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.

videoWell 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?

Monday, 8 September 2008

And the award goes to...

Yikes two more awards! I'm running out of gowns to wear, must do something about that. This first BFF Cold Card award (maybe I can use that to sort out the gown issue?) came from Liza over at Moms...check nyo. Liza is a work at home filipina mum of two who has lots of hobbies and is always posting great tips. Did you know potatoe juice is great for fading dark circles under the eyes? Well I didn't until I read it on her blog! Now the rules for this award are a little different, lets see...

Rules:
1. Only 5 people are allowed to receive this award
2. Four (4) of them are followers of your blog.
3. One has to be new to your blog and live in another part of the world.
4. You must link back to who ever gave you the award.

My nominees are...
Laane on the World If there's anyone who needs an award it's this lady, she's a psychologist and a mother of four and she still has time to write an awesome blog.
My Library a great site packed full of tips on gardening, cleaning, beauty and more.
Happy Life Is new to my blog, as I am to hers but after dropping by her site after she bought an ad from me I will definetly be a frequent visitor, an excellent design and dreamy colour palet.
by Jennifer Robin I love this blog, it's a really ecclectic mix of beautiful photos, old world reminiscing and chipmunks of course!
Catlover Now this site doesn't belong (as yet!) to Entrecard but is run by the 13yr old daughter of my friend here in Belgium. Grace is also cat mad like me and i'm sure if we drop by her site we might be able to convince her to join Entrecard, what do you think?


My second award today came from Anajz at the The Sustainable Backyard. Anajz is a wife, mother, smalltown homesteader, gardener and lot's more as you will see from her blog. I also learnt on her blog what on earth a solar cooker is, thanks you very much for this award Anajz, I am dedicating it to Pet Rescue Central I'm a sucker for anyone who devotes time and money to rescueing animals and I think they deserve a big'ol pat on the back;

Phew I promise normal renovation blogging will resume shortly! Thanks again everyone!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Is it groundhog day?

It's not, but you would be forgiven for thinking so because today I have received two awards!! This second Brilliant Weblog award comes from Little House in the Suburbs which is a great homesteading blog with everything from chickens, forest mushrooms, money saving tips and more. I'm very greatful for this award!
Please stop by my 'awarders' and nominees sites, they really are the cream of the crop! The rules are pretty much the same here...

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate up to 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

Now I get to tag some of my other fav sites! The nominees are...

1 Caroles Thoughtful Spot
2 The Cat Dog Log
3 Mommys Little Corner
4 Health to Home
5 The Homesteading Housewife
6 Simply Cats
7 The Sustainable Backyard

Thanks so much, I must go and clear a shelf for my award now!

Next the Oscars...

I've been given my first award! How exciting! Tahtimbo from Everyday Living over in Idaho US has just given me my first blog award!

I'm very grateful and promise to give it a good home! Now here are the rules for nominating...

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog
2. Link the person you received your award from
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4. Put links of those blogs on yours, and
5. Leave a message on the blogs that you've nominated

Well here are my nominees...

1 Robin's Woods
2 Forced Green
3 East Coast Life
4 Work at Home Online
5 New York Renovator
6 Designing Hilary
7 Little House in the Suburbs

I hope you all accept! x

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Water water everywhere...

All the water pipes are finally installed in the house! Here you can see the main water supply in the utility room. Above it the largest splitter for cold water and the one above for warm. Each exit from the splitter has a tap, in-case we need to isolate a particular room. The cold splitter has 5 exits, sink in utility, boiler, outside tap, kitchen (inc downstairs wc) and upstairs bathroom. The hot splitter has 2 exits, kitchen and upstairs bathroom.

The opposite corner of the utility is where the new gas, condensation boiler will be. The black stripe is soot from the chimney that we demolished where the wood-stove previously was. The blue pipe is the cold water supply for the boiler, the red is the hot water supply for the radiators which goes straight up to the upstairs bathroom first.





This is the new outside tap. The round plate that looks like a satellite dish stops the tap from sinking back into the hole in the wall, keeps the tap in the same position as it has claws on the back and generally makes it look better. We had to use a small piece of galvanised piping to go through the cavity wall which then connects to the alpex pipe on the inside.

