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Saturday, 29 August 2015

House Quirks - Part One

So, last week I shared our initial moving in house post and I promised to share some of the more interesting house quirks (or bodge jobs as the Mr calls them), so here we go!

The first thing I noticed when we stepped through the front door with the keys in our hands was that the previous owners had left a lot of random things attached to the walls.  There were coat hooks, childrens plaques, mirrors and strangest of all two notice boards in the kitchen.

A bit of closer investigation to the notice boards revealed that the previous DIY novices had left it all behind as it was attached with no more nails!  I mean seriously, who sticks a light weight cork board to the wall with a heavy grade adhesive when a simple frame hook will do?  What were their magnets made of, lead weights?!

For those of you that are fortunate enough not to be familiar with this god awful invention, when you try to remove anything that is secured to a wall with it, the damage is so severe that great big chunks of plaster are taken with it!


The problem with no more nails is that the damage it causes extends far beyond where it was applicated.  By the time I had removed all the surrounding blown plaster I ended up with this huge area of disaster.


Sadly the damage caused isn't minor either, as you can see it runs pretty deep and is going to need a lot more than the two seconds required for filling a frame hook pin hole, if the boards had been hung correctly.


I know it is a personal taste thing, but I hate dado rail.  At some point, one of the previous owners thought it would be a great idea to put dado rail in the hallway, lounge, stairway and upstairs landing.  In some places this had been secured with the correct pins, but in some places an adhesive had also been used.  More damage to the plaster.


3 weeks in to our project and we are still filling and sanding the bloody plaster!  We've used just over 11kg of ready made filler and I fear the end is still not in sight.  There is no way we could have afforded to get a plasterer out to rectify all the damage caused by no more nails!


This is probably my favourite bodge of all, just because of the sheer comedy value!  The previous owners actually managed to attach the tap upside down.  Not just content with that, but they then layered it with hard curing putty to make it near impossible to fix without replacing the whole bloody thing.


If you are aiming for more than a dribble of water from the tap, then you are out of luck.  The water pressure is so high that it arcs out high over the kitchen window and helpfully waters our flowering tree in the garden.  Try filling a bucket from that!


 In some areas of the house, they decided to screw heavier items directly into the wall from the front.  What mirror isn't complete with a set of 4 screw heads poking through the wood?


When you have children, you want to personalise the house with all their crap and make it accessible to them.  Children grow at quite a speed and perhaps someone should have pointed out that securing a cute animal wooden coat hook at their children's height with no more nails is a bad idea.  Not only will they not be able to easily change the height as their child sprouts up, they also can't easily remove the thing when the child decides that animal coat hooks are for babies.


If the paint on the wall starts to crack and blister, surely it indicates that something is wrong?  Perhaps it would be wise to find out if it was just lack of preparation on the last decorators part, or something more sinister like damp?  Or you could just paint over it (including the bits that had flaked back to bare concrete) and hope for the best!


This is confined to one area of the master bedroom (the corner of the two external walls) and at some point it looks like there has definitely been a damp issue (although it has resolved or been rectified).


The problem with just ignoring an issue like this (or just painting over it) means that when the poor next owner comes to try and rectify another bodged job, the damage has extended well beyond the initial point.


The internal walls of the house have been so damaged by no more nails and lack of general house maintenance that in all honesty we need a professional plasterer to come in and make good.  Sadly the thousands that this will cost is well beyond our budget.  This means the walls all have to be stripped back by us and filled/sanded to an acceptable level.  Unfortunately we are not skilled plasterers (although coincidentally I was considering signing up for a course just before we found out I was expecting!) and so 95% of the house will need to be wall papered to hide any blemishes.  Eventually we may be able to stretch to having one room plastered at a time, but right now this is the most sympathetic and cost effective approach to rectifying the damage.

I've called this post part one as I am sure we will have plenty of other 'bodges' to share with you along the way!



Saturday, 22 August 2015

New House!

Well it has taken almost 5 months, but we finally completed on our new house!

Previously we have always been lucky enough to rent or own new build flats and so purchasing a property almost as old as me and the Mr has taken a huge dose of adjustment! We purchased our house on the shared ownership scheme and although it is far from perfect (and admittedly very over-priced!) we know we were lucky enough to be accepted as the scheme is highly sought after with huge waiting lists.  For us (like most), it was the only way we would ever be able to buy our very own home.

The major drawback with viewing shared ownership homes is that only the barest of details are listed (both online and with the estate agent/housing association) and you are lucky to see a photo of the outside of the property, it is almost never that a listing will feature interior shots or floor plans.  This means that you get into the habit of booking to view and having to keep an open mind when it comes to figuring out if this mystery house could be your dream home.

We had spent a total of 10 minutes viewing the house and although we could see it was tired and needed a lot of work, we knew we had to register our interest anyway as securing a house on the shared ownership scheme is a rare thing indeed.  We were initially told that the house had been offered to someone else, however a few days later we received a call to advise us their funding had fallen through (told you it was over-priced!) and were we still interested.  We jumped at the chance and were pleased as punch to finally be on our way up the housing ladder.

