Another busy week. Starting with the renovations, a lot has happened outside this week. The renderer has done a bit of the grey final top coat, however has run out of the sample bag he had, and we're still waiting on the rest of it to be made in Melbourne. Hopefully this week. 

It's nice though to see the colours coming together. We've taken delivery of the first batch of slate for the exterior paving, and it looks really good with the render, windows, roof and paint colours. 

They've battened under the eaves, and are working their way around the house. I'm very happy about that, as it will possum proof the house, and I've been very worried we were going to have one move into the roof in the meantime. They'll start on the verandah this week, which goes across the back elevation of the house. It faces West, so gets incredibly hot in Summer.

Inside the kitchen has been undercoated. We're having painter problems, and are scrambling to find another. So far it's taken the painter 3 weeks to undercoat the kitchen. Not ideal. Add it to the long list of tradies with personal problems that have impacted on the flow of work...

But they've installed the beautiful tap, which feels so nice to use, it's superb quality, and I can now use the kitchen sinks and dishwashers. They've also installed the oven (temporarily) and the cooktop, which I love. 

So guess what the first gourmet meal I prepared on my new cooktop was? Macaroni and Cheese. The children got to pick. I've had to order a couple of new saucepans and frypan to work with the induction cooktop. This morning I made the children pancakes using my Le Creuset french oven in lieu of a frypan.

I can't properly move into the kitchen as it's too dusty, so everything is still kept in the Study and family bathroom and the hall. It's getting to be a drag.

They've started installing the steel window wall around the stairs that go down to the cellar and Mr AV's office. This won't arrive until next year, so we'll have a bit of a temporary stair enclosure in the meantime. This was supposed to be supplied by the Steel window company in Melbourne, whom we are suing. Papers were lodged with the court last week. The new steel window company, also in Melbourne, have only just got started on the window wall, so unfortunately it won't be in before Christmas. We've also had the new glass arrive on site for the two missing panes of glass in the steel windows - unfortunately they made a mistake, so they are remaking them. Honestly, these windows are cursed.....

A pallet load of old bricks arrived, which will be used to build the cellar shelving. My top tip for people with old cellars is to not fiddle with them too much. As tempting as it might be line them or paint them, or put in a new concrete slab floor and turn them into a wine tasting room or something fancy, you'll ruin the natural balance. They used to use breathable paint on the wall (lime wash), and have cross ventilation in them (doors often had holes drilled in them, plus a small window on the other side of the cellar for airflow) and they'd have a brick floor laid directly on the dirt. When you fiddle with these things (replacing the door with a solid one for instance) you end up with damp problems.

The shelves will end up looking something like this, in a slightly more rustic, less fancy manner 

The builders have also put in the new door and architrave for the new opening into the guest powder room. They reused one of the old doors we'd taken out in the first stage of the renovations 3 years ago. It looks like it's always been there now.

So that's pretty much it for the week on site. Lots happening, however we have set some deadlines (carpet and lino flooring oriented) and there's a lot to do to meet those deadlines still.

So, onto other matters. The week has revolved around food. I was out to lunch with a couple of the school mum's during the week, which was so nice as I really feel like I'm working full time at the moment and have not seen friends for absolutely ages. We went to The Grace, and this was the chocolate dessert plate that my friend K ate. Yum, and I loved the little violas they'd decorated with. There seems to be a big trend in using edible flowers in food presentation at the moment. It reminds me of the 80's when my mum would make her own crystallised rose petals and violets for her fancy dinner party desserts.

On Thursday, my friend A and I made 80 cupcakes for my Son's year level special end of year celebration. The builders kindly installed the oven for me on Wednesday especially for this momentous bake off. The reason why we made 80 was because in the first double batch that were made, I forgot to put the eggs in as I was so busy talking to various builders/ my friend A. The end result was flattened biscuity looking things (which the builders ate). So, another 24 were made to make up the numbers, and after around 3 hours we had 55 of these as our finished product.

There was a dragonfly theme at the event, and I was aiming to do something tasteful with fondant. But I ran out of time, and decided that in the end the kids just want to eat lollies and icing anyway. So we used some cut down snakes for the dragonfly bodies, and white chocolate freckles for the wings. They were a big hit.

Friday night we had the big night of nights for H and his school friends who ate the cupcakes and had a disco, and then rushed home to dump him with the babysitter before heading up the hill to the Stirling Hotel's Grill restaurant for a Captain Courageous foundation dinner. I've written before on the blog about this very worthy cause, it was started by a friend of ours with a very sick little boy who has raised an incredible amount of money for a very rare condition that was previously not having any research being done, and as a reminder - buy the cookbook! It's excellent and would make a fabulous Christmas gift.

