Thursday, 31 December 2009


Although it's good to have some established trees and gardens, sometimes we think it would be a hell of a lot easier to have nothing.Undoing the gardening sins of owners past (overgrown and poorly planned) is a thankless task.

And what we have started with the garden won't look great for quite a while. Doubly thankless.

Our big goal was to clear the 15 metres of front garden bed. On the weekend, we pulled out the last of the old plants we had earmarked for removal while the ground was nice and soft from all the rain. Our rubbish pile is getting mountainous.

We also pulled out the feature garden (which was more an eye-sore than a feature) that was plonked in the middle of the lawn. We are happy just to let the grass grow over that patch.

Now we have our eyes peeled for some plants - preferably free plants.

I'm going to visit one of my brothers who won't notice that a few of his plants are missing. I'll keep you posted and show you what we come up with.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Organisation. Home organisation. Or should I say ikea?

Much to Jason's dread we trekked to never never land where ikea is the shining beacon. I read in the newspaper recently that people don't actually go there to buy furniture; they go there to eat. They pack up the family and breakfast, lunch or dine there and perhaps they may even stay overnight...

It's cheap and cheerful. We probably wouldn't make a visit expressly for the food but we certainly didn't rebuff the $1 hot dog or 50 cents ice-cream cone when it came our way...

Our main reason for the visit was to find a way to organise the boys' rooms. Jason went off the idea of building shelves in their built-in wardrobes -  it would limit the hanging space they would need when they are older. A stand-alone solution would be better and easier.

So on our rather limited post-Christmas budget we bought two storage units to shove into their wardrobes. Cheap and cheerful (much like those hotdogs), but more importantly - organised. It's okay that they are utilitarian because they are behind closed doors anyway.

We also bought two Lack  floating shelves for the children's room - a place for their treasures. My favourite thing about these shelves is that they don't need visible brackets; they appear to float from the wall. Again, it is simple and affordable.

an eight year old's vignette on ikea lack shelf

affordable antonious wire storage from ikea for inside a child's built-in wardrobe

The boys' rooms are more organised since the ikea trip. I'd like them to start the New Year the way I want them to finish it. Wish me luck.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Homies 2009

I've been enjoying discovering new blogs from The Homies 2009 awards hosted by Apartment Therapy. There are some very cool blogs out there.

I've put in my two cents worth. You can check out who made my list. Being stylish on a not too outlandish budget was a particular criteria for me since that is my holy grail with our house renovations...

What amuses me most are the people who nominate themselves for the award and then mobilise their friends to vote for them as well. Hmmm...reminds me too much of school...

The awards are a really good idea regardless of the outcome. There are lots of creative and interesting people writing about their experiences which always makes for a good story.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Salvage or bin

I threw a pair of 70 + year-old steel barrel bolts in the bin last night. They were from the French doors, leading out to the front entry, that we are painting.

Removing old barrel bolts from French doors

We never painted the other side of these doors when we painted the entry

Romantic notions of salvaging them entered my head. I've read in other renovation blogs that you can remove the years of paint on hardware by placing it in a slow cooker overnight - it softens the paint and you are able to peel the paint. Ingenious.

Good-bye little pieces of hardware history

Jason put paid to that and said I have hoarder's disease but I know that he is trying to build up his brass empire.

He is probably right (about hoarding) and one bolt was badly twisted...but I still feel guilty about binning them.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The best gift of all...


Brisbane rain - taken from the landing of our back deck

The front lawn is the greenest it has ever been

This afternoon I will fertilise the lawn without fear of it being scorched. We don't have the most fantastic lawn (mixture of buffalo and blue couch) but if I can encourage it while it's raining it should be more respectable and less povo.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

No rest for the weary

Christmas time is for togetherness and family; taking time out to reflect on the year that was and to contemplate the year ahead.

Not here though. There is work to be done. Jason's office closes between Christmas and New Year which gives us uninterrupted time (if you don't include three sons into that equation) to tackle some jobs around the house.

We have a tradition of keeping Christmas low key. Usually we make a toast to the generosity of the "GFC untouchables", who make up the bulk of Jason's clients, with the wine so happily received. Without them our hangovers would be less salubrious.

For tomorrow, with thanks to the GFC untouchables

I will still be posting on this blog over this period if there is anyone still out there. I find it very therapeutic.

Thank you to everyone who reads Fun and VJs, particularly to those who have made the commitment to follow or make comments. It is always so very much appreciated.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Keeping cool this yule

We are enjoying the early Christmas present that Jason's parents gave us on the weekend. A good old pedestal fan with a touch of the retro about it...

Chrome pedestal fan

There are no ceiling fans in the house and we own nothing to help keep the main part of the house cool. And the tight budget doesn't allow us to air condition the entire house.  The only air conditioning unit is in our bedroom (thankfully). The boys have small desk fans in each of their rooms (we have had them for years) to keep it bearable on those hot humid nights.

We will be able to move the fan around the main living areas no problems and pack it away when no longer needed during winter.

Chrome pedestal fan residing in the kitchen

Even though the predicted temperature for Christmas will be in the low 30s, I have a feeling this fan will have a major work-out over the next couple of months.

