Welcome friends. A Jug of White Daisies is about my life and all the thoughts that come to me while I'm walking, doing the dishes, having a shower or hanging washing on the line - some of my regular activities that give me time to think. It's about all the things that make up my life - cooking, cleaning, creating, loving, learning, discovering, rolling my eyes, sighing, smiling, forgiving, making do, making the most of, looking up, gardening, hugging, being. It's about the things that I make for sale, fabulous finds, the wisdom and beauty in the world, and it's about stopping to admire the simple perfection of daisies.

And in amongst all the thinking and writing about that, I'll be doing it all, and more, so if you don't see me for a day or two, please send chocolate.

October 25, 2015

Making a Start

We have now been living in our new house for about four months. Did we ever live anywhere else? I seem to recall we did, but we have settled in here so well, and it feels so comfortable, that it's hard to remember the feeling before of being accidentally itinerant.

Work is slow - well, we have hardly done anything really. It would be tempting to just jump in and do everything before you move in, decisions all made and once you're in you're in, but that's not us. Houses have their own personality and it's better, especially when the house isn't brand spanking new, to let it have it's say. To slowly reveal secrets of lighting and flow. To encourage you to see past what's there to possibilities you didn't think about the first little while. Living in a house allows insights and nice little aha moments to flourish, if you stay aware. And it has to be said, having to be frugal helps, because it stimulates creativity!

What we bought, is a split level house built in the late 1960s on a block of land that is 759 square metres. It's not exactly pretty, and there's a lot of bits needing some loving, but it's a good house, solidly built from brick and hardiplank, with asbestos thrown in for fun (yay), but with no other little nasties like white ants or rot. The walls and ceiling are all nice and flat, which tells us the frame is good. There's roof insulation, and solar panels, and lovely hardwood floors, mmmm.

You go up a short flight of steps to the middle section, that has a little front porch, a back porch, a living room and small kitchen/diner. There are three decent sized bedrooms and a bathroom (no bath though) on the top floor, and under that, downstairs, are two "utility" rooms, a laundry and a toilet. Legally we aren't allowed to call them rooms, because the ceilings are only 2.1m high. Drat it, why didn't the builders just break out and add 30 measley centimetres? Oh well... they are entirely livable (even if we can't put in any ceiling fans or chandeliers) and we have plenty of ideas for them. And there is a lovely big covered area out the back that I christened The Pavilion. It's such a bonus.

(Note, I take photos with my iphone, it's all I have. Sometimes I will have better photos, but not usually.)

OK so the window shutters and the front porch roof and railings are a little "granny" but that's easy enough to update. We are going to gently undress this little house and give her a nice new look. I'm thinking less of the 1980s Granny and more of the Contemporary Cottage. You'll see. But there's going to be a lot of work to get her there. Not in an Extreme Makeover kind of way though, more like a gentle unveiling of her own inner beauty, shedding the shabby clothes and making the most of what we have.

We haven't just been sitting around doing nothing, but it's only been small steps so far. Funny what a big difference they've made to how I feel though. The very first thing I did was to take down the Grungy Golden Globe light fitting in the hallway at the top of the stairs and replace it with something a little more Glamorous and Girly. I think I forgot to take a photo of GGG, but it was kind of like this, without the fluting:

Yeah... SO not the look I want in my life. We took it to a charity shop. Now it has a white organza ribbon and crystal thing in place, that I picked up at K-Mart would you believe, for about ten dollars. It makes the whole stair and hallway so much brighter! It's probably not the final choice for here, but the brown light thing was just not going to live through the first week with me!

The next thing to go was the revolting and very large and dirty shadecloth thing that had been put up out the back. Presumably it was to give shade to the back porch and enclosed concrete patio area - it gets pretty hot where we live in the summer. But people, the back faces south, and in the southern hemisphere that means away from the sun. 

