Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee you’d notice the beautiful new coffee machine in the kitchen. It’s cranberry red. Nuff said about coffee, except to mention I drink quite a lot of it. Black and strong and espresso, thanks.

If we were having coffee you’d notice it’s not at the kitchen table because I’m trying to do my tax. There are receipts all over the table. 2 years worth for both my company and my personal tax. I hate receipts. I finally found a new system: chuck all the receipts into a chic black tin box originally containing Aesop grooming products and close the lid. Do not open the lid for a LONG time. Hence the kitchen table has now become a hideous receipt-encrusted eyesore.

If we were having coffee you’d notice a few appointments in my diary this week: I have an interview coaching session on Monday with my DH’s work coach. I’m terrible in interviews and vivas, because I can’t think fast enough and I ramble. Conciseness and precision are not my allies. Hence why I am doing so many 100 flash fiction challenges: I need to edit better. The spoken word: I wish I was Aaron Sorkin and had his brain. But I am not. On Thursday I have a singing gig, yay, and on Thursday night I head south to Sydney for a job interview.

This interview is important because the job is a good one.

I really really want this job.

However, if we were having coffee you’d notice my hesitation about leaving my DH to go work in another state. It’s HARD WORK. I have no fear our relationship would fall apart but it would get one hell of a beating. I’d have to work hard to manage my work commitments alongside family commitments, and to balance weekends and travel plans. UGH. And I have NO extended family in Sydney. They’re all in Melbourne. I’d be all alone (all by myself).

 

 

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’ve put on a kilo or two – that’s too many sticky buns and lounging around work for me. Summer here is hot. I’ve been painting. Then there was Xmas. They’re my excuses. The reality I was depressed and I’ve been watching a hell of a lot of TV/ Netflix/Stan. Now I’m fat again. Time to get to the gym which I’ve not attended since September (hence the fatness).

*Note to self: New Year’s Resolutions, dammit.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’ve started cooking again, and I planted a herb garden last week. It’s going well, thanks for asking. The brand new bathroom is now fully useable (if still missing an extractor fan), and I am using fluffy white towels. Brand new. It’s a luxury. Finally, I want to draw your attention to my bedside table – it has 3 books on it. I’m part way through all of them.

Life is pretty good this week. It might be because of the good coffee. How was your week?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Diana at Part-time Monster.

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Hoarder disorder. A tale of spring cleaning.

Folks, this is a rather long post about hoarder disorder and spring cleaning. Grab a cuppa.

I had a little brain snap over the weekend. I’ve been angstified about my stepson using as his bedroom the verandah space RIGHT NEXT to our bedroom, which is accessible from our bedroom via a set of ill-closing French doors, the only thing between us and computer games when he visits. It has been like this for 4 years, which is long enough in my opinion for a regime change. He’s now 17 years old, needing some privacy. He has also had to share his space with the Oh Jesus* room, a euphemism for the office space DH uses, which also serves as a storage area.

Sunday morning I woke up with the niggling feeling that THINGS NEEDED TO CHANGE. After I nagged gently suggested DH mow the lawn because forest, I started thinking. What if, instead of Waiting for Godot** we created our own dressing room and study right here, right now, in the West Wing? And that’s what we did. On the very weekend anniversary of our move to our house 4 years ago, DH and I changed some rooms around. It took more and less time than I expected. More time because OMG the crap, but less time because the crap could have been worse. Stepson has been moved into my old teaching space, rattly louvre windows and all. DH and I now share a study – WITH A VIEW – and we finally have a private dressing room/wardrobe in the west wing. Huzzah!

Our house is partially made up of uninsulated but enclosed verandahs (with linings and all, fully electrified – they’re not THAT crappy), and it’s there where the stepkids sleep and where our stuff goes. The verandahs are each 2.6 metres wide by 8/9 metres long, so they’re a useful space, if somewhat long and thin, with cracks between the floorboards. There’s an East Wing and a West Wing. Originally, stepson lived in the west wing while stepdaughter lived in the other bedroom. Then my youngest child moved north to live with us and we had to move everything around. We’ve been living in the house rather uncomfortably for 18 months now, and it’s awkward with three permanent adults and 2 visiting stepkids trying to squeeze into a small 3 bedroom house containing a teaching studio.

