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A New Deck

When we bought this neglected old house of ours, we made a list of all the things we needed to fix. Somewhere down the list was the item “replace old deck” but despite being older than the pyramids, the pile of weathered wood outside our front door that we called a “deck” somehow managed to hold our weight, so replacing it never made it to the top of the list. That was until Friday morning, when little Clover decided to pull a large piece of the old deck up and eat it (as you can see by the missing piece in the picture). And so this weekend became dedicated to deck replacement! Here is our sad (and dangerous) deck before:

Deck Before

I naively thought the job would be fairly easy. I made a trip to the hardware shop and bought some replacement decking boards, nails and a circular saw, planning just to rip up and replace the old, brittle boards. But once I started pulling the deck up and saw the joists underneath, my heart sank. Below our weathered deck was a tangled mess of rusty nails wriggling their way out of old rotten beams. In one spot there was even evidence of a small fire! Scarily, the joist beneath an uncharacteristically new section of deck was actually half charcoal. So it was back to the hardware shop to buy new joists!

Burnt Joist

Dogs Watching Reuben

Once the new joists were in place, the it all came together rather quickly and by this afternoon the job was complete! We still have to oil the boards for weather protection but we now have a nice safe deck, and one more thing ticked off our never ending to-do list.

Reubs and Dogs on Finished Deck

Reuben and Clover

Daisy and Clover seem pretty chuffed with their new sunbaking spot too!

Reuben

PS. You may have noticed that the bottom panel of our front door is cracked and has been taped up. It turns our my dad was right, that is what happens when you run around inside the house. Another thing for the to-do list – “replace front door”.

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Lessons from our First Year as Home Owners

It’s been a little over a year since we bought our first home. As is always the case, in some ways it seems like we’ve been here forever and in other ways it feels like we’ve only just moved in. We had grand plans for this sad old house when we first moved in and, though we’ve made some progress, there is still so much to do.

Hall Before

Our hall in January 2013.

Hall

Our hall now!

Living Room Before

The fluoro lights in our lounge room in January 2013.

Living Room Lights

The lights in our lounge room now.

Oven Before

Our old, dead oven.

Oven

Our new oven (and the hole we had to bang in the wall to squeeze it in!)

Bedroom Before

Our bedroom in January 2013.

Bedroom After

Our bedroom now.

Though we haven’t achieved as much as we’d have liked, we have learnt many, many lessons in our first year of home ownership. If we could go back in time and give Katie and Reuben a year ago some advice, we would tell ourselves…

There is so much more to do than you ever imagined.

Even when you DIY, doing any kind of work on a house costs money. More money than you think.

Similarly, everything will take much longer to do than you thought it would. Sometimes twice as long. Sometimes five times as long!

Scraping the paint off skirting boards, windows and doorframes, and stripping floors is not fun. Not even a tiny bit fun.

There is no smell in the world more horrible than you will experience if you rip up 50 year old carpets that have been soaked in cat’s pee.

Sometimes you will wish you could just call a real estate agent or landlord and let them take care of things.

Houses seem a lot bigger when you are painting them than they do when you are living in them.

Old things in old houses (like ovens, gas heaters, hot water systems and air conditioners) need replacing. This is very expensive.

There will be times when you look around you and feel utterly overwhelmed. You will wonder why you ever thought buying such a mess of a house was a good idea and you will fantasise about giving in and running away to a nice, comfortable rental…

But! Despite all the difficulties, every single day you will be grateful for your home.

You will feel so glad that you are building your own future, rather than paying off a landlord’s mortgage.

You will be so happy to have the freedom to do whatever you like to your space.

You will feel so much pride and ownership over every little task completed and every small renovating victory.

And though you’ll probably never really “finish” working on your house and at times it will drive you crazy, you will love it more than any place you could ever rent.

Because it is yours.

Katie and Reuben x

PS Sorry for the lack of post last week! We were having internet connection issues.

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In Our Kitchen (and a Giveaway!)

Banana Ricotta and Honey on Toast

Making Cheese 2

Ricotta

Making Cordial

Pearl Oyster Mushrooms

Feta

Salads

Cooking

Scones

Thanks to some annoying oven issues, the last couple of months have been a bit quiet in our kitchen. When we moved into this old house we discovered the stove that was here needed to be replaced, as the hotplates worked but the oven did not. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to replace it right away, so for most of last year we made do with the existing hotplates and a little bench top oven. Then we bought a new stove and we were so excited to get back to normal with cooking, until the gas plumber came to install it and we discovered the new stove was 7mm too wide to fit in the spot where the old one had been, and there wasn’t anywhere else it could go! We didn’t want to pay a fortune to have major structural work done on our kitchen as we hope to replace the whole thing sometime in the next few years, so for a while after we discovered our new stove wouldn’t fit (and we’d already had the old one removed) we had no stove at all while we tried to figure out what to do next. Eventually Reubs just took an electric planer to the cupboard next to the oven space and a hammer to the tiles on the wall beside it, and we jammed the stove in. It’s not pretty but it works, and we are finally back to preparing the nourishing, yummy food we love!

