Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Books, Books, Books: A Review and Reading Challenges for 2010

Earlier this month I read Philippa Gregory's novel The Boleyn Inheritance, which tells the story of King Henry VIII's (of England) marriages to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, wives numbered 4 and 5 respectively, from their own perspective, as well as that of Jane Boleyn.

I really enjoyed this novel, possibly as much as I did The Other Boleyn Girl. The constant changing of perspectives had the potential to be confusing, however, Gregory made it work brilliantly, and the story is well-paced. The only downside that I can think of is that it was, at times, a little repetitive.
It was invigorating to read Anne of Cleves as an intelligent young woman who drew the short-straw when she was selected by Henry Tudor as his fourth wife, but then grabbed the opportunity for independence when it was presented to her.

It is amusing yet sad to think of Katherine Howard as a clueless, silly girl too young to be a wife, who thought it would be fun to be married to a King old enough to be her grandfather, yet who paid the highest price for her family's ongoing quest for power.

It is also very intriguing to read a perspective of Jane Boleyn. Desperate, selfish and slightly insane Jane, whose greed sent her husband George and sister-in-law Anne to the scaffold, and then many years later in a bizarre case of history repeating, Katherine Howard and herself followed in their footsteps.

As a historian, Philippa Gregory writes brilliant historical fiction, and I recommend her Tudor fiction novels to anyone who likes a good read, and especially to those into hist-fic. Her novels are thick, but so very easy to read.

Anyone who knows me would know that I love, love, love books. At every opportunity I am reading, so I have decided to dedicate some of my reading for the New Year to a couple very interesting online reading challenges that I stumbled across recently.

The first is the Women Unbound Reading Challenge, which runs until November 2010, and anyone is able to sign up to take part at any time. The challenge is to read a selected number of fiction and non-fiction books on the topic of Women's Studies. I have decided to accept this challenge as a BLUESTOCKING participant, meaning I will have to read at least 5 books, including 2 that are non-fiction.

The books I have decided to read for this challenge, in no particular order, are as follows:
1. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (non-fiction: the life and death of Henry Tudor's wives) **COMPLETED**
2. Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir (non-fiction: Eleanor of Aquitaine was the wife of Louis VII of France, and then later Henry II of England, and mother of King Richard the Lion Hearted) **COMPLETED**
3. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (fictional account about the life of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England and wife to Edward IV, during the War of the Roses)**COMPLETED**
4. Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain (fictional account of the life of Eleanor Glanville, botanist in Puritan England) **COMPLETED**
5. The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe (fictional account of the Salem witch-trials). **COMPLETED**

Once each book is read I will post a review with its theme in mind, and then link it back to the original challenge. There are at present over 100 people participating in this challenge, so if you too want to take part you can add your link at the Women Unbound Reading Challenge site.

The second reading challenge for 2010 I will be participating in is the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge over at Royal Reviews, which will run from 1 January 2010 until 31 December 2010. Again, anyone can sign up at anytime, but the books must belong to the Historical Fiction genre, and must be started on or after 1/1/10.

For this challenge I will be a FASCINATED participant, meaning I will have to read at least 6 historical fiction novels. I suspect it will probably be more, but I wanted to set myself a realistic target, as I do read genres other than hist-fic, and I also like to read non-fiction books between novels. So, setting myself a target of 6 hist-fic novels over a 12-month period should be easily achievable.

I dont know if this constitutes as cheating (I hope not!), but some of the books for the Women Unbound Reading Challenge will double-up for this one. These novels will be The Lost Book of Salem (**COMPLETED**), Lady of the Butterflies (**COMPLETED**) and The White Queen (**COMPLETED**). The other 3 novels I'm adding to this list will include Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks (**COMPLETED**), and The Queen's Fool and The Wise Woman, both by Philippa Gregory.

Again, if you'd like to participate you can do so by going to the Royal Reviews site and adding your name to the ever-increasing participant list.

Of course, I will be continuing with my seasonal reading lists, into which I will incorporate books for both challenges.