I taught singing in the east wing for three years, and it’s the detritus from this phase which is the saddest turning of the tide moment. There is no longer anywhere to put the music gear. I’ve been teaching at the local conservatoire for the year, and the study wasn’t being used. If I am still teaching singing in 2016 I will be hiring an external space. Anyway, the keyboard is now skulking in the space next to the bathroom, an entirely unsuitable spot for electronic equipment. But there’s nowhere else to put it. Also, as with all good music teachers, I have a raft of gifts from ex-students and my old pre-school teaching days. There’s certainly nowhere to put all THAT stuff. I’m talking about picture frames and fun music toys and music mugs and my rainbow flag, that sort of thing. I also have decorating items from my former selves. Little knick-knacks which are adding to my sense of desperate overcrowdedness.

Yes, folks. Time to admit it. I am a bit of a hoarder. Not the reality-TV kind. More the kind that would prefer a little more storage. Just a bit.

DH is always impressed when I do a clean out. He would much prefer to live with a lot less. I’m not untidy, but I do collect stuff. We have no real storage solutions in our hundred-year-old weatherboard home, with 2 households of stuff to make room for (and we have already gotten rid of SO MUCH JUNK). The things we buy for the house now tend to be storage solutions. New coat hangers or pantry containers, that sort of thing. Yesterday we bought a third portable wardrobe, one of those sturdy if industrial-looking chrome storage units. Very retro/trendy. DH can’t believe it. He finally has somewhere to hang his shirts and get his shoes off the floor. A moment of quiet jubilation for him.

DH gets antsy when I bring a new thing home. He asks me – only partly joking-: “what are you now going to throw out?” Looking at the STUFF, I finally see how he is feeling. It’s too much. I regularly clean out my closet, removing old, mouldy or long-unworn shoes and outfits that are out of fashion, tired or ill-fitting. I began this habit a few years ago, and I’m now trying to extend it to other areas in the house, but it’s hard. My worst hoarding habit, I think, is book buying. I rarely throw out old books, as I often re-read them. I’m looking at one of our bookcases as I write this. It’s double stacked. All of our bookcases are. We have 10 large free-standing bookcases, including one in the toilet. Each bookcase holds about 300 books. So we have about 3000 books, texts, academic books, magazines, recipe books, CDs, photo albums, and music books in our little house. No wonder DH is overwhelmed! I also buy art glass, pottery and porcelain things. Usually from overseas trips, they are almost always small, but where to store them? We have stacks of little decorative bowls in our kitchen cupboards, although I now throw out any old glassware and china that’s chipped.

Another of our equally serious problems is the paper trail dogging our heels. We have lots of the stuff. Every six months or so I have a bit of a clean up and manage to partially empty my in and out trays, but almost immediately they fill again. DH is the same. He can’t keep a clean desk at home (given that his desk is bright pink – an old pine desk from years ago that we painted for my stepdaughter, it could be worse), and nor can I. He collects playbills and concert programs and receipts and things. I collect bills and invoices and decorating magazines and receipts and things. I am a hoarder of old electronic equipment and pretty paper things. In my desk drawers are about 100 old computer wires. No idea of their purpose, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need most of them.

In the master bedroom I have a lot of cute little decorative boxes (many of them gifted to me) in which I put all my mostly cheap paste jewellery, which then sit on my tall boy making a visual mess. This stuff is horrible to keep clean and dusted. I even have a white and gold porcelain heart-shaped box WITH A BROKEN LID in which I put my single earrings and jewels THAT ARE BROKEN. Why?! (I just threw it out, with sorrow because it was a gift from my daughter from about 1998. It has been broken since 1998).

We went away for a holiday a while back and to ensure our housesitters felt comfortable sleeping in our bedroom I cleared out all of our bric-a-brac. I liked it so much when we returned I haven’t put it back. This includes my perfume bottles, jewellery boxes and decorative items – things from a former design look (girly romantic, if you must know). It’s getting annoying now, but I loved the streamlined look. It also made me realise I can live with much less than I thought. I’ve worn the same 2 bracelets for months, and rotated the same three pairs of earrings. I’ve worn the one perfume. Now I want to expand a little, but I can do this without the jewellery boxes that hold earrings I haven’t worn in 25 years. While I’ve been writing this post I’ve been quietly going through these old boxes, throwing out broken pieces and empty perfume bottles. I’ve popped all the earrings I’m never likely to wear again but are a reflection of my past in one of the boxes, which I’ve taped shut and stuck in the bottom of my tall boy. A memory of me. Not important to anyone but my grandchildren, perhaps.

