Thursday, 27 March 2014

Renovation Project - Car boot sales in France

Renovation Project - Car boot sales in France

We are desperately trying to buy some chairs for the bedroom, I know exactly what I want but cannot seem to find them anywhere (unless we want to spend a fortune on them, which we don’t!) and so today we are going to tackle a car boot.

There is a monthly car boot in a town not too far away called Dualt, we have heard of it many times but have never been. Today we will lose our French car boot virginity.

Our sat nav cannot find where we are going and seems to be taking us along every back road and country lane it can find, but eventually we see a church spire and then as we drive towards it we see the cars.

As we pull up there is a smell of burning rubber, this is not good, our back tyre is so hot, I’m trying not to panic, we have breakdown insurance but as I have no idea where we are how on earth will I try to tell somebody in French where we are!!!!!

John thinks that there may just have been a stone caught in the brake pads and says not to worry (Why do people do that, do they really think that just by saying don’t worry, I will instantly feel better, that these little words are a magic cure, Oh don’t worry, well that’s OK then. I can feel the anger building again, or is this just the menopause creeping out? Bugger I don’t know what I’m doing now, so let’s concentrate on the car boot!)

The sun is shining and there is a lovely atmosphere, it is almost like a street party, then we hear an English voice, then another and another, bloody hell did the sat nav actually take us back to England? There is a bacon butty stall, English food stalls and even a tea bag stall, I would like to say that we took the high ground here and ignored all the English stalls, but I am no good at lying, I saw sticky toffee puddings (who can resist?) but they were microwavable and we don’t have a microwave so we couldn’t buy them, they were also so expensive, these stall holders really know how to fleece the Brits!

See I could have lied then and said we didn’t even look but .........

Dualt car boot sale France

We bump into some friends that live quite close to us and I now feel better because if we do break down at least they will drive past us on the way home.

As we are walking past all of the stalls looking for chairs, we hear music, there are Breton bagpipe players walking along, this is starting to feel more and more like a street party.

Dualt car boot sale FranceDualt car boot sale France

We do not find the chairs that we want, but we do find 2 that once stained will be OK and these are actually off a French stall holder, they cost 2 euro’s each which is the equivalent of £3 for 2 wooden chairs, Result!!!!!

We don’t stick around and head off as soon as we have been to each stall, we get home with no problem and the burning smell has gone. How could I have ever doubted the trusty Volvo, I’m sorry.

It’s straight to work when we get back and John starts on the top floor windows, the rain is still holding off so John removes the windows so that he can gloss the outside of them. This job takes some time but once finished the outside of the house is completed.

These are the only windows that are not double glazed, we could not replace them as they are bespoke windows and are still in excellent condition. At some point we will try to have some more made but this is not necessary at the moment, especially if the sun continues to shine the way it is at the moment, maybe this year we will be having a fantastic summer!!!!

As the weather is so good I am going to make a start on the garden, no easy task but one that needs to be done.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Making Your New House a Home

Making Your New House a Home

They say that 'home is where the heart is' and ask anyone living apart from loved ones and you'll know this to be true... But a house can never really feel like home unless you put your own stamp on it too. If you've recently moved house, you'll know that interior design can help to make your mark on your new home.

Achieving a home interior that is welcoming and personal takes careful thought. Read on for some simple tips on getting it right.

Reflect your personal taste

Read up about interior design and you may be persuaded that you need to follow the latest design trends. Don't. Go with your heart and play with design that reflects your personal tastes. Whilst 'Country & Living' might suggest this season is about monochrome, don't feel you can't add an explosion of colour to your walls. The key to great interior design is bringing out your personality and creating a space that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Embrace the unique

As you design a room that reflects your family's loves and interests, look out for the unique. This may be unique personal belongings that can be used to create an eye catching ornament or unusual fabrics. If you’re on a budget, you might be tempted to opt for IKEA wonders. In moderation this is fine, but balance mass-produced items with unusual purchases from car boot sales, jumble sales and antiques shops. Experiment with mixing old and new.

Throw out the rule book

Every living room needs a sofa, right? Wrong. There's really no need to stick with tradition as you decorate your new property or renovation. Think about what really works in your space as opposed to what you see in a design magazine. Switch a settee for comfortable arm chairs and a window bench, for example. Another common interior mistake is pushing sofas and chairs up against the wall in an attempt to make the room look bigger, sometimes floating your furniture so that you can walk behind and in front of an item will actually create the desired effect of more space.

Bring life into your designs

If there's one finishing touch that will really help bring vitality and positivity in to your home, it's plant life. Whether you go for a beautiful bouquet or a tropical potted shrub, topiary can brighten up any room.
Just be sure to maintain these plants for maximum benefit. A drooping peace lily will not have quite the same effect! 