Summer Reading List (December - February)
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe
The Perfect Heresy by Stephen O'Shea

Christmas Comes but Once a Year...


Yes, I'm a wee bit late in getting out my Christmas greetings to all the lovely people who stop by to read my blog. I've been missing-in-action since I finished work on Christmas Eve, and am now taking a well-earned (albiet not long enough) 2-week break. All phones have been silenced. The only contact I have with the outside world is via the internet. Luckily it is far too HOT to leave the house: Perfect reading weather, and I plan to use it wisely.

SJ and I decided to have a Christmas tree for the first time this year; in previous years we have always been away from home at Christmas and therefore never saw the point in having one, but this year, for the first time, we woke Christmas morning in our own home. It was so nice to have it lit-up during the evenings leading up to Christmas Day; it is such a pretty tree, and I look forward to having it up again next Christmas. It is a small fibre-optic tree, adorned with a few small gold baubles for good luck (originating from the Witch Ball), and sits in front of the un-used fireplace in the living room, which made a great storage place for presents.

SJ & I werent the only ones to put up our first Christmas tree this year: Another family we know had always had a giant "singing Santa" in lieu of a tree, but were continuously told by people that their 5-year-old son was missing out by not having a Christmas tree. So, this year they went out and got a tree to stand alongside giant Santa. This got me thinking about Christmas traditions, and why we seem to need them to have Christmas spirit. I remember as children my siblings and I always looked forward to December as it meant the Christmas tree would come out of storage and we'd all stand around decorating it. It was an exciting time because when the tree was up in meant Christmas Day was just around the corner, and we'd begin to count the number of sleeps until it arrived. In hindsight I dont think it would have mattered if it was a tree, or a giant singing Santa, or something else entirely; whatever the symbolism used, Christmas would still have been an exciting time, as it usually is for children.

As it is Summer in this part of the world during Christmastime, most Christmas trees are artificial. A real tree would simply not survive until Christmas Day: the heat would make it shed its leaves and branches quickly, leaving a rather shabby sight come Christmas morning. As such, there are no Christmas tree farms, and our tree came packed in a box from a department store. The history of the Christmas tree is a fascinating one, and I have always assumed that anyone celebrating Christmas would have a tree of some kind. Do you have a Christmas tree, or is there some other tradition in your household?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In Pictures: Northern Flinders Ranges

Some of the most amazing scenery you're ever likely to see:
Wilpena to Blinman to Parachilna
Flinders Ranges, South Australia
29 November 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baked Figs with Vanilla Icecream

Apologies for my absence.

Does anyone else find that during November and December everyday life seems to pick up speed? Suddenly there are so many more things that need doing, yet seemingly less time in which to do them. Or, at least, that is how I feel at the moment.

I do have photos from November that I want to share, and will share at some point in the very near future, but right now I simply must, must, must tell you about this fantastically easy and delicious recipe for baked figs that I (surprisingly) found the time to make on the weekend.

All you need is:
12 figs, sliced in half
2 tspn sugar
300ml sherry
4 whole peppercorns
3 tbspn honey + extra for serving
Vanilla ice cream (made with buttermilk is best)

All you need to do is:
1. Place sliced figs facing up in large ovenproof dish.
2. Sprinkle evenly with sugar.
3. Poor sherry over figs.
4. Add peppercorns to dish.
5. Drizzle honey over figs.
6. Place in oven at 180*C and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Remove figs from dish and allow to cool, and pour remaining sauce into saucepan. Simmer on a moderate heat until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds, then chill in fridge.
8. Serve figs drizzled in sauce and extra honey with scoops of vanilla icecream.

(This recipe is a variation of the one I found here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wuthering Heights.

I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
~ Wuthering Heights

Every now and then I stumble across a book that really surprises me: A book I thought I'd detest but end up immensely enjoying.
Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights, is one of those books.

