Sunday, 27 November 2016

Vegan thanksgiving

 We have a house full this weekend. All four children are home plus a friend and a boyfriend (of the children, not me!).
Enough shoes to sink a ship! 

My second eldest daughter wanted to hold a vegan and gluten free thanksgiving as a memory of her year in America. It took daughter number one, daughter number two and myself three hours to prepare it, but it was very yummy!

We had garlicky green beans, caramelised sweet potato, glazed tofu with roasted sprouts and brown rice, a lentil loaf with sweet maple glaze, sage and onion stuffing balls, cranberry sauce, maple roasted parsnips and a mushroom gravy. The dessert was pecan pie and vegan ice cream. All washed down with vegan wine. There was not a scrap of good left which is always a good sign :)
Today we are having a roast dinner...excessive? Possibly, but we all enjoy our foody get togethers :)

We have been allowing the chickens to roam the garden. I was feeding them some scraps through the kitchen window and a 'helper' appeared! Obviously he thought the scraps should be for him. He's so good with the chickens :)

We went for a walk around the grounds of Chirk castle today. Is a very nice walk taking in views across North Wales and shropshire, the castle itself, parkland and woodland.
This tree was around in Henry VIII's reign and is still growing!

Hope you've all had a good weekend x 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The bathroom

Whilst we have felt it necessary to redecorate every room, as we couldn't cope with the colour schemes, we have been very fortunate in many respects with this house...

The bathroom suite is white and perfectly fine, so doesn't need replacing
The carpet up the stairs and throughout the first floor rooms was quite new, plain cream and in good condition. I just hired a carpet cleaner one day and gave it the once over.
The kitchen units were absolutely fine as were the utility room ones, so no need for expensive refits
The windows are all double glazed. Some of the hinges have worn out and one of the sealed units has 'blown' but a much less pricey job to repair than replace all new

All of these things have meant that we have been able to completely change the feel of the house without spending a lot of money. Everything we have needed, except for the two rugs, has been sourced second hand or passed on by people who no longer needed the item. I reckon we could easily have spent £50,000 plus already if we'd had to do kitchens, carpets and bathrooms ...and just think of all the mess and chaos involved too!
I do have to think though that if the previous owners had just toned down the colour scheme BEFORE putting it on the market, they could have got quite a bit more for the house...but of course, I'm also pleased they didn't!!

The bathroom upstairs is a decent size and has a bath and separate shower enclosure. There is a heated towel rail and underfloor heating, although we have yet to make that work! The tiles and enamelware are white too. There was a large bathroom cabinet fitted into the recess above the toilet. It had a mirror attached to it originally, but with its positioning behind the toilet, that wasn't working for me! I was imagining that removing the mirror would destroy the cabinet door, but all it left was two little screw holes. I've covered them with a little wooden heart, which I have painted to match the medicine storage unit brought from our previous house. So, no money spent yet....well except for the tin of paint.

The walls were a combo of turquoise and caramel. That had to go. Out came the white again - four coats this time!
I scraped out and replaced the silicone around the window and sink; all of the woodwork was sanded and glossed and I whitened all of the grout with one of those sponge applicators  (a very tedious job, but it does make it all look a lot fresher)

There had been a metal mirrored shelf unti with light above the sink, but I REALLY didn't like it. We had looked in a local bathroom shop for a new cupboard and found a lovely one...£200! Ikea had a cabinet of similar style and dimension for £60. We had an electrician to de commission the light and replace it with a shaver socket, which we put inside the new cabinet to keep things neat. It did mean cutting a whole in the back, but at £60, I didn't mind.

I added one of my lovely handles to each cabinet - bought in bulk as they were better value that way. 

Inside the cabinet - it's slimline because its directly over the sink, but is perfect for storing all the toothbrush holders. I bought them very cheaply in a pound shop and my daughter labelled them with a permanent marker. 

