Category Archives: grand plans

My veggie garden is Cursed … even when I just think about it!

Oddly, it seems that I have never blogged about my very own personal Curse.

Veggie gardens.

No, it’s not the kind of “sucks all my time, darn weeds, get off my lawn” kind of curse. It’s the honest-to-goodness, do-it-and-badness-comes, cost-us-over-quarter-of-a-million-bucks-so-far, make-sure-you-capitalised-it kind of Curse.

Veggie Abundance

It all started in 1996. Freshly engaged, planning a wedding, I had a brief moment of domestic excitement and planted a veggie garden in the garden beds at our old home. A couple of months later, flushed with the money that was going to buy our honeymoon, we were driving down the next street and there was a house open for inspection, and suddenly we were moving into our own TOGETHER home a month later and if the veggies grew we weren’t around to see them.

But that was OK. A couple of years later, having settled into our new home, we insulated the roof and settled in for some domestic bliss … with a veggie garden, of course. That’s what people do when they buy a home. But then the roof started leaking on the new insulation, which meant that the ceiling was at risk, so we replaced the roof … and the contractors threw all the old tin down on top of my just-about-ready-to-harvest veggie garden, and we had to start from scratch. Except we didn’t, because Fraser was rumbling about “how much your veggie gardens have cost us”.

Fast forward a year or two, and the Bigster was toddling around our lives. It’s sort of a parent’s duty to teach their children where food comes from, so we went and had a lovely day planting some tomatoes and basil and parsley. It wasn’t quite a veggie garden, so I thought it should be OK.

That was Melbourne Cup Day, 2001. My mum tells me you should always plant your tomatoes on Cup Day. Sadly, though, the ghost of Phar Lap did not protect me, because look what happened just a couple of weeks later.

Holy crap. By now, the Curse had cost us around quarter of a MILLION Aussie dollars. OK, we got a house out of it, and a nice bathroom, and a new roof, but no more.

It’s been 12 years. TWELVE. Surely, I figured, the Curse had worn itself out.

We’re having some fixer-up work done on the house. After 17 years, there were some weatherboards that had split or started to rot, and there were some other things that needed fixing. We’re even having the outside painted (pretty). We figure, we’re here for the long haul. And I figured, maybe, I might even start a – I can hardly say it – a v-e-g-g-i-e-g-a-r-d-e-n once the work was finished. I nearly bought some potatoes last week but held off, waiting for the work to be finished.

And now, the Curse has struck again. Instead of burning out in those 12 years, it’s clearly been biding its time and has only got stronger – because I HAVEN’T ACTUALLY DONE ANYTHING YET. Just had a little think and touched a plant pot. Bzzzz! (I was going to put HERBS in it! They’re not veggies!)

My builder came to me last week to point some stuff out. Long story short, there is the makings of a termite infestation at one end of the house. And the studs on that side are rotten, and a little termite damaged. It doesn’t sound like much … until you realise that THE STUDS ARE THE THINGS THAT STOP THE ROOF FROM BEING THE FLOOR.


We’re waiting to hear back from the structural engineer. I felt a little ill when I heard he’d asked whether we were planning on selling. Worst case, we will have to jack up the roof and replace all the walls, plaster and all. Best case, we might be able to put in parallel studs or something. Worst case? It doesn’t bear thinking about. If it’s much more than $100k, we might have to knock the house down and rebuild. Termite baits will cost us a couple of thousand – we’re going for the long term protection ones, rather than the heavy-chemicals-every-three-years ones. Mostly because report suggest that the chemicals don’t work.

Does anyone know a secular exorcist? I think it might take more than crystals and burnt sage to clear this … or maybe I just need to open an account with the Greengrocer.


Posted by on July 11, 2013 in grand plans, house, not your earth logic


The story of Me, My Beloved and an Architect. A Flowchart in Three Columns.

I thought that a picture would be best.


So it’s back to me, the iPad and Home Designer. And the occasional tape measure.

The really annoying thing is that it has given us ideas above our station – nothing will live up to the Awesomeness that was that initial concept design.

The good thing is that we both realised that $X was WAY more than we were comfortable with. So we have revised our budget to 50% of X and I think we can do it. But with a builder, not an architect. And we won’t have to move out, although there might be a night or two in a local hotel/on a friend’s couch.


