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Hallway colour scheme: wallpaper

Going for gold: hallway colour scheme

Yesterday I got home to a very dusty house; the first phase of our hallway renovation has started in earnest and we now have lighting. Almost blindingly-bright lighting. It will certainly act as a catalyst for the rest of the work as we can now see the stained carpet, chipped paint and cracked ceiling (water tank leak) in all its glory.

Next step: re-plaster the ceiling, replace the skirting boards, repaint, recarpet and then the fun stuff starts….

starlight, starbright: hallway lighting

Starry, starry nights: spotlights in the hallway

I bought a roll of Harlequin’s Radiance Gold wallpaper five years ago. No real reason, I just fell in love and knew I wanted it in my life. I don’t have enough to cover a wall, and I certainly can’t afford anymore – it’s £44 a roll. Plus, if we end up moving, it would be a bit of a waste. I think I will make long tall panels to hang along one wall. Hopefully it will glitter in the light and it make me smile every time I walk past.

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Friday

Wake up with: £40

Go to bed with: £22.50

I’ve always loved a Friday. And now it’s new budget day, I love Fridays even more.

However, there is a caveat: this week, I’m going to have to try to get by on £40. I have the husband’s anniversary present, birthday present and associated celebrations to account for later in the month. One of my god-daughters is turning one and the other’s christening is in the diary. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through a full bank holiday weekend and a work week on £40, but I’m game for a challenge.

A round robin informs me that I need to pay my dues if I want to join the office lotto syndicate this month—time to bow out. Here’s hoping this isn’t the month we hit the jackpot.

It’s date night in the LoveRichCashPoor household, so I cycle to Camden to meet the husband from work. He tells me that he’s withdrawn money for the week in cash. Oh and he’s bought us a selection of bank holiday breakfast goodies. This calls for a celebration—the drinks are on me.

Saturday

Wake up with: £22.50

Go to bed with: £14.39

After a princely brunch, courtesy of the husband’s treats, and an afternoon spent rather optimistically readying the garden for summer, thoughts turn to dinner. It’s unseasonably cold, so comfort food is on the menu: we settle on bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato). The husband is dispatched to the shop with a £10 note from my wallet.

After dinner, we snuggle up on the sofa for a film, the rain beating against the windows and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Sunday

Wake up with: £14.39

Go to bed with: £6.89

I use the leftover mashed potato to make potato scones for breakfast, which we eat with black pudding and poached eggs. The husband is happy.

After a relatively lazy day of pottering yesterday, it’s time to ‘make the most’ of our long weekend so we walk into Central London to visit the Sony World Photography Awards at Somerset House. It’s just as well we saved on public transport, because the entry fee is £7.50. Ouch.

Monday

Wake up with: £6.89

Go to bed with: £2.21

Trivia question of the week: how many meals can you make with 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 4 onions, 2 carrots, a bulb of garlic, a bunch of spring onions (scallions), a bunch of coriander (cilantro), 4 cans of tomatoes and a rapidly depleting store cupboard?

Answer: 14 and counting

With just £6.89 for the rest of the week, there’s no scope for largesse at the grocer. I improvise a Mexican black bean soup for the week’s lunches and cook up a mega vat of slow-cooked chilli con carne for tonight (and the foreseeable future) as well as an avocado and mango salsa. I save some of the fresh vegetables for a ratatouille later in the week.

Now to turn water into wine…

Tuesday

Wake up with: £2.21

Go to bed with: £0.73

Mega excitement. First thing I do at work: check my email and what does it tell me? That people are actually reading my blog. And not all of them are my mum!

It feels surreal and brilliant. To anyone who might be reading this now—and to those of you from across the pond in particular—please feel free to pitch in with comments or questions—especially if you don’t understand my British terminology. I will try to provide ‘translations’ where possible.

Well the thought that someone out there might actually read this spurred me on to bite the bullet with the photography. I am scared, very scared.

Firstly, because I do not ‘do’ technology (the husband assumes the role of Chief in Charge of Wires in our household, and I can’t even set the video—yes, exactly; I haven’t even graduated to DVD yet).

2) When I dreamt up this project, I read a couple of articles on the do’s and don’ts of food photography and there seemed to be an awful lot of don’ts—I am not to take pictures in artificial light and under no circumstances am I to use patterned plates. Oh dear. We only have patterned plates and I normally eat after dark. Hence the distinct lack of photography thus far.

Still, there’s a brief five-minute window of sunshine in the evening, so I decide to go for it. Patterned plates or no patterned plates. I blow virtually all the remaining budget on a couple of props (sour cream and a lime—I know, I’m living it large), then completely forget everything the husband has patiently told me about ISO and exposure (let’s face it, it’s a bloody miracle I remembered how to turn the thing on). I almost spill an entire bowl of soup down the stairs while trying to find the best-lit spot in the house and that’s before I discover that there’s no time to mess about with food photography. It congeals, it slops, it wilts, it melts. What’s more, I can’t afford to waste perfectly good food, so there’s only so much experimentation that I can do—there will not be any varnished chickens on this blog.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £0.73

Go to bed with: £0.73

We’re having our boiler replaced and relocated this week in a bid to magic a second bedroom out of some redundant space in our flat, and install a non-electric shower after ours exploded a couple of months ago. This is a job for the professionals but our experience of workmen in general so far has been thus:

Us: “Please can we pay you a vast amount of money, more than our monthly salaries combined, to do what appears to be a relatively simple job, if one that we do not have the balls expertise to do ourselves?”

