Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, mustbethrifty house, Secondhand Scavengers

It’s curtains

Last year, I mentioned double glazing as a way to keep the summer heat out and the winter heat in. A much more cost-effective option, however, is the use of curtains.

Curtains and blinds help prevent heat loss and gain by trapping a blanket of air next to the window. The best results come from ‘fabrics that insulate well, for example heavy fabrics or curtains with thermal lining or layers’ (via Your Energy Savings).

what improves energy efficiency for windows
Source: www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/services-and-advice/households/energy-efficiency/at-home/windows

The curtains we inherited from the previous owner were rubbish. They were sun-damaged, mismatched, and threadbare:

Threadbare curtains

Thanks to the power of Google, we were able to source some quality secondhand curtains. There’s a store called Johnny’s Furniture in Eumemmerring (Dandenong) which stock ex-hotel furniture. They sell piles of Sheridan/Mantra/Hilton cast-offs, so we were able to get matching curtains made from heavy, tightly woven fabric. Unlike a lot of the ready mades available from Ikea and fabric stores, these ex-hotel curtains were also lined.

NOKIA Lumia 800_002260They were a bit longer than what was needed, so Mum spent a few mornings furiously hemming away. Dad was also nice enough to replace the mismatched curtain rails with uniform tracks.

While we don’t have quantitative temperature comparisons*, we’re observing a difference in comfort levels. When the curtains are not closed in the afternoon, you can really feel the sun’s intensity in front of the west-facing window. Pull the curtain across and the heat/glare reduces noticeably.

For our north-facing windows, we’ve also had adjustable awnings** installed.

traditional awnings
We picked adjustable awnings that created good shade and suited the house’s mid-century architecture.

‘When a window is hit by direct sunlight, heat comes in and the window is a source of heat gain. When a window is in shade, heat from inside will leave, and the window becomes a source of heat loss’ (via ABC’s Carbon Cops). Therefore using awnings in summer reduces direct solar gain and encourages heat loss via transfer/convection. And according to Sustainability Victoria, our choice of thick, opaque fabric means better shade. Squee!

Next step is figuring out how to retrofit invisible pelmets (or something similar) to reduce heat loss/gain from thermal convection.


* I bought a couple of Oregon weather station monitors and Cheap Geek installed them around the house but so far we’ve only got flat batteries as a result. 😦

**We chose adjustable awnings because we wanted to be able to harvest as much sunlight in winter, maximising direct solar gain.

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Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, mustbethrifty house

Flooring: making the best of what’s already there

Our new house had floating floorboards made of some blondish-coloured wood veneer. They looked cheap and brought about a vehemence rarely seen in my mild-mannered Cheap Geek–’I hate these floors’, was pretty much the first thing he said when we first inspected the house. So while keeping the floating floorboards was the most economical and environmental option, they had to go.

According to Randy Florke, author of Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. (Create A Beautiful Home), reclaimed wood, bamboo, cork, linoleum, marmoleum, recycled rubber, or a lick of paint are all green flooring alternatives. We chose to work with what was underneath the floating floorboards as it was cost-effective, environmentally sound* as well as the the most aesthetically pleasing. During the pre-purchase inspections, my dad had a look under the house and spotted the hardwood floors. When we pulled up the underlay, we were rewarded with this:

hardwood floors (untreated)
Hardwood floors hidden under carpet, lino, and floating boards for nearly 50 years.

We used Livos Kunos natural oil sealer with a walnut stain to protect the floor and bring out the grain of the wood. Livos uses food-grade natural oils and claims that their products are ‘biologically degradable, sustainable…and harmless, even in direct contact with humans, animals and plants’. Hopefully, this translates to better indoor air quality, something that may be important later on when our improvements make the house ‘less leaky’.

Livos Kunos natural oil sealer also don’t require re-sanding on reapplication, which is an added bonus. No need to waste more time/money/energy on sanding: a few drops of Livos and a buff with a rag is all that is required.

Our sand and polisher was reluctant to use Livos as she was not familiar with the brand, so we ended up doing much of the application and buffing ourselves**.

