Wednesday 25 March 2015

Report from the clerk of the works - a long post so get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable

This first season’s redecoration and garden projects are drawing to a close and everything is coming together well. After all the hard work of others as well as myself, I think I am due for several days of nana napping!

The lounge dining:
Over the last couple of weeks Joe has removed the wallpaper and sanded and painted the walls twice to get them ready for papering. He also painted the ceiling, the door and window frames and the doors. Then he and I did a final sand of the walls, because the sealer paint seemed to raise the surface where some of the backing paper had its top layer removed with the wallpaper. He is a gem.

Dee arrived last Wednesday morning and we were expecting to start the wallpapering straightaway, but closer examination of the instructions (reverse side, small print) said the walls needed to be sized first. I thought that was strange as the paper was ‘paste the wall’ stuff, but what the hey! On went the size, before lunch. I decided it didn’t need to dry overnight – what would be the point as we’d be wetting it soon enough in the papering process.

I’m pleased we sized the walls as the papering process felt so unfamiliar and weird. The paper was dry and therefore a bit unwieldy to handle. The paste was dark blue and THICK. It felt like gluggy porridge. You know the kind – the stuff that has been left to get cold in the pot and won’t tip out even if the pot is upside down!

Anyway, the blue colouring (which fades as it dries) is to make sure you know where you’ve pasted to, and it is applied with a fluffy roller, one paper width at a time. 
Now doesn't that seem weird? To my left out the window, by the way, is one of the severely trimmed camellias. It is making a great comeback!

The first couple of drops took ages as I got to grips with it, and after that it got quicker. I do have to say it’s a lot less messy than the water trough or paste the paper methods. For a start, dropping the cut offs to the floor doesn’t result in them sticking to the carpet and a drop cloth isn’t needed at all. And my shorts stayed much less sticky than when we papered the bedroom – I am sure my shorts stood up on their own at the end of that exercise given all the paste they contained as I wiped my hands dry on my rear end …

And it helps to have a wonderful assistant. I did say to Dee that she should have been a theatre nurse as she is so good at anticipating what I next need placed into my outstretched hand, even if I can’t articulate it at the time! And she cut the drops for me too which saved lots of time. She is just great and I wish she and Murray lived closer all the time, not just when his work means they park their camper about an hour away from us in Palmerston North. Yes, they live in it full time and have done for 10 years – I think it probably has about the same room internally as Waka Huia but is wider and has a slide out extension for the saloon. (Hang on, let’s work this out. Waka Huia is about 45ft by 6ft 6in internally and that equals 297 sq ft; the camper is about this times that, plus about this much times about this much for the slide out, which comes to approximately 350 sq ft. OK, so it’s a bit bigger than Waka Huia inside.)

So anyway, Dee is amazing to work with – efficient, calming, thoughtful – and we have such great conversations as we work. We are very similar and yet quite different. She is a committed Christian and I am the hardline-est atheist ever. Most of our values are surprisingly aligned but from a different basis. And we love each other dearly.

The papering took two and a half days. The first day (Wednesday) we had to stop at 5.30 so we could get ready to go out for dinner to Joy and Autry’s – a lovely dinner and lots of fun. Autry grew up in South Taranaki, not far from where Dee and I grew up and even closer to where our son Tim lived for a few years until moving back to the UK in 2011, so Autry’s home territory is familiar. There was much hilarity over dinner and that was just what we needed. They are lovely.

The second day we started at 6.30am and it was still pretty dark. The lights had been removed to prevent us from electrocuting ourselves, so we had a standard lamp on an extension cord to provide a modicum of light for the first hour or so.

Mid afternoon on the second day, we realised that the number of rolls required had been miscalculated – not sure if it was my measurements or the shop’s calculations based on them, but either way there was going to be a shortfall. So a phone call to order more and another phone call to get Gary to collect it from the factory on his way from Wellington to Waikanae on Friday morning. Good kind friends are such a boon.
Pasting for the sheet that had five power points to cater for. Fear not, Dee had a plan!

The bottom three of the five - successfully trimmed for and inserted through the paper. I positioned the drop on the wall, Dee held most of it rolled up and let it out bit by bit as needed to get the power points attended to. That was much easier than when the paper is dripping wet.

