Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

It's a long while since I posted a blog. We've still been busy on the house but I guess not in such milestones as we had when the builders were here. Even so, I would like to keep a diary of the work we are doing so am planning to keep up the postings.

Christmas came and went in more than a flurry of snow in our part of the world. I think we got the first brunt of it before it covered the south and west of England. We were snowed in for a week or so but did have great fun mastering our sledging technique and building snowmen, first Mr Chilly, swiftly followed by his brother, Mr Frosty.

The winter does seem to have dragged this year. I am not the most patient person when it comes to biding time through the shorter, darker days despite trying hard to enjoy each season. Living in the country, I am even more aware of the winter months as they seem more harsh than they ever did in London and I find myself craving light in a big way by the end of winter. This year we've deicided to keep our twinkly fairy lights up permanently. It seems a shame to only enjoy them at Christmas.

Even now in April there's still a cold wind although there are signs of new life in the garden at long last. This is going to be our project this spring/summer. We didn't really give the garden much attention last year because the house was encased in scaffolding and the builders took up a large part of the garden for their building materials. So we have been out rejuvinating very tired and overgrown borders. Pictures to come as we progress!

In the meantime, the Easter holidays sprung upon us quickly this year with the children breaking up on Maundy Thursday so straight into the Easter weekend. I have made more of an effort with some decorations this year and baking too. Having the space in the kitchen has made it a nicer place to spend time I think.

Here's my Simnel cake. I made one last year as a present for our relatives in Wales who we stayed with over Easter. I made another one this year as a present and as David commented that he would like to try Simnel cake one year, I made another to take to my parents on Easter Sunday where we did get to taste it. It's a lovely moist cake and not too rich.

Last year I used a Mrs Beaton recipe but this year turned to Mary Berry's recipe from the Aga Cookbook. So this one was baked for six hours in the simmering oven. The recipe said it took between five and ten hours to bake. That's a big difference in time! I don't quite understand how their timings can vary so greatly - it was the same for the Christmas cake. Anyway, it's quite a pretty cake with its marzipan balls symbolising the eleven disciples and the eggs and chicks in the middle.

Anyway, as well as jugs in the house being filled with the requisite daffodils and pots of hyacinths giving off their disctinct scent, we also have these rather spectacular amaryllis on display. The bulbs were a lovely gift from my Dutch friend, Oscarine, for the boys at Christmas. We planted them and I half expected them to remain as a long thick stem when suddenly these gorgeous deep red flowers opened. It's really made me want to grow more indoor bulbs as these have given us a lot of pleasure to see unfold.

Well, now I am back on track with the blog I'll aim to be more disiplined in my postings so will be back with another very soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More photos

As promised, faithful follower (s), I am back with a further update and I thought I would just upload a few photos for you so you can really get a good idea of what the place is like now. The photo above is one I've taken before but I have been painting the windows in Old School White which looks better than brilliant white against the stone.

Anyway here are some other shots. This is what we call the garden room and although it does sound a bit pretentious that really is what it. It is a room that opens out into the garden. I've taken a picture from each end here. I couldn't resist taking the one below. I had just decorated the table in anticipation of some friends coming round on Saturday night - it's actually the first time we have really entertained since the work was done. The leaves outside are looking lovely so I wrapped them round some old jam jars and they looked very effective and autumnal when lit up in the evening. Cheap too but shows how much jam we've been getting through lately as had loads of those jars!

Next we have the kitchen again. I am really pleased with the floor which is slate from Fired Earth thanks to a discount when buying an AGA. I always thought slate came in blues and greys and was a bit cold looking but these are an amazing array of colours including silver, amber, ochre and terracotta shades. They would go with any colour kitchen you put them with and the AGA seems to warm them so they don't feel cold to walk on either, although I have been pinching David's slippers of late. I am getting into the swing of the AGA and found a great recipe for a Norwegian Apple Cake on the Aga Living website - didn't know such a site existed til now. Very easy to make and a winner all round.

Here's another shot of the kitchen. Chris from CW Tiling did the wall tiles for us last week. I love 'em but French Metro or Public Lavs did pop into my head at one point. Utilitarian I like to think!

Next we have a picture of the old back door now reinstated as the second porch door. The green cupboard you see was the way out of the kitchen into the hall. That got blocked up but we were able to create a pantry space for food here. David salvaged some of the wood from the oak floors and made some great shelves - being solid oak it's a shame they are hidden really.

