Sunday, June 26, 2011

A bit of Landscaping

As soon as we finished our pergola project we headed straight downstairs to do something about the big mess that was our backyard.

Let me back up a bit and explain why it was such a mess.

Remember my post about our planned renovations?  I waffled on about how the house desperately needed exterior insulation.  Well, we spent weeks and weeks of quote hunting (prices vary drastically here, as does quality of workmanship....) and finally settled on a company that appeared professional, was able to show examples of satisfactory workmanship and even offered a tax-free payment plan!  We made an appointment with them to sign the final paperwork and to pay the deposit ... but they didn't turn up!  They didn't even call!  The day of the appointment was actually a public holiday so we gave them the benefit of doubt and waited for them to contact us the following day.  But nothing!  As with every other company we researched, these people were not particularly efficient at returning telephone calls (but still they were much more professional that every other company we tried) and we were fed up with forever chasing them up.  Did we really want to invest more than $15000 in a company that couldn't even be bothered keeping it's appointment to start work?  We decided the answer was "nope!"

Being as exposed as it is on top of a hill, the house is severely weather beaten - the paint on the rendered-cement walls is flaking off all over.  Insulating the house would have meant a brand new looking home!  And besides the coldness in winter, this was a major consideration in wanting to get the insulation done.  However, we are selling the house and weren't entirely sure that spending this kind of money would improve the value enough to warrant doing the renovations.  Being mucked around by this company was a sign not to go ahead.

Instead, we decided to do some other bits and pieces for a lot less cashito, which we were sure definitely would improve the value to buyers in this area.  The pergola was one addition.  It cost us only $350 to build and looks fantastic even while bare of grape vines and flowers.  We're also in the progress of building-in a decorative (but entirely useless) enclave in the side of the house to become a garden shed.  Once complete the overall cost will be something like $250.  Here's what it looks like so far.

We just need to choose a door, cement-render the bricks and paint it.  All this we'll do once the sunroom is built.  
The other renovation in progress is the building of a glass roofed sunroom, or conservatory along one entire side of the house (cost approximately $6500).  These sunrooms are extremely popular in this neighbourhood and when done properly look modern and very attractive.  To build this sunroom we've had to extend the balcony above (which hubby is doing himself - final cost anticipated to be approximately $300) and extend the patio below (complete at a cost of $100).

It doesn't look like much now but once the original balcony wall is removed and a new wall built, we just have to install a new railing and tiles and I think it'll look really great.
We've already signed the paperwork for the building and work is planned to start in 4 days time.  This is what the area looks like so far.

Imagine those three windows at the bottom knocked out, the entire patio area enlcosed in glass and the brick walls cement-rendered and painted.  This will be such a lovely area to sit and relax.
In the meantime we've been very busy cleaning up the big mess caused by these last two renovations.  Cement, broken bricks, nails and bits of wood were embedded in the ground.

Ky is always keen to help.

It took several days of on-hands-and-knees, nail-chipping work to get the dirt cleaned up and then the area was ready for some much needed landscape lovin'!

I saw this picture a few weeks ago and it became the inspiration for our work.

Borrowed from
We originally planned to make a path exactly like this one but our intended path was so long and when we bought the logs we greatly under-anticipated how many we needed.  So instead of buying more wood, we decided to modify our design.  By the way, total cost of logs, cement, sand and topsoil came to a grand total of $110!

We thought making a path like this would be so easy - simply a matter of digging a bit of dirt, laying some sand and cement and positioning the logs....  Unfortunately, just the digging part took almost an entire day and then positioning the logs turned out to be a very time-consuming challenge.  We asked that the logs be cut into approximately 20cm lengths.  But instead they ranged in length from about 10cm to 50cm!  This meant a whole lot of digging holes for individual logs, banging other logs into place, carefully leveling the logs section by section and repositioning already banged-in logs.

This is how it looked after we positioned the logs to see how they'd look, and before we actually dug them into place.

After that it was simply a matter of filling in the gaps with a mixture of cement and sand, laying topsoil all over the entire yard, spreading grass seed and watering the area very thoroughly.

Notice the vege garden?  Tomatoes, beans, eggplant, capsicum, cucumbers, carrots  and lettuce.  All grown from seed.  It's my pride and joy!  We plan to build a proper brick or wood border to pretty it up a bit... it's on the list.
We're hoping grass will grow amongst the log path but not conceal the logs too much...  But if these little fellows have anything to do with it, we won't have any grass at all!

