Downstairs Developments

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Like many homes in Queensland, our house is high-set with plenty of space ‘under the house’. Part of this area is occupied by the double garage and a workshop area which is connected to the main part of the house via an internal staircase.

When we moved here the remaining area was simply dirt. Due to the sloping site, the majority has plenty of clearance while the area under the front verandah is only suitable for hobbits. About 10 years ago we had the usable area concreted with a view to creating an alternative summer relaxation/entertaining area. The concrete floor, ground level site and southerly aspect all combine to create the coolest possible location on hot days.

The plans have been rolling around for a number of years but we are finally starting to make some real progress.

We finally hung these chairs up yesterday and I am already getting quite used to the idea of reclining here and whiling away the time.

We bought them years ago and did hang them for a while but had to remove them from their original positions when the fluorescent light were installed. Debate about what sort of fixings were required led to inertia and no action until the other day when we decided to have another look for something suitable.

These swing mountings looked perfect and seem to be doing the job admirably as the 2 bolts go right through the joist.

One of the problems of creating an entertaining area was the bracing between some of the posts could be a hazard to people. We came up with the idea of having a ‘green wall’ which would minimise any risk of people walking into the metal bracing.

There were a number of hanging baskets here so we bought 4 new ones to supplement them as well as some chain and hooks.

The pots are still empty but we have hung them to gauge the best positions and are happy with this arrangement. The next step will be to fill them with some of the potting mix we bought on Saturday and get some plants into them. I am going to use Devil’s Ivy/Pothos which we have growing in abundance in the shaded areas at the rear of our garden. It is easy to propogate and should quickly achieve the effect we hope to create.

Big Weather

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Did you watch the latest offering from Craig Reucassel on the ABC last night? It is ‘Big Weather (and how to survive it) and if you missed it you can watch on iview. Last night was the first episode of a 3-part series.

Watching this was a reminder to check our preparedness for a range of scenarios. Last summer was a wake-up call for me because although I have always considered myself to be reasonably prepared for most situations, bushfires had never really been a consideration. This was due to our location, however, the summer of 2019-2020 changed my perception of that as the affected areas were unprecendented in both location and scale.

For the first time in our lives, GMan and made and articulated a clear bushfire evacuation plan last year. You can read about it here. While bushfire is certainly not the only severe weather risk, it is probably the one most likely to put you in the position of potentially having to make a split second decision to leave.

Emergency planning for severe weather or other events should really fall into 2 categories.

  • Evacuation – this is primarily due to destruction, or potential destruction of property. Examples include bushfire, storm damage or unwanted/unexpected incursion.
  • Self-reliance – total or partial isolation. Possible reasons include pandemic, other illness or weather events which isolate your property from some or all services (flood, fire or storm damage).

There are 3 possible responses when presented with the need for emergency planning.

  • Ignore – simply believing that ‘it will never happen to me’. After the past 12 months, this is a foolish and totally inappropriate response.
  • Inertia – being overwhelmed by the enormity of possible scenarios.
  • Logical action – regardless of how prepared you are or not, starting to take incremental steps to improve your overall preparedness.

Everyone will have different needs and priorities but there are plenty of checklists and hints online. Reading and considering these could be an excellent first step in developing your personalised plan. The Australian Red Cross one looks like a good place to start.

An emergency evacuation plan and kit does not need to be complicated or impact significantly on your day-to-day living arrangements. In fact, the more simple it is, the easier and more likely it is that you are going to be able to implement it effectively if required.

This is ours.

One plastic crate and two sturdy plastic bags. Our household is two able-bodied adults so we could literally grab this and make one trip to the car then leave.

One bag holds the feather doona and the other has a woolen blanket with space to quickly add a spare set of clothes for each of us – long pants, long-sleeved top, socks and closed shoes. The plastic crate includes a box of important documents as well as the list of items to add before leaving and a notebook and pen. The list is the afore-mentioned clothes, medications, toiletries, wallets, car keys, laptop, phones and chargers. A second list is a reminder of extra things we have identified that we would pack if we had some extra warning time (more than 10 minutes).

Do you have a plan? When did you last review it? Is it still fit for purpose?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

A Man Needs a Shed

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We have lived in this house for almost 15 years. There is plenty of space in the lockup workshop as well as the open space under the house. Off and on over a number of years we have debated the value of a small, freestanding shed for extra storage space.

Since we have some long-term plans for part of the workshop, we decided to bite the bullet about 3 months ago. As with everything during COVID19 there was a delay before it was commenced.

Towards the end of August the slab was laid.

A few days later the shed was assembled and completed. We were about to head off on holidays for 3 weeks so there was no further action for a while.

Once we returned we transferred some of the equipment to be stored in the shed.

The ride-on mower needs a ramp to be able to safely manoeuvre it into the shed. So, we built a ramp.