Posted by on September 3, 2012 in extension, flowcharts, grand plans


Essays and Telly and Books and Wha!

Time has crept on, and The First Essay In Twenty Years is due next week.

In this Venn diagram, there is only a very teeny tiny intersection between Things That We Study In This Unit and Things That I Want To Write An Essay About. And that very small area is shaded red and labelled BAZINGA!

There really is not a huge overlap.

And I was thinking about this on Sunday night, and about what I want to write, and how it’s structured into an Introduction and then there are sort of three main areas to focus on (but the line between two of them is a wee bit woolly, and there is a maybe fourth area as well), which are like Parts A, B and C, and there’s detail in each of those parts, and then there are some general and some more specific conclusions, and a glossary, and some sidebars and OMG I could put in some photos and diagrams and screenshots that really underline the commentary that I want to make. And there is some stuff that other people with all their expertise etc simply may not know, which should be shared.

And then I looked at the word limit for the Essay. Which is 1500 words.

And at the post I made in the unit’s forum. Which is over 1400 words. And does not even BEGIN to address all that fascinating stuff.

And I realised that the thing I want to write is not called an Essay, it is called a Book. Or possibly a Thesis.

Also that I really need to edit forum posts. Brutally.

Because there is WAY TOO MUCH to say about games and 1500 words just doesn’t even come close. I think I might have to write my essay about Telly instead. At least there I have a hope of editing myself.


Posted by on June 26, 2012 in grand plans, not your earth logic, study


Traffic Lights

My friend Brunhilda* recently bought a house somewhere North of here. She hasn’t moved in yet, but she’s been checking out the property.

(*Names changed to protect the innocent.)

And it turns out that there is a set of traffic lights in the roof cavity.

If that wasn’t interesting enough, the set of traffic lights is apparently too big to get OUT of the roof cavity through the hatch.

The guy she is buying from can’t remember how they got up there.

So there has been much discussion about the traffic lights and the other stuff in the house etc etc etc but my mind got stuck at OMG TRAFFIC LIGHTS HOW COOL IS THAT! MOST AWESOME CHATTEL EVER!

Because if the house were local, I would generously offer to take the traffic lights off her hands.

I thought that I would offer them to Otto’s school. So they could have their very own European Right-hand drive Traffic School.

But then I realised that I would probably keep them for myself. And put them at my front door and not let people into the house unless the lights were green. That would keep me amused for at least a week.

And make an Ampelmann cutout so I could have different dudes on my “Go” sign. OMG that would be awesome.

Also, I could Inspect my traffic lights with my Inspection Camera, to make sure they were working. In case there was any doubt.

And so I was sad, because the traffic lights were not somewhere I could get to with any ease (although Fraser did drive to Sydney just to collect a carload of games last year – so maybe it would not be so unreasonable for me to go up to lever off a friend’s roof and steal a set of traffic lights? Maybe?)

And then I discovered that you can buy your very own traffic lights at really quite a reasonable price. And I was momentarily quite excited until ANOTHER old friend spoke to me very sternly and said

Melissa, no! You have a Masters to pay for – no traffic lights for you!

Which really has got to be the best thing anyone has said to me for days.


Decluttering many things. A bit. Also, rambling. And some shopping.

With the amount of work I have done in the last 12 months, I’ve not had a lot of time to myself. Too many long days and late nights have not only sent my stress levels soaring, they’ve also seen our (always cluttered and messy) house really deteriorate.

Last Friday, I made a stand. But instead of cleaning THEIR rooms, I cleaned mine. I dragged things out of cupboards, put shoes back on shelves, made room for some of Fraser’s shirts in the cupboard (first time in years). There’s more to do, and the funky layout of our bedroom coughTooMuchFurniturecough doesn’t help, but it’s better than it was. And one more Friday should get it to where I want it to be.

My side of the room, that is. While I feel strongly that we should share the blame responsibility for the rest of the house, there is a clear demarcation line in the bedroom.

I have a history of trying to declutter. A few years ago, I hired a Professional Organiser to help me and I learned some stuff about how to throw things out. And then she spent a session working with Fraser and I really think it is a miracle that they didn’t come to blows. But that was expensive and really I need to be able to do this stuff myself.

