthiest people use most of the world’s resources and it’s getting worse:

https://www.sciencealert.com/we-just-used-up-all-of-earth-s-resources-for-the-year-and-it-s-only-july

Oh my god, Australia! The only country to require less than a planet and a half is India, at 0.7, but I do NOT want to live like the average poverty stricken Indian. ANYHOO. What can I personally do to reduce my weighty Australian footprint on the planet? I can install solar, I can drive an electric car/ take public transport. I can drastically reduce my intake of meat products and I can plant a vegetable garden and food plants, I can buy fewer things, I can spend less. I can stop flight travel. I can choose to support companies with excellent carbon footprint emissions approaches. I can reduce my reliance on plastics and fossil fuel.

So we’re starting with solar. This should reduce our footprint a smidge. This is our footprint that I calculated for 2019 (2020 has reduced our footprint considerably), using the following very basic web carbon footprint calculator:

The CNCF website states: “According to the World Bank, in 2019 Australia’s emissions per capita was 24.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person – almost five times the global average!” So as individuals we are each contributing more than the average Aussie, which is pretty terrible, and since this was a quick and dirty calculation, I’m pretty sure we use more (my hubby travels business class for work and that adds 16 tons CO2 per return flight – ugh). Now, I did the calcs again, this time with reduced air travel because we’re not flying anywhere overseas until 2022, and changes to our vehicle (we’re buying a hybrid next month), and fewer “events” (I’m not actually sure what these are but I suspect includes things like birthdays, holiday accommodation, shows, parties etc?):

Well, that’s better. By drastically reducing our air travel, swapping out our car and reducing our electricity by half we can get down to a coo-ee of the the planet average (still not great though). I’ve halved the electrical output but I can’t know how much we will be using until we add the hybrid car electricity usage, and when we get the changes to the feed in tariff etc for the electricity. Once batteries are more affordable we’ll probably go completely off grid and reduce our CO2 use even further. We swapped out all our electric lights for LED – there are still several low energy fluoro ones about but as I’ve owned them for years it would be worse to throw them out and start again than just use what we have. We live in QLD so we rarely heat the house (I think this new home will get a little chilly in winter but that’s what jumpers are for), but the days get hot in summer. Luckily that’s when we can use the air conditioning!

The next, and hardest thing to do is change our dietary habits. This is harder than it looks, given that hubby would be perfectly happy eating only meat, potatoes and sweets. How do you change the habits of a lifetime? 😉 Whenever we have anything with mince I always cut it with heaps of veggies or legumes, but we don’t live only on mincemeat. We eat lamb, and pork, chicken and beef, duck and sustainable fish too. It’s the other things that contribute wastage, too. The snack foods wrapped in plastic. Rice, spaghetti, any dried food product is wrapped in plastic. The cans of tomatoes, the shrink wrapped meat, the veggies wrapped in soft plastics. The drinks in hard plastic containers or glass. The condiments in plastic or glass.

Notice I’ve only added 1.4 Tonnes of waste to the mix? That’s because we recycle 95% of our normal waste – I’m not sure if it’s actually happening because I’m a cynic and latest figures on recycling in Australia don’t fill me with confidence, but all our hard plastics, cardboard, glass and metal waste goes in the recycling bin, and we compost 99% of our food and paper waste. We save our soft plastic waste and drop it at Coles or Woolworths’ bin for the Redcycle recycling company. Our normal rubbish – the stuff from the vacuum cleaner (combination of dirt, dust bunnies, dog toy detritus and plastic), thermal paper, small bits of plastic from bottle tops to twist ties, bathroom waste etc, is less than a small waste paper basket’s worth per week. Our normal bin (either with a red or dark green lid) is mostly empty, while our yellow-lidded recycling bin is nearly always full. We’ve had a rather busy few months with lots of new purchases due to our move, and subsequently heaps of waste but I’m hoping that our future spending will be much less. I do prefer antiques to new, so when I buy something new it’s often because we can’t get the vintage option.

The next thing to do will be to reduce our reliance on plastic products. I’ve already swapped out most of our plastic wrap for beeswax cloth covers, or silicone sheets (silicone sticks REALLY WELL to itself and REALLY BADLY to anything else, but I persevere!). It took hubby 10 years to come around to my way of thinking, but he’s here with a vengeance now, bless him! QLD is about to vote on a bill that would ban all single use plastics including cups, straws, YAY, and hopefully ban those awful foam trays that some meats are sold on – they are not recyclable at all. I keep most of the plastic containers that our take away meals come in and reuse them until they break, so they have quite a long life cycle – up to a year or more. I reuse most of the plastic bags our fruit and veggies come in as freezer bags and recycle them once they become too icky to reuse.