This weekend was particularly productive in our kitchen. Reubs had been talking about making cheese for months and yesterday he finally took the plunge. Using the Deluxe DIY Cheese Kit from Urban Cheesecraft (which was a birthday gift from a lovely friend) and the recipes in the Gourmet Farmer Deli Book he made a great big batch of feta and then used the leftover whey to make ricotta. Both cheeses turned out beautifully! Reubs had the first of his ricotta on toast with banana and honey. The feta is currently soaking in brine in the fridge, but we can’t wait to try it in few days time. While Reuben was working on his cheese, I made some amazing salads, scones and lemon cordial. I used the lemon cordial recipe from What Katie Ate for the first time, and turned it out particularly nicely. So perfect for a warm day.

We’ve also recently had a go at growing gourmet mushrooms! The lovely people at Fungi Culture sent us a Grow Your Own Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kit and it was so much fun to watch the mushrooms grow, then pick and cook them straight from the box. We really had no idea growing such lovely mushies could be so easy. Our mushrooms grew incredibly fast with very little effort and they were ridiculously good on sourdough toast with goats cheese. The really good news is we were also given a second mushroom kit to giveaway! We’ll be using the random number generator to choose the winner from the comments on this post, so if you’d like to have a go at growing your own gorgeous gourmet mushies, just leave us a little something in the comment section.

Grow Your OwnPeal Oyster Mushrooms

What’s been happening in your kitchen lately? Anyone out there had success with making cheese or growing mushrooms? We are thinking that now we’ve gotten started, we need to start experimenting with making some different types of cheese and growing some different varieties of mushrooms, so we’d love to hear your stories!

Katie x

PS Unfortunately, due to customs restrictions, we can only offer this giveaway to Australian readers. Sincere apologies to all our international friends!

Update: This competition is now closed.

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A Productive Week

Chicken Coop

Entry Hall

Sunbaking

Paint Stripping

This has been a productive week at the humble house! Reubs has taken a few days off, so we could get some serious work done around the house, and we’ve been trying to make the most of it…

Last Saturday we picked up our freebie chicken coop, so now we are on the hunt for some chickens! It’s only small so we are thinking of getting a couple of Pekins to begin with. On Wednesday we bought some wood edging for our veggie patch and two fruit trees – a plum and a plum crossed with an apricot. We are still looking for two pears and maybe a peach. We also bought three roses to go in the flower bed we plan to build under our bedroom window. Now we just need to borrow my mum’s ute to pick up a load of soil.

We’ve also been busy inside! We originally planned to work on our living room this week but in the end decided to focus on the entryway and hallway instead. They are the first things you see when you enter our house and are currently in such a terrible state. We’ve spent the last few days scraping and sanding back 60 years worth of paint, and hopefully we’ll get some fresh paint on the walls over the weekend. I think getting these areas done is going to make such a difference to our shabby house. We can almost feel the difference already!

Often we feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to our old home. Our limited time and money never seems to stretch far enough and we are forever discovering new projects and expenses that need our attention… But every now and then, like this week, I see the flutter of light at the end of the tunnel. I catch a glimpse of what this place might be like in a year (or maybe five years) from now, and I know that it’s going to be worth it. While scraping paint, sanding and plastering cracks isn’t fun, I’m certain that in years to come I will look back on this time as a defining, and very special, chapter of our lives.

What have you been up to this week? I hope all is well in your world!!

Katie x

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A Little Painting Progress

When we decided to buy our old house and renovate we really had no idea what we were in for. In the months since settlement we have come to realise this project is so much bigger than we ever imagined. Every day we discover new things that need doing, and every task we undertake takes longer than we anticipate. That said, it does feel wonderful to be (very) slowly breathing life back into this old house…

Reubs took last week off work to work on the house and we naively believed that with a solid nine days behind us, we’d be able to strip and paint two of our three bedrooms, as well our living room. Of course we were way off! We spent four days just stripping, sanding and prepping one bedroom!! We did however manage to get the two bedrooms very almost finished, so I thought today I’d share some pictures of our progress so far.

When we moved in the main bedroom looked like this:

Main Bedroom Before

Last week it looked like this:

Main Bedroom During

And now, it looks like this:

Main Bedroom After

As you an see the skirting boards and windows (and door frame) have only been undercoated and still need a couple of coats of paint, but we are almost finished! You might remember that when we started stripping paint we found the wood underneath had previously been varnished and we decided to keep the wood exposed? Yes well, as you can see we changed our minds. We discovered the hard way that stripping the paint off completely in order to varnish is virtually impossible and the wood underneath was in worse condition than we had realised. Plus, it just looked really dark and yucky. So sadly, the wood had to go.

Here’s the smallest bedroom (soon to be craft room!) when we moved in:

Studio Before

And here it is now:

Studio After

We still need to paint all the trim in there too.

Both rooms feel so much bigger and fresher now! We’ve used Taubmans Ocean Pearl on the walls which is a creamy, ever so slightly lemony, off white. We’ll be finishing the doors, windows and skirting boards with straight white. You can’t really see in these pictures but the ceilings were a creamy colour and they are now crisp white too, which has made such a difference to the spaces, and made both rooms feel brighter and more airy. We’re so pleased with how these rooms are looking so far and the fresh paint really brings the floors we slaved on to life! We can’t wait until the rest of the house is looking so good.

Only one bedroom, the living room, hall, entryway, kitchen, bathroom and laundry to go…

Katie x

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