The best attempt I ever made at decluttering was when we refurbished the study. By which I mean, got rid of the old crappy bookshelves and moved things around to make room for my desk and Fraser’s poker machine. And an armchair. The good part was that we paid a couple of students to come over and just pack everything in the room into boxes. No matter what it was. The boxes all went into the Bigster’s room, we cleaned the carpet and put in the new shelves, then we started unpacking. And we threw out (or gave away) roughly a third of what had been in the old study. It was time-consuming, but everything had a place. And when we renovate, I am going to do the same thing. And then give myself a month off to unpack everything!

Anyway. After last week’s bedroom decluttering, yesterday, on that day off where we ended up going ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE (and enjoying it), I sorted some of my tax stuff, opened some mail that had been frightening me (our accountant is lovely, but show me anything related to tax and I am completely paralysed), updated some of my accounts and logged some expenses and OMG MADE AN APPOINTMENT TO DO MY TAX. Which is just a huge thing because see my note about paralysis? I really mean it. Tax and dentists. And heights. Not things I can think about without serious, terrifying terror.

And then Fraser and I sat down and had a conversation about money. Which I think is hugely productive and helpful because we have such different attitudes to money – he is much more cautious and anxious than I am. And he wants me to tell him EVERY SINGLE TIME I use our joint credit card which drives me batty because it is like he is CHECKING UP ON ME and WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS MY DAD OR SOMETHING and it all goes downhill from there. And I don’t reply to his emails about it because to me they are a low priority and then he gets more annoyed because I am being IRRESPONSIBLE and I get annoyed because he is being UNTRUSTING and – yeah. Downhill. On wheels. So instead, I suggested that we sit down every two weeks to talk about Money Stuff and he can go through the VISA card statement then if he wants to. It’s how we found out that Otto had somehow signed up for Club Penguin. She doesn’t quite understand that the bit about “ask your parents” isn’t just for children who can’t read yet. And that was a useful session and I think quite productive. And next week we will talk about Family Stuff. I have even scheduled time in our calendars for this.

ANYWAY. I did more Accounts Stuff today to try to get ready for our accountant meeting next week. And then I cleaned under my desk AGAIN which was annoying because (a) there was lots of stuff that Fraser & the kids had kicked through from under his desk AGAIN and (b) there was some of my stuff that was hiding under my desk which probably means that Otto had got it down there to play with and (c) I discovered (EWWWW) that I was not in fact Incorrect and Imagining Things in thinking that the cats had been wizzing somewhere in the Study and it is in fact just under where our desks meet (but on Fraser’s side – ha!) and then I had to clean up catwizz and carpet and it really was more than just a little bit disgusting.

And now I have cleared my desk (well mostly). Suffice it to say, my next trip to IKEA involves much-needed cable trunking.

So that was my two big (OK medium-sized) decluttering efforts in the last week or so. Three, if I count the accounts and invoicing and stuff – which is definitely mental clutter.

And now I want to make Sweeping Grand Plans like “I will declutter the whole house, watch me, I can do this” – but common sense and the voice of experience suggest that this plan is Doomed. So instead I have a short-term goal: This week, I am going to do a little bit of decluttering Every Single Day. That feels like enough of a challenge for now.


Posted by on May 27, 2012 in decluttering, grand plans, shopping, tax


Renovation tools and rules

As I make my grand plans for our home renovation home extension Palace of Us, I’m looking for tools to make it easier. And I have come up with a few simple rules to help me along the way.

Rule 1: Everything is better with the right stationery.

This is a rule that I apply to pretty much everything in my life. You can do anything if you have enough pens and paper clips (Thank you, MacGyver). But in this case, it’s the My Dream Home binder from Kikki-K which lets me file all the important things like the name and business card of the builder I liked, and the laminate sample chips. With post-its on them that describe what they are for, if I am keeping track.

And a little notebook which I keep in a zippered case in my bag, where I can jot down ideas, thoughts, addresses, brands etc if I run across them.

Tools: Binder, Recycling bin (for the bits I am not keeping), plastic pockets, pen, post-its, notebook, zippered case.

Rule 2: There’s an App for that!

