Sunday, June 10, 2018

Home decorating 101.... by a NON expert!

Well much has transpired since my last post.  I'm now in full blown home reno mode.  I blame too much American daytime television for that!!     Fixer Upper, Good Bones, Flip or Flop.   I am amazed at the seemingly lack of governance in their reno regimes..... but perhaps those boring legal bits have been edited out for effect.   I'm not undertaking that level of work at this stage, but I am doing some decorating!   One of my jobs has been to create a functional office space. Having achieved that with a huge L shaped gloss white desk big enough for my editing computer and my smaller Family History and general laptops and some gloss white Ikea storage units, time has come to decorate the blank wall behind the desk.

The whole room was gutted and two coats of Taubmans was liberally applied.   My mate Moo was the paint buddy on that gig.   I did the patching, sanding and cleaning prep then she did all the cutting in while I rolled along behind here.     We did that on a stinking hot day so there was not a lot of time needed between coats!  And here we are 3 months later ready to create a gallery wall of images.   I purchased 11 black frames with white mattes.  Different sizes and formats, but the black and white theme was what I was after.   I then had 11 of my fave black and white images printed (oh there could be a whole blog post on that debarcle alone).   I finally framed them all.

As the frames were all different styles using old style wire and hanging hooks was just going to be a drama.   Moo suggested I try the 3M "Command" system of wall hooks.  Essentially they are sticky backed velcro.  Surprisingly they hold considerable weight.

I made paper templates the size of the prints and blu-tacked them to the wall.   This made it very easy to move images about and get the look I wanted.  I didn't want all the people pics on one side and the architectural images clumped together on the other side, so the templates worked a treat.

The process for hanging the system is to affix the velcro to the frame,  wash down the wall area where the sticky velcro will end up with rubbing alcohol.  Then remove the protective paper from the velcro and place the image where you want it.....and then..... instantly remove the image!!  That leaves one half of the velcro on the wall,  allowing it to cure for an hour before reattaching the print. 

Each stage of that process is fraught with problems.  Firstly all the frames had different widths on the reverse.  Fortunately the "Command" hooks come in varying sizes, so be cautious if you are embarking on this journey to match your frames with your hooks or, like me, you will be racing to Bunnings for more appropriate supplies!    The next problem was... hanging the images straight.  For this I used a Ryobi Air Grip Laser level.   Air grip, such a cute term for suction!    A mate at work loaned me two laser levels, but for them to be used "single handedly"  they needed to be affixed to the wall...with a nail!   Errr NO!  Not after all the cleaning and patching I had done!!   There are a number of different Laser levels out there and not knowing my arse from my elbow in this selection process I consulted he who shall be known as the "Oracle of Home Renovation".   Without hesitation he recommended the Ryobi.  He was right.  Suction was the answer.

So with all the good gear, good info and good intentions I began removing the templates and hanging the pics.    I started in the middle and worked out to the edges.   The "Command" hooks do leave a little wiggle room so fine tuning is an option.  And if you totally stuff up they can easily be removed and repositioned with a new wall mount piece (which can be bought separately).

The one negative I found was that one of the larger format frames I bought had perspex not glass and was scratched before I even got the print into it.  Lesson learnt,  Microfibre cleaning cloths and perspex don't go mix.   Its an easy fix though.  I'll have a sheet of 3mm glass cut for the frame and replace the perspex at some stage. 

Naturally I took progress images so you can follow the bouncing ball below if you need to.
I am chuffed at the look achieved for a minimal outlay.

Thanks must go to Moo, Joshy, The Oracle and Ash.  Job done! 







Wednesday, December 28, 2016

6 months today

It's been 7 months since my last blog post and 6 months today since mum died.

I was sitting alone with her at the Mater Hospice, just holding her hand, when she faded away at 10.13am on 28th June, 2016.  She survived 313 days when her Oncologist said it would be  a whole lot less.  313 days, and each one was a battle.  She was scared of death and didn't want to be left alone. She didn't want to die.  She was scared of being buried alive and kept asking me to check and recheck that she was actually dead before they put her in her coffin.  She wanted to live to be 100.  She remained alert and aware until the very last day.  Her body, on the other hand, let her down badly.  Pancreatic Cancer has a very low survival rate, something like 7% last 5 years.  The national average is 180 days. Mum smashed that record!  Although she suffered a stroke and a heart attack, she remained strong.  She had little pain.... until 4 days before she died.  Even when on the drug pump she could still talk, but could no longer swallow.  She told me she wasn't hungry or thirsty.