Layer your lighting

When you move into a new home, lighting may not seem a huge concern... Just pop on a new lampshade and away you go! However, the right lighting can completely transform your home, setting an intimate mood in the bedroom and fresh feel in the kitchen or upping productivity in your home office. Consider layering your lighting with multiple options per room - dimmer switches, floor lamps and side lights.

You can never have too many pictures

Memories are one of life's most precious things and when you are surrounded by photographic evidence of your most treasured times, it can only be uplifting.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Renovation Project - A French Face Lift

Renovation Project - A French Face Lift

It has finally stopped raining! I didn’t believe anywhere could rain as much as it has done here since Christmas, it really did feel like the rain would never stop, the weather had been getting me down quite a lot and Spain had suddenly started to seem a lot more appealing, but today the sun is out for the 2nd day on the run and the whole feel of the town is different. There is a spring in the step as well as spring in the air.
In the garden the first flowers have started to come out, it is amazing the impact that a couple of garden flowers can have on you.

But as we have had 2 days of sun and the forecast is for more good weather all week, we are going to paint the house; we will no longer be the scruffs on the street!

John has borrowed some big ladders from a friend and we get them in place, we have dust sheets covering the ground. This job would be easiest with a roller but as we do not want to cause too much mess, a roller would spray everywhere, John is going to do it with a big paint brush.

We cover the neighbour’s car with a dust sheet just to be on the safe side, but our French neighbour offers to call at the car owners house and ask him to move it, which he does with a smile! Sometimes I still can’t get used to having such friendly neighbours.

The ladders are up and my job is to stand at the bottom of the ladders with my feet placed firmly on the bottom, this will prevent the ladders from slipping away from the wall (if they slide either side John is on his own!)

Now this may seem like an easy job, but by the end, my legs were killing me, this is not a natural position for your feet and I think I did more to tone my legs on this one day than I would’ve done had I spent 2 months in a gym!

People walking past all stopped to comment and admire the work, it really did make that much difference, I am going to add photographs from before, during and after, just so that you can see the difference it has made.

 The only thing is now, we look around and think of the different houses that could do with a lick of paint and can now legitimately say, bloody scruffs, don’t you think they would paint their house, they’re bringing down the neighbourhood!!!!!!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Picking the Right Flooring for Your Renovation Project

Picking the Right Flooring for Your Renovation Project

Picking out the right flooring for your renovation project is a pretty daunting task and will be an expensive mistake to make if you get it wrong. Getting your flooring right depends upon both your personal taste and practical needs. Your make-up of your household will be crucial in deciding what durability you require. Ask yourself the following questions and you'll find choosing a suitable long-term flooring solution much easier:

What size is your family? I.e., how much foot traffic will your flooring need to handle? 

If you have a large family, it's clear you are going to need a tougher flooring solution than those properties which home just a professional couple. Think about the spaces which will be used most, such as lounge and kitchen. These rooms will need to be more durable than occasional use spaces like guest rooms.

There are rooms that will need to be particularly durable whatever the predicted foot fall however. Your kitchen floor needs to withstand spills and drops as you cook, while the bathroom floor needs to handle moisture. Durable hardwood flooring is clean and elegant, a nice choice for either space.

Do you have any pets? Will your flooring be easy to clean in the case of any 'accidents'?

If you've got pets, assess the likelihood that they will affect the longevity of your flooring. You don't want to fork out on lavish carpet only to have it stained with dog's doo-doo within days of fitting. If you've got a cat there's the dilemma of scratched carpet pile or floorboards?! If you are a pet owner, natural stone flooring is a safe and easy to clean bet. Natural stone floor tiles and granite are both great for bathrooms too, as they are not warped by moisture.

How many years would you like your flooring to last for, ideally?

When it comes to flooring, you get what you pay for. So think carefully before going budget. The better quality you can afford, the longer your flooring should last. This is particularly true of laminate flooring. If you are renovating to rent, the idea of low cost kitchen laminate may appeal, but unless you have extremely conscientious tenants you run the risk of having to replace in just a few years. Cheap laminate often comes up at the corners and warps when wet.

Do you want to maximise the appearance of space?

If the illusion of more space is desired through the use of your flooring, opt for tiles that are fitted in a diagonal design or choose extra-large tiles that will enhance the visual space. Don't be afraid to choose dark flooring either, used alongside a cool wall colour this can also make a room feel larger.

What's your budget?

