Monday, 12 August 2019

The Pet Warmer

As you know, Gary the cat is getting on in years. He's about 15 with a thyroid issue that means he's mostly skin and bone, and I suspect that's why he feels the cold.

In the morning, he'll head straight for the bathroom where we have underfloor heating and as that cools after the morning rush, he'll settle himself into our doona or on a couch.

We lock Gary in the laundry at night and, like Barnaby Joyce, turn the central heating off when we go to bed. He has a thick bed with plenty of blankets, but I was worried he was cold.

There's a reputable pet shop around the corner from us, so I jumped on their website to look for an electric blanket for him. They didn't have any. It seemed odd and they have every other way to extract a dollar from pet owners - but no electric blankets. I've now worked out why and suspect you have too! 

I then got online and found a swag of them. I chose this $15.99 one (incl free postage), as they all looked about the same but this one was cheap and less aesthetically hideous than most

And here it is.

It had the wrong plug, but I grabbed a travel adaptor and plugged it in.

Happiness for a few weeks.

Then, it just stopped working. The light was on but it was stone cold. I emailed the supplier and asked if there was any way to reboot it? He said to get it fixed locally and they'd refund half the price 'for your trouble'. Now I don't know how much they pay for repairs in China, but I'm pretty sure $8 won't go far around these parts.

As I contemplated my options, I took it off Gary's bed and noticed this... yep, a burn mark.

I emailed old mate in China and pointed out that I'd discovered the issue - that thing had shorted! And miraculously hadn't started a fire. He said he'd refund 100% of my money as they don't have any replacement stock. I'm assuming because lawsuits are both in progress and pending.

I was then reviewing Gary's bedding situation and found this... yes, that is a highly flammable, polar-fleece blanket and a scorch mark around a melted hole.

How the heck that thing didn't start a fire - or electrocute Gary - I don't know.

I was relaying this to a friend last night, who reminded me of the cautionary tale a fellow dinner-party guest relayed to me at her house a couple of years back. Their son had turned on his electric blanket and gone for a shower, only to come back and find his bed engulfed in flames. They called the fire brigade. Another guest was a buyer at one of the large supermarkets and confirmed that she had put an end to them selling electric blankets because the quality wasn't up to scratch.

I'd forgotten that.

Meanwhile, Gary is safe, if a little chilly, and I still have my super cosy supermarket electric blanket on my bed. I just don't leave the house when it's on.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

You idiots!

You may recall that when we built the shed about three years ago, I suspected the concrete slabs it was constructed from would be a prime target for graffiti. Having investigated a few options like outdoor wallpaper and vinyl wraps, I decided an original artwork was the go.

Relying on my best friend, Google, I tracked down a company here in Melbourne and commissioned the amazing Awes, who collaborated with his mate Mayonnaize to produce the art below.

(It's not actually curved - I nicked this pic off Mayonnaize's Instagram and not sure how he took it, but it does manage to get the whole wall in. It also wraps around the left-hand side to cover the wall facing that laneway as well. It's hard to get a shot, as it's big and in a confined space - I think this is from our neighbour's garage roof!)

The process was a bit of a leap of faith, as there were no designs, pre-drawing or agreement of what it was going to be, just an exchange of emails containing images to determine what we did and didn't like and then they just turned up as appointed and did it over a few days. 

As it turned out, I LOVE it.

Here's what it looked like beforehand. A vast improvement, I'm sure you'll agree!

And for the past three years, people have occasionally headed over from the 'hip' side of town to check it out or take a pic.

That was until about four weeks ago...

We were having dinner with family friends, and at precisely 12.14am, two IDIOTS came out of the laneway gloom and signed their tags on our art!!

How do I know this?

Not just because of the orange tags we discovered in permanent marker, but because we have security cameras that aren't hiding!! Look - here's one of them in action. Seriously, how stupid could you be? She even looks directly into the camera at one point as if to say, 'oh... there's a security camera....'

I can't even recall when I was last so incensed. How dare they draw on artwork - how disrespectful.

Contacting the company that organised the original commission, it took them just a day or two to reach out to their community and have the tags identified.  They apparently had words with the culprits, before assuring me that they won't be back. They're also arranging for the repair (at my expense, but it's not their fault, and more importantly, I don't want others to think that desecrating artwork is okay, and add more tags - so am keen to have it fixed.)

And no, tempting as it was, I haven't asked for names. I have no idea of the protocol among street art peeps - but they didn't offer, so I didn't ask. However, I did say that if they are speaking to them again, they might want to let them know the police are also looking for them and similarly, are using the tags to work out who they are - along with very clear security footage.

I mean really, what kind of idiot commits an act of vandalism under lights, with security cameras - and leaves an identifiable name?

Monday, 17 June 2019

June or July? July or June?

