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Looking back at 2014

Can you believe 2014 is almost over? Only a few hours left until we welcome in 2015.. So I thought I would take this moment to look back on 2014 and all the high/low-lights of the year...

1). We ALMOST sold our house three times...
2). A damp surveyor tried to con us...
3). We welcomed a little puppy into our lives...
4). We FINALLY sold our house to the fourth set of buyers!
5). We were temporary 'homeless' for a month, living out of boxes at Grants parents house...
6). We bought our second house, probably the greatest achievement of the year!
7). I discovered a new found love for home shows and local antiques fairs...
8). Grant survived the 'management restructure' at work... I.e wasn't made redundant, thank goodness.
9). I moved onto night shifts at work.. Boo.
10). I started posting on this blog (struggling for a tenth one there!) and started our second home renovation project!

Hello, 2015!


The Two Trees of Christmas

Long time no see! What a month it's been.. A busy one for sure! I'm officially off work for the next three days hoorah! Today is Christmas Eve and I thought it was about time I shared some festiveness of my blog; admittedly, this is very very late. But what better than our two trees of Christmas?!

So I said I wanted two trees, and two trees is what i got! They're both real trees but different varieties of tree. Our first is our traditional yearly 'family' tree. I think it's a Norway Spruce although don't quote me on that! We buy a decoration each every year to build up our collection of unique tree ornaments. It has no theme, it's just a huge collection of mis-mash. I love it! We actually also purchased some miniature bauballs from paperchase as our tree is slightly larger than usual this year. Almost every colour of bauball is different to the next, so it fits in well with our mis-mash. These were a bargain of £10 for 100, only downside was that they weren't pre-tied. Bit of a nightmare.

These were our two new decs this year..

Our second tree is this gold/silver themed tree, which I think is a Nordmann Fir. We actually got all these tree decorations for free from Grants mum who apparently has boxes and boxes of unused tree decorations. Awesome for us! I only purchased the tree-topper which was also from paperchase costing £4.. although I feel it may be a bit small for this huge tree! 

And yes, that tree is rather crammed into a spot in-between several unpacked boxes, not so festive perhaps, but hey ho! We haven't got many other decorations around the house, but we do have these rather festive flowers and delicious smelling yankee candle! YUM.

Feeling super festive right now, the only thing missing right this second is some mulled wine... ;)

Merry Christmas Eve!

DIY Advent Calendar (For Dogs?!)

Soooo festivities are beginning! The Christmas Markets are all set-up, the town lights are switched on, the home decorations have been fished out of their dark dusty corner, and Advent Calendars are being opened! - Admittedly this post is much much too late buuut I'm going to share it anyway, because I can ;)

Me and Grant usually surprise each other with an advent calendar, although after five years, I guess it's no surprise anymore, but I also like to include the dogs with their own advent calendar too. Doggy advents cost around £5 each(!) Whopper, and it's Doug's first Christmas this year, so I would need to buy two. To save my pennies on overpriced dog treats, I've decided to make my own at a fraction of the price, with lots of bits from around the house.

I've used a combination of small money envelopes and brown parcel paper to wrap up some tasty doggy treats. I also decorated these with glitter paper, glitter glue, twine and ribbon, feeeling festive! I attached some rope to the wall with nails and pegged these on with some old fashioned dolly pegs. I originally intended to paint the pegs, but my 1st December deadline came around too soon.

Since I had so much rope left, I made a little rope sign, which turned out much better than I imagined!

I think the dogs are enjoying their homemade advent calender. I've caught Todd sniffing around it lots, he definitely knows it's his ;)

Happy Advent!

The Fan is Wired!

Quick update on the extractor fan - it's wired! I managed to find an electrician via - we actually only got one other quote to compare it to, but if you've ever tried to get quotes off tradesman, you'll know how much hard work this is! So when we found a quote we were happy with, we decided to just go with it. 

The company we used was Twynings Electrical, based not too far from our town. I've never hired any kind of tradesman before, so this was a total first! Probably hence my excitement for sharing this topic. The job took around 40 minutes to complete, and we now have a working fan woohoo!

