Ten years of house!

Today marks ten years since we moved into our house!

This is the second-longest I’ve lived in any one place, when I was born we were living in a very small house and just before my 10th birthday we moved to where my parents still are to this day. After that, I moved out of home when I was 24, so only another four years here and it’ll be the longest I’ve lived anywhere!

It’s funny looking at the old photos and comparing them to now (apologies for the dreadful quality, these are upscaled from the really tiny real estate photos).


I blogged about the move a few days after we’d first moved in and how we turned the “office” that was the garage back into an actual garage, and since then we have:

We also want to redo the whole backyard and back room there, but that’s a massive project and is going to be a number of years down the track yet.


Powering our house with a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery

I posted back in March about our our shiny new solar panels and efforts to reduce our power usage, and as of two weeks ago our net electricity grid power usage is now next to zero thanks to a fancy new Tesla Powerwall 2 battery!

A photo of a white Tesla Powerwall 2 battery and Backup Gateway mounted against a red brick wall inside our garage.
A side-on view of a white Tesla Powerwall 2 battery mounted against a red brick wall.

We originally weren’t planning on getting a battery back when we got our solar panels — and to to be honest they still don’t make financial sense in terms of a return on investment — but we had nine months of power usage data and I could see that for the most part the amount of energy the Powerwall can store would be enough for us to avoid having to draw nearly anything whatsoever from the grid*.

* Technically this isn’t strictly true, keep reading to see why.

My thinking was, we’re producing stonking amounts of solar power and are feeding it back to the grid at 7c/kWh, but have to buy power from the grid after the sun goes down at 21c/kWh. Why not store as much as possible of that for use during the night?

The installation was done by the same people who did the solar panels, Penrith Solar Centre, and as before, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Everything was done amazingly neatly and tidily, it all works a treat, and they fully cleaned up after themselves when they were done.

We have 3-phase power and the solar panels are connected to all three phases (⅓ of the panels are connected individually to each phase) and the Powerwall has only a single-phase inverter so is only connected to one phase, but the way it handles everything is quite clever: even though it can only discharge on one phase, it has current transformers attached to the other two phases so it can see how much is flowing through there, and it’ll discharge on its phase an amount equal to the power being drawn on the other two phases (up to its maximum output of 5kW anyway) to balance out what’s being used. The end result is that the electricity company sees us feeding in the same amount as we’re drawing, and thanks to the magic of net-metering it all balances out to next to zero! This page on Solar Quotes is a good explanation of how it works.

The other interesting side-effect is that when the sun is shining and the battery is charging, it’s actually pulling power from the grid to charge itself, but only as much as we’re producing from the solar panels. Because the Enphase monitoring system doesn’t know about the battery, it gives us some amusing-looking graphs whereby the morning shows exactly the same amount of consumption as production up until the battery is fully-charged!

We also have the Powerwall’s “Backup Gateway”, which is the smaller white box in the photos at the top of this post. In the event of a blackout, it’ll instantaneously switch over to powering us from the battery, so it’s essentially a UPS for the house! Again, 3-phase complicates this slightly and the Powerwall’s single-phase inverter means that we can only have a single phase backed up, but the lights and all the powerpoints in the house (which includes the fridge) are connected to the backed-up phase. The only things that aren’t backed up are the hot water system, air conditioning, oven, and stove, all of which draw stupendous amounts of power and will quickly drain a battery anyway.

We also can’t charge the battery off the solar panels during a blackout… it is possible to set it up like that, but there needs to be a backup power line going back from a third of the solar panels back to the battery, which we didn’t get installed when we had the panels put in in February. There was a “Are you planning on getting a battery in the next six months” question which we said no to. 😛 If we’d said yes, they would have installed the backup line at the time; it’s still possible to install it now, but at the cost of several thousand dollars because they need to come out and pull the panels up and physically add the wiring. Blackouts are not remotely a concern here anyway, so that’s fine.

In the post back in March, I included three screenshots of the heatmap of our power usage, and the post-solar-installation one had the middle of the day completely black. Spot in the graph where we had the battery installed!

We ran out of battery power on the 6th of November because the previous day had been extremely dark and cloudy and we weren’t able to fully charge the battery from the solar panels that day (it was cloudy enough that almost every scrap of solar power we generated went to just powering the house, with next to nothing left over to put into the battery), and the 16th and 17th were both days where it was hot enough that we had the aircon running the whole evening after the sun went down and all night as well.

Powershop’s average daily use graph is pretty funny now as well.

And even more so when you look all the way back to when we first had the smart meter installed, pre-solar!

For monitoring the Powerwall itself, you use Tesla’s very slick app where you can see the power flow in real time. When the battery is actively charging or discharging, there’s an additional line going to or from the Powerwall icon to wherever it’s charging or discharging to or from.

You can’t tell from a screenshot of course, but those on the lines connecting the Solar to the Home and Grid icons animate in the direction that the power is flowing.

It also includes some historical graph data as well, but unfortunately it’s not quite as nice as Enphase’s, and doesn’t even have a website, you can only view it in the app. There’s a website called PVOutput that you can send your solar data to, and we have been doing that via Enphase since we got the solar panels installed, but the Powerwall also has its own local API you can hit to scrape the power usage and flows, and battery charge percentage. I originally found this Python script to do exactly that, but a) I always struggle to get anything related to Python working, and b) the SQLite database that it saves its data into kept intermittently getting corrupted, and the only way I’d know about it is by checking PVOutput and seeing that we hadn’t had any updates for hours.