They both start with 'J', have 'u' as the second letter and have four letters in total, but they are different. I swear I know that.

I don't recall ever confusing them over the last 50-or-so years, but I've excelled myself this year.

It started on a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago when I received a call at about 9pm from a motel in Port Lincoln, South Australia to check what time we'd be arriving.

'Um,' I said, confused, 'we're in Melbourne, so we're not checking in. Isn't that next month?'

Apparently not.

Allegedly because I'd booked through a third party website, it was 'so sad too bad' so I was forced to forgo that payment and re-booked for the correct month.

I had a small panic as this was just one part of the trip.

I called Whyalla to check that booking and surprising both me and the girl on the phone, someone had checked us in and apparently, we were still there!! No idea how that happened. Much more obliging, they moved my booking to the correct month.

Next was the diving and flights I'd booked - the most expensive part of the trip and lord knows how, but that was correct. Phew.

On the Wednesday after that, I sent a text to some friends who were coming for dinner later that week to check if they eat oysters, adding I was looking forward to seeing them on Friday. One shot a text back:
'This Friday? I thought you said July 7?'

I scrolled back through my messages and indeed, I had told her July 7, not June 7. By some sheer miracle, they could still make it.

I put it down to not losing my marbles but simply an anomaly - or two.

Until yesterday... when I rang and spoke to a colleague I'd emailed about attending a meeting in Canberra in June.
'Ah, June...' he said. 'I can do June, but your email said July - can't do July, can do June.'

Oh dear..... maybe I am losing my marbles!!

Thursday, 13 June 2019

The Table

Without boring you further with the renovation, it has actually progressed pretty well.

Like all such projects, you suddenly realise the furniture you had is no longer right - and the expense rolls on.

I'd already chosen some lovely, dark green velvet dining chairs. In fact, Elle found them and they're very comfortable, so I got them. Gotta love a dining chair that invites those at the table to settle in and linger.

What I then struggled with, was a table. I wanted something that was:

  •  Small enough to fit the space under the window for every day
  •  Extendable for dinners of eight or more
  •  Oval, in case I need to squeeze a few more around
  • Able to accommodate the height of the already purchased velvet chairs (tricky with the mechanics of extension tables I discovered)
  • Of a finish and design that will fit in with my eclectic taste, including almost-black floors
That last point was especially tricky as it will on occasion be positioned in the middle of the room in front of what I like to grandly refer to as 'the library,' and what the kids prefer to refer to as 'the bookshelf'. Cruel.

I nearly wore Google out trying to find one. I'm now of the opinion that unless I love it and it's perfect, I'll keep looking. But nothing fitted the bill. 

I saw this table in a magazine and whilst not perfect, (not crazy for the base) thought it warranted a call to get a price. Perhaps I could grow to love it.

When I rang and asked 'how much?', the friendly guy with the heavy Italian accent starting telling me how amazing and famous the European designer is, how exquisite his work, how fine the materials of porcelain and steel and the expertise of the craftsmanship. I was compelled to point out that the more he talked, the more expensive it was sounding - and I wasn't wrong - it was a hair under $14k.

So on the search went - this time including eBay. 

And there it was - my perfect table - up for auction, in Melbourne, no bids, a couple of 'watchers' and a starting price of $35. I was so nervous I couldn't wait until the last minute, so placed a 'proxy bid' of $152 (in case someone bid $150). As it happened, no-one else placed a bid so it was mine - for $35!!

In a stroke of karma, about 2 hours after the successful purchase of the table, someone purchased the hideous Indian silk painting I'd had on eBay for months.... for exactly $35!

A few days later, we hired a trailer from Bunnings. That expedited the moving of the wine fridge from storage into the laundry, some cupboards from the shed back to the storage unit and after that, the collection of the table. The guy was lovely - I almost felt guilty taking the beautiful table for $35 - but I did it anyway!!

When we turned it upside down to glue carpet on the feet, I noticed an old black ink stamp, 'Preston Furniture' and an address. Googling it, the manufacturer had gone but it is still an industrial area so it appears that our table was made locally, I'm guessing in the 1960s. This was just getting better and better.

And look! Isn't it perfect?!! Next mission; leather couches.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Lake Tyrell

Ever heard of it? Neither had I until I saw an article in the RACV magazine and was inspired to take our annual Easter camping trip there.

It's about four hours north of Melbourne and, apparently, a favourite destination for Chinese tourists, of which we saw quite a few.

And it is spectacular! I'm no photographer, but check out these shots.

As it was Easter, there was a full moon, but other times when it's darker the view of the stars is remarkable - check out this image from the web

 The lake was a mostly dry crust of salt when we were there. The water is artesian and in winter, creates a mirror-like effect.

It didn't disappoint. It was amazing.

