Friday, 29 November 2013

Barking? Quite possibly...

 by Roz

So recently I've been thinking more and more about us getting a dog.  Just writing that sentence down makes me excited!  I never had a dog growing up, but B did, and we've always said once we get a proper house with a garden we'll get a dog.  Well I think we've got the proper house now...

My big brother has a dog, I big softie of a German Shepherd called Cujo.  When most people meet him they are a bit wary as he's big (it's all fur, you should see him in the bath!) but I have never met another dog that thinks he's a human as much as Cujo!  Here's a snap of him trying to look mean...usually his crimped ear fluff takes the edge off :)

I love taking him away up to Aberfoyle or Loch Lomond and walking him for hours until I know he'll fall asleep in the car on the way home.  He's also been running with me a few times and is surprisingly good at staying right next to me.  I'd really love a dog of our own to be able to do things like this all the time and also to have company in the house as B works shifts. 

When my brother got Cujo as a pup, I was living down in Wokingham with B.  We were both studying hard at the time and trips back home were few and far between, so we never met Cujo until he was about 8 months old and already pretty big.  It used to make me so sad to see pics of him as a little ball of fluff when I couldn't play with him.

But when is the right time to get a dog?? I know how much love and attention they need and we're lucky that with B working shifts and me working 9-5 (ha! I wish!!) that our four legged friend would only be alone for a few hours on the days we'd be work.  I'd also like to have a dog in the house as it's so big it sometimes freaks me out thinking of being there alone!  Time is against us's unlikely we'll be moving in to the new house even before my due date in May.  I'm guessing it would be crazy to get a new dog when I'm off on maternity??

Putting the issue of when aside for a moment, deciding on which breed of dog we'd like is also going to be a challenge!  If you check out my Pinterest board, you'll see that I love all shapes and sizes of pooch, I'm not even sure I've got a favourite.  Lately I've had a real soft spot for these guys though...


French bulldogs.  They snore, they wheeze, they pant excitedly...they pretty much do anything but bark.  B is not so keen!  He'd definitely like a bigger dog, a lab or something similar, I'm sure we'll manage to agree at some point.

I'd love to get some advice regarding when the best time to take the plunge and get a dog might be or is it like most things in life and waiting around for the right time just delays the decision?

Roz xx

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

BBQ & Tim Tam Slam

by Bex

I have a few more posts I want to write about Malaysia but this was one I wrote a while ago about an awesome biscuit experience you have to try!

While staying with my parents at their house in Port Dickson we had a barbecue one evening after Nik had gone home.  We bought some fresh prawns and chicken and various salad things.  Mum and I shelled and prepared the prawns with lemon and pepper while uncle G fired up the built in BBQ.

Looking a little concerned at the flames!

But not so concerned he couldn't pose ;)
Everything was delicious!

After dinner I introduced the family to Tim Tam slams.  I discovered Tim Tams when I travelled in Australia as a student and liked them so much I even wrote an email home about them!  (Some of my emails home - I printed and kept them all as my diary - are quite cringeworthy when I look back at them now!)

If you don't know what it is, basically a Tim Tam is like a penguin (only nicer in my opinion and having just seen the Wikipedia page, that was the aim! "While in Britain, he found the Penguin biscuit and decided to "make a better one".") and to do the slam you nibble 2 diagonal corners off so you can dip one corner into a hot cup of tea or coffee and use the opposite corner to suck the tea through the chocolate biscuit.  You have to be really quick as the hot tea inside starts to melt the whole thing so AS SOON as you feel the tea hit your mouth you slam the whole bar in your mouth!  (Or it could get messy!)  It is an amazing combination of melty chocolatey tea/biscuit!  What's not to love!?

Mum and Dad had tried them before but Alex & Georgia hadn't and they loved them!  It even perked Georgia up as she hadn't been feeling well - the power of tea & chocolate ;)

So good!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Our Forever House - the demolition phase!

by Roz

It's been a few weeks since I've written a blog post about the has been pretty stressful recently, leaving me with no time to write any blog posts.  For most of November work was crazy and I was lucky if I was working less than 14 hours a day and that left B to pick up all the work at the house, with me helping out one day at the weekend as I needed to sleep the whole of the other day!  So much has been happening lately that I need to fill you in on.

This is how our bedroom looks now... 

We are stripping back the wall in the photo above, as when we started to create the opening for the walk in wardrobe the rest of the plaster started to crack.  Trying to fix traditional lath and plaster with modern plaster over the top is notoriously tricky, the old stuff sucks up all the moisture from the new plaster and you end up with cracks.  I wanted some nice smooth walls to be able to paint our bedroom rather than being forced to go with wallpaper, so we sucked up the extra work and decided to strip the two main walls back.  We will leave the existing vertical wooden supports and attach new plaster board and plaster over these to create our new bedroom walls.

In this photo you can see through the ensuite space to the bedroom at the back of the house
Just writing up this post and looking at these photos makes me wonder if we really appreciated just how much work was needed in every single room of the house.  We had most of it written down and knew it would be a lot of work, but I don't think you can ever really understand just how time consuming it all is until you are in the middle of it, sweating through the effort!


Here's another snap of B hard at work, you can see that the dust mask is being worn!  You honestly can't breath without one.   I am standing in what will become our shower in the ensuite, the diagonal beam you can see in the photo is actually supporting the ceiling, so we need to position the door to the shower to the right of this beam.  I think we've managed to get lucky as it looks like the door will pretty much end up in line with the door to enter the ensuite.