There are still a couple of finishing touches to do – compacting the pavers and sweeping some fine sand into the joints.

Rebalancing in Retirement

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I retired from full-time, paid employment in July 2019 so it is now 15 months since I was last in the office. My finishing date was pretty much decided at least 2 years prior to my retirement. I did not really contemplate gradually reducing my hours or other strategies to ease into retirement. This bemused many people who continually quizzed me as to what I was going to do when I retired. I did not really have a clear answer which made them even more convinced that I would return.

The last 15 months has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. 6 weeks after my final day in the office, we headed overseas for a much-anticipated 9 week holiday. It was an amazing adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed. Towards the end of the trip GMan and I independently came to the same conclusion – that we would have a break in 2020 and not go overseas. What a fortuitous decision that proved to be. We had previously considered travelling to Scandinavia this year.

Upon our return from overseas towards the end of October we had barely 2 months at home before setting off on a road trip to Victoria. We spent Christmas with family and then planned to visit areas in eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW but the worst bushfires in living memory crushed that plan. We did manage to visit more family in Canberra and experienced the impact of the smoke first-hand. Not a pleasant experience.

Home again in early January and we imagined that 2020 would be a time to settle into a steady routine. Enter COVID19 and the world seemed to be completely upturned. We were very grateful for the space we had – house and large garden, a well-stocked pantry as well as a garden which supplied at least some of our food requirements, not having paid work to try to do from home or children to homeschool. We were unable to see or visit family and friends for several weeks but this was barely a minor inconvenience compared to what some people have had to endure.

In fact, COVID19 gave us the opportunity to focus on projects around our home. A quick scroll through previous blog posts provides a bit insight. Compost bays, a cold frame, more raised garden beds and finishing the pergola are some of the outdoor improvements. Meanwhile, I prepared meals made predominately from our homegrown produce as well as sewing and mending. Furniture restoration completed.

As restrictions were lifted we resumed some of our activities and interests outside the home. Which brings me to the essence of this blog post.

It is easy to become immersed in a particular interest or activity to exclusion of most others. Therefore, my goal is to identify broad categories and try to include a mix of activities/interests. It is probably not feasible to try to do this each day but I think that it is possible within the timeframe of a week.

After some thought, I have come up with a list of general categories which cover most of the things I do. Yours may be a little different.

Administration
Appointments
Community engagement
Craft and creating
Family
Friends
Garden/outdoor maintenance
Garden/outdoor projects
Health and fitness
Homemaking – regular/frequent tasks
Homemaking – seasonal/occasional tasks
Planning
Relaxation
Socialising and entertaining
Travel

Of course, some of these definitely overlap and some activities may even cover 3 categories. The list is in alphabetical order so that no-one can question my priorities. I do not envisage making specific lists but it certainly helps to keep things in perspective.


Finally, to those people who were convinced that I would not have enough to do in retirement – you were definitely wrong. My days are occupied, interesting and most of all, fulfilling.

Not Busy

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As I mentioned in a post last year, I have tried to remove ‘busy’ from both my vocabulary and mindset as much as possible.

I have spent the last 3 days occupied in one of my favourite activities – sewing. It has not been just any sewing but specifically dressmaking clothes for myself.

The first project was a dress which was modelled on an oft-used shirt pattern.

I bought the fabric which is a cotton drill from a local thrift shop for $5. I have yet to source suitable buttons and finish the hem.

Another dress. A simple, lightweight shift which will be perfect for hot summer days at home or the beach. The fabric for this one was leftover from a previous project. Of course, both of the dresses have pockets.

A navy linen shirt made using the same pattern as the first dress. This is an extremely versatile pattern which I have used numerous times. The contrasting binding on the neckline and armholes is not visible when the garment is being worn but I think it adds a somewhat whimsical touch. Making my own bias binding allows me to indulge ideas like this. Once again, buttons and hemming are required to complete the shirt.

I have another linen shirt cut out which is black.

This has barely put a dent in my stash of fabric and I am looking forward to making more items to add to my wardrobe.

It is almost 2 years since I last bought any brand-new clothes apart from underwear. In that time I have bought less than 10 pieces from thrift shops and recycle boutiques and made a few items. Some of the clothes that I wore to work are still suitable for some occasions, however, I find that I am gradually changing the mix of clothes in my wardrobe to reflect my retirement lifestyle.

Rearranging

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As I continue to gradually declutter items which are no longer required, it often becomes evident that alternative locations make sense for other things.

It is quite a while since I had taken anything to the op shop but I had a bag in the cupboard which I had been adding to as I found things.  Additionally, there were a couple of electronic devices which I also needed to pass along.

We are going away on holidays soon and have housesitters coming to stay and they will use the guest room.  I knew that I would have to move the large collection of magazines which I had recently relocated from the floor of the wardrobe in the guest room to the drawers of the dressing table.  I had done this so that we could store a couple of chairs in the wardrobe.

