Renovating in France on a budget 

Hello Dear Reader,

Today, I’ve given the bedroom walls two coats of white emulsion, sanded the skirting boards and given then two coats of eggshell. Scrubbed down the shower room walls and given them the first coat of paint. My thrifted side tables have had a third coat of paint too. We have painting to finish but it’s all just tidying from now onwards.

We want to get all the major jobs done by the end of the day tomorrow so we can get onto the fun easy parts. There’s snagging to do but a massive day of work has made such a difference. We’re also pleased that we’ve kept costs to an absolute minimum.

DB fitted the balustrade today that he’d previously painted. Everything needs a light sand and a final coat of paint. He has lights to fit, doors to hang and we have to move furniture around and tidy. We’ve got to keep going even though I’m fed up of renovations and just want to go out and visit about five places I’ve got on my list. Fortunately, none of them are going anywhere so I can save the for trips in the future. 

When I look at the photo above, I marvel at everything he’s done: cutthe hole in the floor, customised the stairs to fit, built the stairs, built the wall and built the balustrades. DB – you are a star! I am so proud of you xxx

It’s slow going but we are getting there.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Pushing on with the thrifty renovations 

Hello Dear Reader,

I have a digital TV recording box for my freesat. I love to watch home Reno and DIY programmes where houses are raised from ruins or built from the ground. Well, I like the beginnings and the ending and the middle bits are boring. Well, right here right now, we’re in the middle boring bit. It’s got to be done and the end results will be worth it. It’ll take a while and at least another year to get our home to gîte standard and a while after that to get it registered and legally up and running. We have a way to go yet but still we must push on. Today, I sanded the stairs and put a stain and sealant on the wood. Each coat will darken the wood.

Here we’re sanding and painting the balustrades for the third floor landing which are easier to paint before we construct them. Tomorrow we’ll build them or try our best to get it done. I’m painting the spare bedroom and today, I did all the cutting in.

I’ve also put another coat of paint on the bedside furniture. When they’re dry and before the final cost, I sand them with fine sandpaper to give them a smooth finish. It’ll all be finished and lovely, just as we’ll be returning to Cornwall. 

We have a massive list of jobs, all of which will be done by to keep the costs low: gravel paths, paint he exterior of the house, tile the bare floors, plant shrubs, build a garden fence. It will all akebtime to save up for and we will do it all eventually.

However long it takes, it will be done on a budget by us.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Charity shop shopping 

Hello Dear Reader,

We took time out from painting the house and went to the charity shop that’s only open on Wednesday and Saturdays. I bought a couple of bedside cupboards for one of the spare bedrooms. We called into a DIY shop on the way home and bought some light fittings. We’ll get those up as soon as we can. I also bought some pictures of apples and pears, funnily enough, for the stairs. You might get why that’s funny, it’s a British thing so you might not. 

I got them scrubbed down with sugar soap and sanded down before the rain started. We had to bring them indoors and I got a coat of paint on them and I’ll finish them tomorrow. We’re pushing through any desire to jack it all in and head down the pub and we’ll just keep going on this leg of the renovations. It will be worth it in the end. We remind ourselves that we are not builders and it takes a long time for us to do the work.

There’s an end in sight.

We shared a bottle of rosé and watched reruns of old Glastonbury concerts!

We will do this.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Feed me I’m tired! 

Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Laying down a good vintage 

Hello Dear Reader,

I bleat on about wood but I swear it’s my greatest money saver. I’ve bought ( I’m a saddo who’s measured it) six cubic metres of wood and it’ll keep us warm this winter, next Easter, next winter and so on. 

We have three wood sheds. One was already full of wood, this one was previously a store and home for sleepy moths. It’s four metres deep and 1.4 metres high and it’s full of logs. 

So, it’s full of logs!

I pick up the veggie boxes out of the recycling bins, I’ll go into the woods behind us and fill it with kindling and stack it up to dry in the corner of the bigger sheds. 

It’s an odd thing to get so much pleasure out of stacking logs but I’m keeping us warm in advance. Every time we come over, when it gets cold, or we need to dry laundry then we can just light the wood stove and we’ve already paid for it all.

We’re still stacking it!

Here in France, everyone has their own woodsupplier and they if you’re lucky, they’ll share the number with you. We got lucky and got found a local farmer, with woodland and a barn full of logs…..and no, I can’t give you his number just yet.

All my neighbour’s have log piles and they’re a lovely view through the fence. 

So, like a good vintage, the wood has been laid down for winters to come. It’s like having a good larder, a full dry goods store or a freezer full of home cooked food. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Wood heating in France

Hello Dear Reader,

We had our firewood delivered today and the farmer just tipped it by our garden gate which I knew he would. Next, we threw it log by log into our garden no of course it got warmer and warmer. I don’t mind any sort of weather except wind, no one likes that. I’ve a shed full of logs to shlep up the garden, up the steps, round the side, then the back of our house and into our shed where it needs stacking. 

