Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Cutting Room Floor

We went through a lot of options together before finally settling for the porcelain tile that is now installed- many options were entertained for a few days or even weeks before ending up being cut. PK isn't a real fan of floorboards (I'm still not sure why, I quite like them!) so instead we looked at:
Bamboozle "Bamwood" in Honey
Bamboo- Environmentally sustainable (Green points!) and looked really nice in the pictures but in person, we couldn't find a colour that we liked and it's pretty pricey! Plus, it looked too much like floorboards for PK's liking. :(
Pandomo by Flooring Future
Pandomo- a sort of polished concrete flooring that is laid over the top of existing slab concrete and can be coloured and patterned in any way you want (also eco-friendly). We were pretty excited about this option for a while, but then PK had a chat with one of the few guys that does the install here in Perth (its not a widely used option for residential floors) and the cons started to outweigh the pros. For example, we wouldn't be able to walk on our floors while they were curing for about 3 days!! Not a great option when you are living in the house and need to get from one end to the other! :(
Polished concrete by Sexy Concrete Coating (aka AAA Sexy Floors)
Polished Concrete- we liked the option of getting rid of the previous tiles and just grinding down the concrete slab (again, eco-friendly). It also seemed like a cheaper option that would give us a light, neutral look. However, on one of our many trips to showrooms to find an installer that didn't want to put down the aggregate version (like this) which we didn't like, one honest salesman said he wouldn't suggest it for us. As it is a reno and not a new build, the slab would likely be too thin to grind down to an even surface and it would be irregular in its appearance (even if they could get it level)- because it wasn't laid to be looked at originally! (Maybe if we build the next house, this will be an option and then we'd install underfloor heating too!) :(
Travertine tiles by EcoStone
Travertine- on one of our many trips to Home Base Expo, PK and I walked into one of the display areas (actually where they have a cafe) while looking at flooring (and other things) and stopped dead in our tracks- this was it! It was beautiful and textured in appearance but smooth to the touch. Not too glossy and no nasty grout lines to collect dirt. And it looked natural. And expensive! But we loved it, so we investigated and found a label that said it was travertine. We were intrigued! Somewhere between limestone and marble in hardness, it is a natural product (Green points!) and we liked the varied appearance of it and the large scale of the tiles (610x610). We were in love with (honed and filled) travertine so much we were ignoring a big CON in the pro/cons list: maintenance. PK and I even went so far as to line up a tiler ready to install- all we had to do was purchase the travertine tiles. And then we met the tiles that would trump the travertine:
You didn't think I'd spoil the suspense just like that did you? Stay tuned for my final reveal tomorrow! ;)
In the meantime- do any of those options jump out at you? Have you been so crazy as to fall in love with something even though its a little out of the budget and then do whatever you can to make it happen?

PK has two edits: 
1) That image from Sexy Floors Coating is not actually polished concrete- but it is what we were looking for from polished concrete
2) Being natural doesn't necessarily mean that travertine is 'green' as it is a finite resource- however it is a green option in that it's not made from fossil fuels and would eventually bio-degrade, unlike some options

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WOW: Dawn

Sunrise @ South Coogee by -yury-
Sunrise @ South Coogee, a photo by -yury- on Flickr.
Here in WA we get a lot of spectacular sunsets, but our sunrises aren't generally anything to write home about.

I've been on some random shifts at work recently so I've seen a little of both sunrises and sunsets (while in the car to/from the 'office')- and I tell you, the sunrises haven't looked anything like this!