Monday, 21 December 2009

My Lychee Tree House

Sorry to Jane from My Pear Tree House for my take on her blog title.

A mystery was solved for us here at the Sow's Ear. For seven months I have been wondering what that tree (click to see picture) in our front yard was. It is almost as tall as our house and the boys use it as their climbing tree. It's been dubbed the "Thinking Tree"  - a place where they can ponder their childhood woes.

'Mum! Look! We found these nut things," Number 2 son bellowed from his haven.

"Look! There's lots of nuts."

Lychees from our tree

When I went to investigate further, I noticed the red rough outer-shell and glossy dark seed of lychee fruit scattered on the grass beneath the tree. Looking skyward, I saw the lychees dangling from their branches. Fancy that! We have a lychee tree and a fairly mature one too (who knew they grew so tall?). I don't think I'd ever seen one before. 

Lychee fruit

I tasted one and it was sweet. I love fresh lychees. I don't know how many we will get to sample - there is stiff competition from the lorikeets and the fruit bats - but at least the mystery is solved.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Slave labour

A load of sand to fill up the sandpit was delivered today. I had been meaning to organise it ages ago because the sandpit was pathetically low and a tad weedy. It really needed some fresh white sand.

The sandpit is next to the cubby house which was unexpectedly here when we moved in seven months ago.  It was one of the exclusions on the house contract.

It's like a miniature of the Sow's Ear. The previous owner had made it with his sons from remnants of other houses they had owned. Very sentimental, isn't it?

Queenslander cubby house on concrete stumps

But it was too hard to move so they left it behind. Now we have two houses.

Anyway back to the sand, we only have one wheelbarrow and one shovel. But we did have an extra pair of hands because Number 1 son had a school friend over for a play date.

Three little slaves with buckets and a big slave with a wheel barrow. Yes!

clockwise from top: Number 2 son, Number 1 son and the "son for hire"

Big slave (Jason) in lairy shorts shovelling the last remains of the sand pile

A fullish sandpit

Son for hire's Dad made us the sandpit cover.
 Heavy duty shade sail cloth with chain sewn around the edges to give it weight.

They did a good job.

Friday, 18 December 2009

More storage options

I’ve got storage on the brain, so when I saw this at Chris and Susan's house last weekend I had to take some photos.

Karin and Nisse Strinning Wall System from the 1950s. Picked up somewhere on the Gold Coast.

These wall-mounted teak cabinets and shelves are extremely versatile allowing you to interchange the modules. I love how this one has the book rack and discrete drawers. It has the simple clean lines synonymous with Swedish design. That it is still in production today is a testament to its timelessness.

It has made me think that perhaps a wall-mounted unit rather than a standard sideboard could be an option for our sunroom. Number 3 son (who is now 18 months) is at an inconvenient height for his curious ways and a sideboard - thwarting him has become my current obsession. He'd be hard-pressed reaching this wall-mounted unit.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Homemade Greetings

I've been making a few Christmas cards for family here and overseas. They are not sent to everyone because I realise my kids don't interest everyone in my acquaintance...

I took a quick snap of the three boys in my brother's swimming pool (No 1 and 2 son have that "cheese" thing going on, No 3 son is at least looking at the camera).

The cards have a summer vibe because in 35 degree heat (celsius), anything that resembles snow flakes or the North Pole coming from Queensland is just delusional. The defiant 'Stay cool this Christmas" scrawled across the photo sums it up.

I cut the photograph with pincing scissors to give a decorative edge. It was then glued on torn lavender card stock which was then glued on DL size pastel green card. That torn edge thing looks better than I expected.

I know, not exactly Christmassy colours but it was what I had stashed in the drawers. I had also bought a number of envelope seals that were in the throw out rack at Eckersley's in Milton (the art shop where I used to work part time). Pink. 50 cents. They go with the green envelopes and it satisfies the lack of pink in my life.

I'm happy with the results, given I'm not at all crafty. And it's nice to give others something you made yourself.

Monday, 14 December 2009

It's a jungle out there

Well, it was until we pulled most of it out.

Side garden - the rainforest side

We've been paying some attention to our neglected side yard. There were thick Tarzan-like rope vines choking our plants and trees which we have now dug out ( I swear I could swing from these vines they are that huge).

We have quite a few thirsty rainforesty plants growing under a canopy of larger trees. Not ideal when most of South East Queensland is under water restrictions because of the drought. There are Never Never plants, lush ferns and bromeliads crying out for rain. Fortunately, we have a 3000 litre rainwater tank but it will run out of water if it doesn't rain soon.

We have thinned this side garden out a bit, so that it is more manageable and the good plants don't have to compete with the bad plants. Gone are most of the sword ferns which I hate so passionately (apparently they make a good indoor plant because they remove toxins from the air).

We are starting to accumulate quite a few piles of garden waste (we have another pile in the front yard). A trip to the dump might have to be on the cards this Christmas.

