Saturday, 19 March 2011

Let the sunshine in!

After a ”little” setback” due to soot and smoke, our TV-room is finished at last. The result is a lighter and brighter room, which is exactly what we wanted. 

Here you can see what the room looked like previously. Old darkened pine panel absorbed most of the sunlight, so even on a bright day, it was not possible to sit here and read without the lights on.

The ceiling and walls have been painted, the carpet has been replaced and the dark plaid couch has been thrown out, otherwise the room is basically the same. Still, what a difference this makes, don’t you agree?

The corner sofa and the chairs were left behind by the previous owner of the house. They were probably super cool back in the eighties when pink was in vogue, but, strangely enough, they fit in pretty well here now. The grey, pink and white colours match the new floor and walls quite well. With a brown sheepskin and a nice rug, we can live with it for a while.
Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we can afford a new sofa, but at the moment we decided to use the money on upgrading the electrical system. Now we have earthed sockets in the room, and what’s more - plenty of them. Behind the TV there is no longer a jumble of extension cords, now each gadget has it’s own socket.

On this wall there used to be a seventies-style orange lamp that controlled everything electric in the room. Not quite in accordance with regulations, one can safely assume. This new lamp has a dimmer and can be used both as a reading light and to create a cosy atmosphere.
The mirror was bought on sale last weekend. It also helps to reflect more light into the room.

At the other end of the room, we still have the old wall unit. It is not exactly fashionable either, but it provides a lot of storage space, and we have to have somewhere to keep all our CDs and DVDs. Previously, all of Hubby’s trophies were exhibited on the top, but now all but the most coveted is placed inside the cupboard. Actually, I would like to see them in a box in the attic, but we compromised. Now they're available if he should want to show them off, and I don’t have to dust them.

This stack of small trunks also provides a little storage space, which is something you can never get enough of.

With great technical skill, Hubby has fitted the room with a hi-tech sound system with full surround sound, subwoofer and all that goes with it. It sounds really great when we listen to music or watch a movie here. My only contribution to the house's musical content is this cool CD rack in wrought iron.
A couple of small souvenirs have found their place in the room: The elephants are from Namibia, while the shell is a polished pearl oyster that I brought home from Rarotonga. A black pearl was beyond my budget, the only thing I could afford was this shell, but it’s very pretty.
The large glass bowl is from the Hadeland glass factory. I bought it years ago and have never quite found a good spot for it until now.

Husfruen’s old TV-cabinet now houses Hubby’s whisky collection. Ideally, I would have liked to hide the TV away in a cabinet, but as big as TV-sets are these days, they do not fit in these cabinets anymore.
On top sits the old lamp that we painted. Looking good!

Now the room is so bright that the plants have started to thrive here. This flowerpot is something I found at the back of a cupboard, while the linen table runner was bought at a Christmas market many years ago, if I remember correctly. Hubby’s old coffee table was sprayed with black Hammerite paint. The original finish was not in good condition, but since the table is so large and handy, we wanted to keep it. Now it has a new lease on life and will probably be in use a few more years.
It feels good to be able to use old stuff that has been hidden away in cupboards and drawers or was on its way to the scrap heap, instead of just constantly buying new stuff. We have, in fact, not spent very much on our new room. All in all, it cost just under 600 GBP, and that includes carpet, paint, lamps, mirrors and curtains. The electrician cost more, obviously, but the electrical work was as much a repair as an upgrade, and was therefore unavoidable.

I am notorious for starting big knitting projects that I never finish. Just this once, I hope to be able to finish a nice fluffy blanket in brown and white.

I am very pleased with the curtains. They are light and airy and let in plenty of light. The plants seem to thrive on the windowsill where the spring sunlight floods in, and we too are very happy with our new TV room. It has become so nice here now, that we actually use it as a sitting room, not only as a place to watch television.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Home Clean Home

At long last we are now finished with the mother of all spring cleanings. Every room has been painstakingly cleaned of soot, and what a job it has been! Every single book had to be taken from its shelf, vacuumed and wiped. Every single little ornament has been scrubbed and polished. All carpets and furniture have been steam cleaned. All rugs and curtains have been shaken and hung outside to air. Whew, I get exhausted just writing about it.
When we were about to begin cleaning a few weeks ago, it seemed almost insurmountable, but we persevered and now the house is cleaner than it has been for years.

