Monday, January 31, 2011

Paving the Way

You might remember back in this post I promised to show you what we did with the pavers that we lifted to make way for the vegie patch (below). We knew that we wanted to reuse the pavers from the patch project before pulling them up, so we cleaned the sand and grit off the edges and stacked them neatly in a corner out of the way as we went.
Our little vegie patch starting out
When the "alfresco area" on the other side of the house was upgraded by the Parentals (yippee!), the patio was extended beyond its original dimensions to cover an area of garden bed that had previously been exposed. One hedge that was well established survived this new environment, but everything else slowly died (despite my best attempts), leaving the garden rather sad looking.

So we decided that it would be a good idea to fill in the garden bed with our extra pavers (which just happened to be the same) and gain ourselves a little extra alfresco area! Personally I would not have planned to do this the week of Christmas, but PK thought it was ideal. And as usual, we went in without much of a plan other than just getting 'er done...

Beginning the paving process
You can see the stretch of garden bed we planned to pave over in the above photo, from the downpipe in the foreground to the one in the background. First we pulled up the edging pavers so that we could extend the herringbone pattern and make it look seamless. Then we did a little bit of digging- in the foreground you can see our reticulation connected to the tap there. There was a sprinkler in the middle of the dirt patch which we had to plug so we had to dig down to get at it. We also had to patch up the poly piping because PK was a little too energetic in digging up the hedge that was there- oops!
Getting out the power tools!
Once the digging and patching was done, PK attempted to level the dirt using a hammer and a bit of scrap wood. That was, until I suggested he pop down to the local rental place and pick up a compactor! The little beast made light work of such a small area and saved PK a lot of time so it was definitely worth the hire charge! I had an appointment I had to keep, so regrettably left PK at it while I went out for about an hour and when I returned, look how well he had done!
Nearly done!
PK was happy to whip out his angle grinder and cut up some left over bricks to fill in the last little gaps and before long you couldn't even tell there had ever been a garden there. All that's left now is to remove the down pipe that comes off the patio and connect the patio's gutter to the house, so that the new brickwork won't be flooded by the next downpour. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Cyclone By Any Other Name...

Than Bianca would probably have been much worse! The name Bianca is apparently of Italian origin and means white or pure. Not fierce. Not scary. Definitely not strong!
Image from BOM
PK and I were looking forward to a little bit of drama this evening, with the expectation that Cyclone Bianca was to hit the city as a category 1 with heavy rains and strong winds (up to 125kph). It might sound a little morbid to wish for something so destructive as a cyclone, but it is a very rare occurence for the people of Perth!

Instead, we have just had a very hot, sticky day without the resolution we expected. The Bureau of Meterology has removed the cyclone warning for Perth, so now we are just hoping that the ex-cyclone will bring us some much-needed rain. Pretty please?

Meanwhile, we are watching the development of tropical cyclone Anthony, due to hit Queensland tonight, with trepidation. Another disaster is definitely not what that state needs! With that last thought, have you had any odd weather in your corner of the world this weekend?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aussie Aussie Aussie!!

Image found here
Hooroo! If you didn't already know, today is Australia's national day of jubilation.

To me, Australia Day isn't about where you come from or how long you've been here- I myself, as the daughter of a Swiss father and a Kiwi mother am only first generation 'Aussie'.

Australia Day to me is about celebrating this wonderful country, the land and its many peoples. The open skies, the wonderfully different landscape from one side of the continent to the other and the fresh air, which some say you can smell the eucalyptus on as you walk off the plane. And of course, we do have (some of) the best beaches in the world!

Its about honouring the way that we pull together in times of adversity, from international battles such as Gallipoli and Afghanistan, to the recent tragedies of Black Saturday and the Queensland floods.

So today, even if you're not from the land downunder, feel free to revel in all that is Australian on this fine day! I myself will be at work, listening to Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2010 and then heading to the Swan River foreshore to join friends as we watch the fireworks. How will you be celebrating this magnificent day?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hanging With Ma Homies

While reading the backlog of blog posts in my reader,  I started to see a common theme...

The Homies are on again! Not familiar? The Homies are a "shelter" blog award program run by Apartment Therapy that each year recognises up and comers in the world of home design.  Previous winners are ineligible to be nominated again and there are five categories- enough room for everyone!

Its always interesting to see the nominees- some will be your favourites and some will be new discoveries! Why not drop by and find something new?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nighttime... Daytime!!

