elissande: (house)
Went out on Saturday to choose bricks and tiles for the house. The bricks we really liked best were, of course, outside our price range. However, we did find some that we liked that were in the range we were allowed to pick from. If anyone really wants to check it out, it's Austral Bricks Old Colonial Range - one of the blends called Vineyard. The blend isn't on their website, but it's basically a mix of Buff and Amber Glow - more Amber Glow than Buff.

We alsochose the roof tiles as they were on display at the same place. We're getting dark grey tiles - Lunar Eclipse, Classic Range, Bristile Roofing. Once again, there was another we would have preferred, but can't really justify the price differential.

Of course, all these things were on display outside and it was a hot and sunny summer day, so I managed to get slightly sunburned. It's faded now, except for my parting which I keep noticing when I brush my hair.
elissande: (house)
Actually, not really that slowly, it's just that I'm impatient.

We had the surveyors and engineers call to make sure they could have access to the site without worrying about vicious dogs or locked gates. I reassured them that our cats were more likely to watch interestedly from a distance than attack with extreme prejudice and that the gates would present no difficulty for anyone with the use of thumbs.

In addition, we had the letter from the builder with questions to help fill out the Basix form and asking what bricks and tiles we wanted (which also goes into the Basix assessment). So, this weekend we go look at bricks and tiles. We were going to go last weekend, but various other commitments interfered - we decided we needed more than 10 minutes to examine, discuss, examine and discuss and finally make a decision on these.

Shortly after all the information is in, we should get the final plans for approval or alteration and then it's all going to be up to the council. Somewhere along the way, we should probably talk to our neighbours as well.
elissande: (Default)
I should mention that choir has started again. We're doing the Schubert 'Mass in G' and Mozart 'Coronation Mass'. Both works I've not sung before so that is a plus. There are a few other smaller pieces in there as well. We have our new conductor this year - we've been trying out conductors for 18 months or so. Pretty much all of them were good. Choosing was made a bit easier for the committee by some of them taking up other positions or being otherwise unavailable.

We also got the CDs of the last concert. Damn good. A couple of uncertain entries, but not many and the Jenkins is really powerful. Sarah (the conductor of that concert) did a great job with the diction. I think the words are as clear as I've heard any large choir sing - and better than a lot of smaller choirs as well.

Of course, SCA is in full swing again as well. Somehow, I don't think I'll get any sewing done before Festival. Well, last year's garb is still wearable, and there was almost enough to last for the whole time. :)
elissande: (house)
Ok, we've officially accepted the tender for the house. Now to wait for the site survey and final plans. This weekend, we're going to look at bricks. Exciting, eh? Oh, and roof tiles.

In other news - hmm, there isn't much as a lot of our energy is taken up in thinking about the house, packing - ie when to - demolition. tree removal and so on. Festival is starting to figure into things as well. It looks like we'll have time to do Festival and then worry about looking for a rental and moving.
elissande: (house)
Thought it was probably time to get an icon for house entries. Then people who are not interested will have an immediate visual cue. :)
elissande: (Default)
We've now got a firm quote on both the demolition and the house itself - including site costs, BASIX and possible extras. Looks like we can afford a new house - though we may be short of floor coverings for a while.

The quote includes the changes to the floor plan that we requested which is all good. There are a few tweaks that we have to sort out before the final plans, but they are all minor things like window placements and type.

For those interested, the main changes we requested were a door from the main bedroom into the 2nd bedroom, the addition of a real walk in pantry, the removal of the half wall between the dining room and the rear living area, the addition of a shower to the downstairs bathroom and the outside door to the laundry to be a door, window combo rather than a sliding door. To meet council regulations, the entry and study were extended forward another 30cm.

Why those changes? Obviously, to get the 2nd walk-in robe, we had to fiddle a few things and decided to sacrifice part of bedroom 2 for that. We'll put in the partition ourselves so that it can be easily removed if required. The walk-in pantry is at the base of the kitchen and goes the full width. The actual kitchen will go from there to the back of the house. Removing the half wall makes that living/dining area into a nice open space again now that the kitchen has grown. The downstairs shower is to allow the option of turning the front study into a small bedroom in case at any stage someone can't cope with the stairs. The laundry door change is to allow us to adapt a window for cat entry (have to keep all family members in mind).