I don't know about you, but every toilet roll holder I have ever owned, has drooped! I decided to dispense with them altogether  this time and bought this rather natty number. It even stores spare loo rolls neatly 

Who'd have thought a post about repainting a bathroom could be so long?!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The lounge

Firstly perhaps I should answer some queries from yesterday's kitchen post. Thanks for all the encouraging comments by the way. I'm glad you're enjoying the makeovers.
To prepare the units I sugarsoaped them well, filled any holes (like the extra hole from the handles I removed in the utility room) and lightly sanded any rough bits. I didn't remove the door fronts, but I painted the fronts first with the doors shut, let that dry, then opened the doors and painted the edges, then repeated the process for the second coat. I used a brush to apply the paint and both utility and kitchen needed two coats. In the utility room, I haven't had any issues with peeling or chipping, but in the kitchen the units were handmade and not on smooth runners, so the edges have 'caught' a bit as I open and shut them. As the eggshell is water based, I just touch up any chipped areas occasionally with an artists brush. It dries really quickly too so it's no great hassle - 5 mins effort here and there to keep it looking nice - but as I say, the more modern units in the utility have shaped up very nicely.

And now to today's post ..... The original stone cottage dates back to the mid 1800s. Then in 1906, four rooms were added to the front of the farm house - two generous lounges, that beautiful hallway and two large bedrooms. The front of the house is south facing and all those rooms are naturally light and warm.

Curious then, that the previous owners had decided to decorate one of these rooms in a dark claret colour - not just a feature wall, but all four walls and the section above the picture rail. Although I had nothing against the colour itself, it was way too much and we found the room cold and oppressive. 

Having done so much decorating, we had actually decided to leave it until after the half term holiday when we had multiple sets of visitors coming. But .... Mr D went away for a couple of days the week before half term, so my sister-in-law and I rolled up our sleeves and set about a surprise transformation. On the first day, we painted two coats on the walls (we chose a sandy colour) and three coats of white above the picture rail. As we were finishing up, we had the exciting thought to hire a floor sander the following day.... As you do! So the following day, the floorboards were sanded. By the time Mr D came back, the lounge looked like a completely different room. He was amazed and very pleased, especially as we could show it off to our friends in half term. 
The following day we had the log burner installed correctly - it had been put in with no flue and even had the stack on upside down! No wonder then that they couldn't provide us with a HETAS certificate.

The computer desk will eventually move into the office when we have the extension. The curtains were a free hand-me-down from my sister in law. 

The rug is a treat. I had seen an identical one in Mr D's cousin's house and really liked it. It was an expensive treat but we've done so well transforming the house for relatively low expense. 

Unfortunately there is a hole in one of the floorboards near the skirting presently covered with parcel tape. I forgot about it when I was doing the final coat on the walls, placing the ladder with one leg over the hole. Of course I climbed up about three rungs with a tray full of paint before the leg broke through the parcel tape falling down the hole, tipping me off backwards. BUM!! Nothing broken - just badly bruised and the paint was soon mopped up. A close shave though as my head narrowly missed the corner of the hearth :( 
The floor has been varnished and the one new addition is a stripey rug. (We sold  the other rug for £45 as it didn't quite match the new scheme)
I have to say we all enjoy relaxing in this room now especially with a roaring fire on the go. In fact I'm in there now typing this :) 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Modernising my farmhouse kitchen

The kitchen/dining room in this house was a huge selling factor. In fact it's huge - 26ft long no less. It had been extended into the original pantry by the previous owners. The kitchen is solid wood, hand built to fit the space and incorporating much of the slate from the original pantry. It even has many of the meat hooks in the beams (not popular with my vegan daughters!). There is an old, but fully functional Stanley range cooker which heats the house and water and a separate electric oven and induction hob; the sink is a double Belfast sink. All sounds fab doesn't it?

Before photos....

