Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Is this the next generation of budding builders and architects?

Our local Kindy has a large proportion of children who are fortunate enough to live in architecturally designed homes or whose parents are architects themselves. And I'm not necessarily talking about lavish or grand houses, but ones that are thoughtfully designed to invoke the senses and inspire imagination and creativity. Living in such homes on a day-to-day basis surely must influence those young minds just a bit. And it reads like a who's who of local talent - OwenandVokesandPeters, Aardvarc, Riddel Architecture and James Russell Architect who incidentally took out the recent honour of Australian House of the Year Award for his Bisley Place House in the 2013 Houses Awards. Big congratulations to you Jamie - well done!

Bisley Place House - JRA
As a child who grew up in a "govie" (a colloquialism used to describe a typical Canberran government-built house or "housing commission" home as they are known in Queensland) I wonder if these children realise just how fortunate they are. I hated the house I grew up in and from a very young age I used to scan through the local Realtor looking at the houses for sale, dreaming of somewhere nicer to live. I distinctly remember wondering why the homes in Queensland were so cheap in comparison. (If only I had some money back in the 70's!) Perhaps my interest in houses from an early age was due to humble beginnings - was I subconsciously looking for greener pastures way back then? And how ironic is it that I should end up living in a worker's cottage in Brisbane?

I'll finish off today with a bit of goss for anyone who reads The Design Files - you must keep a lookout for the upcoming interview that Lucy Feagins recently conducted with O+V+P. It's so great to see our local talent winning awards and being showcased on a national level.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Building Next to Units - Pros and Cons

Neighbouring our house is a two-storey unit block - not exactly ideal. Most would consider this as a negative from a planning and design perspective, particularly as we are on a small lot. It has, however, presented opportunities for innovation that has greatly influenced the overall design of the house.

The proposed design of our renovation is such that it has "turned it's back" on the unit block next door. We have eliminated window openings towards the units, and the design has ensured that there is little if any overlooking from the units onto our private outdoor space. Had there been a house next door, it would have probably been sited one-metre from the boundary which could have made noise and privacy issues a lot harder to deal with. The units have advantageously created a 5-metre buffer zone between both buildings due to the location of the driveway, something of a rarity now in our inner-city suburbs.

Fortunately for us the unit block is on our Western side which blocks out the hot afternoon sun during the Summer and should, in theory, save us money by limiting our air-conditioning requirements as well.

And it would seem that our renovation is not only benefitting us. Just have a look at what our neighbours on our other side have faced since the units were built:

View from our neighbour's back garden. 
Absolute zero privacy (and a bit of an eyesore really.) Everyone has been scratching their heads as to what that blockwork structure in our yard is for  - a pool, water tank perhaps? No, it's going to be a terrace complete with outdoor fireplace.

And this will be our neighbour's view when our renovation is completed:

And with some thoughtful planting along the fence line, I think this will be a good outcome for them as well.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

My Thermomix Died!

Well it didn't actually die - it still worked, but I kept getting these pesky alarms and error messages which were becoming a tad irritating. As I was still within my two year warranty period I contacted my Rep and she organised the rest. A courier came, picked up the machine and within a week it was sitting back on my bench top.

But whilst it was only gone for a short time, I really did miss it. I use it daily - actually three to four times a day at least. My poor machine really does cop a flogging.

Here's just a sample of what I've been making lately:

Lemon Curd

Risotto Arrabbiata

Pecan Pie

Vanilla Ice Cream (yes I make my own.) And the reason for it's slightly cream-coloured appearance is that I use Full-Cream Unhomogenised Guernsey Milk from Maleny Dairies - it's the best milk!

Raspberry and Blueberry Friands for the kid's lunchboxes (I know - pretty spoilt aren't they!)
Whilst technically you don't require a TM to make friands or cakes, I do use it to aerate the dry ingredients and get rid of those dreaded lumps in icing sugar (I don't bother with a sieve anymore.)

And lately I've been baking all sorts of different kinds of breads, but I'm finally onto a winner with this Ciabatta bread that I baked just this morning:

Ciabatta, a classic Italian bread, has lots of large air pockets and the most delicious crispy crust. This bread recipe is made up of four simple ingredients: water, flour, salt and the tiniest bit of yeast - that's it. I made the dough (mixed in 30 seconds) which sat in a lightly oiled bowl overnight. Then this morning I placed it onto a floured tray and into a hot oven for half an hour - done. How easy is that? There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste and texture is truly amazing. I know we've got the markets and Sol Breads just up the road, but at $7 a loaf, making this at home is far cheaper and it only takes 30 minutes to cook, which is the time it would take me to get to the shop and back.

I will be sharing the recipe over here soon.

Thermomix Ciabatta 


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Jack: On our walk home from school the other day you had your first experience at slacklining, and you loved it. Only in West End!
Harry: And you decided you'd climb one of the Morton Bay Figs. You're my only child who likes to wear your socks pulled right up.
Charlie: Colouring keeps you out of mischief - for a short time anyway.
Oscar: Your first black eye - thanks to your brother Charlie.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Reno - Week 7

The concreter's have been attempting to pour the footings for over a week now but due to the persistent grey skies and rain, the work kept being postponed. (I estimate we are at least two weeks behind schedule now.)

Morning over Mt Coot-tha
However this week the clouds eventually disappeared leaving nothing but clear, blue skies - and FINALLY the footings were completed. The steel reinforcing was positioned, and following a quick inspection from the Structural Engineer, the footings were poured.

The blockwork, which will eventually support the suspended concrete slab for the rear terrace, is going in today:

And what amazing brickies I have! They had this all wrapped up by 3pm this afternoon. So good to finally see some real progress on-site. And despite such a stellar effort from the brickies, none of it will be visible at the end of the project.

