Bathroom renos: Before

4 02 2023

Our bathroom renovations are getting closer…

We moved into our current house 13 years ago, and, right from the get-go I’ve had issues with aspects of the en suite bathroom, initially related to the stupid and monstrous corner bath (not even a spa bath) that was already there, and that we had to climb into and out of to open the window. Then as we’ve got older, it’s become more obvious this bathroom is not accessible or useable if one of us was incapacitated for even the short term. We have a second bathroom, but that’s even harder to access if you were on crutches, using a walker, or in a wheelchair as it’s down a narrow passage.

Ten years ago I decided the en suite bathroom (including a separate toilet with a door within the en suite) needed to have wider doors and no corner bath, but my DH wasn’t too keen as he didn’t want the disruption, and besides ‘it’s fine’. But after a couple of small falls (bruises only) for both of us on the shower hob and getting into/out of the bath, about 5 years ago he finally agreed to get the bathroom done. I didn’t do much about it (work, life etc.) but I did start collecting ideas and writing up a spec sheet of what was absolutely necessary versus what would be nice to have, including what we didn’t want—no bath!). Then in late 2020, I contacted the only 2 bathroom reno companies in my nearby town. Both came out within days to take a look, talk through my needs, and take a copy of the spec sheet with them. Both promised me a quote either ‘just before or just after the Christmas break’. Then… nothing!

I called them both again in February 2021, leaving a voice message with one and leaving a message with the receptionist for the other (she promised he’d get back to me within the week). And then I got ghosted. I’ve heard absolutely nothing from either of them from December 2020 to February 2023.

We had continual lockdowns for COVID, supply chains were disrupted, housing was going through the roof, and the labour market was really tight. I thought we’d wait it out until things had settled down a bit, but I certainly wasn’t keen to try the 2 local companies again. Fast forward to 2022 and I was having a chat with my cleaner who mentioned she was getting her bathroom reno’ed. I asked her who she was using and it was a different company to those I’d contacted—it was a company that was an arm of the tile and bathroom fittings retailer, and as the owners had plumbing and building skills and as they saw a huge need for a bathroom reno company, they set up their own reno division in the height of the pandemic.

I contacted them, and the lovely Tony came out to take a look, talk with me about options, etc. And he got back to me promptly!! After several weeks of back and forth via emails and a visit to the showroom to look at options, we finally had a firm quote. On payment of the deposit we’d get a firm start date, though he did warn me that it would be several months away. Not a problem—I’d already waited 13 years! I paid the 30% deposit on 13 September 2022, and got a start date of 13 February 2023. Meantime, my cleaner’s reno had been finished and she LOVED it. She especially loved how the tradies cleaned up after themselves and how professional they all were (she loved it so much she’s already booked her own en suite bathroom to be done!).

So here we are, about 1 week out from the renos starting. Tony came out yesterday to mark walls and discuss final logistics. We’ll sleep in our bedroom for the last time on Thursday night, then Tony and a couple of others will come on Friday and get some prep work done (e.g. pull back the bedroom carpet, drop off the skip bin, isolate some electrical points and light switches) before the bathroom demolition starts on Monday 13th. Because we have to have doors widened (double-brick house, with single-brick internal walls), they’ll be a lot of noise and dust, which they’ll try to minimise as much as possible. Tony said the worst of that will take 1 to 2 days (brick saws make a helluva noise, as do machines and tools to lift tiles from walls and floors!). He also said it’s a 3-week job, so we’ll be sleeping in the spare bedroom and using the other bathroom and toilet for that time—fortunately, we have that so we don’t have to move out. The 3-week time frame is just small inconvenience, I hope.

I’ve already taken the ‘before’ photos—the one below shows most of the issues.

Picture of bathroom showing shower with a hob and large corner bath and step

Other than the ‘as is’ mess, there are a LOT of things wrong with the design of this bathroom that make it inaccessible and unsafe. In the photo you can see:

  • Raised hob in shower (yes, we’ve both tripped on it at least once in 13 years).
  • Stupid corner bath that’s useless for anything (I tried to run a bath the first year we were here—the hot water ran out before I had about an inch in the bath!). But its biggest problem is that you have to get into it to open/close the window! (DH tries to lean over it!) And see that little step? You can’t use it as it’s too narrow, and it’s an impediment both climbing into and out of the bath. You have to be super careful (slip hazard, trip hazard, no handholds for 2+ points of connection), and yes, we’ve both slipped at least once, and had bruises to prove it.
  • You can’t see the doors in this picture, but the door into the en suite is about 720 mm wide and then into the toilet is 620 mm wide. The MINIMUM requirement for wheelchairs and other mobility aids is 820 mm (preferably 850 mm).
  • There’s a gap between the vanity and bath where the dust bunnies lurk (too narrow for the vacuum cleaner head).
  • There’s wasted space on the vanity—the plinth and the top are both deep nothingness spaces.

