The Ch’i is mocking me

February 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Thanks Bethany, for the prompt to post again. What a couple of weeks. I stalled on the spring cleaning due to a hideous cold, but the kitchen is pretty much done now. I need to put up a new shelf, and that will give me the impetus to go through the drawers and one more cupboard – shouldn’t take long, because I sorted them both only a few months ago.

So yes, I cleaned on top of the cupboards (wow that was a huge task) the grungy cupboard under the sink (the spiders skedaddled), threw stuff out… I have some after photos, but very few ‘before’. Funny, I keep forgetting to take pictures of the grimiest corners of my home to share with the world – can’t imagine why.

But the stove top. The hob. The broken hob. The gifted, second-hand hob from my mum. Well, we’ve had three separate guys out to look at fitting it. Turns out all our gas pipes are outdated and illegally dangerous. So had to get all of that stuff replaced, a safety valve put in. The old hob ripped out a big chunk of kitchen work top when it came out. And then the new hob was fitted, final safety check being done… when… a gas leak. One of the burners is leaking, he can’t fix it, he can’t leave the gas to it turned on – only solution is for me to go and get a new hob, and for him to come back again and fit it. I have to pay him for the work he’s already done (3 hours) and pay for him to come out again and fit it. So much for prosperity.

Oh yeh, and the mirror I put in the toilet tank, it broke the toilet. Let me tell you, a broken toilet in a single bathroom dwelling, is seriously anxiety-inducing.

And the software I am using to try to build my online shop (you know, so that I can make some money), is giving me seven kinds of grief and pushing me to the edge of tears. I don’t know how to fix it, but I will keep trying.

Ah, what a week.

But, now we have the new hob, which is shiny and new and stainless steel and will reflect all that good fiery Ch’i. And John will be here on Tuesday to fit it (and I will try to forget the £ that is pouring out). The toilet is fixed. The new shelf is ready and measured and should fit the space – maybe I will be able to put it up without bringing the whole wall down… oh my, I can’t believe I even thought it out loud.

In other news, check out this very cool kitchen re-do by Fishgirl. So much better.


Prosperity – the kitchen, pt 1

January 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

Are you tired of prosperity yet? Not me! I think I’m going to work through each gua on each floor – so we’ll work in corresponding sections upstairs then downstairs. First Prosperity – bathroom and kitchen – next will be Fame and Reputation – kid’s room and family room. Again – apologies for the horrible images, I swear there has not been one bright day in January!


Dark kitchen

Here is our kitchen. Before we moved in, the large opening was a solid wall, you entered the kitchen through a door where the fridge now stands. There was a doorway out to the side passage and back garden, what remains of it is the window above the dishwasher. That kitchen layout made for a very small space – not much different in terms of cupboard/counter space, but you couldn’t reasonably fit more than one person in the kitchen at a time. Moving the doorway (and therefore the ch’i) means that two people can now comfortably work side by side in there.



I like the black and whiteness of the kitchen, a bit like a science lab. The floor is black rubber. The microwave is hugely old and probably leaking all sorts of toxic effects every time we use it. The hob (gas burner) is BROKEN. Out of four burners, only two work. This is bad feng shui news, man. Anything broken, in any gua, is bad, but a burner/cooker should actually be great for a prosperity gua, as cooking speaks to abundance. The good news is, my mum is replacing her hob, so we are getting her old one, which has four burners, all of which work. As soon as we can get a guy out to fit it.

In the cornermost corner of our prosperity gua, we have a bread maker – that white chunk on the corner of the worktop under the cupboard near the window. Get it? It makes bread/dough?. I like that, and feel it must mitigate at least in part the bins under the sink next to it. The main bin has a lid, and I can do the red nail polish around the rim for a belt and braces approach. But the recycling I don’t know about. At the moment, we just have the bright orange recycling bag loose in there next to the bin – there’s not really space for another bin, unless I can find somewhere else for the cleaning/laundry stuff to live. Which is probably what I should do. I know this cupboard needs a good clear-out, but I’m stalling because there are at least two spiders in there.

Prosperity – the bathroom, pt 3

January 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

We can now say of the bathroom ‘we feng shuied it’. Apologies for the quality of the images – but you know, if you’re waiting for good light in London in January, you’ll be waiting a long time. There are a few bits still to be done, I’ll update later. Here’s the run down so far:

Keeping the ch’i in

Red tape around toilet drain

Yes, I really am photographing the drain of my toilet

Red tape tied round the drains, red nail polish around the bin and the plughole. There are also two little mirrors placed to deflect ch’i back up into the room – one on the floor behind the toilet (that’s what you can see there in the picture), one in the tank.