But they will be back in about 8 weeks time to complete the new brickwork floors, stairs and walls. The suspended slab on the terrace will eventually be lined with brickwork floors, which will look similar to this:

Image from Owen+Vokes+Peters Instagram
The bricks in the image above are actually a blend of five different PGH bricks, which provide a subtle variety in colour and texture. And I just happen to like this blend more than the one that has been specified for our project which is this:

Image from Owen+Vokes+Peters Instagram
Could this be the first variation to the contract? Which one do you prefer? As the terrace and outdoor fireplace are such an integral part of the design, choosing the right brick is really important - it will be visible from most rooms in the house.

All going well with the weather next week, the suspended slab will be completed along with the installation of the timber subfloor for the extension. 

Saturday, 20 July 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Oscar:  People still comment on your amber teething necklace. You've been wearing it since you were just a few months old, so I don't even notice it anymore.
Charlie:  You pushed your baby brother into a cabinet which resulted in a trip to the ED. We've had so many visits to hospital this year - embarrassingly all the doctor's know me by name.
Harry:  Dad bought a huge box of mandarins on a recent road trip - you saw this as a perfect opportunity to start your own fruit stall.
Jack:  I am the serious one - you are forever joking around. Perhaps I need to take a page from your book and lighten-up a little.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Reno - Week 6

When we first bought the house back in 2007, there were three large Chinese Elms (otherwise known as Chinese Celtis) growing in the back garden. They ranged in size from 15-20m in height - totally inappropriate for the size of the block. The backyard looked like the undergrowth of a rainforest which never saw the light of day. The brush turkeys, however, loved it and they used to roost in the trees at night.

The canopy of the trees towered over the house

Aerial view of the site in 2009 - it's a jungle in there!
Now I hate cutting down trees unnecessarily, but these guys were right in the way of our planned extension so they had to go. I didn't know it at the time, but this particular tree is a declared pest species by the Brisbane City Council so there was no approval needed to have them all cut down. The tree loppers came in and within a day, there was no evidence that the trees ever existed.

The excavation for the footings commenced on Monday, and lo and behold those trees (or at least the the remaining stumps/roots) just happened to be right where the footings were planned to go. Up until this week those trees were but a distant memory. A whole day was wasted removing this dead wood from the ground - what should have been a strips of concrete footings now resembles a hole for a swimming pool.

Just some of the roots that have been pulled out of the ground
This unforeseen event could mean extra costs to the project. The concreter will now have to box up the footings, pour the concrete and backfill. And I thought the weather was going to be the only thing holding up progress this week.

The skies have been threatening all week
And in other news, our old Hill's Hoist has found a new home on acreage at Whiteside in Brisbane's North. Three little boys (all under the age of 2) live there, so I'm sure they're going to have lots of fun with it as they get older.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Reno - Week 5

The footings for the extension were due to happen this week, but hang on:


It's starting to sound like a game of cricket. Every time we go to dig a hole, the heavens open up and put a stop to it.

However the week wasn't entirely wasted - there are a number of jobs that need doing inside the house, so the builder got cracking on demolishing parts of an existing wall to make way for new openings for the Ensuite and WIR. They also framed up both of these rooms, an area that was once occupied by a kitchen. The Ensuite and WIR that look like relatively small spaces on paper, actually appear quite large and will be flooded with even more light once the skylight is installed.

These few changes alone have made a massive difference to the feel of what will be the new Master Bedroom. Since these two rooms from the original cottage have been combined, this once pokey bedroom now feels so much more brighter and spacious.

The new footings have been marked out and they are now due to be excavated on Monday. As you can see, our Hill's Hoist is in the way:

But before it gets removed for good, I had to let the kids have a bit of fun with it:

So by the end of next week, I hope to see the footings completed along with a new concrete slab in the garage/storage area. This might also be a good week to take the boys over for a close-up viewing of some machinery in action. What little boy doesn't like a concrete truck or excavator?


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Oscar: You seem to be unable to walk - you'd much rather run.
Charlie: The other night when you were supposed to be sleeping, you unzipped the cushion on your bed and ripped through the insert just like that. The filling piled up all over the floor. "Charlie, my darling child. Charlie, you'll drive me wild."
Harry: Since turning five, you keep asking if you can return to Prep, as I pulled you out at the end of Term 1. Your reason: "Kindy is boring."
Jack: Screen time - the only time you can manage to sit still.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Vintage Hill's Hoist - FOR SALE


We're about to do a quick site clean-up before the footings for the addition are done later in the week. Unfortunately our old Hill's Hoist will have to go (it's in the way of the new extension and is a little too large for our yard). It's strong and sturdy and in pretty good condition. So if anyone is interested in it, please drop me a line.

Lots of us grew up with these in the backyard, and these photos remind me of the fun we used to having swinging on them as kids. It doesn't look like this one copped too much abuse however. It's as straight as the day it was concreted in. Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to it's age?

Sunday, 7 July 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Oscar: Broccoli - steamed with a drizzle of olive oil is your absolute favourite vegetable and it's the first thing you'll eat if it's part of your dinner. In fact you happily eat your brothers' broccoli when they sneak it onto your plate. 
Charlie:  "Baa baa black sheep have you any wool? Yeth thir, yeth thir, three bagth full." Your lisp is so very cute.
Harry: While going for a bike ride, you couldn't resist adorning your bike with some nasturtiums you found growing alongside the footpath. 
Jack: "Trout Sniffer" is what you muttered under your breath when your father chastised you for doing something naughty. I quickly Googled for the meaning and worked out it was a line from "Home Alone 2", a movie you watched a while ago. So much for not having a good memory - that's your usual excuse as to why you can't remember your times tables.