 Last night I went out with my friend K to see the Opera - Puccini's Madame Butterfly. It was excellent, we both loved it and there was a full house, which was so good to see. The reason why Mr AV did not attend with me, is that he now refuses to go to the Opera with me. And Madame Butterfly was the Opera that finished him off. 

Mr AV has gone to the Opera with me for many years, however around 8 years ago we saw Madame Butterfly in Melbourne, and they included the waiting scene - where Madame Butterfly sits in silence on the stage for 3 minutes (to represent the 3 years she waits for her American sea captain husband to return to Japan for her). Mr AV became very agitated after 20 seconds that nothing was happening. Later on, when she is tragically forced to give up her little 3 year old boy in a heart rending scene and then abruptly commits suicide for the tragic end (as all great Operas end tragically) he declared he would never go to the Opera again. When he was telling my parents about how painful it was to sit through, my Dad was in complete agreement with him, saying "Oh, Madame Butterfly - that one's the WORST"..... The reason why I love the Opera is that I was taken from the age of 8 by my Mum,  as Dad flatly refused to go with her.

At any rate, my friend K and I loved it - it does, after all have one of the most beautiful arias in Opera in it - Un bel di vedremo

enjoy, and hope you had a good week too xx
A few months ago I wrote a post called Home Grown highlighting Cable Melbourne, a company that (fairly unusually these days) designs and manufactures beautiful knitwear in Australia. There were a lot of interesting comments on that post, and I said at the time that I'd write about a few of the other companies that I knew of, and one of them is Elizabeth V who manufacture night attire in Australia.

The woman behind the label used to own a successful women's boutique in Adelaide called Francesca's, on Unley Road. She eventually retired and closed it down, but kept hearing other women her age bemoaning the difficulty of sourcing decent night wear - meaning pyjamas and nighties that were made of pure silk or cotton. Most of what is available in the market in Australia are fabric blends (poly instead of silk) or are stamped all over with horrifically cartoonish prints. Or if made of pure cotton, they're incredibly frumpy. But not everyone wants to go to bed dressed as their 20 year old self, or their future 90 year old self either for that matter.

the horror. Peter Alexander onesie

So her goal was to accommodate women who did not want nighties with shoestring straps and large panels of see through lace through the front, boudoir style (and never particularly practical from a getting kids breakfast in the morning point of view either, let alone answering the door to the parcel delivery man), but who still sought elegant and attractive night attire that was comfortable to wear, were made of natural fibres and, most importantly of all, constructed to last.

After her years in the fashion retailing business, she knew what women wanted, and despaired at the lowering of standards over the years. And so, Elizabeth V was born.

All the items in the collection are made in Adelaide, where the owner can oversee production. Seams are french seamed (double stitched) so that they don't fray or come apart - her aim was that these would be items you would wear for years until they were consigned to the rag bag at the end of their life.

The end result is a small capsule collection of luxurious sleepwear (with prices to match - this is not a cheap range, silk pyjamas are $485 for instance, but if you think about how long the garments are supposed to last it could be viewed as well priced long term). I think it also has wide appeal to any woman who likes luxurious natural (breathable) fabrics, simple and elegant detailing and construction that is made to last. And if you consider how much of your time you spend in bed in your lifetime, investing in comfortable and flattering sleepwear is never going to be a bad move.

So, another little Australian manufacturing and design business, this time from Adelaide, and highlighting quality over quantity and detailing to last the distance, which is quite nice in our throw away society.

All images via Elizabeth V unless noted. This is not a sponsored post.

I'm feeling a bit more in control of things this week - we are gradually back into our routine, and I have the house running as smoothly as it can be, considering we have no kitchen and the fridge is in the family bathroom.

So I thought I'd do one of my normal weekly posts. We've had glorious weather this weekend, and yesterday we visited Dad in Stirling for afternoon tea. The garden is looking spectacular.

I picked armfuls of roses to bring home, and as Dad is not much into arranging flowers inside, I used my Mum's Isis Ceramics flower brick and put a posy of mixed pink roses into it for him. These things truly are magic for arranging flowers. Half way through, Dad expressed doubt that it was going to look any good, but he was surprised to see that it all came together easily in the end, just by plonking stems through holes. He may even attempt it himself - he has picked up all sorts of new life skills in the year since Mum's death, so flower arranging might be the go!

