Spring Has Arrived !

At last, spring has finally arrived and I couldn’t be more happier :). We survived the winter by the skin of our teeth and so glad it wasn’t as bad as it should have been. We now know roughly what to expect and hopefully we will be better prepared for the next one. Looks like we have a lot more work to add to our expanding list ! I must admit Andy dealt with winter a lot better than me emotionally. I found it a struggle being stuck indoors 24/7 and I was definitely getting cabin fever, Andys ears are proof of that! The boredom drove me slightly nuts, I became very irritable and of course Andy got the brunt of it haha. Once the snow cleared, then came the rain, day after day of bloody rain ! Over a week of solid, unrelenting rain. Within a few days we had gone from a garden covered in deep, white snow, to a brown, muddy quagmire arghhhh ! Yes, I’m now going to vent a little. Two dogs and an extremely muddy garden results in a nightmare. Constantly trying to wipe paws, sweep and mop the floor a hundred times a day just about drove me to insanity. Even worse were the times I forgot to close the kitchen or living room doors before letting the dogs in and before I had a chance to stop them, there were muddy paw prints on the carpet and settee !!! To add insult to injury, when I was trying to Hoover up during one of these nightmare days, my Hoover decided to die a death but not before it blew out a big puff of dust everywhere ! All I can say is I had murder on my mind that day !
Anyway less of the moaning now, we have survived the hardest part of the year and now Spring is here and months of mostly sunshine ahead of us 🙂
These last four days have been exceptionally beautiful, clear blue skies and wall to wall sunshine. There is nothing more exhilarating than to feel the warm sun on your face and the way it make you feel like your bursting with energy. Now that the sun is here it’s time to get back to some hard grafting, which is exactly what we have been doing for the past four days. We have been digging, clearing rubble, pruning, chopping wood ( lots and lots of wood! ), filling in a large hole in the garden, taking down fences and mending fences and moving the caravan. It’s amazing how our garden looks so much bigger now we have managed to clear all the crap.
Next on our list is clearing a patch in the front garden and rotorvating it ready for planting our vegetables. Now that we have been here almost a year, we have a clearer view as to how we want our garden but it’s going to take us a long time to get it the way we want it. In October last year we sewed some grass seeds and that is now growing and there are flower bulbs appearing all over the garden, daffidols, tulips, crocus, hyacinth and some that I haven’t a clue what they are haha. My onions I planted last year are sprouting nicely, as is my strawberries and raspberries. I’m really looking forward to planting the veg and sowing lots more flower seeds, I’m not exactly green fingered so it’s going to be a case of plant them and pray !
So much work ahead of us over the next 7 months and no doubt a few problems and tantrums along the way but we’re looking forward to it now the sun is shining ! 🙂

