Thursday, July 28, 2011

Head Spin

Today was our final day of serious productivity before the school holidays, so we were out early changing our minds (again) about the bifold doors and going for the chunkier version than the one I'd chosen yesterday. Thankfully, the lovely Sandra at BAS has copious amounts of patience and clearly recognises a flibberty jibbert when she sees one. Anyway, they are now properly ordered and so are the sliding doors for the living room and I just can't wait to have a good fold and/or slide of them (you know, like when you buy a new washing machine and sit on the floor watching it wash your clothes - or is that just me?).

By half ten we'd made it into Liverpool after a couple of wrong turns and arrived at 'Built in Appliances' in Anfield. We used this shop last time we built an extension - it has the most amazing collection of appliances I've ever seen but can also bring on an option-induced headache within forty minutes. I honestly think they ought to offer a coffee machine and a dark room to have a lie down in because when you go there intending to kit out an entire kitchen, you soon realise that you probably ought to go out looking for one or two appliances at a time. Choice is one thing but choosing between 50 different cookers is no picnic at all.

Our kitchen designer has costed for appliances and advised us to go into the showroom to have a fiddle with them. This was good advice because you've no idea how ergonomic something is until you actually try to use it (and for the record, Smeg hobs have flimsy knobs, which shall henceforth be my mantra in life). Aside from this, you learn from your previous mistakes, which means I'm never having a range cooker again (too old to bend down) and nor am I having a stainless steel hob (too eagle-eyed not to notice the scratches) or an oven you need to clean with Mr Muscle spray, which makes my eyes run.

In the end we've gone for a combination of Siemens ovens (the holiday flat we rent in Cornwall has the same ones and they're an absolute joy) and reluctantly stuck with the Hotpoint fridge, which is cheap but will go wrong within a fortnight. Dr B had to be dragged screaming and kicking from a Miele gas hob, which I'll admit was a thing of beauty but carried a price tag to match and even Dr B's getting tired of pounding the corridors of the local private hospital to fund this renovation. Oh and then there was the chilled beer dispenser, which attaches to a keg and provides you with a cold beer 'within 5 minutes of being fitted' according to the label, which did make me laugh when I imagined some poor kitchen fitter trying desperately to plumb it in while Joe Bloggs has all his mates round, pint glass at the ready. Anyway, we're not having one of those, or at least if we are then I'm having a steam oven and a built in coffee maker as well and that's not going to happen in a month of Sundays.

By lunchtime we were practically dying over the Franke sinks and the Grohe mixer taps and escaped over to Chester via the Mersey tunnel, which is always something of an ordeal because I'm not fond of bodies of water and think if God had intended us to be travelling beneath them then he'd have fitted us with an oxygen tank. Lunch was in order, Dr B spotting a lovely tiled floor in 'The Chimneys' pub on the A41 and taking pictures of it on his i-phone, at which point I realised we've become a bit consumed by project managing this house and probably ought to take my friend Lisa's advice to 'get out a bit more.'

After lunch it was off to Rossett Tiles for a stroke of their Winchester Tiles collection (hand glazed apparently, though judging by the price tag of £109 per square metre I'm expecting they were also hand-carved by the children of celebrities on the back of the Al Fayed yacht). The ones you can see in the picture are the 'half tiles' in 'truffle' and 'blackberry', which are causing some disagreement between myself and Dr B because I think we ought to have them in the truffle or both colours and Dr B think we should go for the blackberry alone. We showed the picture to his mother, who pulled a face and suggested we'd get sick of the red ones before too long and now I'm wondering if she's got a point - we're trying to avoid too much 'neutral' which is hard in a world where we've become accustomed to painting everything in 'natural wicker' or 'bloody calico.'

So the jury's out on the tiles, though thankfully we don't need too many of them otherwise they'd have gone totally off the radar by now. Like the Miele gas hob, they truly are objects of beauty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clearing out

Flaming Nora, we've been busy today. With the school holidays approaching, the need to tie up loose ends looms large - the builders arrive on August 8th to demolish the garage, a garage that's been crammed full of 'stuff' since the end of January. Yesterday we hired a storage unit and a van and began moving the said 'stuff' - avoiding the spiders where possible. This evening the garage is empty and the fun can really start. We've also taken a van load of rubbish to the tip - see photo - so it was goodbye blue toilet for us.

As if that wasn't enough, we had a tree surgeon here all morning shaping the copper beech at the end of our drive. There are rules about clearance above pavements and roads (I think it's about five metres) and our tree had been flouting the rules for decades by the look of it. The council tree expert advised us to have it shaped before the builders arrive to avoid it being dragged along by the lorries on the driveway. Judging by how the bin truck's been dragging it every Wednesday morning, I'd have said there wasn't much more harm we could have been accused of.

While he was busy climbing the tree, I was busy painting the back of the cubby house. The weather's been terrible just recently and we've been too tired to set to work after the kids have gone to bed so as I have some time off work this week I managed to get round to it and put the un-used Cuprinol into the storage unit for good measure. Project cubby house is now offically complete for 2011.

This afternoon we dismantled the huge wardrobes in the master bedroom. Wasn't really expecting the brown shag pile carpet that greeted us underneath - mind you I wasn't expecting three pairs of ladies tights and an assortment of funeral hats either, but that's house renovation for you. Our clothes have now been either packed away for the attic or else precariously balanced on these useless hanging rails we bought on Ebay - they fall over if you walk past them.

And then I ordered the bifold doors and the kitchen. Now that's the beginning of all the fun, isn't it?

Friday, July 22, 2011

More new windows

D-day minus 17 and the kids have one more week left in school. I say kids, I mean one of the kids - the other one is too young for school and far prefers to spend her time hanging from my leg and howling 'drink!'

The structural engineer's report is back. We had a meeting with our builder on Monday evening, who turned a shade of pale when he saw the amount of steel that's been recommended for the roof. All I could think was that I'd never get a sodding mobile phone reception again once that lot goes in.

Of course, these things are never straighforward - the engineer has forgotten we're having bi-fold doors, so now he's had to revise his drawing and a new (and ambiguous) recommendation has arrived in the post just as were were about to order the doors - it's not that we can't order them, it's just we're no longer clear what size they will be - another thing to check out when we get a minute.

Today we have two windows being fitted - the living room and bedroom 2. Bedroom 2 had to be fitted now because there will be a single storey extension underneath it, which we rightly assumed would make the eventual task of replacing the window much more difficult. The living room window had to be replaced because we can't ventilate the room without opening the sliding doors, which not only provide a convenient escape route for our toddler but also strike me as decidedly dodgy and probably have 15 more slides left in them until they die completely. Needless to say, we're about to order new ones.

I wouldn't recommend having workmen in your house when your toddler's at home because the two just don't mix. Your toddler's sole purpose in life is to find new and exciting ways to kill themselves, the workmen's main purpose is to leave as many hazardous tools lying on the floor and never to close the front door behind them, not even when they're working in the attic. As you can probably imagine, I was kicking myself for having arranged for the windows to be replaced on a Friday and kicking myself even harder when I remembered that I'd forgotten to get the travel cot down from the attic and that the morning nap would have to be delayed until the window in Alex's room was fully installed.

The window guys weren't too happy about climbing over the stairgate. I wasn't too happy about the stanley knife they left on the telephone table in the hall.

'Can't you just put her in there?' they asked, nodding towards the playroom. 'You could put this stairgate across the door and she couldn't get out.'

'She's feisty' I replied. 'She wouldn't appreciate being locked in a room for the next four hours. Neither would I.'

Next time, we'll be prepared.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Front Door

Before and after - ta-dah! Now for the glass panels - have emailed a stained glass man in Manchester - let's see what he comes up with.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Setting the Date

Planning officer turned up this morning. He was probably hoping we'd be out, judging by the sheepish look on his face - not quite the same look he'd had when striding round the back garden talking about refusing our plans. Anyway, he had the brick and tile sample he'd requested - we took them into the planning department earlier this week. They're ok, he says. 'Let the fun begin.'

A few developments to report this week. Firstly, the front door that arrived last week is being glazed and hung as I type. You might think that's a good thing, but it's solid untreated oak and we managed to stain the wrong side, so the joiner's hanging the door in the pouring rain and the un-treated surface is about to cop it. 'You can stain the other side when I've gone,' he suggested - quite oblivious to the fact that I'm in sole charge of a two year old chimpanzee and the chances of me making leisurely brush strokes all afternoon are absolutely zero.

The builder's been in touch - he's coming on August 8th, which is a bit earlier than we thought but means we might be finished by Christmas and enjoying our turkey in the new dining room rather than from a camping chair. He's also offered to rent us one of his properties on a short-term let if we pay the bills and mow the lawn, though quite how we'll get that heavy lawnmower out of the build remains a mystery. We rang the council - they said we can suspend our council tax bill once the renovation begins - transfer the bill to the rental property. Not a bad idea. We'll have to take some furniture, but it's do-able. Anything's do-able, and anything's better than washing up in the bath for weeks on end - fond memories of our last project springing to mind.

The only other thing we've done this week is chosen a colour for bi-fold doors. We've had the aluminium door company out quoting for sliders, folders, windows and a glass canopy for the patio. Now that's exciting.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coloured Cubby

Dr B took our eldest camping at the weekend. It was a 'dads and kids' thing. The youngest is too young to go, so I spent a whole weekend with her. If you've ever owned a two year old, you might remember this as some sort of torture (we managed a whole hour at Chester Zoo before I gave up and went home). Still, with nobody else to entertain/cook for/pick shoes up, I had two free evenings - this is the result.

Eldest returned home on Sunday afternoon.

'Did you notice I painted your cottage?'

'It's green. I wanted it blue.'