So, I wrote my own in TypeScript! It saves the data into PostgreSQL, so far it’s been working a treat and it’s all self-contained in a Docker container. The graphs live here, and to see the power consumption and grid and battery flow details, click on the right-most little square underneath the “Prev Day” and “Next Day” links under the graph. Eventually I’m going to send all this data to my website so I can store it all there, but for the moment PVOutput is working well.

It also won’t shock anybody to know that I updated my little Raspberry Pi temperature/power display to also include the battery charge and whether it’s charging or discharging (charging has a green upwards arrow next to it, discharging has a red downwards arrow).

My only complaint with the local API is that it’ll randomly become unavailable for periods of time, sometimes up to an hour. I have no idea why, but when this happens the data in the Tesla iPhone app itself is still being updated properly. It’s not a big deal, and doesn’t actually affect anything with regards to battery’s functionality.

Overall, we’re exceedingly happy with our purchase, and it’s definitely looking like batteries in general are going to be a significant part of the electrical grid as we move to higher and higher percentages of renewables!

Reducing our power usage: Powershop, heat pump hot water, and solar panels

Ever since we moved into our house almost seven years ago now we’d been slowly making the place more energy efficient and reducing our power usage. First were double-glazed windows, then a new roof, then replacing all the light globes with LED ones, and slowly but surely replacing our various appliances with newer ones (the fridge was replaced shortly after we had our kitchen redone and used over a third less power than the old one, we got a dryer as well that uses a heap less power than trying to dry things in the combination washer/dryer, and a new air conditioner just before summer of 2018 to replace the ancient and increasingly-creaky one). Despite power bills going up at a fairly absurd rate over the past decade, we actually didn’t see much of an increase at all thanks to us being able to steadily use less power over time.

There’s an electricity company called Powershop that a few people at work use and are very happy with, and all their power is 100% carbon offset. We switched over to them in mid-September last year, and got our power meter upgraded — for free — to a smart meter in early October. The data from the meter is really fascinating, you can view it right on Powershop’s site and they give you a heat map of half-hour blocks throughout the whole day where you can see specifically when and how much power you’re using. A snapshot from part of October looked like this:

Brighter means more power being used, darker means less. You can clearly see the weekends during the day when we had the air conditioning on, and that much brighter section around 1:30-2:00am every night is the hot water system coming on. It was using 3-4 kilowatt-hours of power each and every night, and even though it’s on the off-peak pricing and thus not costing us a heap, it’s still pretty damn inefficient. I had a close look at the system and it had a manufacturing date of 2002, so we decided it was probably time to replace it anyway. I did a bunch of research and settled on a heat pump hot water system from a company called Sanden. Heat pumps work on the same general principle as refrigerators but in the exact opposite direction, they bring in the warm ambient air from outside to heat up the water. As a result, a heat pump hot water system can use 20% of the power of a regular hot water system. We got it installed in mid-December and it looks like a regular hot water system hooked up to an air conditioning unit!

A photo of our heat pump hot water system, which is comprised of a standard-looking hot water water tank with what looks like a small air conditioning compressor next to it.

(The scale is a bit off in this photo, I had to use the ultra-wide lens in my iPhone to get all of it in the shot as I was hard up against the fence. The photo was taken from about waist height, and the water tank comes up to about shoulder height or so). One neat thing this with system is that it’s absurdly quiet, they quote only 37 decibels when it’s running.

You can very clearly see the drop in power usage when after we got it installed, no more bright line! (The extended purple section in the wee hours of the morning is because that’s right when we had a spate of hot days and the air conditioner had to run more than normal overnight).

I worked out that the new system was using between 1 and 1.5kWh of power depending on what the outside temperature was (remember that it uses ambient air to heat the water, so warmer ambient air equals less power needed), which is a pretty nice improvement over the old system.

After all of this, we also decided to invest in a solar power system! There’s a fantastic website called Solar Quotes that has a ton of good info and will contact up to three installers for you to organise them to come out and give quotes. We ended up going with Penrith Solar Centre who were fantastic, and the system was installed on the 20th of last month, and it looks very handsome.

A photo of our backyard and house with solar panels on the roof.

(You can also see we also had our pergola redone too, which was a bit of a shit-show and dragged on for way longer than it should have. You can see in the photo that we had it shortened a fair chunk as it was far larger than it needed to be, so now we have significantly more space for renovating our back yard when we eventually get around to doing that).

The total solar setup is 22 Hanwha Q-Cells panels — sixteen on the north-facing expanse and six on the western side — plus Enphase IQ7+ micro-inverters, and we also get Enphase’s Envoy consumption monitoring setup so we can see in real-time how much power we’re using versus how much we’re exporting back to the grid! The monitoring includes panel-level monitoring of each individual panel so if anything goes wrong with one of them, it’s immediately obvious and the solar installers can immediately see which one needs fixing or replacing.

The Envoy system took a bit of time to be activated but even before that we were able to get a sense of how much our usage had changed via Powershop’s usage heat map. You can clearly see the day the solar was installed because all the days after that have big black sections where we were using no power from the grid at all:

The day at the top there, the 1st of March, we were doing all of the clothes washing — so using the washing machine and the dryer — as well as having the oven on for lunch, the dishwasher running, and the the air conditioner on for most of the day, and yet only used 11.46kWh for the day, compared to what would normally be more like 30-35kWh.