So just to be clear on a few things in case you're wondering why we didn't do the job ourselves...
1. We're not electricians.
2. Bathrooms are classed as 'special locations' therefore no electrical work may be done on a DIY basis, and certification for any electrical work is required. You may be asked to show this when you sell your home in the future too. So don't DIY! It may also invalidate your home insurance, so..yeah.

Back to bathroom extractor fans - All new installations require an isolation switch, many older properties with extractor fans may not have one and that's OK, this regulation is fairly new (so I'm told). Although one electrician did tell me we could 'get away' with not having one put in by claiming it was a replacement fan, not a new installation. Weeelll, he didn't a call back, the cost and effort to add an isolator switch is basically nothing, so that was just lazy of him to suggest really.

The guys we hired actually did a splendid job! I wasn't entirely sure what I was expecting, but the job they did was far greater than I imagined. They re-positioned the light switch to the centre of the room, and even made holes in the joist to secure it. They also tidied up that lose cable we found that we think was left from an old light switch. Again, I didn't expect that! And finally, they re-secured the extractor fan to the roof frame in a new position where the isolator switch could be located. The job was tidy and thorough, all the cables were secured to the joist (they were just kind-of hanging before!) and I kind of just expected them to wire in the fan and leave, literally doing the littlest possible. The rest was like a mega unexpected bonus! I guess you could say I had low expectations of tradesmen, but these guys certainly changed that!

The company we hired did the job for £65, which yeah is quite a lot when you think about it, but I guess that includes their petrol, cost of cable, switch and two wages etc.. Breaking it down like that, it doesn't seem too bad. And I'm just thrilled to have it all done! We can now get that ceiling up!

This is a very rambly post for not a lot of work, can you tell I'm excited?!

...Not the most exciting pictures in the world, but I hate to leave a post picture-less!

Ceiling Noggins!

You may have noticed in one of my last posts that the ceiling joists had gained some extra pieces of wood - more commonly known as noggins. These are small lengths of wood that fit firmly in between the joists. Not only do these add more areas to screw plasterboard into as every edge will need to be secured, but they also help to stop the joists from moving, which is turn helps to stop the ceiling cracking. Aaaand if you remember this post, we certainly had a cracking ceiling and some of these joists did had a little bit of movement too.

We used 3 lengths of this stud timber to make the noggins, at £2.50 each this wasn't overly costly at all. However due to this house being so old, the joists have moved so much over the years that they no longer run parallel to each other, which meant each cut had to be measured individually, which was preeetty time consuming. These were then secured in place with two screws either side. Each noggin was positioned in a staggered formation, the same way we intend on installing the plasterboard. Admittedly our work isn't perfect as you will see - but hey we're amateurs learning on the job....

Top tip for this DIY: don't let a noggin fall on your noggin. Grant found this endlessly hilarious; maybe it's a warning that I need a hard hat.

The final preparation for plasterboard was a boring one; I had to remove about a bazillion nails from the joists to make sure the surface is flat. This was slightly tedious to say the least, and with these nails being so old, many of them snapped, or the heads just popped off. I got there in the end though; the ceiling is now fully prepped for plasterboard! Hurrah!


PicStick Review

I'm back with another review! Much much much later than anticipated, I should add.. The Christmas season is just soo busy! Argh. I do wish I could sit back and enjoy the festive season more, but c'est la vie.

Anyway, this review is for these awesome photo magnets.. And what a great Christmas gift idea these are! At £9.50 for a set of 9 photo magnets they are a bargain! I received a sample to review, and I have to say the hardest part was choosing which 9 photos I wanted to turn into magnets! (This can only mean that I need to buy more!) I chose to use these in our kitchen as I think they're just such an awesome way to add some memories into your kitchen. Most of my chosen photos are outdoors-y pics because our kitchen has no external windows, so I wanted to bring a bit of the outdoors in, and I'm in love with these! They're such a great quality, and PicStick also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you know you're getting quality goods, or a replacement!

To order, you just simply chose your chosen files from your computer and PicStick does the rest. They arrive in one magnetic sheet and are easily snapped to create 9 single magnets.