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You can read the full post here.

With the op shop stuff successfully delivered I had a spare shelf in the cupboard in my sewing room.  It was the perfect size for the magazines.  In all honesty, it is going to be easier to access them rather than having them lying in drawers.

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The dressing table drawers are now empty and able to be used by the housesitters and any other future guests.

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While I was in the guest room I noticed that the doors (vinyl finish) were somewhat discoloured and on closer inspection had some mould stains.  Unfortunately, mould is a constant enemy in our climate.

I cleaned the doors using the lightly abrasive home-made cream cleanser and they look much better.  I think it is the first time I have really scrubbed them in more than 10 years since they were first installed.  They are now looking as good as new.

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One Small Cupboard

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I started thinking about how to begin this post and went trawling through the archives of the blog.  What an eye-opener!

This photo is from a blog post in January 2015.  It is one half of the the cupboard in the office/study – the other half is my linen cupboard.  You can read the whole post here if you are interested.

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These are before and after photos from a follow-up blog post in June 2015.  We had down-sized from the 4 drawer filing cabinet to a 2 drawer one.  This also meant that we were able to create an extra shelf using an offcut of melamine shelving.

Fast forward 5 years and after gradually reducing the contents of the filing cabinet, we were able to get rid of it completely and relocate the last few remaining files to the filing drawer of the desk which had remained unused up to that point.

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We decided to add another shelf but also removed the previous extra shelf as the cut edges had never been painted.  There is plenty of space.

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Two shelves in place.

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The contents rearranged and easy to locate.

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The plastic crate on the floor of the cupboard is going to be our evacuation/emergency box.  There will be a few things stored in it but the primary thing is a checklist of what to add (eg: medications) and what to do in specific situations.  The contents and list may have slight seasonal variations and will be reviewed at regular intervals.  My camera is sitting on top of the box.

It is interesting to see the evolution of the organisation of various spaces in our home.  We have lived in this house for almost 15 years which is considerably longer than we have ever resided anywhere else.  There has not been the impetus of an impending house move but we have actually decluttered quite a bit by doing it slowly and consistently.  The blog is quite an amazing record of what we have achieved in the last 9.5 years.

Pantry Organisation

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As I promised in my post from yesterday, here is my pantry.  It is reasonably well-organised but has not been tidied especially for these photos.

My grocery shopping can be divided into 2 basic categories.  The first is bulk bin purchases of dry goods such as nuts, flours, seeds, legumes which are shown in the first photo.  I buy most of these from Simply Good.  I am able to take my own containers to fill and thus avoid any packaging.  This is important to me and particularly relevant as we approach the end of Plastic Free July.

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I regard supermarket shopping as the last resort – I buy those items which I cannot grow, swap, buy from the producer directly, greengrocer, butcher or otherwise plastic free.  These include dairy products and a small number of canned or packaged foods.  These are mostly shown in the next photo.

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By having an organised refrigerator and pantry, I am able to easily scan the shelves and create a shopping list when required.

 

Refrigerator Organisation

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We did the grocery shopping early this morning and when I came home I wiped out and tidied the refrigerator before putting everything away.

I don’t whether it is simply habit but I routinely place items in the same area of the refrigerator.  It certainly makes it easier to locate things when I need them.

This is the main part of the refrigerator.

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The door shelves are similarly organised.

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2 things came to my notice when doing this.

The refrigerator is not overstuffed.  We have plenty of food without it being jam-packed.

Almost everything is purchased or stored in glass.  I still have and use some plastic containers but these are becoming less and less.

I am happy to answer any questions about the contents of the refrigerator.

Tomorrow I will show you the pantry contents and storage.

In Full View

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Last week I wrote about sorting through the filing cabinet which you can read about here.  The culling continued and we no longer require the 2 drawer filing cabinet as the small number of retained files are now accommodated in the filing drawer of the desk.

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One of the things we located in our cleaning up and decluttering was a poster showing plants which are environmental weeds in our region.  We acquired this some years ago and while it has proved to be a useful reference from time to time, it had remained rolled up in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

The poster was looking a bit the worse for wear but we decided to mount it where it was easily visible and useful as a quick guide.

Using PVA glue, I attached the poster to a piece of plywood.  This was the old backing of the mirror on a recently restored dressing table.  It was not suitable for reusing for the mirror as the plywood had splintered around the nail holes when removed.  However, I had kept it for possible future reuse.  I did not foresee that it would be needed quite so soon.

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I placed weights on top of the poster and left it to dry for 24 hours.  GMan then trimmed the excess plywood off using a jigsaw and we have screwed it to a door in the workshop.

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We have created a quick ready reference in a location where it is likely to be needed and reused material that might otherwise have been discarded.

A close-up view.

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