The dresser is ours from the previous house 

Well, it is actually, BUT me being me, I wanted to tart it up a bit. The walls and ceiling definitely needed a freshen up; the wooden units were two-tone and neither tone matched the oak worktops, the skirting boards were stained dark brown, the large central beam had been stained mahogany.....

So Mr D was tasked with dealing with the ceiling, beam included, whilst I painted the walls and then the units. The base units and central island were painted a soft grey ("Mole's Breath" by Farrow and ball) and the wall units were painted a lighter grey. It's given it a whole new look and I feel it's brought it into the 21st century. I still plan on replacing the pink tiles behind the cookers with white ones.
It took longest  to decide on which lights to choose! Why is it so hard to find light fittings that aren't way too fussy, or ridiculously expensive?! Eventually we chose clear glass shades with a vintage look.

Jet has his home made bed in here so he has somewhere cosy to lie when I'm cooking 

I like this photo in particular as it shows how much lighter the room seems now. 

One unexpected expense was needing to replace the electric oven, but it was a good move as even if we had had the other one repaired, I suspect something else would have gone wrong with it - it had been well used! We obviously paid an electrician to fit the oven, but Mr D and I put in the new ceiling lights. We put some fairy lights on the beam - I know it's not necessarily in keeping but I love fairy lights in the kitchen and they're not too obtrusive.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The front door

Just a really short post today, but plenty more room makeover posts to come yet!!

You may remember that even the front door was pink...

Well no longer's now 'Lichen' another Farrow and Ball colour made up in an exterior eggshell finish. Our local independent decorators merchants are brilliant. They are great for advice and tips, but also very helpful in making up all sorts of paints in my favourite Farrow and Ball colours. It's saved us a lot of money and the base paints they use have been of very good quality too. They'd need to be for that amount of coverage! We have also used lots of white which is cheaper of course - I think we are at 40litres used now and I'm on my third tub of white gloss too.

Much nicer to come home to, although now the winter months are setting in, we are training ourselves to use the back door more often as it leads straight into a boot room.
Along with the extension, we are aiming to have an oak framed porch added to the front to provide shelter from the weather.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Utility room makeover on a budget

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the rooms so far.

We are lucky enough to have a utility room which is in fact as big as many peoples kitchens! I have bought a huge chest freezer to go in there and it also houses an under counter fridge and our washing machine. It's been really handy to have the space to leave tools and pots of paint where they aren't in the way.
The units were perfectly ok, but I felt they were a bit 'modern' looking for the style of the house. The chrome metal bar handles in particularly were out of keeping. The walls were salmon pink.
I began by removing the handles, filling one of the two holes left. I replaced the metal handles with wooden ones recycled from the various second hand furniture I had bought for the white bedroom (waste not, want not). I used a water based eggshell paint on the cupboard fronts including the handles in a cheerful blue. The walls, ceiling and woodwork all got the white treatment. The window was thoroughly cleaned and the silicone replaced. The worktops just stopped with no edging, so I did have to succumb and buy metal finishing plates.
I'd still like to replace the taps - a) they leak slightly and b) they are quite uncomfortable to turn, but that is a job for later.

Before ish...I had already changed the handles

After - a much brighter space. I even painted the basket unit on the left we brought with us from our other house so it matched. I use it to house cat food and dog treats in the top basket, onions and potatoes in the bottom two. 

All in all, the makeover cost about £30 for the paint used and another £15 for the two worktop ends to neaten everything off. I'm also planning on selling the chrome bar handles on eBay. 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Hall stairs and landing

When we first moved in, we had talked about getting someone in to do the hall stairs and landing, partly because the ceilings are so high in parts and the woodwork was in such a state on every length of skirting and all 8 of the doorways. It was all a bit daunting, so we had decided to pay someone else.....well, I rarely pay someone else to do a job I can do myself, so when Mr D went off to work one day, I just got out the brushes and set to. There was one moment where I realised that I could seriously injure myself or indeed die if the ladder I was on slid sideways. You'll be pleased to hear that I got down until my son was around to stand guard! I might be a bit gung-ho but I'm not totally stupid!

