Wide open vista: without old hot water heater…and without neighbour’s trees

I’ve been doing a lot of small improvements: small but they occasionally cost big money. They are not “wowser” improvements, there are no big and noticeable changes but they are improving my quality of life, my house and – in this case – are unavoidable…

Once such improvement was removing the old electric water heater which was rapidly rusting out, had the capacity to only fill 1/4 of my bath and ran out of water about 15 minutes into any showers (I don’t normally have 15+ minute showers, but I do like the option when dyeing my hair or doing treatments).

Old water heater, taking up space

The old water heater was an electric only tank heater, that took up a bit of space in the back garden. And the back garden is quite narrow to start with.

Old water heater looking to the other side of the garden

I’ve replaced it with an instantaneous gas water heater which is much smaller and sits much higher on the wall so there’s space to put plants below it. It’s a small – but expensive – change, and was needed because the old heater was rapidly on the way out. It’s improving my life (hot baths and unlimited hot showers) and also improving my back garden.


Pretty posy from a DIY Dad party attendee

So 2017 ended up being a little more busy than previously planned, with quite a few curveballs: surprise visit from sister and niece, burglary, requirement to buy a new car; in addition to a couple of challenges I threw at myself: planning and hosting 2 celebrations for DIY Dad’s 70th Birthday, studying a PD course comprising of 14 modules while also studying another course. One #goal achieved, was making DIY Dad a birthday cake that pretty much looked like the photo in the recipe book:

Sexy soft meringue cake filled with cream, pineapple and drizzled with kaffir lime syrup.

I did manage to cross off some items that had been carried across a couple of years of houseolutions lists, but for various reasons outside of my control some longer, longer term goals were achieved in 2017: hello brand spanking new alarm system, hello new car; but hey: sh*t happens.

2018 Houseolutions


  • Culinary and domestic skillz
    • Learn how to pipe buttercream icing
    • Learn how to knit
    • Make more passata and investigate other foodstuffs I can preserve at home
    • Finish off the silk panel project
  • Wet areas:
    • Finish painting bathroom cornices and fixing wall paint from last attempt to paint cornices (not a gift of mine)
    • Patch and repaint areas in the laundry (there are a couple of plugs that need to be removed from the wall, I need to fill, patch and repaint those areas)
  • Eaves: I need to repair, strip and repaint my Eaves and fascia boards (this is tied to the work on the garage roof that’s moved up into the achievable section for that reason)
    • This relies on DIY Dad direction, and he’s currently busy renovating his house. So although I’d hoped to do this over summer, this will happen at some point in the future.
  • Garage:
    • Re-roof garage: making it water tight and insulated
  • Front garden:
    • Investigate fencing infill options as the current lattice panels are starting to fall apart
    • Topsoil and levelling of lawn
    • Finish front garden bed:
      • Buy agapanthus to fill in gaps and add some purple to the bed
    • Planters around patio:
      • Relocate bulbs in the patio planters (they need to be thinned and relocated from where I will be repointing)
      • Once new homes for bulbs are located, plant in Dianella Little Jess to add some year round foliage and colour to the beds
      • Relocate the reed/grass plant currently in the garden bed (to the front verge, sectioned and replanted)


  • Investigate trellis solutions for back yard, which could be:
    • Stainless steel + sailing wire trellises for out the back, or
    • Rebar mesh (with my ongoing love of corten, I am starting to lean more towards an industrial finish for some things…)
  • Passive Solar Measures
    • Insulation: I live in Australia, y’all.
    • Get universal tile ventilators for roof: Whirly birds destroy the roof line, imho.
  • Termite treatment: I live in Australia, y’all.
  • Front verge
    • Plant front verge with drought resistant plants that attract pollinators and/or are native bush tucker foods (with the aim of total cost of plants being less than $50, so far no money has been spent :D)
    • Mulch it like it’s hot

Longer term:

Some other goals that are optional and will probably not be achieved in 2018, but one can live in hope (and carry them over into 2018 and beyond):

  • Buy some big (preferably retro) pots and trees for front:
    • Yellow desert lime
    • Fig tree: DIY Dad has a very neglected Fig Tree in a pot at his. I will be bringing it to mine and seeing if I can resuscitate it.
  • Restore roof and then get solar panels: to make use of abundant resources and for guilt free electricity
  • Not as pressing, but on the radar:
    • Re-pointing:
      • I need to dig out sections of my patio planters, to enable those sections to be repaired
      • I’ll need to remove all my downpipes to repoint behind them
      • I’ll need to work out how to repoint in sections where there is no easy access thanks to a later wall being built (see next point)
      • I’d like to get the mortar gun working (issues to do with quality of sand are causing the problem, according to my research), as that will help with some of the trickier sections
    • Restore freecycled furniture in my garage
    • Carport: draw up a rough plan for what, where and how.
    • Grey water system to water lawn.
    • Garage:
      • Replace window and door, again making it water tight with a view to turning it into a studio.
      • Replace garage door, making it water tight (or at least so I don’t get leaves from the street blown into the garage).
      • Invest in garage shelving to remove requirement for storing stuff on the floor.
    • Spare room: build a murphy bed, so I have space for visitors and painting. Murphy beds are the coolest.
    • Gallery hanging system: even if I can’t do the whole house, if I can do some of the rooms (or even just some of the walls in some of the rooms) it will mean I get some of my paintings and other sundries off the floor.

Previous Houseolutions

Happy StyleMAS 2017

It’s that time of the year: StyleMAS time

I splurged a little this year: I’ve really been feeling mercury glass (I blame Fixer Upper because I am thinking about mercury glass panes in the uppers of kitchen cabinet doors when that eventually gets redone…).

So I got some mercury glass StyleMAS lights and a mercury glass tree topper to glam it up and get the mercury glass fixation out of my system a little.