The Start Of Winter

Well it’s now been 7 months since we arrived in Bulgaria. We’ve had plenty of gorgeous, hot sunny days, a few spectacular thunderstorms and one freaky hailstorm in the midst of summer but now the winter has closed in and it’s time to go into semi-hibernation. It’s been a bit of a mad rush to get the house as water tight and winter ready but we’ve done the best we can. Windows are covered in polythene inside and out, wood is chopped, water pipes are insulated and fires are up and running. In the last few weeks we have had 3 water leaks all from the same pipe connection and Sod’s law it had to be behind the shower! What a nightmare that was as our shower is a full glass enclosure and weights a ton, so moving it wasn’t the easiest task. The last leak was the worse, as it flooded so bad that the Lino was floating! In a way we were lucky as our bathroom floor is slightly lower than the bedroom floor and caught it just as it was about to seep into our bedroom but it took us an hour to bale out the water and 4 days for our bathroom to dry out. We managed to work out why the pipe kept coming out of the connection so, fingers crossed, no more leak…….for now anyway.
The weather has now turned cold, -6c is the lowest so far but I know it will get colder. I’ve got myself into a routine in the morning now. I don’t need an alarm clock because my scatty spaniel Twix, wakes me every morning at 7 and there’s no chance of a lie in as he paws my arm constantly until I get out of bed! First is sorting out the dogs, then light the fires followed by a nice cup of tea. When the rooms have warmed up a bit, then it’s time to get dressed into my work clothes. This usually consists of jogging pants, t-shirt, sloppy jumper and an old coat ( it’s a little bit cold outside ). I certainly won’t be winning any awards for glamour that’s for sure! There’s not much opportunity to get my glad rags on as it’s mostly been work, work, work on the house and garden. By the end of the day my nails are coated with mud or cement instead of nail polish, foundation has been replaced with dust, there’s no pretty ribbon in my hair, it’s now either sprinkled with sawdust or streaked with paint and my hands could be used as sandpaper, as they are rough,instead of soft and smooth. While i wait for Andy who is also busy ( busy snoring his head off! ) I collect more wood from our barn and clear up the dog mess, ( I know your all jealous of my glamorous life haha). When Andy joins the land of the living and after 2 mugs of coffee, we then spend our days working on the house. As it’s winter and there’s not a lot we can do outside we have decided our winter project is to change our big bedroom into a kitchen, as the kitchen we have now just isn’t working for me. The only trouble is we had to clear the furniture out of our bedroom but don’t really have anywhere to store them out of the way, so now our house is chaotic. There’s chest of draws and side tables in the living room, the bed is in the back room ( which is already bursting at the seams) and we have to leave the 2 double wardrobes in the bedroom that we are changing into the kitchen, ( total nightmare). I can honestly say my house is a mess, almost as bad as it was when we first moved in. The weather hasn’t helped as we have had quite a bit of rain recently, so the garden has been like a quagmire. Not only is my house a mess but with the dogs and ourselves in and out several times a day, there’s mud prints all over the floor (both my brush and mop are starting to wear away !).
I’m not a big fan of winter and I know it’s going to get a lot colder but the one thing I do like about winter is snow! The other day we had our first day of snow, a foot of it. There is no denying it, it really is very pretty. We had been watching the weather forecast so we were expecting it and I must admit, I was like a kid, I was so excited and couldn’t wait for it to snow. It was so funny watching the dogs playing in it and every time my spaniel came in, he had big balls of snow hanging from his hair, hilarious watching him trying to pull them off!
So here we are, 7 months in and we are entering, what I believe is the hardest part of our journey, winter. I’m not looking forward to the extreme cold, or spending so much time indoors and I’m sure I will go a little stir crazy, (Andy will cope with it better than me, I think) but on a positive note I am looking forward to more snow and to building our new kitchen 🙂 ………

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So Quiet !

Well another week over and more goodbyes. Andy’s parents, Chris and Ian, have now gone and once again the house is quiet, too quiet. It’s been a lovely but busy week and thanks to Chris and Ian’s help, we have managed to get a few more jobs done, ready for winter. To be honest I think we have worn them out !
Chris and Ian arrived on Saturday afternoon. Andy had taken my sister and daughter to the airport, then brought his parents back while I stayed at home to to get everything ready for our guests. I’d hate to run a guest house, it’s bloody hard work rushing around washing bedding, cleaning and trying to make everything presentable before the next guests arrive! I decided to make lasagne and a rich chocolate pudding for their evening meal. There’s nothing like a hot, home made meal after a long days traveling. To be truthful I was a little stressed as I’d never had the in-laws stay, let alone cook for them!
They arrived late afternoon, so after settling in, I dished out the meal. The lasagne was nice but a little dry, I burnt the garlic bread and the chocolate pudding, which I have made several times in the past, wasn’t light and fluffy like it should be, it was more like a chocolate brownie ! Sod’s law that when you try to impress the in-laws, it always goes to pot ! Never the less, they still enjoyed it.
During the week, Chris and Ian helped us with, chainsawing, chopping and stacking our wood, (6 hours of back breaking work), mending the roof tiles around our chimney, installing one of our fires and helping Andy start the build of the brick surround for our outside sink.
It wasn’t all just work, work, work, we did go out a few times. We took them to Vidin shopping, had a walk and a meal by the River Danube, took them to Rabisha lake and took them to the beautiful Belogradchik Rocks. I must admit I did walk their legs off at the Rocks . I like to explore when I go there and that usually consists of walking for miles through the woodland. Not sure where I’m going most of the time and we usually end up having to climb up hills and over rocks, slip and slide down a few slopes but it’s all fun ! What was supposed to be a gentle walk ended up being a bit of a hike but they enjoyed it, ( I think! ).
The week passed quite quickly and before we knew it they were gone . It’s been a good and productive week thanks to Chris and Ian. They are now off to Germany for a holiday ( I think they need it after spending a week with us ! ) Now we are back to an empty and quiet house but not for long, on Saturday my brother Mark and his friend Michael are coming for 4 days and I know those days will be full of rushing around and not a lot of sleep! I can’t wait 🙂

