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.

September 13, 2017

Doing the Dressing Table

I am a woman (apparently mature) who has never had a dressing table. Sure I've had chests of drawers and bedside cabinets and tables, but I've always hankered after a dressing table, with a mirror. Somewhere to check my hair, a place to put the crystal dressing table set my Aunty Marcie gave me, and decorate with a vase of fresh flowers from the garden.

Last year, my sister and I went on a road trip to see our old Aunties, precious women we just don't get to see often enough, because, well... scattered families. We live a long way away from each other. We had a lovely time with them, not rushed, staying for several days with each, before heading to see our brothers and then Mum & Dad on the way home. A big old loop of a journey, with lots of sister time chatting. It was great.

We saw some beautiful country. We both love the mountains and hills of Australia, and the particular bush and trees of the Great Dividing Range. It was winter, so not very green, but beautiful anyway.

My sister Karen with our Aunty Betty. They were talking about the joys of Pinterest. 
Aunty Betty is 94 and loves both her tablet and Pinterest!  

Me with Aunty Marcia. She's not very well, but nobody knew just how unwell until this visit. 

Anyway, after the Aunties, we went on to visit our brothers. One of my brothers had this old oak dressing table in his garage - not like him, as they are not into older style furniture. I asked him about it, and he said it was his sister in law's and they just needed to get it to her. Well, since we were going that way, we put it in the back of the car, hoping that she didn't want it after all. Both of us, independently. I said it was mine because I spotted it. My sister said it was hers because it was her car.

In the end, we did end up with the dressing table - Karen did anyway, because she had some cash in her purse. Drat. But.... after several months, she decided that she didn't need it after all. She sent me this picture and asked if I still wanted it.

...{{insert smug smile}}...

Yes, it looks a bit uh... careworn (I know the feeling). But it's oak, and a dressing table. I promptly began the process of fixing it up. I removed the handles. Unfortunately they were super thin and I broke one, plus two were already not great. I plan on re-using the ones that are OK elsewhere, but this baby is getting new handles.

I began the sanding process, which took ages because some drawers were easy and some were dark and hard, and I had to take it back quite far to even them out a bit. I then shelved it for a year while other things happened. Life does have a way of intervening sometimes. My son broke his hand and later his foot and needed a bit of care, so he came home to live with us while he recovered, I was busy with life and the garden and other things, yada, yada.

But, she came out of storage last week and I got back into the sanding. I managed to get it pretty even but the truth is, it's not a top-class piece and the grain in the different parts is quite varied in texture. The sides are made of old tea chest, with an oak veneer! You can see the printing inside the cupboard. I kind of like that though, it's part of the story of the piece. But it did make sanding trickier than I'd hoped. And where the handles had been was pretty roughed up.

Sanded. You can see the damage on the drawers from the original handles. 

After sanding, I then dithered about the finishing process. I've seen these lovely limed or whitewashed oak pieces and I wanted something like that. But I didn't want to commit. My father would have ten shades of conniptions, just thinking about all that paint in the grain - he hates it! Dither, dither, dither.... but it's my furniture and I wanted to try it. So I did a quick read up on techniques and gave it a go.

I loved the first try! It was what I wanted - a light, fresh look with all the lovely grain still visible, but not those dark brown lines that you get in oak. I do love oak furniture, but not the way the old stuff was given that dark varnish that went into the grain. So I continued, and that's where it all went wrong. The grain in my dressing table is so varied that some bits were just much nicer than other bits. The top drawers were really nice but the bottom ones were just not quite as nice and the front legs were yukky, really.

This is the top of the dressing table. It's just what I wanted.

The side was less appealing but still OK. It is what it is, you can't change the grain.

I was really disappointed, but then I realised that I could just go whiter and it'd be fine. And it was. It wasn't how I'd envisaged it, but it was at least even. But then I sanded it before giving it a coat of varnish to protect it from life. Sanding made it splotchy, drat it to high heaven - and it also used a lot of sanding paper because the paint was coming off (of course). I was a bit less than bright and happy about the whole damn thing at this stage. Whose idea had this been? Painting the whole thing black became appealing.

I finally, after two days, decided that I'd sanded and fiddled with it enough and it was fine.

So.... I got out the varnish we'd bought last year, gave it a stir and got to work. Gone was my lovely pale look. The varnish really brought out the contrast, especially down the front legs, where I didn't like the grain to begin with. I thought it might tone down with drying, but it hasn't really. I mean, it's OK, it's just so not what I wanted. I guess it's kind of beachy, rather than limed or white washed, but I can live with that. I don't actually need perfection, just not ugly, and it's not ugly. 