Ultimately budget is going to be the deciding factor on which flooring you should get. As already mentioned, go for the best you can afford when it comes to hardwood flooring, tiles and laminate. If you like the look if carpet, balance expenditure with purpose. Perhaps treat yourself to a thick luxurious pile in the bedroom but opt for a cheaper design in the children's playroom. If you want nice carpets but extra protection, lay down a complimenting rug to protect from wear and tear in areas of high foot traffic.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Renovation project - The countdown clock is ticking away

Renovation project - The countdown clock is ticking away

Today is such a momentous day, the bath panel is fitted to the bath and this can mean only one thing, the tools are coming downstairs, we have virtually finished the first floor (there are just a couple of tidy up bits to do and another big clean) but we no longer need the tools upstairs.

renovating an old french house

It’s time to finish off the jobs downstairs and first in line is the kitchen; we have a gap between the cooker and the sink unit. Now this is only a small gap not big enough for a cupboard but too big to be left with nothing there.

We had thought about this before and had considered blocking it off with a piece of wood but John suggested building a wine rack, this is simple to make and we have enough pieces of wood available, we also have a bit of spare work top to finish off the top. The big question is, if we fill it up with wine how long will it last?????

making a wine rack in a gap in the kitchen

John also refits the tap, it had been fitted temporarily and wobbled but now it is in place, it actually takes some time to get used to it not moving but it is so much better.

John also has some wooden trim to edge the splash backs in, but it doesn’t quite cover the screws holding the splash backs in place, which means that another trip to the shops is required!

John has plastered the patches of wall and boxed in the pipe work, it is little jobs like this that make a world of difference, we could not move the pipe work, so were left with no option but to box them in. Once painted they just blend in with the wall and you really do not notice them.

boxing in pipework

boxing in pipework

Final job today is to give the room a coat of paint. Just reading this I feel knackered but it’s a late finish and an early night, the next few weeks are going to be like this, that countdown clock is ticking away!!!

boxing in pipework

boxing in pipework

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Renovation project - We win the worlds worst grandparents award (Again!!!!!)

Renovation project - We win the worlds worst grandparents award (Again!!!!!)

We have spent the day shopping today, we are trying desperately to find some bedroom chairs and bedside tables, I know exactly what I want, but like the tea pots I haven’t actually found them!

We do find some bedside tables that should be perfect for the big bedroom and John finds a small cabinet for the top of landing, I really think this is too small and want a big cabinet there, but we agree (you know the sort of agreement, John wants it and I am, well if you really want it have it, but I don’t think it’s right, sort of agreement!)

We also buy some floating shelves to use as bedside tables in the back bedroom.

We bring them back and the bedside tables look awful in the big bedroom, but look really good in the back bedroom, the little cabinet is far too small for the landing but looks good in the big bedroom!!!!

Not what we planned but all works well in the long run, we set the back bedroom up and it really is taking shape.

However I did lose track of the days, my baby granddaughter spends this day at my parents and my mum always Skype’s us so we can say hello, I mixed up my days so wasn’t here for the Skype call, we realise when we see the missed call.

I telephone my mum to have a chat and she tells me that she had left the lap top in the living room and my baby granddaughter had been going to it all day and banging it shouting memememememe at the screen and getting upset that I didn’t appear.

I am absolutely gutted, I could just cry all night, my baby granddaughter knows me and knows that I speak on this day and we weren’t there (I wasn’t ready to be called granny just yet and chose the name meme instead), she can say it!!!! And I wasn’t there, this is the first of my granddaughters firsts that I have missed, will she ever forgive me, will I ever forgive myself (and if my mum reads this, will she ever forgive herself for telling me and now reading what a state I am in?????)

This sounds like an episode of the TV comedy SOAP, except it isn’t TV, it’s real life, and even 18 months after leaving some things will come back and slap you so hard that it is like just leaving all over again, these moments are fewer and further apart, but if you are going to do this, don’t think that they will stop entirely after a period of time, because they won’t.

How can you see photo's like this and not have your heart strings tugged?

Friday, 14 March 2014

Renovation project - Where can I buy a tea pot?

Renovation project - Where can I buy a tea pot?

We make another change in the house today, John had made a bath panel from the wood we reclaimed from one of the ceilings, we had always planned on painting this white, but John now thinks this will not look as good, we have the option of sanding it down and staining it but he really isn’t happy with the one he made.

We do have some pieces of pine board, we had bought these for making shelves and the window sills, but they are exactly the same size as the wood required for the bath panel, so John cuts it to size and I stain and varnish it. This will mean the bath panel will match the rest of the wood in the bathroom (this will be much better, it is a bit upsetting that we cannot recycle wood from the house, but this is the first time we have not recycled materials found in the house).