Now, the master bedroom is looking roomy, clean and tidy, although long overdue for a dust. The dirty laundry basket has been removed to the “dressing room”, and an old comfy armchair has likewise moved into the west wing. DH’s shoes have gone from under the bed, and we removed the French doors from the doorway. I’ve cleaned out one of the Oh Jesus* boxes and the other is now full of unused picture frames, postcards and some scrap-booking things (scrap-booking: one of my little projects for when I have a project room. Why scrap booking? Because STATIONERY, folks. I have a thing for it).

The next area to tackle will be the paperwork, my desk drawers and the music stuff. I’m not looking forward to it. But already I feel so much better. And I’ve been writing this post from my new study area, which overlooks a view of the city and greenery from my neighbour’s garden. Beautiful.

 

*Oh Jesus rooms were labelled as such by my mother. They are rooms so full of crap that when you look inside the room, you think “Oh Jesus”, and close the door again. Not intended to be blasphemous.

**Waiting for Godot. Things that will never arrive. In our case, builders’ quotes and renovation commencement.

 

 

In which I aim for good humour and bon vivant.

This week I am determined to remain cheerful and not be grumpy with the world. Today we are having our hot water unit replaced at a breathtaking price but I keep forgetting that the last time I priced hot water units was about 15 years ago. So there’s some inflationary cost there. Or so I keep telling myself as I grit my teeth for the bill. The guy is here now, and we should have hot water by the late afternoon.

On another positive note, an electrician came to look at our job today. Granted, it’s not a small job because we will need a new powerboard and general updating of our old electrical circuits, but we have a Queenslander. It’s all completely accessible under the house, very little stooping or crawling into cavities. And I had budgeted for it. We’re just doing stuff arse about, is all. Said electrician will send us a quote for the job later today and with luck might be able to do the job very soon.

On another positive note, I have decided on the light fitting for the dining room (which is in the same room as the kitchen). It’s this one:

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Ok, it’s not exactly cheap. But I don’t want anything too engineered looking or busy. It’s perfect for our little dining room:

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Ignore the lounge setting at the rear of the room – it’s no longer there. Our table is 2 metres long and the light fitting is 1 metre long, and is about right for a long room. So now I am going off to buy the light fitting and keep my fingers crossed that the electrician can start work ASAP on our stove. Because dammit I want to be HAPPY!

My new studio!

Well, ok, it’s not my new studio, it’s my current one remodelled to enable my daughter to have her own room. In other words, I lose space. But while it’s long and thin, I think we’ve made it work very well.

Today my hubby and I returned home after a lovely indulgent weekend on the Sunshine coast hinterland to a house a little hysterically small and overflowing with books. My studio held 4 of those ugly but crazily useful Ikea bookcases and they were full to overflowing, so trying to shoehorn all those bookcases into a smaller area was awful. In the end we came up with some good solutions and now my studio is clean, tidy and surprisingly large given that we’ve lost 6 square metres. We removed the largest bookcase from the room and I upended another so that it sits vertically, not horizontally against the wall. We took out another small bookcase, I’ve remodelled the entry and now folks enter from the lounge room. It’s not ideal because we have to keep the house super tidy – no dirty dishes lurking in the sink! But I think this will work nicely. It feels new and fresh and all the surfaces are clean at last.

Hubby and I went shopping for a glass topped desk in a vain attempt to reduce visual bulk without success but I think I’ve solved the problem of my large desk by sliding it to the left away from the door. It’s out of the way of the students and better suited to my space now.

A nice spring clean in preparation for my last gasp to the finish line with my PhD. So, it’s after midnight here, and I have a full day of teaching tomorrow, plus proofs of my book to correct and send back. But at least I can work in my space now! No more excuses, I believe my supervisor would say, rather drily.

Love, puppies and fences. And exercise.

New fence, new puppy, new love. DH and I are truly, madly, deeply in love with our new puppy, Poppy. She is a beauty. A sweet, funny, happy little black ball of fluff who pees EVERYWHERE and is clearly not house trained, who doesn’t really like the kibble we’ve been informed she eats, and who follows us about, wanting to spend time with us. The house reeks of dog again, and I can’t wait to wash the floor. I’m waiting until the worst of the peeing is over. At present she can’t get out of the house (she can’t climb down stairs), so we have a bit more house training to do before she controls her piddling, pooing habits.

And the fence is coming along beautifully, but we’re still waiting on a gate. Argh!

In other news, I went to my first circuit session after the Christmas break yesterday and it felt fine. Actually, I felt so good that I wondered what I had done differently to give me such pep in my shoes and feelings of power. Then I realised. I had eaten breakfast. Not just my normal bacon and egg brekky, or my muesli and yoghurt one, but my muesli and yoghurt brekky with a BANANA. I had so much energy at the end of the 45 minute session I felt I could have gone on for another 20 minutes and I was pushing myself harder than normal. Usually I feel dead by the end of the circuit class, but yesterday I felt strong! This is a powerful reminder to me that I need to eat a hearty breakfast before any exercise and that bananas are not bad things to eat, m’kay?