That first peek of sunlight always seems to be such a peaceful and welcoming time of day. Let's all take a moment to stop, breathe and relax- I definitely need it this week!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Leafy Greens

With all the chatter lately about the renovation of the kitchen and its associated areas (aka the 'great room'), you might be under the impression that PK and I had completely forgotten all about our little raised garden and the bounty of home grown food to be found therein...
Fresh! Fruits and vegetables in León HDRImage by marcp_dmoz via Flickr
If you had thought that- well, you'd be pretty much on the mark! Unfortunately, with the past few months without any rain and more than 50 consecutive days over 30°C, the vegie patch has definitely suffered! I'm definitely no expert, but both PK and I have the basic knowledge that plants need water to grow, which unfortunately means another task to add to the daily list without the free stuff from the sky. We've been trying really hard to remember to water frequently, but bit by bit the plants have withered or just gone completely feral. :( The first to jump ship were the lettuces- with all the heat, they bolted to seed and started to resemble seaweed, a little like this: (If only I'd read this before ripping them up!)
From PatnSteph
The carrots didn't really ever take off- probably something to do with the way I planted the seedlings originally. They were the last into the ground and by that stage in the process I was quite exhausted and pretty much just plopped them unceremoniously into the dirt as they were in the container. That probably wouldn't have been a problem- if at some stage we had thinned them out a little! Ooops! The tiny baby carrots were still pretty tasty!
Baby Baby CarrotImage by essgee51 via Flickr
The perpetual spinach has been a consistent performer- I think maybe I got the planting just right for that one! Then there is the bok choi- I think it prefers this much warmer environment! We haven't been able to use it fast enough (and currently without a kitchen we can't use it at all at the moment!). Here it is going a little nuts, with some leaves as big as dinner plates:
Mmm leafy! The capsicum plants have by far been the worst hit though. They have been sucked dry by little blighters that I think are aphids. Whatever they are, the infestation was so bad not even spraying with White Oil was good enough to get rid of them. So then I decided that a little bit of airing might do the trick and pulled up a couple of the worst performers. (You are the weakest link- goodbye!) One of the plants had some form of fungi growing at it's base- no wonder that one didn't grow anything! The last remaining plants are still struggling through but I think we totally failed at capsicums this year!
Hidden just behind the capsicums is the real star of the show- the chilli plant! After its first flush of produce (which I was worried was taking too long to turn red), it has been bringing the heat consistently- here is a batch I took to a chilli-loving friend's house as a small house 'warming' gift:
So there have been some triumphs and quite a few failures this first summer in the vegie patch. I'm starting to think now about what we can plant next- and what we should do with the produce that is still coming. Do we need to do the whole crop rotation thing? When should we start planting? And what should we plant? If you have any ideas, let me know! Until then, I think I'll leave you with a last shot of the leafy green goodness of the bok choi!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cuteness Overload

This post has absolutely nothing to do with renovations.
Or demolitions.
Or even Muriel's new floors.
It is about kittens. Yes, kittens. Just thought I'd warn you before I launch into the some cutesy pictures because not everyone is a cat person (which I can understand- what with all the biting and the scratching and the enviable flexibility) and not everyone likes pictures of kittens (which I totally can't understand).
I was driving home from work last week and on the radio there was "Science Blogger of the Year" Rebecca Crew sharing the news about the new IVF conceived, Black Footed kittens that were recently revealed to the public by the John Ball Zoo. Loving kitties and in need of some stress relief, I looked them up. Now (I think) kittens are cute at the best of times, but these little guys are soooooo tiny, their cuteness is off the chart!
From Our Amazing Planet
All together: nawwwwwwwwww! Apparently they are quite ferocious but I don't think that a face like that could ever be dangerous, right? Anyway, I just thought I'd pass on those few pics to help us all get through the Mondayitis this week :) Oh, and just for comparison, here's a pic of our own ferocious cat!
Enjoy the tiles there Oreo- they're long gone!
Stay tuned for gratuitous photos of the new flooring to come!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Buh-bye Concrete!

Not terrible iPhone pic
Guess what went in this week?! 

While I have been a little quiet here on the blog this week (what? I only managed ONE POST??!!), things have still been a changin' here at Muriel!! 

This week our floors have been transformed bit by bit, from a rubble strewn patch of concrete to a thing of true beauty. Once I get the battery charged on PK's DSLR camera I'll (hopefully) be able to take some great photos (so you aren't tortured any more than necessary by iPhone pics) to show you the craftsmanship that has created this latest alteration! But until then, I'd like to know what your preference is for flooring? Do you think all joined areas should be the same or do you like a little variety? Do you prefer tile? Carpet? Floorboards? Stone? Ceramic tile? Vinyl? Cork? There are so many options -and believe me, we looked at them all!! 