And here we have the 'studio' - studio and garden room seem to trip off my tongue so easily. And anyway, as David plugged in his supersonic electric guitar on Saturday night up here, no other name would suit it!

And out of the door at the end of the studio, is the balcony which gets the sun most of the afternoon until it sets. Anyway, I think that is it for now. So hope you've enjoyed browsing these snaps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick update

Hello and yet another apology for the absence. You can tell we've got to the bit where we are doing the work as there's not a lot of time for much else at the moment. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to update you. We do have help in that Chris, who did a lovely tiling job on the kitchen floor, is back and doing the wall tiles in the kitchen. So, once he is done I will get some photos of the kitchen as it is now.

The great thing is though that we have our house back and it is a million times better than before and a million times nicer than I ever thought it would be - well worth the upheaval of living on a building site for four months.

The other nice thing that happened the other day was that the building inspector came around and was so impressed with the design and build that he is putting it forward for the area's good design awards.

Here's a shot of the kitchen looking at it from the patio doors that used to be the old conservatory doors. You'll notice kettle on AGA ready for that all important cuppa.

Here in this next photo we have family Banks getting into some joint kitchen activities. You can date this photo as we're all in shorts so it was probably taken at the end of summer.Next up we have the man himself in his man at work pose. Joking aside, David has done a fantastic job on the finishing off jobs. I mean finishing off in the loosest sense of the word as much of it was actually starting off. He put in the kitchen units himself, fixed the worktops on with a bit of help from Colin the joiner but the huge job he did completely by himself was putting the wooden floor down. I promise to get some pictures of this to show you as he really did do fantastically well doing and as always with David without complaining.

As you can see he does have a helper here. This is William but it was actually Joseph he did some of the secret nailing of the boards. He has stuck a nail in his school scrapbook for posterity. Meanwhile what have I been doing? You may think that all I have been doing is practice boiling the kettle on the AGA but I do have been in the thick of it with the painting mostly. I've done one coat of the windows outside and painted the study. Now this is another room which has had little publicity. I will get some pictures of this too. In a very pretentious moment I christened it the studio as it really is too nice to be just an office or study. Here, friends, is where you will lay your head when you come to stay!

I have to say we could not have got on with all the work on the house without the help of my mum and dad who we are very lucky to have living near by. Each weekend they have scooped up the boys, entertained them and fed them whilst we get on with jobs here. I can't tell you what a difference it made for David and I to get on so a big thank you to them!

Whoops I couldn't get rid of this one!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to the blog!

Welcome back! And apologies for the absence. We are still here and still ploughing on with changing what was a building site into a home.

Since the builders finished off and then left a couple of weeks ago and electricians and plumbers arrived and went we have been up to our necks in DIY. And as it's the summer holidays still and the children are at home it has taken a bit longer to get things done. Still, not complaining as the place is really coming together, is better than we could have ever imagined and has truly transformed the house both outside and in.

Here's a picture of the kitchen, probably as it looked a couple of weeks ago. David is currently fitting out the kitchen and the aga has arrived but is not lit yet as we are waiting for the wall tiles to go on. We have painted it all out. In fact, I am supposed to be on window painting duty but found myself logging on to my blog whilst David makes a skip trip.

This is taken from the corner where the kitchen units are and looking into what is the garden room. It has got wooden batons laid on the floor in preparation for the oak floor that David is putting down in a week or so. We have opted for getting a tiler in to tile the kitchen, utility and porches as it would have been impossible for us to do it ourselves as well as all the other bits to finish.

Anyway, once the rain has stopped I will take some updated photos. I have the balcony to photograph along with the units and of course, the beloved aga which is already part of the family! Well, it will be once it has warmed up and gives off some heat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I've been out this afternoon snapping away with a couple of internal shots to show. I took this one from the field behind our house. It gives you a good idea of the scale of the build. I think the house has grown by a third. I am sure I won't have any trouble filling it - I am not known for my minimalist taste!

As you can see, the roof work is complete. I think the varied pitch of the roof mirrors the two little dormer windows. The one on the right got moved from where the small skylight is on the left of the other one so it wouldn't interfere with the new roof pitch. It was moved very carefully and reinstated using the same stone and wood frame.

Here's the extension from the patio. The window and glass doors out are still covered up.

Despite it being Saturday we've had four lads in to get plasterboard up on the walls. They got most of it done today. It has really changed the feel of the extension and made it feel more like rooms than a building site.