I’ve been going to my regular PT sessions (3 catch ups in 7 days, wow!) since getting back from Christmas break, but it has been too hot to do much else – 35 degrees Celsius on many days. Running around in that heat just hurts. So we’ve been painting the fence in that heat, instead. I’ve been very naughty this year and have been drinking a couple of glasses of wine per night, but the weight loss has stayed steady. I’m hoping that my next weigh-in I’ll have lost another 500grams, but considering I’ve not really worked hard since December, I won’t be too disappointed if I’ve not lost anything more. It’s hard to maintain a 1300 calorie diet when one has family and friends to stay! I’ve eased up on the food just a bit, allowing myself the occasional chips or bread wrap every few days, and maintaining a 1500 calorie diet pretty easily. I’m still not eating many sweet things but I did have some fruit recently. It was delicious. The idea of my weight loss has been to get to a good stage physically, so I feel fit, healthy and attractive, and then to maintain the weight and strength over time. This means keeping an eye on my calorie intake and not going crazy with food by eating second helpings or lots of dessert.

I’m getting stronger and faster by the day, with more stamina. I’m still not great on the weights, but I’m lifting as much as I can, I’m not fatiguing as easily, and it’s showing in my increased speed and endurance in all my activities. My poor son, visiting from Melbourne, has been miserable in this heat, while I have learned to love it. Summer is a bitch here in QLD, but when I exercise through the heat and lose weight and feel strong, then the heat just doesn’t sap me the way it used to. Another good thing: all my clothes are swimming on me now. When I moved to QLD my weight quickly ballooned to more than 70kgs, and all the clothes I bought were for a fatter me. Now, below 65 kgs, nothing I bought in the last 5 years fits any more. And I’m not one of those people for whom fat clothes on a skinny person makes me look thin and interesting. I just look fat. Still, I’m looking forward to improving my wardrobe. And I have some dresses I can wear again that are a size 10 (size 8 US). I remember being size 8 for many years and I’m looking forward to being that again. Give me three months.

Money woes – I blame the dog.

Well, ok, we don’t have any REAL money woes. Not the sort of woes where we have to survive on $2 a day or anything. We don’t even have the OMG can we pay the mortgage this month woes. Our money woes are strictly of the I’ve-spent-too-much-money-on-the-credit-card sort, and it’s the time of year where I’m not earning an income, therefore no real way to pay it all off. I went into financial meltdown today.

So what did we spend the (imaginary) money on, I hear you ask, desultorily, because, let’s face it, no-one really cares about the financial woes of people who have the highest standard of living ON EARTH. Oh, pish. You want to know.

Well, it all started with a dog. This one. (Isn’t she the cutest little thing you ever saw!!!)

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It’s all her fault. We decided we needed to have a dog to complement and complete our family. Which meant we needed to do something about the fence situation. Which meant that we had to spend a squillion dollars on a new fence. During my fallow period where I’m not earning a sou or brass razoo. So we’re now dealing with the excitement that follows a rash, impulse purchase situation, and very little spare money with which to fund such a purchase. Factor in Christmas, 2 sets of school fees, a new sofa bed, anniversary dinner and overnight fancy shmancy hotel stay, an unexpected school uniform purchase, new glasses, ASIC and accountant fees, rates, electricity, phone and water bills, dog crate and the like, and you’ll see why I went into financial meltdown today.

Fence building in and of itself is not a very hard business. You see a fence line, you build a fence. Simple, right? Wrong. You have to CLEAR the fence line first. You then have to clear the site of the detritus you collected. So alongside paying the fence dude, you also have to pay the back hoe dude, the skip dude, and even the tree lopper dude if you have annoying, pesky trees in the way. Every dude costs money, even if the cost of the skip and back hoe dudes have been factored into the fence costs. Because one always finds ways to increase one’s requirements. Such as clearing the back yard. Or replacing some rotten battens on the side of the house. Or taking away the annoying concrete garden beds. Or removing a dozen dangerous pest trees. Or just deciding that, really, one loves a moonscape in the back yard and one must repeat same in the front. SIGH.

