Category Archives: Home Improvements

Busy Doing Nothing – Not

Well, here we are in October and so far in the UK it’s been mild and colourful. The leaves began changing colour earlier than normal, but that was in part due to the hot dry summer we’ve all enjoyed. Although the past month has been hectic for us, in truth it feels like very little has been achieved.

September began with a week’s stay by my mother who always feels she’s in the way and stopping us from doing things. More so this time, as she knew we were about to embark on the major redecoration of our lounge and dining room. She wasn’t, as we had no intention of starting until the weather was cool enough for Dave to work in and we had various arrangements to put in place. On top of this was added expense of having to change our car due a particular non-mechanical fault arising every time it rained. This was annoying as it was intended to be our “car for life”. We are totally thrilled with the one we’ve purchased and hopefully will be the last we one we need to buy.

As most of you know, the work in our home has now begun. All our downstairs furniture is in storage, the wallpaper stripped, carpets and curtains disposed of, radiators removed, and the Cotswold stone fireplace that ran across one wall in the lounge has been dismantled. Dave thoroughly enjoyed himself knocking it down to reveal the old chimney breast. We are now waiting on the plasterer coming in, which won’t be until the end of the month to do both rooms.

Meanwhile, we have no central heating downstairs and are having to slum it on garden chairs and electric fires for the time being. We can’t foresee the work being finished much before Christmas, as once the plastering is done, we have to wait a week or so for it to dry out before Dave can paint the walls, and fit and paint new skirting boards before the plumber can return to install new vertical radiators and refit the removed ones in various room around the house. After that, Dave can then lay the new wooden floor.

I’ve kept pretty much out of the way during all this because of the dust created, but Dave is exceptionally good in cleaning up each day as dust causes a health issue with me. We eat off our laps, which is something he doesn’t like doing so rescued a small wine table from storage to use. A dinner plate just about fits on it. Tempers haven’t frayed, noise hasn’t been too bad and we know it will all be well worth the disruption caused in the end.

And I never thought I would say this, but “Roll on Christmas!”

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And So the Work Begins

Hope you’ve all had a lovely summer!

So, here we are in September – autumn – and sadly the high summer heat we enjoyed in the UK seems to have sunk to a more normal summer’s day temperature, which for me is a pity. As I’ve said often, I love the hot weather, but it has been far too hot for me to do any painting and the long-awaited redecoration of our lounge and dining room had to be put on hold. No way was I having Dave swinging a lump hammer about to dismantle our stone fire surround or crawling on his hands and knees laying new flooring in temperatures hitting the 30s, so we’ve enjoyed long lazy days in the garden instead.

A further delay incurred was finding a suitable plumber and gas fitter to do the necessary dismantling before we could start. We found plenty, given lots of recommendations but they either never even bothered to turn up when they said they would, others put up all sorts of problems to what is a very straightforward job – removing 2 radiators,  disconnecting an old gas fire and latterly installing a new shower (ours had jammed on cold. Lovely in the hot weather, not so now it’s cooler!) – and promised quotations were never sent. And it seems we are not alone in finding difficulty when wanting a plumber.

A chance conversation with a neighbour a few days ago brought up this very subject. She was cursing as a plumber she was expecting never showed so had been recommended another. I told her we were in the same predicament. Her new chap turned up on time a few days later and brought him round to see if he could help us. What a find! Nothing was too much trouble, no job too small or difficult and he would be with us to do the work a few days later. Promptly at 8:00am he arrived, said radiators and fire removed, new shower installed and a coffee drunk, and all before 10:00 am. And he’s happy to return when we are ready for the refit and changes.

So, here we are ready to box up our two rooms, and can now arrange the furniture storage and rubbish skip. We’ve already chosen our colour scheme, one wall has been used as a test piece for paint, the feature wall paper already purchased.

