A year and a day (or two)

It might not seem like a year since I announced a completed house purchase, but it is. A year and a few days in fact! Actually buying the house felt like a huge achievement, buying our first home took 9 months, cost a lot in surveyors fees and involved 3 failed sales ... read the contents of the "house" category in chronological order if you missed the story.

On that day, it felt like we'd come a long way. And today, it feels like we've come a longer way still! In the year we've been in the house, we've

  • Thrown out most of the contents of it (but the garage is still full)
  • Re-acquired our possessions which were in storage for 18 months and (mostly) unpacked them
  • Cleared the garden (still no lawn and some digging still to go but its way better than it was
  • Got all the guttering fixed
  • Added central heating
  • Rewired the house
  • Become an aunt and uncle
  • Completely made over the front garden
  • Acquired a piano
  • We've both changed jobs and/or been promoted
  • Been broken into
  • Redecorated most of the ground floor
  • Paid the mortgage for 12 months

All in all its been a pretty exciting time, and its hard to believe its a whole 12 months since we picked up the keys, and wandered around the house, not quite believing it was real (it was, filth and all!). Its been quite a ride, cost more than we thought, and been at least as bad as we'd feared :) We've had lots of help from friends and family and we're very grateful for everything everyone has done to help, advise, or whatever. I was at my mum's house last weekend, and realised with a jolt I was homesick ... for Leeds. I've been homesick for her home pretty much since I left it - but this is my home now.

I know there will be other events in our lives, and harder times probably ahead. But for now we feel lucky; we're happy, we're healthy, and I hope it lasts!

Baby Courgette Plants

Recently my friend Deb, Leeds Geekup organiser and Ruby developer, gave me two baby courgette plants ... she even went so far to photograph me, slightly tipsy, leaving the pub to get the bus home:

I did get the plants home intact and planted them out. I was going to post a whole garden post as I have a few other things also to plant, but I've been elsewhere all week and now its raining rather a lot, so I'm blogging instead. Here's the courgette plants in their new home:

Waiting for my attention are some sweet peas given to me by Great Uncle Sid and some training lobelia I bought yesterday to try to improve the view from my new kitchen window ... more about those another day.

Nest Of Tables

We've been decorating the living room since what feels like forever, I'll post some proper pictures of it finished but here is a sneak preview of the photos I took of the new nest of tables that's been waiting for us to finish decorating for a few months. I finally put them together at the weekend.

Attempted Break-in

Last night we came home at around midnight and disturbed an intruder. Nobody hurt and nothing taken, is the short version.

We got back, walked up to the front door and I decided I needed to water my plants as they were looking at bit sad. So I went up the side of the house to the back to get the watering can while Kevin went in the front door. The back of our house is pitch black at night but I know it well so I just wandered round, right along the back of the house and grabbed the watering can. I then looked around and realised there was something moving in the dark ... something very big. Eventually this heaving shape resolved itself into a man climbing out of my kitchen window at which point I started SCREAMING. Forget panic alarms, I was easily louder than any of those, the whole street must have heard me.

As I was only about 4 feet from the man in question, he must have got a fair fright as well (who wanders around back gardens in the pitch black at midnight after all??). Seems like he heard Kevin going in the front and scarpered back out the way he came in. Of course Kevin, in the house, has no idea what is happening other than there is screaming outside the house ... I can't imagine what was going through his mind when he realised it was me screaming. Anyway I ran back to the front, went in the house and after some total incoherence explained to Kevin what I'd seen. At which point we had no idea if there was still anyone in the house or anything.

I rang the police and our neighbours were also out asking if we were OK, they very kindly helped Kevin check if there was anyone else in the house. The police responded quickly and were very good, which is great. I'm sure they had enough going on on a Saturday night! Anyway the fingerprint people came this morning and got a good footprint from the kitchen counter, which was very interesting as I've never seen them do that before.

To cut a long story short, we are fine, nobody was hurt (although we both got almighty frights), and nothing was taken. The window is boarded up now and we will get it replaced as quickly as we can. It seems like the intruder thought we were upstairs asleep (car on the drive, no lights on, midnight), and it was just very lucky that we got back when we did, there was no sign that he had been anywhere other than the kitchen.

Weedkiller

The garden, the bit of it we haven't dug over yet, is FULL of dandelions! I didn't have time to dig them all up but I did go and pick all the flowers in an effort to stop them seeding.

They're pretty though :)

Weeds!

