Thursday 31 October 2013

When Does a House Become a Home

When does a house become a home?
This is a question I've been asking myself a lot recently.  At the moment travelling between our two properties, our rented one in Berkshire and our bought 'forever home' in North Wales we feel a little bit caught between two houses, or is it two homes.  I honestly don't know how more well off folk that actually own two homes manage long term, I guess you get into a routine and have lots of duplicated items so that both properties feel like 'home'.
For me I need one base, one home that both we and our animals love to be in and I am looking forward to this being the one we are in forever.  The decorating is almost finished, we still have the kitchen to paint although all the prep work was done last weekend so this week we will be actually getting the paint on the walls, then we will get round to doing the hall and stairs and then finally, the conservatory, which is where we are currently storing all the paint and DIY necessities needed as you tackle a whole house at once.
As each room has been finished we have been bringing our possessions from 'home' to fill it and make it ours.  Sometimes it still feels a bit 'showhousey'.  Too neat and tidy, too organised and slightly unused, but I'm hoping this will change.  I don't want, nor have I ever had, a house that looks perfect, a house where children can't touch things or animals can't wander from room to room, although I did draw the line at the chickens roaming through the house when they started shaking the soil from their dust bathing all over my kitchen floor :-/
I love it when you can read a persons or a couples characters from their home, their rooms and their belongings, when you can stand and browse a friends bookcase and smile at their choice of books, coveting those you have always wanted or thinking 'snap' when your tastes are just so similar and you realise just why they are your friends and you love them so much.

I actually think that soon it will start to feel like home, the more we add to it the more familiar it feels, the more I want to be there and I  am really looking forward to the day in the not too distant future when we will.
I had an email question about the display that I have put above the bookcase in the living room, saying it looked identical to how it looked at our current address - well spotted.  It is almost identical there is just one new addition.  Each time we move or have a truly memorable occasion one more item gets added to it, I guess now it is almost complete.
So here is our life in pictures, the things are numbered in the photo above.
1.  My 'Where's Mum' limited edition print bought when I bought my first ever home of my own after my divorce.  A tiny kitten in an almost empty room looking for her Mum.
2.  A carved wooden Gecko, almost the same as the one tattooed on my arm, I had the tattoo done to celebrate my freedom the day after the divorce came through, hence it's nickname Freddy Freedom.  This wooden copy was bought for me by Lovely Hubby on a trip to a Christmas Market the year we got engaged when I realised I didn't need to be alone to experience freedom .... I could share it with my soulmate.
3.  A tinplate picture 'Le Chat Noir' that we bought on our first trip to Paris, it brings back memories of walking hand in hand through the streets of the most romantic capital in the world.  Early morning coffees sitting outside little coffee shops and bistros, and seeing the Eiffel Tower perfectly lit on a Saturday night from our hotel window.
4.  The advert we placed in farming magazines and newspapers when we decided that we were going to live our dream and start our new life in the country while we were young enough to enjoy it and build it up instead of waiting until we had both retired..
5.  One of a limited edition range of framed photographs that I used to sell in my little shop, that I simply had to have for us when I sold up ready to begin our new lives.  It is taken by one of the most talented landscape photographers I know - my brother.  It reminds me every time I look at it of happy times in the Cumbria and reminds me of Graham.
6.  A Welsh Love Spoon bought by us during our two weeks of decorating our new house on a day out we had to Carnarvon to relax a bit in the middle of all the chaos.  We had lunch in a warm and cosy restaurant and then a mooch around the shops.  Welsh Love spoons are composed of different symbols and the one we chose has two hearts and a keyhole, which symbolise love and home.
On the top of the bookcase lives 'Mother' our Christmas Cacti passed down to us from my lovely Mum in Law, it was her Mum's before that so how old she is I really can't work out, but she flowers at the most unexpected times and burst into bloom just after Jessie died and she came to live with us, a sign we took that it was meant to be. 
Now that these are all in the places where they will stay, it really is feeling a lot more like our little Welsh house is edging forward in the 'home' stakes and our cute little rented bungalow is merely full of things waiting to go home.
So in my opinion, in answer to my own question ... 'when does a house become a home?' 
When you fill it with yourselves, your love, your memories and your hopes and dreams for the future.
Sue xx