When I saw the footprints in the dust on the floor I just had to snap a picture, I think this shows just how much dust and dirt covers every single surface.  The floor in this room should be a deep orange / red colour!


I honestly don't think any of the rooms have escaped the mess, the kitchen currently looks like this....

Again all the work that has been done in the kitchen so far has been completed by us. We needed to strip back the lath and plaster on the wall where our kitchen units will go, as the step out due to the old chimney stack was creating a issue with space for the dishwasher. Stripping this stuff back is both time consuming and messy work. The plaster dust is so thick and gets everywhere. We wear masks when we are doing the work and collecting up the rubble, but the air stays full of dust for days afterwards. We hope to get the room to the stage where the electrician and plumber can first fit the required wiring etc. for the new kitchen appliances and then we'll get the kitchen fitted in the new year. Once we finally decide what we want!

We drained the central heating system and removed all of the raditors from the rooms ourselves too.  It was actually a pretty easy job, but the radiators are really heavy and I'm not allowed to help B lift them, so quite a few remain dotted around the house.  We really need to rope some friends in to coming to help out.

We have also created the new openings in both the ground floor living room and first floor L-shaped room for our fireplaces.  This also created quite a bit of mess!  Thankfully this time the chimney company were the ones doing the work and bagging up the resulting rubble, but sadly they left 12 bags of it on the first floor that poor B had to carry downstairs by himself.

We are going with wood burning stoves in both of the rooms, mostly so we have an alternative heat source in our main living areas, and the chimneys have been cleared and lined ready to install our chosen stoves.  The actual opening for the stove and surround can be made bigger to suit whatever style we choose, another two decisions that need to be made at some point!

The two remaining messy jobs are the knock throughs on the ground floor and the installation of the sprinkler system, B has been comparing quotes for both pieces of work and hopefully work will start on these before Christmas.  It would be nice to think that in the new year there will be no more rubble or messy jobs remaining.

The basement level has also changed quite dramatically over the last few weeks. We treated a number of the walls with a damp proof course, however neither of us realised that this would involve stripping the walls back to the brick to enable the treatment to be injected directly. We try not to think about the hours we spent stripping wallpaper in these rooms!! 

The future gym which I think looks a bit like a prison cell in this photo

Damp proofing also creates a lot of mess....are you guys sensing a theme?!  The photo below is the room that will become B's pool room currently filled with bags of rubble.  Just last week these were all passed out the basement window and taken up the stairs to a waiting skip that was filled to the brim in about half an hour!
Up in the attic rooms, there's also a lot going on.  We are repairing the roof, which had both a history of leaks (which were simply patch repaired by the previous owners) and was also leaking when we got the keys.  There is bad water damage to the corners of a lot of the rooms, as you can see in the picture below, and here are all our slates stacked up to be resized and reused where possible.  The roofers were pretty happy when we said they could store and resize them in our attic rooms rather than take them five floors down to the back garden to do the job!

With so many renovation projects there were also hidden costs.  The roofers soon realised that the wall plates, which support the weight of the roof, were badly rotten and could be crumbled away by hand.  Again you can see the water damaged wood in the picture below.  Replacing these added a chunk to the cost of the roof works, but at least now we know we have repaired or replaced everything and the roof should last us well. 

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of the evidence of our hard work!  It's genuinely at the stage for us where we can't see the end of hours upon hours of hard graft, I can't wait to look back on this post once the house looks more like a habitable dwelling to remind us of how much we achieved ourselves.

Roz xx


Monday, 25 November 2013

Lumiere Festival of Lights - Durham

by Bex

We had a wonderful weekend in Durham recently.  We went down to visit my in-laws during the Lumiere festival of lights.  It was amazing and perfect for me to indulge in some non-blog related photography with gorgeous winter sunlight during the day and some fantastic installations at night.

One of my favourites was the telephone box filled with goldfish!  We only saw this during the day as there were too many people to get through in the evening.

Soon it was sunset and we headed were treated to some amazing displays of light and sound.

The first we went to see was the massive suspended sun by the university library, it glowed with swirling fireball effects projected onto the sphere.

We weren't as impressed with the next one, a projection of irises and retinas on a wall with a scanner which takes a photo of your eye and creates a barcode unique to you which it transformed into noise (I think).  A little bizarre and we weren't that entertained by this one.

The next one didn't really impress us either but it made for a pretty cool photo...

The main part of town, however, was a different story!  We were greeted crossing the bridge by this amazing 3D elephant projection above us...

And when we passed underneath we turned round to see it's rear!

The major attraction was definitely the cathedral.  We arrived to a beautifully lit up cathedral with booming music and as we watched, the lights changed to tell a story.

 It was spectacular!

We then joined the huge queue to see what was inside, I took advantage of being able to take photographs inside as it's not usually allowed.

The architecture is stunning!

Above the pews in the main area there were lights flitting about over our heads.

And outside in the cloisters were these spooky lit up dresses...

We then made our way back down into town and wandered around the area displayed with dozens of hanging lanterns made out of used shopping bags.

And discovered a huge Christmas tree made of them!

The last one we saw was the amazing Miners' hall, I love the music!...

On the way back we stopped off for a quick glass of champers to toast Nik and to warm up (cool off for me, my camera and tripod were ridiculously heavy when moving around so much and I was sweltering in all my layers!) before heading home for an amazing Indian feast made by MIL, yum!  :)

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