We have also been searching for tea pots for the B&B when it is open, I really want to have nice small white china tea pots but can we find these anywhere? NO we can’t, we have searched all of the shops (UK and France) we have searched the internet we can’t believe that it is impossible to find nice white tea pots, we have found big tea pots but I have this picture in my mind of exactly what I want (never actually seen them, but they must be out there).

We eventually find some on EBay, and luckily we have some friends visiting the UK (the website would not deliver to France) so we order them and hope that they arrive before they return to France.

John has been busy finishing off the wood work on the stairs to the top floor, he has again added some architraving to finish off the edges, but this time it will all be painted white, some of the wood had been painted previously and to try to remove the paint at this height would be a terrible job and to be honest it does look OK in white.

He has also worked on the 2 sky light windows on the top floor as there is still a draught around these; we do have some new windows to replace them with but until the weather improves John does not want to get on the roof.

Today has been one of those days where we have not stopped but we do not really have any photographs of anything as there does not seem to be much outcome, days like this are really bad as they do get you down a little bit, it is an awful feeling to work so hard and yet have nothing to show for it, but you do have to get used to it, not every day can have fantastic results and the bits that can’t be seen are often the bits that make 
the most difference to your comfort.

But on the positive side I have finally found my tea pots and I really thought I was starting to run out of options for these!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Renovation Project - Decorating and varnishing old floors in France

Renovation Project - Decorating and varnishing old floors in France

The plaster in the front bedroom has dried and it’s time to decorate and finish the floors.

But first John has to make some internal window sills, these are made with a solid piece of wood, but do not look very solid, this is remedied easily by adding a wooden baton and hiding the join, this makes the sills look much thicker, it will also stop the wood from bowing.

We remove the bed completely from the room, if you can empty a room completely the decorating is so much easier and quicker.

We have decided not to stain these floors as they are the original floorboards, John is still iffing and arring about whether we need to replace the floor boards and we have our regular discussion about the fact that the house is old and old floors look better.

The floor takes 2 coats of varnish and I love it when it’s finished, this is now my favourite floor in the house, I much prefer the older wood with the wood worm tracks, I think it gives so much more character to the house (well now that the woodworm have well and truly gone, I don’t think I’d be too happy if there was still any trace of live woodworm!!)

Once the floor is finished and dried (this is almost like Blue Peter, take a bit away and here’s one I made earlier!) it’s time to start on the decorating, I can’t believe the 2nd bedroom is almost ready!

I set too with the knocking in, we are painting everything white so there is no fiddly cutting in, and John starts with the roller. I hear a shout and John asks what the....... (Insert your own swear words here) am I doing, apparently the skirting boards are staying brown (one patch now has a lot of white on it).

This is something we had discussed and I had somehow forgotten, oops! So there is lots of fiddly cutting in to do. We follow each other around the room until the first coat is completed. Then it’s time for a break.

We start on the second coat and I stop part way to go and make dinner. Its well into the evening as the painting is finished and we are both knackered, we both seem to be working later and later at the moment, but we do have that time limit looming!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Renovation Project - Learning to speak French

Renovation Project - Learning to speak French

We have had some amazing news today, we cannot say what it is just yet as we do not want to jinx it, but now we not only have a few weeks to finish the house but  also have 3 months to become fluent in French!!!!! (Obviously we are not under enough pressure to finish the house; I need to find myself some more pressure!)

I had been told about a great free website called Duo Lingo, and I sign up, I am doing well until it gets to the pronunciation bit, I still sound like a sat nav, I hear john laughing as I am repeating the same sentence over and over, then over and over with a selection of swear words, swear words do not help! (Well they helped my frustration, just not my pronunciation; I even tried them with French accent to no avail!)
I bring out my Michel Thomas CD’s again and alternate between the two, I am getting better, but not good enough, then I have a break through. I see the little old lady from next door and we have a chat, we do this often as she is so friendly but up until today I don’t think we have ever had the same conversation, I talk, she talks, we smile and laugh a lot but we have no idea what we are talking about, well today it is different! We are talking about the same thing and we understand each other (to a point, but this is such an improvement!).

The language is starting to sink in, one of the big problems I have is that I have nobody to talk too, we do not really go out and when we do it is to visit one of our English friends, I have to get out more and talk to some more French people.

I decide to inflict myself on the ladies (or les femmes!) at the patisserie and try to make small talk instead of just asking for my bread, it’s a little step but a step nonetheless.