I brought this flower brick home with me from London as a present for Mum, after the year that I lived there. It's much nicer (more detailed) than mine, so I warned Dad that if he didn't start to use it I may end up nicking it from him.

The row of Seduction standard roses along the Croquet lawn has had the bridal veil netting removed as they are in full flower and no longer at risk of the cockatoos eating their buds.

 Opium Poppy - these grow wild all over Stirling.

 The three copper Beeches on the front lawn are in leaf

And so, with my armful of roses at home, I did a mixed arrangement in my other cheat's flower arranging vase- the Alvaar Alto wave vase. In between the roses, I shoved in these pretty and highly scented old fashioned carnations (not the full fluffy ones that are commonly grown now, but the old single petal ones). They're so sweet.

It distracts me from the fact that my saucepans are stacked below the flowers, underneath the hall table

Last night we took the children out for dinner to Melt (pizza place) in the City. For a minute, I felt like a hip city groover. Except for the reminder that I'm definitely not by having the kids there. They were playing Depeche Mode and The Smiths as background music, and there are these 'interesting' murals of semi naked women on the walls with antlers on their heads. I'm not sure the relevance, but there's definitely no naff Italian theming going on.

The kids got busy with their colouring in placemats - I bought them last year, and they're washable. When they've finished colouring in, I just wash them as normal, the coloured ink disappears and they're read to use the next time we go out for dinner. I don't like them being on tablets or phones when were out (we try to focus on manners and conversation with them and behaving properly in public), so these are a good balance between entertainment and the manners and conversation goal we have.

I wore these leopard print shoes. I bought them when in Melbourne with Pamela, Faux Fuchsia and Romy 6 weeks ago. If you're on a budget, and don't want to buy anything.. don't go shopping with those three. I feel lucky to have escaped the entire weekend with only one purchase under my belt - they are good shopping enablers. I have realised that while I'm not quite as leopard print crazy as Ruth from Clothing Fixations blog, it has crept in without me noticing... my iphone case is also leopard print. I'm one step away from becoming Jackie Collins.

On the renovation front - I posted pictures on Tuesday, so not a lot to show you for the other 3 days of work this week that is interesting. The wall with the fireplace has finally been plastered up - they'll finish it off this week by cutting around the windows and doing the reveals, and also putting in the flue for the new fireplace.

The skirtings have been fitted - they're flush with the plasterboard, as I wanted simplified details in the back part of the house. It feels very peaceful in there (when the builders are gone) - I'm so enjoying the feeling of volume of space, and the light that we get in the rooms.

Above is the view looking back through the living area to the dining area and the kitchen cupboards beyond. You can see here how they stop about a metre from the ceiling to keep the feel of open plan. The kitchen has been undercoated, and will be painted this week

The appliances are being fitted this week

Outside the louvres have been put into the outdoor dining area, and they've started painting it all ready for the roof to be put on. There are going to be big chunky timber posts under it, rather than the spindly looking steel ones that we currently have.

We're still waiting on the render colour to arrive from Melbourne to finish off the rendering. So far it's been 4 weeks....

To escape reality this week, I've been reading this book - an oldie but a goodie The Garden at Forest Hall by Susan Irvine. All about the beautiful rose garden she created in Tasmania.

As is often the case with one book leading to another, I'm keen to get my hands on a copy of another book she mentions, and am planning on finding a place in the new back garden to plant some of Julia's Rose - a beautiful coffee buff coloured hybrid tea rose that is beloved of flower arrangers and interior decorators the world over.

Hope you had a good week xx
After my bits and pieces post last week, many of the comments on the post revolved around highlighting the new Collette Dinnigan book, Obsessive Creative, and about her beautiful clothes... the remains of which have sold out nationally after she announced she was closing down three weeks ago.

After Romy posted her retrospective of the eight Collette Dinnigan frocks that she owns on her blog Diary of a Hobart Housewife, I felt inspired to do the same.

Here I am last year at my Surprise Birthday Party wearing my 13 year old Collette Dinnigan engagement party dress. It's also one of my few sequinned dresses.

There is a little back story to the dress. When Mr AV and I were newly engaged, we had just finished studying and moved to Melbourne and started in our first jobs. We were 25, we had no money. Our engagement party was looming, and I was, naturally enough, feeling desperate to buy a dress to wear to the cocktail party my soon to be In Laws were hosting with all our family and friends present.