Finally, the extra 30 cm is to meet the council regs that the garage must have at least a 30 cm setback from the main part of the house. There was much discussion about this as it looked as though the upstairs sitting room (read library/music room) would end up being a very odd shape as the first option was just to extend the study. We said that we would really like to keep the symmetry of the sitting room, and the designers came up with the option of extending both, this allowing the whole width of the upstairs to be extended by the 30 cm - so we will end up with a bigger room upstairs as well.

So we are now finally at the stage where we have to start shelling out a bit of cash. In the scheme of things, this first payment is only a small deposit of a few thousand dollars to convince them that you're serious enough for them to start on the site survey and all the other information that will be required to submit the plans to council. Still, when you start paying out money it's another major landmark. Of course, we haven't paid it yet as we need to carefully read the quotation before signing it, but I don't think there are likely to be any serious problems.
elissande: (Default)
Getting dressed for work this morning, took out t-shirt and put it on. Sae and felt something odd on my arm and did the instinctive shaking and brushing off. It was a rather large orb weaver spider. Not a good start for an arachnophobe. Fortunately, orb weavers though large and dark coloured are not of the aggressive nor scuttling variety. It took refuge on a nearby tissue and S was able to safely remove it to outdoors. Thank heavens for spider wranglers. :)

we do get a lot of orb weavers in our garden (we get a lot of insects as we don't use poisons) and occasionally they decide to spin webs out to the clothesline. Usually, I know that this is happening and do check the clothes as I take them off the line. I hadn't seen any webs on it for a while, so I didn't check. That'll teach me!
elissande: (Default)
Well, we sorted out all the changes we wanted and then headed off to see the builders on Sunday with, we thought, all the necessary information. We were almost right. We had quite a productive chat and then found out that we needed not just the Lot number and DP number but also the DP map. I had not the slightest idea what a DP map was. Truth to tell, I didn't even know what a DP number was either, but I knew what number it was because I rang up the council and asked them.

The nice lady said that, if we could get a copy of the map to here before midday the next day, she could still get quote information organised from their side this week -otherwise it would be next week.

Sooo, initial plan was to get up early on Monday so S, who works in Parramatta, could get the DP map from the council who presumably had them as they had the number. Of course, we managed not to get up early - well, not early enough anyway. However, we did have technology on our side. S rang council. They, it turns out, do not have the DP maps. Those are lodged and kept with the NSW Dept of Lands. Time for another quick phone call. Yes, they do have them and you can buy it online for a mere $11. So we did. It was sent to us by email and I forwarded it on to the builder when I got to work.

This morning there was a knock on the door and a man from the builder was there to do the preliminary site inspection! Wheee! It they're that efficient all the way through the process, I'll be a very happy person.

What is a DP plan? Well, it's the Deposited Plan of a subdivision. It has all the survey information on it for you block and a few surrounding blocks.

I've also decided to do something towards the process every day. Just to ease my stress levels by having the feeling that things are happening. So today I rang a demolition company and requested a quote. Should get that sometime this week.

And an update on council requirements. I had sent off an email to the council last week asking where to find certain information. I finally got a reply which says that all their development applications are assessed under the new SEPP (State Environmental Protection Plan) and, assuming that it complies, we may not need to get that extra 30 cm. However, still working my way through various requirements.
elissande: (Default)
Well, today we did more than just talk about it... not much more, but a bit. We spoke to the people who build the house we have decided on. We discussed the changes we want made - most of which are ok except for some queries about the kitchen rearrangement. We'll see what happens.

Also, Parramatta council has a requirement that the garage be set back a minimum of 30cm from the rest of the house. This is going to cost us extra money and I'm not sure what the purpose of it is. I presume that it's to reduce the aesthetic (or not) impact of the garage on the total building, but I'm not convinced that adding 30cm onto part of the house will make a significant difference to that.

Now there's quotes to happen, site inspections and lots of council paperwork. Argh! I think it should all be easier. But then, I want my new house yesterday. :)
elissande: (Default)
Sometime back, we organised and paid for an architect to do a renovation/new building report on the property. We spent quite sometime chatting to him and discussing what we wanted, what was important and what was less so. We also spent about an extra hour or so making out a list of what the various functions the rooms had to fulfil - note that not all functions needed separate rooms. He requested that we do this.

We emailed him this list and his spam filter promptly ate it - evidently it has blacklisted all iinet. So, that put the report behind schedule (though note that we were the ones who chases it up to see what had happened). We were then promised the report on the 23rd December and it did come through on the 24th.

