Saturday, July 26, 2014

Garden Swing (Buyer Beware!)

Last week Niall sat on a garden swing at B&Q and his mind was made.  We needed a swing, and he was on a hunt to find it.  Wednesday morning Niall came through to the kitchen.  He was, dare I say it, giddy!  Niall had found a swing on Gumtree that looked pretty amazing.  It retails for £400 new.  And the ad said it was 'never used', so at £65 it seemed like a great deal.  We called, emailed and texted the seller to say we would take it.  I was afraid someone would get it before Niall!

Niall talked to the seller, who told us the swing was unassembled and had fit in his Mondeo (it's a four seater car, smaller than our MPV.)   I thought I was picking up a brand new, unused gazebo swing that would fit in the car no problem.  I drove the 40 minutes to pick it up without any tools or bungee cords.  Doesn't the ad make the swing seem great?


Never used but needs assembled

When I actually saw the swing, I was surprised.  Not in a good way.  I almost said, "No Thanks."  But then I remembered how giddy Niall had been at the prospect of a gazebo swing.  The 'swing' may not have been used, but it had been left in the damp to rot.  The gazebo part had obviously been in use and left to the elements.  And then taken apart, with all of the nuts and bolts misplaced.  The whole thing was big, moldy and barely fit in the car.  The seller let me have some wire to tie the parts down and I took the drive home slowly.  When she said, "Putting it together if obviously self explanatory" I got the hint that she didn't have the instructions.

When I got home Niall was still pretty excited despite the obviously used condition.  I power washed it to clean off some of the mold then sanded the parts that had rotted, and left the swing out to dry.  I called the manufacturer (because the assembly wasn't that straight forward, at least to me.)

The manufacturer (we figured out it's an Anchor Fast Avon Swing Arbour) kindly sent me the instructions.  Armed with that paperwork, I was able to hobble together the hardware that was needed from B&Q.  I went to the lumber yard to get some replacement wood for a piece that wasn't fit for purpose.  Then roped a friend who was visiting and the girls (Margaret had wield a rubber mallet now!) into helping me assemble. Oh, and then Niall helped finishing putting it together.  We dug in two surplus pavers so the swing has something solid on which to rest.

I sanded a few more parts and then we painted the whole thing in a coat of Cuprinol.  (Brown.  Niall had wanted green to match the fence, but a test patch did not fair well.)

Niall has his garden swing! Now if we can get the grass to grow.

Swing £65 (Gumtree)
Hardware £9 (B&Q)
Timber £5 (Jewsons)
Curprinol £0 (Free!  We used what was in the garage)
Total:  £79

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Instead of the Gym

Once upon a time at our house last week-

What Niall said:  "It might be nice to get some sunlouners for the garden."
What I heard:  "Let's take on a garden project."

We're making progress on the yard.  Enough so that we have really enjoyed being outside during these fantastic days of sun!

We have a side of the back yard that remains fairly pathetic.  We have plans to put in planter boxes and landscaping, but didn't want to do anything until we decide what we're doing with the (potential) side extension.  

Niall and I sat down and worked out an intermediate plan and a budget (£500).  We wanted to stop waiting until 'someday' and do a bit to make the garden more usable now.  For the £500 we wanted to:

1.  Plant seed for most of the lawn
2.  Put in a pad for the trampoline
3.  Lay pebbles and planters for the side of the house
4.  Get an outdoor table and BBQ

I decided instead of going to the gym I would work on the yard a little bit every morning.  It was hard work and actually had a bit of a result!   It doesn't look like much, but all the soil on the left is the result of the alternate gym activity.  It was had work removing all the overgrowth and grating through the dirt.

Plus the girls liked to come out and help me.

But there was more than the 'instead of the gym' work that needed to be done.  A few days later, our drive looked like this:

We were lucky enough to get four missionaries (from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) volunteer their time and move all the soil, pebbles and pavers from the front drive to the back yard.

Our garage is fairly pathetic (no door or window) so it made for an excellent through-fare for the wheelbarrow.

Here's the summary

Side of the garden:  January 2013 (first viewing of the house)

Side of the garden:  June 2014


Side of the garden:  Now (Sorry, no great visual update as the grass still needs to grow and that garage needs to be painted.)

The trampoline is on a pad and the apple tree has some pebbles (with weed blocker underneath.)

Back/Side of the House (May 2013) (Note the guttering and fairly pathetic side yard backdrop in our impromptu partial family portrait.)


Side of house:  Now  Planters with pebbles.  Maybe we'll put some flowers?  Someday.  (The bottles of water were for the missionaries!  And the blown blockwork was cemented over.)

Back of house:  Now
Finally!  A table and chairs (I've been looking for almost a year for a decent used one.  When we found this new six-seater reasonably priced we finally bit the bullet) and a BBQ.

In case you were wondering, we were using a hodgepodge of side tables, folding chairs and anything else we could find for outdoor dining.

Rear view of side garden (March 2013)

Rear view of side garden (Summer 2013):  Note the big tree!

Rear view of side garden (March 2014):  Big tree was removed, but the side garden is in headed for a weedy, unused future.  Until now!

Rear view of side garden (June 2014)

Rear view of side garden:  Now  Don't look like much, but it's a good foundation if we can get the grass to grow!  It's planted and we're watering it everyday.  For the first time since I've lived in Scotland we are having sun without rain.  (I'm not complaining!)

And the trampoline with its own little pad.  Finally level and in a designated place.  Down the road when the kids grow out of the trampoline we'll put something else on the pad; Small shed?  Hammock?  Actually, Niall is already trying to kick the trampoline off the pad to make way for a garden swing.  So who knows?  

Our budget was £500.   I price compared for everything to try to keep in our budget. We went £38 over, which was pretty much the best £38 spent ever!  It was treats for the missionaries and I do not begrudge one penny.  If they wouldn't have come to help I'd still be wheeling soil!

Paving stones, sand and delivery:  £82  (J.W. Grant )
3 tons of topsoil, 1/2 ton of pebbles, grass seed, weed blocker and delivery:  £207  (Total Turfing)
Outdoor dining set:  £152 (Argos)
Barbecue:  £50 (Argos)
Food/Drinks for free labor:  £37
Lawn Fertilizer:  £10 (B&Q)

Total:  £538

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Big World Map

Our family is scattered around the globe.  We're in Scotland, my family is in the US, Niall's sister's family is in Australia.  My dad and step-mom are globetrotters and the girls just want to know where everyone is.

We wanted to get a big map for their room.  Ikea has a World Map, but it's £100.  I found one in Bargain Corner, but it was £70.  (In case you're wondering, that means too expensive for us.)  I tried lots of other sources, but they were all at least £50.  I thought about painting a map directly on the wall or on a big piece of ply and hanging it.

Instead, when my mom was here, we found a fun world map print fabric when getting material for Anna (from Frozen) costumes.  Maybe I'll post on those later.

The fabric is from Remnant Kings and it was £11 a meter.  A single map is about a meter long.  The width made it funky for an off-the-shelf frame.  To keep costs down I decided to DIY a canvas base.  I bought a length of pine from Jewsons, It was pretty shoddy workmanship, if I do say so myself.  The frame warped a little because I split the wood when I was drilling.   I stretched the fabric and stapled it to the frame. 

I used wire an two eyelet picture loops on the back to hang it.  But it looked kind of pathetic.

Solution?  Brackets that we already had.  The brackets squared up the frame.  A little over the top, but when you've got me as the carpenter you've got to make do.

And now?  The world, above the girls' heads!  

(Like their beds are really ever this tidy, except for when I want to take a photo.)

Fabric:  £11
Frame:  £7
Total:  £18

FREE BEDS! Dalselv Ikea Bed Upgrade

In addition to getting wardrobes for the girls' 'new' room, I also wanted to get them beds.  Niall and I debated all sorts of things, including a bunk bed with a slide.  We decided we wanted matching twin beds.  If they could convert to bunks, all the better.  We didn't want to spend a lot, mostly because we didn't have a lot to spare.   (Alas, the bunk beds with a slide were nixed due to budget constraints.) 

I searched and searched for weeks but couldn't find a pair of fixer-upper beds.  Finally I placed a wanted ad on gumtree.

It took another few weeks (wherein I continued to look, offer, etc.) and then...Bingo!  A lady texted to let me know she had a pair of Dalselv beds from Ikea.  They are discontinued, but look like this.

They weren't exactly what I wanted (no footboard), but I figured that they would work.  After I told the lady we'd take the, she mentioned they were missing a few pieces so she'd let us have them for free.  If it's free, it's me!  Niall drove out one Friday evening and picked up the beds.  (She also kindly gave us a little pink lamp.)

The beds were mostly unfinished pine.  The previous owner had started painting one bed and stopped mid-way through.  I wanted them (all) white.  Saturday morning we cracked through painting the beds.  First I sanded, then two coats of primer (with light sand in between.)  Then two coats of white gloss (it's what we had in the garage, so again...if it's free, it's me.)  The girls were excited to help, so they lent a hand.

Since there were parts missing, we took a trip to Ikea and the Customer Service desk kindly got us the pieces that (pretty much) match.  Because the bed was discontinued we had to get creative, but made it work.

That night, the girls had their new beds.  Our two year old was still in a cot.  But once she had her big girl bed, she didn't want to sleep in her crib anymore.  That night (and every night since) she slept in her Dalselv bed.

I thought I'd need to make a fabric infill for the headboard, but liked how the painted version turned out.

It's kind of adorable having these two in matching bed.  (Note all the safety pillows surrounding the bed.  We do have an occasional roll out of bed, but the Dalselv is low enough to the ground that it's not too far of a drop.)

Total cost for project:  £0

(We already had the paint.  And I'm not counting the cost of the gas to get the beds and parts from Ikea.)  Thanks Gumtree for the free Stuff Wanted ad and to the kind woman who responded and passed on the beds!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wardrobes-Part Two

Well, well.  The wardrobe update is taking longer than expected.  So, after the first bit of furniture switching, we were left with the glorious wardrobe carcasses.

I played around with Ikea's wardrobe planning portal.  And thought maybe something like this would work.

It took almost a week of priming and painting and painting some more.  (I'd read Zinsser 123 oil-based primer did a decent job on laminate.  Here's hoping.)  

Ah.   And the doors have been hung.

They don't sit level.  We'll fix that.  In time.

And now, it is the wait game.  I'm trying to patiently wait out the joiners to find a free time in their schedule to frame in the wardrobes to make them look a little better.  But, for now, they're holding the girls' clothes.  (Which is what they're supposed to do.)

Farewell, Large Tree

Ahh, the green of freshly laid grass.  This is our back garden a little over a year ago, shortly after we moved into the house.  Note the very, very large green bush/tree thing on the left.  We kept it for a year and decided it had to go.  It was large, dying, and blocked that whole corner of the garden.

In March, just before the loft conversion started, we had the tree cut down.  Man, the neighbors suddenly could see us and we could see them.  

And we could see the back of the garden.

Now the trees have their leaves and the garden is green.  Not quite as green, but green.  And we're working on some garden 'improvements'.  More on that later.