In terms of clothing, I have been buying cotton, wool and linen clothes for years, plus now I buy bamboo, tencel and modal clothes because they are all wood by-products and apparently can be recycled too. I can’t actually cope well with polyester and plastic clothing in the heat of a SE Qld summer so this was a no-brainer for me. I guess the hardest part for me is the move from plastic bottles that hold personal hygiene products or cleaning products, to a more sustainable option. I’m always looking for recycled plastic or plastic alternatives. Expensive and boring but worth it.

And finally, our new hybrid car. In February we’re purchasing a new Volvo XC40 Recharge, which has lots of recycled plastic and other materials in it, and the stats on it are impressive. Here’s a picture of our new Volvo: 🙂

Most of my travel is during the day and I doubt whether I drive more than 40km per week, since I work from home. This means I can drive entirely on the electric engine for all city driving. Now that we have solar the cost of charging the engine should be close to $0 and our CO2 emissions likewise nearly zero.

The next thing I want to do, and I confess I’m a little late getting started as I meant to do this late last year, is to create some vegetable garden beds in the working section of our rather gorgeous tropical garden. I’m not a great gardener, and I have zero experience keeping a garden alive but it’s time now to do this. The previous owner planted the most gorgeous tropical garden and we have so many wonderful birds here, taking advantage of the flowering trees and lovely shade. I’d like to continue her efforts and plant some fruit trees including avocado and another tropical fruit – maybe even a passionfruit vine or two. The birds and bats will love it, as will the insects, possums and other beasties but I think it’s worth it.

If we can grow more things from scratch at home I will finally reach peak Karen smugness, and feel just a bit better about my heavy tread on the planet.

So that’s me saving the planet, one expensive thing at a time.

We’re going grey!

…Not my hair, which has been going grey for years already, but on the house. I know, completely boring, amirite?! But in truth it looks so crisp against the greenery of our subtropical garden that I can’t really go past it. I’m very taken by this colour from the Dulux colour palette:

Or this one:

Or even Lexicon:

If I put Lexicon against Lexicon Quarter I get a really nice subtle difference but it might be too subtle in the bright sun:

So if I put Lexicon half against purple-based Pensive Quarter it looks lovely:

But I prefer it against the Highgate, which is a more subtle colour too – more true grey, which I like. I team it against a lovely bright navy trim for a bit of pop and a cheerful front door, and we’re set. I COULD go dark grey for the trim and that would be fine but it’s just a bit boring – we’re already grey enough! Passionate Blue is gorgeous and gives off just enough of those Greek colour vibes that I really like:

But this would also work well and sits more along the grey spectrum:

Blue trim is a difficult one to decide as it’s only a small pop of colour and can simultaneously look too dark or bright. Normally everything looks lighter outside and darker inside but with trim it can actually be the reverse, as there’s not enough colour to provide much detail. It also has to not clash with our walkway colour, which will be a dark grey.

Our front door has this crazy lilac glass inset that we may as well highlight because CUTE, but the colour changes dramatically depending on the light. I took these 3 images within 2 minutes of each other. the first is the interior view and the 2 following are exterior at different angles and light sources:

We could go a cute mint green, or lilac such as these pretty shades below:

Any of these would look fabulous against the grey siding, white timber trim and navy highlights. The painter I’m using (we’ve employed them before and they’re Dulux specialists and very good) has also recommended painting the window hoods silver, which would be good as they would then match the corrugated tin roof, and finally painting the front porch and gantry decking a neutral dark grey (we could replace the decking but it’s much cheaper to paint):

You can see that while a lovely combination, this blue would look too similar against the grey:

Here’s some houses taken from the web that I thought were lovely inspirations for our paint job:

You can see what a difference a well chosen coat of paint makes:

I really am going for the palest of pale greys though:

So there you have it: my colour ideas for our house! Hopefully this can be achieved this year!

So I did a thing: new address!

Hiya. Because I’ve not already spent enough this year, I thought I’d add to my spendy dramas with a personal plan and domain name. I’m all paid up and my new address is now brisvegashome.com . How ’bout that! Cool! WordPress webpages are basically free: $60 per year + $25 for domain name, and much easier to use than formerly, thank you WordPress for your upgraded and much easier to use interface…

This image I took about a month ago and in the meantime the plants have gone wild! I’ll give them a water today but really the litmus test I use is: if I see the Peace Lily wilting I know it’s time for to water the plants. I’m so happy with the new things we added this week: the new espresso machine, the new solar (hello air-conditioning going on at 10am because it’s worth it), the new gorgeous stained glass windows.

What do you think of this colourway below? I’m thinking I love the crisp white and navy but I think it needs a contrast colour in grey. The window rose is a good spot to add some light grey for a contrast, and we’ll be repainting the window hoods because they ugly, but where else?

Decisions, decisions. The battens under the house will be extended to ground level – we’re building a storage area under there that we’ve already prepped with lights and electrical points. So the downstairs battens, and banister palings, rails and posts will all be white. The trim of most of the house will be navy, as will the decking. The siding will be white. I prefer white window and door trim but I dunno. Do we go with a navy window hood, or grey? (Not white, as the roof is already steel coloured corrugated metal). And do we go with white concrete pillars or navy? Navy hides grot, but white is crisp. Perhaps that’s where we go grey? So many ideas! I can sort of imagine our house with basically this scheme but in white and navy, but I have yet to sort out the grey tone.

A very COVID Christmas! Also expensive.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Today’s events on the eve of Summer Solstice include installing solar panels on the roof (saving the planet, not our wallets!) and 2 beautiful stained glass windows to match our rose by the front door.

I’m stoked.

Rose window, probably created in the 1920s.
One of 2 new stained glass windows, replacing the old clear windows and giving us some much needed privacy from our lovely neighbours (they really ARE lovely, but we don’t need to see their TV from our dining room window!).
Here they are in situ. Just gorgeous. Made by Michael, @theglassmandala

I love how the artist Michael has made this new creation look old, by the use of some old stained glass he has retrieved over the years. This has been a VERY expensive month, but as I’ve said to hubby more than once: we can afford it right now – we may not have the chance in future. Let’s show some largesse and help the economy back on its feet. I think hubby and I are the actual main people helping the economy back on its feet 😉 ! Here’s basically a long, long list of how much we’ve bought over the last 3 months.

We have just installed a billion lights, new fans, and electrical power-points to the house at enormous cost. I organised a locksmith to install a bunch of new locks for the house as it felt rather easy to access and even though I work from home, I often don’t go downstairs and there are a number of windows allowing easy egress from the garden – new keyed locks on them all, now! Of other electrical things we’ve also bought a new coffee espressso machine – a low cost version to take the pain off the one we’ve been using, because the one we use has been slowly dying and has already been serviced once (this will be our fourth in 14 years). We bought a new smallish fridge just before we bought our new house as our other one died right before our selling campaign!!! and we weren’t able to check the size, and subsequently have had to buy yet ANOTHER small fridge to fit the overflow – ugh. We bought a stick vacuum cleaner for upstairs – not that great, truthfully, but I can’t be bothered lugging old Henry up the stairs more than once a month so small mercies I guess… and we’ve bought various small devices to support our extravagant lifestyle. First world problems indeed.

A couple of days ago I bought outright a new iPhone – 12 Pro Max – my 8+ was great but just starting to stutter a bit, and I’ll gift that to mum as she has my old 7+ and needs an upgrade. I told her today and she was super happy! Seriously, she can afford to buy new but just hasn’t, and complains about my old phone ALL THE TIME. Last week I bought a portable air-conditioner – noisy but good for my hot box of a study while we wait for more split-system air-conditioning stock to come in in February – we can then move it to the downstairs bedroom for when visitors stay. We’ve spent at least $500 at Bunnings hardware on itsy bitsy stuff, and triple that on clothes since September. I rarely buy very expensive clothes (high street only) and I try to buy made-in-Australia, but the truth is SE Qld is very hard on clothes – one spends most of the day sweating and so the garments are frequently washed (not by me, gosh I’m lucky). And I really needed, reeeeaaaallly neeeeeded 2 new pairs of Birkenstocks (classic version) because I wear them for about 10 months a year and I’ve been without for a year now and it’s slowly killing me!

