Tag Archives: DIY

Home Brew

Beer 2

Brewing my own beer is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve always been really daunted by it. (I guess I’ve heard one too many stories about bottles exploding in the garage!) It wasn’t until a friend lent me his brewing kit a couple of weeks ago that I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go.

Beer Ingredients

Reuben Making Beer

I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible for my first attempt at home brew, so I used a can of malt extract (rather than whole grains) to make the base of the beer. After sterilising everything, I added the water and yeast to the extract and wrapped it all up in a towel to keep it warm. I was pretty lucky that the temperature was pretty ideal for brewing, but I borrowed a heat lamp from Katie’s mum just in case it got a bit chilly. Every afternoon when I got home from work I’d check on my beer and see the fermenter happily bubbling away. Then, after almost a week, it was time to bottle it up. I borrowed a bottle capper from a friend and filled all the bottles I had on hand, but I had made so much I ended up filling 12 mason jars as well. Then I just had to let the beer condition. I was so excited to try my brew, waiting for the beer to be ready was the longest 2 weeks of my life!

Beer 1

Reuben with Beer

Finally, on the weekend I was able to try the beer! I had one of my favourite store bought beers and then one of my own, and I actually preferred the home brew. So I’d call that a success! I was a little worried about how the beer in the mason jars would turn out but we cracked one open and it was great. Each one holds almost a litre so they’re a bit big to drink in one go, but they’ll be perfect for sharing.

I’ve loved learning how to brew beer. We’ve shared a lot of this batch with friends so I’m already planning my next brew and this time I plan to do the whole thing from scratch. For now though, I’m really enjoying being able to kick back with a beer I made with my own two hands!

Have any you ever attempted making beer? I’d love to hear some home brew stories.


Comments { 17 }

A New Deck

When we bought this neglected old house of ours, we made a list of all the things we needed to fix. Somewhere down the list was the item “replace old deck” but despite being older than the pyramids, the pile of weathered wood outside our front door that we called a “deck” somehow managed to hold our weight, so replacing it never made it to the top of the list. That was until Friday morning, when little Clover decided to pull a large piece of the old deck up and eat it (as you can see by the missing piece in the picture). And so this weekend became dedicated to deck replacement! Here is our sad (and dangerous) deck before:

Deck Before

I naively thought the job would be fairly easy. I made a trip to the hardware shop and bought some replacement decking boards, nails and a circular saw, planning just to rip up and replace the old, brittle boards. But once I started pulling the deck up and saw the joists underneath, my heart sank. Below our weathered deck was a tangled mess of rusty nails wriggling their way out of old rotten beams. In one spot there was even evidence of a small fire! Scarily, the joist beneath an uncharacteristically new section of deck was actually half charcoal. So it was back to the hardware shop to buy new joists!

Burnt Joist

Dogs Watching Reuben

Once the new joists were in place, the it all came together rather quickly and by this afternoon the job was complete! We still have to oil the boards for weather protection but we now have a nice safe deck, and one more thing ticked off our never ending to-do list.

Reubs and Dogs on Finished Deck

Reuben and Clover

Daisy and Clover seem pretty chuffed with their new sunbaking spot too!


PS. You may have noticed that the bottom panel of our front door is cracked and has been taped up. It turns our my dad was right, that is what happens when you run around inside the house. Another thing for the to-do list – “replace front door”.

Comments { 18 }

Lessons from our First Year as Home Owners

It’s been a little over a year since we bought our first home. As is always the case, in some ways it seems like we’ve been here forever and in other ways it feels like we’ve only just moved in. We had grand plans for this sad old house when we first moved in and, though we’ve made some progress, there is still so much to do.

Hall Before

Our hall in January 2013.


Our hall now!

Living Room Before

The fluoro lights in our lounge room in January 2013.

Living Room Lights

The lights in our lounge room now.

Oven Before

Our old, dead oven.


Our new oven (and the hole we had to bang in the wall to squeeze it in!)

Bedroom Before

Our bedroom in January 2013.

Bedroom After

Our bedroom now.

Though we haven’t achieved as much as we’d have liked, we have learnt many, many lessons in our first year of home ownership. If we could go back in time and give Katie and Reuben a year ago some advice, we would tell ourselves…

There is so much more to do than you ever imagined.

Even when you DIY, doing any kind of work on a house costs money. More money than you think.

Similarly, everything will take much longer to do than you thought it would. Sometimes twice as long. Sometimes five times as long!

Scraping the paint off skirting boards, windows and doorframes, and stripping floors is not fun. Not even a tiny bit fun.

There is no smell in the world more horrible than you will experience if you rip up 50 year old carpets that have been soaked in cat’s pee.