We've got a couple of friends from Queensland visiting at the moment -although they were some of the lucky ones that didn't have water in their house, they have told us some heart wrenching stories of the floods in their hometown of Ipswich.
When they weren't breaking our hearts with the flood stories, they were making us laugh hysterically- and this was one of the reasons.

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program

I was sent down to Bunbury to work last week and while I was there I was without internet access for the whole week! *Wop wop wop*

So I'm using my 'weekend' to catch up on the mountains of emails and blog posts in my reader. While I was at it, I finally finished drooling my way through the latest issue of Lonny magazine. Although it's a US web-publication and the products are therefore generally not available here, there are so many inspiring images! While I wrangle the inbox, why not enjoy some eye candy?

This advertisement for lighting company Hinkley made me wish the Muriel's ceilings were high enough for a chandelier...
as well as wishing for a floaty dress like that! 
Look at all that colour coordinated storage! 
Every woman's dream walk in wardrobe!
 Although there was much eye candy to be found, I found some pictures a little too... styled.
"A Buddha head on a stack of books is an easy way to create a cool vibe" 
I'm sorry, but I don't understand using artefacts or decorations unless they mean something to you- like if you were Buddhist or had been inspired by a recent happy holiday to some exotic destination in Asia... but to use something just to "create a cool vibe"? Not my thing!

Why not drop in on Lonny and let me know what your favourite bits are? Or maybe you are reading something different that inspires you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How Not to Keep a Tidy House

or "How to Use Your House For Stress Relief"

Yesterday I shared the annoying half walls that cut up our little house into smaller pieces. Today I'm happy to share that the demolition has begun!

One lazy Friday afternoon PK informed me that a couple of friends were going to come over on Sunday and help us knock down the larger half wall. Just like that! I couldn't believe my ears! After all my suggestions, in the space of a few days it was gone! As usual for our technique, we didn't really plan our approach, just jumped in and did it!
Mate #1 & #2 celebrating the removal of the timber cap piece 
PK & Mate #1 getting some angle grinder action 
Some brute force was required
Notice the lack of protective footwear or clothing- do NOT try that at home!
Leaving us with a glorious pile of rubble!
It may not be immediately obvious how much the removal has already opened up the space, but when we've finished plastering, spackling, priming and painting the exposed brick area, I'll share some pretty 'after' shots.

For now, we're enjoying being able to watch tv from the dining table :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

One of the things that I have wanted to do since moving in here at Muriel, was to remove the two 'half-walls' that you can see in these photos from 2009. One here:
Facing into the house from the front door
And the other here:
Facing the long wall to the right of the entrance
One of the things that annoyed me most about these master strokes of architecture is that they didn't seem to have any real function! I think maybe they were there to separate the "lounge" area from the rest of the 'great room' as I like to call it these days (ie the dining area and the kitchen) and from the entrance.

Unfortunately, in such a small space, all these walls did was make it seem smaller and limit the configuration that we could have our furniture in. It also increased the wear and tear on the cream carpet between the two walls- being 3.1m apart, the gap might seem wide, but once you add some chairs or a couch it becomes quite a tight fit!

I could visualise how much more open and lighter the room would feel without these obstacles, but I needed to convince PK of this and I wasn't having much luck!

To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011


the real star of the show, the ruler of the roost, the big cheese, or even The Fat Cat (except he's so not fat):

Our 'fur-baby', Oreo. That picture cracks me up every time!!

Actually, I'm surprised he hasn't made an appearance up until now! Anywhere he isn't supposed to go, he's there. Anything he probably shouldn't eat at least gets a sniff. And anyone new gets a playful fighting. But we wouldn't have half as much fun around here if he wasn't around!

PK made this little video of Oreo getting some stalk and attack training :) (warning don't have your volume turned up too high- its not called 'Death Metal Kitty' for nothing!). Bonus: you get a complimentary little tour of a few parts of Muriel!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Leaf Me Out Of It

Image via Wikipedia
Yeah, I totally just made a leaf pun. First month into the blogging biz and I'm already breaking out the puns. Bam! Anyway, back onto topic: leaves! I've shown you how we turned a couple of wood pallets into a sweet raised garden bed and then how we are watering the patch using the free water from the sky. This was working really well...until things started to get stinky!