The chickens are the most expensive chickens in the world – we have just bought them a new coop and run to stop Randy the Rapey Bush Turkey from getting to them. Seriously, it would be cheaper not to own chickens and just buy eggs every now and then, but in truth I’d love more chickens: I just love the silly creatures. We also spend a stupid amount of money on the dogs, on their snacks, and beds, and grooming. More expensive than children but at least they don’t talk back! 😉

We’re keen art lovers and have just dropped a serious bundle on some very lovely pieces for the few remaining rooms that have empty walls – hubby said it was for Xmas so I said yes, and then he said he wanted to give me “something extra on the day”. GAH. We buy only Australian art, so our collection now includes David Bromley, Matthew Johnson, Charles Blackman, Ray Crooke, Davida Allen, Yvonne Mills-Stanley, Toni Bucknell, Susan Romyn, Constantin Popov, Sokquon Tran, Ben Lucas and works by indigenous artists Gloria Petyarre, Lily Kelly Napangardi, Polly Ngala, Evelyn Pultara, Betty Mbitjana, Nellie Marks Nakamarra, Patricia Kamara, Rosemary Pitjara, and Jeannie Mills Pwerle. We literally have no room for more stuff, so the collectible house-and-scenery images we buy when we travel have been relegated to corners and bookshelves.

Today we have had solar installed – with micro inverters so that any clouding on one part of the array doesn’t affect the other part. It’s the more expensive option but worth it! The installer has already connected it to the mains so our old rotary electrical reader is actually now turning backwards – we’re feeding straight into the grid, no throttling until the power company comes (probably in mid January) to install the new digital meter. Heheheh. I’m thrilled that we can finally stop adding to the earth’s woes, even just a little bit.

And of course there’s all the stuff we bought for the new loungeroom – cushions, couches, coffee tables, credenzas and carpet. For the back deck: new couch and lots of new plants, and some lovely festoon lights we installed ourselves. It’s so pretty there now. But I think I’m finally done.

So I’m pretty happy that we’ve supported local and international business this month – in truth, we made some money on the sale of our home, enough to buy all these things that we love and use regularly, and the spending will have to stop soonish as I want to plan our next holiday! I think we will probably get a new hifi system for the lounge room for our birthdays. I want one with bluetooth but no Alexa or anything that listens in to my conversations. I’m old fashioned that way.

In the new year we will be doing a bunch of small but necessary house upgrades: new front and side fences, a spiffy new paint job, some carpentry for a storage unit and some gates for the stairs so that the dogs don’t go careening around the yard looking for people to bark at. We’ve lived here now for 3 months and we’ve worked out what works and what doesn’t – and it’s better than we thought, but there is a long term plan to move and improve the kitchen, add an ensuite and family bathroom upstairs, and extend the deck. Oh! and install a pool. Really neeeeeeed a pool.

Finally: Xmas. This year has been a big one as we had two children graduate from uni and so we wanted to give them a bit extra, and my son and his wife are saving for a house, and I’m doing a big gift for him instead of lots of small Xmas and birthday gifts. In the end, though, as my mother says: it’s only money. And that is the truth. Oh! And we’ve put a little aside for the charities we support. They need our help more than ever this year. If you’re interested: The Smith Family, International Women’s Development Agency, The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Red Cross, and probably Bush Heritage.

So if I don’t post again, have a wonderful Xmas and safe and careful New Year. Wear a mask, wash your hands and let’s beat this insidious disease.

Merry Xmas from the green room!

The new Snug

Right. I’m definitely putting off doing any work at the moment by posting another blog, this time about our lovely new snug. In truth it’s not that different from when the furniture was in our old house, but it’s no longer a thoroughfare and we have built in bookcases! I’ve had a ball dressing them and making the room look as lush and warm as possible. The couch is from Freedom; the lounge chairs from Camp Hill Antique Centre (one of the vendors there who specialises in Mid century Modern styles) and the cushions mostly from West Elm; the Noguchi style Coffee table is from Matt Blatt; the TV is an LED Sony 55″. The TV console is from Vast (no longer trading). We have Apple TV for all our streaming options which includes STAN (an Australian streaming service), Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’m not ready to book Disney – maybe never, and Binge (Foxtel lite) is on my radar but we don’t watch enough TV to make it worth the extra cost. In total our streaming services cost less than $AU40 which is pretty good, and I have a free subscription to Apple Music for the year bundled with my phone service. We bought a fantastic Bose Soundbar and I think I’ll buy one for upstairs too; they’re terrific. We didn’t need the subwoofer as we just don’t watch TV that loud, nor am I interested in loud music.