We are surrounded by forests in Brittany and wood is the main source of heating in rural areas. It’s reasonably priced and we bought wood that was cut three years ago, dried and stored in an airy barn. It’s dry and ready to use. I bought over a tonne. 

I enjoy the whole process of heating with wood: it’s prepayment so I can be warm and dry our clothes and not worry about cost, it smells lovely, it’s great exercise and it’s carbon neutral. We had a lovely surprise when the neighbour’s visiting teenage grandchildren came out to help us throw the logs into the garden, how charming. 

It’ll take me a while to move it all over a few days as well as aching muscles but it’ll be worth it to have a well stocked wood shed. I’m off to limber up and then move some wood. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

On your marks, get set, paint! 

Hello Dear Reader,

I’m now back on top form and I’ve painted whatever I could today. We want to finish the painting tomorrow so we can make a start on installing the banisters. I’ll paint them before we install them as they are so fiddly. The dark grainy photo above is the inside wall of the spare bedroom, the light was fading. 

The outside has had a coat of paint, the walls have had a coat of emulsion and I’ve sanded and eggshelled the skirting boards. It’ll all get more paint tomorrow.

Painting over the stairs gives me the jitters but it’s got to be done. On my next trip, I’ll bring some hard wearing floor paint for the treads and risers; maybe a blue grey.

The stair rails have had three coats of paint and have been sanded in between. I keep reminding myself when I’m picking paint out of my teeth that doing it all ourselves is saving us a mass of money. When it’s done, I can do the pretty bits and renovate some furniture and hang pictures, you know, the fun bits. 

My only colour scheme is always white, white and white. It’s the cheapest paint you can buy. When it gets tired or grubby, just go over it with more paint and anything goes with it. It’s simple and bright and never goes in or out of fashion. 

Next summer, we’re really looking forward to painting the outside of the house. That’ll involve long ladders and nerves of steel and a few clean pairs of pants but it’ll all get done eventually as time and budget allows.

Take the day off

Hello Dear Reader,

Today we did nothing practical, nothing constructive and just took the day off. I’ve had the tail end of a migraine for three days which has left me feeling nauseous and out of sorts. Plenty of time in the fresh air away from paint and dust has cured me along with good company and a peaceful forest.

I can’t tell you anything about the harp, it was buskerless as we walked by so we missed the performance. I find the forest very soothing and managed to show off the Grotte de diable and the Roche Tremblante which I managed to rock today. We even managed cool drink at a Crêperie and ice cream. I’d call that a very successful day off.  

That me, you put your back against the rock and it moves, all 137 tonnes of it. It’s quite the tourist attraction.

I’m sure we’ll get back to work soon enough.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Simple pleasures

Hello Dear Reader,

We’re quietly enjoying the peace, working in the house and dog proofing the garden. The weather has been wet and warm which is great for walking even we all get muddy paws.

Above, is not a roasted French snake but a big Breton sausage. They’re just meat and gluten free. They cost around 4€ but one feeds a family.

My eyes were bigger than my belly and I couldn’t eat two portions of sausage and could only manage one. When we’re off work, initially we eat more than usual but after a while we revert to simple meals that we’d have at home. When I cook mashed potatoes and cabbage, I always make spare to cook bubble and squeak for lunch to tomorrow.

This evening, there’s a Fest noz, in Huelgoat and we’ve heard the pipes and chanters warming up this afternoon. This is an evening of traditional Breton music and singing and we’ll be serenaded well into the night. 

We’ll have an early night as we’re shattered from working today and fat tummies from bangers and mash.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Budgeting never stops

Hello Dear Reader,

It can be easy when we’re not at work to relax the budget. We relax our food budget when we’re in France as food prices are considerably higher but are reasonably careful. At home and here in France, we keep every receipt and keep an eye on every penny spent. I keep a simple note book for costs, lists, plans and spending and I know every expense and our balance everyday.

Keeping a tight rein on spending means we have no financial surprises, always have funds and savings and can pay for what we need. I’m rarely frivolous and even whilst we’re here, I meal plan, I’m careful with energy and keep costs to a minimum. 

We’ve had a sociable few days and it’s been just lovely to meet up with friends, eat, cook for people and have drinks. We spent yesterday in the garden enjoying the sun and visiting friends in a nearby village and their new home.

Today, we have a quiet day at home working on our guest bedroom. I should have a reveal soon. Whilst DB does the building work, I sand or paint and it’s great fun working together. Even though we stick to a budget, even it’s a rough one, we still enjoy ourselves.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx