Merry Christmas

December 24, 2006 at 6:35 pm (Food)

Merry Christmas!

We have been having a break from work on the house and instead have been baking holiday goodies and making chocolates.

Clockwise from top: cocoa crinkles, chocolate dipped dates, jam (cherry) almond cookie cutouts, pfeffernusse, almond truffles, and ginger brandy truffles. Today we made more candies — dark chocolate dipped marzipan balls in four varieties of chopped goodness (French glace cherries, candied citrus peel, dried blueberries, and pecan), dark choc covered almonds, and caramel pecan clusters.

When we went shopping for baking ingredients, I was amused to see that the eggs were nearly completely sold out. The only ones remaining were the very cheap battery hen kind (no thanks) or these fancy ones that come in pastel shells. Since I probably won’t buy them again, I took a photo 🙂


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Warmcel Arrived!

December 21, 2006 at 9:51 pm (DIY, House renovation) (, )

The Warmcel insulation arrived today! Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate fully that by ordering 80 bags (2 pallets) of the stuff would mean they’re actually delivered ON the pallets! Of course, they wouldn’t fit through our front gate (and being a mid terrace we have no drive way) so the driver had to leave them on the pavement (sidewalk to yous guys Stateside) and we had to quickly re-stack them inside the house. I am sure we were breaking some law about “blocking a public byway” or somesuch. See pictures above.

Furthermore, we were numpties not to go into our loft sooner (the opening to the loft is inside the upstairs airing cupboard, and the ceilings are nearly 9ft high, so even with the ladder it’s tricky getting in)….

Anyway, I went up there today and it’s really, really dirty. 😦 We can’t lay the insulation up there until we clear it out. This will involve taking up the old knackered glass-fiber insulation (and taking a lot of the dirt with it), then getting an industrial vacuum up there.

I also saw a dessicated mouse and several old wasps nests (which we knew about from the building survey!).

Guess what we’ll be doing between Christmas and New Year’s? 🙂

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Christmas tree!

December 13, 2006 at 1:26 pm (Me)

We ordered our Christmas tree online this year, from a tree farm in Yorkshire. While convenient (and I’m still laughing that the parcel delivery man commented that this was the first time he’d seen a Christmas tree delivered by post!) it wasn’t as fun, cheap or eco as it could have been. Being new to this area, we simply didn’t know where to go to find a tree. Next year we’ll go choose a locally-grown one ourselves!

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Woodchip revisited

December 10, 2006 at 4:52 pm (DIY) ()

We’ve pretty much finished stripping the walls and ceiling of the bedroom of woodchip. And it is as much hassle as you read about. Here are our tips having just done it;

1) Scoring the walls and using warm water works, but it’s slow going. If you’re lucky you can scrap off the top layer, then soak the second layer – which makes things easier.

2) After a few walls like this, I stumbled upon Wallwik. We took a risk and bought some. It works like this: Score the walls (with their tool), apply sheets of paper (that feel a bit like baby wipes) that have been soaked in their special solution. Leave it for 20 minutes, or longer if necessary. Then remove the sheet. The wallpaper should come off in one go. We made the mistake of scoring the walls with the knife, which meant the wallpaper came off in tiny little squares! We’ve yet to try a large area, however I’m pretty confident about it working well.

However, being long sheets of heavy paper, it’s a devil to get up on the ceiling…

3) Fortunately the woodchip on the ceiling hadn’t bonded well with the plaster above, and it was pretty easy to rip down. Lisa has the knack. For those stubborn areas or for those without said knack, a steamer makes the job easier; thanks Bro!

I’m yet to make a final judgment on Wallwik vs. Steamer, but as usual it seems to be a combination of both. Anyone out there wondering if they should buy Wallwik – I say give it a go.

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Our Door Knocker

December 9, 2006 at 2:12 pm (DIY) (, )

Door knocker
I was trying to learn more about our door knocker and found a website showing original cast iron door knockers (click image to see site) from a foundry in Staffordshire.

The door knocker featured looks very much like ours, except ours has details obscured by layers of paint. Once I strip it back, we can know for sure whether it’s identical. If yes, that’s interesting to learn it’s from 1908 or thereabouts! Also, the letter opening is still in place, but folded back. The springs which should keep it closed are rusted and we’ll need to figure out how to replace them.

We have bought some eco friendly paint stripper to use inside the house, but I’ll probably use the leftover “harsh” paint stripper to work on the front door, as it’s outside the house.

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December 3, 2006 at 6:42 pm (DIY, House renovation)

One of the best things about having a house of your own to strip back and restore is the fun of opening up fireplaces. Back in the day, idiots… I mean, people keen on modernizing their houses…. ripped off the original fireplace surrounds and covered over the chimney opening when they got modern heating installed. Partly it meant they could use that bit of the wall for furniture, especially now that they have a radiator taking up a large chunk of wall.

Our plans for this house include getting an original fireplace surround and insert for the sitting room. The dining room has a tiled 1930’s fireplace with lovely dark wood surround in situ but it’s been covered over with some ugly brown fake-brick tiles and we’re not sure if the mortal will come off the original tiles. If it does, I’d be happy to keep the 30’s fireplace because it means saving a bit of money! Both bedrooms are missing their original cast iron fireplace surrounds.

A builder friend of ours says you can get cheap fireplaces re-cast from original Victorian moulds… but they are made in China. The eco side of me disagrees with this, since that’s a lot of fuel to transport them.

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50 years ago…..

December 1, 2006 at 10:26 pm (DIY, House renovation) (, )

I knew the wall-to-wall carpet in our bedroom had to go. It was filthy, scruffy, stained, and smelly. Today I started lifting removing it. You know carpet is old when

  • it has a dusty odor
  • it’s black around the edges
  • the underlay has mostly turned to powder
  • you find newspaper clippings dated Nov 26 1956 underneath it. Nearly 50 years ago to the day!! I know that carpet was disgusting and past it’s best, but could it really be 50 years old? Or were the clippings planted there? No other debris other than dirt has been found!

I also had the unpleasant task of cutting the carpet into 3 sections because it’s so big. So glad I had a dust mask on!

I got a big bored of scraping up the underlay around the edges and attached some of the walls (a mix of woodchip and floral wallpaper that had been painted over). Amazingly, both came off quite easily, and I estimate I stripped back 50% of the walls today. The plaster is good apart from in the corners and around the windows.

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