The two absolutely important and non-negotiable things (especially if we were having it designed) were a large walk-in pantry and two walk-in robes in the main bedroom. He did hear us say this - we said it often- and he even mentioned it in the report. The report contained 3 rough drafts of floor plans. Did any of them have a walk-in pantry? Well, no - not unless you combined it with the laundry. In fact, I couldn't see a way of giving any of the designs such a pantry - and I'm getting good at working out ways to do that.

But surely, you might think, there will be the double walk-in robes. But no.

Add to that that we discussed cost and he asked if our upper limit was really an upper limit and we said yes, definitely. So the cheapest version began at our upper limit and they just got more expensive from there.

Now, I know that we didn't have as much money to play with as we would have liked, nor as much as an architect would have liked, but that's just silly. So it looks as if we'll be going for a project home. Good thing we didn't stop looking at those. We now have 3 contenders - all of which are in our price range (even allowing for site costs, Basix, council etc.) More update later.
elissande: (Default)
It's good to be back home again after a Christmas visit with my parents in Canberra. The weather was, predictably, very hot for the first few days - the ones where I was cooking - so I did a lot of the cooking at night. This was not a problem for me as I'm a night owl, but worried my mother who isn't.

My sister-in-law and I take turns at doing the Christmas dinner, and it was my turn this year. As most of you know, I love cooking, but not having all the right tools can make it more frustrating than I would like.

My father and I did a big shop for foodstuffs on Monday morning and I started cooking on Tuesday. Our dinner is traditionally on Christmas Eve and is cold, so I could make everything beforehand and just have a few things to finish off on the day itself. So we had Thai Chicken balls as nibbles (as well as nuts etc.), pork and veal terrine and a potato and camembert terrine, roast turkey with cider glaze and lemon butter, glazed ham (orange mustard glaze). potato salad, pesto penne salad, mexican salad, a garden salad (from my sister-in-law) and for dessert ice-cream christmas pudding and marinated oranges.

I expect my parents are still eating leftovers. :)

I also managed to catch up with various friends while I was there, and miss seeing some others, unfortunately.
elissande: (Default)
I'm in Canberra for a few days - till 27th Dec. Obviously, the main reason for the visit is to cook and eat lots of yummy food with my family. As it's my turn to cook the festive repast, I'm spending a fair bit of time cooking, but hope to be able to catch up with some people while I'm here - assuming anyone is left in Canberra at this time of year. :)

If you are in Canberra and would like to catch up, send me and email at my gmail address (elissande) and we can try and find a mutually agreeable time.

If I don't catch up with you or you're not in Canberra, have an enjoyable festive season and New Year.
elissande: (Default)
Motivational posters - you always knew it would come to this.
elissande: (Default)
We've been watching the TV series "The Tudors". We've just finished episode 4 in which Henry VIII's older sister gets married to the elderly King of Portugal and, a short time later, smothers him with a pillow. Now, while stranger things may have happened in dynastic politics, in this case it was not even vaguely related to the truth.

Well, ok - Henry did have an older sister, Margaret. However, she was married to the King of Scotland when she was 12! Before Henry even became King. She's the reason that the Stuarts had a legitimate claim to the throne of England after Elizabeth dies.

I wondered whether she was, perhaps, widowed and remarried. Indeed, she did - twice. But never to the King of Portugal.

Now, from some reviews I've read recently, the producers felt that they could play around with the historical accuracy a bit to achieve a better story, but this is apparently a complete fabrication bearing no relationship to history at all! And she gets turned into a murderess into the bargain.

Playing around a little with timelines for the sake of a good story I can understand. But there is no nice set of footnotes or afterword in a tv series to let people know what is accurate and what has been massaged.

On a good note, the costumes are speccy and seem to be reasonably accurate - as far as I can tell. And really, there's no excuse for them not to be. The armour, on the other hand. Well, what there is of it is ok, but I seriously doubt that anyone would have entered the tourney lists without neck protection - but not a gorget to be seen in this series despite at least one tourney per episode. Even I was cringing. Oh, and often no leg protection either.

I know I should just think about it as a piece of entertainment completely unrelated to fact, but the reality is that I'm not going to be able to do that. On the plus side, I'll probably learn a lot about Tudor history as I look up things to see just what the real history is.
elissande: (Default)
It's not recommended as a way of keeping cool, but we went out and looked at second hand vans. And S bought one. Wait - there is method in our madness... or is that madness in our method?