Wednesday 30 October 2013

The Post That Never Was

This Blog post was going to be called 'The Chicken That Ate My Earring', then something amazing happened.
The other day whilst cleaning out the henhouse, on my hands and knees and with as usual always one too many chickens than really can fit in the henhouse with me inside there as well, little miss naughty chicken (above) decided that the flash of gold from my earring was just too tempting and she had to have it.
I didn't even realise it was missing at first it was later in the morning after washing my hair I realised I was 'earring-less', remembering the attack on my ear I knew where it must be.  Obviously my first thought, being the kind chicken mummy that I am, was  'Oooh I hope it passes through alright', yeah right my first thought was something a little bit more like 'bl**dy gold robbing chicken', nope I'm not the angel some of you might think I am :-)
I told Lovely Hubby about my earring theft and he just said 'well at least now I know what to buy you for Christmas' ... typical man!!
Next day back on chicken shit mucking out duty I had my eyes peeled, in a vague and very unhopeful manner for my gorgeous little stud earring and guess what ..... there it was!!  Lying glistening in the nice clean bedding staring up at me .... miraculous!!
Teeny tiny earring .... can you see it ?

In close up.
Knowing I had a few spare earring backs because I am always losing my earrings, I was as happy as Larry and brought it back indoors to sterilise in some boiling water.
Then while getting changed from my workout, guess what I spied lying on the bedroom floor ..... the back of my earing. 
 It must have been stuck to the back of my ear when I came in to get changed from cleaning out the henhouses into my workout gear the day before (yes I am currently on three changes of clothes a day, it's getting tiring, I really must sort something out after all I'm most definitely not Sindy or Barbie needing to be changed over and over).
So I now have a pair of gold stud earrings again ..... and this post would have been totally not needed to explain my lop-sidedness, but I just thought I'd mention it because some folk think chickens are a little bit daft and can't see very well ....

... WRONG.
 They have better daytime eyesight than us.  Seemingly they have more cones in their eyes that can distinguish colours, movement, shiny things (bugs as well as earrings) and whereas we may look down and see the grass they see a whole sub-culture in the grass, tiny movements of potentially edible things on the soil beneath.  They are also long-sighted in one eye and short-sighted in the other, hence their cute tipping their heads from side to side movement, watch your chickens when a large bird flies over they will all tip their heads the same way to watch it's progress and make sure they are safe.  They manage this little miracle when they are in the shell, a couple of days before hatching the tiny chick turns it's head so that one eye is near the shell and the source of light and the other is tucked down looking at it's own body so the eyes develop slightly differntly, amazing.
Their only downfall is their night vision which is why they take themselves off to bed as soon as the light dims and dusk is upon us,  and now that the clocks have gone back this means our chooks are all tucked up in their henhouses by 5.15pm which makes for a perfectly long evening to have our tea, sort out some more stuff for packing and generally have a little bit of time to ourselves.
So  be warned ..... watch out if you glisten near a chicken - it'll have you!!
Sue xx


Tuesday 29 October 2013

Simple Little Things

The simplest things bring a smile to my face, like Lovely Hubby remembering last week when he stayed at a posh hotel before a works conference that I needed a new shower cap.
Not for my head in the shower ... now that would be much too normal in this house.

I needed it to use in the kitchen when I'm making bread.

Popped over the bowl while the bread is having it's first proving they are amazing useful.  Of course I immediately set to and made him a loaf of bread to say thank you.
The kitchen supplies are slowly running down here, the storecupboard and the wall cupboards at last have lots of space, true a little bit of it has gone to the new house, but most of it has been eaten.  After weekends of non stop decorating the last thing I have time for here is shopping so we have literally been living out of the cupboards and the freezers and yes, there is lots of room in the freezers too. 
 In fact so much room I can once again imagine LH getting fed up with me, bumping me off after a stressful day at work and storing my body in the deep dark recesses of the chest freezer.  I think I have been watching one too many CSI's  and Criminal Minds, thank goodness there's a Bake Off programme tonight, lovely Mary and Paul showing us how it should be done  :-)
Sue xx

Monday 28 October 2013

The Living Room is Almost Finished ... but What's Missing?