Sometimes you will wish you could just call a real estate agent or landlord and let them take care of things.

Houses seem a lot bigger when you are painting them than they do when you are living in them.

Old things in old houses (like ovens, gas heaters, hot water systems and air conditioners) need replacing. This is very expensive.

There will be times when you look around you and feel utterly overwhelmed. You will wonder why you ever thought buying such a mess of a house was a good idea and you will fantasise about giving in and running away to a nice, comfortable rental…

But! Despite all the difficulties, every single day you will be grateful for your home.

You will feel so glad that you are building your own future, rather than paying off a landlord’s mortgage.

You will be so happy to have the freedom to do whatever you like to your space.

You will feel so much pride and ownership over every little task completed and every small renovating victory.

And though you’ll probably never really “finish” working on your house and at times it will drive you crazy, you will love it more than any place you could ever rent.

Because it is yours.

Katie and Reuben x

PS Sorry for the lack of post last week! We were having internet connection issues.

Comments { 28 }

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Empty Jars

Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Making Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

A few years ago, if someone had told me that one day I would make my own laundry detergent I would have thought they were totally insane, but as you know, things change. I’ve changed. And last Sunday afternoon I found myself standing by the stove as the winter sunshine streamed though the kitchen window, stirring a pot full of lux flakes, borax, washing soda and water. Making laundry liquid.

I’d actually been considering this little project ever since I got my hands on Rhonda’s wonderful book last March, but had always managed to put it off. Even though the directions looked simple enough, making my own seemed so much more difficult than just grabbing some detergent at the supermarket. And to be very honest, I don’t think I was ready for that level of, well, hippyishness. I realise now that was silly and I needn’t have put it off. I used this recipe and the whole process was ridiculously quick and easy. I added some lavender oil and the finished liquid smells lovely. We’re still finishing off our last bottle of store bought detergent, so I’m yet to put my homemade stuff to the test, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go!

I didn’t do the sums but according to Rhonda’s math, it costs just $1.75 to make 10L of this laundry liquid, while 10L of a leading Australian laundry detergent would cost around $80. That’s a pretty incredible saving! It’s also really comforting to know we won’t be using anything nasty to wash our clothes. I shudder at the thought of all the chemicals most of us put on our skin and wash down the drain every day. Though there is some debate concerning the healthfulness of borax, in my mind it is a big step up from the string of unpronounceable ingredients in commercial products.

Do you have any great recipes, tips or secrets, for green, chemical free, cleaning? If so, I’d love to hear them!

Katie x

Comments { 40 }

A Little Painting Progress

When we decided to buy our old house and renovate we really had no idea what we were in for. In the months since settlement we have come to realise this project is so much bigger than we ever imagined. Every day we discover new things that need doing, and every task we undertake takes longer than we anticipate. That said, it does feel wonderful to be (very) slowly breathing life back into this old house…

Reubs took last week off work to work on the house and we naively believed that with a solid nine days behind us, we’d be able to strip and paint two of our three bedrooms, as well our living room. Of course we were way off! We spent four days just stripping, sanding and prepping one bedroom!! We did however manage to get the two bedrooms very almost finished, so I thought today I’d share some pictures of our progress so far.

When we moved in the main bedroom looked like this:

Main Bedroom Before

Last week it looked like this:

Main Bedroom During

And now, it looks like this:

Main Bedroom After

As you an see the skirting boards and windows (and door frame) have only been undercoated and still need a couple of coats of paint, but we are almost finished! You might remember that when we started stripping paint we found the wood underneath had previously been varnished and we decided to keep the wood exposed? Yes well, as you can see we changed our minds. We discovered the hard way that stripping the paint off completely in order to varnish is virtually impossible and the wood underneath was in worse condition than we had realised. Plus, it just looked really dark and yucky. So sadly, the wood had to go.

Here’s the smallest bedroom (soon to be craft room!) when we moved in:

Studio Before

And here it is now:

Studio After

We still need to paint all the trim in there too.

Both rooms feel so much bigger and fresher now! We’ve used Taubmans Ocean Pearl on the walls which is a creamy, ever so slightly lemony, off white. We’ll be finishing the doors, windows and skirting boards with straight white. You can’t really see in these pictures but the ceilings were a creamy colour and they are now crisp white too, which has made such a difference to the spaces, and made both rooms feel brighter and more airy. We’re so pleased with how these rooms are looking so far and the fresh paint really brings the floors we slaved on to life! We can’t wait until the rest of the house is looking so good.

Only one bedroom, the living room, hall, entryway, kitchen, bathroom and laundry to go…

Katie x

Comments { 27 }