I know why it took me so long to read it: I feared I would end up passionately despising it like I did her sister Charlotte's famous novel, Jane Eyre. Then Wuthering Heights turned up in the post, a surprise package from Shelley over at Tea Time, and I began to re-assess why a ten-year hatred of Jane Eyre and sister Charlotte should make me so afraid to read any other works by the Bronte sisters?

It sat on my bookshelf for months whilst I pondered. Wuthering Heights is considered as one of the best novels ever written. There have been movies, TV adaptions, endless book editions, and Kate Bush even wrote a song about it, so why should I so fervently avoid it?

So, I quit stalling. I read it, and would you believe it: It is so good. So very, very good. I loved it.

The story centres around violent and mean Heathcliff, brought to Wuthering Heights as a child and treated badly after the death of his guardian. It's hard not to think of him as an unloved orphan, who is so angry and bitter at the world that he takes it out on everyone he knows, and probably justifiably so. He is so sad that it is difficult not to pity him, despite the misery he inflicts on those around him.

Yet, in a dark, brooding story with dark, brooding characters all around her, Catherine Linton shines. Strong-willed and determined not to let Heathcliff get the better of her, she is like a smouldering ember, just waiting for the right moment to spark and set the whole place alight...

Wuthering Heights is a brutal yet brilliant novel, in true gothic style.
If you've not read it (assuming I'm not the last person on the face of the planet to do so) then I highly recommend it.

You can pick up a super cheap copy here or here.

What books have surprised you in this way?

Spring Reading List (September - November) Progression:
1. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
4. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quiche & Summer Cooking.


It is so hot here at the moment! For the past nine days our part of South Australia has been sweltering in a Spring "heatwave", with daytime temperatures refusing to fall below the 40*C (104*F), and today would have to be the hottest yet! I cant even stand outside to hang out my laundry: I'll get burnt!

With all this hot weather, I've not felt like cooking, or even eating much for that matter. The past week or so I've survived on fresh fruit and smoothees. However, yesterday afternoon I had a craving for Quiche (no doubt needed a protein boost!), which is one of my favourite foods to have during the warmer months.

This recipe is a variation of a recipe that came from my mum and it is so quick and easy. The best thing, though, is that once it is in the oven you can walk away and not have to worry about it for 40 minutes. It tastes great, too!

4 Eggs
1.5 Cups milk
1.5 Cups grated cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tspn dried crushed garlic
Half a zucchini (corgette), finely chopped
1/4 Cup corn kernals
1 tomato: Half diced, half cut into four slices
Spinach, finely chopped
3/4 Cup pastry mix

Beat together eggs and milk, then stir in grated cheese, onion, zucchini, corn, diced tomato, spinach, garlic and pasty mix.
Top with tomato slices (as picture above).
Pour into greased pie dish and cook in oven for 35-40 minutes at 200*C (180*C fan-forced).

Eat warm or cold.

What are some of your favourite foods/recipes to eat during the Summer months? I'd be most interested to know, because during Summer it is so hot here that I dont feel like putting in much effort to make a meal, and I could use some ideas!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vegetarian Tips & Tid-bits: Iron

Oxygen is transported around the body by haemoglobin. Iron deficiency, which leads to low levels of haemoglobin (anaemea), is the most common mineral nutrient deficiency in the world.

There are two types of dietry iron: Haem iron and Non-haem iron.
Haem iron is found in animal tissue, and Non-haem iron in plant foods.
How well iron is aborbed depends on other foods being consumed with it. For example, tea and fibre can reduce aborption, whereas the presence of Vitamin C greatly increases the absorption of iron by the body.

Therefore, good sources of Non-haem iron for Vegetarians include leafy greens such as spinach, legumes such as lentils and kidney beans, molasses, dried fruits such as apricots and figs, and wholegrain cereals.