Trying Our Patience

In the four weeks, on and off, we have been trying to do our bathroom and get water into our kitchen and back room (eventually going to be our winter kitchen). Well all I can say is its pushed us almost to the limit as far as our patience is concerned. As previously mentioned, when we bought the house there was no water inside, so we had to tap into the outside tap and lay drainage. We thought that was awkward enough but fitting drainage and water pipes in the house was a nightmare at times. Lets put it this way, we didn’t need the pool outside, we had so many leaks we could have gone indoor swimming! The t-joints would either not connect to the pipes easily or the seal would twist,ending up with leak after leak. The worst joints were the plastic to metal, no matter what we did we just couldn’t stop the leaks but after several attempts and rolls of PTFE tape plus lots of Loxseal we finally managed to stop the leaks. The toilet that we had installed about 6 weeks ago had to be taken out again as the floor need to be raised. Instead of raising the whole floor, we made a step which the toilet would be fixed on. The reason for this was because if we didn’t raise the floor the drainage wouldn’t flow correctly. 32 buckets of concrete later and we had a step. Once the concrete dried we were able to lay the Lino and fix the toilet and sink. At last we had water in the house, it was great not having to brush my teeth at the outside sink, while the neighbours walked by shaking their heads!
We decided to build some shelves around the toilet and a cupboard under the sink, after all a woman needs plenty of storage to keep her mountain of toiletries! It is amazing how cheap wood is here. It took us a few hours to buy the wood, screws,nails etc due to our inability to speak the lingo, it’s hard work playing charades all the time but at least it amuses the Bulgarians. We even managed to find a fully enclosed shower ( glass on all sides ). It had one big shower head, a hand shower massage jets and shower tray, all for the bargain price of 395 Levs. (£174). The final item to buy was the all important boiler, we managed to get an 80 ltr one that was on promotion for 170 Levs (£75).
As we were doing the pipework, we thought we might as well connect the sink in the kitchen and put a sink in the 2nd kitchen,as well as plumbing for the washing machine. We decided to tackle building a framework for the back sink with work surface/drainage board,also so that we could instal the washing machine underneath. It took us a day and I must admit we were pretty pleased with our end result. Ok the back room isn’t even done yet but just having a 2nd sink and being able to wash our clothes in a machine is a godsend. And I have to add we only connected the cold water as we hadn’t even fitted the boiler yet, but it was exciting for me. The washing machine is a cold feed anyway as it has a heater element . All t can say is I was like a child with a new toy, washing just about everything I could get my hands on, honestly you would think washing machines had only just been invented! The washing frenzy continued the following day in between building the shelving and cupboard in the bathroom. After hours of heated discussions due to the fact that we both had different ideas, we finally decided how it was to be built. On and off its taken us a week to build. The reasons it took so long is not only where we trying to do other things in between but because we changed our mind so many times as to the design. Apart from the tiling around the sink its now complete.
Over these past few weeks our ideas about how we want our bathroom to look has changed several times and all I can say is its a good job we are doing it ourselves as, if we had someone in to do it for us, they would have downed tools by now! We have changed our ideas, clashed over each others ideas, had tantrums, thrown tools in anger, shouted, sulked,etc,etc. everything we have done so far together, up till the plumbing/bathroom, we have worked as a team, but this has pushed us both almost to our limits. Most of it is frustration over the problems with the plumbing, some of it is just tiredness and the rest is ‘ battle of the sexes’ !
One idea we decided on was to build a platform to sit the shower on, partly because of the drainage pipes and partly as we thought it would even out the room better as the toilet was fixed to the step. To our surprise, it turned out well. Next was to assemble the shower, well all I can say is it was bloody heavy. All that glass made us nervous as it was a bit of a balancing act to start with. We had to build it on the platform, which made it more difficult and when we finished building it, it had to be left in the middle until we had connected all the pipes and were sure there wasn’t any leaks. Next came the boiler and electrics. We managed to mount the boiler with no problems. Electrics went smoothly, and as Andy was doing the electrics, he decided he might as well fit a few more sockets in the kitchen,bedroom and back room, plus fit a new light in the bathroom. It’s a good feeling when things start going smoothly especially as it had been hellish to start with.
Once everything was connected, it was finally time to move the shower into place, which is the back of the platform. Truth be known we were dreading it as it had to be lifted slightly in order to move it. One wrong move and it could have been a disaster but with a bit of patience we did it! Finally we had a fully working bathroom. It’s not completed yet, there is still the boxing in of the pipes, build a full length cupboard around the boiler and of course the tiling, but it’s such a relief to be near the end. Was it worth all the stress, arguments, frustration, tiredness ? Of course it was because, although we are far from experts, what we have achieved goes beyond our expectations. We have a bathroom we love, I no longer have to wash clothes by hand and I have a choice of kitchen sinks!

