Saturday, 26 July 2014

My house is a storage warehouse

I'm blogging tonight even though I'm going to Fibre East in Ampthill tomorrow, because so much has been happening this week I shall forget it all if I don't write it down.

Don't forget that I'm running a 500th post giveaway - only five people have entered so far by commenting on my 500th post so there is an excellent chance of winning.  I will run the competition for a month until 19 August to allow intermittent blog readers (like myself) to catch up and enter.

Sunday we had tickets for what used to be called 'The Festival of History' at Kelmarsh Hall but is now 'History Live' - basically English Heritage hosting a bunch of volunteer re-enactors who get to run big pitched display battles and shop from each other in the marketplace, while camping overnight and generally having a good time.  All good fun and lots of explosions, plus the chance to see a jumble of historical figures strolling around.  Quite amusing to see a well-dressed Regency miltary officer and his glamorous wife fingering the beads being hawked by a Victorian street seller, while behind them a Roman soldier and his Viking friend look over the woollen goods being sold by Anglo-saxon ladies etc. It was really big this year, there must have been over 100 tents and four display grounds plus lectures going on in the members' tent, catering, static displays etc.  DH watched three battles in a row but I got a bit bored after the first one and went round the marketplace instead. I bought two yards of thick wool fabric from one of the cloth traders which I will use to pad my new homemade ironing board when that gets built, and also some embroidered taffeta because it was so pretty.

Monday was the big day, when this pulled up in front of the house (parking in the six reserved parking bays that we had to pay £110 to the Council to secure). It's called a 'road train' which is a big lorry pulling a big trailer.

Yes, our possessions finally came out of storage!  It took them about four hours to unload it all and stash it around the house.  I had done a careful plan of where things should go, labelled each room with the code letters for the boxes that were going there, even posted up floor plans and gave a copy to the supervisor - and they still bunged stuff at random everywhere.  For the first few hours I was asking them to correctly move things to the right room, then I gave up.  So Monday night when DH got home, we spent the evening moving boxes around to get things to the right floor, and Friday night we spent another two hours going through the huge pile in the cellar, fishing out the wild cards and carrying them around the house to where they should be.  It's still chaos though.

The cellar:

What will eventually be my dollhouse room

My sewing room

Some of my quilts coming back

The chap taking photographs in the road train picture is not an amazed bystander, he's one of two scaffolders who came that day to quote me on scaffolding the house.  I chose him in the end because our (possible) builder recommended him, and the scaffolding will go up in about three weeks.

While we were waiting for the removals lorry to arrive, I harnessed the Power of the Teenager who voluntarily set to work assembling my Lego haunted mansion that I bought over a year ago (which had gone straight into storage).  The level of detail on this model is amazing, it has a mansard roof, opening doors, a folding loft staircase, furniture, inhabitants, and really great little vignettes like a phonograph player, an inkwell with a quill pen etc. I'm really pleased with it both from a dollshouse point of view and as a lover of Halloween.  The ghosts even glow in the dark!  I'm glad he put it together though - the instructions spanned three volumes although he said it was very straightforward.  Now I just have to find somewhere to put it where it won't get smashed during the long wait for normality to resume.

On Tuesday I had a gas engineer for two hours in the morning, carrying out some remedial work recommended in our pre-buying survey.  Then - hooray - the Sky engineer came back only thankfully it was a younger guy this time who just got on with it and put the satellite dish up in the garden without arguing or sucking his teeth like the first guy did.  So we finally have TV again, and Sky now lets you download box sets for free so we are catching up on Mad Men season 6.

Tuesday afternoon the kitchen company project manager came by for the last visit before work starts next week.  So today we have gotten very hot and sweaty tramping up and down the stairs, moving everything out of the kitchen and down to our temporary camp kitchen in the laundry room.  Apart from the dishwasher which is still running, and the fridge which is a problem I couldn't face today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday to Friday were work days, and very busy too, but I found time to look up garden designers, confirm the scaffolding, confirm the fireplace guys, builder and outside painter to come and use the scaffolding, and work out a plan with the inside painter for when he will be able to come in.

