Archive for the ‘Home improvements’ Category

Well, what a year that’s been! We have been thrown plenty of challenges to keep us on our toes. As a result the last 12 months have just flown by with my blogging falling a bit by the wayside (I plan to remedy that). We tackled a leaky heating system which saw our wooden floors come up and, following a bit of plumbing, go back down. We then sold the Mutter-in-law’s home and built her a self-contained flat adjoining our house. All in all it’s been a roller coaster ride that we are quite happy to step off – a bit shaken but immensely proud of our staying power.

Z and his mother had a lot of letting-go to contend with; a beloved house on a unique site and the whittling down cherished possessions to a chosen few. The general building bugbears of manhandling large pieces of furniture, juggling finances and never being able to leave the house because of the slim possibility of a passing tradesman pale in comparison to the emotional aftermath. While the construction work and the logistics of moving are behind us we still have many, many cardboard boxes filled with “stuff” to deal with. It pains me to consign unwanted (uncompostable) objects to the dump where it will be dug into the ground for eternity. So what’s the alternative? To find a new use or owner for each item…..I will definitely try my best. Suggestions are welcome…..c’mon folk help me out!

The whole process has me thinking about how we operate as consumers. Usually without a thought for where the product we are buying will end it’s useful life. I’m not suggesting that that we stop consuming but can our purses encourage manufacturers to produce items and packaging that are biodegradable and/or compostable? Even if items were produced from recycled materials and were suitable to be re-recycled at the end of their life it would greatly reduce landfill. It is up to us to make choices that will push industries to consider these options.  Last year I took the “Love What you Wear Challenge” and I didn’t buy any new clothes for the whole year- only second hand garments, handmade clothes and upcycling allowed. While I didn’t actually manage to create any pieces I did keep to the challenge and plan to keep to it for another year. This time I’m cranking it up a notch and dusting off the sewing machine.  Note to friends: please organise an intervention if I end up looking like Worzel Gummidge‘s first cousin……

So yeah, Happy New Year to y’all!

Best wishes for all that you do in 2014

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The days are stretching into the evenings lifting our overall mood as we beaver away in our attic studio. Our office windows face west which means the afternoon sun streams in through three VELUX® windows. Sunlight is a wonderful thing. Quite apart from the mind-blowing fact that life on earth couldn’t be sustained without it, its health benefits cannot be denied. As it passes through glazing it does, however, lose some of its brownie points.

Direct sunlight emits ultraviolet radiation consisting of both UVB and UVA rays. UVBs are the good ultraviolet rays that promote the production of Vitamin D in humans while UVAs penetrate the skin deeper and exposure to them in excessive amounts can cause sunburn and skin damage. Among other benefits, vitamin D is essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium in the body. Sadly, glass blocks out the UVB rays, allowing only the more potentially harmful UVAs through.

Nonetheless, the windows of a house are so important to the general wellbeing and comfort its inhabitants. Psychologically, there’s nothing more peaceful that the sight of beautiful green fields, leafy treetops or even clouds floating calmly across the vista. Windows maximise solar gain when faced in a southerly direction and offer a means of refreshing the air through ventilation. I cannot fortheloveofgod understand why people buy artificial air fresheners when there is a perfectly good window waiting to be opened. And all that glass fills our rooms up with a natural source of light reducing the need to switch on the electric lights.


As much as we love our VELUX windows, in the summer months we will find it difficult to work in our office between 3 and 4pm with the intense heat that the sunlight produces. Luckily, the clever folk at VELUX are a step ahead of us! They have specially designed blinds that provide welcome shade from excess summer sun and at the same time offer insulation during the winter. Like I said…Clever! We will certainly be investing in these before summer arrives. Although, downing tools at 3pm to absorb some essential UVBs is an attractive alternative….

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LED lights ChristmasChristmas festivities are fast approaching. Time to dust off the decorations and to jolly up your environs with tinsel and flashing lights. If your Christmas lights have been with you since that time in your life when Santa was as real as the tooth fairy then it may be time to replace them. Older lights are likely to be incandescent bulbs and, although reasonably cheap to buy, they use far more electricity than the newer LED versions. So if you are replacing or adding to your Christmas light collection consider the benefits of LEDs.

Benefits of LED lights
But LED lights are not just for Christmas! Recently we replaced some of our spot lights with Panasonic LED bulbs. We were pleasantly surprised at how much LED technology has improved. The light is soft and atmospheric in comparison to the glaring cold light of the first generation spots we installed a few years ago. The cone of light is 36 degrees – suitable for most applications. The LED spot uses a mere 4 watts compared to its halogen equivalent of 35 watts, giving us an impressive energy saving of 89%. Brilliant!

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Though Sugru is not fully biodegradable or organic it earns buckets of greenie points (as opposed to brownie points…) for it’s fantastic ability to fix stuff. It was invented by Jane, an Irish product designer living in London. The name is inspired by the Irish word to play- sugradh. It can fix almost everything from key fobs to door knobs. It is malleable like play-do for easy application. When cured it is sturdy and reliable yet amazingly still manages to retain its pliability. Dazzled by it’s magical properties Z bought a packet to play with. It comes in small sealed sachets of several colours that once opened need to be used up straight away as it sets in 24 hours.

For that reason we had been gathering broken items to fix- a sort of gadget hospital. Last night we decided we had enough injuries to warrant opening two sachets. We lined up our patients: the unhinged casing on a small digital clock; the snapped-off knob of my mothers teapot lid and the dislocated handle of a scissors and with charged fevour we molded our damaged goods back to funtionality. It’s very satisfying to work with. A sad admission of how dull our lives are but I would even go as far as to say it was fun. We are already forming a heap for our next Sugru session. Has anyone else given it a go?

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Maybe you don’t need that shiny new dining suite making eyes at you from the IKEA catalogue. Think twice before you condemn your tatty furniture to the skip. It may just need some TLC; new covers, a lick of paint or even a good polish.

Yesterday my 60’s g-plan chairs came back from the upholsterer’s sporting beautiful new seat covers to match my curtains. There’s extra padding in there too and they are so much more comfortable that the (sticky-in-the-heat) PVC that was originally used. I inherited the seats from my grandad and I wasn’t prepared to part with them but it was always stressful having folk round. As visitors would go to sit on my wobbly chairs there was always the audible intake of breadth as we anticipated a tumble to the floor. Luckily all our visitors left bruise-free and with dignity still intact. Thanks to Hazel and staff from Springtime, my local upholstery shop, for taking apart and re-gluing my chairs and making life a little less stressful.

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