There were a lot of niggles with buying shared ownership that I will address one day in another post, but for now let's just focus on the awesome house!

Because the buying process dragged on, by the time the completion date rolled round we had mainly forgotten about the exact layout of the house and argued a lot about where things would eventually go!  As I mentioned before shared ownership property photographs are rather thin on the ground, BUT with a bit of internet detective work I did manage to find a 2008 listing for the property in the rightmove archives, complete with floor-plan!  Now we knew from our viewing that this was massively outdated (the latest owners were not a fan of domesticity and it really showed!) but it was better than nothing.

As you can see from the floor-plan, it isn't a mansion but it does have some nifty storage and a slightly bigger than average (for the house size) garden.


The outside looks pretty much the same, just even more tried!  A definite lick of paint is needed on that woodwork.


A perfectly functional kitchen


The garden is quite a good size and was at one time low maintenance but looked after.


I quite like the layout of the dining area as although it is attached to the living room, it still feels separate and has the bonus of the kitchen door being opposite the table area.


We are lucky enough to have two bedrooms and this is the master, a good size.

When the current owners moved out, they were inconsiderate enough to leave the house in quite a mess (I spent hours cleaning our flat making it welcoming for the new owners).  In fact I was so shell shocked at how severe the dirt and damage appeared (since our 10 minute viewing 5 months prior) that I forgot to take photographs until we started working on it!


We are actually lucky enough to have a hallway off the front door, a rarity in todays newer builds!


Just off the hallway we have a downstairs loo, essential in any home!  This room was probably the dirtiest in the house.  I usually have an iron stomach, but it took me a few days to steel myself against the filth to tackle it with bleach, gloves and a mask.  The wall tiles actually turned brown when I started wiping, it was months (if not years of filth) and yes that is a plastic cistern you can see, definitely original to the house :)


This poor sink was so old/dirty that all the metal work has corroded and not even the wonders of cillit bang can bring back it's sparkle, it definitely needs replacing.


The lounge isn't a bad size and although we aren't a fan of the dado rail, the work needed is mainly cosmetic.


I am slightly worried if our leather beast of a sofa and huge cuddle chair is going to fit, but I'm being optimistic!


We know just how lucky we are to have patio doors that go straight from the dining area into the garden and it is something the dogs will love!


Just off the living area we have this under-stairs cupboard with full size door.  It is a great area for storage and I have my heart set on converting part of it for pantry use!


The under-stairs cupboard isn't huge, but I think I can give it a makeover so the hoover can live in harmony with the pantry part.

 According to the latest owners the kitchen was updated two years ago.  In my opinion it was trashed two years ago!  Plug sockets were replaced at wonky angles and since the 'new' kitchen went in it has suffered major damage from improper use.  We have missing handles, broken cupboards and drawers, holes in cabinets, cracked floor tiles and the dirt is unbearable to think about.  The kitchen in our old flat was almost 6 years old and I am proud to say looked almost as good as new thanks to our careful ownership.

The old owners also left us with an unusable sink as they had bodged removing their washing machine and couldn't find a waste pipe cap to replace the part they removed.  A quick trip to wickes luckily solved this.


The kitchen isn't huge, but it's definitely bigger than my last one.


The stairs are actually off the hallway which is the preferable alternative to having them in the living room

Because they are so enclosed the stairs are quite dark, a light colour is definitely going to be needed.


The upstairs landing is tiny and windowless meaning like the stairs it is pretty dark unless all the bedroom/bathroom doors are open.


We do have the old airing cupboard where the heating tank used to be housed.  Although that curtain has to go!


Plenty of storage for towels and bedding in here!


When we first moved in, there were no bedroom doors attached to either room.  Quite annoying but I'm sure the previous owners had their reasons.


The master bedroom once belonged to children and so like the rest of the house it is worn and filthy.



Admittedly I am a little worried about painting over the areas where the vinyl has been, I just hope it doesn't take too many coats to stop it peeking through.


This room is a good size and definitely bigger than our old master bedroom.


When we tried re-hanging the second bedroom door, we realized what a bodge job it was.  There was a good 2 inches difference in height between one end and the other, with a wonky connecting line to boot!


We are lucky enough that this is a double bedroom too, we just need to decide if the baby or the business gets it!


The bathroom isn't a bad size, yet again it's just been poorly finished.  The toilet has a huge lean to the right and so far no one has been brave enough to use it!


The garden is beautiful and sunny!


Although it definitely needs some TLC, it definitely has potential!


We have a nice flowering tree in the corner


As the house is semi-detached, we are lucky enough to have side access from the front straight though to the back, this will be invaluable I'm sure!


The current owners put these weird trip hazards randomly dotted around the garden and my lovely mother in law is terrified I am going to trip (clumsy, me?) and squish the baby, they have to go!