Otto and I have had a lot of fun playing with the Home Design 3D app on my iPad. It’s great for sketching out floor plans and even for simple 3D visualisation. I find it easy to use although restricted in what it offers (and in the range of furniture it has). You can even paint the walls! It’s turned into a fun hobby for Otto, who likes designing houses, schools and improbable structures with no doors. If only it would let you do multi-storey designs, it would be idea.

And then of course there are the myriad budgeting and note-keeping tools that you can get. I suspect that I will use one of those to track the project once we get started, but for now I keep coming back to trusty Excel. Or Google Docs, so Fraser can see them too (but he’d be happier if he didn’t).

Tools: Home design app, budgeting apps, spreadsheets.

Rule 3: When in doubt, ask the Internet.

This is right up there in my rules of life anyway, or so Fraser believes. And for sussing out what the Internet thinks, I am loving Pinterest. I can scan what other people are posting and can post my own stuff – or repurpose someone else’s pin – and I can collect things that are relevant to the extension in one central place.

Actually I’ve raved about Pinterest so much that Fraser joined it too. Except that he uses it to share things but not to view them (Because he’s DOING IT WRONG). So I told him that anything posted to my House Extension board can and will be considered Agreed By Him if he doesn’t explicitly say it’s not. In writing. On Pinterest.

Turns out Pinterest is good for consensus-building, too. At least in theory.

Tools: Pinterest. Oh. And this blog.

Rule 4: Trust me. You’ll love it.

I think this should actually be Rule 1 of my life. Or of Fraser’s. Because much as he may shudder at my grand plans and ideas, by the time I have obsessed about them enough for them to become reality they are actually pretty good grand plans and ideas.

And sometimes he will even admit that.

And I think he’s happier if he doesn’t have to know the detail.

Tools: Us.


Posted by on May 15, 2012 in extension, grand plans, house


Rewards and goals

Playing around with my phone, I discovered a half-formed post which I thought was worth finishing.

Fraser and I have a “when we win the lottery” list. Technically, I guess, there are two lists. Mine is both longer and less specific than Fraser’s (which includes a full set of every Star Trek DVD ever made). Being more practical, mine includes room to store those DVDs.

Since I discovered Pinterest, there’s a lot more stuff on my list.

In conversation a few months ago, someone mentioned her list. It’s very short – just one item – but what struck me is that it’s not a reward for the ultimately passive achievement of winning a lottery: it was a reward for earning more than $x on a particular type of project.

I think I like that. There can (and should) still be a lottery plan (how else is Fraser going to get his DVDs), but there should be another that’s about plain hard work. And there should be lots of things on there.

My new mission is to tie some of my goals to more specific things, and find ways to get that really fabulous “treat” feeling into everyday life.

And the first specific thing – as usual – is Do My Invoicing: I just need to find a suitable goal/reward.

I’m thinking shoes.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 10, 2012 in grand plans, tax


Home Show

A quick Google quickly finds the following unmissable events for the wannabe renovator on the Melbourne Exhibition calendar:.

I tried the HIA Melbourne Home Show last Saturday and that list already exhausts me. But if we are thinking renovation (or more specifically, if I am thinking renovation) then the name of the game is Research

Of most interest to me were the builders and extension specialists, some more pushy than others. I spoke to one very nice builder who is only a couple of suburbs away. (Those are my criteria right there. He was nice and he is close by. And he won an award.) There was a free design service where you could take your plans and show them to a designer for advice. The guy thought my plans were good and achievable within the budget I have. Suck-up. And there was a bank you could discuss your loans with. They gave me free inflatable hands for the children. Otto spent a good fifteen minutes smacking herself in the head and saying “Ouch” when I gave hers to her. Who says banks are evil?

Everyone I spoke to asked which Local Government Area we are in. When I told them, they said “OH. You’ll need a lot of lead time then”. Which is what I hear from friends and family as well. Not reassuring.

There were a range of products on show. Some were awesome. I know because the people demonstrating them told me so. Lots of other people seemed to think so too because they were wandering around with AMAZING INDOOR OUTDOOR BROOMS and GRATE PLATES and various other awesome things. Fortunately, there were no shoes. I resisted.

In the middle of the very big exhibition hall was a display of beds. This was very good product placement. I did not try one because I would have fallen asleep and drooled on the covers. Also because I was on a deadline – I had to get back to talk to the free design advisor. (I made it with 20 minutes to spare and was very glad to have somewhere to sit while I waited).