After another good weekends work with the Living Room almost completed, the curtains are up, some of the boxes of books are unpacked .....
... we even have pictures on the walls. 
Here are the pooches posing with their new friend the door stop ...... who is currently unemployed !!
The large gap in the left hand corner is where our tall bookshelf will sit, but it's one of the few things that doesn't fit in the back of the truck and will have to come up when we are bringing the big animal trailer in a couple of weeks.

The cupboards are now all painted, white inside and our gorgeous green outside.  But what's that flash of blue to the right I hear you ask, it looks slightly out of place ....

... it's a shower curtain in the bathroom doorway !!
Had you spotted that we are missing a few doors, well ALL of them to be exact.  On Friday we took off all the doors and delivered them to the door stripper who will be dipping them in his solution and removing years worth of paint, and hopefully bringing them back to their former glory.  We have no idea what they will look like, but it most definitely cannot be any worse than the lumpy bumpy layers of peeling paint that was on them.  If they come up well we will be staining and waxing them, if they look dreadful it will have to be a fresh coat of white paint, I have my fingers firmly crossed for the former option.
I can't wait to see them, but it will take a total of two weeks until we can go and pick them up again, so I will have to be patient.  In the meantime we are completely open plan, and the only bit of privacy is our shower curtain to the bathroom, which the dogs have now discovered is absolutely no barrier whatsoever , so every shower, bath or visit to the loo is accompanied by two little doggies, who are absolutely fascinated by this new viewing delight.
Oh well we do our best to keep our animals entertained :-)
Oh, and although we remembered to put back the clocks while we were in Wales, we got home, did various jobs and then sat down to some television on Sunday night not realising that we hadn't changed a single clock back here.  Sooooo another glass of wine and another hours tv it was then ..... most welcome after that long journey home battling wind and rain and slow slow traffic on the motorways. 
Sue xx

Saturday 26 October 2013

The Spare Bedroom

We are so lucky every room in the house has the most amazing view.
 This is the view from the newly decorated spare bedroom window, framed by our lovely new curtains.  These curtains are at every window in the house, we just fell in the love with the pattern, the simplicity of the heading and of course they contain our favourite shade of green.  In fact the colour of the paint we had mixed was taken from the mid green leaf in the pattern.  I went to Homebase armed with a cushion cover in the same design and they had the machine scan the colour and made it up for me.

This was an easy room to do, once the insulation had been pushed up and laid in the loft (the hatch is in this room) we set to and painted everything white, cleaned the blackout blind left by the previous owners and put it back up and then put up our new curtain pole, bought to match the brushed steel rings in the curtain header (every room has these poles too).

Our new lightshade, which is green of course and matching bedside table lamps, which although bought from different places, co-ordinate perfectly and to my amazement buying things at the right time for once were bought at knock down prices from Dunelm and Sainsbury's respectively.  The bed is our old spare bed brought from home which currently has it's normal bedding on but which soon will be resplendent in brand new bedding, when I find the cardboard box it is all packed in.
This bedding was bought way back in 2004 when I kitted out my very first home after my divorce and has been in constant use since then, I truly did get value for money.  It was bought in the sale at Debenhams, two sets both at half price and although I have updated the sheets every couple of years the pillowcases and duvet covers have lasted really well, it just shows that it is usually worth buying really good quality bedding when it is on offer rather  than cheap sets that fall to pieces or go bobbly in the wash after a year or so. Once we find the new bedding this will be washed and donated to a local charity shop and then hopefully someone who really needs it will benefit.
So in this room there is just the new bedding to go on and then some of our pictures and photographs to go on the walls to make it feel even more like home.  We did this room as a priority so we would have a lovely refuge to come back to after a day's labour and it worked wonderfully.
Sue xx

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Saddest Before and After

This is the saddest before and after.
This beautiful old oak tree, estimated to be over 150 years old had to be felled to give us access to Satellite Broadband and the daylight to power the solar panels that we will be installing on the garage/workshop roof, which will be built directly under where it stood.
We brought in a local tree surgeon 'Dai the Log' to do the terrible deed and with his team of four guys it took just a day for this beautiful old tree to be stripped of it's branches ....

