Monday, March 31, 2014

Trolley Makeover

In Australia, Op Shops/Charity Shops are no longer bargain-tastic. Gone are the days of finding a remarkable piece of china or silver plate for a steal.

When I was a student I depended on them almost entirely (mostly for clothing) and was so grateful for the reasonably priced, good quality jumpers, coats, dresses and scarves that made up my 1980's wardrobe in the north of England.

So called Opportunity Shops are now extremely commercially driven, and some of the smaller curios are often ludicrously priced - beyond the prices of genuine antiques' shops or online shopping sites like Gumtree or Ebay. On one hand I can see that this benefits the end recipient of their charitable works; presumably the shops' profits are invested in people who need support. On the other hand, I wonder who is buying silver-plate milk jugs for $45, when I can find them in an antique shop for less than half that price?

Anyhow, I did find this wonky, grubby little trolley in a local St Vinnies a couple of weeks ago. Although not terribly robust, I decided that it was worth the $20 and happily wheeled it out of the shop and down to where I'd parked my car (underneath Woolworths).

It was painted a dirty green colour (which actually looks quite pleasing under a tree) but as I was keen to add it to the guest bedroom, I painted it a lovely bright white.

It's now dressed for guests, with spare towels, a scented candle, a lantern, eucalypt leaves and lots of toiletries for pampering.

I collected the pine cones from the grass under the pine trees that fringe the cricket oval next to our house.

I like to feed the cones with essential oils, which fragrance the room and give a new life to these beautiful seed pods.

We have friends coming to stay for Easter, and I'm looking forward to sharing more of our Easter preparations soon. It's not going to be all yellow and spring, given that it's Autumn here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The St George Stove, aka Mrs Patmore

I love this house. It's like living inside a fairy tale of my own creation; it is at once familiar and yet full of surprises.

The house was disused for several years, but was brought back to life during the time when Bronwyn Bishop was Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel (1996 - 1998). Apparently, she loves old homes and arranged to have it re-opened and re-used.

Mrs Patmore, Head Cook of Downton Abbey

At the heart of the kitchen is a St George Stove. My guess (from the styling of the dials) is that this dates back to the 1970's, although St George stoves first began production in 1947. St George Appliances are still in business; they are an Australian company, based in Sydney. When the kitchen was renovated (presumably in the late 1990's) the kitchen maker is alleged to have declared the stove a treasure, and refused to remove it.

The stove suits the style of the kitchen and the house perfectly, and I'm very glad it's here. There is a marvelous extraction fan with bright LED lights that utilise the former chimney, which make it bright and pong-free to cook on.

However, it's not altogether easy to use. There is no fan in either of the ovens and each is heated by a naked element at the top and bottom. This has meant that (thus far) food quickly steams or burns, or both. The rings on the stove top are well placed, but after using gas for many years I'm finding it tricky to adjust to cooking with electricity.

I've called the stove Mrs Patmore, after the inimitable head cook from Downton Abbey.
[It seems, from my reading and internet perusing, that it's not cool to like Downton Abbey any more (if it ever was) but I confess to being a DA tragic, owning all the series on DVD and having watched each one more than once.]

Mrs Patmore's character is hard on the outside and yielding on the inside. I'm hoping that my relationship with the St George stove will mellow into a similar metaphor. After several attempts (read: at least 10) I have learnt to time cup cakes perfectly so that they no longer have blackened bottoms.

'Mrs Patmore' is just one of the many surprises within the house that dictate a certain style of living. We were having a friend over for morning tea yesterday and before hand popped out to the local Lions' market. This monthly event at the Clarendon Showground  is a veritable treasure trove for keen thrifters. Aside from cakes, plants, food and craft, there are always a number of 'junk' stalls, all of which glean delights.

Yesterday I found this tray, which looked perfect for the house. It is a solid oak piece, dedicated to a Mrs Alchin from her Bowning friends.

Hal was sent offered to negotiate a best price (with the enticement of financial reward if he could barter lower than the original asking price) and succeeded in getting it $8 cheaper.

I'm thrilled with it. The timber responded perfectly to O'Cedar Oil and it was the ideal accompaniment to morning tea.