I was extremely privileged to be able to care for mum.  She was an amazingly strong woman. She endured so much.  We talked about so much and laughed a lot. The daily photo for Instagram was a blast and is a daily record of her strength.... and her demise.  It also records the trips out, the ice creams and the many visitors she had during those last 313 days.

She might be gone, but she will never be forgotten.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

257 days later.....

About 9 months ago mum was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  She had been poorly and had turned a nasty shade of orange.  Actually it was 257 days or just over 36 weeks ago now.   Her doctors gave her no hope.  Prognosis was vaired depending on which oncologist was offering numbers but the average was 26 weeks.  The doctor in Emergency that actually gave her her diagnosis said 12 months, so right then and there we decided to do a 365 photo project.  Decided to take one photo a day for 365 days.

So here we are 257 days later and  it has been something of a roller coaster ride.   Initially the plan was that I would stay at work until she was incapable of caring for herself on a daily basis and have care workers come in to clean.  Meal prep and shopping would be my domain and she would take care of her midday meal and personal care.

She went downhill very fast and in late october it was obvious I had to take leave from work.  I quickly ran out of Annual Leave and had little sick/family leave of my own after using 8 months of my banked leave with my own cancer treatment in 2012 and 2013.  Fortunately I had just over 12 months of long service leave I could call upon and so I have been in a nursing role since.

We did have some assistance in the home from an agency "assistant in nursing".... until I caught her stealing cash, but that is a whole other story.  We now have a woman come in for 90 minutes once a week.  She cleans the house, vacuums, steam cleans the floors, scrubs the bathroom, dusts, changes the sheets and puts the washing on.   Mum now has a hospital bed and soon a stand up recliner.  She can still walk short distances on a wheely walker but we rarely venture outside the house.  Palliative Care nurses and her GP visit once a week each, but both are only a phone call away if needs must. We've had the ambos come a couple of times too.

Mum recently spent a week at the Mater Hospice. They worked miracles getting her medication under control.  After a mini stroke and heart attack all her meds were fighting each other. So now she is home on reduced medication and we just take each day as it comes.

She enjoys the photo a day shenanigans.  If I forget, she always remembers.   Some days they are posed and themed, but most days they are just as she is.  She always worries about her hair!  The images can all be seen on Instagram here

But here are some of my faves:-


Thursday, December 31, 2015

When Violet went viral !!!

The internet is an amazing thing.  The popularity of this blog surprises me.  The amount to views is beyond belief for what is essentially a blog about my dance with cancer and my veggie patch.  Knowing this I thought a picture I put in a comment about the awesome Hunter Valley Santa Claus might garner about 50 views.  I was very very VERY wrong!  It went viral.  And the flow on effect was even more amazing.

As you may be aware my mum, Violet, has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  The bevy of oncologists can't offer her any hope and she is deemed terminal.  The oncologists have offered themselves available for advice and information, but have passed mum's care over to the Westlakes Palliative Care team.  Knowing this mum is not happy with her lot and as a result is doing it tough.   

Unrelated my sister Nola sent me a link to a photo of a Santa with an amazing set up.  That got me thinking that it might jolly Violet up to have a photo with Santa.  She has always loved Christmas.  So I found The Hunter Valley Santa on Facebook and I made contact with them asking if they were able to accommodate an 86 year old in a wheelchair.  They replied to my enquiry saying they would love to.  A few days later I went to the venue, "Sinclairs" on Hillsborough Road, Warners Bay, here in Lake Macquarie.   I needed to check wheelchair access.  Mrs Claus was brilliant.  Santa was busy with kids, but Mrs Claus showed me side access easy for a wheelchair and we confirmed a time and date.    A few days later Violet frocked up and off we went to meet Santa.   

Santa and Mrs Claus asked the crowd in front of us if we could pop in straight away and from what I could see no-one there minded, even though they had already waited some time.  Santa is VERY popular out there!     So mum was wheeled in and Santa helped her out of her chair.  She sat on his knee, then on his throne and as he was about to help her back to her chair I asked if Santa could dance.  He could, so they danced just a few steps and we helped her back into her chair.    We weren't there long, but Violet was very very happy at what had just occurred.  We collected out images and USB and headed home.  She was very excited.    I used those images to create her Christmas Cards and had them printed by Redbubble.  One larger print was framed and took up residence on the china cabinet.  That's were I thought it would end.  