You see, along with the rain, leaves and other bits of nature and sediment were making their way into our rainwater tank. And festering at the bottom. Gar-ross!! Although this wasn't a particulary terrible thing for the vegies- they loved the extra nitrogen hit from the rotting run off (ew!) and of course we wash everything before eating it- and we weren't going to be using the water for drinking, we still didn't like the idea of stinky water.
No drinking water, prohibition sign D-P005 acc...
Image via Wikipedia
So we disconnected the tank, gave it a good wash out and started over, with the help of a Leaf-Eater. This simple little invention gives you all the water you could get from your downpipe, but omits all the gross stuff as well as keeping out mosquitoes- bonus! We were really lucky that we picked the little beauty up for free from my parents, who had an extra left over from when they had their (very large) rainwater tank professionally installed early last year. If you're not similarly blessed with parental hoarders, you could get the system from hardware and plumbing stores.
Eating up the leaves: nom nom nom!
Have you had any fab freebies solve a problem recently?

P.S. FromMuriel received no payment for mentioning this product. It just works for us!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Fantastic

ShopperImage via WikipediaI totally shopped til I dropped today. I think I need a lie-down!

Don't you just love the post-Christmas sales?

PS I recognise that it might seem insensitive to be shopping while 53 people are still missing and some towns have begun the clean-up after the Queensland floods, but everyone needs a little relief after so much sadness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pimp My Vegies!

At the same time as we were making the new pallet garden, PK and I realised that we would need a way to water the plants. The area we've put in the new garden is around the side of the house, where instead of a back garden with a tap and reticulation, we have corrugated-iron fencing and lots and lots of this:
So, miraculously, PK "came up" with the idea of a rain-water tank! I've put quotation marks around the 'came up' just now because actually, the rain-water tank was my idea. PK didn't believe me about that until I pointed it out on the reno list- written in the first year we moved in! Ah well, the main point is that it got done right?
Rain water tank with gravity-feed watering system
We picked up a 110L(Edit: actually 210L!!) tank from our favourite store, Bunnings, as well as a few other things like tubing and drippers to set up our own little self sustaining patch. We placed the tank higher than the patch so that we could gravity-feed the water through the piping and we put a valve into the line so that the water would only drain when we wanted it to. The shelf that the tank is sitting on is made of pallet leftovers and the tank is connected to the down pipe via the over-flow system that came with the tank.

It was relatively simple to set up, though being a man, PK tends to over-engineer things a little, so the shelf is pretty much cyclone proof! PK especially liked cranking out the angle grinder to adapt the down pipe for our new tank- it was his first use!

To connect the dripper-pipe to the tank, we could have used the tap that is provided with the tank, but we thought it would be good to be able to use the tap separately for filling buckets or the watering can. So PK drilled an extra hole in the side of the tank and with some male/female bits of pipe, connected the poly tubing to that. Then all we had to do was wait for rain!
A full tank!!
The system works really well, except when PK does something silly like leave the valve turned on and then go out for the day, leaving it draining the tank ALL DAY! This happened on Christmas day, after he had been showing our little patch off to the family and we came home to find the tank empty. The plants loved it though!
Drippers in action!
P.S. FromMuriel received no payment for mentioning this product. It just works for us!

Rain Rain Go Away!

Photo by by Jack Tran, used on the front page of the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), the Herald Sun (Melbourne) and the Advertiser (Adelaide)
I was going to post some more about our DIY vegie patch yesterday, but then I got distracted by a crap-load of water! If you're not aware already, Queensland has recieved a massive amount of rain over the last month and some towns had already suffered some flooding at the end of last year. This week it has become even worse, with the capital Brisbane experiencing flooding due to the Brisbane river breaking its banks. As of 746am (EST) yesterday, the Courier Mail was reporting
  • 40,000 people will be affected by flooding by Thursday
  • 19,700 properties expected to be entirely flooded 
  • 3500 commercial properties face complete flooding 
  • 2300 other properties such as parks and vacant land expected to be affected 
  • 2100 streets will be affected 
At this stage, the death toll is at 10, with five of those being children. There are also 67 people still missing. All of the news programs are running continuous updates, with the rivers still rising and people playing the waiting game to see if their homes and businesses will be going under.  Even once the flood waters subside, the cleanup will take a long time.

