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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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Saturday
Feb062016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #2 - Base and Joists

They don't half work at a canny pace, these builders. After the concrete set in the foundations, they lost no time in setting the first breeze blocks in place to show the line of the new extension and the curved deck...

Raking a load of rubble over the new area...

Pouring concrete over the top of it...

Building the first part of the wall...

And installing the joists for the floor. The dude below is standing in the middle of what will be the kitchen.

Because we have cellars, the walls you can see in these pictures are not the walls of the new kitchen, but rather the base that the new kitchen will sit on, bringing the floor of the new extension above cellar height to the same height as the rest of the house. The extension will be made from white render smoothed over the breeze blocks, sitting on top of a wirecut reclaimed brick base. This way we will blend the new part of the house with the 140 year old existing building.

Eva and Natalia are fascinated by what they call 'the secret entrance' - namely the cavity that will lie below the new kitchen.

Penny and Enrique, a couple of keen diggers, are also having a glorious time rolling round in the copious amounts of mud that now festoons the entire garden.

Next - the scaffolding is going up.

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Thursday
Jan282016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #1 Foundations

We've never worked with builders before, so it's been a fascinating experience so far to see them in action. What would they do first? What kind of machinery would they use? Where would the skip go? How many people would be on site? Would they brew up inside, or would we run an extension cable outside for them?

The answers are: 1) Clear the entire site to ground level, including the new deck and terrace area; 2) So far we've had a giant portable skip and lorry combination, along with a one-man digger for chewing through the soil, tree roots and rubble, and a one-man dumper for carting all the soil etc round to the skip at the front; 3) We have a huge skip on the pavement across the driveway - a dude in a lorry zips round to tow it away for emptying as soon as it fills up; 4) Four, so far; and 5) Outside, even in the rain, poor souls.

By the end of the first day, the entire site had been pretty much levelled. The terrace had gone:

...and the reclaimed bricks that had been used to build it were stored neatly on a palette at the end of the garden.

All the shrubbery had been ripped out, including the jasmine and the wisteria that grew up the back of the house. My Dad, who had been texting live updates to us in the hospital, informed us somewhat picturesquely that the digger had attacked it like a terrier with a rat - this latter was much to Andre's delight as he hated the wisteria with the passion of a thousand burning suns. We will replant the jasmine but the wisteria was far too predatory to grow anywhere near the house without it taking over, so, pretty as it was for two weeks every year, I'm not sad to see it go either.

From this:

To this:

The builders uncovered a wall that had been buried under the terrace - it extends a few metres towards the garden from the back door, and includes a few white ceramic glazed bricks. What could this have been? A Victorian scullery, perhaps? I'm definitely keeping the glazed bricks and using them somewhere in the refurbishment.

The foundations for both the extension and the deck have been dug, inspected, and filled with concrete that was delivered in exciting fashion this morning by a giant cement mixer.

We'd fondly speculated that 'of course' the builders would rig up some kind of temporary steps out the back door so we could continue to use it - nope, we've now got a 1.5 metre drop out the back door and it's completely out of action.

(For comparison, this is what the area outside the back door used to look like:)

This has posed somewhat of a problem with regards to the dogs, who are accustomed to bolting out the back door to their alfresco bathroom on a very regular basis, while barking enthusiastically. Andre's attempt to let them out the front door and walk them round to the back met with some resistance as both dogs declined to jump across the various moat-like foundations that comprised a kind of canine obstacle course, and his initial solution of picking them up and lobbing them across the various chasms, while hilarious, is not necessarily enormously practical. We will find a way to manage this, I'm sure.

A load of breeze blocks have now been delivered by yet another exciting lorry/crane/claw combination, the presence of which in the street went a long way to enforcing the 20mph limit that the majority of passing drivers blithely ignore.

Apparently the actual build will commence tomorrow - closely supervised by Miss Elodie from an upstairs window, of course.

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Monday
Jan252016

Theme for 2016 - Expansion

Apparently having a word or a theme instead of a list of New Years' resolutions is a thing now, and it's a thing that I like, on the grounds that if you really wanted to stop biting your finger nails or exercising more you'd probably just crack on and do it, rather than waiting for a specific point in the year to inspire (more often than not) short-lived motivation. 

So my theme for 2016 is 'Expansion'.

I took this photo of the sun setting over Tokyo Bay ten years ago - it was my first experience in expanding my horizons and travelling alone. 

We began 2016 by expanding our family with the arrival of a third beautiful brown-eyed daughter, whom we have named Elodie. Her big sisters are besotted with her, and we're all blissfully happy. "Is the whole family here now?", asked Eva. Yes, little one, we're all here now. 

On the same day, our long-awaited builders arrived to begin the process of expanding our house - we excitedly kept an eye on progress from the hospital in between newborn snuggles. I took lots of 'before' photos as my last act before the baby arrived, so will share these in due course, but for the meantime, here's what the back and side of the house looked like before the builders got started:

The photo above shows the wasteland at the side of the house looking back towards the terrace and the main garden - this is where our new kitchen will be located. 

Here's the original view from the back door:

And here's a quick peek at the same view from the back door now:

The terrace has gone, and the soil has been levelled to ground level. We now have an exciting 1.5 metre drop out the back door. 

I also want to take the opportunity in 2016 to expand my own capabilities by taking on a challenge of a kind that pushes my out of my comfort zone - such as running a 10k (I am not in any way, shape or form, a runner), gaining a new vocational qualification (perhaps reiki or homeopathy), or learning a new skill like French polishing (because why not?). 

More pictures of building progress coming up soon. I might even manage a weekly update if little Elodie allows me to. 

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