The next difficulty was the hardware. Hmmm.... where did I put that little bag of hardware a year ago, before we started moving things around? Duncan finally found a little bag with the mirror hanging parts - or three of the four parts anyway. What the heck? Why on earth would I put three parts in one bag and all the rest (still missing) in another? 
...{{insert look of incredulous despair}}...

The upshot is, I have a varnished dressing table. I have nice new handles on it (kind of beachy because that's the way we are playing it now). But I can't add the mirror because we can no longer buy parts. I have to find that other bag! It sounds vaguely easy, doesn't it? But we are a house in renovation/pre renovation/dishevelled turmoil. I WILL find the bag! Maybe not this morning though... 

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the drawer handles. We managed to find some that covered the old profile nicely, so you can't really see the damage anymore. 

Happy new drawer handles. 

The moral of this tale is very Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: expect the unexpected.

Life sometimes surprises us and that's OK. Now, I wonder what's in that box under the house?

love Heather x

"Let every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be."
There is beauty in everything.

September 4, 2017

Tree Talk

While we have waited for things to happen in the house, I have spent time in the garden. The garden is big, hot, neglected, and dry with deep, sandy loam for soil - no nice composted anything in it. No worms either. It's fertile enough for things to grow, but it desperately needs compost and mulch to make it rich.

There wasn't much here when we bought the house, most of the grounds was just what was laughingly called lawn by the real estate guy. He was deluded. It was almost entirely made up of weeds, although there are three types of grass as well: the bush type, that grows about 3 feet high and has very hardy roots, the thin spindly type that sends out long runners into every direction so that you trip on it if you aren't careful (and it also likes to invade garden beds), and the broad leaf type that actually makes a decent lawn if you have enough of it (we don't) and you ever get half decent rainfall, which, unfortunately, we can only dream of. But the weed count is truely impressive!

There also wasn't much shade. There is a massive poinciana tree overhanging the driveway and the electricity cables (not good) that does provide us with some very welcome shade in the front garden, which faces north, into the sun. However, the roots have completely wrecked the concrete driveway. The lady we bought the house from mentioned that they had fixed the driveway. I looked at it and wondered what the heck it could have looked like before if this was it fixed!

See what I mean? Not very "fixed" looking!

The poinciana sheds. All. The. Time. It sheds teeny tiny leaves by the billion. Leaves so tiny shouldn't make that much mess! But added to the leaves, it sheds twigs, huge seed pods, thousands of seeds, and flower petals. I've pulled up at least five hundred baby trees since we moved here two years ago. Because it's been lopped once, it no longer has the lovely broad canopy of older poinciana trees, but instead is quite sparse and tall. To give you some sense of scale, the little green line at the bottom of the picture is a 2m high fence.

The seed pods at least are useful. We use them as Quick-Starter pods in our firebox. They burn so hot and fast that they are terrific for helping to get the fire going. But seriously, we have two big boxes of pods in the shed and ... it's the end of winter and the tree is chock full of the things!

Our neighbours don't like the tree either, as it's just as naughty on their side. So it has to go at some stage, despite the lovely shade it gives us over the driveway and into the garden. But... it will cost a couple of thousand dollars, supposing we even get permission to fell it, and we just don't have the funds right now. So in the meantime we will collect a few years worth of pods, pull up more babies, sweep the bumpy driveway regularly, and enjoy the shade.

In the same bed as the poincianna there were several large palm trees, some golden palm, a tree fern, a banksia, a huge native hibiscus and three sad little port wine magnolias, along with some lillies and ornamental grasses. I don't much care for palm trees. OK, I don't like them at all. I try not to hate anything. But palms turn me right off. Pretty much sub zero affection rating... So the biggest have already gone. There's one weirdly shaped one still to go, but  I've decided to keep the golden palms, because they are actually quite nice along the western fence line and I know they won't get much bigger than they are. They give some shade at least. It's a very deep garden bed, so I still have space to plant pretty things in front.

When I say banksia, by the way, I don't mean a bush. This poor thing, crowded out and desperate for light, was just one long, long branch snaking across the bed to find light. Some enterprising previous house ownder had tied it to the carport for support. It was a bit ridiculous. I checked online to see if it would be OK to cut it back, or would it just die? The experts seemed to say that Australian natives often get pruned back to the butt by bushfire, so if you want to chop it, do it. It will either survive or not. Thanks a lot, so helpful.

But anyway, I figured that if it didn't survive, I didn't want it there anyway. So I got out my trusty saw and turned leggy into hope. And hey presto, it has lots of new branches. They are also getting long, and they still have to come forward to get any light, but I'm going to prune them again to see if I can make it bushier and more lush. I don't mind if I have to wait a few years to get flowers again, as long as it is a better shape eventually. It has a lot more space now that the palm and several other things are gone, but it's overshadowed by the neighbours very large lilypily. The bed is not in any way sorted yet, but if I can start the process of taming, at least the poor banksia has a better chance. It doesn't look much yet, but a couple of years pruning and thickening and it should be reasonable.

