Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Renovating an old house

As spring approaches I always expect to see homes popping up for sale on my usual routes, a popular time to get the house on the market with people keen to find their dream home. I like to keep an eye on the market, partly through sheer nosiness but also to see what's available and what the potential is, should I be in a position to move one day. My attention is always on older property, doer-uppers, a gem of a find with walls to be knocked down and a new impression to be made in old fabric. Anything from a Victorian house with dolls house style frontage or a terrace or a 1930's detached with bay windows (like my childhood home).

However, as much as old house are my preference, they do from experience with my current Victorian home have difficulties in comparison to new builds. For the generous room proportions and pretty facades, they are hard work and have some potential sources of headaches and tears......although worth it in the end. Here are some of my plans and pitfalls I've encountered and become aware of along the way.
period property

How I wish I had the foresight to have the house rewired before moving in. Several years later and electrics failing and being patched up and a great deal of head scratching from one electrician when some of the sockets started to be faulty. Even still, although work was completed, some sockets upstairs still don't work and the plan is for a complete rewire at some point and what a pain that will be with plaster having to be removed, dust everywhere and having to still live in the house whilst it's done. Next time I will have the electrics completely checked out and a survey done before moving in and bite the bullet then, a lot easier to get it over and done with in the first few months. 

Lots of fun and games with damp in my old house. In fact the damp proofing company had to come back about four times and I became friends with the plasterer as he was in my house that often, I think I learnt his whole life story. Old house and damp go hand in hand, my property has a single brick wall and the driving rain beats against it and the water causes salting on the inside walls so the paint starts to bubble and the plaster blows. I now have a membrane in the wall that helps but good ventilation is key too. 

In older houses there may be asbestos which brings about fear in everyone. It can lurk behind plasterboard, ceilings, insulation around pipes, boilers and also the dreaded artex may have asbestos fibres in it. Work on asbestos is dangerous, needs checking out and you need experts who have had asbestos awareness training that qualifies them to remove it safely. Asbestos fibres are a silicate mineral and were used to strengthen concrete among other things and fire resistant so became incredibly popular to use many years ago. There are different types - white, blue and brown asbestos with different degrees of hazard to human health. The fibres can get into the lungs causing cancer and lung related conditions - the Health and Safety Executive estimate that asbestos kills approximately 5000 workers every year and therefore it is something that only experienced tradespeople should deal with. Always get it tested and checked out if you are in doubt when renovating your home.   

Look at the brickwork of your home to see if any work needs to be done. Mortar weathers away a lot quicker than brick so water ingress can become a problem. The exposed side of my Victorian house needs re-pointing and as it is possibly the most boring job ever, finding somebody who will do this is very difficult as I have found. The old pointing needs to be removed, tedious and messy, then the correct mix of mortar used to re-point. Once its done though, many of the damp issues on my interior wall may be sorted out at long last.

Layout changes
Another element of my home I would like to change is the internal layout. Knocking down internal walls can create improved spaces for family life, which is what I would like and to increase light into the back rooms of the house. Improving the flow this way is a lot easier than an extension and you won't need planning permission you are living in a listed building but building regulations may be so consult your local council. My plans are for downstairs to be one space which we could have as open kitchen and living space for relaxing and for my son to play and learn.

Do you have any tales of renovating an older property? I would love to hear about your tales of accomplishment and of any snags you encountered.
open plan living
image source: Ideal Home

*collaborative post

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Treat yourself for Valentine's Day

So as we approach the end of January I'm thinking of what the month ahead has in store; snowdrops bursting forth from the chilly ground, buds appearing and those other little signs of spring like the songbirds singing their hearts out finding a mate. And yes of course it's Valentine's Day. Do you love it or hate it? If like me you've never had anything other than a bill arriving on that day from the posty you're probably cringing at the thought of all that sentimentality that will be splashed around every shop, magazine and blog post....ahem.....

But maybe it's time to embrace the day as some love for yourself. A day to treat yourself because you're great and even if no cards arrive, so what. Love yourself instead.

Have a Valentine shopping trip, I will be. Buy yourself some flowers but not roses that you'll be charged far too much for. There are usually some early daffodils out in the shops in February that will cheer the house up or maybe a fragrant hyacinth for the kitchen window ledge. Even some fresh herbs like basil and coriander in pretty pots to start thinking of the spring days ahead.
Valentine treats

Make yourself a cocktail or too in some classy glassware from House of Fraser, why save them for a special occasion, you're important and deserve a glass of something exciting. I love the champagne saucers, a great size to fill up with fizzy or make up a special drink. The coloured Martini glasses are gorgeous and would look so pretty on a shelf too. But for Valentines how about creating one of the pink Paloma cocktails: tequila, soda, zingy grapefruit juice and lime with a sugared edge to your glass. Make yourself your favourite meal for date night with yourself; lasagna with loads of garlic or a huge pizza all to yourself because who will complain. Indulge in the chocolate cake, pour yet another cocktail, leave the dishes for the morning and settle down on the sofa.