The kitchen, which looked out to that area, just felt dark and OMG, did I say the thing was dirty? Ugh. Green algae, black mould, leaf stains, and general ickiness. Really, I don't have a place in my life for ugly. Not to mention, we couldn't see the sky! There is something beautiful and blue up there, or beautiful and stormy, or dark and starry, with birds and bats and clouds and the light of sun or moon! And lovely big trees in the garden next door that we couldn't see either. All we could see was ugly fence, trellis (more on that later) and mould. 

But then Duncan started taking the shadecloth down. Oh my goodness, what a relief, I could just feel this claustrophobic weight lifting and I'm sure the house did too! The light was amazing. After a few months, looking at these photos again makes me just cringe! So bad.

Gotta love seeing your man at work being all manly and all. He so earned his Brownie Points that day! We folded the ugliness up and put it out near the bin. And then there was just this: 

I spent days just grinning at the sky, lol. It was bliss. 

love Heather x

 To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

July 10, 2015

Owning It

We are reluctant renters no more. That house I spoke of in the last post? We got it! It wasn't quite a smooth sail, but it is indeed ours now.

After our offer on the R Street house had been rejected, we had driven out to look at a house again that we had previously looked at, that was not quite right. We knew it wasn't quite right, but we just wanted to make sure, you know? And we were right. It was OK, but not The One. Then I suggested we go look at this other house that was for sale, in a street nearby. I hadn't told my husband about it before because he'd made noises about not really thinking much of that kind of style of house. But we pulled up in front and he got out and peeked in over the gate. The lady who owned it noticed and invited us in. I didn't find it all that appealing actually, but as we walked around, Duncan and our daughter both really liked it and I let them sweep me up in their feelings.

We arranged an official inspection, talked to our mortgage consultant, researched flood plains information and possible new Ikea kitchens, had a pest inspection done, met with a solicitor, and did all the usual pre purchase things.

It felt like a compromise though. I really struggled with my feelings of it being "just another house" for weeks, while going along with the whole purchase thing. Once the loan was approved, neither of us felt like woo-hooing and it was all a bit anti-climax. People who know us were all so excited for us, but we were like, "yay" instead of YAAAAAYYYY and that felt a bit scary. What had we done?

The first thing that strikes me about buying a house is that you stand in it and look around for maybe 20 minutes or so making a decision about a very large and important part of your life. You mull over it later, you think about it (a lot) and discuss it with other people, you wonder about living there, actually being and living there, and you work out the trek to work and the shops from there.... but really, it's that few minutes while you are in it that decide you. You don't really know what the neighbours are like, which is important for all sorts of reasons - whether they like cats for instance; what it will be like in different seasons, what little nasties may lie concealed within the walls or roof, what the soil is like for growing things in, whether there are wild teenagers up the road that will burn rubber past your doorstep. You just get a feeling and for whatever reason, think it will all be OK. Luckily for most of us, that works well enough.

When we were on our way to sign the papers at the solicitors, the agent from the R street house phoned and said that the offer that gazumped ours had fallen through and did we still want it. Eeep! We didn't until then.... so the solicitor said she'd wait and start her searches etc the next week. We went back and had another look at R Street and you know what? We didn't like it nearly as much! It had SO much work to do on it, and we both felt like we had a lucky escape! Suddenly the house we were buying looked a whole lot nicer!

Even so, it wasn't until two days after we had picked up our keys and started moving in that I had that feeling of belonging, of being in the right place, and that it wasn't "just another house". I smiled because it was home, simple as that.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

May 6, 2015

Reluctant Renters

We are going to buy a house. We have been reluctant renters for seventeen years. Seventeen years of 3-monthly inspections by sometimes rude and dismissive agents, who expect the world to smell of fresh paint and carpet shampoo, just like it does for the Queen; but are super reluctant to have any repairs done, whatever the need or urgency might be. Seventeen long years of not being allowed to hang any pictures, choose a colour or a window dressing, put up a useful shelf, or make a place ours.

