Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reloved furniture project: Vintage pot cupboard

I wonder if anyone actually remembers this "little" project from a long, long while back? It turned out to be a bit of a bugger of a job, and I lost patience and put it aside. So it sat in the garage under a pile of bike bits, old newspapers and goodness knows what else for quite some time. But finally, a few weeks ago, I dragged it out and decided to get it finished. So, ta-dah.....!!

Just the thing when you need a bit of extra serving space for afternoon tea or dessert.

Pretty blue Toile paper lining for the shelves.
But let's back up a bit.... remember how it started? I warn you, this may hurt your eyes...


Phew, that's better!
It required some serious work to get through the silver leaf and umpteen coats of different coloured paint. Heavy-duty stripper was called into service. Then the sanding began. And more sanding. And yet more sanding. I admitted defeat in the end and decided to prime and paint the body of the cabinet, which meant that I only had to get all the damn paint off the top surface. 

Here's a lovely shot of the paint stripper in progress. Nice.

White, pink, purple, silver.... the horrors inflicted on this poor little cabinet would make you weep.
I originally decided to paint the cabinet charcoal - but I just wasn't happy with the result. Commence sulking and three years of ignoring the piece altogether.

This time around, I painted it antique white. It's not a style that goes with my decor, but I'm going to sell it anyway, so it was a commercial decision: French provincial, shabby, country and Hamptons styles are all very popular and white cabinets with gleaming natural timber tops fit right in with all of those styles. 

It turned out quite well in the end - there are some small defects in the top, but I'm calling them "character". Some walnut stain and a waxed finish has that hardwood glowing.

Hmm, yes, that's better.

One more horrendous flashback: Oh. My. GOD.
I'm pleased with the result - it will make a nice side table, bedside cabinet, drinks cupboard or extra space in the dining room to put your fabulous cake. :)

It'll be listed on eBay next week some time. Fingers crossed somebody loves it and takes it home, after all the work I put into it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not dead yet

Wow, it's been a long time. I'm probably talking to myself by now... Well, you know, life gets busy and things slow down on the home front when you've been in your house for a while, so there hasn't been a lot to blog about.

I have a few updates which I do plan to get around to posting. I'm working through a small list of projects at the moment, some of which aren't all that interesting, but there are a couple that I think are worth sharing.

Meanwhile, remember the vintage dressing table I picked up on eBay a while back? I had a plan for that, which involved my eldest son moving out and my turning his room into a guest room/music room/extra storage space. Unfortunately, the moving out part still hasn't happened, so I've had it sitting around since I restored it, not quite sure what to do with it. I love it, but we really don't have the perfect place for it. So I'm reluctantly selling it. :(

It makes a lovely hall table - but we already have one of those.

It's listed on eBay now - the auction ends tomorrow, so if anyone is interested, you might want to hop over there and bid. I'm just saying. :)

I'll be back with some more interesting updates soonish. There's my DIY framed artwork that cost me around $50, when I've seen similar things retailing for $500+. And I'm back working on my pot cupboard, after a couple of years of lost motivation. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Treasures in your own back yard

I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to live where we do. Apart from the inconvenience of hit-and-miss public transport services, there aren't too many downsides to life on the urban fringe. One of the things I love the most is the abundance of bushland, parks and open spaces that surrounds us.

Recently I realised that there were a number of local parks and conservation areas that I'd never set foot in. One in particular, Quarry Hills Bushland Park, I drive within view of almost every day, and yet I hadn't managed to explore there at all. Well, yesterday I remedied that.

In spite of iffy-looking weather, I headed off to explore. 

Is there rain in those clouds? Yes, no, maybe?
I picked a medium-length route - they range from 1km to 9km - that included the "Eagle lookout". I thought that sounded promising and set off from the car park.

Nice wide, well-maintained tracks to follow

And all signposted as well
Less than a minute into my walk, I heard something crashing through the dry grass on the hillside to my left, and caught a glimpse of two kangaroos bounding along the ridge. Of course by the time I got my camera pointing in the right direction, they'd moved. But I spotted them a bit further along, although one was only visible as a blob in the grass.

A couple of locals, lurking in the long grass
It was a pretty steep climb up to my first viewpoint, the "Soaring Shelter".

There are at least three shelters at strategic points, with views
This spot has an excellent view across to the west. You can see the You Yangs and Mount Macedon, and everything in between.

Love the descriptive signage with landmarks all labelled
There's also a decent view south.