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Working In A Heatwave…..

The weather has been so hot just lately, some days reaching 37 degrees centigrade and at night only going down to 26C. Even though it is only June,we still had to get our supply of wood in for winter, so that we could get it all chopped and dried in time before the cold weather sets in. Our friends were kind enough to order some for us, as they had to order some for themselves, which meant they were able to get the wood at a slightly cheaper price. They ordered 10 cubic metres for us, as that’s roughly how much we would need to see us through the winter, all we had to do was collect it from their house, which is about 25 minutes away. Not a problem…. Or so we thought!
We decided to go early in the morning as it would be a lot cooler, so we set off at 7.30. It was a relief to wake up to a cloudy morning, although it was 22C, but at least it was cooler than it had been. The wood had been piled on our friends drive, they even parked their car on the road so we could get our van as close as possible. They had family staying, so were really apologetic that they couldn’t help as they were going out, which was nice of them, even though we weren’t expecting them to help. The pile of wood was big but not as big as we thought it would be. We thought maybe a few trips, we should be finished by lunch time…..wrong!
The logs ( more like trunks ) were oak, cut to 1 metre lengths and weighed a bloody ton! I struggled to lift the big ones with Andy, so I had to leave him to load the big ones while I searched for smaller ones. Even the smaller ones were heavy and I’m no wimp, but I was struggling. Poor Andy had to do most of the loading while I tried to help stack them in the van. Because of the weight we could only load a quarter of the van or we would be over loaded and would struggle to get off the drive,as it was on quite a steep slope. The realisation that it would take us about 4 trips suddenly sank in, it was going to be a long day! When we arrived home, we then had to unload it all and stack it in the barn. The first run took us 2 hours and we were already getting hot, sweaty and tired. After a 10 minute water break, it was back to do it again. By lunch time we had done 2 loads, the sun had come out and the temperature had risen to 34 C, we were shattered.
We decided to stop for lunch as we hadn’t yet eaten. Our agent popped in which delayed us a little, so our lunch break lasted an hour. Watered and stomachs filled, it was off to load the third lot of wood but it didn’t take long before the heat zapped our energy. Sweat dripping, hands sore and aching, we just wanted to be finished, but the more we looked at the pile of wood, the more it just seemed to never go down. We were so tired that by the time we returned home with the third load, we decided to just push them out the back van door, straight onto the garden. When we finally went to pick up our last load, our friends had returned home and were kind enough to help us load the final lot, I have never been so grateful as I was then. We final returned home with our last load at 6 pm, it had taken us just over 10 hours including our water and lunch break. As you can imagine we were knackered, dirty and sweaty. Its funny but looking at all the wood now we had it home, 10 cubic metres is a hell of a lot of wood. All I can say is, next time we will be buying our wood in March when it’s cooler and we will order it already chopped !