The lovely Dee cutting a shorter strip. At one point of the operation she had 9 full drops chopped and ready to go - efficient or what?.
David using his phone's torch app to illuminate refitting the socket covers behind the TV

One of the last bits to be done - on the corner, over the door to the kitchen. Forget getting it plumb, it just has to be even down the corner side.. I do love my Rhino bench stool. So much easier than a ladder and not so hard on the calves as my feet fit on it and I don't stretch my achilles and hamstrings.
On Friday afternoon we finished the job, having done the two longest walls, and using two of the three extra rolls Gary had brought up. It looked lovely, but as Dee said there was no point in taking a before and after photo as the sealer paint was the same colour as the paper. Bugger!

Dee headed off back to Palmerston North to Murray and an imminent departure back to Taranaki (boo hiss). I repositioned furniture, and put up three paintings so it looked like I had the room sorted, and had a visit from Bruce, Gary and Peter who were collecting Joe to take him out for dinner to a local Cambodian restaurant (verdict – lovely, must go, Joe says). Gary, in his inimitable fashion, declared the room looked good for an operating theatre. Well, he’s right, it is rather white!

Then David and I headed off (after my shower) to dinner at Jane and Simon’s. I do enjoy spending time with them. David and Simon were at university together, and Jane and I met at Playcentre in Kilbirnie in 1979 – we were the only women at the Christmas party to seek out a second glass of wine. Clearly we were destined to be soul-mates.

On our arrival home, Joe mentioned that Gary had found several bubbles in the paper. I could see them in the light of the solitary lamp, was horrified, but too tired to attend to them at that point. Off to bed and the next morning I got up and sorted them before I even had a cup of tea. Now that shows how seriously I took them!

On Monday morning I put up a water colour in the lounge, and a couple of paintings in the bedroom and the kitchen while Evan the electrician was installing the new light fittings in the lounge dining. That was me for the day - I was shattered and had a long nana nap in the afternoon.

Removing a wasp’s nest!!!

Last Wednesday when he was carrying the fence palings around to the back of the section, Westie, from the aforementioned and much loved Hire a Hubby, told us we had a wasps’ nest under a big fern in the garden outside the dining room – lots of wasps flying in and out constantly. Yikes in a very big way. So David was tasked with sourcing a pest control firm and getting them to us pronto. The following morning Wayne and his young offsider, Ed, arrived from Kapiti Pest Control. Ed suited up and in true ghost busters’ fashion dealt to the wasps. I had not realised that mica (the main component in talcum powder) is what is used to kill the little b*stards, as well as an industrial strength flyspray to calm them down first. They were still pretty agitated with Ed’s actions and his suit was covered in them for a while. We all watched avidly from inside the house, with all windows and doors securely shut!

Who you gonna call?

You can't see them, but at this point wasps were flying around very angrily

The nest was in the root system of this fern
That round thing is part of the nest. The white bits are the larvae in a comb that looks just like a honeycomb

Keep spraying those blighters, Ed. Wayne was inside the house with us, giving instructions through a closed window ...

Spraying another part of the larvae comb

Strangely we hadn’t noticed any wasp activity, as we were focused on the damned flies that happily hibernated over the mild winter and spent summer burgeoning their numbers by fornicating in and around MY house, the little *%^$&**.

The stump grinding:
As you will know, if you have been reading the blog over the last three months (and why wouldn’t you?), we have had a fair few trees taken out so we can let more light into the house and garden and give the remaining trees a fair suck of the sav in terms of nutrients, light and admiration. Luke did most of the tree-felling/trimming, but did not have the equipment to grind down the stumps. Recently when Joe and I were at the transfer station there was a guy there dumping garden waste. The signwriting on his truck indicated he might be the man I was looking for. A quick conversation was followed by a visit to the house and an accepted quote. So last Thursday his team turned up to grind out the stumps that Luke’s effective tree felling had left. Very noisy and dusty, but the result is no stumps and lots of mulch left in their place. Excellent result! We did remove a few plants into pots beforehand to preserve their lives, but that effort was a small price to pay!
Hard to see but the machine looks like a giant lawn mower with a grinder wheel sticking out the front of it - very effective.
The kitchen:

Well, the drama of the splashback has been well-recorded in previous posts. In the end, we decided to get our money back for the one we’d bought, installed and found to be faulty, but only after we’d gone to get a replacement that turned out to be faulty too, with pitting on the surface. My thinking was that two out of two was not a good indication of the company's commitment to quality, so a glass splashback was out. Over to the Tile Warehouse we went, and chose tiles to use instead, in consultation with Peter who was coming the next morning to complete the tiling work - originally just the blingy tiles around the top of the upstands.