There have been times when a second vehicle would have been useful. There are times when we want to haul around more stuff than can fit even in or versatile little car. In addition, we're probably going to be moving twice in the next 12 months and going to Festival. Festival usually involves hiring a truck or van.

Overall, there are not a lot of vehicles out there that met our requirements, let alone our preferences - especially as the price range was limited to below $8,000.

The first one that seemed pretty ok failed badly when it came to a test drive as the gear shift didn't really want to move laterally. We were assured they'd fix that, but I can't say we felt particularly confident about it.

After much more looking we were seriously thinking that we might have to wait a bit longer and save up a bit more. We found a few that were seriously cheap, but really also looked as if they might not even make it home. Then we found a place that actually had 3 vans in our price range and we test drove two of them. Despite being very long, the Mercedes MB140P won out because of its all round windows to aid visibility (definitely one of our preferences) and slightly smoother ride. It's a long wheel base so there's lots of room and even a back seat (foldable) and roof racks. Now we just have to work out where to store it as it won't be used all that often.
elissande: (Default)
Last Saturday we met with an architect about the house. This is a fixed price meeting and commits us to nothing, but we end up with a design report and sketches based on the information that we have given about what we want.

We really had no idea what to expect, but we certainly got on well with him and he seemed to take all our suggestions and requirements on board. He was there for about 3 hours, so it wasn't exactly just drop in, have a quick chat and leave. Admittedly a significant part of it was just general chat - as I said, we got on well.

We're now looking forward to the report in 2 or 3 weeks. By that time, we will have done all the preliminary research and inspection that we're reasonably able to, I think and it will be getting close to decision time.

What we will end up with, no matter which way we go, is a bigger house - and is this really a good thing. In some ways, I guess not, but the new house will actually be more sustainable and use less energy than the current one. NSW has regulations that set minimum sustainability requirements so it will have a water tank, wider eaves, insulation, solar or heat pump hot water etc. As these are things we would have wanted anyway, that's not a problem. We'll also be looking at other ways to minimise the energy footprint of the house.
elissande: (Default)
On Saturday morning we headed down to Canberra - via Elderslie (southwest of Sydney) to check out a few more display homes. It feels like we've been doing this a lot, but, in fact, most of the visits to display villages have been very short and fitted in between various other things that have been booked up for the weekends. I think we now have a few clear weekends to do some intensive investigation.

Anyway, there was another home that we wanted to check out at this particular display village and looked through a few other houses while we were there. It's a relatively small display area and there were only 12 houses to look at, so we looked at them all. The one we went to look at specifically was ok and a bit cheaper than the current front-runner, but it would require more alterations, so maybe not cheaper in the final analysis. We did see a couple of single storey houses that would be suitable - if only they didn't take up so much of the land. We want to keep as much of the garden as possible and a double storey does achieves this more easily, but we're certainly not counting singel storey out at this stage.

I've also signed in for a design report with Archicentre. If we can get something more suited to our needs for what we can afford, then it's all to the good. We'll see. At least it made me feel as if we'd actually done something constructive about the house rather than just looking at stuff, even though looking at stuff and doing the research is important.

The trip to Canberra was really just to catch up with my parents and to see how they were going. We hadn't made it down there since my father's birthday when he ended up in hospital. They both seem to be doing well. In fact, my mother is on new medicine that has her up and about again. Now she's moving much more easily and has put a bit of weight back on and is looking much better.

Sorry we didn't catch up with anybody down in Canberra, but I'll have more time over the Christmas when I'm down there for about a week. Doesn't look like S will be able to make it though, as he has to work. Poot!
elissande: (Default)
Yes, and it went just like that !

Friday night we went to one of our semi-regular DVD nights. We're currently watching Twin Peaks - please don't ask me what it all means!

Saturday was an all day rehearsal for MUS' upcoming concert. The rehearsal went pretty well - about as well as they do when you suddenly find yourself in a completely different venue with different acoustics and no longer being able to hear the same parts as you could before and then adding in an orchestra which plays parts you haven't heard before and an organ that doesn't seem to be able to do soft very well in the registration that you want it to play in.