Settling In

It’s been over a week since my last post, partly because we have been busy but mostly due to problems with the dreaded Internet, or lack of ! But we are now connected so I thought I’d best write this blog just in case we loose connection again.
Yet again we have had a rather busy and full week. Last Saturday and Sunday we cleared the living room, filled all the cracks and painted the walls. We laid the wood effect lino that we had purchased on Friday, hung curtains and arranged all the furniture, including the ones we had recycled and finally we had a lovely, comfortable living room. And even though we say so ourselves, it turned out great, considering its been done on a shoestring budget. Now it’s not to everyone’s taste, there are no straight lines, the windows and doors need painting, but it’s ‘rustic’ and homely and will do us for now.
Monday, back into Vidin to sort out our mobile phone as we were having problems. We had to hang around for a few hours while the phone company tried to fix the issue so we went for a coffee. We were both people watching when a couple came and sat at the table next to us, turns out they were English. I noticed they had been given a large coffee unlike the small expresso I had been given, so I decided to ask them what you had to ask for to get a large one. Turned out I only needed to say cino ( as in cappuccino ), if only I knew it was that easy !! After the introductions, They asked us to join them. They have been living in Bulgaria for 4 years, so were happy to give us advice or show us where to get certain things from. We spent a couple of hours chatting and we enjoyed the company immensely. To top it all off they offered us their old washing machine as they had bought a new one. Even though we offered to pay them, they refused to take anything. We couldn’t believe how perfect strangers could be so generous. Turns out they only live 20 minutes away from us so we arranged to collect the machine on Friday. Phone eventually sorted so returned home to finish a few odds and sods in our living room.
Tuesday, as I mentioned previously, we took a day off and visited Rabisha Lake. It was so nice to have a break, relax and enjoy the great outdoors. When we returned home in the afternoon the weather had turned. The sky’s were getting darker so we thought it best to get the buckets filled ready for a bath before the heavens opened. After boiling 5 kettles of water I went for a bath, by this time it was thundering and lightning, quite scary as it was so loud and a bit too close for comfort. I was just getting out the bath when I heard Andy calling me to hurry as we were flooding !! At first I thought it might have been the roof leaking but it was the front double doors. It was raining so hard that the water was gushing under the door into our newly done living room! I grabbed every towel I could while Andy rushed to get all the electric wires off the floor. Took a few minutes till we finally managed to block the leak and dry the floor. Just done in time before the electric went off but by the time I’d lit all the candles, the electric was back on again. In a way it was a relief that only the door leaked and not the roof. The storm also blew our router up so yet again no Internet !
Wednesday was back to Vidin to pick up Andys residency card and for me to apply for mine, plus open another bank account and get a replacement router. Plamen, yet again, was at hand to help us. He also took us to look at some wood burners and electric cookers. We ended up buying a Siemens cooker, secondhand reconditioned, immaculate inside and out and only cost 240 Levs, a real bargain.
Thursday ,back to Vidin again as the new router still wasn’t working , it was getting to be a real pain going back and forth all the time. We were given, yet again, another new router and sent on our way with our fingers crossed. Surprise, surprise it still didn’t work !!
Friday was a bank holiday and we had been invited to our new English friends house for a coffee and to pick up the washing machine. Their house and huge garden was lovely and alot of hard work had gone into doing it . Yet again they were really helpful and full of information that would help us. They even gave us 2 trays of eggs that their chickens had laid plus a hook to remove ticks from the dogs , as twix had one the other day and it was a bugger to remove ! During our visit we got a call to tell us an engineer was coming to sort the Internet out, to our surprise, so it was a mad rush to load the washing machine in the van and get home. The result was…..still no Internet !!!