So on Friday while Dee and I were on the home straight with the wallpapering, Peter was busy removing the splashback and doing all of the tiling, and Joe was variously baking muffins and making lunch for all the workers. As I said, he’s a gem.
Evidence that I followed the instructions to use 9 blobs of silicone for fixing the splashback. All this drama is to obviate the need to get that former power point hole plastered up in such a skilful way that it wouldn't be visible once painted - doh!! It took Peter about half an hour to get it off without damaging the wall or the splashback which the firm wants back - I was happy to give it back in pieces ...

Joe and the muffins - Peter requested apricot and cream cheese flavour, so that's what he got. Yummy!
Peter who hails from south London, gets the plastery stuff on.

Three quarters of the way through getting the splashback tiles up - one more row to go. The red line you can see down the LHS (ooh, boaty blog - I mean port side) is from his infra red level - I want one!

Grout to add and spacers to remove, part of the bling row in place around the upstand
Complete! I just love it.
And this looks amazing! The kitchen is finished at last.
So now we have a lovely looking tiled splashback plus installation and bling tiles on the upstands for just over the cost of the original splashback. That seems very strange to me but I am not arguing.

The garden:
Friday was definitely an all hands to the pumps day, as Rob was also with us – he was in the back garden digging over the ground near the new fence, moving plants around and planting all the ones I’d purchased. The garden looks so much better each time he comes. The lemon tree and kaffir lime are planted, as are the feijoas, the lavenders, the alstromerias and pansies, plus a few daisies. Only the tamarillo to go.
The azaleas were being repositioned from in front of the new fence to here

These plants have now been in a week and already they are getting bigger - the soil and climate here are wonderful for growing.

The last bits:
Tomorrow (Friday), Gary is coming up to help me put up the blinds in the lounge dining (and in the office, if we have time) after we’ve put the plates on the wall over the kitchen bay window.

Then I am calling it quits on the redecoration project until we get back from the boat in October. 

The clerk of the works - is that really me? How can I deny it, in all seriousness or with a straight face?

Well, that’s my plan at this stage, but it’s 49 sleeps till we leave here, so there’s plenty of time to do more – bathroom, office, or hallway – what should I tackle next? Who can I bring on board to assist?

Sunday 22 March 2015

The value of hiring husbands

In NZ there is a business called Hire a Hubby. I am not sure if they are present anywhere else. Link is here I think.

Last Monday and Tuesday two of the Waikanae hired hubbies came and did some DIY work here - well, more accurately they did some HSETDI (hire someone else to do it).

So now we have a length of fencing between us and Peter and Margaret's place and we no longer see Peter's rather tatty plastic lean-to glasshouse that he uses to store stuff in and raise seedlings.
Apart from this lean to, their place is immaculate. The gate at the far end hides it from their view but not, until now, from ours

It did have the corrugated clear plastic on the side but that had to be removed so it wasn't on our side of the boundary and so the fence could be erected

Westie, one of the hired hubbies, stacking the timber prior to getting the fence up. He and Boof were very fast workers - the four holes were dug, the posts concreted in and the fence completed within about 4 hours. I think the secret is in using a nail gun!

The finished article - great not to see the lean-to. The fence will soon have fruit trees and roses espaliered against it.
They completed the internal access from the garage, put up the clothesline, hung the dryer on the laundry wall, fitted additional shelves in our wardrobe, and affixed a piece of the former kitchen bench to the corner in the garage - for 5 brief minutes I had a workbench, that is until David filled it with boxes, dammit. I guess the problem is it's over a metre long. My dad had a saying that any workbench that was over a metre was actually a shelf. Too true, pa...
David at the Narnia door a couple of months ago

After a day of tree chopping and trimming, Luke improved it slightly before he headed home, so at least we could get through it

Yay!! Internal access. Even Gary, at 6'7", doesn't have to duck! We have had a lock fitted and the last job is to fit coat hooks either side

This had 3 shelves that were so deep as to be pretty useless as they were impossible to keep tidy. They are fairly shared out now, I have 4 and David has 2.

Westie put the clothesline up and David has removed the small tree that was in the way. I am going to plant something fast-growing something against Russell's garage - an ivy perhaps.

I am very impressed with the Hire a Hubby guys - they did great work for a good rate. They did enjoy the muffins Joe made for morning tea and declared they'd be happy to come back anytime!

 And that's not all the progress, but further installments will be posted shortly.

Friday 13 March 2015

Two months to go

It's 2 months today that we head back to the UK! 61 sleeps!!!