But it is going to be a great concert. I was just a bit concerned when the theme was announced at the end of last year as Songs of Protest. I was concerned as I really didn't think I wanted to sing another lot of prettied up songs from the 60s protest era. Fortunately, it's not that. It's music as an expression of protest over the last 100 years or so. It has songs from the women's emancipation era, civil rights (from the 60s and before), south african songs and many more PLUS it has the Jenkins 'Armed Man Mass' - which is in no way a traditional mass and it is very emotionally confronting in some movements. All in all, it's not a concert for you to sit back comfortably and listen to pretty noises.

Sunday we went up to Aberglasslyn to see a display house. It's high on our list of possibilities and isn't on display in Sydney. [personal profile] electricant and [profile] i_ate_my_crusts came along for the ride and were very patient with our looking through houses. After that we set the iPhone to take us to Pokolbin to see what we might find in the way of interesting eating places. It took us through some small country roads (I have no idea whether that was really the best way to get from where we were to Pokolbin) and, on a small country road, we saw a sign out for a restaurant that seemed to indicate it was open even though it was about 2.30. We lucked out! I can recommend the Major's Lane Restaurant. I had the quail starter (Preserved lemon roasted Nulkaba quail, walnut,almond, parsley and merlot verjus pesto) and the duck (Glaze roasted duck breast, confit duck and potato galette, caramelised witlof, corella pear and rocket) for main course. Both were excellent and I tasted Styvyn's fillet steak and it was also mouth-watering. In fact, all the food looked good - at our table there was also barbecued ocean trout (which had severely tempted me before I settled on the duck) and salt and vinegar grilled pork loin cutlet. I might write more about this in Elysant's kitchen.

While we were at the restaurant, the weather closed in and we were treated to a tremendous rainstorm. We were outside, but under a huge pavilion, so we didn't really get wet though it got a little chilly. Eventually, the storm passed and we decided it was time to head back to Sydney.
elissande: (Default)
Ok, loan approved. Yes, they asked for a couple of things to be paid off, but we were going to do that anyway, so not a problem. So now we have a real idea of how much money we have to 'play' with and can start asking hard money questions of the builders. Yay! I think.

Yes, particularly scary as it is a lot of debt, though really no more so, as a percentage, than the loan I took out to buy the current house mumblety thump years ago.
elissande: (Default)
As mentioned in an earlier post, we've decided to rehome ourselves. A quick chat to the Credit Union manager gave us a rough idea of how much we might be able to access in the way of funds so we went looking at houses.

First we looked at buying a house. That would be nice, just one move involved. We even found houses that we liked, though they weren't perfect. But even more important, they were in suburbs that would have made commuting more difficult and more expensive for both of us. With that and alterations, the just affordable really became not such a good option.

So we started looking at the that 'knockdown and rebuild' option. This resulted, after a fair bit of online research, in our first visit to a display village. Now, the ideal would be to have our own individual house design and this may still happen but, well, it's likely to be just a tad too expensive.

So we come to the first pitfall of home building - if we just squeeze a bit more, maybe we can get the custom design or the extra garage or the fabulous, ridiculously OTT entertainment area and so on. Time to come back to planet Earth.

Another pitfall - how do you compare prices that include different things in the site costs and different inclusions? These people have been taking lessons from Telcos about blinding you with options that are not comparable! And how do you take into account, with a project home, the cost of minor interior alterations that 'won't cost very much'?

Undeterred, we have been looking at display homes all this last weekend and part of the weekend before. There is a certain monotonous similarity about a lot of them. Walk in and over on the right (or left if the mirror reversed version) is the formal lounge/dining, then a few utilities (and the stair if it's 2 storey) followed by the living areas. Note that for us the laundry is on the wrong side of the house in 90% of the designs -and if it's on the right side, then it's a plan we have to mirror reverse in order to get the living areas facing the garden.

Undaunted, we sat down the last Friday night and worked out the aspects of our ideal house and even fitted it onto our block. We then worked out how big it was (500 sq m) and realised that it was a good thing that it was only a dream house.

So we made a list of things that were non-negotiable, high priority and nice to have. Actually, nothing is completely non-negotiable as it all depends on whether we can sort out workable alternatives. I'll put up the list at some stage, but it's still a bit malleable.

This coming weekend I have a pre-booked jewellery workshop, so no looking at houses then. The weekend after I have an all day rehearsal on Saturday and a concert the Saturday after that, and after that we go to Canberra for a weekend with my parents, so we'll be proceeding slowly.


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February 2011

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