Powershop also have the inverse of the usage heat map if you have solar, which is the feed-in heat map, showing how many kilowatt-hours you’ve sent back to the grid.

The especially bright yellow blocks in the middle on the 28th are just a bit under 3kWh! You can also see on the 26th of February when the clouds came over after lunch.

The Envoy system gives us essentially what Powershop’s heat maps do, but in real-time, and it also monitors each individual solar panel so if anything breaks with one of them or we see that it’s producing way less power, we immediately have the knowledge of which panel it is which makes Penrith Solar Centre’s job far easier if they need to come out and fix something. You also get consumption versus generation graphs in 15-minute increments as well! The blue is how much we’re producing from the solar panels and the orange is how much we’ve used. It took me a bit to work out what the circle at the top meant, but it means in total we’ve consumed 16.84kWh all up, and of that, the section of the circle is how much we consumed directly from the solar panels, whereas the grey portion is power imported from the grid.

Now that we’re generating a bunch of our own power, the other thing I wanted to do was to have our hot water run off the solar panels in the middle of the day, instead of using off-peak in the wee hours of the morning, especially since heat pump systems work best when the ambient temperature is warmer… not super useful in the middle of winter at 1am! Fortunately the Sanden system we have comes with a block-out timer so you can explicitly set when you want it to be running. I had the Penrith Solar people swap the hot water over to the regular non-off-peak meter and I configured the block-out timer so the system only comes on in the middle of the day when we’re producing power from our solar panels (and conveniently when the ambient temperature is at it highest so it needs to use even less power).

I’ll be very interested to see how this goes during winter, our power usage is generally less — we don’t use the air conditioner’s heating function because it dries everything out too much, but instead just use oil-filled radiant heaters — but from talking to people at work, the solar panels also generate only about 30% of the electricity compared to the height of summer thanks to the shorter days and lower sun.

New bathroom!

The bathroom in our house was always a little bit crap, it’d clearly been done on the cheap and many years ago, and we wanted to get a new one put in. Conveniently, my parents were going away on holidays for three weeks last month so we decided that this was a pretty perfect time to do it. We schlepped our stuff over to their place and stayed over there while the old bathroom was ripped out and a brand new shiny one put in! (We also got the second toilet redone in the same style, so there were no toilets at all hence the inability to stay at home while this was being done; also Beanie would have lost his mind when with the tradies being over all the time).

I borrowed a really wide-angle lens from a friend in order to properly take before and after photos, this is the old bathroom (the shower screen is filthy because we’d given up on cleaning it by this point).

A wide-angle view of a bathroom, the floor tiles are sickly grey and the grout looks dark just from being dirty. A cheap-looking white vanity with a single sink is in the middle of the photo, the shower screen around the shower is at the left and is totally soap scum-encrusted. The tiles in the shower are black with discoloured grout between them. A toilet roll holder is attached by suction cup to the outside of the shower screen next to the toilet, that's just visible at the bottom-left.
A wide-angle view of a bathroom, the floor tiles are sickly grey and the grout looks dark just from being dirty. A cheap-looking white vanity with a single sink is in the right of the photo, the shower screen around the shower is in the middle and is totally soap scum-encrusted. The tiles in the shower are black with discoloured grout between them. A toilet roll holder is attached by suction cup to the outside of the shower screen next to the toilet, the toilet itself is small and very plastic-looking and sits next to the shower. In the ceiling above the shower is an EXTREMELY yellowed plastic fan vent.
A wide-angle view of a bathroom looking towards the bath, the floor tiles are sickly grey and the grout looks dark just from being dirty. The bath is in the middle of the photo, with black tiles around it, the shower screen is at the right of the photo and the vanity is just visible at the bottom-left.

The grout on the floor was all dirty and discoloured, the tiles were really thin, clearly cheap, and also quite ugly, and the vanity was really cheap-feeling, and we’d had to clean mould out of the inside of the cupboards more than once.

Kristina was interested in doing the bathroom in a much more modern and minimalist style than we’d done with the kitchen, to try to minimise the amount of nooks and crannies that would need to be cleaned, and to ensure it didn’t end up looking cluttered. We decided on white wall tiles, and slate grey floor tiles, plus a wall-hung vanity and wall-mounted taps.

The guy who was overseeing the whole lot sent us daily updates on how it was going, and it was fascinating to see everything ripped out and just the bare frame and insulation after they’d finished on the first day.

The bathroom with no tiles or gyprock on the bottom half of the walls, just bare timber frame and insulation.

After that, each day’s updates were just more and more things being put in, we were able to come back on the Saturday of the third week though the shower screen itself wasn’t in by that point. On the Friday of the following week the guy came to install it, and with that it was done, and it looks absolutely amazing!

The fantastic new bathroom, a white wall-hung double-basin vanity and wall-mounted chrome taps are in the middle of the photo, a shaving cabinet with mirror above, and two lovely in-ceiling LED lights above that. To the left is a waist-high thin wall tiled in white, and that side of the shower screen starts at the top of the wall. The wall tiles are white and the floor tiles are a dark slate grey.