I should also mention there's FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY, yep FREE. I am all about the free delivery, I often search the web endlessly for promotional codes just to get free delivery - well, look no further - It's FREE! Not to mention the delivery is lightning fast too; 1-2 days in the UK and 5-10 days worldwide, you can't argue with that.

Plus if you are interested in these, I also have a 25% off discount code to share with you! Just type in 'KEZZA25" into the checkout over at

Happy Shopping!


Fitting a Bathroom Extractor Fan

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last week and a half, I'm struggling to juggle between working extra hours at my job and trying to achieve forward movement in our bathroom renovation. It's a hard balance to achieve; on one hand I want to work like hell and earn super cash to fund our renovations and on the other hand, I want to have time to actually achieve any sort of renovation! I set our new schedule back to be completed by Christmas and even if I have to work up till Christmas Eve, I am so determined to make this happen! Although when I say finish, I suppose what I really mean is, usable. I'll settle for just having the bath installed! Still, we have five weeks to go, so it can still happen right?

One of the biggest time-wasting parts of renovating is researching. If you're a savvy shopper you'll want to find the cheapest, best possible purchases out there; whether it's cement mixture, screws, or a super fancy LED Radio-combination mirror, the first site or store you stumble upon may not be the cheapest and to make you're money go further you search the market like an eager beaver on a hunt. Well, this takes time. Lots of time actually. There isn't a 'compare the market' for DIY tools or radiator covers, nope, you have to do it yourself. When time is lacking, this is the first thing I end up slacking on... If I need screws, hell, let's just go to the closest store and get some whatever the cost! So all in all, perhaps I should ditch the extra hours at work and spend it researching. In a round-about way, I suppose I'm probably not going to end up with any extra cash as I'll have spent it all on over-priced DIY materials. Ah, life.

Enough ranting, let's get down to DIY-talk - It's a Do-It-Yourself extractor fan installation day. So this bathroom actually had no extraction what-so-ever, although actually, it hasn't affected the room one bit. I'm guessing the previous owner was a devout window-opener. Or maybe she just took super quick non-steamy baths. Either way, that's definitely not for me - I take showers longer than an EastEnders episode, and if you think I want to step out into the winter air after that length of heat, think again! Nope, and nope. We need extraction!

I chose this particular extractor fan from Screwfix. I actually did make time to intently research this; my reasons for this particular choice were fairly simple:

1. Extraction Rate.
A large bathroom requires a higher extraction rate. UK standard for any size bathroom must be 75m3/hr. So we opted for 110m3/hr as our bathroom is on the med-high side.

2. Noise.
If you've ever had a noisy extractor fan, you'll know how annoying it is. We used to have a kitchen one that you literally had to turn off to have a conversation. Reviews tell me this one is relatively quiet. Thanks guys!

3. Timer.
When you leave the bathroom after a shower the moisture is usually still in the room; a timer one continues to extract for a length of time after you've left the room and switched it off (usually they're on the same on/off as the light switch)

4. Fan Type.
We opted for an in-line fan, which is basically where the actual fan part sits in the line of the ducting. This makes it not only more powerful, but allows for extraction to travel a greater distance to its external vent. This article explains it a bit better. Basically these are the best types of standard extractor fans.

It certainly wasn't the cheapest fan going, but I believe you get what you pay for. We had a fan in our old kitchen (cost £15) and quite frankly it was a waste of money, it did nothing. You need a fan that fits the needs of the room, not just one that fits your wallet. So this one cost on the expensive side of £50. but we're hoping it'll be worth it. Obviously, I can't say how good it is until we have a bathroom to actually use!

As this room didn't have a fan previously, it meant we had to create a hole to vent it externally on the external wall. As this fan is an in-line fan, this hole needed to be above ceiling level so not to be seen. Because our guttering is quite low, the room to fit this hole was quite tight so we chose to create the hole on the outside of the house to make sure we didn't damage said guttering. Luckily, we have a downstairs extension directly below the bathroom so we could just hop out the window onto the extension roof to do this job. Firstly, Grant marked out a circle-template on the wall, and then drilled multiple holes all the way around. Then, using a masonry chisel, he chiselled out the brick in-between the holes. Once the holes had been drilled, I could see the template from the inside too, so we both chiselled from either side of the wall to speed things up.