And 63 sleeps till we see the lovely grandsons and get much missed hugs from them and from the lovely Tim and Marta.

And in the meantime, another trip we are looking forward to in late April is over to Sydney to see our lovely daughter, Kirsty. By then it'll be 21 sleeps till we head away, and about 7 more until we get to the boat. I've just read the CRT newsletter with info from RCR about de-winterising the boat, so am mentally preparing for that adventure.

And just to keep me busy in the meantime, the lounge dining room is pretty much ready for wallpapering. Joe has almost finished the painting (another coat required on the doors) and Dee is coming this week to help me put the paper up. This one will be an adventure as it's paste the wall stuff which I've not used before. Seems strange to contemplate hanging wallpaper dry, as I am used to it dripping with water from the trough or slathered in paste.

Until the paint on the walls cures (it was very very odiferous and gave Joe and me headaches, so heaven knows what's in it) Joe is going to visit his family in Wainuiomata and I am going to prepare the report I have been interviewing the project team and users about recently.

When this year's redecoration projects are completed, I'll have to potter in the garden, as much as Rob will let me. My best skill garden-wise is shopping, so I have practised this week to make sure the skill level doesn't drop off. Purchases include a ben yen lemon tree and a kaffir lime tree along with 5 punnets of pansies (various colours) a punnet of white cosmos, a pot of alstromerias, a swan plant for the monarch butterflies and a few shrubs, plus some compost and some gypsum to break down the clay-ish soil in what is going to be the cottage garden. Rob was going to be here Thursday but that changed to Monday. Hopefully he approves of my purchases! 

Tuesday 10 March 2015

NZ house and garden

The work continues at Cafe Rata between having friends around for dinner - sometimes, as was the case yesterday, Joe has to delay getting a final sealing coat on the walls of the lounge dining to make sure the room is habitable in terms of diminished paint smell before visitors were here for dinner last night.

Most of the lounge furniture is clumped together in the middle of the room and some is stacked in the hall, so Joe can get at the walls. It is great that he is back, as my wrists (the right in particular) would not cope with the roller's weight.

Today Joe has put the second coat on the walls to make sure that the colour is standard - the wallpaper for the lounge dining is one that has the wall pasted, not the paper, and the instructions (and the verbal warning from the salesperson) state that the colour must be standard and even. Given my experience with the bedroom paper, I am keen to follow those instructions to the letter!

Very friendly furniture and walls with one coat - you can see the colour isn't close to even

The gas heater has been partially removed so we can get at the wall behind. The sun is streaming in the dining windows especially now that we have trimmed the camellias.

An artful stack of furniture in the hall ... not particularly earthquake conscious tho

So yesterday as he couldn't paint, Joe did the rest of the prep for the room - sanding windowframes, skirting, doors, architraves and then he put the masking tape around the windowframes - there was plenty of that to do as there are six windows (inc the the ranchslider) plus the six panes of glass on each of the french doors into the lounge. Then he reconstructed the lounge - it was a matter of minutes for him to do so as he can lift each piece of furniture seemingly without effort.

Rob was here Monday week ago and did a huge amount of work. He has constructed two more gardens in the front yard - one outside the garage and one by the front fence. He's cleared around the rhododendrons, sprayed the periwinkle which will, like the wandering jew, take over the place if not killed off effectively, sprayed the weeds/lilies/other unwanted plants in the garden outside the bedroom.
I'm not sure what these are but they were already under this rhodo and will be augmented by more of them to form a skirt around the tree - and require no weeding ...

Rob will be back this Thursday and has promised me that now it's officially autumn (by date, if not by any weather changes) we can go plant shopping ... A lemon tree, a kaffir lime, ...

Inside, apart from the dining lounge work that Joe is currently doing, I have put up the splashback and the new rangehood has been installed by Evan the electrician who featured in the post about the kitchen installation. When you don't look too closely, the splashback looks good - perfectly installed, I have to say, even if I did make a pig's ear of taking a slice off the cupboard shelf that it had to slot behind. I'm only just getting back into DIY, is my excuse!
I am using the multitool - I know I should be wearing shoes rather than jandals, and I know I should have the shelf in a vice but I don't have one - I knew I should have got one from Dad's workshop when he died ...

At least I am wearing my wrist brace and I have the shelf on a sack to keep it in place. I didn't cut the rectangular hole, by the way, that was there for the chimney for the previous rangehood. I didn't put the shelf back up as Evan had to trim it to fit the new round flexible chimney stuff.