Today I squeezed in another Annie Sloan chalk painting course which was quite fun and I bought the paint that I will use on the laundry cupboard we found on the antiques weekend.  Then we rushed home to look for tiles for the kitchen, visiting four DIY and tile shops to find a stunning lack of choice.  I've settled for a rustic white tile with some accent tiles in a duck egg blue which will hopefully set off the cabinets nicely.  Only of course, once we finally made up our minds, B&Q were out of the blue tiles.  According to the website, there are some at B&Q in Northampton so DH will have to go over there tomorrow while I am at Fibre East.  As well as moving the kitchen downstairs, we've also cleared out the room that will be the dining room but in the meantime was a repository for all manner of junk including the new appliances waiting for the kitchen.  The kitchen fitter will be knocking through the wall to open up an old doorway between the kitchen and dining room, and refinishing the floors in both rooms.  We are going to be so broke after all of this.

I had a nice surprise in Friday's post which was my latest delivery from Knit Crate.  This time it was two luscious skeins of Dream in Colour 'Classy', a worsted yarn, in 'Callous Pink' which is actually more of a purple and I love it.  So smooshy as well. The other included treats were some delicious biscuits and an electronic row counter that fits on your finger - very clever although I probably won't use it myself.

Commuter knitting this week has been the Shetland lace stitches shawl which is almost finished, only a half a repeat left on the border chart.  TV knitting has been the little colourwork baby jumper.  I spent a couple of evenings just darning in all the ends and now I am knitting the second sleeve.

Tomorrow I am off to Fibre East in Ampthill for some well deserved R&R, before coming back to finish clearing the kitchen plus we have to clear the clutter from the bedrooms because on Monday the plasterers are coming to restore the missing cornice.  Builders and workmen everywhere, and in a few weeks they will be able to look in the upstairs windows once the scaffolding is up as well.  I'm bracing myself for all the dust...

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Norfolk Broads and the big 500

Edited to add:  When I published this post, Blogger said it was my 500th post!  Hard to believe that when Swooze got me started on this blogging lark back in 2007 that I would keep going this long.  To mark my bloggiversary, I must have a giveaway.

GIVEAWAY:  Leave a comment on this post by 19 August for an entry into my 500th Post Giveaway - and tell me whether you would prefer a knitting prize, a quilting prize or a dollshouse prize. 

 I will pick a name at random from everyone who leaves  a comment - you have a good chance of winning because I don't have many regular commenters!!  Actual sending of the prize might have to wait until I can unpack some of my relevant hobby stash from storage, but I will contact the winner to arrange delivery - make sure I can email you as some people have their Blogger profile set to 'no email'. Good luck!!


We've just come back from a week's holiday in Norfolk, staying on the edge of the Broads in a little coastal village called Winterton-on-Sea which is north of Great Yarmouth. The Norfolk Broads to me are inextricably linked to the Arthur Ransome books about children exploring and sailing there  (part of the 'Swallows and Amazons' series) but rather depressingly when I mentioned this fact at work to my much-younger colleagues, I received a blank look from all but one because apparently I am officially too old and the books I devoured as a child are now more ancient than dinosaur bones.

We had a lovely week and were very lucky with the weather, as it only got ferociously hot towards the end of the week before turning into big thunderstorms on our last night.  DS came too on the promise that he didn't have to go sightseeing and that there would be broadband.  We kept our promise, so he was very pleased with his holiday as he spent almost the entire week at the kitchen table in the cottage, gaming with friends online.  He did come out for a morning of canoeing on the Broads with us, we made it from Sutton Staithe to Wayford Bridge and back (6 miles) without capsizing  and with minimal blisters.  He even went swimming in the sea with DH, which was more than I was prepared to do as it was too cold and too windy for me, although I did enjoy sitting on the beach.