Saturday and Andys first birthday in Bulgaria ! We spent the day cleaning out the pig shed so we had a dry place for all the logs we need to buy and clearing the rest of the barns. There was lot of dry wood scattered all over so we collected every bit and stacked them neatly in one of the barns. It was 8 hours of hard but very satisfying work and a birthday that Andy won’t forget. We even opened the bottle of home made Rakia that Plamen had given us. Andy seemed to like it but as much as I want to embrace everything Bulgarian , Rakia is one thing I’m steering clear of! I’m surprised the Bulgarians aren’t permanently bladdered drinking that stuff, it really is lethal !
Sunday we thought we’d organise our bedroom and paint our makeshift bathroom so it looked presentable for when my brother and Mum arrive in a couple of weeks ( It’s a bit hard to make a room with a bucket and paddling pool in, look like a bathroom! ) We managed to unpack all our clothes, well only just ! I didn’t realise I had so many and some of them I’m probably never going to wear ( typical woman! )
It was our neighbour Penka’s birthday, so we took round a card and little gift. As usual out came the food and Rakia but as Andy was full of hay fever he wasn’t up to eating or drinking anything. They even tried to give him some tablets for his hay fever but we refused that too and when we left, we were unsure as to wether or not we had offended them in any way. That’s the biggest problem we have here, the language barrier. It’s such a difficult language to learn and we are trying to learn it and we have managed to pick up a few words but obviously not enough to get by. The hardest thing I find is trying not to offend anyone so I spend most of my time apologising , then worrying if I have !
Monday and Tuesday we were back in Vidin buying some kitchen units, sink, a king size pine bed frame, carpet for the bedroom and Lino for the kitchen , plus more paint and other DIY bits. The prices here are quite cheap , kitchen units for one wall ( 5 units including sink unit) 352levs, carpet and Lino ( 12 sqm and 16 sqm ), 228 Levs, bed 202 Levs and sink with all the pluming bits came to 112 Levs. Total comes to 894 Levs ( £397 ), a real bargain we think.
We are getting used to finding our way round Vidin now, it’s no longer taking us hours and hours just to find one thing, we now know where to get the things we need, so now it’s a case of making a list and working out our route. Now we are able to get what we need in a morning rather than it taking all day thank god !
I also picked up my residency card, so now we are both officially Bulgarian residents, for the next 5 years anyway !
So yet again it’s been another busy week, stressful at times but mostly enjoyable. Although we have only been here for just over a month, it feels so much longer and we really feel like we are settling in nicely. It’s hard work and challenging at times but our life ,so far, is exciting, changeable,enjoyable but most of all full of satisfaction and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Oh and finally, the Internet is now up and running……for now……!

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Our Garden In Progress

The last few days we have been trying to sort some of our garden out. There’s been lots of digging, weeding and rotovating, but we are slowly getting there. We managed to make a plot for vegetables, although we’ve yet to plant some, and as we have 2 dogs, we needed to fence off the area. We are on a tight budget so most of the materials we use has come from the house or barns. We brought a roll of chicken fencing from the UK but we needed posts and a gate, so it was a case of hunting through the barns. We found some long, thick tree branches and a wooden gate which would do the job. After digging the holes for the posts, we cemented them in, ( 9.90 lev for 25 kg bag ), fixed the fence to the posts with wire we also found and hung the gate. If I say so myself, it looks pretty good and in keeping with our surroundings. Total cost 38 lev.

20130515-065543.jpg. Our side garden before clearing.

20130515-065634.jpg. Andy using the rotovator

20130515-065846.jpg. The finished result, our soon to be veg plot!