So tell me, what's your flavour? (Tell me what's your flava!... Go here if you're not singing it in your head like I am just now!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some Things Change

Although it feels to me like the way the 'great room' is at the moment is how it has been for, like, ever, I realise that that is not the reality. And I really think that I need a little compare and contrast action to remind us of how far we have come! So in the form of photographs, lets look back at how things have progressed. You'll remember that just a month ago, the kitchen looked like this:
 And the rest of the 'great room' looked a little like this:
And then just three weeks ago, after some demolition action, the scene was a little more... empty:
I have not yet managed to post pictures of what it's been looking like through the install process, so I thought I'd catch you up:
Appliances were delivered
Much sanding and plastering and sanding some more
We had to cover the walls that were exposed by tearing out the corner pantry, patch the hole in ceiling from that removal and also the one left by removing the exhaust fan. We also had to move the gas and water pipes a little to the right on both walls for the new design.
PK decided to brand our walls for future renovators
 And then the cabinets were delivered in their boxes, ready for installation the next day:
Bright and early on the Friday, the installer arrived and started piecing it all together:
The first couple of base cupboards!
The first corner carousel and to the left is the sink cabinet
1.2m drawer cabinet!
The pile got smaller and smaller...
Pantry cupboard is in!
New above-bench cabinets!
The last step in the install (part one) was attaching the doors to all of the cabinets. The installer was not finished at this stage however, because the last cabinet in the corner (where the microwave and kettle will hide away) can only be installed once the kitchen counter is in. And he will be putting in the kickboards once the flooring is in. So in the meantime:
Let there be light!
 We had our electrician come and install our under-cabinet lighting and oven! That is pretty much where we are at the moment. The tiling is going in tomorrow, with the benchtop to arrive soon and more install to follow after that! So close and yet so far- but very different to our before:
Thoughts? Comments? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wallowing: Complete

You may have noticed I took a brief hiatus after my wallowing in self pity the other day. I just wanted to thank you all for your kind comments and your patience while I get some perspective- and some sleep! I'm feeling a lot better now, although the mess/dust/unfinished state of things has not changed (and the situation for Japan has also worsened).

My feeling happier also has a lot to do with the escapades of this guy:
I have been surprised how well he has coped with all of the noise, disruption and new scary people in and out of the house every day. If Oreo can cope with situations outside of his control like that, then I should definitely be able to deal right?

I'll be as my usual chipper self come Monday, until then, have a great weekend!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sad Day

Sad Day by risquillo
Sad Day a photo by risquillo on Flickr.
I'm feeling a little under the weather today and I just wish that the actual weather outside reflected that- it is in fact a bright sunshiny day with a top temp of 34°C! It might be because I've been on night shift at work again (which is always draining) and I'm therefore incredibly sleep deprived but without access to my favourite pick me up- coffee- because it's packed away in a box somewhere. Everything is in a box somewhere- just getting breakfast involves about three trips between the garage where the fridge is being stored and the spare room where the majority of boxes are and the study where our one chair is available.

It might be because there is dust EVERYWHERE and no matter what I do, it just keeps building. I've been trying to restrain my natural inclination to clean because I know it is futile while we still have no floor covering or skirting boards, no benchtop in the kitchen (it is being measured tomorrow) and all of our large furniture items are being stored in the garage.

It could also be because I haven't really stopped since before the long weekend and the constant adrenaline high is finally catching up with me.

Either way, today I'm a little down and I'm just looking forward to having all my things where I expect them to be and being able to get rid of this infernal dust!

