Tuesday, 23 December 2008

DYDIY? (Do you DIY?)

If you do this site should be very interesting to you. (this is not a payperpost!) Lets Do DIY is a new site dedicated to aspiring DIY'ers. It features step by step instructions for various projects including replacing a single damaged tile, removing graffiti and many different painting techniques. The glossary is also very handy but the best thing is the forum. Sometimes no number of articles can compare to real one-on-one advice and opinions. The site is still under construction but is already looking great.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

And it burns burns burns...

...hopefully not a ring of fire.

Well it's been a really long time since I last posted, a combination of having no time and loosing the pc-camera cable! These pictures are about a month old but isn't this the best sight ever? Finishing the chimney was more complicated than we expected, finding the right attachments for the flue, figuring out how to attach it to the masonry so it wouldn't shoot back inside the chimney when we needed to clean it etc etc. A 'T' junction was added to the bottom of the flexible flue to create a right angle for attaching the woodburner, a removable pot was attached on the bottom of the 'T' to collect soot/condensation. Using these handy metal strips we created a sort of spider to attach it to the front of the chimney and the bottom of the chimney was bricked back up. Using a very sophisticated bracket, made out of oven gloves and planks, we attached a piece of fire resistant plasterboard to the bare brickwork which needed to set overnight. By some sort of miracle we managed to cut the whole for the flue in the right place! Now the fire needed to stand on something strong and durable enough to handle all the soot and dust from the fire so we bought these 15x15cm blue stone tiles to make a hearth. The joints won't be filled until we lay the rest of the floor. On the pictures you can see just how dusty and dirty they are. The one remaining problem was that the wood burner needed feet, something to make it easier in case we have to move it. We had glass stove coasters from the 40's but the 250kg was too much for them so Koen cut pieces of blue stone from a reclaimed door step. I then sanded and sanded and sanded them smooth and rounded the edges off with a dremel. And voila! The stove needs blacking and the tiles need cleaning but you can get the general idea. It's been so nice to be able to heat up the house again and it's really necessary at the moment, the first snow of the season came early in November and stayed for about a week. And the old saying is true, if you want the best seat in the house, move the cat!

Monday, 27 October 2008

It's nearly award season...

...and these have come early! Two new awards, I'm flattered :) Let's get down to business. The first award is from my friend Gracie over at Catlover which is a blog following the adventures of her four foot-footed friends.

The rules are-
1. You have to have 3 nominees
2. 1 is follower of your blog
3. One of them has to be new to your blog
4. You must link back who ever gave the the award.
5. 1 of them has to be from a different country

My nominees are-
1.Little House in the Suburbs
2.The Best of DIY
3.The Peacock's Nesting Place

This second uber cool award is from Everyday Living which lets us into the secret life of a stay at home dad. The rules for this award are-
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 5 blogs (can be more) that for you are Uber Amazing!
3. Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog.
4. Share the love and link to this post and to the person you received your award from.
My nominees are-
1.Simply Abundant Living
2.Mrs G
3.House Home Garden
4.Virtual Dime Museum
5.Chica & Pumuckl

Hope they accept!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Windows to the soul...

Finally here are the long awaited pictures of our new windows! They're even better than we imagined. When we ordered them you see lots of different window models and then pick out the various components that you want, what handles, decorative borders, colour etc but until they deliver them you are never really sure what they are going to look like. Luckily we were pleasantly surprised! The bars that you can see on the left side lower and upper windows are the mosquito nets, absolutely necessary here this time of year. They sit inside the frame but you can swap them around onto different windows, we have one per room to keep those little beasties out. On the picture on the left you can see the 'wood-finish' quite well and the water drips are because I had just washed them, it was also raining, yes I'm that nuts! I had to peel off the stickers and wash them straight away to make sure there weren't any sucker marks inside the glass. I tried to wait it out but it just rained for days so I looked like a complete lemon washing them in the rain. The bathroom window on the right was completed a week after the installation of the rest of the windows because the sand blasted glass wasn't ready. We chose to leave a clear edge of about 5cm around the glass and good job we did otherwise it would of been much too dark inside. I love our neighbours but it's nice to know they won't see me getting out of the shower in the morning :) Now what I don't have to hand are any pics of the right hand-side of the house. That's where the remaining wooden windows are that need the decorative strips added and painting and boy do they stick out like a sore thumb now! It probably won't be good painting weather until the spring now so we'll have to put up with them. What is really amazing now is how quiet it is in the house. It's not a noisy neighbourhood but there is still a marked difference, hopefully this means they're insulating really well. The next few weeks we have a long to-do list of finishing off jobs, the beams in the loft need re-treating, the hearth needs finishing, garden tidying etc, it also give us a bit of stime to save up for the electrics. I have been scoping out ebay and kapaza for some good deals on new sockets and light switches but the different types are overwhelming. Who would have thought it would be so complicated? Light ON/OFF right? Simple, not. Luckily a retired electrician will be supervising the installation and the whole system will be certified. Hopefully my next post will be about the finished hearth, fingers crossed! x

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Air-co installed...