By the time Mr D arrived home 2 days later, the pink wall had become a dark grey photo wall and the mint green walls (yes I know - an interesting and slightly unpleasant combo of minty-less-than-fresh-green and lurid pink) were an elegant pale grey. I hadn't managed to paint the high bits, but with him around, we finished them off in a jiffy.
I gritted my teeth, sanded, under coated and glossed all of the woodwork. Goodness what a difference it all made. The ceilings are white again and it all seems so much brighter.
One of the features I had initially loved about the house was the beautiful sweeping staircase. Sadly the previous owners had obviously got into the habit of draipsing their wet towels over the hand rails on the landing so they were looking decidedly lacklustre. I bought a tin of stain and three thin coats later it looked as good as new.

The front landing of the Edwardian part of the house with freshly stained stair rails. Luckily the carpet throughout the upstairs of the house is in good nick, so that's one expense less.

All that woodwork..... 

The colour I used is "down pipe" from Farrow and Ball - dark but not too dark.

The landing at the rear of the house. The previous owners had had this section of the  house reconfigured which is fortunate - it wouldn't have worked for us otherwise as originally you had to walk through one bedroom to get to the tiny bathroom, then through that to get to the toilet and then through the toilet to  get to the fourth bedroom could have been a bit awkward of you were on the toilet and someone decided to have a long soak in the bath!  The two bedrooms and good sized bathroom are all seperate entities with their own entrances now.  

Every time Mr D goes away, I get itchy fingers and start a new job around the house! I don't think he minds much :)

From pink dungeon to white haven

Ha! I'm like a London bus - none for ages, then two in one go! 

As you know, the colours in this house were intense to say the least! My second eldest daughter was in the States when we moved, so had not seen the new house at all. Although she was fine with the fact we had moved house whilst she was away, I think she would have had a fit if she had come home to this. It's a west facing room, so not massively light (not helped by a dozen Leylandii blocking both light and view) and these dark colours made it seem very miserable in there. 

So, five coats of white later (yes FIVE!), it was transformed into this :-

I am particularly pleased with  how little we spent furnishing the room. She needed a double  bed, a  wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a bed  side table. We re-used some shelves that were in there, having painted them white of course. The bed cost us £20 from Gumtree,  the chest of drawers and bedside table cost £60 for both from a local second hand furniture shop and the wardrobe was free because I swapped it for some  chicken run panels with my sister in law! Having sold her single bed for £25, that takes the grand total to £55. Obviously I then bought paint and some handles for the wardrobe (I already had some for the  chests), but considering the end result I'm very pleased! 

I'm still here!

I know, I've been missing for ages. Thanks to those of you who asked after me and checked in. I appreciate the fact that people were thinking about me.

Initially the whole issue with Google/picasa and the photos got me so irritated I thought I'd take a break and then I was just so busy decorating that everything else got put on the back burner!

Quick update on Jet - I know many of you were concerned. He is doing really well at the moment. We have taken his recovery slowly and he will be on medication for life, but he is managing long walks now and has been allowed his tennis ball occasionally so he is pretty happy with life! We are so very relieved even though we know that his life will no doubt be shortened, at least we can make his years fun ones.

We have now decorated pretty much every room in the house. I so want to get everything how I like it, so we can start living in the house as I want to. There are still some small chores left to finish in some of the rooms, but it's all now clean, calmly decorated and set up to feel like our home.
I submitted plans for an extension which have been given initial approval. We now need to do formal plans and go through the full planning process, but are hoping to start as soon as we can in the New Year.

In other news, our son went over to the States for a month to join his sister for her final four weeks of travelling. They had an amazing time managing to squeeze in San Francisco, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and the Grand Canyon. They're back with us now and getting jobs so they can earn enough to travel again!
Our youngest is doing extremely well at her new school and seems settled. She has had some of her previous friends to visit too which was nice for her.
Our eldest is still slogging through the daunting amount of work needed to study medicine, but has found time for a few visits to our new home - she likes it very much here.