Bank Holiday Weekend To Do List

Its Easter, which means its the only time of the year we reliably get 4 days off in a row from work without taking leave. And one thing I don't have is a lot of holiday allocation. So, we've got good intentions of getting as much as possible done in the house (or at least, I've got good intentions and will rope in anyone who crosses the threshold). Apart from a whole lot of cleaning and catch-up in the house which is normal, I'm hoping to get some or all of the following done:

  • coal hole sorted out - we have the original coal cellar in our hose which was full of DIY stuff and other junk when we bought it - not much has come out and we've put a lot more stuff in, to the point where you now can't get in the door and can't find anything!
  • workshop space sorted - this follows on from the previous point - all the tools and stuff are in B&Q bags all over the floor in the other basement room because we haven't got any usable storage
  • garden digging - got about the last 20 ft square of digging to do in the garden before we can lay turf ... weather forecast is lousy though so I doubt that will happen
  • runs to the tip - many many of these I should think, hopefully taking some of the junk out of the garage
  • living room woodwork - skirting boards and dado rails need cutting to fit, sanding, staining and actually fitting. Fireplace needs sanding and staining and reassembling. Window sill needs staining. Window frame needs repairing. Door needs a new handle. After that we might start on the shelving we're going to build

We do have help (anyone else at a loose end please feel free to come over as well!) but if we get half of this done it'll be a miracle, wish us luck and have a good weekend yourself :)

Grand Entrance Hall

When the rewiring of the house was done in November and our parquet flooring was a casualty of the process. We've spent the months since then with a hallway that looks like this:

Please admire the retro red and orange floorboards!!

Anyway, things are looking a lot better now - we've got a new floor!! I am so excited by this that I am providing a cartoon strip style display :)

I forgot to photograph the doormat we got - its in the porch, fitted rubber-backed doormat stuff that you lay like a carpet. So first impressions on entering our place are now quite different (so long as you ignore the holes in the wall)

Preparing to Telecommute

On Monday I start my new job and I'll be mostly working from home which will be nice, but quite a change. I have a lot of online friends that I have yet to meet in real life but to have a whole set of colleagues, some of them in another country (IBuildings is a Dutch company) is all new to me. It'll be nice to avoid the annoyances of sharing an office, with other people's music and cleaning up after others too. I know I am organised and self-motivated enough to manage the working patterns as well, which is one less thing to worry about. If I had needed to be in the office every day, I simply couldn't have managed it as they are based in London. In preparation for next week, I thought I'd share some photos of my home office. To the left are my flower pictures that I found in a box when we moved, they came from another house we previously rented.

I also have some essential accessories for any office: A map of the world and a nabaztag. This one is called Tag and is our second one of these rabbits.

Finally, check out my lovely big office chair, modelled here by my Christmas bear, now named Busibear as he lives in the office and oversees business. The chair was a birthday present from my parents, thanks mum and dad :)

I have a nice new notebook and a futon for any visitors that pop in, I think I'm all set...

TV Aerial Arrives

I'm proud to announce that as of last week (Tuesday, to be precise) we are now the proud owners of a TV aerial and now have TV signal to the house. You can tell how much we enjoy the telly by the swiftness with which we had this done ... only 8 month and 4 days after buying the house!

I should point out that the TV signal doesn't actually reach the TV because we're deccorating and the TV is in the other room, but its progress. We had a second TV point put in to the office so the webserver can record stuff for us, so we can now watch things over the network. I can't see when we're going to have time to watch any of it but the recordings are there, just in case. I know a lot of people have thought it strange we didn't miss the TV, surely we can't be the only people who don't watch the thing?

Wall Worries

I opened a metaphorical can of worms the other night. While fillering the last few holes in the last wall in the living room, almost ready to paint, I saw a break in the plaster and some black furry mould growing there. Now the wall had been a bit mouldy in other places but we just took some panelling off the walls and the room was a kitchen at one time so we didn't think a lot of it. So I chipped away at the crack, just to make sure there wasn't anything bad going on.

It was kinda black and furry underneath the plaster too, and I started to find layers of stuff under the plaster ...

At this point the smell of damp and the slightly wet wallpaper layers coming off the wall started to ring alarm bells and we started scraping to see how big the area affected was.

By the time we had got everything off the wall that we could, beyond the edges of the apparent damp and back to the original plaster covered with five distinct layers of (amazing, retro) wallpaper, then artex, then more plaster, then painted, we ended up with this:

We think this is all due to there having been a broken downspout exactly on the other side of that wall, it was broken when we moved in and we don't know how long it was like that. Its now fixed and the wall seems to be drying out OK on the inside.

However that leaves us with several large holes in the walls in that room, from rewiring, boiler removal, panelling removal and half a wall that wasn't plastered in the first place for reasons that aren't clear. There is also a weird bit in the ceiling after the shower leaked through it and we had to replace a whole section. It turns out that it is going to cost less than 400 pounds to have the whole thing, walls and ceilings, completely skimmed to flat walls and proper corners ... so they are coming on Wednesday to do it. We weren't planning on it but at least then we'll be able to paint and the walls will be much more beautiful than anything we'd manage ourselves.