However, I'd booked 4 nights at the Sea Lake caravan park. I'm not sure why Sea Lake is called Sea Lake - I assume because the lake is salty like the sea? Anyway, when I rang, I was told bookings weren't required, even at Easter - and we found out why. Turned out, it was more your stop-over kind of camping spot rather than a 'settle in for 4 nights' - as you'll see from the photo below.

There was a bathroom, a camp kitchen with hot water and a microwave, but yeah, the kids were pretty underwhelmed. There's not even a pub (although encouragingly, the one there is under renovation) and no wineries with live music, no activities, no wi-fi - in fact, there's pretty much... nothing.

The girls were using the term 'trapped' which was captured in this pic when we visited Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement (which is actually pretty good!).

I eventually caved and we came home after three nights.

Anyway, don't be put off!! Lake Tyrell is absolutely spectacular and well worth a visit - just no need to settle in!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Great Debate

Surprisingly, given a federal election is just days away, I'm not talking politics.

Nor am I referring to the circus that was the 'gallery' at my local council meeting last Monday night, debating the development of a new sports complex. That was a doozy, with the protesters putting on quite the performance, with heckling, name-calling, booing, swearing, waving laminated A4 placards, turning their backs in protest - the only thing missing was popcorn.

I'm all for the sporting complex, which is very much needed and very much not wanted by the bowling club and several other groups in the area. I get that people don't like change, especially as they get older, but with a rapidly growing population and a shortage of sporting facilities (especially for girls), it is inevitable.

The protestors had the decision delayed, but lost at this meeting. Their parting response was 'See you in court!'. It may go on, but as I said, progress, demand and change are against the protestors and it will surely, eventually happen.

But back to the great debate; where to put the toilet paper holder in our new bathroom.

Yep, nothin' but the big issues here, people.

So here's the situation; I want it positioned along-side the toilet, Geoff wants it in front of the toilet - almost (by my reckoning) near the door!

His argument is that when he's on the toot, he'll bang his elbow or leg if it's too close, he'll feel cramped and have to twist unnecessarily.

My argument is that'll it'll look like it's about to leave the room and would be much neater tucked in next to the loo - and as I'm much shorter, it won't be an issue for me at all.

Approximate markers of where the toilet roll holder should go

He had stuck a small piece of blue tape in his ideal spot and marked it with a pencil. A day or two after the discussion, he had the audacity to accuse me of moving the tape and smudging the pencil!! (Actually, I did.)

For this year-long reno, we've managed to agree or compromise on hundreds of decisions, but on this, we've reached a stalemate. And what I have discovered is, he who wields the hammer drill, holds the power. Which is not to say he's won, but that he's just refusing to put it on the wall at all - for now.

So, there it sits, with the box, two screws and packaging, waiting for a compromise...

No hurry. We still have about 30 other jobs that need to be done!

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Run

I reckon I've done at least ten Run For The Kids runs and frankly, I ain't gettin' any better!

Of late, I've been doing weight training (having thought I was fairly strong but discovered I'm a weakling!!) and attempting interval training on the treadmill. I can't even remember the last time I ran 10kms, and this was - thankfully - shorter than prior years at just 12.8km.

The course took us over the Bolte Bridge, which is a killer gradual climb, this year coupled with a strong, too-warm headwind.

Doesn't look high - you really need to be plodding up it to fully appreciate the pain!

At the top of the bridge, a local radio station had a promotional team waving some pretty funny signs, including these, which spoke to me!

Keep running. The day will come when you CAN'T do this. 

You're not slow. You're just enjoying the course.

There were over 20,000 people running and walking, and as always, I put myself in the second fastest running division. I do this because you don't have to hang around and get to start earlier, but it also meant that although I victoriously passed about 8 people (all walking), I was passed by about 8,000 runners!! It's not encouraging 😟

Some of the 'crush' who shot past me

Worse still, I took so long my Spotify running playlist ran out, so it started serving up a random selection of whatever. As I reached the low point of the run, about 4kms  from the end, I got "I Hate Myself" by the Pretenders - a dreary number with a terrible message that repeats the phrase 'I hate myself' about 80 times in a row. (Seriously, look it up - you need to hear it to appreciate the full misery of the moment.) So not okay. But to change it,  I'd have to have pulled over to get my phone out of my armband, and I was terrified that if I stopped, I'd never go again. (That and my time which I didn't want to compromise.)

After the run
I use an app that tracks my time and was surprised to see I'd started off oaky with 6-minute kilometres, but less surprised that my average slowed with inclines and time. Anyway, I plodded the entire way and got a time that in previous years, I would have been happy with - when the course was 15kms!!

So now, like after every other run, I promise myself to be better prepared and fitter next year - which never happens!!

The Pet Warmer

As you know, Gary the cat is getting on in years. He's about 15 with a thyroid issue that means he's mostly skin and bone, and I sus...