We also got to the tip today, this I have managed for some time as these are generally the same phrases, as the scrap yard is next door we call in, I want a metal bracket for the B&B sign, and this seems the ideal place, I manage so well until I realise I have no idea what sign or bracket is!!!! So I continue to talk and use lots of sign language and demonstrations (with an axe, maybe not the best prop!) but she realises what I want and gives me the word. We do not find what we are looking for but I didn’t use any English (other than bugger what is the French word for sign, which luckily she didn’t understand)

My head is aching today, I have maybe done a little too much but I do feel much more confident and I am looking forward to speaking to all of our French neighbours beyond hello, how are you, it’s a beautiful day/its dreadful weather!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Choosing a Composite Door for Your Renovation

Choosing a Composite Door for Your Renovation

Wherever you’re based, composite front doors are a brilliant choice for both security and letting light in. There’s nothing that will uplift your home more than plenty of natural light, and the right front door can make a huge difference. If you’re looking for the right door for your renovation project, there are a surprising number of composite door styles to choose from – this article explains more.

First of all…

What is a Composite door

You’ve probably come across UPVC and, of course, wooden doors. Composite are the newest form of door on the market in the UK and use a mix of both PVC and wood as well as insulating foam and glass reinforced plastic to overcome common flaws found in single material door types. They are designed for maximum thermal and weathering resistance. They are produced to have a wood look but require much less maintenance. In fact, you can get away with just wiping over your door with a damp cloth if it’s looking a little grubby – no need to repaint or varnish.

Due to their mix of materials, composite doors are extremely strong and secure. 

Here’s a look at the most popular styles and what they’re appropriate for:

Maximum Privacy

When you want a high amount of privacy whilst still allowing light in, the Bedford style composite door is the first you should look at. It features a simple semi-circular pain of glass, decorative or frosted to suit your taste. The Kent style also features minimal glass, with two squares side-by-side at the top of the door (above a door knocker) although additional rectangular glass panes are another option. Lastly, the Gloucester Riding Door design which features a cottage style look with just one diamond or square glazed panel at the top of the door – great as a front or back door.

Maximum light

Maximise light with a large rectangular glass upper, the Suffolk and Norfolk style composite doors have just that. The glass panes take up half the door structure with a post box sitting neatly beneath. The Essex and Surrey doors have the traditional feel of a Georgian door with two thin rectangular glass panels, again great for letting in plenty of light. A high quality door manufacturer will ensure the right glass won’t jeopardise security which ever design you chose.


What about when you only want to let maximum light in occasionally? Consider the versatility of stable doors or twin doors (a nice alternative to a back door or on your front porch). A stable doors gives a traditional feel with one small diamond pane when both parts of the door are closed – but the option to swing open the top of the door and let the sun shine in when the weathers right. A nice choice for a kitchen back door when you want to let any steam or cooking smells out.

This blog post was provided by Vevo Windows, suppliers of premium windows, conservatories and Vevo Composite Doors.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Renovation project - Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Renovation project - Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

I have lost track of the amount of times I have said this is the last big job on the house but I really do think today is the last!

John is going to plaster the bedroom wall in the front bedroom, once this is complete we only have to finish the floor, furnish the rooms, decorate, complete all of the little snagging jobs and we’re done (I don’t feel quite so confident know that I have actually seen it in writing, but we have 4 weeks left, loads of time!!!!!!!!)

As john plasters the wall I continue to work on the bathroom floor and the landing, every floor has to be scrubbed with wire wool, then sanded, given 3 coats of stain and 2 coats of varnish. This is a long and tiresome job but the floors do look amazing once they are completed. (Obviously this was not all completed in one day)

We also have some friends coming for dinner tonight, these will be our first official guests as they will be staying in a room that is almost completed (it was meant to be fully completed as Gerda was planning to take some photographs ready for the website)

Gerda is an excellent photographer and we met her and her husband Andy through the blog, and are really pleased that she is willing to take our photographs; you can have a look at Gerda’s work here Gerda Bolton Photography.

We are not ready for the photographs but we are ready to have some fun. I make a meal that tastes great and does not poison anybody (we double checked the day after as well, my cooking is definitely improving!)

The table is set with all of our new crockery and cutlery, we no longer have to borrow cutlery as we collected ours on our last visit to the UK.

The house looks like a home with the table set; unfortunately I forgot to take any photographs.

We have a great night and the following day we walk around the forest, I take the lead and am doing so well until we get to a crossroads, I have no idea which way to go and my tour guide duties stop here, we vote on which way to go. The walk takes a few hours and it truly is beautiful, this is also the first time that John has actually walked any distance in the forest.

It’s hard to believe we have been here 18 months and we have not fully explored, but if you are going to do a project like this, you will not have time, we have worked solidly to get the house finished, this is one of the things we are looking forward to most, being able to enjoy the area we live in.

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France

Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France