Once the vent could fit through the hole, the external grille was screwed into place. Because more brick had been removed than necessary, I then filled the gap to make it air-tight once again. Whilst this dried, Grant set about fixing the in-line part of the fan to a joist. Because of the size of this beast, it had to go where there were no floorboards above, but into the roof space. If we hadn't of had this part of the roof exposed, we probably wouldn't have been able to use this fan, so we were actually kind of lucky.

More ducting fits on to the end of that fan and then another grille will be fitted into the ceiling (when we have that up!) but first we need the fan wired in, which is a job for an electrician; but by doing this part of the job ourselves, we should have saved money.

Removing Lath and Plaster Ceiling, Part 2.

Part 2: Complete!

In my last post we spent the day removing the plaster from the laths.. And what a mess it created! This time, we were removing the laths from the joists. Instead of the two of us removing the laths (like we did with the plaster) we decided to clean as we go with one of us on the removing part of the job (Grant) and the other cleaning (me). This way, the muck didn't get too out of hand! If you were wondering, yesterdays mess took well over an hour to clean up. Yuk!

It's at this stage of the renovation when I begin thinking "why did we start this?" "maybe we should have just bought a new build house" and "I wonder how much damage this dust is doing to my lungs" etc etc. I think (or maybe hope) every home renovation project goes through this brief stage; for me it's when things get mega dusty. Dust is awful, it just moves through the whole house, and before you know it, it's everywhere! It's not that kind of dust that you find on an ornamental shelf once a month, it's thick dirty never-ending dust. You can hoover in the morning and by evening it's back! When your bathroom looks like this, you reallllyyy don't want that around the whole house! Thankfully we have super-sealed doors when they're shut, so that's stopped it travelling so far. But either way, we've pushed through to the other side - the ceiling is down, the dust is kind-of hoovered and it's onwards and upwards! Things have to get messy before they get better, that's just the way of it. But the messy part, the filthy part is definitely the least fun. It's more like "let's just get this done as quick as possible so it's over with" and then, you relax. I can now relax and enjoy some more 'fun' parts of renovation.

Removing the laths wasn't actually too difficult; the wood's pretty thin, easy to snap, and easy to lift nails from too, we just used a crow-bar. Obviously there was much less rubble involved, but the dust and dirt behind the laths was still insaaane. Black filth continued to cover the entire room, in fact in came down in dust-clumps. Thinking about it, that dust is basically years and years of dead skin, hair, animal, who knows what... all falling down over our heads. Bit of a grim thought really...

But here we go! The laths are down, the ceiling is looking a lot tidier!

We had to remove some fibreglass insulation (which was also disgustingly dusty!) because it was only held up by the laths so would have fallen down anyway. The attic bedroom is above the bathroom ceiling, but towards the exterior wall is 'dead space' which is basically the very narrow and low part of the roof that's boarded off from the attic bedroom because it's not a particularly usable space. I don't know the technical name, but this is where the insulation was, so that needs to go back up to insulate the roof. But maybe with a cleaner newer set. This is also why there's no floorboards towards the exterior wall. You can kinda see the roof in that space in these pics..

Apologies for the terrible photos; the light is now out-of-action and the flash kept picking up all the dust, which is all those little weird circles.. Onwards and upwards though! Next stop is to fit an extractor fan!

The Christmas Boutique Review

Now that it's officially November, I can finally allow myself to get excited about Christmassss! I actually started my Christmas shopping in August.. Oops. But now, the real shopping can begin!

So this year I've already decided that we're having two trees - Grant thinks I'm mad "we don't need two trees" - well sir, yes we do. Don't you hate just decorating one room and then when you leave the room it's like Christmas disappeared? Nope, two trees it is. We actually have a tradition where we only buy two tree decorations per year; one each. The idea is that when we have kids we can do this with them and watch our tree grow like crazy every year. Each decoration will a be a kind-of memory for that year, and I suppose in the end, it will tell a bit of a story.