They may be little, but these ants are very efficient at collecting the grass seeds ... I'm seriously concerned that they'll collect them all!
Already I think it looks pretty nice.  Certainly much better than the muddy wasteland it was before!


(So all in all, the completed renovations including pergola, balcony extension, patio extension, basic landscaping, garden storage room and sunroom is estimated to be ... $7610!!  Cheap as chips compared to the $15000 we were going to fork out on the insulation.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

DIY! Discarded Drawer to Modern Wall Art

We found an old drawer in a pile of rubbish on the side of the road while walking one morning and because we're in renovation mode lately, we decided it had potential!

We turned this...

into this!

First I pulled the drawer apart and painted the base an reddish bronwnish colour ... just because ...

Then I collected a heap of these sticks which used to be stuck to a set of three of these containers (... until  a certain little someone pulled them off again and again, despite a million attempts of gluing them back on ... grrrrrr)

and using a hot glue gun, I attached some hempish-looking string around one end of each stick.  This was the least fun part.  I burned every one of my fingers in my impatience to get the job finished while the little one slept.  

This is what I ended up with - a big messy pile of sticky sticks!

Next, it was time to knock together some kind of frame using the four sides of the drawer.  One of the sides was wider than the others so hubby took a sliver off the edge with the circular saw we borrowed for the pergola (and hadn't returned until now...)  Unfortunately the blade went off course slightly and we ended up with this little burn mark.  Personally, I like it.   I think it adds character.

After the sawing and a little bit of hammering, the frame turned out like this.

The inside edges looked too raw so I painted them the same colour as the back.

Once all this was done, I started on the artistic bit.  With the nerve endings of my fingers already burnt off, it took no time at all to hot glue all the sticks into the frame.

And wah-lah!  It was done.  A little something to hang on the huge empty wall above our TV.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day! Babalar Günü Kutlu Olsun!

It's Father's Day here in Turkey today.  Yesterday, Ky expressed himself (all over the house...) with his paints.

So we turned his art into a little gift for his baba.

Translation is "I love you my baba!"

Then we made one for his dede too.

Translation is "I love you my dede!"

Three generations!

I hope everyone celebrating Father's Day today, is having a lovely day.  

Happy Father's Day!  Babalar Günü Kutlu Olsun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The blanket is finished!

Several weeks ago I posted about my first real crochet project - a blanket!  Well, I did in fact finish only a few days later but it took until now to take some photos.

Here it is!

By the way, I made that cute embroidered bird cushion cover too.  A pair of them actually.  A gift for the mother-in-law.

These flowers were fun to make until the 20th one ... by then I was well and truly over making them...

Internet Was Out!

And here's why!

Look at this!  Turk Telecom came by early yesterday morning to fix something but then it started to rain (a shower that lasted all of about 4 1/2 minutes).  So they just left!  Leaving behind this mess and several houses without telephone (or internet).   Grrrrrrr!

After several calls yesterday and again this morning, someone finally returned to fix the problem.  They even cleaned up their mess... a miracle!

Friday, June 10, 2011

More Renovations - A Pergola!

With all the renovations going on around the place, I've been itching to get a couple of blisters on my own hands.  I love making, creating, building.  So... I convinced the hubster that the pergola we've been thinking about for the front of the house, we should build ourselves!

We've never actually built anything before.  Not as a team anyway.  And not as big a project as this one.

Thanks to google, I found so many instructional pages and videos.  Building a pergola looked really quite simple.  I should have known better...

Over the course of a couple of days, I drew plan after plan, measured and re-measured, compiled material lists and organised the borrowing of power-tools.  Then before we could chicken out we drove straight to a timber shop, ordered our wood and picked up all the other bits and pieces we needed.

This was when the first kink in our smooth project appeared...

Two days later, the wood was cut and treated and we brought it home.  Unfortunately, despite all of M's bargaining and negotiating for "Grade A" wood at the best price, we ended up with many pieces that were cracked and splinted.  But thank goodness, not a single piece of wood was warped.

We set to work.

This is what the front of the house looked like before:

It looks so messy!  Believe me the place doesn't always look this bad.
First, we attached all the wall plates securely to the house.  Drilling through concrete while standing on a ladder is a strong man's job.  I left this part entirely to M.

Next, the post holes.  For me this was the scariest bit because it's permanent.  Although I was so careful with my measurements, they were afterall my measurements, and I was afraid I'd made a mistake somewhere that would upset the whole structure.  So I re-measured everything for the umpteenth time.  This was when we discovered the second kink...