We have, in that time, lived in six different rental houses, three of which we have had to leave because the owners put them on the market. It makes for unhappy children and cats, and too much packing and unpacking, unsettling and resettling, and that's not even considering removal costs and all the gardens I've started and had to leave, just when they were starting to finally look nice.

However, I'm grateful and glad to say that we are now in a position to look for a house. I've been trolling the online sites for a few months now, while we were still not quite ready, and keeping a bit of an eye on the market, learning a few interesting things as I have gone along. These things, for instance:
* how many chickens you're allowed to keep in town, and how far from the boundary fence they have to be
* that you have to get permission for almost anything with the council, from a retaining wall to lopping dead branches and how much all that will cost
* how much it costs to replace rusted through guttering
* the right way a deck should be supported as opposed to the unsafe and scary way
* what it takes to bribe your builder friend to take a look at a place (a loaf of herb bread)

And a whole lot more. I'm happy really, that we didn't go for some of the houses we've viewed, with all the lessons I've had afterwards. I have become a much more discerning viewer.

We put in an offer on one last week. It was not the first one we wanted, but it was the first one we had a chance with, really, because the houses have not really been hanging about long. The owner accepted our offer and it was quite exciting because it had so much potential and so much lovely garden space. Our joy lasted almost 24 hours, until someone put in an offer higher than we were prepared to go and it slipped through our fingers like fairy dust. I wanted to stamp my foot (at the very least), although I was very brave and said through slightly gritted teeth, oh well, it wasn't to be.

And people are so philosophical at you.... and I know they are right, but I wanted them all to bring me tissues and wine, not knowing smiles and "Oh well it wasn't to be" commiserations.

The trouble is, you have to fall in love with a house, to make a move on it. You have to see yourself there, to imagine the daisies you will plant, the shelves you will hang, and how your stuff will look in it. You have to sit on the porch with a cup of tea, if only in your imagination, and watch where the sun goes down. Only then do you know that you could live there. And by then you're invested in it, emotionally.

It's kind of scary though, how quickly you can switch allegiances, lol.... oooh, does that mean I am fickle? Or that, having lived in eleven houses since I was married 27 years ago, that I could make a home anywhere?

So... we had a house for almost a day, and I was very reluctant to believe I wouldn't be living there. Then three days later, I found a new one I could love. We're both pretty excited about it, although I know that's a slippery slope... but.... I can imagine growing daisies there, and putting up shelves, and sitting on the porch, and .... well, you get the picture. Duncan's been doing all the calculations and I've been designing a new kitchen for it and we've been trying not to let our imaginations run too wild until we get past a few hurdles. But it's fun to dream and I'm happy to do that with a few if it takes a few to find The One.

love Heather x

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

February 5, 2015

Fixing Chairs, Part 1

I have a confession. People who know me know this, but people who don't know me may be surprised. Or horrified. Or intrigued.... I not-so-secretly have an old chair fetish/hoard/issue. What can I say, they are attracted to me - they just follow me home, honest.

I have too many for the house, more than any sane person could ever need even in a bigger house than we have. Which I will probably never have. And they are mostly the kind that look like rats have been nesting in them for a while, or that someone put out on the street for garbage collection (which is true in quite a few cases...), but they have potential, even if it's only me who can see it.

I have quite a collection in the house, but the garage holds the worst ones, the ones needing to be done up. I'm not showing you a picture of the stacks. I do have some pride... Oh alright then, I have no pride, lol.

There are dining chairs picked up curbside by a friend who thought I might like them. She lugged them home two at a time in the rain, bless her, by hand. I do like them, but my darling doesn't. He has the strangest aversions to things, like mango and lavender for instance, but when he doesn't like something, he really doesn't. So the dining chairs aren't for me. But I will do them up regardless and pass them on, useful again.

