Friday, July 18, 2014

Busting My Botox Budget

Did I ever tell you  about the time my Botox budget was blown on a plumbing bill?

No? Well, our hot water heater - a mammoth 400 litre tank housed precariously in an upstairs cupboard - truly an accident waiting to happen, one day just coughed, spluttered and then died.

Naturally this happened on the weekend, between Christmas and New Year. It cost a bomb and almost  the plumber's apprentice his life during it's removal. OK maybe he would have just broken several necessary limbs..

I forget how much they said it weighed empty, (perhaps as much as Arnold Schwarzenegger; definitely as bulky), but be assured it was a lot, and being two meters tall it couldn't go down our narrow stair case.

So they had to remove the lacework balustrade on the balcony and lower the empty tank on ropes to the ground. Which is where it almost took a life, being too heavy for the man upstairs.  Fortunately Mr Frenchie saw his sneakers sliding toward the balcony edge and quickly grabbed him around the waist, thus saving him from an untimely end.

Well if we thought our tank was heavy, the invoice was weightier, and I was forced to empty my slush-fund: the one where I'd been saving up for Botox.

So I enjoy warm showers again but I have more crows feet than Alfred Hitchcock's other shocker; The Birds.

there are more crows feet around my eyes than in this playground...
My crows' feet would give  Tippi Hedren nightmares.

But this story is not about my crows' feet, or Alfred Hitchock or even the exhorbitant cost of holiday plumbing emergencies.

This is actually about the hole that was left behind and what I have done with it.

So in the aftermath, I was left with a two meter tall by one meter wide box behind doors.

What to do?

I thought, how about the Mother, Father and Fairy-God-Mother's of all linen cupboards?

My next thought was of the wobbly ironing board I have on the back of the downstairs powder-room door where the iron's cord only just reaches from the laundry..

So, what if I could have a linen cupboard with a hidden ironing board? seeing as how there was the electrical outlet just below the old water heater cupboard ....


My genius cabinet makers, piano-hinged my existing doors to become bi-folds to the wall and built a drawer that pulls down and into a fold-out ironing board.

Now I have more cupboard space, and I can get rid of the wobbly back-of-door-ironing-board- eye-sore in the powder room.

But I still have terrible crows feet. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flat Out

The past three months have been some of the busiest and most stressful in my life. I've been busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest, but today is Friday- Finish Up Friday - I finished a Flat.

Yes there has been much blogging on the subject; the whirl-winds of activity followed by weeks of waiting just to have blinds hung. Then the bloody upstairs neighbor complained about the noise from the hammer drill and we had to down-tools and wait another week.

But anyway it's done:

Er this is the before shot you know...
Dated, dirty and unhygienic with meters of dirty jagged silicone around the sink and food preparation areas. The back corner of the bench was also collapsing due water damage.
This bathroom was a shocker; dated, dark, scruffy and dirty with no storage and even less sex appeal.

This was as bad as it gets: the plumbing and waste (circa 1950’s) were incompatible with most modern fixtures. It also had also a history of leaks which had been patched with limited success. The ceiling had to be replaced due to age and water damage... Truly a nasty piece of work- I'm sure my plumber is still having nightmares about it..

again.. Ta-Dah!
What followed was a very long, and messy, total strip out, re-plumb, new waterproof skin, re-tiling of the  floor and walls (to ceiling), installation of an exhaust fan and down lights –frameless shower screen – bespoke cabinetry and a built-in cistern. 

The living room, like the rest, was dated and scruffy with walls painted in a colour that gobbled up light rather than reflecting it.  The carpet was well worn, patchy and lifting at the edges. .

 Now it has new carpet, new paint, a cosy fire and somewhere to toss your keys as you come in the door.

Then I really went to town on some extras, my cabinet designer was like a happy puppy with a bone when I told him what I wanted and this is what we came up with:

With the kitchen so short on storage space, this ‘Smart Sideboard’ offers two large cupboards with ample storage, deep enough for dinner plates. The centre panel has space for larger platters and tall vases and the clever little thing folds out into a dining table.

Everyone needs a place to work so we retro fitted an in-home workspace with an internal electrical outlet and pull out keyboard or laptop table.

So it's done - I can get my life back, enjoy morning coffees with friends, get pedicures, go back to the gym get back to the novel..  and look for the next building project. :0)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sew Pink!

"To sew, or not to sew: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous malfunctions,

Or to take arms against a sea of time constraints,

And by opposing end them?