That's the city way over there. It's only 25km or thereabouts; looks further.
From the saddle in between the two main hills, you get a view of nearby suburbia and across to the Dandenongs and Yarra Ranges. 

Close to civilisation, and yet so peaceful up here. 
I read the sign below and thought "fat chance of spotting a kestrel..." Actually, I was more concerned about avoiding snakes, so had my eyes fixed on the ground most of the way.

A bit of wildlife information
Then as I was mucking around getting some pics of the dramatic sky (and a passing Qantas jet)....

The airport's that-a-way
...I spotted this:

Wish I'd brought my telezoom lens
There were actually two giant birds, but I couldn't get both in shot together. I have no idea if they were Nankeen Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites or Brown Falcons, but they were impressive to watch.

Heading up to the next lookout - this one has cantilevered viewing decks
The next viewing point was a good spot to take a break and just enjoy the scenery.

Nice to see where our rates go...

Looking across Mernda towards the Kinglake Ranges
I could have gone a lot further - the track continues on for several kms to the Granite Hills. Which, one assumes, contain granite. But I turned around and headed back towards the car. Mostly downhill, thankfully.

Pretty wildflowers
The whole area is a volcanic plain and there's evidence of old volcanic activity everywhere:

There are huge areas of exposed basalt all through these hills
It's such a thrill when you want to dig a post hole or plant a tree in your yard and you get down about 200mm and hit a huge chunk of the stuff. Really makes you appreciate nature...

Anyway, it was a really enjoyable walk, and I'll be heading up there again to check out the bits I didn't get to see this time.

For any locals who might be interested in visiting, I'll give you a few tips:

- Access is good - you can drive right into the car park from Gravlier Way and the tracks lead off from there.
- Tracks are wide and well-kept, but the top surface is loose gravel, which can be a bit hazardous on the uphill/downhill sections, so watch your step and wear decent shoes.
- The weather on top of the hills can be quite different to down below. If it's windy, it's likely to be quite chilly. If the sun comes out, you'll be hot. Wear light layers that can be added or removed easily.
- Carry water. You may not want to drink too much though - there are no public toilets.
- Don't forget your camera.

Monday, January 9, 2012

From the "things we wish we'd known" files

We learned many lessons through the experience of building a home, and over the past three years I've been more than happy to give others advice on how to avoid some similar dramas, inconvenience or cost. I wish someone had done me the same favour....

One thing that we wish we'd known before signing our contract is just how cheap and nasty the appliances are that builders include in their packages. We knew we were getting basic models, but we thought they were a decent quality brand. Ha!

Back in 2001, we renovated our old place and installed a new kitchen. We were on a strict budget so there was no chance of prestige brands. But we ended up with appliances that had plenty of useful functions, looked good and performed really well. 

At around the same time, our neighbours installed a new kitchen too. They had a bigger budget than us and I was envious of their stone benchtops and their Blanco appliances. The dishwasher and oven were so fancy and as far as I'm aware, they've not had a single problem with them.

So when we found that we were getting Blanco appliances as part of our building deal, we thought it was Christmas. Not so.

The dishwasher was so basic that we couldn't fit wine glasses and dinner plates in it at the same time. It didn't really have any functions other than um... wash the dishes. No delay start, no half load, nothing. And it was noisy. Watching TV in the family room while the dishwasher was running meant turning the volume WAY up. Worst of all, the design of the front panel was so bad that it couldn't withstand normal use - after three months of opening and closing, the handle broke off. Impressive.... We had that fixed under warranty, but it soon broke again. *sigh*

We thought the 900mm dual fuel upright cooker was pretty good to begin with. But we soon found that the oven didn't heat evenly. You should not have to turn food in a fan-forced oven to ensure it doesn't burn on one side. And the control knobs are cheap and nasty - the silver finish wore off one within weeks of installation.

The appliances were installed on the 10th December 2008. On Christmas Eve just gone, the dishwasher died. It just gave up the ghost in the middle of a cycle. Great... We took advantage of the Boxing Day sales to replace it with a much better one - and this one is so quiet that for the first few days, I kept checking that it was actually running.

Then the other night while cooking a roast, the oven lost power. All other power and lights were still working, and a quick check at the meter box revealed that its circuit breaker had been tripped. Uh-oh. We reset the switch and power was restored. Only...the oven temperature was dropping rapidly and we realised that the bottom element had blown.

Needless to say, we're unimpressed. We could have the oven fixed, but frankly, it's not that good and we have no confidence that something else won't go wrong in the near future. So it looks like I'm going appliance shopping again.