Hope you're having a better Monday! Fingers crossed this mood has passed by Wednesday- I really need some inspiration this week!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Applying Ourselves

Ready for more kitchen talk? I bet you are! While the new kitchen is being installed, I thought I'd entertain myself (and you as well hopefully) talking about our appliances! PK and I knew we wanted a dishwasher and a rangehood, but during the design process, we realised that we would need a few other items. We also thought that we didn't want to just dump our old kitchen, so we put the whole thing on Gumtree to see if anyone was interested- and they were! So the old kitchen (now removed!), is finding a new home in someone else's home! That means a whole new fit-out...
Our kitchen sink was a large double with a wide draining area. While this sort of sink is fantastic for large families and/or large kitchens, it had always been a little excessive for our needs. With the new dishwasher going in, we were sure it would be even less needed! So PK and I started looking at undermount sinks and found that we both favoured the more rectangular/squarish style. After much umming and ahhing, we decided that we wanted a deep, single bowl undermount sink- what a mouthful! The lady at the display centre tried to talk us out of a single, saying that we would regret not being able to separate things into different sinks, but I guess we'll find out! We think it will work really well for washing pots and pans and all of the other large items that don't fit in a dishwasher and when it's not in use, we can fill it with ice and use it as a sort of ice bucket! Here is the one we've chosen:
Olivieri Sonetto 1050U
It may not look like much from the picture, but at 535mm long,  405mm wide and 230mm deep, this baby will hold many a cold beverage (as well as fit my cookie trays, pots and pans)! I can't wait to post pretty, shiny installed pics!
Asko 5131SS
While we're talking washing tools, I should definitely cover our choice of dishwasher! We asked many people for their experiences as this was our first dishwasher purchase and we didn't really know what was good -apart from not having to wash by hand anymore! We also used Choice's reviews (and PK's cousin who happens to work for a large appliance store) to help us decide finally on an Asko stainless steel built-in model. We were so excited about this purchase that PK's pride and joy has actually been in use without being properly installed for more than a couple of months now! We simply attached the water inlet to the reticulation point outside the kitchen and set up a drain system with a large bucket. It runs like a dream! :) We can't wait until our dishwasher is properly installed in the new kitchen though- it will definitely be more functional putting dishes in directly to the machine rather than stacking them just before a wash!
We'll be sticking with our current fridge, just maybe a little cleaner! While a shiny new stainless steel model might be in the long term plans, it's just not in the budget at the moment and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current model. It is the perfect size for the two of us- plus if you were looking really hard at the preliminary design in this post, you may have noticed that at the front left of the breakfast bar, we are installing a bar fridge! Yep, PK got his way with using the dead space created by the dishwasher- once I had suggested it, he wasn't going to give that up! Here is the one he chose (I encouraged him to select his perfect one so I knew he would be happy with it):
The Beer Fridge
As a beer drinker, PK is super excited that each shelf holds up to 42 stubbies! Plus, it has ventilation at the front, which is perfect for where it is being installed. The locking feature means that we can keep little hands off things they aren't allowed if need be AND the door can be switched to open from the left or the right, depending on what works best once it is installed. PK thought of everything! Of course, if we are going to have a bar fridge for entertaining, we will need some food for our future guests. And what better for creating edibles than a new oven and cooktop?
De Longhi Multi Function Electric Oven
As we are dropping the position of our new oven from a wall oven to being under-bench height, I wanted to try and make sure that it wasn't going to be hot to touch. PK has two nieces and a nephew and I wouldn't want them burning themselves through curiosity! This model has a cooling feature which keeps the door cool to the touch. The controls being knobs instead of buttons means that I don't have to be a genius to use it (bonus!) and the anti-fingerprint stainless steel finish means I (hopefully) won't develop OCD trying to get rid of marks!
De Longhi Gas Cooktop
You'll remember my whining about near burns from trying to reach the control knobs on the old cooktop? I made sure that the new device was easy to control (from the front!) and we chose stainless steel for ease of cleaning. With the trivets, there was a choice of the cast iron that we decided on or enamelled steel. I liked the cast iron better- because although they are very heavy, they won't bend as easily and therefore will be more stable and level for longer. Also, I think they look better! :) A really good feature of the cooktop we chose (and that is available with a lot of new models) is the flame- failure safety cut off. That means that if the flame goes out (because, say a puff of wind comes through an adjacent window), the gas cuts out, so you don't have gas filling up your room without knowing about it! Smart huh?
Schweigen (silent) rangehood
And then finally, there is my long awaited rangehood! We love the proportions of this model, with its sleek lines without any sharp corners that PK might have cut his head open on- being a tall lad, he was a little worried about height issues! The filter inserts can be taken out and put through the dishwasher if they need to be cleaned (easy!) and the 'silent' part is because it is vented externally, with the motor at the top of the flue instead of inside. We didn't want to spend so much money on making the 'great room' great for entertaining, only to have conversation drowned out by the drone of an exhaust fan!

