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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.
elissande: (Default)
Saturday night we went to the moves to see Up. We both enjoyed it - though I still prefer Coraline if I had to make a choice, which I don't! We got to see the 9/15 pm session so no yelling kids, just a few smartarse teenagers but fortunately, they were a long way back.

Before the picture, we went out for dinner. There were a couple of new restaurants along the Parramatta restaurant strip, so we chose one of those. We decided early on that they must have had a cafe and decided to upgrade an it was his grandmother doing the cooking and the emergency relatives hauled in to help wait tables. We weren't far wrong - but it was his mother doing the cooking. :) Ok, the waiter amy not have been a relative, but as it was his first night, he certainly didn't know what he was doing and as there was no drinks menu, he couldn't even tell us what beer they had. That said, the food was quite good and there was a lot of it.

Some of you may be wondering how the two cats are getting along. The answer seems to be - it depends. They are getting used to each other and they don't usually fight as such, but they're both still a bit jealous of any attention the other gets - actually, Errol is most jealous, I don't think Stupid cares as long as he gets some as well. They have the very occasional hiss at each other, but not all the time so I think they're working things out.

The scary bit? Well, we're thinking of buying a new house or doing a knockdown and rebuild where we currently live. Either way it will be a big financial commitment. And yes, I know we just recently had the kitchen renovated, but there is so much that still needs doing and it will still be too small. Now that S has a permanent job (or at least as permanent as they get these days) and as we've been together now for quite a while, we're actually going for a joint mortgage. So we spent Saturday looking at houses for sale and Sunday looking at project homes. Not to mention the time I've spent on the internet researching stuff.

We actually found a house we liked on Saturday. Had a lot of room and heaps of under house storage. Fortunately a bit out of our price range or we might have been tempted to offer on it there and then. We're still thinking of it, but I doubt that they'd accept what we're prepared to offer.

Since then, we've been running the numbers and I think that it's actually cheaper for us to demolish and rebuild than to move - just not as convenient. On the other hand, you get something closer to the house you want. On the other other hand, you have to live in rental accommodation for some indefinite time. On yet another hand, transport is more convenient if we stay here... Sometime soon we'll have to make a decision one way or the other, but not tonight.
elissande: (Default)
Or anywhere else for that matter.

Friday I was puttering around at home. Went to get a pen to write down a message from the answering machine and on the way back to the phone it was forcibly brought to my attention that the various stuffs that had been put somewhere temporarily had accumulated to the level of an OH&S hazard!

The small chest (smallest of the three we take to Festival) had been temporarily put by the side coffee table. I managed to tip quite drastically on it after hitting it with my left foot. I didn't manage to regain my balance and my head hit the side of the entertainment unit (a low one about coffee table height) damn hard!

After about half an hour spent recovering some level of calm, I assessed the damage. A quick examination in the mirror revealed no blood and that my eyes were both responding normally to light - but the tenderness was pretty special and what do I know about head trauma, really? So a trip to the doctor was called for and resulted in x-rays etc, but all is well. Still b****y hurts though.

But the really scary thing was that only a couple of inches different and I could have got the corner of the entertainment unit through my eye.

We've put a few things away now.
elissande: (Default)
Way back in January, there were a few 'resolutions' that I mentioned. I thought now was the time to revisit to see how they're progressing.

I think it's quite obvious that the one about posting more often isn't really happening. Only one post between posting the resolution and now. Ok, some improvement still required there.

The others are progressing a bit better. The harp practice was interrupted by very hot weather (over 40 degrees Celsius) we had a few weeks ago. Four strings broke in the space of a week. Unfortunately, all strings that get played often, so I couldn't continue regardless and it takes a while before I can get new strings. However, I've now restrung the harp and once the new strings have settled, I can get back to practice. Well, I could practice before that, but it's painful when some strings are slowly going flat while you're playing.

Organising the house is also happening - albeit slowly. Some things have been moved into external storage, some things thrown away and others just better organised. There's still a level of just moving things from one room to the other depending on where the space is required.

Setting up a workshop... well, that really requires money to do in any meaningful way considering the fact that the inside of the house is already too crowded. But we have plans - lots of them depending on how much money we can scrape together later in the year.

And the losing weight is a happening thing too. Not very fast - about 3 kg since the beginning of the year, but that has at least brought me down below my pre-Christmas weight - and made some of my clothes a bit more comfortable. I think I'm happy to keep losing it at this rate rather than more quickly - even though it's likely to take the better part of a year to reach my goal weight.

So, all-in-all, not too bad going on the resolution front. I'll assess progress again in another couple of months to see how things are going.
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We've been gardening... )

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February 2011

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