When we placed our order for 30 centimetres of scalloped edges on each of the rafters, it became clear that there'd been some sort of miscommunication or misunderstanding, because the timber guys didn't add onto the existing measurements, they simply scalloped the lengths as they were.  Did I explain that well?  For example, one part of the pergola called for 180 cm lengths of rafters (from wall to beam).  We wanted at least an extra 40-50 cm overhanging the beam with 30 cm of the 40-50 cm being scalloped.  When I gave M my measurements I did include an extra 30 cm to allow for any mistakes I made in measuring, so with a bit of innovative thought we were luckily able to salvage the situation without having the mistake be too noticeable.  

Okay, so now with (hopefully) all the problems identified, we were ready to dig the post holes and set the posts!

The digging was another job I left to M.  But I did help a bit by making sure the top part of each hole was neat and square.

Notice the patio tiles look newly cemented?  Well, that's because we actually extended this raised section of the patio to add more space for table and chairs.  Now that the weather has warmed up, we eat outside on the patio more often than inside.
As you can see, the little one literally added his personal touch:

Don't worry, Ky really does have 5 fingers!
While we were waiting for the cement to set we cut the poles to size and attached the beams to the poles while they were lying on the ground.

Let me tell you!  Lifting this thing, swinging it around and placing it in the post stirrups was not easy!  I was so afraid we were going to break it.
Two days later, the post stirrups were securely set in the concrete and we were ready to start on the fun part - erecting the pergola!

The first part was a bit tricky.  One of us had to hold the posts in place with a spirit level while the other one balanced and attached the first rafters to the beams.

This is also where we had to make a small modification to allow for the too short rafters (because of the scalloping).  Instead of having the beams on the outside of the poles we had to put them on the inside so the rafters would attach properly.

I don't think it looks too bad, but we'll always know it wasn't meant to look like this.  Oh well.

I'm trying not to dwell on it, but I just know it would have looked so much better had the beams been on the front...
Once the first rafters were attached and the whole structure was secure, it was just a simple matter of attaching the rest of the rafters.

There was lots of drilling and hammering required so we called on the expert assistance of our tiny master builder.  We'd have been lost without him.  In this video he's widening the tops of the drilled holes we made in the rafters.  We don't have a recessing tool so we simply used a bigger drill bit and kind of wiggled it around in the top section of the hole to enable the screws to lie flush with the surface of the wood.

Putting the rafters up was the most satisfying part of the whole job.

What do you think of the sturdy ladder situation we have going here...?
And we were done!!  I feel very proud!

Now we have to paint it and I'm also planning to build a rectangular planter box around each of the two sets of poles on both sides of the sticky-out bit of the patio.  Oh and some grape vines crawling all over the pergola will complete the picture.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Last weekend was a truly wonderful weekend.  We risked the threat of gloomy weather and made our escape to a lovely place called Abant National Park, for some nature-loving.

Abant is about 2 and 1/2 hours drive north west of our home in Ankara.  It's about the same distance from Istanbul and also about the same distance from the Black Sea coast.  From Ankara or Istanbul, it's a very doable weekend trip.  And well worth the drive.

The main attraction of Abant, in my opinion, is the lake.  It's entirely surrounded by hilly forest and meadows.

We found a gorgeous spot only steps away from the water in a little field carpeted in wild flowers and backed by pine trees.

True to the weather forecast, it did rain, but fortunately only lightly and only for a few minutes (and unfortunately, while we were putting our tents up and cooking lunch).

The trip was kind of a last minute thing so we weren't efficiently prepared.  Instead we just took everything, including heaps of blankets and pillows and lots of food, most of which was bread and tea...!  Although Murat, Kaya and I eat very little bread, the mother-in-law packed 8 loaves of bread and 2kg of tea leaves!!!  We were only away for 2 days!

Oh, we had such a relaxing good time.  Ky had a ball!  He loved the fire.

He loved the tents.  He loved the field of flowers.

He loved using his old "baby" potty underneath the tree.  He loved the horses pulling carriages of singing visitors around the lake.  He loved the sounds of thunder at night.  He loved rolling big rocks into the lake..

During the first afternoon we walked to a nearby park on the lake and came across a bunch of people peacefully performing tai chi.  Ky immediately joined in and as everyone lifted their arms, he yelled out at the top of his voice, "Picking apples! Picking pears!"  The tranquil atmosphere was shattered as everyone laughed and laughed.  I guess everyone was familiar with the well-known children's game where the kids stand on their tip-toes and reach up high pretending to pick fruit from imaginary trees while singing "picking apples, picking pears..."

We're definitely going to do this again soon.