There is a towel on the wall that's a dark pink, and on the right of the vanity is a small towel ring that has a hand towel of the same dark pink colour.
The fantastic new bathroom, a white wall-hung double-basin vanity and wall-mounted chrome taps are at the right of the photo. In the centre is a waist-high thin wall tiled in white, and that side of the shower screen starts at the top of the wall. Next to the wall sits a white ceramic toilet, and the toilet roll holder is a chrome metal one that's attached to the waist-height wall. The wall tiles are white and the floor tiles are a dark slate grey.
The fantastic new bathroom, a white wall-hung double-basin vanity and wall-mounted chrome taps are at the left of the photo. In the centre is the bath surrounded by white wall tiles, at the right is a waist-high thin wall tiled in white, and that side of the shower screen starts at the top of the wall. The wall tiles are white and the floor tiles are a dark slate grey.

A dark pink towel hangs on the wall over the left end of the bath.

There’s lovely LED lights above the vanity, and the mirror is actually a shaving cabinet so we can put stuff into it and not have to be rummaging around in a dark cupboard. As we discovered with the kitchen and the drawers in there, drawers are far superior to cupboards for anything but really shallow depths.

We didn’t even get anything moved in terms of layout, it’s all in the exact same position as it was before, but it just feels so much larger and more spacious, it’s wonderful!

Mobile painting

I mentioned in my last post that I’d brought all the paints and miniatures and everything inside because it was too hot in the back room to do any actual painting. Moving everything back and forth turned out to be a massive pain, so I decided to build myself a painting board that I could have everything sitting on, then just pick up and move back and forth as necessary.

After about $20 at Bunnings and some Liquid Nails as well as actual nails, it’s ready to go! The board ended up being somewhat larger than I was expecting, and it was a very tight squeeze with all the other stuff on the desk. Fortunately we still had the two shelves we’d originally put up in the office three and a half years ago and had since removed when we rearranged everything two years ago, so I put them up and moved basically everything that was on the desk onto them instead, and now everything is neat and tidy and organised!

Miniatures painting board


Finally, some actual miniature painting

So despite having gotten the back room set up for miniature painting over three and a half years ago, I hadn’t actually done any of it since then. 😛 I also realised I hadn’t actually taken a photo of the setup.

I bought Games Workshop’s latest game Shadespire early last month, it does have miniatures to paint but only eight in the core set, and it’s a board game where the games last about half an hour or so versus the multi-hour affairs that are traditional Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000 games. I figured that with the holidays around and time to kill, and not having the prospect of endless amounts of miniatures to paint, I’d give it a go. I’m pleased to say that I clearly still have the painting skills!

I’ve finished five of them so far, so only three to go, and took some proper photos of them with the full external flash/umbrella setup.

Blooded Saek

Angharad Brightshield


Karsus the Chained

Obryn the Bold

(I’ll admit that I cheated slightly and didn’t actually paint any of these in the back room, however… during the week and a bit that I was doing them, the weather was really hot and the dinky little air conditioning unit in the back room wasn’t remotely up to keeping things cool, so I ended up bringing all the paints and bits inside and did them at the dining table).

The game Shadespire itself is really neat as well. I’ve only played a handful of games, but rather than just “Kill the other team” you also have specific objectives to accomplish as well. Have a read of Ars Technica’s review of it, they’re a lot more thorough and eloquent than I could be. 😛

Final enkitchening, and concert

We had the tiler out this morning to put the backsplash in, and the kitchen is basically finished now. The bits above the cupboards still need painting, but in terms of every day use, it’s done, and looks brilliant! The plumbing and electrics were all hooked up yesterday, and you have no idea how delightful it is to actually have a dishwasher now after three-and-a-half years of not having one.

We’ve not used the new induction cooktop properly in anger yet, but we made pasta last night, I put the “Boost” mode on, and it took the water from cold to a roiling boil in five minutes flat. I also seasoned the stainless steel frying pans that we bought from IKEA and had written off as being useless because they stick (apparently seasoning is essential) though they’ve not been put to the test yet. The only casualty in the change to induction is the wok, which despite having a fridge magnet stick to the bottom of it, isn’t sensed by the cooktop. Kristina did a bunch of reading and the best type to get is a carbon steel one, so we’ve got one on the way.

Backsplash 1

Backsplash 2

I also saw Lacuna Coil live last night, for the first time in seven years (due to them not having toured here in that long), and they absolutely ruled. They played all the songs I was hoping for. ? I saw them back in 2007 as well, and was a fair bit closer then but with a significantly crappier phone camera (and also a far far higher tolerance for shitty photos, evidently). 😛 Irritatingly, I had to leave half-way through the last song or I was going to miss the last train home due to there being trackwork this weekend. I’m currently running on about five hours of sleep because I didn’t get home until just before 1:30am, and woke up at 6:40am because the tiler was coming. Note to self, don’t schedule things early on a Saturday morning in future.

Lacuna Coil 1

Lacuna Coil 2

Lacuna Coil 3

Lacuna Coil 4

Lacuna Coil 5

The Enkitchening, Part 3

The benchtops were installed today, and the sink and cooktop put into place, though neither were hooked up.

You guys, it’s starting to look like we have a real kitchen now!

Benchtops 1

Benchtops 2

The cooktop was about the same size as our previous one, perhaps slightly narrower due to not needing the control knobs on the side, but it looks hilariously smaller since the benches are so much larger.

Partial enkitchening

The kitchen people were finished with the cabinetry today so we’re back at home!

And OH MY GOD, they have done an unbelievably good job. The kitchen looks amazing and they haven’t even put the benchtops on yet, nor done any of the tiling for the splashback (the blue and purple stripes in the picture are tape that they haven’t taken off yet).

Partial kitchen 2

Partial kitchen 1

It really shows up how shitty the old kitchen was (compare how this unfinished kitchen looks to the old one in my last post), and how utterly wasteful with space it was. There’s a bit less floor space than the old one, but so much more storage!

Kitchen and kitchenless

We’re getting a new kitchen, and today the tradies came around to rip the old one out. Naturally we had to take some before and after photos (well, I suppose more “during” since the “after” will be the finished new kitchen).

The original kitchen seems to have been done as cheaply as possible. Nothing quite fit properly and there were several places where there was just a piece of particle board to fill a gap between a cupboard and the wall. The oven is new because the glass door on the old one (a Bunnings “Homebrand”-equivalent that was here when we bought the place) exploded all over the floor and Kristina last year. The fridge is also staying because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I bought it over eight years ago and it’s never given us the slightest bit of trouble.

Before 1

Before 2

And then there’s now the total lack of kitchen! The space actually feels smaller without the kitchen in it.

No kitchen 1

No kitchen 2

Everything except the benchtops are being put in next week, as the they have to wait on the carpentry to be done so they can be properly measured and ordered.

Home improvement: Curtain Edition

Lounge room with new curtains

We put up new curtains—and a new curtain rod—on the door leading out to the patio today, and it looks so much more cozy in here now (previously the window had on it the same horrible blue/grey straight-out-of-an-office vertical blinds that are still on the front window).

Kristina commented that it’s the first place she’s lived in that feels like an adult house, and it’s true… when renting you’re really just temporarily occupying someone else’s place for a period of time, whereas now we’re actually able to put our own mark on things and do what we want and it’s pretty great.

New roof

We discovered earlier in the year that the roof on our house was fucked. We’d started to get leaks in the kitchen and dining area, had a guy come out to fix them, and it turned out that the tiles themselves were completely brittle and were cracking just from being walked on. D: The guy who came out said he’d never seen anything like it, and he guessed that it’d been a bad batch of tiles right from the beginning.

We ended up getting an entirely new metal roof, in dark grey, and it’s SO NICE. They put a layer of 50mm thick insulation directly underneath the metal so it’s not a standard “The rain comes and you can’t hear yourself think”-type of metal roof. I’m quite interested to see how much of a difference it makes in summer. It’s also steel rather than tin. It took four days and cost just shy of $14k, but there wasn’t really much of a choice. 🙁 At least the weather was nice while it was being done, anyway!

I took a couple of photos while it was being done.

And then the finished product!

We also went to Featherdale Wildlife Park for kungfupolarbear‘s birthday last week, to take photos and generally visit the animals which was pretty great as always.

New windows!

No, not that Windows.

The windows in our house are very thin glass so the place gets really cold in winter, which is also not helped by the big front window being drafty. We decided to go all-out and get double-glazed windows. kungfupolarbear did a bunch of research and found a place called Christoffel that does both the manufacturing and installation.

Because double-glazed windows are $$$ we’re just doing them a couple of windows at a time. The guy came this morning to do the bedroom and bathroom, and my god they’re solid. The frames are pretty sizeable, and it’s incredible just how much noise is blocked out. Next up is going to be the big front window, and we’re going to work our way around the house bit by bit. \o/

We also made the front of the house, outside, look quite a bit nicer back in April as well, with some additional plants. The trees on either side of the window were $30 for the both of them, including the pot and everything, from a garage sale a couple of suburbs over!


Remember our path?

We admitted defeat today and pulled it all up. Despite there being a weed mat underneath it, and having sprayed the fuck out of it with a vinegar and salt solution (we didn’t want to use hardcore weed killers because Beanie putters around in the backyard and occasionally eats grass), it kept getting overrun with grass, and it was a giant pain in the goddamn arse to pull up. Especially since it’d just spring right back through in another spot.

R.I.P. path, 5th August 2013 – 14th December 2014. Heh.

In amongst all that, I also mowed the front and back lawn, did the whippersnippering, sealed up a hole in a roof tile, and cleaned the hot plate from the barbecue.


One year to the day

One year to the day since we moved into our house! It astonishes me that it’s gone by that quickly, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been a year.

This is the first place I’ll have lived in for more than a year since moving out of my parents’ place back in 2007. …actually that’s not quite true, now that I think about it. I was in the unit in Dee Why for probably 18 months or so, but that record will soon be eclipsed.

And kungfupolarbear informs me that this will be the first place she’s lived in for more than a year since 2002!



We had quite the productive weekend this weekend!

This is how the front garden looked back in December.

The two ground-cover plants in the front there ended up being a bit ugly, and the left-most one had all but died. I pulled them out, put a weed mat down (including cutting out slits to go around the daisies’ stems), and finally put to use the enormous bag of mulch we’d bought a number of months ago.

I am exceedingly pleased with my efforts. We also put up a shelf in the office to put all of kungfupolarbear‘s stuffed animals on, as they’d previously been sitting in amongst the books on the bookshelves. It looks rather snazzy.

Being able to just decide to do this stuff is SO GOOD!


We bought a desk last weekend, and it was delivered on Friday. It’s gone into the back room, along with the chair we bought at the same time, and I FINALLY have a place to both paint my miniatures and to leave them out rather than having to pack them away. I’m unreasonably happy about that, as I’ve not had such a thing since I moved out of mum and dad’s house seven years ago!

I still have a few unfinished Imperial Guard but my current project is the Skaven side of the Warhammer starter game (the other side is the High Elves). They’re all glued together and base-coated, and I’ve just started to do the skin tones on the rank and file troops.


In other news, kungfupolarbear is going back to the US in July to visit her family, and wanted to get a camera that was good but smaller than our 7D+35mm combo. We’d been wondering what to get ourselves as a 5th wedding anniversary present, and I had the brilliant idea to get a Fuji X100S! It’s small and extremely well regarded, and should be arriving tomorrow! Very excite.


So Lily’s mother is now moving to Lismore. For those not familiar with Australian geography, it’s about a nine hour drive north of Sydney. I’m guessing they’ll be coming back down for school holidays (I haven’t asked yet as I don’t want to open that can of worms). I’m not particularly concerned though, as it’s all but guaranteed that they’ll be back permanently within a few months. The same thing happened when they moved out to Wagga Wagga a couple of years ago.

In better news, we had a company come out to finally get all the crap out of the back room (all the detritus from converting the garage back into an actual garage), so it’s actually usable as a normal room now! At the moment it’s just storage but we’re going to go look for a desk this weekend. Once that’s done, I will actually be able to paint my miniatures again!

We’re also going to invest in a treadmill, and a good one at that. Both of us want to get fitter, but kungfupolarbear can’t go walking outside if it’s smokey or polleny due to her asthma. We found one that we really like at Rebel Sport but it’s about 20cm too big for the space we had in mind, argh. We’re still deciding what we want to do there.

DIY, and some not so DIY

No posts for the last month, mostly because there’s not been anything of note happening. Yesterday, though… phew!

So, the path to the back room was pretty bloody awful.

kungfupolarbear had found a photo of a nice path design, so we decided to go to Bunnings and get the supplies for it. Long story short, about five hours and many sore muscles later, we have a new path!

As per pretty much everything so far, it took more work than expected.

And today we had an electrician come to replace the god-awful ceiling lights that were in the lounge room and kitchen, and to wire up some ethernet for us too. It’s so nice being able to put our own little touches on things now!

In other news, our annual bonus ended up being 12.5%! \o/ Of course, 45.6 cents in the dollar of that went to tax, but that was still a nice chunk of change. So I’ve ordered a NinjaBlock. Should be fun to play around with.


Oh man. What a productive weekend!

We did some shopping yesterday prior to going over to gypocalypse‘s place and then the Bavarian for dinner. Sadly we had to leave at about 9:30 since I was starting work at 5am today (yes, it’s bullshit. Fortunately they’re going to be changing it, but apparently it’s taking a while for some reason). At least I was working from home anyway.

Also, I didn’t actually do too much working as such. 😛 It was pretty quiet so I spent the time tweaking my Magic decks and ordered some new cards (I’m currently completely obsessed with the Innistrad block of cards — think really grim dark gothic horror. So awesome).

At the start of the shift I was definitely thinking I’d need to take a nap after I’d finished, but apparently I got a second wind (and possibly third and fourth). We went to Bunnings, bought a nice powerful drill (we’d tried with our little one and it just didn’t have enough grunt to drill the screws into the wood) and some other bits and pieces, then wall-mounted the dryer and then proceeded to re-mount the cupboard that we’d taken off the wall in order to put the dryer on it. I actually ended up using several pieces of wood left over from when we turned the garage back from an office into a garage (they’re still sitting in what is going to become the games room, since the council won’t take building waste as part of the regular clean-ups).

kungfupolarbear was busy as well, she helped with the manoeuvring of the dryer up onto the mount, made an EPIC amount of gumbo, a slow-cooked beef stew, and also tidied up the hedge out the front.

It’s now 10:19pm and I have absolutely no idea how I’m still awake. I have tomorrow off due to working today, so I plan on playing video games mostly. 😛

Also, I decided to buy the books that Game of Thrones is based off (A Song of Fire and Ice), mostly because I can’t be bothered watching it and I prefer reading. HOLY SHIT IT’S SO GOOD! Wow. I’ve been reading it on the train to and from work, which is a good two hours solid of reading per day, so I’m ploughing through the first book. Man. I’m vaguely annoyed that I’d never read them up until now!

…I should probably stop typing and go to bed now.

PS: Have I mentioned how much I love our new house? Because it’s really really a lot. Just being able to do all these things to it as we want. So good!


We had our housewarming last Sunday, and it was fantastic. It wasn’t huge, there were nine of us all together, but it was just so nice being able to actually have people over again. We had a barbecue for lunch then played about three hours of Cards Against Humanity, everyone was impressed with the house, and we got $150 worth of Bunnings gift cards as housewarming gifts!


Oh man

We went out to get some stuff at the shops, came back to the house and as I was opening up the garage I realised the air had that wonderful earthy smell you only get out in the country. It’s absolutely glorious here, still totally quiet at night, and the air is crisp and clean.

We’re making pretty good progress towards getting everything unpacked, and it actually looks like a house that we live in, as opposed to a house filled with boxes and crap.


