Category Archives: Home Improvements

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.

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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:

 

 

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Lots of Things Afoot at Chez Chantal

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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

Last 2016 Project

I seem to do the same thing with time and accomplishments as I do with money. That is, at the end of the year I think where did it go. At one point when I was down about not getting anything done, Laurie suggested I do a ‘did it list’ to go along with my always ‘to do list’. Does it sound like I’m a list maker? Big time, sometimes I think I have lists for lists. 🙂

Okay I’m regressing here.   I do make daily lists, but a few years ago I put the major things down for the year. Looking back on 2016 I didn’t do so bad. I even got in 3 really great trips. Now, just to make it clear I’m not talking about ‘making this world a better place’ type of accomplishments though I hope I leave it a little better than if I hadn’t been here. This is secular type things, (ie. Trips, new furniture, etc. ).   So this fall I got the itch to do one last project for the year. As many of you know I moved into this place in January 2013 and it was pre-owned. Even though it had some nice upgrades I wanted to changes some things.

One thing was to re do the master bath. Take out the white, poorly laid tile shower, and put in granite or quartz bathroom counters. Now this is a small room so I thought hey how big a job can it be.   “Silly me.”

#1. It was expensive. I wanted a solid material to replace the tile and a pony type wall so I don’t need to clean water spots off glass. I settled on a material called Piedrafina. It pretty much is to marble what quartz is to granite. The main thing is the ease of maintenance (cleaning).

#2. It isn’t a fast job. They scheduled two weeks. At the end of three everything was still a mess.

#3. It was messy. They should have put up plastic for shields. They didn’t and I had a layer of dust over everything. They cut material in the garage, what a mess.

#4. There was missed communication.   The model shower in their showroom had a pony wall with wrap around Piedrafina. It turned out they designed mine with a sheetrock wall on the one side. And, they didn’t allow for it to be finished. When the job was done I had an exposed sheetrock wall open at the bottom showing the studs. I hadn’t intended to paint until next year but that changed. Thankfully I hired a separate painter who is fantastic. He not only painted the bath and bedroom he cleaned and painted the garage.    🙂 🙂

The last project of the year, that started out to be a medium sized one, turned into a major headache.   It will take a few months before I’m ready to even think of the next one. Well that is except for our trip to Jamaica that’s different.   Maybe I should just plan a year of travel and let house projects sit for awhile.

The pictures don’t do it justice. But it gives an idea of what it looks like.

 

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Better late than never…

During our married life, AJ and I have moved ten times within six different counties here in the UK. We’ve loved our travels, especially living in new places and meeting new people, but when we moved into our current house almost twenty years ago now, we both sensed it was home.

I’d always been pretty happy to live a kind of nomadic existence, not really putting down roots anywhere because I knew AJ would likely come home and tell me he’d been promoted in his career and we were off to pastures new. They were exciting and adventurous times, but I’m happy to have those roots down now.

20160523_075020When we moved in here, one of the first things I wanted to do was redesign the garden. It was a good sized space, but the patio and paths were beginning to crumble and looking worse for wear. But there always seemed to be something else in the house that needed attention first, so the garden was put on the back burner. We travelled a lot too, so that took up a lot of available funds 🙂 🙂

20160527_111232Anyway, after we adopted Vivvy last year and following a winter of waterlogged lawns, almost non-existent pathways, and the resultant muddy paws, we decided to take the plunge and hire a landscaper to get to grips with the garden. Poor Vivvy wondered what on earth was happening as over ten ton of concrete was broken up and disposed of in what she thinks of as her domain. When the way was prepared for the new landscaping, she decided to put her mark on proceedings and promptly stepped in the newly-laid concrete bed, much to the chagrin (and consequent laughter) of the landscapers.

20160604_185656Soon the garden of my twenty-year dreams began to take shape and I have to admit to being absolutely thrilled with the result. I’ve gained a gorgeous new patio, another area for planting, and a path that I can actually walk on rather than simply negotiate pot holes.20160615_154819

Okay, so it took almost two decades but then everything worth having is worth waiting for. Now I’m enjoying researching plants to go along the wall edge of the patio, for which I’ll be needing help. So, does anyone have any ideas for plants that will provide year-round foliage, while growing tallish, but not too wide, and offering some colour in the spring/summer months? Any suggestions gratefully received.

 

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More Remodeling

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Maybe this time it’s more like redecorating. The good thing about purchasing a pre-owned house is that you can redecorate and remodel it to your taste. The bad thing about purchasing a pre-owned house is you might have to redecorate … Continue reading