So a few weeks later a woman I do not know posted a pic of Santa and her son Levi, taken at "Sinclairs".   I commented on her photo that Santa and Mrs Claus bent over backwards to help Violet get her first ever photo with Santa.   I added a small copy of the image in my comment.   

Violet's photo and comment on this lovely photo of Santa and "Levi" was then picked up by the television show "Today" and they created a new thread or page or whatever you call it with Violet's photo and the story.   I didn't know anything about it until about 10 hours later when Josh rang me and  told me to go have a look and that 6000 people had "liked" it on Facebook.   While he was on the phone the "likes", "shares" and "comments" continued to grow.  He kept calling new figures thru the phone to me.  By morning about 12,000 people had "liked" her photo dancing with Santa.    

Now Violet doesn't really understand how the internet works and isn't on Facebook, but she understood what I said when I told her 12,000 people had clicked a button to say they liked the photo of her dancing with Santa.  By the following morning over 21,000 people had "liked" the photo, over 800 had "shared" it on their own page and over 400 people commented on the shot.    I showed her the Today story on the iPad and she sat and read every single comment.  She recognised just 3 names  and spent the remainder of the day smiling and joyous.  

The following day Santa contacted me on Facebook.  We had tried to organise a family photo with mum, myself, my sister and all three adult grandkids, but two of the kids were working and one was off in Sydney, so it couldn't happen.  It was a very kind offer though.   Just another indication of how awesome Santa and Mrs Claus were.   Sometime later Santa told me that the local television station, NBN, had contacted Mrs Claus hoping to interview Violet and do a story about her visit with Santa.   As Santa and Mrs Claus had been so wonderful to us I offered to get Violet back to "Sinclairs" so NBN could do their story.  And so it happened.   Violet was as excited as a kitten to be interviewed by the lovely Emma Murphy.  She was going to be on the news!!

NBN played to story on Christmas Eve and put it on their website too.  She tells everyone who comes to the house.  Shows them the clip on the computer and we watched it a couple of times on christmas day with all the grandkids here.

So one simple comment about how wonderful Santa and Mrs Claus are had made Violet go viral and she loves it!

Below is the link to the NBN news story.  I hope you enjoy when Violet went viral!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Free seeds

Well this whole gardening thing has become quite a big part of my life.    Not that I spend hours in the veggie patch every day though.  I am spending more time there now as I am on leave at the moment taking care of my mum.  When I do work I usually water a couple of afternoons a week in summer and spend maybe an hour in the patch every sunday morning.   But now I am house bound 24/7 so I am spending a little more time tending to the veg.

The carrots planted back in May are coming to an end and whilst still edible I have let a few of them go to seed to see what happens next.    The seed pods are very lovely with an amazing structure.  I have never collected seeds before.  Seeds are cheap to buy and thats how I plant a lot of my crops.  Seed or seedling, depending on the crop.  As I have abundant hours spare I thought I could collect the seeds this time and see how they go as my next crop.

The methodology is to leave the flower heads on the plant until they are jam packed and looking almost dead. It is then that you harvest them.  Carrot seeds are very small and solid black in colour.  In the flower they have a furry like case around them.    The seeds won't shake out on their own, they need a little human intervention.  Important to tease them out onto white paper or into a while bowl because there are ants and lady bugs hiding in there.  They are easily visible on white.

One carrot left to seed can produce hundreds of seeds.  Seriously hundreds!!!  One carrot might produce 3 or 4 flower heads in which case you can collect thousands of seeds.

So here are some images of the my first foray into seed collection showing the various stages of the seed heads.

Now I am no scientist, but from what I can work out this is how to harvest carrot seeds!!!  I will plant then into a new veggie bed and await the results!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hidden secrets

For the last 69 weeks I have been working from a 6 metre x 2.4 metre tin shed hidden away at the back of Belmont Court House whilst the 3 old buildings that constituted the Police Station were demolished.  Essentially is has been a work site where access was thru a tunnel built of scaffolding and marine ply.  It was hot is summer, cold in winter but it housed all I needed to do my job while the rest of the workforce were crammed into other Police Stations in the area.  You can fit a lot into a 6 x 2.4 shed!  3 desks, 3 computers, a printer/photocopier/fax, second printer, coffee machine, water cooler and a small, but perfectly functional LOUNGE!  At best I worked alone but on one single day we had 12 people in the shed at once. The most we ever had for a meal was 7.  I loved the shed as it housed exactly all I needed and had no room for "stuff" to grow.