So my advice to anyone building? Do some online research on appliances before you accept whatever the builder is offering. Go out to a retailer and actually look at the ones in your package deal - open and close them, see what the quality is like. And if they're not up to scratch, DON'T accept them.

A lot of builders won't swap their appliances, but you can buy your own, get the builder to install them for you and leave theirs in the boxes. Then sell them and get some cash towards your (undoubtedly more expensive) purchases.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shame on me!

I have a shameful admission: I've been on holidays for two weeks now and have not done a single one of the projects I've had lined up for months.

My eBay coffee table is still sitting in the alfresco room waiting to be stripped, sanded and refinished before being installed in its new home in the lounge.

Meanwhile, it's a handy addition to our outdoor room.

The daybed is sadly in need of that seat pad I've been going to make. The "temporary" cushions I threw on it back in September are still there.

Hmm. Not quite the look I wanted.

Our outdoor furniture languishes in the sun, in desperate need of a couple of coats of oil.

Thank goodness for quality timber; it doesn't look too shabby.

The garden screens all want a coat of oil or sealer (not bad after almost two years...).

A little discolouration appearing.

Nothing some Ultradeck can't fix

"That" pot cupboard is still in the garage, waiting for a do-over of the paint job that didn't work out the way I envisaged.

I know it's under there somewhere.

The laundry and my walk in robe are both so embarrassingly untidy that I'm not even going to show you a photo. No, I haven't yet trekked down to IKEA for some storage solutions...

And it's now the 8th day of the New Year and our Christmas tree hasn't even been packed away. I'm avoiding that job because there is zero fun in it.

If I leave it up much longer, it'll be Christmas 2012!

On the other hand, I have watched a ton of DVDs, read a couple of books, had my hair done, watched a good chunk of the mega-exciting Australia vs India 3rd test match, slept, shopped, been to the theatre and generally relaxed.

So I guess my holidays haven't been a complete waste of time then. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The aftermath

Yes, the hail really WAS that big!

Melbourne copped a you-beaut storm on Christmas Day (thanks SO much, Mother Nature), which you can read all about over here. We were lucky in that our house is undamaged; not so lucky when it comes to cars.... but hey, stuff can be fixed. It's unfortunate that even with insurance, there's mega-bucks involved, but lots of people are worse off than us, so I'm not moaning too loudly.

I'm still cleaning up around the garden though. I sorted the front yard out on Boxing Day, sweeping soil and mulch off the footpath and back into the garden beds, righting pot plants and clearing up masses of shredded leaves, small broken branches, etc.

I'd had a quick look around the back yard, but it was only yesterday that I looked really closely:





Before - Christmas morning


Some grooming required

I have no idea how the Kaffir Lime escaped damage, but - phew!
Today I'll be out with the secateurs and the broom, restoring some order. If only cars could regrow damaged parts like plants do, we'd have nothing to worry about.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's better than breakfast?

Second breakfast, of course!

And it's improved even further when a new cafe opens up just a short walk away in a restored farmhouse that dates back to the mid-1800s. We found a flyer in our letterbox last week, advertising the new eatery and could barely wait for the weekend to arrive so we could try it out.

After a full-on RPM class at 9:30, we came home for a quick shower and some clean clothes, then headed out for brunch. We had planned to walk, since it's literally ten minutes away, but the foul weather  saw us pile into the car instead.

Love that local bluestone. It was quarried from the river bank only a few hundred metres away:

We drove along the driveway, past the front paddock where at least forty kangaroos were enjoying their breakfast. Dammit! I didn't bring my camera and the phone doesn't cut it from a non-scaring distance.

We arrived in the small car park to find that the area had been landscaped with artichokes and an assortment of citrus varieties - lovely! The front garden is very pretty too:

There are nearby houses, but not close enough to spoil the view....

Those tables on the verandah would be very appealing on a warm summer morning. Love the wisteria climbing up the posts:

And of course, there are food pics! Mine: toasted brioche with seasonal fruit compote, honey labna and pistachios...

...and Bike Boy's: Spanish baked eggs

We've waited quite a few years for some sort of food and wine venue to open within walking distance. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants around if you get in the car and drive for ten or fifteen minutes, but our pretty little pocket of suburbia was seriously lacking in amenities till now.

I foresee many weekend walks and bike rides in the future with a stop here for coffee, a cold drink, or something a little more substantial.