Under sink

Under the bathroom basin

Dirt, dust, old and broken items, reminders of bad times
Old medicines (reminders of bad times) have been emptied out of the cabinet, and everything old and out of date moved out of the under-sink cabinet and both given a thorough clean. The bath toys have been sorted and anything broken or just gross (bath crayons crumble after a while, and the little wind-up swimming guy whose arm doesn’t work) has gone. Whole of the rest of the room given a big clean. Broken shaving mirror replaced.

The bottom 4 inches of the shower curtain was kind of gross, so I just cut it off with scissors. It looks fine now. It could use replacing, but will have to wait until the ch’i is flowing a little more freely here. The pattern of the current one is fine, lots of little dots – like bubbles or condensation… or coins.

I did manage to get the limescale out of the toilet bowl and ugh, that is not a job I want to repeat in a hurry. Vinegar, coke – didn’t even touch it. We had to rely on the heavy duty chemicals, and a pumice stone, and eventually a metal scraper. However it is now mostly clean (still a little lurking area right where it disappears round the bend, which I just cannot get to) and I do believe that the cleaning of it has been the best lesson not to let it get into that state again.

medicine cabinet

Medicine cabinet

Drawing the eyes and attention up, away from the toilet
New pot plant (an African violet, see below) on top of the medicine cabinet replaces the French bath oil bottles which were nice once but had become dusty, greasy and a bit mildewy. I might get a little decorative mirror up here, but money is tight – really tight – this month so let’s let prosperity beget prosperity enhancements. Hear that, ch’i?

Crystal drop

Crystal drop

I hung a crystal drop in the window, because it’s pretty and will draw the eye and spread light around the place.

African Violet

African Violet

Two new African Violets, in an intense, beautiful deep purple. I could have gone for red or even purple pots, but I backed out and went for white. At least they are square, the right shape for the gua. They were cheaper, and I don’t want to overdo the purple. It has to look like our house, you know?

I looked at the paints, but even a small can of paint is expensive! So I got two little tester pots in a sort of sugared lilac shade – my plan is to paint stripes on the mirror/basin alcove wall. I’ll mask off with tape, and hope I have enough to do the whole thing. I’m not going to get to that for a week or so, I’ll come back and add a pic when it’s done.

Dye job

Dye job

Dyeing the towels had mixed results. The first batch came out way too dark: the bathmat, which was a very deep claret red, now reads as black – not the effect I was going for. Some of the other towels (which were red or pink) are now basically navy blue. Hopefully they will still work as the intention is there (I know they are really purple, even if they don’t look it!), and maybe they will fade to purple once I have washed them a few times? The second batch I used half the amount of dye and they turned out great. Again, when this prosperity ch’i starts working for us, I will try to pick up some cheap purple bath towels. We have had these ones since forever and they are starting to get really quite threadbare.

Bathroom blind

bathroom blind

The blind up at the window was an easy fix. Half a metre of fabric was £2.50 on sale at the market, and I just fixed it up with a staple gun. It’s either, staple up an unhemmed piece of fabric, or wait forever for me to get together both the materials and the motivation to do a proper job. I have enough on my plate, I can live with stapled bathroom blinds.

fish bowl

Gilt fish bowl

A last little element is this bowl. I know it’s blue, but look, it’s gilded gold and ‘fish’ means ‘money’ – and fish also speaks to the parable of feeding the 5,000, which is all about abundance. I’ll fill it with something appropriate as soon as the inspiration strikes.

So there it is. The bathroom. Feng shuied it.

Prosperity – the bathroom, pt 2

January 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

Feng shui promises that our little bathroom and kitchen, properly ‘cured’ and enhanced, could help us:
• receive unexpected money
• make more money with our businesses
• rent a cottage on a lake in Canada – the summer we dream of
• be philanthropic
• have a stable income
• increase our wealth and enjoy the good things in life
• find inner peace and true happiness with what we have in life.

Sounds good?

The first thing is to do a thorough deep clean, including the cabinet under the basin and the medicine cupboard. Speaking of deep clean, I need to find out how to clean right down inside the lavatory bowl, the part which is always under water, and collects hard water deposits if you’re in London. Blech.

Here’s the stuff to avoid or move out:
dirt, dust, broken items, reminders of bad times: should be covered off in the top to bottom cleaning (fyi, I’ll be using the cleaning list here)
bins: we need a bin in the bathroom. Relative to the fact that it’s next to the loo, I’m sure it’s feng shui small beans but whatever, I will happily paint a line of red nail polish around the rim.
dead plants/fireplaces: both N/A
toilets: I quote: “Let’s hope there isn’t a toilet in your Prosperity corner.” We can try to address it the enhancements below, and also mirrors (we’re not going to be able to get two facing each other, but I’ll buy a bunch of small pocket mirrors and put one in the tank, a couple on the floor behind the loo. We have the medicine cabinet hanging above the tank with a bold red cross on the front, Swiss flag style, which draws the eye up (you could read it as a plus sign? Mo’ money?) and I’m thinking a cute mirror and maybe another African violet on top of the cabinet would help. I will probably hang a crystal in the window to catch and defract all that sunlight and just be really pretty.

