Category Archives: Home Improvements

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

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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

What Happened to February?

Well, what happened to February? It’s gone by in a flashier flash than even January did! 20170226_111643Maybe it’s because Chez Jones has been inundated with workmen since the beginning of the year with a bathroom remodel and copious other little jobs that spun from that one big one. I’m sure you know the sort of thing I mean: the leak from the newly installed toilet that produced a waterfall through the kitchen ceiling which consequently required repainting, the drip from the mains water tap discovered when they turned off the water supply to start the work, and which had resulted in an annual water bill which was basically double the norm (since been sorted, thankfully – both the leak and the bill!), and the new bathroom spotlights and extractor fan which resulted in discovering that the whole house needing re-wiring!! Suffice to say, we are doing the re-wiring thing in stages. Our nerves (and bank account) need time to settle down 😉 But that said, we absolutely love the new bathroom and said workmen did a fab job with everything. Such a great group of chaps – artisans, all of them.

20170218_113500In other news, Vivvy is doing really well with her training. She now has her bronze and silver awards and we are currently working on her gold (although Daddy says she’s already his golden girl *eye roll*). She picks up things really fast, especially if there’s a treat at the end of it, and seems to love scent work and hide & seek games the best. I’m trying to teach her to put her toys back in the box at the moment, but that’s a work in progress. I think she wonders why her minions can’t do that sort of menial task, thank you very much. I’m also attempting to teach her the cup game, but she just knocks all the cups over until she finds the treat underneath. Something to keep working on, I think, and maybe one day she’ll be as good at the task as Snow the cat in the following video:

 

 

Gallery

Lots of Things Afoot at Chez Chantal

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Jillian here!  It’s been a busy time here at Chez Chantal. One of my staff had a stroke on Christmas Eve and, even though she is on the road to recovery, it’s been pretty stressful at the office since things … Continue reading