The splashback is faulty - I think the colour is even, but there is something wrong with the glass - the hardening process perhaps, because there is a border about 100 - 150mm around the sides and bottom which is duller than the centre and has the appearance of an oil slick.

Splashback siliconed in place, cupboard shelf still out, towel on hob for protection in case I slipped

Looks OK in this photo, but it's not, dammit!

With rangehood installed, but the splashback isn't right ...

So even though the splashback and rangehood are up, they are both going to have to come down for the former to be replaced. That replacement process is in train, but we shall see.

The lovely blingy tiles that are going to border the upstand arrived at the shop. But there's no point in putting them up till the splashback has been replaced.

Is there no end to this kitchen job?
At least Joe brought me breakfast in bed!

Monday 2 March 2015

The reason for coffee

A sign I saw in Wellington yesterday that explains why coffee is important:

Coffee: Keeping you busy until it's acceptable to drink wine!

 Gets my vote!

Three centimetres that made me lose the will to live ...

Last week’s chore, carried out on one day but stressed about for several beforehand, was to fit the sunscreen blind in the kitchen. I had bought the blind when I picked up the custom-made roman blinds for the lounge dining the week before. It was a bargain as it was $100, down from $200.

Having got the roman blinds fitted successfully in the bedroom, my confidence had risen, but only slightly above the flatline.

So after a few cups of tea, brekkie, and lots of measuring and maths – the latter two required because the blind was 1800mm and the gap is 1754mm (200mm longer than me, by the way **...) – I drilled the holes and screwed in the brackets on the underside of the windowframe. That hurts the arms and wrists, not to mention the back and neck. Note to self: I must invest in a battery drill and screwdriver thingie for here if I’m going to do much more DIY. 
Left side bracket installed

and right side bracket installed

In the meantime, Joe was stripping wallpaper in the lounge dining, and David was safely out of tantrum's reach seeing his mum in Masterton - sensible chap, I say ...
Joe does traditional Samoan tattooing and he sits cross legged for days. He looks pretty comfortable, doesn't he?

For short people there is something entirely unnatural about a person being able to reach the top of the wall without being on a stool or ladder - creepy, I say!
The blind, the tools and the workbench

You'll note the cheese knife came out too - it was useful for poking the end of the blind material back into the tube without damaging it after it was trimmed.

Then I set to on the outside table – a useful surface as it’s got a toughened glass top. Using the wallpaper straight edge and the craft knife that I use to trim wallpaper, I sliced off a whole centimetre down the length of the blind (the window opening is about 1200mm high but the blind is 2100mm - a one height will fit everything but the door to a castle…) Then out with the hacksaw to trim the roller and the capping for the bottom of the blind. Fit the rolly end things in the inner tube, make sure the chain is running free, and then Joe and I carried it into the kitchen for the fitting.

Up we get on to the bench, in goes one end to the bracket, but the other end won’t even slide inside the window-frame, let alone get anywhere near the bracket.

#@%%*#$@## It’s too long! What happened in my careful mathematical calculations? Clearly they were tosh! A stress break is called for obviously. So off I go to do some reading for the project closure assignment I’m working on.

So after lunch I girded my loins to conquer this bloody blind - out I went again, dismantle, unroll, cut another centimetre off, and this time use my new electric multi tool which has a hacksaw fitting – noisy but fast. Refit the rolly things and capping, roll it up, check the chain is running free and back in to the kitchen to fit it. WTF!!! It is still too long. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

Process repeated, minus the stress break – I am really p*ssed off by now but determined the inanimate blind isn’t going to win. The p*ssedoffness did take the form of being slightly hysterical with laughter though. A centimetre comes off and all the other shenanigans are completed. Back in we go. Hoo-bloody-ray! It fits, it’s up, it goes up and down, it looks cool, it does the job of keeping the late afternoon sun from reflecting on the white windowsill and stainless steel sink-bench and blinding/overheating anyone working in the kitchen at that time.
Down and working

The three SEPARATE centimetres, plus refreshments and insect repellent to allow maximum relaxation after the job was done - that's where Joe and I were when David arrived home. Cheese board, crackers, wine - what more was required?

Blind down in the evening, cows back in place (the reason why the blind was positioned at the rear of the window frame) and the dinner dishes waiting for some chap to wash them ...

I was going to review the maths of it all but then decided I couldn’t be arsed. At least it was too long twice rather than too short once … So size does matter and too long is no bloody use at all.