.... and brought to the ground.
This to me is the worst thing we have had to do, she was a lovely healthy old tree and in my opinion completely gave a wonderful backdrop to our land.  I miss her already and I barely got to know her.  The one glimmer of happiness out of it is that Dai knows of a local guy with a mobile sawmill who will come once the wood has seasoned slightly and cut the main trunk into planks. 
Lovely Hubby has promised me that he will use every last bit to manufacture stools, benches and other glorious wooden items that will honour the beautiful tree that had to go to make way for modern technology.
And of course in a couple of years when the wood has seasoned we will have lots and lots of lovely oak to burn in the log burner to warm us and the house.  I already have all the smaller branches chipped and these will be used in the chicken run as a winter surface for the birds. 
The stump has been left at a suitable height to make us a table on the edge of the woodland, and we will be placing a couple of benches there so that after a hard days work we can sit with a mug of coffee and drink in the view before us. 
It's not all bad, we will be making full use of every part of her .... but I'd still rather have kept the tree.
Inside while the tree surgeons were doing their worst we were painting away and yes, behind the log burner just had to be green didn't it :-)

And on the final day of our 'holiday' our lovely new sofa was delivered, at last comfort and boy did we enjoy sitting on it for the last evening.  This weekend when we go back we will be painting in the kitchen, but I will be sure once the living room is fully straightened out I will get a couple of shots for you, so a proper before and after of the Living Room on Monday.
Sue xx

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Chick, Chicks and More Chicks

Only two months ago Ebony the Black Pekin Bantam was Mum to four gorgeous little bundles of fluff. They were sold as pure bred Silkie chicks.  (There were two others but sadly they died within days of coming home with us from the auction.)
A week or so after that first photo 'Tabby' looked like this ....

... now she's a big fluffy girl.
Grey Boy looked like this ...
.... then whoosh, now every day is a bad hair day!!
Snow White looked like this ....

..... then she went all 'can't do a thing with it' fluffy and bold as brass.
Flash was a mere tiddler ....

... now what a handsome little bird. 
Although I am not at all convinced this is a Silkie at all, I'll have to do a bit of research here I think.
When pecking in the grass with Mum you can see they are all the same size.  In fact our lovely neighbours who looked after the birds while we were away were not sure which was Mum and which were chicks!! 
They are totally brave mixing with the 'big girls' and Caldwell the cockerel for the first time this week.  We wanted to supervise the introductions so we held off opening the outer door of the Eglu until we got back.  It all went well with the bigger chickens accepting the chicks into the flock and Mum having only a few minor tussles with some of our shall we say 'stroppier' girls.
Now they are like little roadrunners, running this way and that and tiring poor Mama out, can you see that hassled 'Mum's had enough' look in her eyes, poor thing.
Each night they all take themselves back to bed in the Eglu and sleep separate from the rest of the flock, banding together as a little family, it's lovely to see.  They will be allowed to do this for as long as they want to, if they choose to sleep in the henhouse it will be when they want to.
 A little bit of 'live action', just for you.
Scroll down to see today's 'housey' post :-)
Sue xx

First the Log Burner ....

When we first got the keys to our new home the log burner in the living room was a neat little thing, but it looked out of proportion with the room and also with what we were expecting from it. 
We don't want to use the central heating unless we really have too, so with the warmth of the Aga permeating through the house we needed something that would quickly throw out large chunks of extra heat when needed and then settle down and keep the house at a steady warmth.  As you can see from the picture above we had to stoke the little log burner high and keep feeding the tiny space with wood to keep an even heat.  As soon as you stopped stoking the heat fizzled and died no matter how you twiddled with it's little knobs and vents.  Not what we needed at all.

Step in our new super duper log burner, also made by Aga. 
As much as I love my Aga Lovely Hubby loves his Aga, she's actually the Much Wenlock Classic Multifuel model.
She fills the space so much better and her controls mean that she virtually stays in all through the night.

Cue LH with the first lighting ceremony ....
.... kneel back and watch those flames shoot up.

Steady warmth and less wood used to get an even heat, and once it gets going it just takes a log or two every hour to keep the heat even and then before bed we fill it to capacity and close off the vents.  In the morning it is out but the warmth in the room tells you it's not been out for long.

At the end of each painting day it was lovely to sit back on our 'sofa' with a good book and relax for an hour before bed ....