Applying Livos sealer to prepped floors
Dad applies the Livos with a paint roller.

The DIY process is fairly easy, requiring mostly elbow grease and some basic tools. Three coats are needed and each coat takes 24-48 hours to dry. The smell of the drying sealer reminds me of pine tar or menthol; it’s much more bearable than some of the varnishes and sealers I’ve used in the past.

Three coats have resulted in beautifully stained floors. There is a slight sheen on the surface but unlike polyurethane, oil sealers like Livos do not leave a shiny film on the floor. The floor feels silky to touch: smooth with a touch of resistance.

Livos Kunos natural oil sealer with walnut stain on Victorian Ash floors
Results after 3 coats of Livos Kunos natural oil sealer (walnut stain).

The floors take 4 to 6 weeks to cure but we’ve already moved in, giving them just a little bit more TLC than usual.


* ‘Before I tear up any old flooring, though, I try to make the best of what’s already there. If a hardwood floor can be refinished, stained, or even painted, that’s far preferable to tearing it up and adding refuse to the nearest landfill.’ (Randy Florke, via Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. (Create a Beautiful Home))

**The sand and polisher ended up giving us a discount for doing some of the work for her.

Dress to Impress (for Less), Footnote Frivolity***

Hol(e)y soles!

These boots have suffered much abuse over the years and now they have hol(e)y soles, which aren’t great in the wet winter weather.

I didn’t want to throw them out, however, since they cost me a couple of hundred bucks. Plus they’re super comfy and play nice with most outfits.

Cheap Geek spends a fortune on his work shoes. In order to extend the life of his footwear, he kits up every new purchase with Topy soles. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

Leftovers – Mum’s way

Last weekend, my Aussie mother-in-law showed me her photos from her Vietnam trip. Amongst the scenery shots of Hoi An and Ha Long Bay were the photos of food. The food, she said, was lovely and healthy, though the soup that was brought out with each meal was ‘very bland’.

While the tour guides had been very careful to explain the stories behind the sights, they had not bothered to explain the method to Vietnamese dining. Soup is usually brought out in a large communal bowl. Instead of serving it at the start of the meal as an entree, it is poured over rice and served with a salty dish (i.e. stir fry). There is also a dipping bowl filled with fish sauce for the bland bit of tofu that you’ve fished out of your soup.

Explaining this to my mother-in-law made me reminisce over the family meals Mum cooks. Mum doesn’t reinvent leftovers like I do. Instead, she batch cooks her food and then dishes it out over several nights. Continue reading

Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, Reviews

Sustainable and legal? Sustainable House and Sustainable Food

Michael Mobbs' Sustainable HouseA couple of decades ago, former environmental lawyer Michael Mobbs set about turning his inner Sydney home into a sustainable oasis*: the mains water was disconnected, the solar panels got put in, and a waste facility was buried in the backyard. In 1998, Mobbs wrote Sustainable House, detailing his experience.

Resources on sustainable retrofitting tend be brainstormers or how-tos with a focus on design, construction or behaviour modification. For instance, yourhome.gov.au lists ‘six ways to minimise water use’ and discusses rain tank considerations. Mobbs’ book is more of a how-to on getting around bureaucratic naysayers. When told that inner Sydney rainwater was unsafe to drink, he took his own samples every fortnight, over eighteen months, and had them tested at a laboratory. Continue reading

Footnote Frivolity***, Thriftster weddings

Wedding album on a shoe(string) budget – part one

In the midst of last year’s wedding planning, Cheap Geek and I decided to forego the traditional wedding album. We figured that we wanted our money to go towards the talent rather than fancy paper and ink.

Fortunately, our photographer offered a digital-proofs-only package: he wasn’t the type who holds his digital proofs for ransom*. And so we saved $1360, got married and had a bowl. Lawn bowls at a wedding

Months later, our photographer sent us his digital proofs which now grace many a Facebook page. Ads from Artisan State, a new budget photo album company, have also been gracing the Facebook feeds. I’m not sure how good the quality of the albums are but Sydney wedding photographer Sutoritera has posted a fairly positive review Continue reading