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.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Patience brings rewards

Some of the ugliest plants produce some of the most spectacular flowers.

I don't know the name of this prickly little bugger, but it produces a number of tall pink blooms at this time of year, which are truly beautiful and have a sweet scent to boot. Unfortunately, each flower only blooms for a day, so the beauty is short-lived.

Today I stepped outside to bring the washing in and just happened to glance in the opposite direction from the clothesline as I closed the door behind me. I caught a glimpse of pale pink and discovered three flowers in full bloom that were definitely not there yesterday.

There are still a few buds waiting to open, but by the look of them, they'll all be in full bloom tomorrow.

Then it'll be another twelve months before I have the pleasure of these amazing flowers blooming outside my back door.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Horticultural happenings

Having been away for a few weeks, I was itching to get out into the garden this weekend to take care of some overdue tasks. The weeds have gone feral while we were away, a whole bunch of plants need pruning or light trimming or something, plus I want to deal with a snail plague and a minor case of scale on the citrus before it gets out of hand.

Of course, the weather has turned absolutely vile and I have no hope of doing any of it today. Instead, I'm stuck indoors thanks to violent storms. Luckily, I managed to chuck some snail pellets around on Thursday night. The rain we've had since has brought all the little snails and slugs out to play, and they've been enjoying the "treats" I left for them. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than the sight of a bunch of dead snails:

Our fejioas have put on phenomenal growth while we've been away, and all four have burst into flower.

Let's hope we get a slightly bigger crop than last year's....

In other news around the garden, I'm finding I've made a few bad decisions when it comes to plant placement. These kangaroo paws have quite tall flowers, and tend to hang out over the path. After heavy rain such as we've had the past couple of days, they like to have a little lie down...

The bed along the rear wall of the house is really narrow, so I'll be moving them to a wider spot and replacing them with a dwarf variety, I have a couple of those further along the wall, and they don't get in the way of pedestrians at all. Live and learn...

Whilst a lot of our plants are still coming out of their winter shabby-ugly stage, the good old cannas are already putting on a spectacular show. These are outside the dining room window, and just gorgeous:

Tomorrow I have to take care of that scale and the weeds (should be easy after the rain), do a little pruning, and go around the garden taking note of the other jobs that need doing. We need to oil the deck and merbau screens before summer and give the bamboo screens a coat of sealer, but I'm sure there's a lot more to be done.

Once we have the (slightly late) spring maintenance out of the way, we can relax and enjoy summer in our outdoor "rooms".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

There's no place like home

We arrived home yesterday from a lovely two-week holiday in Thailand. We saw some amazing sights, ate fabulous food and spent almost half of our time there lazing around in the paradise on earth that is Krabi.

Ao Phra Nang, Krabi - a photographer's paradise, just a short walk from our hotel

In spite of having had a wonderful time, I'm happy to be home, and feeling grateful for many things, such as:

- The absence of smelly drains
- The relative peace and quiet of my neighbourhood (apart from that damn dog barking from over the back fence!)
- The lack of humidity. I truly love Melbourne's mostly dry summer...
- The order and tidiness of the streetscape around here. No rubbish, no piles of sandbags, no broken-up footpaths or drain covers, no mould covering buildings, no cars, motorbikes and street vendors parked all over pedestrian thoroughfares.

I think I even missed the noisy clamour of the cockatoos and corellas squawking every morning and evening.

We're not holiday shopaholics, and were on a reasonably tight budget, but we did pick up a few pretty things to decorate the house, including:

Silk fabric, Chiang Mai
Hand-painted silk cushion covers, Chiang Mai
Block prints on rice paper, Bangkok
Hill Tribe silver necklace, Chiang Mai
I won't be wearing the necklace - although it's beautiful, my preferred style in jewellery is far more delicate. Instead, I plan to mount it on black fabric, frame it and hang it on the wall. I've seen similar framed pieces for sale here, priced at around $700. I paid 250 baht (less than $8) for this, and if I DIY the framing, total cost should be under $50.

I also picked up a few ideas for furniture and decorative accents. Unfortunately, carting home heavy teak furniture was a no-no. The shipping costs were a bit high, and the fumigation process to satisfy our quarantine laws cost as much again. But I'll be keeping an eye out on eBay and cheap import shops for things with the right "feel".