So here are some pictures of the house before and after fence and tree loppers have been through, and before the front fence is finished. This is the small fortune we’ve spent for our lovely, verdant yard to go from this:

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To this:

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Erp. And the back looks even more moonscaped. Money, it appears, buys destruction to living things. Even though these living things include camphor laurel and chinese elm trees, 2 of the most pernicious and annoying trees on the planet. It is said that camphor laurel is a good tree to grow and regenerate desert.

The house that Jess built

This blog covers everything from my (stalled) PhD studies to my new exercise regime to my house renovations – commonly known as house porn. This blog: house porn.

The hubby and I bought a house last year and little by little we’ve been doing lovely things to it. The inside is mostly done – at least, it’s liveable and nice looking in the main – and now we’re planning the outside. We have to rip up much of the back yard and most of the front yard, because we need to put in a new fence. For the dog.

So, after walking round the neighbourhood a lot, we’ve found our preferred front fence. It’s beautiful.

Let’s face it, the house is pretty gorgeous as well. We’ve had a preliminary price for a similar fence from a local artisan carpenter, and it’s not a bad price but he’s not seen the bit we’ve worked out will be the piece de resistance: the automatic swing gate:

When I took hubby round to have a look, it was love at first sight. And me too. So now we have to write again to the artisan carpenter and ask him to revise his quote (for the 3rd time). But this time we’ve finally decided. We’re in agreement about the swing gate, and we think this style fence will look LOVELY in front of our cruddy old house. Because I’ve not mentioned that although our house will eventually look a treat, we have yet to replace the cruddy old louvre windows and paint the exterior. So at the moment our house looks like this:

And it will have that beautiful fence in front of it! Hilarious. It will be like putting bunting on a car carcass. Anyway. It’s worth it. We have to do the back fences as well, so this stupid doggy will be the most expensive animal on the street, darn it.

House Rules

Last weekend: yesterday, in fact, DH and I decided rather unexpectedly to attack the front garden. We’ve been in the house (affectionately known as “Moneypit”) for a year now, and we’re slowly making improvements to the joint. Last week the air-conditioning went in and this week we completely overhauled the front garden. As I have students and families coming into the area, I knew we only had a day to make the garden vaguely respectable, so we began early. Father’s Day was a blast. First DH attacked the Monstera plant, discovering to his dismay that even a chain saw was pretty useless against its gorgon roots. The chainsaw broke. Mind you, it was an electric one borrowed from his dad, and it barely worked.

I began gently weeding. This whole process descended into: “let’s pull out anything we don’t like”, which left the front garden beds, sad and decrepit as they already were, looking like they’d had a severe short back and sides. We’ve yet to pull out all the Elms that keep suckering – we’re told we have to get a stump grinder to remove them and THEN apply a poison to the roots remaining as they refuse to die. And there were a few sad old bushy hedge-like shrubs that actually look rather nice when they flower but otherwise are the most hideously ugly things you can imagine. They went too.

So, with most of the ugly and old and overgrown now shorn, pulled out and otherwise emasculated, we thought idly, “wonder what the house would look like without the disgusting cyclone fencing?” And so began the next saga. Grabbing wire-cutters we cut off all the old rusting wire. This proved easy. But then we were left with the remains of the fence, framing the ugliness of the now denuded garden beds. So I grabbed a shifting spanner… and the rest is history. At least, the fence is!

Before the attackThis is a shot of the house before the fence came down. Neat enough, I suppose, but we had let it descend into something rather less gorgeous by the end of the year. Note the large Monstera Deliciosa blocking off the lovely appearance of the battens beneath the left gable.

 

This is the house after the fence has been removed. The only thing left standing is the funny old letterbox, which we’re keeping for the time being, because we’ll probably incorporate a letter box into the new and improved fence when it goes up. We WERE thinking of a high 1.5m wooden fence as we will be getting a dog and we live on a busy street, but the house looks so pretty, grand and lovely with all its character on show that I think we’ll get a lower version of the same fence design and grow a low hedge above it.

Naturally, we then had to go to a large hardware warehouse and buy an angle grinder. Yep. We have the tools. The only things missing now are a decent circular saw and a jigsaw and a…the list goes on, excitingly. And we bought some weed matting and pine bark mulch for under the stairs and that front area under the left gable, because nothing grows there and the cat poos there. It looks neat and attractive now. We’re still to finish the the sides of the block, but I’m much happier now the front looks respectable. Lovely, even. We worked ALL day, from about 7.30am on Father’s Day, until about 6.00pm, and today I have aches and pains I never knew existed. But the front looks great.

There is, of course, the matter of a carport. Painting the house. Changing the louvre windows for solid laminated windows. Restoring the front verandah. More to come.