The move

We’re all moved in! \o/

We moved on Tuesday last week (the 28th), and it was surprisingly pain-free. The removalists we used were a pair of exceedingly Kiwi guys, who were “choice”, “broo”, and “cuz”-ing all over the place, it was hilarious. They’d done moves from our building before and knew how utterly absurd the layout was, and the removalist company suggested we get a guy in a ute as well so we could just load up the ute and ferry it out to the truck.

All three guys were really nice, and we got the moving-out part done in only three and a half hours. The moving in at the other end was obvious even faster, because they pulled right up into the driveway and just went straight in.

We’ve not unpacked everything yet, but we’re getting there. The house is great, and the whole area is dead quiet at night, and even during the day there’s not much noise. It hasn’t sunken in yet that this is our house, and that we don’t have to move again in a year or whatever. Not sure when exactly that’s going to hit, heh.

Unfortunately we’re still having to deal with the old real estate, bunch of arseholes that they are, as we’re waiting for them to pull their damn finger out and do the final inspection so we can get our bond back.

We’ve already done some stuff to the house… the garage had been converted into an office, so with the help of my parents and some power tools, we demolished the false wall (after having had to get a friend who is an electrician in to disconnect all the power from it) and pulled up the carpet and converted it back into a garage. The wall had been massively over-engineered, there were far too many screws and bits in for what it was.

The previous owners don’t seem to have taken too much care with some of the plumbing, and there were some leaks under the sink in both the kitchen and the bathroom which I’ve managed to fix with some teflon tape. There’s a structure out the back that we’re going to use as a games room, where I’ll be able to actually have space to lay out my miniatures to paint them, but currently it’s filled with the detritus from the false wall in the garage.

We’ve also spent a horrifying amount of money at both Bunnings and Ikea, but at least it’s a once-off thing and the stuff we bought will last us for years.

So in short, YAY HOUSE!


The settlement is booked for this Wednesday at 3pm! \o/

The bank continued their streak of being bloody useless, this time they managed to misread the title transfer document that had been sent. One of the seller’s names is “Louise”, and the bank came back saying that they’d need a new document because they thought it’d be written “Louisc”. It looks like what had happened was that they didn’t actually bother to view the PDF at full-size, because both kungfupolarbear and our mortgage broker zoomed it into 100% and it clearly said “Louise”. Unbelievable.

ANYWAY. That’s all past us now! We’re going to pick up the keys on Saturday and go over there and generally inspect things. The previous owner had converted the garage into an office and had put carpet and false walls up and such. That would have been fine and we’d have been able to pull it all down ourselves except that it turns out the false wall that was put up in behind of the garage door actually has a bunch of power points on the other side of it, so we’re going to need to get an electrician in to disconnect all that first.

In the grand scheme of things it’s really not a major bother though.



So we’ve now paid the stamp duty (all $16,435 of it, ouch) and pretty much everything is all set for the final settlement, which is on Monday the 13th of this month.


I can’t emphasise how much we’re looking forward to NOT LIVING IN THIS GODDAMN AREA ANYMORE, holy shit. We’re booked in with the removalists for the 28th of this month, which is a Tuesday. kungfupolarbear is taking the 27th, 28th, and 29th off work, and I’m taking the whole week off, mostly because I have a heap of annual leave and hey, why not!

The move from here is going to be horrible, given how incredibly idiotically it’s laid out, but it ought to be far faster at the other end. We’re planning on giving this current place only the most cursory of cleans because fuck the current real estate, and whatever we get back from our bond we’ll just take as a bonus.



Good bloody christ this week has been an emotional rollercoaster. Gah.

So the whole week we’d been chasing up the conveyancer and the mortgage broker because the cooling-off period ended at 5pm on Friday. On Thursday at about midday kungfupolarbear got a call from the mortgage broker saying that the bank hadn’t received her permanent residency paperwork, which we had definitely included. She told the broker as much, the broker called the bank back and whoever it was that she spoke to found the “missing” paperwork in no time at all. We were told that they’d have to start the whole process over again and someone else at the bank would pick our file up and run with it.

We were fairly despairing at this point, and we scrambled to call the conveyancer to get them to extend the cooling-off period to Monday. We didn’t hear back from that until later in the afternoon, though they said it was fine. The mortgage broker said she’d escalated our case and marked it as urgent, but we were seriously bummed out and expecting that we wouldn’t get the unconditional approval from the bank that we needed to actually proceed with the home loan.

Then late morning on Friday we got a call from the mortgage broker saying that we’d gotten the unconditional approval!! The sense of relief was seriously palpable, heh.

Today (the 20th) is my 30th birthday, and we started it off with dropping off the deposit off (all ~$45,000 of it!) at the real estate.


Speaking of birthday, kungfupolarbear bought me some wonderfully thoughtful presents, then we went out tonight for birthday Indian food at our favourite restaurant in Hornsby, then back to gypocalypse and his fiancée’s place for some games (our current place is completely useless for having anyone over, as the parking — and whole area in general — is retarded. Yet another reason we’re looking forward to moving: being able to invite people over).

Last night was Mongolian barbecue at Genghis Khan just near work which was a bunch of fun. And tomorrow we’re going over to mum and dad’s place for birthday lunch! It’s a weekend-long birthday food-fest. \o/

Also, holy shit, I’m now thirty years old! I always thought of that age as something that happened to other people. It’s weird being here myself!