I am especially impressed with Hubby’s effort. Without complaining (almost), he has put in a lot of elbow grease, and that is no small feat for a man who considers housework as the pits, and something he absolutely does not undertake unless he is specifically told to. Whenever that happens he goes to work with the same attitude as that of man walking to the gallows, reconciled with the fact that there is no chance of escape. He even has a special voice that is exclusively reserved for talking about housework – dripping with resignation, self-pity and a deep loathing for the whole business.
He has a tendency to take his time as well, and I quickly realized that it was a mistake to give him the task of vacuuming the books. Every book was studied with great interest and the dust covers read in their entirety, before they were sorted into categories of readworthiness. However, when it comes to carpet cleaning and lifting heavy furniture, he laboured like a hero.
Finally, this weekend we managed to get it all done. The hall, which had been used to store everything, was cleared and washed. It is actually a long time since I've been on my knees in the staircase, scrubbing it with a brush, and I was shocked at how clean it became afterwards. Hmm, I have a sneaking suspicion that the grime was possibly not totally due to the soot.

This is our hallway. We haven’t shown you any pictures of it before, with good reason – the colour of the walls is simply vile. It looks like an eighties reject. Was baby-pink ever considered fashionable? Anyway, we have big plans to paint here, just as soon as the weather gets a little warmer and we are able to air out.
After redecorating the TV-room, we had no place for this recliner. Until we find someplace better, it can remain here. A yellow silk cushion from China marks the fact that it will be Easter soon.

The window sill here is not suitable for flowers, so I've put together a small flower table from a 20 centimetre wide plank of mahogany and four pieces of 1”x1”. It isn’t finished yet. It must be sanded and polished before oiling, so that the beautiful glow of the wood comes out. However, that will have to wait until I can do it outdoors, I don’t want dark-wood saw dust around the house now.
Such a hard and oily wood can be used before the surface is treated, so it is now a place for Hubby’s cacti. Honestly, I don’t really care much for those prickly plants but Hubby insists on keeping them. They are memorabilia from his bachelor days, when they faithfully survived years of neglect.   

This huge monster is Hubby’s pride and joy, and is consistently referred to as "he", not "it ". - I've had him since he was no bigger than my fist." Hubby says proudly. For my part, I am convinced that it is a "she" - and a jealous one at that. I am, in fact, sure that she has it in for me. I swear she tries to attack me as I walk past in what I consider to be a safe distance. And let me tell you, being stabbed in the leg by those spines is excruciatingly painful. "She" and I have in time developed a mutual antipathy, where she bristles her spines when I am around, and I threaten to cut her off on my watering rounds. Not that it seems to faze her very much. While the other cacti bear characteristics of a dry hard life, she seems to thrive in all conditions.

The hall table is one of Husfruen’s creations. It was my very first project as a cabinetmaker, and I'm still proud of how nice it turned out. It's made from Australian Jarrah wood, which has a beautiful quality and glow. Just look at the tabletop.

We have a lot more of my furniture creations around the house, and in time I’m sure you’ll get to see them all.
Have a nice week!

Friday, 11 March 2011

We have a winner!

We have drawn a lucky winner who can look forward to getting a beautiful enamel sign from Ramsign.

On the Norwegian and English site a total of 111 tickets were taken. We used to draw the winning ticket.

The lucky winner is - wait for it - a man! We don’t have many of those among our readers, so what are the odds? Thomas can expect a nice e-mail from Ramsign.
Congratulations to the winner and a big thank you to Ramsign for sponsoring our competition.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lamp - extreme makeover

Do you remember the huge red lamp that was in our TV-room?
I'll refresh your memory:

Unfortunately, it was no great beauty - the colors were just too vibrant. Nevertheless, I had some qualms about throwing it away because I suspected it was good quality. Some time in the eighties or nineties it probably cost a great deal, considering how big it is - the lampshade was almost 70 centimeters (28”) in diameter.
After I showed a photo of it here on the blog, I was given some good tips about spray painting it, and as that sounded like a good idea, I went off to the hardware store to look at their selection of paint. I found a colour to my liking, and took it home to try it out. The result?
Ta daa!

Isn’t it cool? I am just so pleased with the result, especially since I found a suitable lampshade for it on sale at half price.

The spray paint I used was black Hammerite. It looks a bit like hammered metal, but the colour is more dark grey-brown than black, I think.

The spray was very easy to use, you just had to be careful not apply too much at a time, otherwise the colour would start to run. We gave it five or six coats with ten-minute intervals. Beforehand, we had used masking tape on the cord and the lamp holder.

In the evening, it gives off a nice warm glow, and creates exactly the mood I was looking for in a TV-room. We are now nearly finished washing away the soot there. A new carpet is in place, and the furniture is back in the room again. There are only a few small details remaining and the room will ready to accept visitors.

If you have not already done so, then hurry up and sign up for my giveaway where you can win a fantastic enamel sign from Ramsign. There are still a few hours left until I close the competition.
Good luck!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I love Paris in the springtime...

..., or was it perhaps "in the winter when it drizzles".  

Oh well, Paris is lovely whatever the season.

