31 May 2009

getting plastered... again

We had a fab weekend with Dom's sister and family in Northampton. We hired bikes at Pitsford Water and went for a lovely bike ride in the blazing heat. Then back to Clare's for a gorgeous barbecue. No photos I'm afraid.

While we were away we had Rob the plasterer skim all the remaining upstairs ceilings: the landing and two of the bedrooms. This meant that Friday night was a late one dismantling the old fitted wardrobes, moving out the bed and other furniture, taking off the coving, then cleaning up the mess.

It was all worth it though as we returned tonight to a big job finished. Skimming over the Artex was a big first step towards modernisation. The remaining work upstairs now is mainly cosmetic - filling, sanding and painting, then laying carpets throughout. Although this is not to be underestimated and will still take some time, it feels like we are making real progress. As you can see from the pics, the previous owners had bad taste in borders and carpets, so the sooner we get rid the better.

taking down the covingOur bedroom celing skimmed2nd bedroom ceiling skimmed

24 May 2009

bath in

We have been blessed with glorious weather this bank holiday weekend, but we can't really appreciate it as, as usual, it's been all go with the house renovations. I wouldn't have it any other way though. Well, I would, I'd rather we were finished, but that isn't going to happen unless we stick at it, so I'd rather put the effort in and lose a sunny day or two now than spend a day in the sun putting off the inevitable.

My achievements so far have been painting the downstairs skirting boards, and the front windowsill which have been bare and exposed since July 2007, when we had our last big push on DIY for Dom's 30th birthday party. It doesn't sound like much, but filling, letting it dry, sanding, and the drying time in between coats meant that it has taken up most of my time. I haven't enjoyed painting with enamel at all. I used Dulux One Coat Satinwood and it looks acceptable now, but it was so tricky to get a good finish without the brushstrokes being visible.

We picked up our new bath yesterday morning, having finally rid ourselves of the Ideal Standard rubbish. We chose a Carronite Matrix bath and the difference in quality was immediately apparent. We are very pleased with it. Dom has spent today plumbing it in and although we are still surrounded by plastic sheeting the bath itself is in full working order. It makes a big difference seeing white rather than the old yukky peach.

We now have lighting, extractor, towel radiator and tiling to do to reach the end of our bathroom project. Nearly there!

Bath in!

20 May 2009

chelsea chelsea

Just got back from a fab day at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I was very lucky to be in the Hospitality Village, and after meeting the fellow guests, we headed off to view the Courtyard Gardens.

My favourite was the Demelza garden, a cool haven of a seating area, surrounded by plants and sound from the pendulum water feature and tubular gongs with their deep echoing chime. It was a Silver Gilt Flora Medal winner. I also really liked the Freshly Prepped garden - an outdoor kitchen with all your fresh ingredients close at hand - imagine!

Freshly Prepped by AraliaOf the thirteen Show Gardens my favourite was probably what would be considered the most traditional - the HESCO Garden - bursting with colour. I also liked the Cancer Research UK garden, but wasn't all that struck on the Best Show Garden sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, nor the Gold Medal winning Laurent-Perrier garden.

The HESCO GardenThe Daily Telegraph GardenAfter champagne, canapes, and a four course lunch we headed back out to look round the Great Pavillion and the Urban Gardens. The Plants of Special Interest Nursery Garden was spectacular to my mind - really bright and striking. It won a Silver. James May's Paradise in Plasticine was 'non-compliant' but still fun and impressive.

PSI Nursery GardenParadise in Plasticine by James MayThe air in the Pavillion was heavy with pollen from all of the species displays. The perfume from the David Austin roses was gorgeous. I enjoyed seeing some of the more unusual plants like the carnivorous species, and seeing the diversity of species such as the begonias.

Carnivorous speciesBegoniasWe didn't get round everything, and I could have easily spent another day there. It gave me great inspiration for our own garden, but I will have to restrain myself as we must focus on finishing the house!

Me at the David Austin rose stand

19 May 2009

the pantechnicon rooms

No, I haven't misspelled the name. I went out for a delicious meal with work tonight at the unpronounceable Pantechnicon Rooms. We had a smart private dining room, great wine and a faultless menu. I had goats curd salad to start, followed by a luscious beef fillet, then pana cotta with caramel strawberries and pink peppercorns. If you get the opportunity to go I'd highly recommend it.

18 May 2009

kevin turns thirty

Our friend Kevin turned thirty on Friday, and to celebrate he invited a group of friends to spend a weekend with him and his wife, Caroline in a cottage near Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds.

The Old School House was in the small hamlet of Lower Swell, with nothing but a well and a pub to its name, the Golden Ball Inn, where we all met late on Friday night for drinks and introductions.

Next day we set off for a bracing 3 1/2 hour round walk from Lowe Swell to Condicote and back via Stow. Some of us mistakenly read the directions as 3 1/2 miles, not hours, but there was no turning back! The weather stayed bright for most of the hike, but we did all get soaked in a heavy shower and as unprepared townies we set off without food or drink, so two hours in, I began pining for a pint of lager.

My thirst was finally quenched in the Queens Head Inn where I closed down two pints and refuelled on the most gorgeous steak and kidney pudding EVER! Highly recommended.

In the evening Kevin cooked us a chilli, and we amused ourselves until the early hours with an old fashioned game of wink murder (instructions below) followed by a rude version of charades. It was great!

Happy Birthday Kev!

How to Play Wink Murder

This game can be played as an evening party game or as a background game e.g., over dinner. Take enough cards from a pack for each player. Include in these cards one King, one Queen and one Ace. Shuffle and deal the cards to each player. The player with the King is the Cop, the player with the Ace is the Killer, and the player with the Queen is the Bitch. Each player keeps their cards and identity secret. The Killer has to try and kill the other players by discreetly winking at them. The other players feign death (dramatic style is good) and turn their cards face up to reveal their identity. The Bitch can bring the dead back to life by blowing a discreet kiss at the dead player. The Cop has to watch what is going on then take his guess and arrest the Killer. The game is over when either the Killer has won by killing all the other players without being caught or the Cop has won by correctly guessing who the Killer is. The Bitch adds an extra dimension to the game by making the Killer's task more difficult. The Killer would help himself to kill the Bitch and stopping her from bringing people back to life.

There are other ways of playing this game, but this worked for us. Enjoy!

10 May 2009

plumbing the sink

We got back into working on the house this weekend. Dom fitted the wooden worktop in the bathroom (which will be tiled) into which the sink fits, and then plumbed in the new sink.

I painted the small room. First giving the walls and ceiling a mist coat (roughly 50% emulsion 50% water) as it was going on to fresh plaster, then painting the ceiling with two coats of white. We used an old tub of magnolia for the mist coat, and after seeing how nice it looks we have decided to use this colour for the proper coat.

Plumbing the sinkSmall room with and without paint

07 May 2009

I don't want to go into detail here, but the reason I haven't posted much over the past month is that Dom's mum has been very ill, and on Monday she passed away. We count ourselves lucky that we had the chance to spend some real quality time with her and we are very thankful for the amazing care she received from the hospice.

I know that where ever she is now, she is peaceful and happy.