Light a gorgeous fragrant candle. I love Blush; The First Kiss of the Night! by Lily-Candle, it's one of my favourites and certainly the name has a Valentine feel, it's scent is very feminine and sultry. As the candle is flickering, time to watch a romantic film or read a girlie book. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Cecilia Aherne's PS I Love You - both great as either film or book but let's be honest make it the Colin Firth version of Mr Darcy, OK!

Valentine's Day is so much better this way, no disappointments. Who needs a dozen red roses anyway......?

*collaborative post

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Liverpool light in darkness

Anglican Cathedral Liverpool winter lights Cold night warmed up by the soaring music of the Swedish Lucia celebrations at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. Candlelit crowns and the procession of a goosebump inducing soul stirring choir dressed in white gowns. Utter bliss. It couldn't have been any more wintry followed by a hot chocolate with whipped cream in the pop up ski lodge under the illuminated Christmas tree in the heart of the city.

As we walked around, past revellers and festive romancers we found a light show projection onto a building at the historic Albert Dock and fairy light scattered carousel horses reflected in those cold waters of maritime tales and yellow submarines. The lights of Liverpool. a city of great culture and a lot to explore day or night. Stumbling upon the oldest building in Liverpool that is now an arts venue,the security guard couldn't have been any more helpful and despite it being closed, he delighted in telling us all about the history of the place. But that's what you come to expect from Liverpool, proud people full of life just like their city. huge Christmas wreath at the cathedral inside the Anglican Cathedral Liverpool looking east Swedish Lucia at Liverpool blue Christmas tree in the Anglican Cathedral Full moon over the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Liverpool Christmas bar Liverpool One Colourful Lights Christmas tree the oldest building in Liverpool Liverpool Catholic Cathedral Liverpool Big Wheel  old Albert Dock traffic office merry go round horse ice cream van Christmas lights nighttime view from Albert Dock Liverpool China Town Happy New Year lights

Monday, 16 January 2017

Degustabox Winter Box

New Year, new Degustabox for a winter's treat. Here is what we enjoyed: 

 winter Degustabox Nutri-Brek £3.79  These are a lovely breakfast biscuit made with coconut and crispy rice with a hint of cinnamon, they are gluten free and high in fibre. Delicious and made a nice change that I'd buy if I saw in the supermarket and on offer. Nutri-Brek with coconut Bite+ and Multi Grain Flakes, 2 x £1.69 I sadly wasn't too fussed on these as they were like savoury corn flakes and I couldn't get used to that. However, they are indeed a new concept of a multigrain cereal flake with savoury seasoning, ours were Sour Cream and Onion. Bite+ Multi Grain Flakes Newton's Appl Fizzics £1.29 I'm sure we have had these before but it was a pleasing drink, very sweet but ok. It's apple juice and sparkling water with 40% less sugar than pure apple juice. Great for me with it being non alcoholic as I don't really drink. Apple drink Gallo Italian Four Cheese Risotto £ 2.29 and Gallo Risotto Pot, I love risotto but sadly I'm a vegetarian and this didn't say it was suitable - I'm guessing because of the cheese variety so that was a shame. OH tried this out as a non risotto fan and was surprised that it tasted ok but probably something we would not buy. If it were vegetarian I would but nevermind....
Gallo Risotto
What a Melon drink £2.00, Gorgeous and refreshing watermelon, a drink that hydrates like coconut water. I did enjoy this but unlikely to purchase as it's above my budget for a drink but for the fitness conscious it's great as has extra anti-oxidants and muscle loving amino acid citrulline. watermelon water Maggi 3 Minute Noodles 2 x 75p, Another one for the resident carnivore to take to work for his lunch. Add water and ready in 3 minutes, a great snack available in chicken, beef and curry flavours.Maggi Noodles
Hoots Snacks 2 x 69p, I really enjoyed these and thank goodness they were vegetarian! A multigrain alternative to crisps at around 160 calories per pack. I especially enjoyed the Salt and Pepper ones as a late night snack :) Hoots Snacks Bahlsen Akora £1.99, German heart shaped lebkuchen which was perfect as we buy them at Christmastime and Little Bird adores them. A spicy jam filling in dark or milk chocolate. Devoured instantaneously! 