...well sort of. The reason for my tardiness in posting (and dropping, sorry entrecarders!) was the last push that we had to make before the new windows got delivered and installed. We had to grind all the channels out for where all the lights, sockets, telephone, internet connections etc would come which is not quite as simple as it sounds. Beginning from a blank canvas it took hours to decide where would we ever need sockets especially in the kitchen where you can never have enough. It sounds like it would be easy to scatter loads of them all over the house, but when you start planning where you have to grind channels out for the cables in an old house ,we where hardly being left with any wall! Only 8 lights/sockets are allowed on one circuit before you have to pull a new cable from the fuse box. All of these lovely gaps in the walls will have to filled at some point. Separate cables for the hob, oven, dishwasher, dryer etc Special planning for light switches in wet areas. Don't forget the loft, garage, doorbell etc my head aches just thinking about it! The next task that we weren't looking forward to was bricking up part of the kitchen window. The window was too low, much lower than the standard 120cm so if we didn't brick it up a bit it would be impossible to fit a kitchen worktop underneath. Getting the window out was easy, old single glass with light wooden frames, basically just held in by four blocks and four nails. Luckily the marble window ledge in-side and the Belgian blue stone ledge out-side came out in one piece. Now, the reason why we had been dreading this so much was 1: after the wailing wall episode we had become allergic to brick-laying and hated it very much. 2: we had to ensure that when we had finished the opening was exactly the right size for the new window, which they had already measured for. 3: the outside window ledge had to be put back in at an angle to allow rain run-off without altering the size of the hole for the window. The bricks we had been able to source locally from another family who where renovating, they look a bit lighter now but after a couple of years they should blend right in. We then fixed a large sheet of chip board onto 'legs' so it would stand up against the inside of the window opening with a large beam of wood wedging it tight against the chimney, then attached a piece of roofing over the now open cavity wall to stop it getting too wet if it rained. Bricking up the inside was really easy and DH even surprised himself by how well the outside came out. We had really been dreading it but considering it's only the third thing he's bricked, it came out great! By the time it's been grouted and had a year or so to settle in I think it will be really hard to tell the difference between the old and newer stones. Last weekend we worked late into the night, pulling the old electricity cables out and feeding string through to pull the new electric cables through. The whole house was unearthed, sometimes with old fabric type cables. Occaisionally we pulled out cables that didn't seem to be attached to anything but we still haven't found the cables to the outside light...weird. Sunday was the big day for removing all the old windows and having a giant clean out. There was so much dust it took me 6 hours to clean the house. Removing the rest of the original windows went fine, but the last and biggest window was from 1989 and was a double glazed wooden window from 2m long. It weighed a ton and was nearly impossible to smash! Monday 29th early in the morning we waited for the window company and the mist was literally rolling in and around the house, so very cold! Finally the day I had been waiting for since the beginning of this journey, our lovely cream PVC windows arrived, yippee! I have been trying since Monday to take some good pics but the weather has been too terrible, constant rain, so you'll just have to come back again to see them, CUsoon...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A little bit of culture

Over the last couple of weeks I have had comments and emails from people asking about building techniques in Belgium and saying that they think renovating a house in Belgium sounds more romantic than in the US LOL! So I decided every now and again that I would post a little bit about the culture/habits/traditions in Belgium and this is definitely one of them.

Spek. The staple of every good Belgian farmers diet! This is the real deal lying in it's package on my kitchen counter waiting to be devoured (macro came out pretty good huh?). It's salted, streaky bacon sliced to approx 1cm thick. One of the first times I came to Belgium and stayed with my now in-laws they served this up proudly for breakfast fried in a pan. Me, being used to Danish bacon with my greasy spoon UK breakfast, proceeded to cut out all of the fat which left me with about two mouth fulls of meat out of a huge pile 'spek'. Needless to say in-laws thought us English where a funny bunch! The only other time I had ever eten streaky bacon was when it was wrapped around a turkey. Now my DH likes it cooked slowly in a frying pan until it is crispy and hard, then you can just pick it up in your fingers and chew on it like a snack. When I fry it I don't add any oil or margarine and by the time it's finished cooking there is about 1/2 cup of oil to drain off. We probably only have it once every two months or so. My FIL still cooks it traditionally, in butter, and then dips his bread in the 'sauce' left in the pan, then it's time to ring 911 clutching your chest :) Very often it's eaten with applesauce, cooked red cabbage and boiled potatoes. There is even a saying 'de kat op het spek binden' which translates 'don't tie the bacon to the cat' literally don't get in the way of temptation.

There are so many delicacies here, mussels and fries, Ardeen's pate, waffles, chocolate, beer and more, i'm even lucky enough to live in the pie capital of Belgium! Did you know that the Belgians invented 'french fries'. They truly are the best I have ever tasted, eaten with mayo of course. This blog could easily turn into a food blog! Have I got your taste buds tingling?


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