The mercury glass looks quite sweet with my matte white porcelain ornaments (another obsession not yet out of my system)

I went a little early with the tree this year, not because I want to be friendly and cohesive (#eyeroll) but because – for a variety of reasons – I wanted to spend some time caving in my house, and making it pretty and mine again. And I actually like the fun of decorating the tree…as well as the glass or two, or bottle, of champagne I drink while decorating it. It is the little things 😉

When they are on, the lights are quite blue…

It’s pretty cool. I also got some scandi style swags that you can see hanging on the window behind the tree:

In position…

I also pulled out a silver lamp that my aunt gave me, and popped a light inside it. It’s now smouldering (metaphorically not literally) in the corner of the lounge by the fireplace and the plants:

Sultry silhouette

The tree looks quite pretty at night:

The reflection on the glass table top is something else:

Holiday Task #Hero

Today is technically the first day of my Christmas holidays, and so far I am winning at completing tasks like a true holiday task #hero.
I’ve cleared all the out-of-date items in my fridge. I know best before gives one a bit of wiggle room…but if it’s best before October 2012 and you’re in December 2017, then I think that might be stretching it.
I’ve had the electrician in, next up is the person to fit a house alarm (more on THAT in other posts). I’ve rearranged my bedroom (separate post on that), AND reorganised the top of the bookshelf in my office (a continuation of some rationalisation and decluttering that I’ve done throughout the year, and also part of a prelude to actually organising the office and studio a bit more efficiently in terms of space used).


All my photos and tchotckes were stored in boxes of varying sizes, and not very efficiently using the space (the 6 cubes on the top left). So I picked up some Kvarnvik boxes from Ikea, assembled them and started popping everything into boxes:

In progress…

The second trip to Ikea was because I didn’t get enough boxes (Hot tip when you purchase storage items: always add 4 to whatever you are getting):

Everything is for the most part, in the right box.

I still have some very old photo albums up there: they are from DIY Dad’s house, I grabbed them to scan pics for my sister and in preparation for DIY Dad’s Massive 70th Birthday (that was this year). I need to source replacement albums and then return them from whence they came (giving me a whole free expedit cube. Yippee).

The wonder and the majesty

This Mac N Cheese is a little bit extra, if I do say so myself. It’s not for the calorie counters, or the carb and dairy avoiders. Oh no: not for you. Not for you at all.


  • 1.5-2 cups of elbow macaroni (dried)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cup milk
  • 1 cup stock made up (I use vegeta vegetable stock)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 of a half round of Creamy Blue Castello, chopped (if you are wondering what to do with the rest of the round, make this amazing blue cheese dip)
  • 100gms provolone, finely grated (you could substitute a tasty cheddar)
  • 100gms parmesan, finely grated
  • 100gms gruyere, finely grated
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil

Cook the curly macaroni in salted water and drain. Oil a large baking dish and pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

In a large saucepan (it needs to be large because you will be adding the macaroni to it), melt the butter and add the spring onions and when you can smell the cooked onions, add the flour (you’re now making a roux), stir while cooking. If it starts to stick add a tiny bit of olive oil (less than 1/2 tbsp) and keep stirring. and the roux is a nice golden colour, add 1/3 of the milk to it, turn the heat down to low-medium and stir until fully combined. Now add the rest of the cup of milk and stir until combined.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the pasta, and stir until covered in sauce (congratulations, you’ve just made pasta with white sauce). The sauce should be starting to thicken at this point, so turn down the heat to low-medium and then add your provolone, parmesan and gruyere cheese one at a time, stirring thoroughly when you do.

Once the cheese has melted into the white sauce, take off the heat. Tip out into your baking dish (you can freeze any surplus and microwave, it’s very nice). Tuck your pieces of Creamy Blue Castello into the pasta in the dish (making sure every part of the dish has a portion of goodness), top with panko breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of parmesan and/or gruyere and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes (it’s already cooked, you are just heating the top and melting the cheese). Then serve…#yourewelcome

It’s pretty deluxe

Left: hardcore version. Right: softcore version

I don’t particularly like blue cheese, but this dip has won me over. If you make it just before serving, it will be quite runny and you can use it as a salad dressing (great over cos lettuce halves). If you leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, it will firm up and become more of a dip consistency.

In whatever form, it is great with hot and spicy chicken winglets, and celery. I cannot get enough of celery sticks dipped into this.

Warning: you will need a food processor (I have a mini stick food processor)


  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • Blue cheese:
    • Softcore version: use 1/4 to 1/3 of the White Castello soft cheese half round (Creamy White)
    • Hardcore version: use 1/4 to 1/3 of the Blue Castello soft cheese half round (Creamy Blue)
    • Extremely hardcore version: use 1/4 of the Creamy Blue and 1/4 of an actual hardcore blue
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Pop everything into your mini food processor and process until smooth. Pour into a lidded container and then either dress salad with it immediately, or leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

Dressed cos lettuce halves and radish quarters

You can thank the Countess Von Noodlestein for inspiring this: she drenches tomatoes and separately chopped iceberg lettuce in something similar. And it is divine. It’s also quite simple.


  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (aka EVOO)
  • 1 clove garlic (fresh garlic, mind)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Crush the fresh garlic into a dressing container, add the salt, mix and leave for about 20 minutes. Then add the EVOO and the pepper and whisk/shake until well combined. If you are serving this over tomatoes, dress the tomatoes in it an hour/so before so they have time to warm up, marinate and infuse (same with the chopped iceberg lettuce), otherwise drizzle over your cos lettuce halves, your radishes or whatever else you want to bath in luxurious, garlicky, olive oil warmness immediately before serving.

Dressed cos lettuce halves (2018 may be all about the cos lettuce halves) and tomato quarters