In addition to solving all these issues (wider doorways, no bath, walk-in shower), we’re going to be getting a set of mirrored overhead cupboards to replace the large mirror that just sits on the wall and has no other function than a mirror, and a smart toilet! I figured we’d only do this once and none of us is getting any younger, so why not?

BTW, Tony’s company has been so busy he told us on Friday that they are now booked all the way to the end of the year, and starting to book for January 2024!





“Just the one zucchini, please”

14 01 2023

My neighbour texted to ask if I’d like a zucchini or two as she had heaps spare in her garden. We’re not big zucchini eaters, so I thanked her and said I’d take just the one. We just met at the fence, and this is the zucchini she gave me — it’s HUGE!! I’m now looking up zucchini recipes and tips for freezing it.

Edited to add: It’s 3.5 kg (3500 g or almost 8 lb for those in the US)

Update: I got 22 cups of grated zucchini (11x 2-cup Ziplock bags) plus a heap of pith that was quite furry and full of very big seeds (I tossed that out). Full size carving knife to show scale. All now in the freezer for later use.

A very big zucchini being held by my neighbour

Zucchini cut in half showing a full-sized carving knife for size comaprison

Grated zucchini and in ziplock bags, with the cut ends and pith on the cutting mat





Laundry observations in an Australian summer

24 12 2022

There are a LOT of things I hate about an Australian summer, not least of which are the relentless heat, the hot easterly winds coming from the inner part of the continent, the flies, and the always-present threat of bushfires. But one of summer’s joys is hanging the washing on the line and it being dry by the time the second load is ready to go out. Then bringing in the washing and smothering your face into the smell of the sun and fresh air that lingers for hours in the towels etc. Burning your hand on the metal spring in the pegs isn’t so wonderful, however! (guess who left the peg bucket outside in the sun for 30+ minutes this morning?)

For those living in other climes, nearly every Australian who lives in a house with a backyard has a clothesline, even if they also have a dryer. And when the weather’s fine and if we have the time to do so, we peg out our laundry to dry in the sun. I realise this may seem like an old-fashioned novelty to many of my friends and family in other parts of the world, and it certainly isn’t recommended if you live in a cold climate (when I lived in Canada, I recall naively pegging out my clothes on the outside line when it was -5C — they didn’t dry, instead they froze 🙂 )

I also remember living up north (particularly the Pilbara region of Western Australia) and there we had two big issues with laundry. One was that the cold water was often hotter than the hot water! (In those days, the cold water was piped to the town across about 20+ miles in aboveground pipes.) And the other was that in the hottest time of the year we had to hang our laundry out at night to avoid bleaching and rotting from the harsh sun.

BTW, we’ve never owned a dryer in the house where we’ve lived for the past 13 years—we hang out our washing all year round. There’s rarely a run of more than a few days a week of wet weather in the middle of winter. The clothes take longer to dry in winter, but invariably they do, or we help them along by hanging them over a portable clothes rack in the house.





Firefighting aircraft call signs (southwest Western Australia)

13 12 2022

It’s bushfire season and already the firefighting aircraft have had their work cut out for them.

This post is for me to save me having to click on all the call signs on FlightRadar24:

  • BDOG125, BDOG642, BDOG646 – spotter planes?
  • BMBR132, BMBR139 – Hercules C130 (the big ones!)
  • BMBR605, BMBR608, BMBR611 – yellow air tractors
  • DUJ – yellow air tractor
  • EGU – helicopter, possibly a spotter
  • FBIR661, FBIR662 – helicopters
  • FCO, FCU – yellow air tractors
  • FNE – yellow air tractor
  • N260UH – Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopter
  • NID – yellow air tractor
  • PEK – yellow air tractor
  • PKAR644 – spotter plane?
  • SPTRxxx – state government (spotter?) planes, likely used by the DBCA and/or DFES

Other aircraft:

  • FDxxx – Royal Flying Doctor (planes and helicopters)
  • RSCxxx – RAC rescue helicopter




Directory of Western Australian teachers, 1900-1980

9 12 2022

As part of researching my family history, I use quite a number of online resources (this post on my professional blog lists the main ones: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2022/07/24/family-history-resources-i-use/).

