Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Viennese whirlwinds

I don't often talk about travel really, other than posting photos from time to time; but that's mainly because a lot of the travel that we do revolves around work and noone wants to know what I do during daylight hours.

But this summer's work break took us to Vienna then onto Munich by train; first for a meeting, then for an instrument training. We managed to squeeze a few days actual break between the two, because it wasn't cost effective for us to fly home for three days then fly back out again.

We spent the few days in Salzburg; a place of stunning landscape totally spoilt by marzipan and Mozart.

I found a friendly cactus.

And played with my food. Yep, that was about as exciting as it got. Next year, I'm choosing the conference.

Water, water everywhere... part one

I was going to try and sort these posts out room by room, but if there is one thing I've learnt is that everything takes three times as long as you think it is going to take and the posts will end up being mahoosive if I don't split them up... So I apologise for adding... erm... the entire house... to my half done work in progress pit.

We did make a start in the lounge, but it's now full'o'stuff, so it won't be done until we've fnished the bathroom. The whole house feels like a giant slider puzzle at the moment. Once we finish the bathroom, I can move the suite out of the main bedroom. Then I can put the bed in the main bedroom, freeing up the second bedroom. Once I've done that, I can move the clothes out of the small bedroom, then I can put the crap in the lounge in the small bedroom... I am currently pretending the kitchen and the garden doesn't exist. Soooo.. the bathroom.

A place of sanctuary, of peace, of calm, of serenity...

Not this one. It's gross. Really gross. Body hair and ermm.. splatter... aside, you can see into the kitchen if you stand in the shower tray. It takes open plan living to a whole new level. Bizarrely it doesn't look that gross in the photo, but up close and knowing that the drains are slightly more than blocked, I reckon it was Patrick Bateman's holiday home. I've put all the hair in the recycling too, I thought about listing it on Etsy, but there are only so many voodoo dolls the world needs.

The suite is covered with burn marks and everything leaks. And I mean everything. It's taken us several weeks to fix the plumbing; including dropping some of the pipes into the ceiling void to make it look a bit better. My dad has very kindly made us a box to hide the complicated pipe spaghetti in the corner that we don't want to touch in case we hit an artery. I'm sure it's there for a reason, but even with having spent half my teenage years playing pipe dream and mario, I can't work it out. If I could be bothered, I'd polish up the copper and have them on show, but I can't, so we'll chuck something over it and pretend it doesn't exist.

It looks like this now... It's all in the "garden" (I use that term loosely) for the time being.

We decided, before we realised that the walls weren't flat, to tile floor to ceiling in standard small white ceramic tiles. It looks nice now it is done, but it was a pain in the backside. The walls aren't flat, the corners aren't 90 degrees and the plaster is hollow and weak sounding. So weak in fact that it doesn't stick to the bricks. This was the first set back, as you can't tile onto fresh plaster for quite some time and you can't tile over really big holes.

White tiles - floor to ceiling. We didn't calculate how many we needed, we just guessed. We had a couple left over. Two in fact. The hole in the wall is 10 inches wide by 10 inches high or their abouts. Could I find an air grate that goes across it? Could I hell. After weeks of searching, one is on it's way from Switzerland, via Germany. Or at least it would have been, had the box contained the grate we wanted rather than a tumble drier hose.

The toilet pan is staying; it's about the only servicable thing in the place. I'm not sure I have the knowhow to fit a loo, and actually, if you ignore the fact this one doesn't have a seat or a fully working flush mechanism, it's fine. In that it doesn't leak that much. It has spent the last week full of blue toilet cleaner and has had something that looks like a tribble wedged down it to keep the loo cleaner in contact with the life forms that have built themselves a little fossilised commune on the pan. But it's okay. It can be rescued. It will be traumatised, but it's savable. Hardcore cleaners, a new seat and a new flush and it's all sorted. I'm hoping that the dripping will stop when it's lifted back into place.

We wanted to put a shower quadrant in, not sure why, probably because there was once here when we got here, except it was nasty. When I ordered the suite, I sort of didn't measure things properly so we ended up with a 3/4 length bath and a larger than normal quadrant. I could say was purposeful design - and it does make the bathroom look larger than it actually is. And we are both midgets, so a short bath isn't a problem and it gives me space to fit a unit between the loo and the tap.