The artwork was nearly all sourced in Australia, including Constantine Popov and indigenous artists Nellie Marks Nakamarra, Gloria Petyarre and Evelyn Pultara. There’s also a 500 year old music manuscript on vellum from a Spanish monastery and a lovely little Cossack image – red and black – by a local Brisbane artist (lost her details, sorry!) All trinkets were sourced from around the world. One of the things we used to do before COVID-19 hit (BC to you!), was travel. We would buy simple little sketches or woodcuts or etchings of the cities and places we visited, and I would also buy some pottery/ ceramics or craftwork from artists who live there. Some ceramics and art works would have long standing origins in that region, or the artist would be a permanent resident. I love ceramics and art, and these, after my family and animals, are some of my favourite things. Most other trinkets were bought from Waverley Antiques in Melbourne, Empire Revival in Paddington (Brisbane) or CHAC in Camp Hill. So no more talk: here are some photos of the space!

So much to say, so many photos to upload!

I didn’t realise it has been 6 weeks since my last blog post (this sounds like a Catholic confession ;)) and the last thing I posted had me all excited about fabrics. Well, good folks of the interwebs, I’ve gone and spent a small fortune buying lovely things for the new home and I can happily say it’s been totally worth it!

To start with, we’ve upgraded all the electricals. We’re not yet finished but we’re replacing all the metal, rusting ceiling fans, and adding power points, and sensor lights for outside, and changing out almost all of the old, not very attractive pendant lights. We’re halfway there. We’re adding 2 new split air conditioners and I’ve decided we’re going Solar. Finally! We also upgraded the locks and added keyed locks to all the accessible windows, and we’re doing some landscaping and general maintenance. We’re not ready to paint the exterior even though the colours are super drab (greige and dark green, y’all. SO tired), and there’s plenty more to keep us busy. But I guess you want to know about the cutest new room in the house, right?

Lemme get right to it. No, it’s not the snug: even though it’s our very favourite evening room and so cool and lovely to be in at night. Drum roll…. it’s our new green room! And here we are:

Remember my mood board? Lots of pretty greens and palm trees etc. Well, it’s now done. We still have one or two more pieces of furniture to add – nothing big; just a couple of ottomans/ footstools and a side table or two, maybe one more artwork, but essentially we are finito bar the shouting. Pick your favourite image from the MANY MANY ones below:

I love everything about this room except that the cream carpet needed ANOTHER carpet over it to protect it from the dogs. Pesky dirty animals. Speaking of which: introducing Poppy (black) and Dougal (blonde).

I’m not sold on the placement of any of the objects on the little table: they’re just place holders for a better arrangement. Maybe a flower arrangement even. I’m also trying to pull some of the colours out of the lovely little Davida Allen painting above. I love her work but many do not. This one’s a sweet little serene number called Floating in the Mangroves. I’ve got some of my Majolica ware on the wall now and we recently bought a few new art works to complement the room. There’s a lovely little Australia Hermannsberg one next to the mirror, and I’m not quite finished dressing one of the walls. Most of the other walls are complete, but I might even add an antique mirror to the mix.

So there’s not much else to say except to name and shame the vendors. Carpet, couches and curtains by Pottery Barn. 1 of 2 coffee tables and the dark green lamp by West Elm. Palm cushions and parrot cushion by Rice Furniture. Olive cushions by Bed Bath n Table. Olive and white cushions by Coastal Cushion Company. Pale green lamp from One World Interiors. Antiques and vintage items from various vendors in Brisbane and elsewhere and my mum. Ormolu side table from Jubilee Antiques. Knick knacks all thrifted, many (most?!) from Camp Hill Antique Centre. Artwork from Lethbridge Gallery and David Bromley. Plants from a bunch of places around Brissie such as Ross Evans etc.

Next blog I promise I’ll show you the snug.

Fabric Finding

You’d think I could get my act together to start planning our new garden shed/ storage boxes, wouldn’t you? Instead, I have spent a rather enjoyable hour looking for fabrics, and I’ve found this terrific online shop called Spoonflower that prints your selected design onto a choice of fabric, including Belgian linen (my favourite linen, although I’m also partial to French). So before I drop $$$ on a fabric I might hate, I think I’ll get a few samples made in a fat quarter (typical width for a sample) and then select the one I prefer. That also gives me lots of lovely cushion textiles to have made into cushions after I’ve selected the one I prefer. I’m interested in a range of green quatrefoil and lattice style images for my curtains, but I want them to be super subtle. I love this design by mrsmberry but it’s probably best for cushions:

Here are a few more by some super talented designers including mistiina

This is by Willow Lane Textiles and I think it’s my favourite.

I’m loving that I can find a design that already exists, and have it made to my specs. The above one has all the subtle feels that I want for my curtains, although I might yet go unpatterned plain ivory/natural linen, because I need to be able to change out the look if I want. At any rate, I’ve been sucked into an interior design wormhole, and I like it!

And of course, this is for my green room. Living!!