Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Green fingered fun

This little plastic addition to our garden was a birthday present from some Dutch friends. It's called a cold frame and is meant to assist seedlings burst into something useful, whilst keeping creepy crawlies out.

I've managed to sprout a selection of chives and lettuces, as well as some weeds, but I can't quite tell what's a weed vs lettuce at this point. Slugs and snails have managed to bypass the corrigated plastic and infiltrate the frame. I've poured table salt around the edges to deter them and if that doesn't work will try sinking a plastic cup of beer into the ground as that's supposed to kill them (or at least make them tipsy and lose their motivation?)

Am hoping that we'll end up with a selection of healthy lettuces soon as it tastes so much better to eat fresh leaves than something that's been kept in a plastic bag and washed in bleach. I've never had much luck with plants (now down to just one house plant indoors actually) so I'm not holding out much hope. Plan B if the lettuces don't survive is to buy some ready sprouted seedlings and plant those out.

(Tips on keeping them alive would be gratefully received!)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Reviving the outdoor furniture

Last month I wrote how Ronseal had ruined our wooden outdoor furniture by aging it somewhat prematurely. I wrote to their customer service team who offered to refund the cost of their product and replace with something else from their range. I accepted their £15 but refused the freebie as I was so annoyed with Ronseal that I didn't believe that a different product from them would be any better.

Rob found a Garden Furniture Revival kit from Cuprinol, no, I'd never heard of them either. We paid £24.99 (though right now it's on sale for half that from As you can see from the photo, half an hour of sanding with an electric sander and two coats of Cuprinol and viola, good as new. Just in time for some lovely spring weather...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Clean as a whistle

We had a plumbing situation last week. The downstairs loo was starting to take ages to drain and occasionally it would make hideous gurgling sounds, which would travel up into the hand basin.

There's nothing more scary than a sink which gurgles in a threatening manner, especially when it occasionally regurgitated soapy bubbles. After two weeks of gurgling and nervous flushing I called up a drainage company to come and work their magic.

It turns out most houses will need their drains unblocked at some point owing to a combination of Victorian era drains and the amount of paper that goes down loos. Toddler wet wipes for example are marketed to help kids get motivated about dealing with their own business, but unfortunately they don't break down - even when wet - and subsequently build up and cause a blockage.

The company I used was called Invincible Drain Care (Tel 020 7428 7755). They charge £95 + VAT for the first hour. Our job took 90 minutes and ended up costing £162. Both bathrooms and the kitchen and washing machine flow systems were all checked and the the actual blockage was dealt with relatively painlessly. They came the day after I phoned so no complaints there.

The next time you're sitting at work hating your job, try and be grateful that at least you don't work for a drain clearing company.

(PS photo at top is a general snap of the house last weekend - I didn't publish the photo of the inside of our drain as it would seriously put you off your lunch)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Splashback and dull concrete

Ages ago I mentioned I'd photograph all the outstanding things in the house. But after a few photos I got a bit despondent. It feels like it'll be a year before all the little niggling things are taken care of, and that's before phase two gets a look in. Anyway, here are two of the most noticeable.

At top is the kitchen wall without a splashback. It's in a pretty strong shade of green - I forget the details (Lime? Chartreuse?) but I've definitely gotten used to it. It's meant to be covered with glass, which would be terrific given how many messy meals and explosive espresso accidents I've endured in the last year.

The holdup has been because of our concrete counter top, pictured below. The finish has peeled in places and looks really dull in others. The whole lot needs sanding back and refinished with a stronger lacquer which will make it look super glossy again. Once this has been done we can do the splashback - if we did it the other way around the glass might crack when the concrete is being sanded.

The guy who did it orignally is back from touring with his band and says he should be able to do it in a couple of weeks. It's been virtually impossible to get a concrete specialist to quote for this job in the last year as most won't touch surfaces they didn't install themselves, as they can't - or won't - guarantee the workmanship. Catch 22 anyone?