To succeed or not succeed; in sending one's offspring forth,

into the world dressed as another?"
(William Shakespeare & Me)
I don't limit myself to vandalism of great artworks, sorry Will..
I like to take risks. And not just with famous artists or bards.

Like taking my little daughter to a fabric shop a week out from the next dress-up party.  I know from experience she will be overwhelmed. She wont be able to limit herself to less than five fabrics for the one dress...
But it's worth every minute to watch the excitement on her face as she skips around a forest of glittery fabric rolls arms and fingers stretched, touching everything.  All the ooooooh's and aaaaah's and 'WOW, mummy look at this!"

This was the case with the fairy costume. The fabrics were a little pinker than I'd hoped (I had imagined pastels) but of course She-who-Worships-Pink had other ideas and it was her dress so what the hey.

 We came away with Pink panne velvet, hot pink georgette, pale pink and hot pink tulle and a couple of meters of pink ribbon.
So this is a rough sketch of the design, my quazi-tutorial below is even rougher!

I started out as I often do,using the stretch velvet to make a tube dress. Then added to the waist a full skirt - nothing fancy just a long straight piece sewn together on the short edge (this is where you measure your skirt length) gathered on one long edge. I cut the bottom long edge into a sort of petal shape and left it a raw edge. Luckily you can get away with that using tulle; my sewing machine chews up fine edges.
I tacked then sewed this to the velvet tube at the waist line, leaving the bottom of the tube below the waist to act as a petticoat.

I used some ribbon sewed into the top facing for straps to be tied into bows on the shoulder. Across the bust I gathered rectangles of tulle in both colours, and hand stitched that over the bust.  Pulling it in vertically at the center front I added little clear butterfly beads (from the $2shop) over the top  of the stitching line.

After that I cut leaf shaped pieces of the georgette finishing the edges on the machine with a fine zig-zag.. Miraculously I managed this without having the fabric chewed up and stuffed below into the bobbin housing, which is what normally happens.

This is where you can have fun and just get creative: I sewed these spaced at short intervals over the skirt waist sewing more butterflies at the top of each - but you can play with shapes and layers all you want. At this stage it's just getting all dreamy and floaty which is what little girls are after.

As the day came closer the weather got cooler. Strappy dress was looking like an uncomfortable option not to mention an invitation for a chill, so I pulled out a girls bolero pattern. 
I re-cut the pattern front on some brown paper - cutting away and reshaping it to lay open under the dress's bust detail and tie underneath with left-over ribbon. As it turned out the bows on the dress sat over this as well which added more detail and made the bolero look like part of the dress.

That's it for this weeks crafty.   I'm  still renovating so I need to go now and attach some handles on a cabinet Pinkster and i finished last night, there are venetians to be hung,  paintwork retouching..

One of these days Fridays I'll finish up an apartment!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Delicious Paws

The Lake House  is one of my favorite quirky love stories.
In the movie, Sandra Bullock's character tells Keanu Reeves in a letter;
 "I love the smell of Jack's Paws." I know an odd comment in a 'get to know you letter'.. may put a few blokes off right there..but anyway. I did say quirky.

But this comment gave me pause for thought (pun intended).

Dogs get pretty stinky, but surely with all they tread through and on that would make their paws the worst part of them from an olfactory perspective?

But curiosity got the better of me so during our nightly tummy rub session I pulled a paw up to my nose.

Wow. What is that
Like oatmeal cookies and fresh baked bread or something. I got the dog walker and the house-sitter on board and we debated several earthy/ foody smells. 

But there's agreement all round: Buddy's paws smell tasty!

Well following my recent trip to a French Deli to buy genuine French saucisson sec I started to cut some slices: obligatory glass of red already poured, and there it was; 'that' smell. 

I sniffed the meat and since Bud was hovering, salivating just next to me, I bent down grabbed his paw and sniffed.

Buddy's paws smell like freshly sliced  French cured sausage! 
No kidding - I am not mad- I made Mr Frenchie sniff too and if anyone knows his native cured meats he does.. he agreed. Absolutely

So it became unanimous; Buddy is one delicious dog.

Next time I went to the deli, as many people do, the owner admired our elegant orange dog tied outside. Stupidly I told him about the saucisson fragrant paws. He looked kind of started then a bit offended to be honest. 

He gave me a pained, moderately indulgent - 'this Aussie is nuts' kind of smile, so to compensate him for the trauma of his interpreting my claim as - 'your food smells like my dogs feet' - I bought half a dozen sausages at $8 a pop.

He really is delicious

Friday, May 30, 2014

Let It Go

I was a crafty mummy last Friday. And Saturday too, but the building site got the best of me. 