When we arrived in Winterton, the first thing I did was walk back to the Village Hall where the thriving local quilt group was having an exhibition.  I liked this tabletopper by Pat whose blurb said the pattern came from America - I shall have to look for it.

I also liked this Kaffe Fassett design made by Lynne from the book Quilt Romance. She said in her blurb that the fabrics are Rose Parade by Moda.

The rest of the week we went out exploring every day and saw lots of great things, had some lovely meals, and did fairly well for shopping as well.  Norwich takes the prize for craft shops as they had no less than three knitting shops:  Crafty Ewe and Norfolk Yarns which were good sized knitting shops with a good range of yarns, and a large stall in Norwich Market selling a range of acrylic yarns. I had a good look but didn't buy anything apart from some pretty blue buttons in Norfolk Yarns. Norwich seems to be a lovely historic town and we would like to go back for a weekend some time and visit more of the sights and museums. Also in Norwich is Sew Creative but we visited their larger shop in Wroxham Barns which stocks a  big selection of quilting fabrics - I enjoyed picking out a few fabrics which I hope will make good accent cushions for our new window seat cushion.

We had an enjoyable morning in Great Yarmouth, shunning the tacky seaside amusements in favour of the excellent museums:  Time and Tide where they had adult dressing up clothes - yay! and we learned all about the history of the herring fisheries, the Potteries museum across the street in a delicious-smelling old herring smokehouse, the English Heritage Row House and Merchant's House, and the Nelson museum. The Silver Darling cafe at the Time and Tide museum had stunningly good food, with probably the best creme brulee either of us has ever had in our lives - all handmade in house by the Portuguese owners.

Living out my Victorian seaside dreams

We even picked up a few more things for the house:  an Arts and Crafts end table for the living room from Norwich, and a nice carved mirror from an antiques fair which will probably go in the hall.

We spent most afternoons lounging at the cottage or in its garden.  I had taken my iPad so was able to catch up on blogs and Craftsy classes, and of course I had taken my knitting.  I did a little work on my next GAAA square, and in the car I was knitting more on my Shetland stitches shawl.  But mainly I was working on a little baby jumper using some yummy ice-cream sparkle yarn I picked up at my LYS called 'Ella' by Sirdar (49% cotton, 48% acrylic, 3% polyester).  It's nice to knit with, and using a basic jumper pattern I made up this little colourwork design.  I did a corrugated rib and then some gingham checks alternating with stripes.

On the way home we stopped at a very strange shop at the Snetterton Race Track which bills itself as the 'biggest model shop in the world', Snetterton Park Models.  I mention it because they did sell dollshouse items (mostly cheaper end stuff), useful terrain items, Zap a Gap and other modelling items like epoxies and fillers, a big range of Christmas cottage models, and quite a lot of toy forts and so forth that could be repurposed.  But visiting is a very strange experience: the shop is enormous, straggling through several connected sheds, and most of the stock is locked behind glass cabinet doors with no staff in sight to help you. In between the glass cabinets are enormous displays, really enormous, like fifty foot long Duplo scenes or 150 foot long model train set ups, which makes it feel more like a museum than a shop.  The lighting is poor and coupled with the completely deserted rooms, it felt a bit like we had strayed into a closed museum.  It certainly wasn't conducive to buying although I did pick up some Fimo and a scrapbook album in the arts and crafts rooms.  But then you have to walk all the way back to the entrance (a long way!) to pay for things.  I have no idea how they stay in business.  Perhaps they get big crowds on race days, or sell a lot online.

It's nice to be home, although the previous owners' population of cat fleas had bred with a vengeance and attacked us immediately even though I had sprayed yet again before we went away.  We sprayed the worst rooms again today - if we keep spraying eventually we will get them all, unless we succumb to poisoning first ourselves from the spray. I've got a busy few days ahead: our possessions are finally coming out of storage this week (hurrah! but boo, there is nowhere to put most of them) and various tradespeople are trooping through for quotations.  I did find it hard to completely relax while we were on holiday because my mind kept worrying at various issues to do with the house.