I'm so excited about all of the brand new shiny things- it's like Christmas around here at Muriel at the moment! There is still a long way to go, but with the old out and the new about to go in, the anticipation is building! Have you had any appliance (big or small) purchases brighten your house recently? What goes in to making your decisions?

P.S. FromMuriel received no payment for mentioning these products. It just (hopefully!) works for us! 

All of this is being installed today!

iPhone pic- sorry about quality!
I'll try to post again later once the hub-bub has died down, but I'm so excited!! (Picture me jumping up and down and clapping my hands as this was delivered yesterday!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WOW: Getting Things Done

Things are still full on here at Muriel, so I don't have a pretty picture as inspiration for you this week. Instead, I thought I'd share the main thing that gets me through most weeks: list making!
Shopping list side 2Image by vidalia_11 via Flickr
I'm a pretty organised person generally, but I only tend to be that way thanks to the multitude of lists that run around in my head, on random pieces of paper and even on this little blog (here, here, here, here and here)! The making of a list is usually the thing that helps me remember what I need to do- I often forget to take my shopping list with me to the shops, but find when I get home that I got everything... well, all the important things anyway :)
A March 21, 2001, receipt for ‘‘onions, carrot...Image via Wikipedia
I find the most satisfying part of list making is crossing off items on the list. That feeling of accomplishment- even if its just one thing on the long list of things to do or bills to pay or phone calls to make etc, really makes my day! So in the interest of keeping up my spirits after such a long stretch of reno work, here is the short list of things to do that I wrote yesterday, with what I managed to get finished crossed off (with a self satisfied smirk!):
  • finishing the plastering (joint effort by PK and I)
  • removing the skirting boards in the hallway
  • removing the remaining tiles from the kitchen window ledge
  • picking up plasterboard for the gap in the ceiling where the pantry once stood (we plastered over it instead)
  • about three loads of washing (I did two, just bedlinen left to do and it can wait)
  • dishes
  • watering the thirsty vegie garden
  • general cleaning to get rid of the dust that has settled on everything -I cleaned the windows, the blinds and the airconditioning unit of all of the dust from the last few days, only for PK to whip out the angle grinder last night and add a new layer of dust :( But at least the windows are clean and pretty!
In addition:  
  • clean up skip area of rubble (skip bin is being collected today) 
  • remove all the nails still stuck in the walls from skirting boards 
  • take quotes for flooring 
So, as you can see, I was pretty busy yesterday! And on International Women's Day too! What about you? Are you a list-maker?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Demolition Days

It was a long weekend here in WA and while for some that might have been a chance for a little RnR, here at Muriel it was go, go, go! I had to work (day shift) throughout, but after I walked out the door at 730am each day, assorted friends and family members joined PK in tearing Muriel apart!