Anyway, we pulled up the floor, treated the joists with waterproofing stuff just because, put new floorboards down. Nailed down hardboard, bedded in the shower tray, sealed it... Then we had to drill holes in the wall as the plumbing for the shower is in the room next door for some daft reason. Moving away from above the electrical socket seemed like a good plan (!?).

That covered everything with black powdery crap. I think I'll reseal it when we're done with the drilling.

Installing the free-stand tap was easier than we though and it's not leaking (touch wood). Well, I don't think it is leaking, I can't see, but I'll know tommorrow because the kitchen ceiling will be wet again. I must remember though, that I nailed back the floorboards before removing the drip tray, so there is an ice-cream container in the kitchen ceiling void.

We're putting a decoupling membrane down the floor in the hope that it is a nicer surface to tile onto and because the tiles are slate and the floor is wooden; which, according to most things I've read isn't a good combination. The decoupling membrane is also waterproof - as its the same stuff that can be used to tank wetrooms, which we figured would also give some level of protection for the floor; or at least it would have, had I not butchered it with a craft knife when laying it. Prepping the floor took an age as there were layers upon layers of adhesive, vinyal tiles, glue and rubbish stuck onto the long suffering and rather creaky floorboards. We replaced some of the floorboards under the shower as they were pretty horrible, but the rest were saveable and the creaks could be dealt with with some strategic hammering. The decoupling memebrane went down over a layer of adhesive on the hardboard. I pity the fool that tries to lift this floor in the future - and if anything else leaks, it's getting fixed from the kitchen.

It might look a bit more like a bathroom soon - I hope so, because Holger has invited family over to stay in a couple of weeks and at the moment, that loo seat ain't gonna hold...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Changin' rooms... ur doin' it wrong...

Things we need to do (garden) :

Remove the waste - there is a lot of waste here.

I have just chucked, over the course of two weeks nearly 500 jam jars.

1) there is no need to keep this many jam jars - ever. You will never make that much jam. There is not enough sugar in the world for you to make that much jam. Even if you have shares in a sugar company, you'll never eat that much jam.
2) there is no need to sort them by type into cardboard boxes. This shows you have too much time on your hands.
3) and if you do have a ligitimate use for them , there is even less reason to put the sorted, washed and packed jam jars in boxes in the garden.

Then there was the cooking oil.

Do not keep used cooking oil. It is foul and it smells; and unless you run a company making biofuels, you will not use it again. Especially not if you have taken the time and effort to decant it into 5 litre bottles and chuck it in the garden. Please also do not keep the 5 litre drums you bought the cooking oil in either, they are metal and can go in the recycling. If you had done this when you'd emptied them, I would have not have had to have spent two hours jet washing them so they could go into the bin.

this is going to take a while... a long while...

Monday, 2 May 2011

House hunting

It's been all go here for the last few months - we've been on our honeymoon and finally found a house. We have been house hunting for a few months, but nothing has really stood out for us. Mainly because we live in an area where 60K will buy you a static caravan. House hunting sucks.

I have traipsed round countless horrendous properties over the last few weeks and it is sapping my soul. I think the problem in my city is that there is a thriving buy-to-let market. Which in effect, means squeezing as many matresses into one room as possible. Lots of properties up here are marketed as 4-bedroom; which effectively means that the lounge is labelled as a downstairs bedroom. Or the larger room has a temporary sheet of plasterboard pinned across the middle of it.

Part of our criteria though was to find a house that was a project. I have very clear images in my head of how I want this house to look, so we needed to find somewhere that "had potential", but potential that could be realised by basic DIY rather than by thirty litres of petrol and a house insurance claim.

It took a while, after seeing multiple houses with garages that have been converted to living spaces, dodgy self built extensions, places that smelt of animals/dead people and places where the fleas had moved out in protest, we finally found something. What sold it was the kitchen - it was the first place we'd seen where I could stand in the middle of the kitchen with my arms outstretched, spin round and not hit the wall. It doesn't have anything in it though, other than an oven which I am not even opening as I have no wish to disturb the primordial soup that is growing in it. It is taped shut for a reason.

And so begins the project... how not to renovate a house...

Friday, 25 February 2011

Travel files - Latvia (Riga)

Courtesy of Air Baltic, we spent the last few days of our time after the wedding in Riga before flying back to the UK.

They also had snow...