Also in the middle of the very big exhibition hall was Telstra. Not very interesting for what I was looking at but they had free bags of jelly beans. Mmm! Telstra!

I also found AMAZING EUROPEAN WHITEGOODS! NEVER BEFORE SEEN IN AUSTRALIA! I fell a little bit desperately in love with a fridge which was actually not white at all but stainless steel. Which is the trap of a home show, given that I was not really looking for a fridge at all. And it would not fit in our current fridge cavity.

Overall I was disappointed in the show. I am not sure what I wanted – not mystic lights and a voice over saying MELISSA! WE WANT TO GIVE YOU A FREE RENOVATION! – although I wouldn’t have knocked that back – but maybe a more cohesive feel to the event? I didn’t feel I could navigate very efficiently. Would have preferred to see builders in one area, kitchens in another, tat demonstrations in another. And definitely fewer MAGIC BROOMS.

Time not wasted though: I left with some specific information that I needed. About builders and doors and decking and such like.

And some that I did not realise I needed, like MAGNETIC RETROFIT DOUBLE GLAZING. There is a reason it rhymes with AMAZING.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in grand plans, house



My new year’s resolution was to get more sleep. Specifically, I was going to do this by Going To Bed Earlier. Before 11pm if possible.

So how is that working out for me?


Plan: 95% by 11pm. Reality: About 4%. And the peak is around 1am.



Posted by on April 28, 2012 in grand plans, sleep



My family home was on a hill. A steep hill.

Some of you may remember it.

That hill was so steep that my dad’s old VW Golf couldn’t actually drive up our driveway. My parents built a new garage at street level and converted the old garage into a study and playroom. There were 25 steps up to the house and when elderly relatives visited we would put a chair out for them at the halfway point.

When my dad had a stroke, the ambulance crew called for another ambulance, just so that there would be four of them to carry him. Then they drove one of the ambulances up our neighbours’ driveway so that they would only have to get down half the steps.

One day, a car driven by a drunken hoon came down our street and ended up halfway down someone’s driveway. On the other side of the street, because we were on the high side and it wouldn’t have got that far.

True stories. No exaggeration.

A quite steep empty lot

The people who bought the house knocked it down. And the block has been like this for about 5 years now. You can see how steep it was though!

The upside was that we had fantastic views. Our neighbours, who had a small upper storey, must have had even better views.

And the downside, for me, was that I wasn’t allowed to have a bike. Because of the hills, and because I have always had a pretty crappy sense of balance, and because my mother worried that I was going to die horribly if I had one. She may have been right, on those streets.

Also, sports? Not exactly my thing.

My brother got a bike the year I was 11, when I went to Germany for Christmas. 1981. I still remember. They bought a VCR too.

Anyway, moving on from the bitter disappointment of my youth. A few years ago, one of our neighbours put a bike out on the footpath with a “please take me” sign.

“That looks like a good idea,” I thought. “I can learn to ride a bike and it will be free!”

So I took the bike to the bike shop and spent an amount of money getting it fixed. Possibly as much as a new bike would have cost. At least a crappy one. But I was going to ride everywhere and be super healthy and lose lots of weight and be fit and a good example for my kids. And the bike had been free.

And then I got on the bike.

And then I fell off the bike.

And I tried – again and again. And I got a personal trainer to try to show me how to ride the bike. And I fell off – again and again.

And eventually even she said, um, this is just not working. Which, in hindsight, perhaps I should have expected. Given that I can fall off an exercise bike.

So I gave the bike to Fraser and I think he used it twice. And it has languished, ever since, under our carport. Because the girls need bike riding practice, but Fraser gets frustrated when they get frustrated, and it all ends in tears. Often mine, because I have to pick up the pieces after the explosive expeditions.

And meanwhile, I have no bike. And Otto likes to ride her scooter to school, which means I trot along behind her carrying her bag, while she spends more time waiting at the crossroads than actually riding her scooter.

And then I had a brilliant idea.

A pink tricycle

Tricycle image from Flickr: earlycj5. Creative Commons licensing.

1 Comment

Posted by on April 24, 2012 in bike, grand plans, health, weight