To find out more about dietry iron and Vegetarianism, go here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In the Garden (31.10.09)

Pink Palegonia

Miniture Palegonia

Up Close: Minature Palegonia

Purple Palegonia

Zucchini (I'm astounded by how fast and how big these plants have grown)



Sugarsnap Peas
Since it is expected to reach 40*C here today (and it's only the first day of November!), I thought I should get out into the garden and take some photos before the heat starts to shrivle them...
I am hoping that really doesnt happen. I'll be devestated!

Freshly Picked: Sugarloaf Cabbage & Cauliflower

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Today I wrote and posted a letter to my partner as part of A Bun Can Dance's letter writing swap. I can never say no to the prospect of writing and receiving mail, as there is nothing better than opening the letterbox at the end of the day and finding within it an envelope filled with stories and news from a friend or a family member (or sometimes even a complete stranger!).

In today's world of electronic conveniences - email, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace + blogs, text and picture messaging with cell phones, Skype/VOIP - letter writing no longer appears to be the preferred method of correspondence. It is too slow, too time-consuming, too difficult to bother with. In addition, with postage rates always increasing, the humble letter is fast becoming an expensive past-time.

I see this as a huge shame. I love writing and receiving letters. It was my Nanna who convinced and inspired me to write my first "penpal" letter when I was about 7 years old. My "penpal" and I had met once at her grandparents' farm and we had exchanged addresses; she was the same age as I was and we shared similar interests and lifestyle. But if it had not been for my Nanna's encouragement I doubt I would have ever completed that first letter. To this day, my "first penpal" and I are still in touch; over the past 21+ years we have continued to write one another, through changing schools, towns and cities, University, and new careers. We now live, once again, in the same part of the world (the Flinders Ranges), albiet a few hours apart - plenty of distance for continuing our written correspondence.

My Nanna is a letter-writer, which probably doesnt come as much of a surprise considering that she belongs to a generation before the existence of computers and cell phones. To this day, she still makes the time and effort to write to family and friends. I, too, share correspondence with my Nanna, and this is one of my favourite treasures.

I hate the telephone. I find it interruptive and annoying. If I want to tell a friend about my day, share my news or ask after their well-being, I much prefer to do it in the form of a letter. Ideally they would be hand-written, on nice stationery, in a decorative envelope, with little surprises to fill the weight limit, to make it all the more exciting and intriguing for the receiver.

There was once a time when just about everyone wrote letters, and when the duty of the postal service was just that: To provide a postal service, not an outlet for giftwares and a place to pay the bills. No, the postal service existed solely to ensure that a piece of mail reached its destination, whether it be in wind, rain or sunshine. It may have taken days, weeks, or even months for a single letter to arrive at its destination, but its receiver would have eagerly awaited its delivery, upon which a reply would have been promptly penned.

How wonderful it would have been to belong to this time, when the written word held so much importance. A time before telephones and computers, when news from a loved-one came in the form of a little paper bundle...

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Is it something that you do often, rarely, or never? I wouldnt be surprised if there are people out there, perhaps those belonging to the generation following mine, that have never penned a real letter in all their life and used the post to send it. What a magnificently simple treat they have missed out on: The curiousity in its arrival, the anticipation of tearing open the envelope to reveal its contents, the excitement of reading a loved-one's news, the pleasure of their enquiries.

Sunday is the day I like to dedicate to letters, and today I wrote two. I hope mysterycreature, my partner for A Bun Can Dance's letter writing swap, is as excited by the prospect of receiving my mail as much as I am of hers. It will be our first correspondence, perhaps our only correspondence, which simply makes it all the more wonderful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daughter of the Forest.

Last weekend I finally finished reading Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. Due to an unfortunate busy schedule it ended up taking over a month for me to finish, which was a bit frustrating because it turned out to be an incredibly good read.

Juliet Marillier writes historical fantasy. Her novels are set during historical time periods, but she bases her novels on myths. Daughter of the Forest is set on both sides of the Irish Sea, with Sorcha being the heroine of the story (no wonder I just had to read this one, right?). Sorcha is set a seemingly impossible task by the Fair Folk (faeries) to save her six brothers from a curse that has been placed upon them by an evil enchantress.