Slowly, slowly the gardens are improving.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Christmas Food

Today, I learnt how to:

bake a ham,

Baked ham dotted with star anise and glazed in a hoisin and plum sauce

char grill some vegetables,

zucchini, sweet potato, pumpkin and red capsicum

debone a chicken to make a roulade with hazelnut stuffing and cherry sauce,
(I thought it was prudent not to photograph this deboning step. Consider me an expert though.)

make tiny plum puddings,

My partner in crime was Susie Homemaker. She is adept at dolloping cream.

eat the results,

a simple feast (not sure who that lady was but she kindly posed anyway)


pud for one surrounded by a sea of brandy custard

and got some great ideas for a no-fuss Christmas meal to feed the masses.

All this was done at the airconditioned (man, it was hot today) Ilve showroom in Coorparoo for their Christmas Masterclass.

Our oven rocks. Oh and I ate too much.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


One of my favourite things I like about the new kitchen is the groovy jelly bean shaped shelves in the corner cupboard. They are called leMans Corner and are by Hafele.

LeMans corner shelves

Useful - see how you can pull the shelf right out

I store all my pots in this area. It makes searching for the right pot so much easier and makes my usually disorganised life organised (at least in this cupboard). They glide out effortlessly and are strong enough to take the weight of my smaller cast iron pots. An extremely effective form of storage.

I would highly recommend them and I have no vested interest in saying so!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Some rearranging

I did a spot of rearranging at one end of our sunroom a few weeks ago. Nothing too dramatic but it has changed how we use the space.

It still has a long way to go because the entire sunroom needs a complete overhaul (paint, new windows, fibro removal). Lucky we have an abundance of patience. We think the sunroom was a DIY enclosed verandah because of the thick posts between the windows and the fibro sheeting.

Playroom - this is how it was.

This end is used as the play/reading room. Moving to the Sow's Ear meant we lost a dedicated playroom for the children. I sold our modular Numero IV lounge chairs because we no longer had the room (I kept the ottoman). But I soon remedied that when I bought some DQF viking chairs with the sale proceeds.

Danish Quality Furniture is the Brisbane mid century version of Melbourne's Danish Deluxe or Adelaide's T.H Brown & Sons. It was known for its exceptional quality.

Now - play room/reading room.

We brought up the modular foam ottoman from the gimp room. The kids use it to bounce up and down on, as a foot rest and as a play table, but usually they bounce on it. The bookshelf is old Freedom furniture from 1998 (stunned it has lasted this long) and houses the children's books and general junk. There are also a couple of toy boxes which store their blocks in one corner of the room They aren't so attractive and didn't even rate a photograph.

I floated the chairs in the middle rather than against the wall - it was criminal to hide the beautiful richness of the blackbean timber. The rug was turned around too.

The sunroom is also used as our dining room. I wanted to have an area where the kids could chill after dinner. It makes a good sitting room in the morning and evenings. It does get hot in the afternoon at the moment - the room is truly in its element during our mild winters.

The sunroom will do for now. It is just hard to keep tidy when toys are thrown into the mix.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


The agaves are planted. Now we will just forget about them and hope they grow.

Agaves in a row.

These were probably the nicest looking ones (the others 10 or so weren't worthy to be featured just yet because they were too puny). However, they will be beauties in time.

I did a quick google search to see how much agaves cost at the nurseries (I have always been able to obtain cuttings) and to my complete shock they retail between $15 and $40 each for the sizes we planted.

Thank-you Agave Fairy!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The agave fairy

How cool is it when something you really want turns up on your doorstep? How sad is it when all you want are succulent plants...

Yes, the agave fairy came to the Sow’s Ear when we were out this morning. I received about 10 foxtail agaves from a thoughtful friend who reads my blog (it has paid dividends). She's clearing her yard and the agaves were destined for her wheelie bin.

Foxtail agaves are the short succulent plants. The tall spiky plant is the dracaena.

These plants are also known as agave attenuata which are a spineless species which produce a bluey green rosette. I think they rock because they are so bold and have an architectural appeal.

They are disgustingly easy to care for in Brisbane's sub-tropical climate and can survive my potential neglect. I also scored a cutting of a dracaena marginata plant from another friend.

We did a bit of clearing of the garden beds last week and it looks like we will be gardening again this weekend.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hidden storage

There's a lot to be said for storage in an older Queenslander home. It is one of my major issues with this house because where do you put your stuff? There is only so much that can fit under the bed.

Well, this is where our secret wall cupboards come in handy. An excellent solution for storage-poor families such as ourselves.

Storage via hidden VJ wall cupboards

The cabinetmaker suggested we use the space above our kitchen cabinets. We planned on just having a false VJ bulkhead anyway, so why not use that wasted area for our storage needs. And why not indeed!

The cabinets being installed during the kitchen renovation

Practical storage

They used MDF VJ board for the doors which we have painted crisp white. There are no handles because they toggle open and close. It is probably as seamless as they can be for doors. We store our luggage, board games and all the stuff we don't need on a daily basis in this area.

With our ceilings being so very high (3m) and me being of middling height, I am now on the look-out for a taller step ladder so I can reach the very top shelf.
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