...and ducks, in the snow

and other things in the snow

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Creative accounting

I do ocassionally pick up a copy of the Financial Times. I can never be bothered to read it, but there is something nice about using the stocks and shares pages to draw on with charcoal. I hadn't done this for ages as I just haven't had a great deal of time recently but I acquired a copy when travelling last week as they occassionally give you news papers on the plane. I had a choice between the FT, The Mail and something printed in Russian, so the choice was an easy one.

This is the box I keep my receipts in. The scorch marks on the top were as a result of me playing with a pyrography iron, but didn't really like where it was going so never finished the design. I've been wanting to brighten it up to cover over this scribble, but as usual, it's been langishing in the work-in-progress pit for ages.

Just using slightly watered down PVA glue to stick strips of paper to the box allows me to build up the layers and cover the previous attempt at doing something with this box.

Carrying on...

We have this jar at home where we put coins from overseas that we didn't manage to spend on sweets at the airport. Last time I checked in here there were coins from over fifteen different currencies, some of which don't even exist any more and some of which are from places I'll probably never visit again. As I'm still going to be using this for keeping reciepts in, it seems fitting to use some of these coins to embellish the box.

I've just added a couple of stripes of ribbon down the sides then pasted a couple of the coins on top to finish it off.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Standing on ceremony

I have been a bit tardy with the whole blog thing recently, but that is mainly because I have been organising a wedding.

Actually, I say that loosely because I haven't actually be organising a wedding, I've been answering emails to a person who is organising my wedding for me whilst trying to stop other people attempting to out-organise my wedding organiser. Quite frankly, if I had my way, we'd have run off somewhere ourselves and just told everyone when we got back - but the risk of the wrath of family was too much to bear (I started this blog after the "curious incident of the graduating in absentia fail" but you get the general idea).

As far as I could see it though, the easiest way to avoid full on veil-fail was to go abroad. This has several advantages as far as I could see - I don't have to invite people I don't like, I don't have to have an after party and I don't have to give a damn about chair covers and table scatter. In fact, I don't have to do anything because a lovely lady in another country is doing it all for me.

Given that OH proposed in front of a glacier in Iceland, we've chosen somewhere equally freezing to get married; an ice castle in Finland. This rather handily solves a lot of problems for us - in particular not having to worry about anything other than just turning up and trying not to freeze to death. A lot of the traditional things simply just go out the window; which is great for someone like me who really doesn't like to do things because other people think I should and likes even less doing things with such horrible roots just because the meanings have been lost over time. But there was a problem - OH proposed at the end of September and the ice castle only has a short season, so we either winged it and did all the planning in a couple of months or waited until next year.

As far as I can see, planning a wedding doesn't actually involve as much effort as people seem to think it does. Venue - done within a couple of emails, food - checklist with the venue, guest list - as short as possible, dress - that is what the internet is for and the rest of it was just a case of talking nicely to the make-up lady in debenhams and going to the outdoor shop in search of ski gear we could fit under a dress and a suit. All of the sundry bits came from folksy and etsy.

But then there is the issue of the flowers. I wasn't actually going to bother with flowers because it will be minus five inside the venue, but when I was sorting through my craft box, I found some wonderful old glass vintage buttons and combined with some lovely plastic flowers I bought from folksy, a frost-free flower bunch resulted.

Twisting the beads, buttons, broken jewellery and flowers together allows me to build up sprays. The wires are paper coated cake wires and just came out of my sugarcraft box.

Carrying on allows layers and layers of stuff to be wired together.

Eventually it gets to this stage and the shape starts to appear. I was aiming for a teardrop shaped bunch rather than a round one.

Further building up of beads and buttons, then sealing the sprays in with white waxed florists tape gives something that looks like this. I've made a matching buttonhole for OH using the same sort of technique. I think I'll ditch the snowflake ribbon though.

Wrapping the handle with white yarn to soften it a bit and make it easier to hold...

Then with lace to cover the yarn. I bought this back from a fabric market in Korea orginally.

Brightening up the handle...

And all finished. I won't be throwing it though, it weighs over half a kilo.

Huge thank you to these folksy people, whose shops I raided for beads and the like to help finish this project: Destash by SimJaTa

Friday, 21 January 2011

Travel files - Iceland (Reykjavík to Jökulsárlón)

I was just sorting through my files when I came across some of my travel snaps from last september. I fully admit I'm a dreadful photographer, but just sometimes the scenery does all the work for you.

I could live in Iceland, I really could. It's amazing.