At first I found the story a little slow; there was a lot of explanatory text and dialogue, yet I couldnt make sense of where the story was heading. However, around 200 pages in (keeping in mind this novel is over 500 pages in length) it all started to fall into place and I gradually became more and more engrossed in the story.

I became attached to the characters, so much so that whenever something bad happened I wasnt sure if I would be able to continue reading for fear of another bad thing happening. I didnt want bad things to keep happening, I wanted Sorcha to save her brothers in a timely, ordely, pain-free manner; nothing horrible was allowed to happen to anyone or anything! Of course, it probably wouldnt have been nearly as enticing and exciting without it, though. In fact, a week after having finished reading it, I still find myself gazing off into space, thinking about Sorcha, her plight, her brothers, her story...

Daughter of the Forest is the first novel of four in the Sevenwaters Series. The other three novels are Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy, and Heir to Sevenwaters. These and other books by Juliet Marillier are available at Amazon for all international readers, or if you're in Australia/New Zealand/Asia I recommend checking them out at Fishpond.

I have registered my copy at BookCrossing, but am yet to decide what I should do with it next: Keep in my Permanent Collection and loan out? Start a Bookring or Bookray? RABCK? However, if this is a novel you think you might be interested in reading, let me know and we might be able to arrange something.

Spring Reading List (September - November) Progression:

1. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
4. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

By the way, I am currently hosting a giveaway at my livejournal for a brand-new copy of Jane Austen's novel Pride & Prejudice. If you'd like to go into the draw to win it, all you need to do is go here and leave a comment, even if it is just to say you want the book. Unfortunately, today is the last day to enter the draw and I will be announcing the winner over the weekend, so if you are interested, you may want to hurry on over there right away!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hamburger Connection.

"The Hamburger Connection" is a phrase coined by environmentalist Norman Myers in the early 1980s, and refers to the meat industry's involvement in the destruction of the environment. It came about as a result of the rapid growth in beef exports from Central America to fast-food chains in the USA, which, thanks to consumer demand, has since become a world-wide trend.

The mass production of animals for food has a devestating impact on the environment. Grazing and the production of grains for stock-feed has lead to the loss of rainforests and natural grasslands, as well as causing major environmental damage including soil erosion, pollution, global warming (caused by greenhouse gas emissions) and, ultimately, climate change. This issue affects every living creature on the planet.

One of the most effective ways to fight global warming and climate change is to change to a Vegetarian diet. If you want to have a greater impact on the environment than that of a hybrid car, go Vegan.

I considered making this an enormous preachy post about how eating animals causes climate change, but then I realised it is probably more worthwhile if I share some of the very informative and inspiring websites that I myself regularly refer to.

These include:

These websites contain very informative, and very relevant information about global warming and climate change, how it affects us all, and what we can do to make a difference. Please take a few moments of your time to check them out. You will be impressed, probably learn something new, and hopefully be inspired to take action.

If you're then ready to take the plunge, GoVeg provide a FREE, no-obligation Vegetarian Starter Kit for you to order or download.

So, no more excuses. Having a positive effect on the environment has never been so easy.

To view all other Blog Action Day participants, simply go here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Promoting Blog Action Day 2009

Blog Action Day this year will be taking place on 15 October, on the issue of Climate Change.

If you would like to register to take part, simply go to the Blog Action Day website and add your details, just like I did. It's quick, easy and completely free!

If you'd like to know more about Blog Action Day, go here.

You can access the list of those bloggers registered to participate here.

"One Day. One Issue. Thousands of Voices."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the Garden (06.10.2009)...