There does come a point however, where you have to Let it Go.    

For a bit.

"Put down that screwdriver and step away from the Renovation, ma'am".

For two months in between school runs I've found myself  sanding and retouching paintwork.  Breaking screw heads off into the back of wardrobe handles, shopping for taps and tiles and so much more.

Last Friday we encountered a bunch of warped tiles in our lot which added a rat-run across town to the tile shop (just before school run) to my schedule. I also had to 'be there' for the shower-screen measuring guy, to tell him please just make the damned thing fit (and when he did it looked too big). Then my Saturday was held to ransom by the rubbish removal guys. Who left that pile of broken tiles and debris in the middle of the lounge????

But somehow I reached deep down into my self - got in touch with my inner-Nanna and I managed to cough-up a little creative couture for our lovely friend Blythe.

This was a promise to She-Who-Worships-Pink-and-Now-Also-Blue. An overdue promise at that.
But our little poppet has been so understanding of my newest preoccupation.  She's even been helping out - on the weekend helping cleaning, sitting quietly drawing while I screwed and filled, sanded and attached things in other rooms.  She's given advice (good advice) on colour schemes and fixtures.

Today she chose the handles for the new bathroom vanity  - OK I vetoed her first choice of  brass teddy bears.  But since we've discovered she has she has quite a good eye for aesthetic balance (except when it comes to bear handles) we gave her final say on whether they should be attached vertically rather than horizontally and she chose well.

She sat on the new toilet bowl - not yet attached - to see if there was enough leg-room between the loo and the larger shower screen. Then we made the tallest of the cabinet makers sit on it too just to be sure.
Just quietly, I really enjoy making my builders do embarrassing things.

Anyway my girl deserves a little treat and this teeny-tiny costume was it.  She's a beautiful and unique doll our Blythe and she makes a wonderful Elsa. Now Pinkster has a friend with a matching costume to hers.

I've been asked by another mum, where you get this lovely creature and you still can although mine is vintage (from 1971 the year they were both launched and spectacularly flopped).

You can buy Blythe dolls on line, they're reproducing them in Japan but they cost a bit more than Elsa herself (yes even at the scalpers' inflated E bay prices)

A Blythe can cost anywhere from $140 up to $400.

But her eyes change colour! She has a world of wigs and accessories to make even Barbie turn pea-green with envy and let's face it, she's hauntingly lovely with those enormous peepers of hers.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ceiling's the Limit

Today I have not been crafty.  Yet it is Craft Day.

I haven't forgotten, it's just that there was a big ugly ceiling in my way.
An ugly unpainted ceiling with a hole in it to be exact.
This is why I was scrounging small pieces of plaster board yesterday, from my neighbor's builder.

So my Friday finish this week was to patch and sand, and patch and sand, and patch some more.  I was eating plaster dust, everything went foggy with my safety glasses coated in plaster dust.

I treated myself to a new toy: a cordless orbital sander. It does the job but standing under that puppy is like having someone sift flour over your head.  And today was not only hair-washing day, but for a change I was having a rare Good-Hair-Day.  That is until I stood in a plaster board blizzard.

I filled the hole with my fifty-cent-piece sized Gyprock patch, I filled the edges with white goop and sanded again. And again.

Then I painted. Is there anyway you can roller paint onto a ceiling without getting covered in pin-prick spots? I don't think so.

I was a mess and I am now very tired. So no craft today.

But wait!
There was one other thing I whipped up this week and today I completed the second version.

That is my I Spy game but it's a bit like a scavenger hunt too. I put the first of these together to keep She-Who-Worships-Pink and her friend quiet in the car; the twenty minute monologues were driving me nuts.

The rules are that you can make a tick for as many times as you see anything on the list.

If it’s a photo/ graphic image, you must find something the same.

If it’s a cartoon, you can find something similar, like a poster on a bus or building or a toy in a shop window.

Pinkster and I walked to school the other morning with a good friend and her adorable little boy. I'd printed off two double-sided copies onto card and the kids brought pencils. It was so much fun seeing the energy and enthusiasm they poured into collaborating and finding as much as they could.

So today I've completed two versions in PDF format: one for my US readers and one for the Aussies (with our own roadsigns and post boxes).

If you have any trouble with the links please let me know and I'll email you the PDF right away.

Wishing you many peaceful journeys.  Good luck :0)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Life Less Glamorous

Image Credit

In my jeans-bag today, I carried, several invoices, a power drill, a box of drill bits, a small saw, a piece of Gyprock (plasterboard) that I'd scrounged from someone else's building site, a saw guide thingy, my purse my phone, keys and doggy poo bags.