On the other side of the front garden, there is a little melaleuca, a grevillea and a bottle brush. The bottle brush was really scraggly, so I recently chopped it back severely and it's just starting to leaf up lushly. I hope to make it into a much better shape, with lots more branches than before. I've already tip-pruned it once, to encourage a bit more bushiness. Poor thing, it looks pretty pathetic. But the neighbours behind us chopped theirs off about 60cm from the ground last year and it's now a lovely ball of new growth.

Out the back there is a large old frangipani, so fragrant and lush. Happily, it's the old common one, lovely creamy white with yellow centres. I like some of the colourful ones, but I really love the one we have. It has been trimmed in the past, making it quite leggy, but that's OK, it has a nice big shady canopy in the summer, and of course, being deciduous, provides some winter sun underneath. At present, underneath is just scraggly grass and some random bits of concrete. A nice touch, the concrete... it isn't anything, just rubble left who knows when and thoughtfully kept under the frangipani... yes, we are so lucky!

Next to the frangipani there are two very tall palm trees. Blah. They are going as soon as I can persuade Duncan to do the job. Of course, it's not simple and requires big ladders, ropes, an extra person, a chain saw, etc. And then we have to deal with the mess. I really need to buy a ute... But oh, the mess they make of the soil! I am going to have to hire a kanga or something to break up the ground so that I can plant anything else, it will be a horrible mass of roots. And as to feeding the wildlife, well, there are plenty of other gardens with palm trees. And I will be planting things in their place that are pretty, and also feed the wildlife.

It sounds like we have heaps of trees actually, but with a block of land our size, there is hardly anything, and half of that is going. I am planning on planting lots of new trees, pretty things that provide shade, flowers, fruit, leafy beauty and soothing sounds in the breeze. A garden in fact, rather than a few things dotted about with nothing in between. It's going to take time, but it will be lovely one day.

love Heather x

"We may think that we are nurturing our garden, but really, it's our garden that is really nurturing us." Jenny Uglow.

April 5, 2017

Time Passes

What can I say, time passes. Without permission sometimes... it just evaporates into weeks and months and trivial nothingness. It's busy, it's dull, it's hot, it's rainy, it's full of drama, fun, disappointments and satisfying moments; you get stuff done, you live it out. You wake up one morning and realise you have moved through a year. And, well, actually, that's not a bad thing. While there's life there's hope.

We haven't done much to the house. I've started my garden. I've painted two rooms - both of which are still unfinished. We had the external cladding tested and got the results.  Yep, the whole lot is asbestos. See our drooping shoulders and sad eyes? See our bank balance suddenly look completely inadequate?

So, we ground to a halt for a while, to rethink our thoughts, hopes, plans and bank balance. We haven't really started up again. For a while it made me hate the house, and feel very unsettled. Then I realised, it's just a bump. OK, we are going to over-capitalise on the place now, with a lot of invisible work, but we aren't doing a flip for profit, we are hoping to be living here for a long time.

We knew there was some asbestos - the lower level walls and the eaves, but we had hoped that the cladding wasn't. If we weren't going to do things, it wouldn't matter. You can live with it, if you aren't cutting into it. But if we are going to change the front door and the windows out, and extend the kitchen, we are going to be messing about with it.

The rule in Australia - at least, our part of it - is that you can remove about the equivalent of half a wall by yourself, if you use all the right precautions. But we are not interested. We will save up and get someone in to do a proper job, and clean up properly afterwards.

The problem is, you can't just "un-clad" a place and leave it half naked. You have to re-clad. The cost just doubled. We can't do it in small bites either, it's all going to go at the same time.

And... while we are half naked, so to speak, shouldn't we make the most of the opportunity and put in a pile of insulation? It makes sense to make the house as green and comfortable as possible in the future. It will be so much nicer to live in. The cost just rose another few thousand. And... now that we think about it, all those windows need to be replaced. Suddenly we aren't looking at doing one window at a time, at our leisure. Before our nice new cladding goes up, we should do the windows, because if they are a slightly different size, we'd be double working it. And maybe having to {{shudder}} patch our lovely new walls. Ugh.

Now we have a rather major job on our hands, with a rather bigger budget than we can currently cope with. And we live here, so it will be noisy and messy and gosh I hope it doesn't rain while all this happens or we will have to redo all the inside too...  Not that we will be here when the asbestos is removed. We and the cats will be out of there big time! So that is why we have ground to a halt.

The question on everyone's minds now is.... does the inside plasterboard (drywall) contain asbestos too? Gulp.

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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