Life, as previously observed, so often seems to go in circles; after I'd bought the tray and we were having a good look at the dedication plaque, the Gent noticed the Bowning reference. He said that Bowning is near Yass in NSW, and is the place where his mother's maternal family come from.

Very apt.

The beautiful tea cloth and napkins are a recent gift from my Mother in Law, but that's another story.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Cedar Lake, Minneapolis
Almost ten years ago, we bought a tiny little house in a charming suburb in Canberra. We expected to live there for a long time, but we ended up hardly living in Canberra at all. Instead, we lived in Adelaide for quite a while. And now we're near Sydney.

Cedar Lake, Minneapolis

We bought the tiny house expecting to knock it down and build a new one, but the vagaries of the Gent's postings meant there never seemed to be a good time to start such an expensive project.

Also, it means I have to decide on a style. I have to make definitive choices about what I want a home to look like. Another factor is that the Gent and I have rather different ideas about house styles.

Genesta Cres, Dalkeith

I've been compiling some photos of houses that I love. I think they're all from the Streamline Moderne movement of the 1930's. I love the curves against the horizontal window lines.

Searoads, Penarth

Trouble is, this style doesn't translate so well to the single storey, which is where our budget lies. And the Gent is not a fan of flat roofs.

Nob Hill

I think I'm partly to blame for the delay. I keep putting it off. Torn between a reluctance to dispense with a peripatetic lifestyle, as well as too much affection for our original 1950's cottage.

1950's Canberra 'govie'

The Infamous Deck

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chocolate, I'm missing you

Photo source
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. It was New Year's Eve, and the perfect date to think of resolutions for 2014.

On New Year's Eve 2013, The Absolute Gentleman and the oldest Blighter decided to give up what they like to call 'soft lollies' - what I liked to call revolting sugary things that come in the shape of snakes and frogs.

Photo source
Giving up soft lollies would have been no hardship to me; in my humble opinion, they don't belong to any of the food groups. However, for the Gent and Imogen, it was a torturous year of deprivation.

They held out for the full twelve months, and on NY Eve 2014, indulged in an orgy of multicoloured squishies.

Imogen and the Gent are renowned for their impassive, stoic abstinence and determination. I like to think that Hal and I are more flexible, easy going creatures, but this year I was determined not to be outdone.

In a rash, foolish moment, I vowed to give up chocolate for 12 months.

This is a big deal. One of my cherished sayings is, 'A day without chocolate is a day without joy'. Another is: 'Life without chocolate is not worth living'.

The Blighters have suffered a lifetime of 'tax'. Should they order a delicious dessert at a restaurant, or snack on a heavenly bar of chocolate in the safety of their own home, they are always obliged to pay tax to their Mother. They're not always eager to comply, so I've developed a singular phrase to ensure acquiescence: 'Give me that chocolate before I simply take it from you'.

Not surprisingly, after two months of abstinence I'm finding it a bit of a trial. The first month was (relatively) easy, but now I'm craving it like I would sunshine or coffee, if they had also gone AWOL.

I was unpacking some boxes this morning (haven't quite finished moving in yet) and found this very old Cadbury's chocolate box, which is part of the Henry Collection. Henry was a friend of my father in law, George. Henry was a hoarder who gave George a tremendous stash of  old tins and boxes not long before Henry died. George gave some of the stash to us a while ago. I particularly like the Milo tin - it's an austerity design from the IIWW.

Finding the box and tins was apt today, as the Gent is away this weekend, helping his parents move house. Much of Henry's stash has been sold along with the house. It is sitting, waiting, in George's old shed, ready for the new owners to discover it.

The move was not forced upon my in-laws, but it comes at a very late stage in their lives, and isn't easy for them. They will be living in a different and much larger town. For George, this is discombobulating. He's lived in the same, very small country town his entire life.

I sent some chocolate with the Gent when he went back to his parents' house to help them pack. I hope George had some. He, too, is a chocoholic. Unfortunately, my mother in law, Shirley is diabetic and never eats chocolate at all. I guess that puts my year of abstinence into perspective.