Archive for the 'House & Home' Category

Outrageous Purple Vygies

The stress from the on-going drought has resulted in an abundance of blooms this year, but none can compete with our purple Vygies (mesembryanthemums). They are over the top, bordering on the obscene, the Vegas showgirls of the garden.

Vygies (mesembryanthemums).


Property Blues

Property in Sedgefield has flat lined. There hasn’t been the worst case scenario crash, nor has there been any sign of a recovery. I’ve been checking out the on-line listings, and many of the houses that were listed when we sold our last house 3 years ago, are still for sale.

Coastal property has been particularly hard hit by the downturn, people hanging on by their fingernails to their primary property are no longer even considering a holiday home. There aren’t many great properties for sale in town; anyone who doesn’t need to sell is sitting tight. Those that do want to sell are under pressure.

This house, just a few metres up the road from us, has been listed since last year. It came on the market at 2.9 million, the price was dropped to 2.5 million over the summer, and it’s now down to 2.2 million.

I’m very, very thankful that we don’t need to sell into this, and hope we can hang on long enough to see an upturn if we do need to exit down the line. At the moment we could rent our house for about 30% less than what we are paying on our bond. Of course that 70% is not going to a landlord, but paying off an asset (hopefully). Some consolation – as is being able to wake up every morning in a house I love.

Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi

Gavin has been in Vietnam for two weeks, and has two weeks to go until he returns home. He’s there buying stock for the December pop-up shop, and he is totally spoilt for choice.

The crafts from Vietnam meet all out criteria – they’re hand-made, require a high level of skill to produce, and are exotic and extremely beautiful.

He’s bought huge wooden carvings from Hoi An that take three people more than a month to produce. He’s stocked up on the exquisitely detailed quilts made by the Hmong people, and he’s ordered hundreds of silk, hand-painted lanterns.

The people he’s bought from have been uniformly wonderful and helpful. When he placed a big order for lanterns from a family in Hoi An they all hugged him and insisted he join them for dinner. If he needs to draw money to pay for items, staff members at shops drive him to the bank on the back of their mopeds. When he had flu a few days ago, vendors and hotel staff plied him with lotions and potions that cleared it up in days.

He’s having a productive, and fabulous, time. I can’t wait to see what he has bought – the shipment will be on the water for a couple of months before we have the fun of unpacking it. The Vietnamese crafts will give us a critical mass of stuff to sell when added to our Iranian and Pakistani stock. Hopefully, we do well over the season, and make enough money to pay for our house for another few months.

Vietnamese silk lanterns.

Cape Winter Garden

Summer suits me. More hours of daylight, no bulky clothes, the kids live outside. And it’s not so godamned cold.

There are a few things that make winter bearable. Fires at night and red wine, fewer wrinkles due to sun damage, and the spectacular flowering of the Golden Shower and the Cape Aloe.

The Golden Shower is not indigenous, it comes from South America, but it’s been in this garden for decades and being a complete indigenous puritan is a bit dull anyway.

The Cape Aloe is not only striking but, according to Medicinal Plants, pretty darned useful too. Powder ground from charred leaves is applied to venereal sores and the plant is very effective for those suffering from irregularity, or who need temporary relief from chronic constipation. I never knew that, but part of me is glad I do now.

Cape Aloes

Golden Shower, starting to cover one of the back garden water tanks.

Old houses, repairs & renovations

Living in an old, draughty sea side house is blissful during summer. In winter, not so much.

In summer all you need is a quick shower after a salty swim, luke-warm water is a bonus not a problem. Come winter, with arctic winds buffeting the house, luke warm is barely enough to take the stinging chill out of the small porcelain bath upstairs.

We use the upstairs bathroom because it looks charming despite the fact the hot water heater (geyser) is barely big enough to make a cup of tea.

Every April, as we start lugging boiled kettles up the stairs to eke out a quick wash, we vow that this will be the last winter we suffer the indignity of shivering to get clean.  This last summer we stuck to that vow – sort of.

Six months ago, with Gavin home on holiday from Abu Dhabi, we set to work on the downstairs bathroom – aesthetically hideous but with a big geyser with lots of hot water. A massive overhaul and renovation was called for and we were fired up. We stripped all the old gray tiles from the walls and floor, removed the mouldy shower and . . . . well, and nothing.

Gavin went back to the Middle East, summer set in with its balmy, lazy days, and I really, really meant to do something about the bathroom before winter.

Now I have a Hobson’s choice, a bath in the pretty, white upstairs bathroom with two or three kettle scaldings or braving the scary looking ablutions pictured below. . .

Art & Crafts from Iran

Our shipment is unpacked and the showroom is ready. We’ve had a couple of curious friends round and all of them have spent money, our stock is dwindling very rapidly.

A friend (the one with the fab beach house I really envy) bought a trunk and selection of tiles yesterday, then phoned this morning and placed an order for eight tiles for her sister in the UK. Seems selling is not going to be the problem, but keeping the place stocked is. A trip to Iran is on the cards in the next couple of months!

The Iranian tiles pasted below are the size of a comic book, hand painted and vividly coloured. Really beautiful, they have been snapped up.

Iranian tilesIranian tiles

Iranian tilesIranian tiles

You could call this Iranian patchwork. A very large piece of fabric comprising lots of small, hand embroidered, pieces of cloth. Quite exquisite.

Iranian shisha pipe - baked clay, bamboo and decorated with silk thread. Very different from the usual Middle Eastern shisha pipes.

Mosaic Steps

The back garden stairs leading to the pump house screamed for a drastic overhaul. Thinking that we’d have to sell the property I couldn’t bring myself to make the schlep commitment needed to spruce them up.

Now that we’ve decided to hang on to the house for as long as we can, the boys and I got to work. We’ve turned something drab and brown into a gorgeous riot of ceramic colour.

From this. . . .

. . . . to this!

The project took about 3 week-ends from start to finish. We used a selection of tiles, some from my gran (the delft ones), some from Abu Dhabi, and some bought in Knysna. The treads we did with pebbles collected from the beach at the end of the road – a few hours collecting.

I stuck the tiles and pebbles on with something called Tile-On, a cement like substance that worked really well and is available from any DIY store. I then grouted between the tiles to neaten up some of the flaws made by the boys (ok, and me.) Overall, it’s not perfect but it has great charm and was massive fun to do. A simple creative project for the family with a big impact.

The kids loved breaking up the old tiles - protective gear is a must (he should be wearing gloves too!)

Final result - the pebbles give you a reflexology treatment as a bonus.

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