Red tape around the lavatory drain and the basin drain. I can’t get to the bathtub drain, but will do red nail polish round the plughole and might see if I can (when our prosperity improves) pick up a decorative bath plug something like this.

Next up, tools for enhancing the ch’i:
purple, red, green, gold: I’m not up for a major redecoration of the room, and none of these are a favourite colour. The bathroom has been green before and I remember noticing that the colour cast meant we always looked ill in the bathroom mirror. I think a pale lilac purple might be flattering, so I’ll give some thought to painting the wall of the recessed basin alcove.

The quickest and easiest (and cheapest!) colour enhancement I can come up with is to dye our towels and bathmat. They are mostly bright red, pink and blue, so with a few boxes of blue and red dye they should be easy enough to turn purple. Also, that blind up at the window is just a cut piece of fabric stapled to the window frame – I’ll replace it with a floral print including purple and green.

moving water: It’s the bathroom. Toilet excepted, it’s all about clean, moving water. I’ll just have to remedy the drains somehow.

round leaved plants: A little African violet in a purple/red/gold/green pot will do well on that deep window ledge. The blind will keep the burning sun from the south facing window off it. Actually I just remembered, we’ve had phaleonopsis orchids flower there really successfully, so there’s another option.

moving objects: Pass. We have a bath toy where you pour water in the top and it makes a little water wheel spin round – does that count?

One for me to think on: what can I place in the bathroom that will remind me of wealth and abundance?

Prosperity – the bathroom, pt 1

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Although the book says to focus on the main floor, I feel in this case we have two main floors. The only bathroom is upstairs and so is PapaChi’s office: upstairs is inhabited at least as much as downstairs.

Plus, as I keep harping on about (soon I will get to the business of actually applying some cures to this and be able to move on) the toilet, the main bins in the kitchen, and every downpipe in the house head through this gua. It’s a bad scene.

The bathroom, from the door

Click to enlarge

So here it is, our luxurious bathroom (panorama taken in low light, so it’s a bit messy). All the necessities are squeezed in, as long as you don’t count room to swing a cat as a necessity. There’s no place (in here or in any other room) for a laundry cupboard, so we keep clean towels on a shelf over the doorway. The heated towel rail is so close to the toilet, it feels a little unsanitary to actually hang towels on it; so it’s a towel rail in name only and a radiator – not an efficient one – in function. Towels in use are hung on rails on the back of the door.

The room is cold (see towel rail), but bright as the window is south facing. Because it’s so small it steams up and warms up in no time once you’ve got the shower or bath running. The walls and floor are off-white rubber which is warmer than tile. If only it was self-cleaning.


January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

We do OK. We are rich in many things – we have love, creative fulfilment (often), supportive and (relatively) harmonious families, health. But for the love of pete, two adults who are as creative, experienced and (I’m gonna come out and say it) good at what we do as we are, boy I sure sometimes feel like we should be able to stop worrying about money soon. Our car is a wreck and it’s only a matter of time before it gives up and dies, and gosh knows what we’ll do then.

Sure, some of this is through choice. PapaChi recently left a stable job but underpaid job because his employers consistently did not pay him properly (they promised to do so but stalled endlessly), so while his current income has gone down, his potential income has gone up. I left a well-paid job because it was making me miserable, and took a much less well-paid job (which also made me unhappy, so I left that too), so my income has been on a consistent downwards trajectory since having the kid in 2007. Plus of course kids might as well eat money, especially if you work and have to pay nursery fees, which are frankly shocking – the equivalent of an additional mortgage.

We need more money. We’re trying hard to earn it (I will be taking a close look at our career gua), but with this being the first chapter in the book, it makes sense to start here.

Worrying about money is tiring. We haven’t (yet) had to skip a mortgage payment, but it’s always sort of looming, threatening, that it could happen pretty easily. There have been days when I have, ridiculously, but literally, prayed for a lottery win. Made pacts with higher powers for a miracle to be granted that would let us just exhale about money for once. I guess that particular channel is often quite busy. I didn’t get through, so far.

The Bagua

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Conveniently, I have some accurate floor plans to hand from some work we had done on the house before we moved in. I’ve traced the walls in brown, everything else in grey, with a felt-tip pen, because the drawings are too big for me to scan. Here’s what we’re working with.