There are old armchairs from the Victorian period, swing back chairs from the 1940s and one Edwardian armchair with very nice lines that we picked up out of a skip/dumpster one night in Portobello, near Edinburgh, when we lived in Scotland. There's a little cane chair for a child, and probably a few others actually... And there's a few in the house that need some TLC too.

They are diverse and generally in terrible condition, but they all share something in common. They have good bones, they are - well they were - well made and they have character and they deserve another chance, poor things. Oh and the other common factor is that they are very patient. They've all been waiting ages for me to do something useful with them.

I started today. I picked out the two matching 1940's Swing Back chairs (I have two others that don't match, but let's not go there...). These were from a dear old lady who put them on Freecycle, hoping that someone would take them on. They were given to her parents when they were married and she always loved them, but she couldn't do them up and it was too expensive for her to get someone to do it. She made me promise that if I decided not to do them, I would offer them up again for someone else. Fat chance, I love them! They were a bit disgusting and my husband was a bit grossed out, but he has come to trust me (silly boy) so he loaded them in the car and took them home with glee (on my part). That was a mere four years ago. You can't rush these things!

Here they are. They're the same, just been painted a few times and put in different rooms, apparently. They're pretty gross, Duncan was right after all.

 Too much paint, too much dirt and too much sag. 

 The side view. See, they have nice lines, very curvy and they are surprisingly comfortable to sit in too. I've always like this style. 

OK, they are pretty disgusting... One can only assume those stains are sweat. Ick. And the paintwork is filthy too. I guess they were in the garage for a while even before they came to live in mine. 

So. I started on the yellow one. I tipped it upside down to start hauling out the upholstery. Everything had to go.

There were a few tacks. A few billion. OK maybe not billion... Would you believe thousand? ... Any takers for a few hundred? 

 What I'm saying here is that it was well tacked. But it was obviously the original fabric, because there was no double tacking, it was one lot only. Just plenty of one lot. 

Top and bottom. 

Once the seat was completely free of tacks, I had to get the back off. The bolt thingy was rusted up a bit, but Duncan's trusty wrench thingy (technical terms) did that job for me. I have no idea whether that was the right tool for the job but it worked. I think it might be vintage too, it has a certain character as well. **I am reliably informed by my better half that it's not a wrench thingy, it's a shifter, which is an adjustable spanner. And it was the right tool. Hurrah!

Of course, there were more tacks. A lot more... 

Not so many on the flip side, thank goodness. 

The last few tacks! Yahoo. Hardly any blood and not many bruises to show for it all either. Some but not many... it's darned hard on the knuckles to slip and bash into the wood. My thumb was really sore too from all that levering. Oh my goodness, the levering out of the tacks. Blah! They were well pounded in and it was slow work. And it was really dirty work, I have to say. Putrid even. I could hardly believe how much dirt fell out of it. I mean you expect a little but some of this was dirt, not just compost, it had gone beyond the compost stage. 

The leftover detritus - it doesn't look like much but this was a black bin bag full!

But the afternoon's hard work paid off, because this one at least, is up to stage 2. 

One down, one to go. Plus a lot more work, because they are a bit shaky too. I guess that means I will have to actually pull them apart to re-glue. And strip and sand them. And refinish. And recover. I don't think they'll be done in a flash. 

I discovered under all that fabric that the frame is all silky oak. Now I'm not sure whether to make them back up the way they were, with the frame part covered, or to make a base and put a cushion on it, to let the silky oak show. It seems a shame to waste it. I'll see what the other one looks like. If it's still all silky oak too, I might just cushion them. I will have to ask Duncan about the practicalities of making and securing a wooden base. 

I'm pretty excited to have started. I hope to get the other one done before the end of the weekend, and the joints fixed too if possible. Wish me luck. 