I’m not looking forward to the noise and the mess but needs must. Nor can I escape too far whilst it’s being done as I’ve sprained my foot but it gives me a good excuse to shut myself away upstairs next week and write, write, write, if I can cope with all the banging and crashing, that it. Wish me luck!

 

Opening the Back Door

First, apologies for being a day late. What I had intended to write about has been delayed, so at the risk of boring you I will once again open the back door and reveal the back garden. We’ve been working hard and so thankful for the brilliant weather experienced here in the UK lately which has meant we’ve been able to get practically everything done we intended to do. Everything is growing well, and we can at last enjoy sitting on our new patio admiring our efforts as it all slowly grows and flourishes. In the space of a four to five weeks the long border has gone:

And a bird’s eye or rather bedroom view:

There is still the other borders to transform but they are going to have to wait. Two plants are been particularly stunning at the moment: my ever-faithful perennial aquileiga and a new clematis bought for £1.69 from our local Aldi supermarket.

In preparing the groundwork last November, Dave smashed two of the blue bowls on the new water fountain but, bless him, he bought me another and rather than waste the old, transformed it into a new pot feature.

Yesterday, I counted the pots around the rear garden, patio and front garden – there’s 85 of them! And that doesn’t include the old kitchen sink next to the water fountain. Plus he’s planted up and hung 20 wall baskets. So you can understand why we’re so impatient for it all to grow. We’ll have to wait. Let’s hope this marvellous weather continues.

As to what else has been happening… for those who haven’t seen or heard – two weeks ago some of my paintings were in a public exhibition held by my art group. The full story can be read over on my art blog, but I was delighted that one of my works sold. On top of which, I was asked to do a commission, and I won a prize in the exhibition raffle. All in all, a brilliant weekend.

 

On the downside, now the garden is done, we have no excuse not to start on the major living and dining room makeover and that’s going to be a very messy, dusty job. Not looking forward to it and I may have to escape for a few weeks whilst it’s going on.

Have a great June, everyone.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

Late for a Date…

Apologies for being a little late with today’s post but I had a very important date that couldn’t wait. With my garden.

I had hoped to show you the finished article but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant we could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So Dave and I pulled on our gardening shoes and gloves, and with him in the front garden, and me out back, we set to work. I’ve the long border to widen, which is tough going as the ground is still very wet, but I’ve managed to get some plants in, the three obelisks erected and the border almost dug.

You may be able to spot a white slab in front of one of the obelisks – this is where the new birdbath is going. I spent almost a year trying to find the one I wanted, couldn’t, so we improvised and purchased a tall blue glazed pot and a matching saucer, and placing the saucer on top of the pot – voila! One new birdbath. As you can see on the patio, we have lots more to plant although all of the hanging baskets are done. Can you spot the new bird bath among the plants ? The birds haven’t as yet, but hopefully once it’s moved back to where they are used to one being, they’ll make good use of it.

Despite all the rain and cold last month, Dave has been busy laying a new path in front of the new fence along the front side garden. He’s also kept himself occupied in making six wooden planters. These this morning he planted up with lots of colourful annuals and massive of sweet peas to grow up the netting he’s erected along the fence. It should look fab once they all grow.

We’re slowly getting there and hopefully by next month we can sit back and relax a little to enjoy it all. Meanwhile the rest of the borders and pots have provided us with some welcome spring colour.

So forgive me for being late today, hope you think my excuse was worth it!

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

A New Year

Is it safe to put my head above the parapet yet? Have all the Christmas decorations and cards come down? Is everything back to normal? Well, it is in our house, leaving me with just one thing to say:

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

What does the new year hold in store for me, I wonder. Certainly hope a better one than that just gone. It was a year of  change and adjustments mainly centred on the man in my life: Dave underwent major surgery last April, then cataract ops (the second eye being done next Monday) and back in July he finally retired from work so lots of adjustments needed there on both parts but it has been lovely having him home. He told me the other day he’s enjoyed every minute of it so we must be doing something right. And even though my health hadn’t been top form, it wasn’t all bad and I did manage to get away for a week abroad to visit my brother for his 70th birthday.