The new police station is now complete. I call it the BIG tin shed.  It is fairly grand, but not exactly what we need space wise.  3 staff now share two workstations and two computers.... but it is early days and these things may change and evolve in time.

When the work first began on the new tin shed I mentioned to the Commander that it would be good to put a time capsule into the building. The old Police Station was built in 1964 and for more than half of its 50 years it was too small for its staff.  The Station prior to this one was on a  different site, up near the Fire Station opposite the Gunya Hotel and it had been in Belmont since the late 1800's.  So there was a lot of history that could be contained in a time capsule.  The Commander was enthusiastic and nominated a particular Inspector who could be in charge of a time capsule... and that's when I knew nothing would ever happen.   I waited to see if the idea ever surfaced again, but it didn't.   Demolition of the old station was complete, 11meters below street level dug out and huge concrete piles in situ I decided I wanted to have a little bit of me in the new building, after all I had worked in the one location since 1992!

Different ideas and thoughts came to me as to how to celebrate time but in the end I decided it was all going to be about me!  This new building is likely to survive 300 years so photos wouldn't last, a CD, DVD or USB would probably be unknown to someone in the year 2315.  Construction progressed quickly once the build was out of the ground and I needed to make the move or miss the opportunity forever.  So one sunday afternoon I went to the local shopping centre and had a small brass plaque engraved with my name, date of birth and work identity number.   I felt that was enough.  It didn't need flash or showy, just a memorial of sorts.

Back to the work site monday and I told 2 of the best tradies EVER about my idea.  We looked at the plans, worked out exactly where my new office would be and decided on a great little hiding spot.  I handed over the plaque and the rest was up to them.   Sometime later my phone beeped with a message.  Attached was a photo of the plaque in place!   Liquid nails oozing from behind it, perfect.   A couple of days later my phone beeped again.  One of these two fantastic blokes has tidied up the plaque.  Removed the excess liquid nails and polished her up a beauty!   It was to by gyprocked over sometime later that week.  Objective achieved!

The gyprocking took longer than expected and one day the Commander was doing a tour.  I had to fess up to one of the building managers about the plaque, but he too was a great guy and managed to steer the inspection team away from it!   Finally it was covered over and I could rest easy.  I didnt think anyone would kick up a stink over it.  I just didnt want to get my tradies into trouble!

I've had to take some leave and so I won't be sitting at my desk for some time, but I did go in yesterday to see my new office.  While I was there one of the tradies came in and said "oh.. this is our wall"  I had a giggle and was so happy that the plan had come together.

If the building is demolished n 300 years time it is most likely that the plaque will not  be found, but that is irrelevant.  That fact is it is in there now for the duration and just me and 2 fabulous tradies  know exactly where!

As usual we end with some pics.  There are some tradies and some "progress" shots!  I hope you enjoy!!!

The 6 x 2.4m ATCO shed in situ with the scaf and marine ply entry

Inside the tin shed

Plaque in place

Inside the BIG tin shed ... there may well be a plaque hidden away in here somewhere......

Protecting the anonymity of my partners in crime!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lights, lights and more lights

As you may have guessed I am a little bit obsessed with photography.  My interest was always macro, the world of tiny stuff, bits of things, not the whole, but then in got hooked on the 100 Strangers Project and I wanted to shoot people, people and more people.   While I was shooting strangers I was also shooting friends and I wanted to shoot more and more people .... with artificial light.

I have scads of equipment, lots, heaps and I even know how to use some of it!!!   My lenses are an even split between primes and zooms.  If I am shooting people I like primes, but for other stuff I usually have a zoom on.  As for lighting I have 4 flash heads, 2 soft boxes, 4 brollies and pocket wizards to trigger all this stuff, but after shooting a model earlier in the week I seriously want to move further up the food chain to strobes.  I know the gear I have can easily replicate the work I did with the strobes, but the one sole advantage the strobes have over my gear is a modelling light.  The modelling light provides me a better idea of what the final image will look like.  It shows where the shadows will fall and how two lights blend or don't blend as the case may be.

This sole advantage is the reason why I am seriously considering offloading all my lighting gear and donating a kidney to pay for some lights that give me shadows!!!  I know it is not really logical or valid or reasonable.... but it is not all about logic.  It's about wants, not needs!

Below are some images I have taken... the first three are in my lounge room with my current soft boxes,  flash heads and pocket wizards.  The second group are shot with strobes similar to those I want to go into huge debt for.  The difference.... I no longer know if I can tell!!

What is glaringly different is the backgrounds.  Lounge room verses studio.   That's my next big purchase I think!