One I’ve used a lot is a digital database of Western Australian teachers from 1900-1980 (https://www.carnamah.com.au/teachers). Why? Because quite a number of my extended Western Australian family were teachers, including me and my mum. Back in the day, this directory was published each year, with several copies delivered to each public school in the state. We called it ‘the stud book’! And we used it back then to see where our colleagues had been posted, check their qualifications and years of service (if we were competing for seniority-based promotion), even their middle names and the married names of the women (many married locally and didn’t leave the town, so they’d appear in the stud book the following year under their married name). It was a valuable resource then, and it still is. Either in the 1980s or by the early 1990s the Education Department of the day either decided to no longer publish it as a printed book, or not distribute it so freely to schools, or went digital with this information (if it was digital, it wasn’t available to teachers in schools). Whatever the reason, the stud book seemed to disappear from schools. I taught until early 1992, and as I was a teacher-librarian, I was the custodian of many years of stud books in my school (available to the staff only, not to students), but I know in the last few years I was there we didn’t get the annual stud book.

So I was delighted to discover a fully searchable database of all the stud books from 1900 to 1980 on, of all places, the Carnamah Historical Society and Museum’s website. Why was this surprising? Well, for those who don’t live in Western Australia, Carnamah is a dot on the map in the central wheatbelt (the town’s Wikipedia entry is correspondingly tiny, but the link from there to the Wikipedia entry for the historical society uncovers a wealth of information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnamah_Historical_Society). Carnamah is about 200 km north of Perth and has a population of around 400 people. So why did Carnamah do this and who was the driver for it? It would’ve taken many many thousands of hours of scanning and typing and editing the data—there is no easy way to get those hundreds of pages (all in a tiny font size and with deep gutters in the books) each year into a digital form, and I’m sure the state Education Department wasn’t willing to share any digital information, assuming they had it.

I still don’t know who the driver is for this most useful website (they aren’t resting on their laurels either—they recently added 80,000+ records of Western Australian car registrations from 1915 to 1928: https://www.carnamah.com.au/car-registrations), but I had occasion to contact them recently. Back in the late 1940s my mum was a ‘monitor’ at Carnamah Primary School and she had some photos from that time that I shared with the person who looks after their Facebook page and website. In my email to him I congratulated him and the historical society on making the old stud books available as a searchable database. He shared back this information:

The school teacher index was a slow burn but we got there. We were assisted by Work for the Dole participants at a number of locations across metro Perth.

What a fantastic use of resources! And what a fantastic resource freely available to anyone in the world. Well done, Carnamah Historical Society.





Goodbye, ancient one

28 10 2022

We’ve had an old peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa) growing on our property, likely for many generations. But it’s had, and has caused, some problems—the most recent was a tree limb snapping off without warning and landing on the driveway, and previous to that, termites, and branches overhanging the house. We’ve had the overhanging branches lopped several times and had treated the termites. This is the only tree close to our house and it’s many tens of thousands of dollars cheaper to lop a few limbs every few years than to replace an entire smashed corner of a double-brick house!

But with the latest unexpected branch drop, we realised it was time for the tree to go. Who knows what would happen in a big storm with gale-force winds coming from the north-west as they do? Or in a bushfire (the oil in the leaves is highly volatile)?

I contacted the people who’d previously done our lopping, but 2 months after accepting their quote, they still couldn’t give me a date when they’d come. I found another company and the owner came out the next day, gave me a quote on the spot ($400 cheaper than the first quote) and told me it would likely be done within 3-4 weeks. Two weeks later I get a text to see if 7:15am in a couple of days time was OK—sure was!

They turned up at 7am with ALL the regalia—about 4 trucks, a big cherry-picker crane, the wood chipper, a small piece of equipment that could pick up big logs and put them into the back of a truck, etc. By 7:15 they were into it, and within 2 hours they were all done, had cleaned up the site, and taken all bits of the tree away. They also poisoned the stump to hopefully prevent new shoots from forming. They couldn’t grind the stump because of its location on a narrow retaining wall at least a metre off the ground, and they couldn’t cut it down too close to the ground as the base of it was way too big for their various size chainsaws.

I was particularly impressed with their professionalism—using a cherry-picker crane to get to the high branches instead of shimmying up the tree with ropes and leaving chainsaws hanging in the air, using chains and a small loader thing to lift the large trunk piece, and cleaning up. The boss was also training a younger chap, and he spent time showing the young bloke the right way to do things. And they all wore the appropriate safety gear.

From beginning to end…

 





Testing acrylic paints

13 05 2022

I purchased a set of 24 metallic acrylic paints from Amazon (Ohuhu brand; link to the Amazon Australia site: https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B08PPCCM2D/r) and decided to test them out on some sample popsticks.