Hope you are all enjoying your summers and have holidays planned or already taken.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hooray!! Broadband at last (and piccies)

Two days after it was promised, we have broadband at last.  And none too soon because I had to resort to going to bed early last night because I couldn't take any more angst from my overwrought teenager who had nothing to live for (according to him) without broadband. No amount of pep talks or tough love would snap him out of it, so I had to remove myself before I snapped.

So I can finally show some piccies of what I've mentioned in my last few posts - excuse the poor quality of some of them taken quickly with a flash this evening.

Big Eucalyptus tree BEFORE - never should have been planted in a town garden as it was well on its way to growing into an 85 foot high monster

AFTER - all gone and the garden feels much bigger

BEFORE - original Victorian fireplace all broken by someone inserting a gas fire in the 1970s

AFTER - marble mantle removed, and the cast iron insert gone off to the spa for some pampering

The Arts and Crafts cupboard we bought - now gone to hospital for the upper galleries to be restored

My walnut compactum wardrobe (all these rooms will be re-painted)

My 'pot cupboard' nightstand

The Wiernacke bookcase - hopefully going to keep my china and smaller dollshouses dust free

Our linen cupboard (I'm probably going to paint this)

The lace yokes from my Low Tide cardigan when they were blocking

My knitting room in progress with the Expedit shelves under the eaves

My vanilla socks - fairly well matched

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

My giant dollshouse - some progress at last

Blogging from work again because the new broadband doesn’t go live until 8 July.  DS also made the home situation worse by using up my entire 1GB data allowance on my ipad (which would normally last me a month) in the first week after we brought him back from uni, so I only had my smartphone for a few days! He has now bought me a PAYG sim to tide me over until my data resets, plus I have upgraded my contract to 5GB.

We were away on the weekend in a very rickety hired van, visiting three big antiques warehouses in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Manchester, looking for furniture for the new house.  It was quite fun but at the same time very exhausting because these places were huge and we really had to motor through all the aisles and booths, just scanning constantly for furniture that might match our shopping list.  We want to go back to the Lincolnshire place in the car in future, it’s only a two hour drive and it had four buildings stuffed full of all kinds of stuff (Hemswell Antiques Centre).

But we did quite well, I wish I could blog photos but that will have to wait for the broadband.  DS is grumbling and asking why we couldn’t have just got stuff from IKEA, you can’t explain to a teenager the difference in buying something in solid wood, beautifully crafted and with a legacy of past usage.  And with the current market downturn for brown furniture, it’s actually cheaper to buy these lovely pieces than it would be to buy new chipboard/veneer rubbish.  It was a bit scary spending that much money all at once, but we had planned for it and I’m really pleased with what we found:

-          A Victorian pine cupboard-on-cupboard to go in our hall as a linen cupboard
-          A walnut compactum wardrobe for my bedroom
-          An Edwardian walnut ladies’ dressing table – it needs restoration but I got it for a song, we’re taking it to ‘furniture hospital’ on Saturday to see what it will cost to refinish
-          A pretty little Edwardian? chair to go in front of the table, with marquetry inlay
-          A handsome chest of drawers with marquetry detailing on the drawers
-          A really interesting display cabinet which was labelled ‘Victorian chiffonier’ but I think is actually an Arts and Crafts cupboard.  It also needs some TLC to restore a missing gallery on the top.
-          A stack of four Wiernacke bookcases with sliding glass fronts
-          A brass fender for the fireplace we are reinstating, and a mirrored Edwardian wooden overmantel to go above.
-          A 1920s watercolour of DS’s Oxford college (random find that DH just happened to notice on the wall of a venue)
-          A brass framed convex ‘porthole’ mirror

Thanks to much help from experienced dealers at the venues for stacking pieces in the van, and a quick trip to IKEA to buy 10 of their cheap fleece blankets for padding as we had run out and were having to fish clothes out of our suitcases as makeshift substitutes, we got it all home and somehow DS and DH staggered up the stairs with them.  Luckily the wardrobe came apart into several pieces. I’m pleased with my room now, and I think it must look a little like how it would have been when our house was built in 1875.  I will take some pictures once we have broadband.