Talking of holidays and birthdays, Dave is 70 in February and it’s our 40th wedding anniversary later in the year so we are planning a holiday once he gets his passport. His retirement gift from his boss was a four-figure holiday voucher so we are discussing where to go whilst waiting for the holiday brochures to arrive. This will be his first holiday for 20 years. We’re not into big celebrations or parties but we’ll come up with something to mark both occasions in our own little way.

Also looming is my first public art exhibition scheduled for May. I took the plunge last summer and joined an art group. There is no tutor, we do our own thing in our own medium. Some are leisure painters, others qualified and skilful in their craft. I still feel a little like the new girl in school and yet to learn everyone’s name but the discipline and concentration of being in a dedicated art group for a couple of hours each week is proving beneficial. The advice and support both received and given is beyond value and I’ve learnt a lot. So I’m busy deciding which pieces to exhibit and the best way to frame them. I had the two works below lined up but they’ve sold, which is wonderful. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide what to paint next.

Dave suggested I paint the walls in the lounge. I don’t think he’s got the hang of this art business yet! But yes, we do have redecorating to do downstairs this year. There’s a fireplace we want removed, wallpaper to strip, walls replastered (and painted), ceilings repaired and oh dear, I have to start sorting out cupboards and decluttering as all the furniture and bits in the lounge and dining room will need to go into commercial storage as we have no garage and no room upstairs.

What else…? Oh, did I tell you I have novel due out in the next month or so? No? Hopefully, yes. And maybe one or two more during the year. Depends on how well everything goes, that’s if I can find the time between the paintbrushes and the garden spade as there’s lots to do outside as soon as the weather warms up. Roll on Spring. I did notice this morning through the rain that the snowdrops on the front lawn are in bud along with several hellebores, the daffodils are poking through and for the past week we’ve noted we’re drawing the curtains later and later of an afternoon so perhaps Spring isn’t so far away after all.

Okay, there were two things I wanted to say. The other is:

I HOPE 2018 PROVES TO BE PEACEFUL, SUCCESSFUL AND EXCITING FOR YOU TOO!

Building Fences

I can’t believe it’s December already! The past month has gone by in a flash for two reasons. One, we’ve been exceptionally busy during the first half; and second, the past few weeks I’ve been laid low by a nasty chest infection which is still hanging on. Whilst I won’t dwell on the latter, the busy part was exciting but messy. But heck, it’s what we wanted. I’ve mentioned before our intention to revamp the backyard as Dave wants a larger greenhouse, I want more space on the patio, and the fence between us and our neighbour has over the past few years disintegrated due to the high winds we experience here.

Before the start

So we decided it was time to put plans into action. We wanted a garden contractor who would do the complete works: remove all shrubs and trees, take down a high wall and build new fences and a gate, as well as lay a new larger patio. The first quote we received sounded good, we liked the chap and the very same day we agreed, he left his labourer to help Dave dismantle the old greenhouse, which by the end of that Friday, was gone, never to darken our door or garden again (the greenhouse that is, not the labourer!).

And so it begins

Monday morning and the sun was shining. The contractors arrived early and began knocking down the wall with a mini JCB. This had to come down first so they could get the digger into the garden in order to rip out the trees and shrubs. Job done, they then started lifting the old patio slabs.

Nearly ready for the new patio

The next day, the heavens opened, the garden rapidly becoming a quagmire, but they continued on. Fence erected, remaining slabs lifted but, oh boy, the mud! Undaunted by the weather, slowly things took shape. A major problem was found in laying the new slabs. It was hoped the foundation from the old patio would be solid enough for the new one but not the case, so extra work and hardcore were needed. This delayed progress and by the end of the week the timetable was running over. On the Saturday, there were still finishing jobs needed but Dave agreed to do the work himself; it would give him something to do. A project until the new greenhouse arrived.