... yes, this was our sofa for almost all our two weeks of hard labour.  The real sofa was delivered the night before we left.
Coming soon ..... chicks, chicks, and more chicks as requested.
Sue xx

Tuesday 22 October 2013

The Smallest Room in the House

After the big reveal of the kitchen yesterday ... even though it's not quite finished, I thought I would show you one room that is totally finished.  The smallest room in the house.  With a downstairs bathroom you really do appreciate having an upstairs loo in the middle of a dark cold night and having this is brilliant.  Although we are having some troubles with the cistern, she flushes when she wants to and puts the Niagara Falls to shame in the sound department when she refills.  Being an unusual shape and very small is really hampering DIY attempts at fixing it.
This was how it was when we viewed the house, 'the loo with the view' and although we would have loved to look at the view you are obviously facing the wrong way to truly appreciate it when in action so to speak and anyway the very same view is right next door in the office which has the other two thirds of this window, so it was not the end of the world to spare the blushes of passing motorists as well as our guests by hanging a net curtain.
And have you spotted something in here yet .... yes, you're right .... this is the one room in the house that is not getting a flash of green. 
We have recycled in here, the pelmet was originally in our bedroom in this house, the nets are from the spare bedroom at our old place, the little 'Home Sweet Home' sign was in the kitchen here left by the previous owners, well they had to really ... they had stuck it to the wall with double sided sticky tape!!  The towel is one I never got round to using back at the other house, so we bought a matching pedestal mat to hide a bit of rough flooring under the loo.  We also bought a new oak toilet seat and a new cup to go in the holder. 
 It was of course the hardest room to paint being so tiny but Lovely Hubby persevered and now it looks lovely and fresh, for not too much outlay.
So that's two rooms shown, now would you like to see another one tomorrow or would you prefer to see the 'not so little' chicks again, they grew amazingly while we were away, or are you feeling greedy and would like to see both?
Sue xx

Monday 21 October 2013

The Kitchen

One of our main priorities over the last two weeks was to get the bones of the kitchen in place.  We have yet to decorate it but now it is all ready to start painting.
As it was when we viewed the house.
The first job was to re-model it slightly, the last owners had a washing machine and tumble dryer on the left hand side just behind the breakfast bar and a dishwasher under the sink.  We don't use dishwashers or tumble dryers so we decided to put our new washing machine into the gap we would make by removing the dishwasher (we phoned them up and asked if they would like it back and they said yes and came to pick it up).  They took their washer, drier and electric cooker with them when they moved out so we had a large gap on the left-hand side of the kitchen which we filled with the unit that had stood next to the cooker.  This then left us plenty of room on the right-hand side of the kitchen for the Aga.
We paid for a days labour from a qualified joiner to help us with all this.
Once the large cooker hood was removed from the wall Lovely Hubby soon got stuck into the tiling, using our choice of plain white 'Subway' tiles.  We were advised to have the tiling in place before the Aga was installed, the walls were no problems but the floor tiles took forever to set!!  I really think LH was losing the will to live by the end of the first week.
Our lovely new fridge freezer arrived on time and fitted into the end of the kitchen perfectly.  At last nice cold butter and milk, and we were able to shop for more than one days food at a time.

The tiling went really well, obviously the little doggy supervisor made sure that LH kept going.

And then it was Aga installing day.  I've waited so long for this. 
It was really fascinating to see it being built from scratch.  Every panel and part arrived carefully wrapped, with the ovens being carried in by both the installers as they were so heavy.  I think they thought I was slightly crazy popping in every few minutes with a paint brush in my hand to see what the next stage was :-)
Once assembled and checked it was filled with little chippings which were then carefully packed into every nook and cranny with the rod in the foreground.  The guys did a brilliant job and it was installed and working within about four hours. 
After a quick wipe down, she looked lovely. 
 She is a reconditioned electric Aga bought from Twyfords  and I really cannot praise the installers enough.  Hopefully by next Summer she will be being powered by our solar panels and saving us lots of money as she keeps the house lovely and warm.

Later in the week the shelves, made by cutting a left over piece of worktop into three, were put up so that we will be able to paint over the pencil marks and drill holes when we start decorating the kitchen next weekend.
It's all looking so good, and now that the Aga is in place there is a steady hum of warmth that permeates through the entire house.
The gap at the end of the run of units is to be filled in with a bookcase that LH is building with some of my Dad's wood, that will house part of my collection of cookery books and it is supported by a small single cupboard that was next to their washing machine.
But the star of the show is most definitely my 'new to me' Aga.
I'm a happy girl :-)
Sue xx