Being a house of MANY chimneys we used one of the empty channels in the central chimney to bring the water and heating pipes upto the first floor. On the pic is the starting point in the kitchen. First we dopped a weighted cord down the chimney and then attached the alpex downstairs and pulled it back upstairs, it saved making a big hole in the ceiling :)


Here you can see the point in the bathroom where the pipes emerge out of the chimney. The hot water splitter goes to the sink, bath and shower. The cold water to the sink, bath, shower and toilet. The pipes downstairs where laid in channels that we cut out of the floor, the channels will be filled up with cement and the new floor laid over the top. Upstairs unfortunatly the base of the tiles was too thin so we will have to box the pipes in.

Here you can see where the bath will be on the far left, then the toilet (where the upsidedown U is) and the sink on the right.








This is where the shower will be.









Aliens at work!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

U comment, I follow

Thanks to a reminder from
http://wahmonline.blogspot.com/2008/08/im-now-dofollow-blog.html
I've just removed the no follow code from my blog, join the movement and remove yours too!


All blog platforms (as default) have this dead-end code that stops links inside comments being crawled, remove it and we can all share some love and share some traffic!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Housekeeping

Well I got around to doing some housekeeping and maintenance on the site today. Like the new template? The three column layout is a lot more roomy than the standard blogger template that I was using. The colours are still fairly subdued which I think is best for sites that post a lot of pictures. It's still not quite tweaked but it should improve over the next few days. I've also started a links list on the left had side under the top Entrecard droppers, if anyone wants to be linked drop me a mail.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Off topic party...


This weekend we were invited to our first neighbourhood party! Maria & Louis, who live opposite our new house, celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in style. As you can see a lot of preparation went into decorating the house. Every-one in the street had secretly been making plastic flowers and planning the decorations for months then on Saturday we picked them up in our old-timer for the big event. First a service was held at the local church accompanied by the Frizzante Achordian Orchestra that Maria & Louis' grandchildren belong to. Next a small service at the town hall with a drinks reception and then to the main party at the St Martinus Gilde function room where there was a delicious buffet and drinks a volante until the wee hours! We did not enjoy getting up at 7.50am the next morning...
Contgratulations Maria & Louis!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

What light through yonder window breaks?

As of Monday 17th of this month the windows are official on order! They should be in within 6-7 weeks. Of all the window companies that we had asked come and make quotes we ended up choosing Houbrix (Royal Fenster Systems), pricewise they came out in the middle of all the quotes but it seems that they have the best customer service. They also make the windows in their own factory, a lot of the other companies ship them in from Poland/Germany. We wanted PVC windows simply because the maintenance is easier but they have a wood-grain effect and it is very hard to tell the difference between them and real wooden windows. The Gealan frames have 6 chambers which is the most on the market at the moment. The chambers are sections in the frame that insulate so the more chambers you have the more insulation. The glass is 1.1k (K-value which I think in the UK is called R-value, a way of measuring insulation). They also have hidden hinges and 'mushroom' handles in the same cream colour as the frame. Where possible we took tilt/open windows and a mosquito cover for each room.
In the meantime we have to start bricking up the kitchen window which has to come up higher to allow room for the cupboards and work surface underneath. We have to remove the windows and window ledges the day before they come to install the new windows which means leaving the house 'open' overnight. Hopefully it won't rain but there's still the possibility that someone could break/walk in so we might have to think about getting a tent and camping out in the living room!
Most of our money has been sunk into the windows so we have got plenty of time in the next few weeks whilst we are saving to get lots of small jobs done, the stove can be installed again, the rest of the wall paper stripped and a lot of tidying and cleaning needs to be done, busy times!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Full house...

We have at last found old doors that match the 4 we had previously bought! The first four we saw advertised on Kapaza but being unable to find anymore we had got used to the idea that the other doors wouldn't be matching. Then by chance I recognised a house that we had seen for sale when we where house hunting on someones blog on a renovation site. The house was built in 1942 but had a lot of the same features as our house and they had the same doors that we had already bought. They had posted a plan of the renovations that they are doing, which have a very modern style, so I figured they wouldn't be using those doors and I was right! We went to pick them up on Saturday and the house is even in the same village as us, couldn't get any better, thanks Jimmy C!

Vacancies, apply within...