After the furnace fire I told you about last time, Hubby and I had to leave the house for a few days. As you can imagine, the stench of oil and smoke permeated everything and it was not at all pleasant to be home. Fortunately, we had booked a trip to Paris to celebrate Hubby's birthday and it could not have come at a better time. I must admit that I was so disheartened and worn-out over what had happened that I completely lost the desire to go, but thankfully Hubby changed my mind, and we had a few fantastic days in one of the world's most beautiful cities. Although it was rather cold and it rained a bit, spring had definitely arrived in Paris and the earliest spring flowers were already in bloom.

In front of the Town Hall, the Hôtel de Ville, winter was still being celebrated in full. Every time we walked past, there were loads of people here, so skating is apparently a popular pastime among the Parisians.

Liberty, equality, fraternity – the motto of the revolution is carved in stone high above the city.

A short walk away, at Notre Dame, the hundreds of pigeons treat everyone equally, they perch on the shoulder of an old lady as easily as Charlemagne.

The famous cathedral is considered to be one of the world’s finest examples of Gothic architecture. The stained glass windows and the tall columns provide a solemn background to worship, and one can only imagine how impressive this cathedral must have been to the inhabitants of Paris when it was completed in the 1200s.
The beatification of Jeanne d'Arc took place in this church, and her statue can be admired in one of the side chapels.

The Cathedral and the Seine is a lovely sight at night. If you walk across the bridge to the left bank you arrive at the Latin Quarter, where countless restaurants will tempt you with all sorts of good food at very reasonable prices.

Buskers often sit on the bridges. This man played La Vie en Rose for the tourists.  

It seems French restaurants are always cramped, but the food never disappoints. Hubby was brave enough to try escargot, but I've never been tempted by such things. I opted for the onion soup au gratin, which tasted delicious, mainly due to the copious amounts of delicious cheese.

French wine is not the only accompaniment to a meal. Dry cider from Normandy came in bottles with champagne corks, and provided a refreshing compliment to all the cheese. We tried both cheese fondue and raclette (not on the same day!) and they were both delicious, but Oh my God so much fat! You can practically feel the cholesterol coating the insides of your arteries as you eat.

It is just as well that Paris offers plenty of opportunities for exercise. The road up Montmartre to the Sacre Coeur basilica consists of stairs followed by more stairs. It's enough to take the breath from the fittest of tourists, and when you finally reach the city's highest point, you will be rewarded with the breathtaking view.

However, if a view is what you are after, there is of course no place like the Eiffel tower. For a sizeable sum, you can take the elevator to the top. We didn’t, because the queues at each pillar were endless. Instead we walked around, looking at all the people in love. Paris is a romantic city, and the Parisians do their best to prove it. We haven’t seen so much snogging since Hubby’s daughter and her boyfriend were visiting us. The trees in the park were decorated with countless hearts carved into the bark.
A large number of newlyweds, all Asians for some reason, stood in line to be photographed with one of the world's most famous landmarks in the background.

Paris is also home to the world's most famous painting, and we weren’t the only ones who wanted to see the Mona Lisa.  

Most people who visit the Louvre will probably head straight for this gallery, but there is so much more to see at the museum.

Unique world-famous art treasures are packed so tightly that it almost becomes too much of a good thing. In the end it becomes difficult to take it all in.

In addition, the palace is a work of art in itself. One must take the time to look around and admire the lavish decorations everywhere. The modern glass pyramid outside breaks sharply with the style, but it too is a sight to behold.
To see it all, you probably need a week to wander around the Louvre, but we only had one day here. The next day we went to the Cinematheque Française, where they have one of the largest collections of old movies, costumes and other film artifacts. It is perhaps not something for everyone, but for film buffs like us, this is a must.

Paris is a large city, but thankfully it is easy to get around on the Metro. Metro stations are often beautifully decorated. I love these signs in Art Nouveau style and the classic lamps and wall tiles. Just remember to keep a close watch on your wallet because the Metro is teeming with pickpockets. Despite the fact that I carried my handbag at the front, some cunning thief managed to sneak his hand down into it, and voila, my purse was gone. This is actually the third time this has happened to me in Paris, so next time I visit I'll use a money belt. Ah well, it's incredibly frustrating when this happens, but I can console myself that my passport and most credit cards were at our hotel, and the loss will be covered by travel insurance. Another thing to watch out for are the many deaf-mutes (who both hear and speak when you turn your back to them) who collect money, and Gypsies, who suddenly find a gold ring on the ground in front of you and wonder if it's yours. While you are busy looking at the ring, an accomplice will empty your bag and pockets.

On our last day in Paris, we walked along the Champs Elysees, to the Arc de Triomphe, which stands in the middle of a roundabout. Like so much else in this city, the monument is overwhelming. We were lucky and got some sunshine, so we could sit on the George V café and drink coffee (at a price!) and watch the people walking by.
I've always wanted to go to Paris in April, just so that I can walk around there and hum my favorite song by Ella & Louis.  

We were a bit early now, but maybe next time….