One of the nicest surprises about the garden was this double shed.  Although it's been placed in a very awkward position (the middle of the garden!) it is going to be perfect as a work studio once water proofed and insulted.


I have to admit that I think the house looks very smart from the back!

In truth I am itching to move in, but we have owned it for two weeks now and the list of work that needs to be completed before we can finally start moving our items in seems to be growing.

Next time the make over will begin and I will reveal some of the slightly odder DIY quirks that our new house seems to possess!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Kitchenaid Vs Kenwood

For as long as I can remember I have coveted a KitchenAid mixer.  It's sleek 1950s design calls to me and KitchenAid's reputation for being a workhorse in the kitchen has convinced me that my baking life would be enhanced by this object of beauty.  I've watched every season of The Great British Bakeoff and dreamed of replicating the recipes with my very own pastel beast.

I am fortunately now in the position to buy one but here's the rub, spending £386 on a glorified kitchen appliance is causing palpitations.  I refused to spend that amount on our fridge or dishwasher and these are considered vital kitchen equipment (in our house anyway).

Every blog or discussion forum I have gone to in my bid to research the KitchenAid Artisan has harbored a set of equally passionate Kenwood kMix owners that are proving that performance wise their machine can't be beaten.  They are the first to admit that it does not look as beautiful as the KitchenAid Artisan (although the newer KMX80 is a big improvement in the looks department) but many claim to keep it in a cupboard when not in use.  The ultimate statement of 'Its definitely not as pretty, but I am buying a mixer, not a work of art' from a kMix owner is one that I'm struggling to argue with logically.

In an effort to try and help thrash this argument out, let's compare the two machines specifications side by side.

KitchenAid Artisan - £386.10 Currys

  • Power 300w
  • Capacity 4.8 litres
  • Attachments Available Yes
  • Speed Levels 10

Amazon Reviews - 4.7/5 from 262 reviews

Kenwood kMix KMX80 - £299 Curys

  • Power 500w
  • Capacity 5 litres
  • Attachments Available Yes
  • Speed Levels 8

Amazon Reviews - 4.7/5 from 572 reviews

I know that there are cheaper models of the kMix available, but for me aesthetics will play a big part in my decision and so I had to choose a model that I would be happy to have on display, as space is at a premium in my wee kitchen!

On paper it is a bit of a no-brainer, the kMix is not only cheaper, the attachments are too and it is definitely the stronger model.  However in my heart I worry that if I were to buy the kMix it would feel like settling for something.  I fear that I would regret my decision and always wish I had spent a bit extra on the machine I have always lusted for.

After all, if the KitchenAid Artisan is good enough for the bakeoff tent, then it should be good enough for me!

Does anyone have experience with either of these models?

Monday, 4 May 2015

Gourmet Gadgetry Electric Popcorn Maker Review

For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with savory popcorn!  When Walkers bought out their own Cheesy popcorn in my tweens, I was obsessed.  I loved the taste, the branding and even now almost 16 years later I still know all the words to the advert!


Sadly I seemed to be one of the few that loved the extreme cheesy taste and the product was soon pulled.  Over the years I have resorted to all kinds of inferior products to get my popcorn fix, but none lived up to the taste of Sundog. 

The popcorn industry in the US has been going strong for years, but it's only recently starting to catch on in the UK and I am in my element!  My absolute favourite is Tyrells Sour Cream and Jalepeno Proper Popcorn

The flavors may not be as punchy as I'd like, but they are so savory that it ticks all my boxes!  The problem is that this stuff is pretty over-priced (1,275% mark up for most popcorn!) and this particular blend is becoming increasingly hard to find.

There is a solution to being such a cheapskate fuss pot, make my own!

I admit that microwavable butter popcorn has long been a guilty pleasure of mine, but the calories are pretty intense and we try to limit the amount of microwaved food we consume.  I have been considering an electric air popper for ages, but never got round to buying one.  However last December the Mr decided to take me to Lakeland to pick my Christmas presents and when I saw this beautiful red machine I decided to take a gamble!


 It is marketed as a 'retro design' I'm not sure I would agree with this, but I do love the red (it matches my kitchen).

It is a very simple mechanism with an inner chamber that rotates at speed whilst circulating really hot air.  This hot air pops the kernels and et voila, popcorn!  Above the chute is space to store the measuring scoop, this not only delivers the right amount of kernels without the need to weigh them, but you can also place butter in it and the heat from the popper will melt it providing a perfect popcorn topping!

We've used this a handful of times now and I can honestly say I'm really pleased with it.  The simplicity is actually really impressive and although air popcorn is reputed to have a slightly drier taste and texture, but for me personally this method doesn't detract from the taste.

There are tons of popcorn flavoring recipes out there now and Asda have even started selling their own seasonings.

We've tried the Nacho Cheese and Sweet and Salty, both of which are devine.  I also plan to purchase some gourmet flavorings at some stage too!