This shot is taken from the corner of the working part of the kitchen looking into the garden room. The plasterboard has really lightened the place up. I can't wait to see it all plastered out next week. The builders are also knocking through into the house early next week. After that there's not much else to do before it is over to David for wooden floor laying in the kitchen area and tiles in the utility in the porch. This could prove tricky as David returned from a bike ride today with a gash under his knee that resulted in four stitches at A&E. So the poor thing is hobbling about at the moment. Friends and family reading this, get your excuses ready now.......

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fitting out

Not much has changed on the outside since my last blog. The stonework and structure is in place and the main thing now is to get the roof tiled. I am looking forward to this bit being finished as it will mean the extension is watertight and we can get onto the next stage which is fitting out.

Meanwhile, things have been moving on inside. We seemed to have had a lengthy discussion with the plumber as to where we should site the boiler, sink and white goods in the new utility room. There are all sorts of building regulations to work with re venting and pipework. Anyway, the pipework has gone in ready for the new unvented cylinder and boiler that will replace our old system - our old boiler was so large it had its own room. We have also sorted out where we want the electric sockets and light fittings to be.

As this is an old building, as well as updating it, we were really keen to keep the original features. We had a nice old arched back door that would have been redundant in the current scheme. But we have managed to salvage it and the joiner has made a special arched frame for it. This door will now lead to the front porch. Here is the frame - the door we are re-instating is similar to the front one you can see.

The new study/bedroom above has its velux windows in and has been boarded out. I am really impressed with how this room looks and how spacious it is. Here is that view again through the roof supports and through the borrowed light window once that is in place. It has been designed so that when you are sitting at your desk here you will get a view through the kitchen's velux windows and beyond.

We are about 11 weeks in now on a project set to take 14 weeks. It looks pretty much like it will be on schedule. I must say that I find this last bit harder than the rest. With everything coming together quickly I just want it to be finished so I get get on with getting it sorted to move into. Our temporary kitchen has worked really well but I am coming to the end of my recipe repertoire. We are lucky that my parents are nearby and my mum has kept us sustained with some tasty dishes and invites from friends to cook for us have also been gratefully received.

The scaffolding is gradually on its way down round the front of the house which will mean we have our front garden back which is timed well for the school holidays and the kids playing out there.

There are lots of practical purchases to make to kit the place out but a few weeks ago I did indulge myself by buying a print from the inspiring Godfrey and Watt gallery in Harrogate - . Emily was brought up in North Yorkshire and her work has a really nostalgic feel about it. The print I was drawn to was the 'Silver Swan', a drawing of the mechanical working silver swan which operates a couple of times a day at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle a place also worth a visit. When I saw Emily's print I already had a home for it in my mind!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The rain

Despite the lovely summer weather we have also had a couple of massive downpours here recently and have had to catch a couple of leaks coming through the roof. Our roofers turned up on Friday just as the thunder clouds were looming. Despite their best efforts at working quickly to get the roof slates off and the roofing felt on, you can't beat nature and the heavens opened. We had another leak yesterday morning. The overflow pipe had been dislodged so the water from it came into the house. Luckily, as it was a Saturday, our foreman Tony came out as did Roger, the plumber, and solved the problem.

Anyway, leak dramas aside things have really moved on. Here is a photo to show you where we are at.

The gable wall is finished with window and door in situ. The door leads out onto the balcony - which is enclosed between two pitches of roof and is above the utility room. From the front of the house you would have no idea that there was a balcony there. Me and David will be both fighting to use this room for our writing work!

Here is the extension from the back. The glass doors and window out are still covered up but I think this will be a very light and sunny garden room.

The building inspector came round mid week. He said that his job normally involved changing the odd thing but in our case he was extremely impressed with the design and the building work. He said it was a very 'tidy' job and that we should be really proud of it - a compliment to both the architect and the builders who have got us this far.

In the meantime we are looking ahead to fitting the place out. The aga installation has been booked for August 11th. The electrician has been in and we have gone through where to place the various sockets, switches and light fittings. Next the plumber will be in to sort out the radiators, boiler and pipework. I think this is the bit that takes our time and consideration as not only does it come together very quickly but this is also the bit where you get the house as you want it. So you have to plan ahead as to how you want to furnish each room. I can't really believe that the extension will be more or less habitable in just over a month's time as we are just 10 weeks on from when our builders started.