I had a call from the cabinet maker as we were leaving for the school run, then another from the tiler just after the bell rang. Try discussing logistics with a Tradie while about 100 noisy kids are racing past you from assembly.

In my capacity as a building project manager I was to be on-site on my 'tod' today after meeting with the cabinet designer to measure up and choose granite and laminates.  Yesterday I'd played hopscotch all over Sydney, picking up bathroom fixtures, ordering basins, buying tap mixers, trawling warehouses and collecting samples.

I made it back in time to pick Pinkster up from school, settle her with her French Coach and then set off again to take the trash out on our building site.

Today I was a bit lost. I get like that sometimes - there's so much to do I loose my focus. But the tiler had to put all his efforts into another job so it was time for me to sort out the bathroom ceiling before the wall tiles made it to the top.

There was a hole from the old light fitting and some plaster patchwork that had to be tidied up, and it all needs to be painted before the tiler gets back on the job.

So that was my afternoon; after gathering, buying and  packing more supplies and equipment - screwing on wardrobe board handles (except one broke) I patched and sanded a bathroom ceiling.  This process is not unlike doing porcelain fingernails (if you've ever done your own). You need to slap on the product over the gaps before it hardens, wait for it to fully dry, sand it back, then fill in with more product and sand again.

Except this is a really big bloody fingernail and it's above my head, which is pretty disastrous for my poor neck, having had one too many whip-lashes. Note to self: must make a booking with the chiropractor for Saturday to work out the cricks in my neck.

The tiler called tonight (while I was executing a bottie-wipe) full of apologies, because the other job is running behind.  I made his day at least, when I said I needed another day for sanding and painting the ceiling.  Incidentally in my spare time, I am trying to do my best as a single parent (Mr Frenchie is still in the US) and I'm three quarters of the way through writing a best seller. (I  hope). I could just do with a few more hours in my day.

Pretty much everyone else is happy. Including my chiropractor who can probably order his next Porsche going by the state of my C2 vertebrae.

Still loving my tool bag :0)
PS: One thing I haven't had time for is grocery shopping. We've run out of coffee and toilet paper, so it'll be a tough morning tomorrow.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bag Lady

Today my handbag carried a couple of wardrobe handles, some door knobs, a binder holding- receipts-color samples and bench-top finish brochures, also my cellphone, a roll of doggy poo bags, my purse, reading glasses, sunglasses a tape-measure, mini-iPad, a boy-scout style utility knife, rubber gloves and a make-up compact.

Since I've morphed into a building site foreman (woman) my day-to-day teeny trendy Vespa shoulder bag had to go.
For the duration of my renovation I need something sturdy (I've already ripped the lining of the Vespa by stuffing too much into the pockets).
It also needs to be big enough for a binder, some tools, tape measure, bits and pieces of random metal and timber, but with handy external pockets for smaller items such as car-keys, lip balm and phone (that will likely get mashed by all of the above).

I used to wear a tool-belt, but the landscapers that worked on our deck teased me mercilessly. After I went shopping in a trade tool supplier and saw the kind of calendars they hung on the walls, I totally 'got it' and stopped wearing that thing immediately - practical as it was.

This is NOT a look I want to be associated with
 So after a couple of hours light sewing and seam ripping I have something practical and modest and I only get teased when I need to unzip the fly to remove larger items:

This is such an easy bag to make:

Cut a pair of old jeans off just below the crotch and open up the inside leg seams. Open the front seam to just below the bottom of the fly and the back seam almost to the back yolk.  Fold these pieces over to flatten out both the back and front then top stitch them in place. Trim off the excess fabric on the inside - bind or zigzag it first if you want to stop fraying.

I used a leg off-cut to cut out an oval for the bag bottom, I used heavy stiffening (i.e. cut up plastic meat trays from the butcher) to give the bottom some support. If you do this make sure your stiffening is smaller than the fabric oval by your seam allowance measurement. This way your machine wont choke trying to sew three layers of denim plus a chunk of stiff plastic.

The easy way out is to just sew front and back together at the bottom and forget a base altogether - it looks just as good.  For me it just wasn't as sturdy for carrying lumpy heavy random stuff.

Oh and I almost forgot the straps: I used some scraps of garment leather I had lying about, but old belts (especially using the buckles as a feature) work well too. Again just be mindful theyre not too thick because again your sewing machine just might choke. If you don't have old belts laying about check out the local Op-Shop.

I love making stuff out of old jeans - when this renovation's done with, I'm going to pull out some more denims and get creative - maybe the Pinkster could do with a little jeans bag of her own and another denim cap..