It might take me a while to get our souvenirs sorted, but I'll post some updates along the way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Three coats and a light sand between:

And I've managed to change the eBay photo into a format that will work with Blogger. So here's the "Before":

It doesn't show quite how badly weathered it was - some of the joins had opened up, but after three coats of oil, the timber has expanded and closed up the gaps quite a bit. I'm going to leave it (under cover, of course) for six months to allow the oil to really penetrate, then oil it again. After that, a yearly treatment should keep it in good condition.

In case you're wondering what I used....

We're huge fans of the Intergrain range of products. They're water-based, low-odour and Australian made. I used Nature's Timber Oil on this, in a clear finish. It nourishes the timber and brings out the natural colour, but you can get tinted versions as well. It smells strongly of eucalyptus, rather than some of the stinkier products around that smell strongly of mineral oils.

Coming together

I'm slo-o-owly completing my decorating plans. It's quite difficult when you have something (or several somethings) specific in mind though - finding just the right items at a reasonable price can be a challenge.

I've been watching eBay for ages, searching for the perfect carved timber daybed for our alfresco room. I've seen several, but have missed out on them when they've sold for way more than I was prepared to pay. So I was excited last week to win one at a rock-bottom bargain price... even if it did mean a three-hour round trip to collect it.

It was quite badly weathered, having been left outdoors in the sun, rain and wind for a year or so. It's teak, and was originally coated with a clear sealer and intended as an indoor furniture piece. I forgot to take a before photo (d'oh!) and can't get the eBay pic to load either, so this one was taken after I'd sanded and applied one coat of clear oil:

Two more coats of oil should see the timber in pretty good condition, and then a yearly oil after that will keep in in good nick - especially since we'll have it under cover. Then all I need to do is to make a seat pad for it, add some scatter cushions, and we'll have the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a cold drink on summer days.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Slowly does it

Things are going along slowly in the decorating department, but I did get my family room cushions made. Of course, I'd bought enough fabric to make four cushions, but once I arranged them, I decided I really needed five. And perhaps one for the lounge. But when I went back to get more fabric, the shop had completely run out. :(

Oh well, I'll keep an eye out. Meanwhile, I don't think it looks too sparse:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Before and after - family room

Still some things to add/change, but I thought I'd post a before and after, now that I've hung my mirror and frames.

I had to turn the lights on to get a decent shot, it's late in the afternoon and very overcast today....

And here's the rendered image again of how it's supposed to look:

Nearly there!

Family room progress

It's been a while, but I'm finally back to doing some decorating - hurrah! We had our new couch delivered yesterday, so (at last!) I'm getting on with the family room makeover.

Last year I had a design consultation with Kristine from Lemonbutter Furnishings & Interiors, and I've been working away at collecting bits and pieces for the room ever since.

This is what we started with:

Much as I love my colours, the old navy couches made the room look so, SO dark and gloomy. So I had in mind a warm white modular couch, to lighten things up. Kristine suggested a large silver-framed mirror as well, to reflect extra light and make the space appear a bit larger. Here's the computer mock-up of her suggested layout:

The colour palette revolves around the wall colours (dark teal and olive-beige), the warm white of the couch and the chocolate of the ottoman (which I don't have yet):

And she suggested accents of silver and olive drab:

The silver adds some glamour and is reflective too, so again, should lighten things up a bit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Space savers

We love fresh produce, but not having a lot of yard, we've had to be a bit smart about it. Planting four feijoas along the back fence as a screen was a brilliant suggestion from someone whose opinion I value. Eventually, they'll provide privacy, plus a lovely lot of fruit. As a bonus, they look pretty, flowering in winter when most other plants in the garden are not at their best.

I also have my potted cumquat, which is now over twenty years old and is bearing a lovely crop. Then there's my herb garden and a few bird's eye chilli plants. Again, pretty and useful.

Our lack of space prompted me to try my hand at espalier, something I'd never done before. My lemon and kaffir lime are doing well, and I think I'm getting the hang of this pruning caper (with a little help from some experts I found online. God, I love the internet).

So, continuing my one year on theme, here's the lemon:

Just after planting in March 2010:

January this year:

January again, after pruning:

And this week. You can see that the leader is just about up to the third wire now. Hopefully, we'll get a bit more growth before the colder temperatures slow things down.

And the kaffir line is going great guns, now that I've overcome my scaredy-cat tendencies when it comes to pruning. Immediately after planting in March last year:

And now:

This one really hates Melbourne's winter, but at least now I know it bounces back nicely. The bonus of shaping it is that we get to use all the pruned leaves in delicious Thai curries.

Limited space is no excuse for not using your garden in a productive way. :)