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

January 21, 2015

Coconut Slice Recipe

Well the slice is all gone! Time to make another one.... I have to report that sorghum flour is excellent! It gave the base a whole different texture that took it from "ricey/shortbready" to a really lovely dense moist texture much much more like something between wholemeal and white wheat flour. But with a definite non-white feel. Love it! I've since made some waffles using sorghum flour in the mix too and they were great too. Yahoo! Pity it's so expensive, but it doesn't matter really, when you find something that works for you. I'm not diagnosed Celiac but I do react badly and for weeks when I have the smallest bit of gluten. I'm not even tempted.

My DH loooved the slice, by the way. He was in raptures with every bite.

So... what did it look like? This is how it came out of the oven (told you I can't do food porn - look at the state of that pan! On second thoughts, don't, lol):

And this is how it looks on my plate. Mmmm. No crumbly bits, just moist and excellent deliciousness. That's a small fork by the way, not a dinner fork, just in case you were worried about the size of my slice.

And now I think you would like the recipe. I have no idea at all who originally made up this recipe, or how much it's been changed over the years, but this is what my new GF version is, which I'm now sticking to. The original was brought home from school cooking classes by my big sister ... a few years back. OK a few decades.... lol.

Please note that I'm in Australia so my measurements are Australian standard measurements.

Also, I just use a generic brand of plain and self raising flours, from my supermarket. I like most of them, they work well enough for most things and it saves having fourteen different flours in the cupboard.

Gluten Free Coconut Slice
125 g butter
2/3 cup Self Raising GF flour
1/3 cup plain GF flour
1/3 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Melt the butter gently until only just melted, then add to dry ingredients, which have been sifted together into a bowl to mix them. Add the egg and mix into a soft dough. Press or spread into a greased and lined slice tray, 18 x 28cm.

1/3 cup jam (jelly for my American friends)

Warm the jam briefly in the microwave and spread carefully over the base - the base is soft so be gentle.

1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs

Beat all ingredients together with a fork and gently spread over the filling. Bake it in a moderate oven for 20-30  minutes or until the coconut is beginning to toast nicely. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares or fingers and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

So there you go. Easy and delicious, old fashioned slice. Enjoy some with your favourite cup of tea or coffee soon. :-)

love Heather x

 To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert

January 11, 2015

Paper Stacks and Coconut Slice

I can't believe how tardy I am when it comes to my blog. Pathetic.... but maybe there is hope. 2015 feels like a much more positive and forward moving year. Do you have years that feel different from others, right from the start? It's not like this year hasn't had it's share of dramas, even eleven days in, it's just that it "feels" better.

I didn't make any resolutions. Didn't even think, "I'm not making any!" I just skipped that senseless moment and forgot to notice that it even happened. I have developed a few plans over the last few days though. Blog (haha), more cooking, less eating (that can work, can't it?), actually decluttering till it's all gone, and not just in fits and starts and then giving up, parenting more wisely, getting my drivers license, staying (getting) healthy, finding some more friends and not being so stuck at home, doing up that furniture at last... But if none of that happens, I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about it, I'm just going to shrug my shoulders and know that everything happens in the right time and life is pretty good even so.

I'm cooking at the moment actually. I need something sweet. It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, sweet is good. Sweet will help me get through this stack of papers I need to reduce. Honestly, why did I even keep that receipt, and no, I don't need that old magazine clipping anymore. And do I need every hospital record from my children's childhoods, now that they are 20 and 27?

But let's not go there just now... I am cooking a slice. I'm converting the old family favourite Coconut Slice, that my big sister brought home from high school in the 1960s, to my favourite version of Gluten Free. I'd like to convert all my recipes and actually print myself out a new book, instead of just trying to remember what I did last time. This time I'm using a bit of sorghum flour. It's supposed to be nice, but I haven't tried it yet so I'm looking forward to it. I will let you know how it goes when it's out of the oven and on my plate - but please don't expect food porn. I'm not a food porn blogger, this is just family life going on here people.

OK, back to those paper stacks. Photo of coconut slice later. :-)

love Heather x To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert
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