Mr AV and his friend were having a night out on the town, when I received a phone call at home at 2am. This is not something you ever wish to have happen, and my immediate fears were realised. He had been at the Casino. But, this had a happy ending. Mr AV had put all his money ($50) on his birthdate on the roulette wheel. And his number came up. He whispered to me down the phone "I've won $1,500". Immediately, I snapped out of my sleep coma and commanded him "leave the Casino immediately. Do not gamble any more money. Come straight home". He did as he was told, and has never gambled since - figuring that he was up on the Casinos, and any subsequent gambling would bring him back down. Magnanimously he gave me $600 to go and buy a new dress - a total splurge for us at the time, as we were both earning a pittance.

So, I made a beeline for the Collette Dinnigan boutique that weekend, and found my dress reduced to $580. It made its debut at our Engagement party, and subsequently attended quite a few friend's weddings, cocktail functions for work, black tie dinners and Charity balls.

And that is the story of my one Collette Dinnigan dress. I never said it was going to be such a long retrospective as Romy's! Sadly the mortgage/renovation induced poverty prevented me from buying any further dresses for the next 5 years, and after that pregnancy and babies and a changing size were a good dissuader from any further purchases.

But today, I found myself with an hour in the city running a few errands... and somehow ended up trawling through the racks at David Jones to see what they had left. There is a bit of a Collette Dinnigan graveyard in Adelaide's DJ's - the racks might be bare in Melbourne and Sydney, but it's a jackpot in Adelaide. I tried on 6 dresses, and here they are:

This one looked really beautiful on - lovely beading 

silk day dress 

French lace 

Black and navy lace with a sequinned belt 

 thick white linen with heavy beading and whitework embroidery

silk maxi dress with cobalt blue beading on the waist and neckline

Now, Mr AV has forbidden me from buying any further dresses. For some reason he thinks that I have enough already. Plus, we're leeching money for the renovations at the moment. So I haven't bought any. But I might, infact, have layby'd two (that is not buying really....), ready to pick up in January when I'm hopeful he'll be in a better mood (either that, or I'll be sadly returning them... thank you DJ's for your generous layby and returns policy). Can you guess which ones?
I've not been the best and most consistent blogger the past month - life has been busy. We've been living at my in-law's house for the past two weeks, as we came home from our luxurious holiday on Lizard Island with a big thump... no hot water, no kitchen and plaster dust coating every surface imaginable. Living between two houses has been hard - I was back at the house every day, and on the days when activities or circumstances prevented me from being at the house, I was fielding urgent phone calls from it. Things are moving at a pace.

Having now moved back into the house, we are living in a manner not dissimilar to camping. The bathrooms are definitely better, the beds more comfortable, but things are everywhere, and it's all a bit of a disorganised mess. We have this blue plastic sheet dividing the living area of the house from the building site beyond. It's supposed to stop dust. It doesn't work

So, in the past two weeks, we've had the start of the fireplace installed. This has been a pain in the neck. Because it is a French fireplace, rather than an English one, it has to be built into the wall. Much head scratching has been going on as we try to figure out how to do this, plus include the fake/ real looking gas fire that will burn within. I also had to accept that the TV was going to be too small in order for it to fit above the fireplace, so cords have been re routed and there is now a TV plan B. Like most designers I hate incorporating TV's, and my pet hate is a living room built around the TV, where you turn your back on the garden, or on convivial conversation in favour of all staring at a wall with a big black void on it. I'm still sorting this out, but I've pushed it aside mentally for the time being as I've had other things to deal with.

There's been a bit of painting, however it's the ceiling, and there are limits to the boring photos that I will post on the blog.

The kitchen benchtops were installed yesterday, and I'm really pleased with how they've turned out. I had thought, when looking at the slab last week, that I may have made a mistake, as in slab form it looked a little like the fake marble it is (it's composite stone, much more durable and stain proof compared to marble). But having had it cut to slabs and installed, I'm really happy with it. The grey cupboards will look fantastic with it - they're being painted this week for appliance installation next Monday.

I also took delivery of my brass handles - they've come from the USA. I couldn't find anything like them in Australia (everything brass was very faux Heritage in style, and I wanted something more modern), and in the end they worked out so much cheaper than a local item - around $11/ handle, and they're really well made. I've also taken delivery of my new kitchen tap from Perrin and Rowe - stunning in real life. The brass is a natural finish, so it will dull down a bit over time, but I do love the classic marble/brass combo. The tap was a special order, as brass is not common enough yet to have it in stock - so it took 14 weeks to arrive from England.