The toilet door was getting in the way too much and it had to be ripped out, in it's place this beautiful (!) pink curtain and a vacant/occupied sign for the whistling impaired like myself. Behind the toilet you can see Koen fastening the Pex water pipes http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=howTo&p=Improve/PEX.html
The pipes are a sandwich of three layers, plastic, metal, plastic with an optional ribbed cover in blue or red to make the pipes easily identifiable. They can be bent by hand or using a special tool to a point, beyond this point beware of the kink! If the pipe kinks that section should be replaced. The pipes can be connected to splitters, taps and T's with special self crimping nipples. Where possible we are laying the pipes in the floor or wall but with an old house it isn't always possible so in the bathroom for instance they will have to be boxed in. Cost price approx 70euros for 50m.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Knobs & Knockers...

When we were in the UK we visited DIY giant B & Q http://www.diy.com/diy/jsp/. They have a huge range of just about everything from bathroom suites, paint, power tools, gardening equipment, kitchen sinks and more. Their site also has some valuable information and a 'knowledge centre' about topics such as installing an electric shower, replacing old plumbing or putting together a garden shed. Also on the site is an interactive kitchen planner, radiator BTU calculator, online brochures, at home reservation of products, online shopping and a function to book an appointment with a consultant to assist with planning a kitchen/bathroom.
Our mission was to choose some interior doorhandles. Most of the door handles I had seen in Belgium also had keyholes, which I didn't want and I hadn't really seen anything that I liked. In B & Q they had a large selection of handles fairly competitively priced but they also had knobs which we hadn't really thought about. The price difference was minimal which made it even harder as there was no compelling reason to choose one over the other, but we eventually settled on the knobs after being reminded how many shirt sleeves had been torn, and bruises gained by catching our arms behind door handles. Our eye fell on these solid brass, brushed nickel finished knobs. They're mortice locks whatever that means. We needed 7 but they only had 5 in-store so would need to be ordered, enter Roy & Gill to the rescue who are going to order them and keep them until they either come here or we go there. Thanks guys!

Monday, 4 August 2008

bath¹ Definition

bath

noun pl. baths
  1. a washing or dipping of a thing, esp. the body, in water or other liquid, steam, etc.
  2. water or other liquid for bathing, or for dipping, cleaning, soaking, regulating temperature, etc.
  3. a container for such liquid
  4. a bathtub
Here they are, the much awaited pics from our trip to pick up our new roll top bath tub...

The alarm went off at 4am, the cats still lay blissfully asleep on our bed. We had to leave at 4.45 for the 3 hour car-trip to Calais ferry port so we had just enough time to put our bags into the car and have a quick breakfast. The thunder storm from the night before wasn't far away and we caught up with it on the motorway approx around the town of Diest. Lots of heavy rain meant using the wipers on double speed and with no lights on the motorway that time of morning it meant tediously slow driving for 30 mins.

After a last petrol stop at Jabbeke we made good time and checked in around 7.45 for our 8.30 Seafrance ferry.

Luckily the weather cleared and the crossing was smooth.




Our first stop was to visit The Bathstore in Freeport, Braintree to have a good look at how the waste pipes were mounted and re-measure, hmmm it would definitely be too big to fit in the car!

Next was to my nan June who had ordered the bath for us and had taken delivery of it on the 22nd July. It had been safely stored in her shed since then, thanks nan!





We decided to leave the cardboard square around the roll top to make it easier to strap to the roof, it had been attached with packing straps and was very secure. We peeled the plastic back to check there weren't any scratches on the bath and then re-taped it down, a sheet was also taped across the bottom to stop the plastic from flapping too much in the wind, we used two whole rolls of tape!

Luckily my uncle Roy not only has a lot of experience knot tying from sailing but he also had some cushions to tape onto the bars of the roof rack (lets hope my aunt Gill knows what happened to the cushions!). The bath being more awkward than heavy was manoeuvred onto the roof bars and strapped down tightly.




We had mostly showery weather on the journey home from Chelmsford (UK) to Heusden-Zolder (BE) but the packaging held up and we (inc the bath) made it back in one piece. We're leaving it wrapped up for the moment because of the huge amount of dust and grinding work that still has to be done in our house.




Maybe this will be our next project? Snapped at South Wold's North Beach it's a beach hut no bigger than 2m x 3m, no running water allowed, no overnight visitors allowed for the bargain price of 35,000 pounds leasehold, I'll stick with a wind breaker and sand in my sandwiches thanks...

 

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