Things are also starting to move on with the house.  We’ve chosen our kitchen design and the company we will go with, and they should start work at the end of July.  I know there will be a few weeks of chaos but it should be lovely when it is finished.  They are also going to open up the doorway between the kitchen and dining room and refinish the floors in both rooms, as well as sorting out the overhead lighting in the kitchen.

Meanwhile the broken Victorian fireplace was ripped out yesterday and carted off to a specialist place in Leicester for renovation.  They started at 8am and for about 90 minutes the house was shaking with all the pounding and grinding as they chiselled out the marble surround from the plaster and disconnected the cast iron insert.  They also chiselled up the modern brick hearth in the dining room where the replacement fireplace will go, meaning that floor is ready for refinishing now.  I think I’ve found a joiner/carpenter to refit the missing picture rails and window trim, still waiting for his quote but hoping he will come through.  Sadly our first builder has evidently decided he’s not interested in the job because he hasn’t responded to my subsequent calls and he sent back the details of the trade-only kitchen design the company sent to him.  I felt rather annoyed about that, I spent over an hour going over the brief with him and how long would it take to send a short email or text ‘Sorry I’m too busy’ instead of just vanishing.  I’m still trying to find a builder, I’m on about my fifth recommendation now and hoping that guy will come early next week to view the site.  We’ve got permission from the Council to prune the trees and fell the Eucalyptus monster in the back garden, and the tree surgeon is coming on Saturday.  And I managed to fix and reinstate the toilet that broke less than a week after we moved in, and touch wood it isn’t leaking yet so hopefully it is okay now.

Anyway, this blog is supposed to be about my hobbies although it feels like the house is turning into a hobby in a way, like a giant, very expensive dollshouse!

This week I finished the lace yoke for the Low Tide cardigan.  I had to rip out half the back yoke and re-knit because I kept losing track of the fairly simple pattern.  Even now that I’ve blocked the three pieces, I can see they aren’t identical but nobody will be looking at my back and front simultaneously so it should be fine.  Now I’ve got to pick up along the bottom edge to knit the body downwards, and I’m having my usual problem with counting accurately for any number greater than 10.  After counting and re-counting last night I had to give up as I was too tired after all the plumbing work on the toilet.

I’ve also started a new lace shawl, which is a normal triangular shawl but I am making the pattern up as I go along using stitch patterns from the Shetland Lace book that I bought recently.  I started in stockinette with a row of eyelets partway through, and then did a stripe of ‘Mrs Hunters’ pattern which is an unusual garter ground pattern, and now I am doing a more open pattern of eyelets on a stockinette ground.  It is good commuter knitting and was also good for the van trip.

I’ve started to set up the knitting room with some Expedit bookcase units from IKEA.  I had a 16-square unit that I got on eBay, and then I spotted that the 4-square low units were on sale for £19.99 when we went to IKEA to get DS a mattress.  I bought four of them because they are perfect for fitting under the angle of the roof.  Typically I received flak from the ‘boys’ questioning why I was wasting time shopping when we were there for a mattress, but once they saw how perfectly they fit under the roof, DS wanted his own set for his wargaming attic room so I felt vindicated.  Otherwise all the craft stuff is still in bags on the floor in both the sewing, knitting and dollshouse rooms.  I don’t feel very motivated to do much with it until the rest of my stash turns up in three weeks from storage.  Plus I am on the lookout on eBay for a few more Billy bookcases to complete the planned design/storage wall in my sewing room.

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