Anyway, this serves as a bit of an explanation as to why I've been silent. The next few posts will give you a taste of some of our decorating activities! I'll try to be a better blogger!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Still no photos

I have no idea what Google are up to with their photos. I can only assume they are tweaking, but in doing so certain features disappear, so I am left unable to upload again! It drives me totally barmy, but I will try to remain zen like about it because it really isn't worth stressing over. I may end up posting a couple of post with just photos.

I picked 7.5 kg of damsons on Wednesday. I made one batch of jam then and took jars round to the neighbours as one of the trees technically belongs to them, but they were more than happy for me to pick the fruit in exchange for jam. There are still plenty on the trees, so I can feel a batch of damson gin coming on next. 
I ended up making 25 jars of jam, plus a part filled one which we will use. Getting the stones out is a bloody nightmare. I wait until I add the sugar and they mostly float to the surface, before painstakingly spooning them out. Does anyone have a better plan? I certainly didn't remove them all, but a good number of them ended up in the chicken run along with a good coating of the fruity syrup - the ladies were pleased. 

We bought a wooden double bed for £20 from Gumtree on Thursday, which I then painted (white of course). It looks very nice in my daughter's bedroom and is perfectly comfortable. I'm going to do a swap with my sister in law - a wardrobe for the white bedroom in exchange for several chicken run panels that are now excess to our requirements. Perfect! 

Our next purchase probably needs to be a new built in oven. I could get the part, but it has really seen better days and I'm wondering if it's a false economy. I also want to buy a big chest deep freeze to go in the utility room, so I can order both to be delivered. 

I have submitted my sketches for the extension I'd like to build, to be considered by the local council in a pre-application process. It seems like a good idea to get an initial verdict on whether it may pass or not before paying for the services of an architect. There's nothing too contentious so hopefully it will be ok.

Jet had his stitches out this morning and the vet is very pleased with his progress. He has to go back in two weeks for ' a cuddle and a biscuit'. I think the vet likes him.

Back soon :) 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

No longer in the pink

I think I must be boring everyone with my constant talk of painting and decorating! I have to say, I was right royaley hacked off half way through painting that back bedroom so I can imagine it's not hugely interesting to you either!
My plan is to get the house as sorted as we can before the growing season starts, so I can be freed up to start on the plot. I haven't even thought about that really yet other than to keep walking around the three acres in a state of joy and disbelief that it is ours! The view from up there across the Shropshire Plains is stunning. It'll be a wonder if I ever get anything done :)

We had a very pretty sunrise this morning

Photo taken from my son's room, which is ironic seeing as he is never awake early enough to see a sunrise....unless he's coming back from a night out of course!

Today has seen more painting. The front door is no longer a ghastly shade of baby pink! I have chosen 'Lichen', a Farrow and Ball shade, which is a tad more subtle.

We are now only left with one pink wall in the hallway, an extremely pink downstairs shower room and pink tiles behind the Stanley stove (!!) - once they are all gone, we will have obliterated all traces of pink. I didn't used to mind pink particularly but I am a lot less fond of it now.

I also finished off painting a chest of drawers for the white bedroom. We just need to source a double bed and a wardrobe in there now. She had a triple wardobe, but it won't fit round the return on the stairs, so it's in our bedroom.

We've had the piano tuned today too. When we moved in, the removals van was too big to get up the drive, so Mr D and the four removals men had to carry the piano up the garden (it's not a small garden!). Now it's had a chance to settle, we felt it deserved to be properly tuned. It took four hours!