The laundry has had the tap and trough installed, which is where I am doing the dishes and cooking (using my Thermomix). The rest of the cooking stuff is in the Kid's bathroom, which is where the fridge is. It's not ideal. But from a laundry perspective it has improved - as I can now wash clothes indoors, rather than on the veranda.

In the new powder room, the skylight has been installed, and they've finished plastering S's bedroom and the powder room. I've been busy designing and drafting S's wardrobe unit, and the panelling for under the wallpaper in the powder room. The wallpaper has been a bit of a debacle. If you remember correctly, I'm using the Hothouse flowers on grasscloth from Schumacher. But unfortunately it comes in 8 yard rolls. This meant I could only get one full drop out of each roll, due to the ceiling height, and this made it ridiculously expensive. So, I've designed a dado level panelling to go underneath, and can now get 2 drops from each roll. This will probably work out to be more practical at any rate, as wallpaper plus little boys in bathrooms are not a good combination.

And here are some pictures of the playroom. They've almost finished plastering in here, and that will bring to an end a very slow plastering process (the plasterer is a perfectionist. I'm sure we'll be very pleased about that in years to come, but it has seemed to take forever in the meantime).

windows on two sides of the room

On the home front, all my activities have been revolving around the children, penance in a way for going on holiday for a week without them. We hosted our oldest's 8th Birthday last weekend, took the children to see Cavalia (basically Cirque de Soleil with horses), have had a school Sports Day, I've supervised a Craft morning with my Son's year level (exhausting!), babysat my friends little 2 year old to help her out several times during the week, and finally taken the children to the Adelaide Christmas Pageant last Saturday.

We were indoors this year, overlooking the circuit. It winds its way approximately 1.5 KM through the city centre, and lasts almost an hour - floats are interspersed with marching bands, high kicking dancers, pipe bands (so many pipe bands!), and many, many clowns. Last year I took the children on my own as Mr AV was away, and so elected to go roadside (too hard to get to the indoor spot I decided). This year we were in a spot overlooking Government House on North Terrace. It was quite civilised - we saw friends, had breakfast, enjoyed a glass of bubbles, and the children watched the pageant from the windows or scaffolding erected outside.

Amongst the usual Christmas/ Northern Hemisphere themed floats, there are some Australian ones -

David Bromley Artist themed float - marching alongside are tubes of paint and artists

Father Christmas (as he is called in South Australia) arriving at the end

At this point in the renovations, things are grim. We are living in the most uncomfortable and disruptive way that we have ever had to live in the house, yet we have spent almost all the money that we have to spend on the build. There is at this point, no real tangible benefit - we don't have the satisfaction of looking around and enjoying our new home, and this will be the way things are until Christmas... so to escape, I've been reading all sorts of books.

Beauty at Home - Aerin Lauder arrived from Amazon this week, and I love it. I've always loved Aerin's homes and personal style, and the book is lovely. One of my favourite books is about Estee Lauder, a biography, and I always found the way Estee started her company, made it into such an enormous success, and her overall taste and marketing genius to be inspiring. Aerin's book is timed to coincide with the launch of her fabric range with Lee Joffa, and her expanding homeware and makeup empire. The book is filled with beautifully photographed shots of each room of her two homes - her New York apartment, and her Hamptons house. It's interspersed with family photographs and memories of her childhood and Estee, who was clearly an enormous influence on her, which makes it more than an Interiors book. Highly recommended.

The second book was The Girl who Loved Camellias, a book I picked up whilst in Melbourne at the Avenue Bookstore on my weekend trip with Romy, Faux Fuchsia and Pamela a month ago, and which is about the Parisian Courtesan, Marie DuPlessis, who was the inspiration for the Opera La Traviata, after she died aged 23 from Tuberculosis. She had grown up in poverty in the countryside, been sold into prostitution aged 13 by her Father, and yet rose to become a highly feted Courtesan who kept company with many of the leading luminaries in Paris in the 1840's. She was widely admired for her style and beauty, and inspired many fashion trends. After her untimely death, she was immortalised by Alexander Dumas in the romantic story The Lady of the Camellias, which became an acclaimed play and which subsequently inspired Verdi to compose La Traviata, with the character of Violetta based on Marie. Many movies have also been made based on the play, such as Camille starring Greta Garbo, and Coco Chanel was inspired after seeing the play to incorporate the Camellia into her now famous personal motif.

A very interesting book looking at the way women's lives were in that period of history, really enjoyable and a beautifully crafted book with its pretty cover and rough cut page edges.

I'll be back soon to update on progress... xx

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on
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