The idea of using popsticks is that you have a ready reference for your colours without having to lift every paint pot out of the boxes you have them stored in (I saw this trick on YouTube!). I wrote the brand and colour name on each stick, kept one end ‘naked’, and painted the other end of each stick with black gesso because I wanted to see how the colours worked on a black background. Would the black bleed through or would the colours remain strong and opaque? Was there any difference in the colours? (in some of my early dotting, I’ve found that yellow can react badly on black and almost disappear, even when other paint colours from the same brand work well). After prepping my sticks, I ‘painted’ each end (using a dotting tool) with the same colour. Simplistically, this is what I did—the reality is that it took several days to create these samples while I waited for paint to dry 🙂

Well, the metallic colours of this set of paints are great. And the colour seems to give good coverage with no bleeding through. But, and there’s a big ‘but’ here… these paints are very thick and ‘goopy’. They aren’t suitable at all for dotting straight from the bottle. Some practitioners (via their YouTube videos) suggest the paint for dotting should be the consistency of runny honey. These paints are nowhere near that. You can see from the photos below that when you take the top off the bottle, the paint peak remains (green paint bottle). And it stays like this for ages. You can also see the goopiness of the (green) paint on the practice dotting tool, and later I dabbed the tool into the yellow and held it suspended for more than 30 seconds. The drop didn’t move—it stayed peaked like that. For dotting, it should form a drop within a few seconds, even if the drop doesn’t actually drop off.

But now that I know these paints are thick, I won’t use them straight from the bottle. Instead I’ll add them to a paint palette and add pouring medium to them to give me the consistency I need.


The peak remained on the paint for as long as I had the bottle open.

 


The dotting tool is very ‘goopy’ with this thick paint.


The dotting tool with a peak of paint—it didn’t move.


The full range of 24 metallic colours, on plain and black-painted ends.


The colours on black gesso. The coverage is good, but the paint’s thickness means that the coverage wasn’t even.

Some of the colours on the ‘naked’ ends of the popsticks. Again, the colours are good, but the thickness means there are a lot of bumps of paint.





Dotted coasters and magnets

8 05 2022

My latest foray into the dotting world had me dotting some plain fridge magnets (super quick!), and applying black paint to 10 cm (4 inch) wooden coasters then dotting them too. I started with one coaster a couple of weeks ago, then have slowly been doing the others in the same colourway. I finished the final two today. I’d guess I’ve spent 6 hours on the coasters, perhaps a bit more. The designs were all out of my head.

I still have to apply the glazing medium to the coasters but I likely won’t do that until I’ve put some sort of protective backing on them as they are raw MDF at the moment.





Dotted animals

3 05 2022

After doing several mandalas and other dotted art pieces, I decided to try some animals. The turtle is on a piece of 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 inch) black paper, and the kangaroo is on a black painted canvas, which is actually a large fridge magnet (about 10 x 10 cm; 4 x 4 inch). I added a glazing medium to the kangaroo after I finished doing the dots. Note: The magnet is meant to be placed on the fridge (or hung) on the diagonal so that the kangaroo is correct in the horizontal plane.

 

Marine turtle swimming in the ocean

 

Paints used for creating the turtle

 

Partly finished kangaroo—final dots to be added, and the glazing medium

 

Finished kangaroo fridge magnet, with glazing added

 

Paints used for the kangaroo

 





Going dotty

24 04 2022

I’m still practising dotting art on black art paper. Yellows don’t come out well—they tend to turn green and I have to redot them after they are dry. I’ve yet to try a surface I’ve painted black—I would really like to use yellow without having to go over it every time. But I won’t try on those black painted surfaces until the set of dotting tools I’ve ordered arrive (I ordered them on 31 March, and it’s now 24 April and they still haven’t arrived… they first went to Tampa then to Miami [2 days], then it was another 5 days to New York, another 2 before they checked back in, in New York. After their holiday in New York, it took them another 4 days to fly to Japan [why Japan??? Australia’s borders are now open] where they had a mini holiday for 2 days before arriving in Brisbane. They left Brisbane on 20 April, but haven’t been checked in anywhere else yet. We have a long weekend this weekend, so I’m not expecting to see further tracking information until Tuesday. And this is despite paying $22USD for postage for a small parcel! Between them, USPS and AusPost are pretty bloody inefficient!)

The top two are a small gift card size; the bottom two are suitable for framing and are not made as cards. The bottom right one is on a 6 x 6 inch square piece; the left is slightly bigger and rectangular.