But for our second tree, it means I get to go Christmas-dec shopping crazy, and maybe even give this tree a bit of a 'theme'. But obviously, I'd like to do this without breaking the bank. So I'm sharing with you, a website I had honestly no idea existed, but am beyond overjoyed to have discovered - The Christmas Boutique! As the name suggests, it's a whole online shop dedicated to Christmas! What could be better? It's not even just for Christmas, you can order all year round and satisfy your summer-christmas-cravings.. Or perhaps just lighten the money-load for the coming Christmas season by purchasing early. It's also super affordable (right up my street!) and there's free delivery too! I was sent a few goodies to check out, and I cannot wait to get these up in a few weeks!

I was really pleasantly surprised by these tree decorations; not only are they really affordable, but also really good quality! Those reindeer's are just stunning - my camera simply does not do their sparkly fabulousness justice! And I love the simple elegance of the stars, I think they all work really well together. I also love the fact they're pre-tied ready for hanging on the tree too! I don't have a Christmas tree to show them on (yet) so I used my garden as a bit of a prop.

I was also sent this draught-excluder. Honestly, this wouldn't work in our house as my dogs (OK, just the puppy) would chew it to pieces, so instead I would use this as a window decoration. It fits perfectly in this spot in our conservatory, and I would personally dress him up with some fairy lights too. I also think he would also look pretty cool facing outwards of a window as well which I'll probably try out as well. He's a bit of fun really, I'm loving him!

Finally, a candle decoration - this one's pretty good as you can bend the bottom part into an arrangement you're happy with. I think it'd make a nice stocking filler gift as well. I couldn't see whether it had a particular smell to it, but if it did I couldn't smell it, so I think it's more a decor-type candle. This will be featuring on our fireplace I think..

I can't wait to have all of these on show very very soon and I've already been eyeing up some more pieces online to accompany them - particularly tree decorations for our second tree! I've seen so many I want! I think a sneaky purchase will be in order verrryyy sooon....


Removing Lath and Plaster Ceiling, Part 1.

After we made the decision we would remove the ceiling and start afresh, I made a small hole to investigate what lies beneath the plaster. I had a small suspicion that the current ceiling was the original lath and plaster type, and my suspicion was correct! Lath and plaster is a technique used prior to the 1930s (or so my research tells me), which means this ceiling is over 80 years old! Craaazy. This technique was used before the invention of plasterboard; instead of plasterboard, small bits of wood (laths) were nailed onto the joists before lime plaster was applied over the top. Part 1 of this removal, is removing the actual plaster itself.

I researched online first (as always) and the consensus was that you should not remove this ceiling unless absolutely necessary. Patch if you can, repair if you will, removing should be an absolute last resort. Why?Because removing this type of ceiling is singe-handedly quite possibly the messiest DIY job imaginable. Or so I read. Well, they weren't far wrong!!

Beware: DUST.

If you think my camera is just out of focus here, or that the image is blurry, how very wrong you are - this is the dust smoke that comes along with this particular job.

Goggles and face masks are an absolute essential! I'm sure we all value our eyes and lungs, so please don't even attempt to remove without either of these. We use disposable masks, which only cost a pound or so from Screwfix, however, I'm very very tempted to invest in some long-term face masks. Partly because we have so much dusty work to do throughout the whole house, but also because disposable masks just seem so flimsy in the way they fit. I almost always get dusk-leakage into the mask.. usually through the nose-area where you just bend it to shape. It bugs me. This mask used to be white... and that hoodie's actually green. Imagine all that in your lungs, eurgh!

Back to the ceiling - I'd seen lots of videos online with people using shovels to break off the plaster from the laths and push it down. We don't have a shovel, so we used hammers and used a technique of just hitting the hell out of it. It worked pretty well, because the ceiling is pretty much almost plaster-free now. It took a couple of hours between the two of us and by the end we were very much aching all over... particularly in the right arm. Definitely a job building up those muscles! ;) Ha.

Here's our progress after the plaster removal...