The Beginning of a "Summer" Vegetable Garden:

The Patch


The First Strawberry Blossom

Zucchini (Corgette)

Sugarsnap Peas

Patio Tomatoes (Yellow & Roma)

Sweet Grape Tomato

The last of the "Winter" Vegetable Garden:

Spinach & Onions

Sugarloaf Cabbages

Six months ago I was an absolute gardening novice. I still am, but planting a "Winter" vegetable garden taught me the following very important gardening points:

1. Location, location, location: It should have been obvious, yet my Winter vegie patch was too shaded and didnt get enough sunlight and warmth on the rare days there was some. As such, the plants grew and developed painfully slow. However, the moment Winter started turning into Spring and the weather warmed the plants quickly tripled in size. But this too had it's downfall: most of the cabbage plants and all of the cauliflowers went straight to seed. They are now composting over in the new patch and make great worm food. In the Winter garden we have two cabbages that will hopefully be ready soon (if the bugs dont get to them first!), as well as a bunch of brown and red (Spanish) onions. The spinach is super tasty and we eat a lot of it; any excess we either give away or use as worm-food.

2. Adequately prepare the soil: Dont plant before you are ready! Turn the soil correctly and put through plenty of fertilizer; for the "Summer" garden we have used cow manure and pigeon poo and the plants have done wonderfully well. We left the manure a week before planting any seedlings.

3. Continue to fertilize: I've been using fish emulsion on the vegies every two to three weeks. In the past week alone the plants have doubled in size!

4. Keep the soil moist: Moist soil promotes many big, healthy earthworms. If you let the soil dry out, the earthworms will disappear, and you need worms to maintain healthy soil. You may have to use raised beds if your soil is sandy.

5. Mulch, mulch, mulch: Helps retain moisture, and as it breaks down provides the plants and worms with food and nutrients. Is especially important in the dryer climates.

6. Follow the moon: Plant with a new moon. The water is apparently closer to the surface during the first stages of the lunar cycle, and further away at the end. I've also been told that by planting with a new moon, the plants will be big and strong enough to use the light from the full-moon to photosynthesise at night. (Although, if that's untrue, please correct me!)

If you too have a vegetable garden and have experiences and tips to share, please do! It would be most appreciated.

Monday, September 28, 2009

365 Days & Dottie Angel's "Utmost Challenge".

[click on image & you will be transported to the original challenge]

I like a challenge, especially the kind where I can make my own rules to give me a better chance of actually succeeding. They're just the best, are they not?

I have decided, after much thought and consideration, to take part in Dottie Angel's "Challenge of the Utmost Kind". Dottie Angel (Tif) has challenged herself to buy only handcrafted and secondhand goods for her home and wardrobe for the next 365 days, and has invited any other brave souls interested to join her.

I am one of those souls, and last night I sat down and sorted out the Ground Rules and Exceptions by which I intend to play (you may not consider me "brave" in any shape or form once you've read them), which are as follows:

1. First and foremost, books are off-limits. I will try my hardest to get the books I want secondhand, but failing that I will have no other choice but the buy them new. Life is not worth living if I cannot have my books!

2. This challenge will not encompass any of the clothing I need for work, which includes shoes.

3. I'm also permitted to purchase all new under-garments (including socks and stockings/tights) as I need them.

4. Anything we need for home improvements is also not included in the challenge, although if we can purchase supplies and make what we need ourselves then that is what we will do. We will also try and "make do" with what we have that isnt broken and doesnt need replacing for 365 days.

5. I'm also allowing myself to purchase supplies for my scrapbooking projects, but this will be on a need-only basis. I wont be buying stuff just because it looks pretty and I think I might use it at some point down the track. I've loads of paper, card stock, embellishments and brads already, so if I do need something it will be very specific.

6. SJ and the dog (Bailey) are excluded from the challenge. SJ would fail miserably anyhow, and I cringe at the thought of him attempting to "make" stuff that he has no experience in making. He tends to be a little better at breaking stuff. As for Bailey: The dog gets what the dog wants, and it's a mute point, okay?

If I have to purchase anything that does not fall within the aforementioned exceptions, it will have to be either handmade or secondhand.

I see this challenge as a wonderful opportunity to get out there and check out the garage and estate sales, craft markets and fairs, and help out charities such as The Salvation Army by visiting their secondhand stores.