We will also get the chimneys swept in the next week, so we can start getting ready for the cooler weather. One is an open fireplace and the other has a wood burner in it. The wood burner looks like it needs some repair work before being safe to light. So far, I haven't found the house cold at all, which is good considering the large rooms and high ceilings. The weather today started out boiling and then rapidly turned to heavy rain, thunder and lightning. We see it all up here - you feel much closer to the weather and I presume we will to the seasons too, which is great.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Busy day

Well actually it started with a lie in and a cup of tea in bed as Mr D set his alarm to go and let the chucks out, so I didn't need to. No one else around here seems to close them up at night, but I'm nervous that the first time I don't Mr Fox will come and murder them all. Little miss runty is out anyway because she has chosen to roost in the tree, but I feel I would sleep easier at night knowing they are safely tucked up.

Today, we have finished painting the back bedroom - it is now pristinely white and just waiting for furniture and finishing touches.

I have painted my sons chest of drawers from the previous house and added some funky handles. It looks so much better. I also re appropriated our old toy box as an ottoman to give him some extra storage.

The second hand bookcase is on the landing just outside his door, loaded up with some of his books. (I so hate the green of those hall walls, especially as it's teamed up with pink! - eventually it will be a very soft grey)


I have also painted a little bedside table for the newly painted white bedroom and found some pretty floral handles. It looks quite cute in the corner there.

Mr D decided that the ivy on the front of the house was coming down today. We had sliced through the trunk already to weaken its grip and it wasn't one of the 'super grip' ivy types either. We will need it gone when we build the oak framed proch/canopy.  It has exposed the plaque on the front of the house which is a nod to the history of the house. Lord Harlech had the house built and owned all of this land until it was sold off by the final Lord Harlech in the 1960s due to crippling debt! Their family history is a very sorry tale with multiple accidental deaths, alcohol and drug issues and mental illness. The former estate of 200 years  is up for sale for about £5 million.

After re-arranging all of the furniture, I hoovered that area of the house, but after that I was utterly pooped, so had a bath with my home made bath salts. I was then reinvigorated just enough to make a tomato and basil pasta dinner. Half a bottle of red later, I'm feeling relaxed and much less achey!!

Still to do? Too much to contemplate now!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Nowhere nearer to normality yet

Thank you so much for all the kind comments about Jet. Thus far he is doing extremely well and has made lots of friends at the vets! He's such a trooper :)

There is so much to do here that normal things like washing, ironing, cleaning just aren't getting done. We have had lots of visitors so I have been making and stripping beds and washing bedding and towels more frequently than usual anyway. My bedding however hasn't been washed, so I have said to Mr D that we are stripping it today and I will put it on a timed wash so I can hang it out first thing. I just love to slip into a freshly made bed. I have done four loads of washing today already. I think living in the country means more dirty clothes!
The ironing basket will have to wait though - don't feel like it! As will most of the cleaning - decorating makes more mess anyway.

We have a Stanley range cooker which also heats the water and the house, but also have a seperate electric oven and halogen hob. As the range wasn't on, we were using the electric one, but I made an apple and cinnamon crumble cake today with the windfalls, only to discover that the electric oven has packed up - I think the element has gone. I then had to give myself a quick lesson in using the Stanley. It's on and the cake is cooking, but I certainly wouldn't have chosen a cake as my first ever try at cooking in a range oven! I'll take a photo when it comes out....

It looks cooked...  

Meanwhile, we have been working on obliterating the deep purple/Barbie pink combo in the other back bedroom. Three coats of white later and we have gone from this.....

To this....

It still needs one final coat, but it's already so much better. It is a west facing room and not particularly light, especially as we presently have a dozen or so pine trees out to that side which will be chopped down, but are cutting out both light and view at the moment.
There were two wooden shelves in that bedroom, which had been 'pinked' around the edges, so I decided to paint those too. The shabby chic effect was an accident, but we all rather like it, so it can


We have bought some second hand furniture pieces to paint up. So far we have acquired a double bed, a bookcase, a chest of drawers and a beside cabinet for £170. Mind you, I've fallen prey to the gorgeous drawer knob fetish, so that might make them slightly less good value!