You can donate to the relief fund through the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
Through the Salvation Army

Flood Emergency Information
Disaster Recovery Hotline:    1800 173 349
State Emergency Service:    132 500 

In other news here in WA, a huge fire started on Monday in the town of Lake Clifton (100km south of Perth), which may have been deliberately lit! It's under control now, fortunately, but at the height of the fire- which destroyed 10 houses, livetock and more than 1600 hectares- it was difficult to see Queensland suffering from an excess of water while we suffered from the absence of it.

Now all of our thoughts (and prayers if thats what you're into) are with the people of Queensland.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Working On My Green Thumb

Did you ever have to do a project at school were you had to 'design' an eco-friendly house? I did! And it seems the things that I learnt in that long-ago lesson have stuck, because I have several things on the 'list of improvements' that are eco-related.
Green Thumb Sunday 07/01/07Image by BenSpark via Flickr
One of these things was the creation of a vegie patch so that we could reduce our reliance on store-bought produce. Unfortunately, the way things work around here is that I suggest an idea, PK vetoes it, then he sees someone else doing it/hears them rave about it and then he presents the idea back to me as his own. Grr! The vegie patch idea was approved after PK saw his brother attempting a similar thing.

I had suggested earlier in 2010 that we purchase a raised bed to grow some vegetables in, but after PK saw his bro's DIY pallet-bed, he decided we could achieve the same thing. So one weekend, we turned a couple of these:
Евро поддонImage via Wikipedia
into this:
Vegie Patch November 2010
It wasn't without a lot of back-breaking, blister-inducing work, but it was so worth it! We planted three types of 'perpetual' lettuces, 'perpetual' spinach, bok choi, capsicums (aka peppers elsewhere), carrots, sage and thai basil and I transplanted a chilli plant that I had in a planter-box. The little sticks at the back were holding up snow pea plants, but they didn't survive the summer heat.

In the interest of full disclosure, we also had to replace the lettuces and half of the bok choy plants didn't make it either. We made the mistake of thinking we could get it all done in one weekend, so had the seedlings sitting out in the summer sun for too long. And some of them wilted beyond saving :( But the rest of them! Phwoar! Look at them go!
Vegie Patch December 2010
I don't have any step-by-step pictures of how we did it because we pretty much just made it up as we went along; pulling up about a square metre of brick pavers (which we've used in a later project) and then assembling the bed from the pallets. You could find a how to by searching youtube- there are plenty of ideas there! This one is somewhat similar but on a smaller scale.
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's All White Babe!

I'm bristling with ideas for new posts to come but right now I'm hiding inside while PK wields an angle grinder on the roof!! I'll post the results of that later... but while I cower from the sparks, here's a conversation you might have heard here recently if you were a fly on the wall:

PK: "Hey babe, what colour are we going to paint this room?"
Me: "Well, I don't know, I figure we'll wait until the new kitchen goes in [I'll share that later too!!] and see what looks good. Why, what colour were you thinking?"
PK: "I was thinking white would be good."
Me: "Ok, maybe, but what kind of white? There are so many different whites!"
PK: "Nah! Just white! White is white!"
Me: "... ahm no it's not." And then I showed him:

Wall of 'whites' with natural light, front door closed

Wall of 'whites' with natural light, front door open
PK: "Oh."
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Oh! You Pretty Things

Pretty Pink & Green Love Heart free Creative C...Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

I'm back with some pretty pictures! Well, sort of- I've been catching up on my favourite homie blogs and web-mags while thinking about what to post next, so I thought I'd share some with you! 