Some 200 slabs later

We’re pleased with what had been done. The greenhouse duly delivered,  Dave has spent the past week putting it all together as well as running up and down the stairs looking after me. Good job he’s fit. If he wasn’t before, he certainly is now.

The new area

There’s still lots to do gardening wise, but it’s the wrong time of year to dig the soil, put in plants and repair the lawn. It must all wait until spring. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying myself planning out my new borders, ordering new bulbs and shrubs, but I do miss my birds. Their trees and hiding places have gone and for the time being so have the bird-feeders and birdbath, consigned to other places but in the last few days I’ve noticed they’ve found both and are slowly returning. They’re in for a treat next spring too because I’ve a new birdbath planned as the old one leaks. (My Christmas present from Dave, although I haven’t told him yet! 😉 )

This has all helped keep me going during the past dark days of barking, coughing and wheezing. As we approach the winter solstice and the toughest time of the year for me, I can dream, plan, and organise the garden for next year. Bring it on!

Meanwhile wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and everything you wish for in 2018.

Everything in Threes

Why does everything seem to come in threes? Is it magic number? We have the Three Stooges; plants should be grouped in threes; the Holy Trinity; the three wise men, traffic lights – red, amber, green; clothes, especially for babies: one on, one off and one in the wash; pre-packed meat in supermarkets, chops always seem to be in threes, not one or two or even four; three primary colours: red, blue and yellow; the three little pigs; three blind mice; no buses for an hour then three come along at once; three teaspoonsful equal one tablespoon… I could go on but it does seem odd (excuse the pun) that life and nature frequently have this triplet number. I’ve often wondered why or if there is any significance. Are these things simply a pattern? A lucky number, perhaps? No, I don’t think so for trouble always seems to come in threes too? At least it does in my house. I’ll elaborate…

Dave’s been retired now a month. It’s been brilliant. We’ve had a lot of fun, more laughs than I can remember us having and he and I have enjoyed every moment of this new phase in our long marriage. Except this month has also brought unwelcome and unexpected expense. Picture the scene: a beautiful Sunday, guests joining us for lunch, a roast merrily cooking its way, then bang! All the power in the house goes down. Trip switch flicked on again and again. Bang! Yes, you’ve guessed it, the cooker decided to burn out one of the heating elements in the oven. Oven turned off, meal resumed in the jet stream and microwave. Engineer summoned Monday morning. New element ordered, fitted on Wednesday.

Thursday, pouring with rain. Never mind, have washing to do. Thank goodness for tumble drier as we don’t have room for a washing line in the garden. Load machine with sheets. Drum turns a few times as it fills with cold water. Then bang! Trip switch shuts power off. Dave blames pump in koi pond and goes off to sort. I turn washing machine back on. Off power goes again. Kicks machine. Okay, it’s nearly 14 years old, never broken down so I can’t complain. Suspect pump has given up. Removes wet, soaking bedding from drum. Scratches head. What to do with dripping washing. Engineer summoned again in hope he can fix it. Yes he can. Heater element blown. New one ordered and fitted following Monday morning.

Now have larger washing mountain to climb. First load in: several large towels. Washing machine works a treat and an hour later they are dying in tumble drier. Well… I thought they were. All lights flashing on machine, washing still damp after two hours. Drier defunct. Research problem on internet: Common fault. Terminal. Still pouring with rain so can’t even rig up temporary line. New tumbler on order for next day delivery.

So, that is our three bad things done. Hopefully. Please no more. Dave reckons the dishwasher will be next as it’s over 10 years old. I’ve told him if it does break down, he will be doing all the washing up for wishing it upon us.

It’s still raining, and blowing a gale, but at least the garden is thriving, even if we can’t get out there and enjoy it today.

Kit’s Website and Blog  and Kit’s Art  Site