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Monday, May 5, 2014

A womans work..

image credit

I think it was specifically at the point, mid-morning, where I was supporting my weight on the bathroom window sill, elegantly squatting over an imaginary toilet marked out in pencil on bare cement, that I asked myself; "am I out of my depth here?"

I am project managing a building site and I'm making it up as I go along. Much to the amusement/ bemusement of my Tradies: affectionately known as the A-Team . They're all mates, and that makes my job easier because they co-ordinate, but best of all they're pedantic, perfectionists and clean.

The plumber was trying not to laugh and I was saying: "No, this will work - I have long legs right? - but most of that length is from knee to hip, so it's a good indicator."

He gave a resigned shrug and said, "OK, shuffle back a bit you're on the edge of the seat there," he looked like he was going to laugh. We were trying to measure out how much space was necessary between the toilet and the shower.

After my undignified squat on 'the imaginary throne', showed us we had ample space,  I made him (because he's broader than I am) stand in the imaginary cubicle and put his hands on his head. Elbow to elbow this , very scientifically, gave us the minimum measurement for the width of the shower. "You don't want to whack your elbows on the screen while you're washing your hair" I explained.

But this was just part of my day. Aside from being hair washing day, I'd already cooked breakfast for She-Who-Worships-Pink, packed the lunchbox, got her ready for/ and to, school (just in time) walking rather than driving for a change. I delivered her forgotten water bottle back to school, called the plumber twice on the road, stopped into Reece Plumbing and ordered the toilet pan, went back home for my reading glasses (God knows what I paid for that toilet -I couldn't read the invoice for the life of me).

I also experimented with tile removal using tools I bought six months ago for a job at home that's still not finished.  I watched a YouTube "removing tiles without breaking them" video first before going live with a hammer and chisel.
I was so proud; the tile I was working on slipped into my hand with neither fuss nor breakage and without damaging the render underneath.  Fueled with a certain smug enthusiasm I then went tile shopping.

After school run, while Pinkster danced her legs off in Jazz Ballet I popped home again, printed, paid and  filed invoices.

This new job as a building project manager (which pays as well as my writing - hah) started a month ago when we bought a one bedroom flat as an investment.
It was dated, run down and had an 'original' 50s bathroom in grey and pink.  The toilet bowl was pink, the sink was pink, the towel rail was pink, the soap holders were pink the loo-roll holder was pink, the tessellated floor tiles were grey and pink.  Even She-Who-Worships-Pink thought it was the ugliest bathroom on the planet.

But as real estate agents are fond of saying in these cases - it was: "Full of Potential". That is certainly true, but realising that potential (between 10am and 2:30pm) was more than I'd bargained for. You see it also had 1950's plumbing too and that is where the budget blow-out will no doubt come from. Not helping the situation is the Strata Managers (BCS) who have turned out to be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike with their response(or lack thereof) to water-leak emergencies, general information, repairs.. um even responding to phone calls.

So that was my day. The Orange dog, on the other hand, had an excellently indulgent day, starting with the walk to school with the usual hugs and petting from a ton of uniformed kids. On to the flat for some more petting and fuss from the plumber and his apprentice. Then a walk on the foreshore where he scored more fuss and adoration from two strangers. At Reece plumbing supplies he lay on his back in the showroom - legs akimbo with no less than four sales people taking turns rubbing his belly.

He was a bit disgusted to have zero attention in the tile store but after a drive through KFC where he was compensated with half a box of popcorn chicken, his fragile ego was forgotten.
The walk back to school and Ballet class, is always a guaranteed cuddle-fest but two little girls in leotards kept him company today while I took Pinkster in and helped her get changed.

Tomorrow I have to order carpet and buy bathroom tiles by end-of-day. I need to meet with the tiler on site first thing (after school run) and discuss what and how many I need to buy and what we can do to cover up the ugly mottled and broken peach monstrosities that serve as a very poor imitation of a kitchen splash-back.

I'm guessing tomorrow will be another day that I won't see the inside of a gym, lunch with anyone, get a haircut, pedicure, flu shots, Botox, or even a quick coffee with a girlfriend.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Loud

The neighbours are driving me nuts.

You can live with early evenings and late mornings punctuated with loud drunken guffaws.
But the 3, 4, and 5am screaming matches and tipping over metal garden furniture onto brick pavers is seriously un-fun. Especially since their nocturnal playground is directly under our bedroom window.

  The sequel to Sleepless in Sydney recently published on The Bub Hub..this is where I really take the gloves off...  read more here..