I can utilise the internet and purchase handmade clothing and gifts from sites like Etsy and Oxfam.

I can improve my own skills: My knitting is poor at best, and I cannot sew, but if time permits what better opportunity to learn and improve?

365 days, starting now (28 September 2009).
It's not that long.
I wonder if I can do this...?

Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And it begins...

What a busy weekend we've had!
I've mentioned before that SJ, Bailey and I live in a stone cottage that dates back to the 1890s in a small town in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. We purchased it around eight months ago.

We knew when we bought it that an electrical upgrade would be required: The old ceramic fuse panel in the laundry kind of gave that away. When we finally got an electrician out around four weeks ago it was revealed that some of the wiring in the property could be around sixty years old!

So, not only would the fuse-panel need upgrading, but the entire original section of the house would need to be re-wired.

After a short-lived panic about the work that was going to be involved in re-wiring our property, SJ and I soon realised what a fantastic opportunity this was going to be for us to get motivated and start the "improvements" we've been talking about for the past eight months.

As the electrician will be here on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week coming, SJ and I wasted no time getting to work!

We had decided that we would remove the built-in cupboards in the living room, as they take up a lot of space and make the room feel small and cluttered. We have been unable to fit all our lounge suite in the living room due to this, so on Friday night we got to work and dismantled/removed one of the cupboards.
Whoever installed the cupboards had bolted the frame to the wall and the fireplace to hold it steady so it could support weight (eg for a television). This made it incredibly time-consuming and tricky to pull apart, and on the fireplace side the bolt was so close to the edge that when the frame was removed it took a chunk of stone with it! Not what we were expecting, but luckily no major damage and it should be relatively easy to fix with a bit of plaster and some patience.

We still have the second cupboard on the other side of the fireplace to dissemble, but we have elected to leave that for the time being as it will not be an obstruction to the electrician.

On Saturday SJ, his dad and I started early and got on with chasing the walls. Chasing requires that we cut strips out of the stone where the wires are going to be run by the electrician (see pictures below). To comply with electrical standards, the wiring needs to be put into the wall, pinned securely to the stone and then covered with plaster. An alternative to this method for stone houses is to install gip-rock walls and have the wiring run behind the gip-rock. However, this is a more expensive and time-consuming option, plus it would reduce the overall size of the rooms (which arent all that big to begin with). Besides which, SJ and I are quite fond of the stone walls and like the way they look.

SJ and his dad completed the chasing in a day, and it took a further day to clean all the mess. It was dusty work! But the house is now ready for the electrician to arrive on Tuesday and run the wiring through, and then complete the second-fit on Wednesday. We are privileged to have an electrician friend who is squeezing us in between other work he is doing in town at the moment, so now we are just hoping that Mother Nature behaves herself and doesnt cause any delay through wind, dust and/or thunderstorms.

Having to completely re-wire has been a blessing in disguise, as it has allowed us to choose where we want powerpoints, light switches and fittings, TV antenna points, and fan controls. All existing have been placed where it was convenient at the time for the wiring to be fed through from either the roof or vents and then run down the wall. This means that all the existing points will be removed, and we've been able to chase for additional light switches and powerpoints exactly where we want them.

This has also meant that SJ and I have had to finally decide, once and for all, where we will be placing the furniture in each room. It will still be a tight squeeze for the lounge suite in the living room, but at least we'll be able to place the television in a spot where it is not partially obscured by a fireplace mantel piece.

Once the wiring has been completed, we will finally be able to get on with fixing the plaster work, putting in new ceilings and cornices, flushing the walls and then re-painting the rooms. This is the part I am most looking forward to; I have had the paint colours selected for the past eight months and cannot wait to be rid of the uneven, patchy "peach" colour that currently adorns every room in the house...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(21.09.09) Talk to me about Climate Change...

Picture from here.

Hail Stones, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

Picture from here.

Storm Clouds, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Raining Mud, Port Augusta, South Australia

...But don't try to tell me it doesnt exist.