Eisberg non alcoholic wine £1.39 which was a novelty for me as I'm not a wine drinker so hmmm I'm not too sure as it still tasted very wine like. I'm really rubbish with wine as it all tastes so tart to me. Apparently this wine has the alcohol removed at the end of the process and is full of gooseberry flavours but I'm just so poor at tasting wine that I just couldn't tell. Eisber non alcoholic wine a2 Milk £1.39, we've tried this before and basically the A1 protein is removed as this is what can cause symptoms of lactose intolerance. A good idea for those that suffer with this.a2 Milk
Bristows Oh Fudge! Apple and Cinnamon, Lovely and sweet from Devon and squirrelled away by me to have all to myself!
apple and cinnamon fudge Overall a reasonable selection and some great products to try which is the good thing about Degustabox, it can make you try food and drink that you normally wouldn't think of buying. If you would like to try, the code 1GWLB will get you your first box for just £5.99. 

*I was sent a Degustabox for the purpose of the review, words are my own honest opinion.

Saturday, 7 January 2017


frosty morning frosty garden Memories of Jack Frost winter's mornings as a child with patterned window panes and crunchy grass under school shoes and breathing out a flurry of air like a little dragon. Examining frosty gems on leaf edges and being satisfied with a sparkling covering, second place to snow in its transformation of the daily landscape. Something new, a fresh angle, changing that which seemed insignificant into a glorious winter view of white rooftops, ice in buckets and tones of blue. I can stand for ages, absorbed in its beauty and admire the grasp of Old Man Winter. A ferocious grasp on any herbaceous plant that dared to have perky green shoots this far into winter, now slumped in defeat.....for now at least. A dazzle of silver as the low sun hits each crystal, ready to burn away into vapour like the circle of smoke from next door's chimney.frosty by the fence little cottage frosty sun

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

I don't really mind January

winter brew station
For most people January is the worst month and yes whilst it is cold and grey with a sprinkling of post Christmas debt and seasonal blues....actually it's not that bad. I like cold. I like grey. And I'll just spend little this month.

It's a month off really, still able to hibernate and recuperate if you've overdone Christmas and New Year and stay home huddled in a blanket. I've got a couple of social events I need to go to this month but to be truthful I'd rather be at home. January to me is hopefully a chance to mentally catch up after the roller-coaster busyness I've been carried along with since October. Also if I look miserable, nobody is going to annoyingly tell me to cheer up, it's expected to look fed up in January so I can be at ease with my inner gloom. Hooray. I do enjoy a little bit of melancholy. Embracing my Eeyore tendencies I'll be quietly just being myself - cups of tea, reading, going for walks and gardening. No parties, no big social occasions, no fake cheer and all that festive glitz gone. Good.

However, secretly I'm happy, loving every minute of the dark days, howling winds and icy rain showers. Every time somebody moans about January being bleak I smugly smile like the Grinch. January I love you, you ground me for the rest of the year and connect me to those ancestral feelings of hardship, isolation and getting through the winter. Life is so easy in our warm houses that a fierce January gives that tiny remainder of previous life lived a little shake of making fires and battening down the hatches.

A whole month to plan, make lists and forget any rubbish from the previous year. A month off from too much pressure to be doing things, of not feeling guilty for not leaving the house all week and of trudging around the house in comfy clothes.

Here are my five things that occupy my time during the start of the year.

1. An abundance of food and drink. Getting rid of the Christmas left over treats and making wholesome veggie stews and soups. The slow cooker is out and I've got root veggies chopped up nearly every day for variations on winter casseroles - potatoes, swede, celeriac, carrots and turnips. For drinks I have syrups for my coffee - vanilla, hazelnut and gingerbread along with loads of different types of teas. 

sparkly blue jelly 2. I read lots of books and then some more. Yes, fire blazing, comfy spot in the corner of the sofa, a book on nature or history, aforementioned cup of tea. I'm just reading the Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England as well as my university course books. 
latest nature books 3. I pursue my hobbies which may involve books as above, getting out into the bitterly cold air on the odd occasion or watching a documentary about churches or religion. I go out a couple of evenings a week to bell ringing practice which stops me from being a total winter recluse.  
Henbury 4. January is a great time to study a new course. My new module will be starting next week for my post grad in Parish Church Studies and I can't wait. I have the reading list already so have made a start and I've also been revisiting last term's books too. There are loads of free short courses too such as with Future Learn and Coursera. I'm doing Magic in the Middle Ages which is a nice addition to furthering my understanding of the medieval era. There are so many courses I want to do, just wish there was more time. I wish there were more Januaries :) 

5. I make my plans for the garden and allotment in January. With a rough sketch of the plot and a list of those jobs to do, I will be popping over to my weed riddled patch of land this weekend to burn off a few calories and get clearing and digging. Back at home I'll take stock of what seeds I already have and make my list of seeds to buy - my favourite kind of shopping. seed packets
Happy New Year and I hope you love January too.