Holy shit

I don’t want to say too much in case I jinx it, but HOLY SHIT WE SIGNED THE CONTRACT FOR A HOUSE TODAY! There’s still a bunch that could go wrong with the legal things or inspections or bank things, but we’ve put the deposit in and signed the contract which was the biggest hurdle!

We’d found a place last weekend that we wanted to put in an offer for, but within an hour the real estate agent had called us up and said that the owners had taken an offer already (one LOWER than the asking price no less) and wouldn’t accept any others. We were pretty bummed out as we seriously loved the place, and it was completely unexpected… we’d just gone to the inspection because it was there and at a good time.

Funnily enough the exact same thing happened this time. The photos of the place made it look tiny and fairly awful, but we got there and it was much larger than it looked and was really nice! It had actually been on the market for a few weeks, the real estate agent said that it’d been under contract the first week but that sale fell through as the people who were wanting to buy it weren’t able to sell their place due to termites.

So yes. Expect more updates during the week!

Also holy shit, it’s like we’re grown-ups or something!

On houses, and things

We went to see two houses yesterday. The first one was a three bedroom place in a quite nice area, and was surprisingly cheap (the ad listed “$389k-$419k”).

The price should have tipped us off. My god it was horrible! The amount of photoshopping the real estate had done was just mind-boggling. The floor was not “floating wood floorboards”, it was lino in the pattern of wood, which was peeling up in places. There were scuff marks everywhere, the sink was uselessly shallow, the kitchen drawers didn’t even open properly, and outside was just awful. There was black mould all the way along the eaves under the covered area outside, the wood up the side of the house was all damaged, there was a shed that the door had partially fallen off from, and the back yard was all lumpy and not even remotely flat. Oh, and there was a “built-in barbecue” that was totally rusted and broken and would have needed to be completely removed.

Better yet, the (very used-car-salesman) real estate agent was loudly telling everyone who walked in that “they’re only taking offers today”, there were two other real estate agents there, and there was even a mortgage broker set up in the kitchen! The whole thing was just unbelievable. There were hordes of people that came to see it, I’m suspecting because of the low price.

The second place was actually really nice, and was $450k. It was five minutes walk to the train station, and the house and yard was immaculate. Unfortunately there were several problems:

– The main bedroom faced the street, which ordinarily wouldn’t be an issue except that it appeared that the street was a relatively busy through-road;
– There was no air conditioning in the bedroom (granted we could have gotten in put in, but still);
– The houses on either side were awfully close, and the one on one side was a two-story place that positively loomed;
– And lastly, and probably the biggest issue, is that the land on the other side of the road was a huge paddock-looking block that had been sold off and already split into yards, and they were clearly going to put a mass of houses up there, or possibly even units, thus making the street even busier.

So back to the drawing board we go.

In other news, I’ve noticed a funny thing… I’ll go through periods where I’ll do a heap of photography, but do next to no coding, and then other times where it’ll be the other way around. I just don’t seem to be able to do both in the same general time… I guess it requires a mental shift or something.

And lastly, we went up to mum and dad’s last night for some peace and quiet since I was working today (starting at 6am no less D:), and of course for the first time in months there was a party down the street. Thankfully it wasn’t loud enough to be audible through earplugs, but it was the MOST OBNOXIOUS temperature (there’s no aircon there). Clearly having spent the last two years with air conditioning has made me a bit soft, but it was either too hot or too cold. I ended up getting barely four hours of sleep and so have been a zombie the whole day. Fortunately work was pretty quiet and nothing required much brain power, but ughhhhh. I’m working again Sunday after next, and we’re going to see if the weather has cooled down enough that it’d be worth going up to mum and dad’s again.


It’s like we’re grown-ups or something!

On Monday this week we went to see a mortgage broker to see how much more money we’d need to save in order to buy a house, and to generally get some more info on the whole process.

As it turns out we have enough saved up already, and the minimum payments we’d be making on a $475,000 place (our maximum limit) is less than what we’re paying in rent right now! We ended up applying for pre-approval for a home loan, and today we found out that it’s been granted (despite us not expecting it until next week some time)!

Holy shit we’re actually going to buy our own house! Even better, the mortgage broker showed us that if we put $1500 a fortnight extra payments on the home loan, we’d have it paid off in under nine years. Woah.

We’re looking at places in Quakers Hill, Marayong, and Kings Park. We’ve already been out to check out the area, and it’s quite nice… suburban, quiet, and on the train line. It’s 47 minutes to Central for kungfupolarbear and would be about 55 minutes to Wynyard for me, which is quite acceptable. We’ve got an appointment scheduled this Saturday to go look at a place. We’re certainly not going to be rushing into anything given our current disaster of a place. We definitely wish we’d known that we could have afforded a place this soon… if we had, we’d have just stayed in Turramurra and wouldn’t have spent a bunch of money on moving, and then another bunch when we eventually break the lease here. :\ On the slightly bright side, the lease for this place has a “lease break fee”, which basically boils down to us giving them a bunch of money but being able to end the lease whenever the hell we want.

So yeah. An actual place that we own. Exciting! 😀

The current place is still loud and obnoxious and everyone here needs to die in a fire. Poor kungfupolarbear has been at her wit’s end pretty much the whole time. But with any luck it’ll soon be over.