We were excited that our design required the removal of a couple of walls- to turn a corner pantry with ill used corner shelves into a functional set of cupboards. Nothing gets the blood pumping like a bit of controlled destruction! We had earlier enlisted the help of PK's cousin -a builder- to take a look inside our roof cavity and he confirmed that two walls were load bearing and would need adjusting in order to avoid our roof sagging. He also noted an important beam (not involved in the kitchen) was cracked, so although it was going to cost us extra, PK and I agreed we wanted to be sure our house was safe and get it replaced at the same time. The builder was the first on site on the weekend, getting the demolition off to a good (and safe!) start by ensuring that the roof didn't fall on everyone's heads!
When I left early on Saturday morning, the kitchen looked like this:
PK and I had emptied all of the drawers and cupboards into boxes and shifted them to other rooms in the house (mainly the spare bedroom) over the previous couple of nights. All of the furniture from the rest of the 'great room' needed to move too, but that occurred a little later in the day thanks to the extra helpers. I wasn't expecting much when I arrived home on Saturday afternoon, (given how much there was to do!) but I  was definitely worried- PK's cousin (the builder) had left him with a jackhammer (as well PK's angle-grinder and a sledgehammer) to use to remove the walls and the ceramic tiles!
View from the front door, Friday evening
While I was at work, wondering every moment how it was all going and fretting, this is what the boys were up to:
First attack on the corner pantry
Ripping! Tearing! Shovelling!
Hands off ladies, this last one is mine ;)
Don't worry about me though, I still got to flex my own demo muscles! As soon as I walked in the door, it was off with the work gear and on with the 'doesn't matter if it gets dirty' reno gear.
Sweeping up the rubble- no more kitchen!
Removing the tile adhesive
Pk tells me that the tiles came up really easily compared to the adhesive- but we needed to have a clean surface so that our new flooring can go in without a hitch! After a few hours more work, we packed it in and toddled off to one of the helper's houses to enjoy a quick dip in their pool- and get away from the mess!
Lots of rubble
Sunday was all about getting that even flooring, with PK and one of his brothers attacking the adhesive some more and ripping up the carpet in the 'living area'. PK also managed to find the time (and the energy) to rip up part of the concrete slab with the jack-hammer and the angle-grinder, so that the drainpipe could be relocated for the new sink and installation of the dishwasher. My hero! I think it is important to note though, that the major things like getting the gas pipes sealed off properly was done by a professional- a gas leak is no funny business!
Drain hole dug
After the rapid destruction of Saturday and the finishing off on Sunday, Monday's efforts didn't seem as dramatic, but necessary jobs were still crossed off the list! PK dug further into the ground for the pipe and then with a few extra bits of pipe, moved the drainage to the left, ready for the dishwasher and new sink.
Plumbing- PK's new occupation?
Together on Monday evening, PK and I plastered up the exposed brick near the front door and next to the glass sliding doors, where the much maligned 'half-walls' and the kitchen ledge had been removed. I believe that the method of removal mirrored that of the first half wall from this post. Unfortunately for me, someone had missed the mark in sledge-hammering the wall next to the front door:
See the gouge out of the window edge?
Ingenuity kicked in as we tried to create a corner out of a crater, but I think it may be in need of a touch-up. PK raced through his plastering, but I took my time because my wall would be exposed once all's said and done and his efforts will be mostly hidden away behind cabinets. As a last ditch effort to get things all ready for the trades this week, we also ripped up the carpet in the hallway, where the same flooring from the 'great room' will be carried through. It had been left down throughout the weekend so that it could absorb the majority of the dirt- instead of it being carried into the rooms I was trying to keep semi-clean!
Buh-bye grotty carpet!
I have been given a long list of to-dos for today by PK as he is back to work and I am now having my 'weekend'. I have no idea how many things I will get done, but trying to make the house liveable until the new kitchen is installed is more or less the priority! The list includes:
  • finishing the plastering
  • removing the skirting boards in the hallway
  • removing the remaining tiles from the kitchen window ledge
  • picking up plasterboard for the gap in the ceiling where the pantry once stood
- plus about three loads of washing, dishes, watering the thirsty vegie garden and of course, the massive amount of general cleaning to get rid of the dust that has settled on everything! I don't like my chances!

I'll leave you with a couple of pics of what the 'great room' looks like this morning. I can't wait until the cabinets go in (planned for Friday!) and the room begins to take it's new shape!
From the back wall-where the oven used to be!
From the front door- very empty!
I'd better get cracking on that list now- did you accomplish anything grand over the weekend? Or did you manage to find some time to just relax?


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