The ground floor

Click to enlarge

The ground floor. Two reception rooms currently arranged as living (or family) room at the back, and dining room at the front. The house faces almost due north – maybe north-north-west – so the windows in the front don’t get any direct sunlight but the back gets lots. The windows on the left hand side of the house (in the kitchen and also a glazed panel in the side door off the hallway) look onto a narrow passageway (5 foot) and then a high timber fence (the boundary line). The window in the hallway has the curtain drawn all the time, but the one in the kitchen lets in some useful morning light (east facing).
Ground floor with bagua

Click to enlarge

And with the bagua overlaid. As you can see, there’s a lot going on in that left-hand column (Prosperity, Family, Skills & Knowledge). Doors (internal, external, cupboard), stairs, the kitchen (bins, drains, stove). I anticipate those areas will be the most difficult feng shui.

We also have that well known feng shui ‘don’t’: stairs facing the main door. I mean, you’d have to make a little dog leg to get out the door (if you ran down the stairs and straight on you’d end up in a cupboard), but in a hallway this small, that’s splitting hairs. You can most certainly see up the stairs once you come through the entranceway.


Click to enlarge

Upstairs. Two decent size bedrooms, a small office, a tiny bathroom (see where the basin is? We had to steal a little chunk of space from the second bedroom to even fit a basin in). The windows on the left hand side of the house, we don’t use really. We are about 10 foot away from our neighbours, but off-set: their house is closer to the road than ours. So looking out these windows we look directly down into their outside space and it feels a little like we are spying on them.

Upstairs with bagua

Click to enlarge

And with the bagua overlaid. Yes, that is the toilet in our Properity gua.

When I committed to spring cleaning, I intended to start with the downstairs entrance and hallway. But since seeing that toilet there (and yes, the bins in the kitchen too, they’re stashed under the sink), I am going to have to jump right in with the kitchen and bathroom, because seriously, the Prosperity (or rather, lack of) round here is beyond a joke.

A very fine house

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a great little house. Built in the 1920s in the west of London, a terraced cottage with gardens front and back. We moved in just before the turn of the millennium. Our next door neighbour at the time had lived there since the 1930s, had lived through World War 2 there, still had the remnants of her wartime victory vegetable garden, being consumed by brambles. Ours stands out a little from our neighbours in that just about everyone else has a privet hedge backing onto the street but as you can see we have a white picket fence (what you can’t see is that the gate is broken and the fence badly needs painting).

Our house

As you can see, we’re at the end of the terrace, and opposite is a little park, which is no great shakes but increases the amount of oxygen and the feeling of space, and decreases the number of cars parking in front (houses on only one side of the street = half the cars). It’s got a friendly, warm feeling about it. The house, that is, not the park.

If you were an estate agent you’d say we had three double bedrooms, but the third room, if you got a double bed into it, that’s all you would get into it. It’s two doubles and a single, the single is where my husband works. The house is pretty small, but I think we do OK for being three people plus a two businesses living there (I also work from home but don’t have the luxury of an office, I camp out on the dining table).

So, small house, family of three (including one hardwired for toy-accumulation), and the amount of stuff seems to increase all the time. If people in relationship to their possessions are defined as either purgers or hoarders, I’m definitely a purger. Regular clear-outs, hold on to nothing (in fact, sometimes regret holding on to nothing). But still the constant in-flow of stuff.

I’m always trying to find ways to organise our space better, organise our stuff better. I am absolutely NO kind of feng shui afficionado, but I’ve read one slim paperback before and it was fun, and this one is even more fun. I like reading about it because it gives me a starting point when I’m deciding how to organise my kitchen cupboards, or arrange the bedroom furniture. A much more useful starting off point than an interiors magazine, where just about every picture is of a room that is the size of the area of this entire house.

We’re pretty much overdue for a heavy duty spring clean and reorganisation: in fact I had already committed to starting before this book fell into my hands and I read it in two days (without notepad and pen in hand). I thought, why not? Why not feng shui the place and see what happens? I’ll try and find some photostitching software so you can see what the place looks like now, and what it looks like during and after, and I’ll let you know if our money stops disappearing down the crapper. I’m not asking anyone (and by anyone, I mean me, or my husband) to believe, I’m not doing it to try and prove or disprove anything – I’m doing it because its a way to motivate myself to tidy up this place.

Hello, ch’i!

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

On no stronger a recommendation than a mention by a vague acquaintace via Facebook, I picked up a copy of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. Flicking through, I discovered that our waste bins, our toilet – indeed, every drain in the house – all are located in our Prosperity area. Nice. Could this go some way to explaining why two experienced, respected, qualified creative professionals barely make ends meet?