The blogs (and the list in my reader continues to grow!) are where I go when I get bored of the blankness here at Chez Muriel and I'm looking for inspiration. In fact, I discovered the first site after searching how to DIY a fabric headboard (something I still haven't done) while bored one day and from there the list has expanded! Here are my top five right now:
  • Apartment Therapy - full of helpful how tos, recipes, decoration dilemmas but best of all, HOUSE TOURS! I can't help but look through nearly every new one that pops up to satisfy my stalker tendencies. Kidding, but really I love the insight into other people's lives that these provide and even though the site is based in the US, occasionally an Australian home is featured.
  • My favourite homie blog has to be the very next one I stumbled upon, Young House LoveI'm not sure exactly what keeps me coming back, but I read and re-read every post like it will disappear. John & Sherry -the blog's authors- have such engaging writing styles that no matter the topic, I'm interested. They've recently moved house AND welcomed their first child, so now we get to follow them from the beginning of their home improvement (and baby loving) journey! Also, as they write from their home in Virginia, USA, they are a day behind time-wise, which means BONUS posts on my Saturdays!
  • I always enjoy checking on Anna at Door Sixteen. She has such a strong and inspirational blog voice (is there such a thing?) that even when her taste differs from mine, I'm encouraged to think from another perspective. Plus, she seems pretty experienced at this blog thing so I'll definitely be looking to her posts for help about how to everything!
  • Nicole at Making it Lovely has also recently had her first child and is soon to welcome a second, but in between those two big jobs she also manages to make over her house, make over imaginary rooms and run a web-shop! Also, she is obsessed with pink, which I have not seen done so well as in her house. I think I came to this blog after seeing her living room featured in a magazine and the painting above her sofa (by Emily St.Clair) caught my eye, which then led me to look around her house and then her blog more. And more. And more! 
  • And lastly (but definitely not the least!) I always have a laugh when I read the posts by Katie at Bower Power (formerly All Bower Power). She enjoys toilet humour, LOVES bacon, has a gorgeous baby boy and a pretty good looking hubby too! :P Her posts range from home-improvement to photography skills to sharing the video she showed her 'boyfriend' to tell him that they were expecting- and his reaction!
So there you have a list of the five places I always hit first when wanting some eye candy. Then when I have finished feasting my eyes there, I take a stroll over to any of the other 20 or so blogs in my reader and then sometimes even follow their links to other sites and blogs. I can easily blow a whole day just reading (and drooling!!), which is a fabulous way to spend a Sunday (or a Friday or a Wednesday- I have random days off!). I'm always on the lookout for more though and would especially like to read more Aussie homie blogs, so link me up!
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great Scott!

I thought I might share some photos of what we got ourselves into a few years back. Nothing too horrible, everything was in working order and very liveable but also very blank, as most rentals tend to be! I took the following photos after our housemate moved out in 2009 (so please excuse the mess!). We had been living in the house since 2007 and were yet to make the decision to buy it together but I was already thinking about what we could do with the place!
View from the front door

The 'living area' (to the left of the entrance)

The kitchen

The study (aka third bedroom)

The laundry

          The second (now spare) bedroom

The master bedroom
Unfortunately, I neglected to take a couple of before pictures: the dining area, located between the living area and the kitchen and the bathroom, located between the master bedroom and laundry. However, these spaces have changed so little in the interim its not a big deal.

At this stage the Parentals had very kindly:
  • Installed a split system air-conditioner (seen in the living area)
  • Installed ceiling fans in bedrooms 1 and 2
  • Removed the existing patio and enlarged the 'alfresco' area with a new pergola
  • Changed out the ugly, broken verticals for aluminium venetians
We hung a few pictures on the walls in an effort to liven the place up, but we've now had those same pictures up for 3 years! So as you can see, not terrible really, just a very blank canvas with little soul or pizazz. I look forward to sharing the (hopefully many and amazing) afters with you down the track. 

Now that you've seen the 'befores', its time for a little breather, while I find some less depressing images to post!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You're Terrible Muriel

It's not really that terrible here, but PK and I amuse ourselves with this reference! Hope that it brightens your Wednesday!

One Small Step

Hello brave new world! 
I have been toying with the idea of a blog for a while now, a place to blurt out all the things that run around inside my head. For the most part, this is likely to hold images and verse centred on home improvement, as they are the type of blogs I have been most interested in reading in my own time and a lot of my time is spent thinking about how to improve my current abode. I might even fit in some 'family', some food and some fun posts too!

Let me introduce "Muriel". The house was built in 1998 and appears to have been a rental for many years until my partner (let's call him Mr Muriel for now) and I bought it in 2009. Previous to that, we had been living here as renters so we had some knowledge of what needed to be improved straight away and what could wait. 
We were fortunate enough to purchase the house from Mr Muriel's parents and so some improvements were made when we were still renting. I may cover those in a later post.

For the most part, we are slow and uncertain renovators. Our tastes are somewhat similar thankfully, but unfortunately they tend to run to the 'champagne on a beer budget' scale, so we sit back, save and wait until things NEED to be done. The list of things still to come is relatively short, but right now it feels pretty insurmountable! So please stay tuned while I figure out this blogging thing and how I want it to grow and hopefully we'll have some fun together along the way!

EDIT: "Mr Muriel" has since read the first few posts and indicated he doesn't want to be called that, so you'll see him referred to as "PK" instead :)


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