Builder: “Yes, but I’ll be doing you a huge favour at that price.”

Us: “We’re eternally grateful. Any chance you could do it when we’d like it to be done?”

Builder: “No, but I could start about three weeks after that.”

Us: “Oh okay, I guess that will work. How long will it take?”

Builder: “Hard to say, about three days.”

[Up to five weeks after the builder said he’d complete the job, house in chaos, with all furniture from one room piled up in the other room]

Us (unsuspecting): “So, when you said three days, we assumed you meant three consecutive days—silly us. It’s just we’re running out of clean clothes and washing the dishes in the bath isn’t ideal in the long-term.”

Builder: “Well, you see, I have to fit it in around other work because I’m doing you such a huge favour.”

[two years later—job is complete, if a little wonky]

So you can see why we approached the latest instalment of the works at no.53 with some trepidation. This time, however, is different. We receive an utterly reasonable-sounding quote via email, which we accept without question. When can they start? Next week. Really? Yes. The team turn up on Tuesday morning as promised. Tuesday evening, the new boiler is in, the builders have moved the furniture themselves, and put it back in roughly the right place. Nothing has been broken and they have stacked all their tools neatly, out of our way. We still have hot water.

Wednesday evening, the new boiler is in, the old boiler is out. The house is tidy, nothing has been broken. Oh, and they happened to notice one of our radiator valves is broken, so they’ve replaced it. We still have hot water. It’s a miracle.

So maybe the boiler will spontaneously combust or something next week. But right now, I am very impressed.

Thursday

Wake up with: £0.73

Go to bed with: £0.73

“It’s good this cash-only policy isn’t it?” The husband muses. “When you use your card it’s really easy to lose track and spend money without even realising.” Too true, oh husband of mine, too true.

I have £0.73 in my wallet and that means I have spent £39.27 this week. Truth be told, it’s a simple formula: do I want to change my life, or do I want that cappuccino?

We’ve been to the pub, out for dinner, had friends round for supper, been to an exhibition and eaten magnificently (if I say so myself). To me, that is the very definition of money well spent.

The one that got away

The one that got away

As someone who has watched pretty much every episode of Location, Location, Location ever, I’m sure it would take Kirstie Allsopp precisely three seconds to lose patience with us. We have a long, specific wish list, we’re picky about location and we don’t have much money—so yes, we are a property finder’s nightmare.

What do we want: a period house in Sussex with a large garden that is not overlooked, three bedrooms and a large eat-in kitchen. Must have working fireplace. Preferably a renovation project. Am prepared to knock down plenty of walls.

What we don’t want: anything close to a busy road, anything modern, anything that is too ‘done’ – especially if it is not to my our taste.

The main problem is that we found all this and more, our offer was accepted, the valuation completed, and I spent hours picking paint colours and researching central heating systems—but the mortgage company wasn’t as keen on the renovation project as we were. The day before we were due to exchange and complete, it slapped a retention onto our mortgage offer pending completion of works—thereby rendering it impossible to proceed with the purchase. Humph.

So on to plan 4,623 part B. If we can’t buy the house we want without selling our flat, we would buy a tiny foothold in London first, then sell our flat and escape to the country. The first property is a non-starter. We are outbid almost instantly by an investor. Disappointing. The second property, bingo. Offer accepted, mortgage application in and approved in principle, survey done, solicitor prepped…. and the vendor pulls out. Humph.

On to plan 4,624. We’re now readying our flat for sale, and scanning Rightmove for any of the above. Oh and I’m occasionally getting sidetracked by how far our money would go in France. Watch this space.

While our forever home continues to elude us, there’s nothing to stop us making the most of what we do have. We’ve already changed this flat beyond recognition (see below), but after years of wear and tear (cough, and a few parties, cough), it’s due a repaint and re-carpet. And that was before the water tank leaked through the ceiling, the shower exploded and we decided to turn the study into a second bedroom.

Yes, we’re no stranger to the renovation game, ever since we picked up the keys one dark and chilly December evening five and a half years ago (almost to the day, it was December 15th), we have lavished care and attention (but not very much money) on our lovely Stoke Newington pad…

The sitting room before – vinyl wallpaper, six (yes, six!) layers of woodchip wallpaper on the ceiling and tinted mirrored wardrobes…

Stoke Newington before

Sitting room before

And after…

The kitchen before… (we got a little carried away with the demolition before we remembered to take the photo)

and after…

the bedroom before…

and after…

the garden before (well, work had already begun. Impatient us?)…

Garden before

and after…

A gratuitous picture of the kitten that has visited us regularly ever since he was big enough to climb through the window. I call him Stripes. Here he’s on the chaise longue that you can see in the sitting room before it got recovered with delectable Ian Mankin fabric (the husband was disappointed, he liked the pink velvet. He is going to kill me if he ever sees this!).

And I couldn’t resist a shot of my bespoke bathroom cabinet. I don’t have a before shot, but I did do the tiling all by myself on those alcoves (yes, that is why it’s a bit wonky).

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