Updating our family home

Our house was always going to be a project.  When we bought it nearly four years ago it was the first time it had been on the market since it was built in 1956 and although it was in a very liveable and good condition it was really outdated.  Being nearly 5 months pregnant when we moved in I was keen to get our bedroom decorated first so I had somewhere I was comfortable and could relax.  We also wanted to change the bathroom too as it was quite a big job and not one we wanted to be doing with a new-born in the house, plus with it being such an old bathroom I knew I would just feel cleaner using a bathroom that we had put in rather than using someone elses.  I should probably mention at this point that my husband is a plumber so thankfully bathrooms are kind of his forte! I didn’t have much say in that room and just let him get on and do his thing.  Lastly, we needed to the nursery too because although we knew baby wouldn’t be sleeping in there right away we needed a place to keep all the hundreds of things that come with a baby.  These were all big jobs; each room needed plastering, new electrics, lights, radiators, doors, windowsills, skirting, and architrave and that was all before even thinking about paint colour and carpet…so lots to do, I expect I’ll share photos of each of these at a later date.

Two months after our little girl was born Mr G was at it again, smashing the living room up this time.  This was another big job and he did most of it himself at weekends and evenings which was tough going with a two month old.

Fast forward nearly four years since we moved in and our dining room and kitchen still remain the same except for the addition of a set of bifold doors we had fitted last year in the dining room to replace the existing window. Our house has a very traditional layout for its time, we have a living room and dining room both with fireplaces and then a small kitchen next to the dining room.  It’s such an outdated floor plan as families just don’t live like this nowadays.  When I’m in the kitchen cooking I’m shut off from the rest of the house, which isn’t ideal when you have two little ones to keep an eye on! It’s also not a very social space and when we do have a large group of people over we all end up sitting in different rooms or I’m away from everyone else whilst sorting food and drinks in the kitchen.  It’s certainly no party kitchen! Also we only have one toilet in the house (I know first world problems, right?) so we really could do with a downstairs toilet too.  Finally this year we have decided it’s time to start the work! We’ve had our plans drawn up and the quotes are in and the builders are arriving in May to start the extension.  Exciting, dusty and expensive times are ahead for sure!

Our budget is fairly small so we’re limited to what we can actually do as we aren’t prepared to cut corners and still want a nice finish.  If we had all the money in the world I would extend it very differently but unfortunately we’re not in a position to be able to go crazy and so that will have to wait for quite a few years. It will help massively that we can do a lot of the work ourselves.  We are going to take an area out of the kitchen and turn this into a downstairs toilet.  It’s an area that’s half under the stairs so it’s going to be a bit tricky working out where everything will go, especially as I’m hoping to get a tumble drier in there and a cupboard for the ironing board.  We will then have a small extension on the back of the kitchen.  We don’t have a huge back garden so the further we go out the more we will eat into the garden which I don’t fancy doing.  What we lose in the kitchen by adding the toilet we will gain in the new extension.  I’d like a vaulted ceiling with a sky light on the new kitchen roof to maximise the light and we’re also considering adding a small window along one of the walls in the kitchen.  Then we are having the wall between the kitchen and dining room knocked down to make a kitchen diner which will make it a more sociable space and definitely more family friendly.  To make sure we get as much light in as possible we have also decided to add double doors in between the living room and dining room.

Mr G reckons it will be finished in autumn, if I’m being realistic I think it will be more like Christmas.  I’m not being pessimistic but I think if I think like this I’m less likely to get frustrated with living in building a site! The plan is for him to take some time off work to fit the kitchen and the cloakroom but the rest of it will need to be done evenings and weekends.  We are having some builders who we know in to build the kitchen extension and knock the kitchen walls down.  My dad is a carpenter so will be doing the roof (if I can get him off of the sodding golf course) and we also know a plasterer already too.  Everything else Mr G is pretty much capable of.  It’s true what they say, ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’! I look forward to sharing some pictures as the work begins.

Family Meal Inspiration

I love cooking, I really do.  I’m a feeder and I enjoy feeding people, searching through my piles of cook books and online for dinner ideas for friends and family.  BUT, when it comes to feeding the family week in week out it is hard work. I mean really bloody hard work. It’s a whole different ball game and if I don’t meal plan for the week then it all goes t!ts up!  Basically the entire week is full of crap dinners, several trips to the supermarket (ARGH) and takeaways which ultimately leaves me feeling unhealthy, stressed (because who wants to take two mini savages to the supermarket?) and poorer too.  I meal plan for the week starting on a Monday and plan all the way through to Sunday, taking into consideration if we have any social plans for the week.  I try to plan for the week ahead on a Thursday or Friday so I have time to do an online food shop because taking the kids shopping is asking for trouble and is a serious wine time earner!

The hardest part of planning is actually deciding what to cook.  I don’t think I’m alone in that I get so bored cooking the same things every week and when cooking becomes boring that’s when it feels like a chore.  I try not to cook the same things each week as I like us to try new things, I also believe the kids are more likely to want to try new things if it is something we all do together as a family. I’m lucky in that most nights Mr G is usually home by 5:30 so we all sit down for dinner together which means only having to cook the one dinner.  As we eat with the children throughout the week I will sometimes plan a meal for just me and my husband on a Friday or Saturday night so we get one night off from ducking out of the way of spaghetti flinging or drink spills (sitting down as a family each night for dinner is not as idyllic as it sounds)!

One of the first places I head for ideas is Pinterest.  I find that because Pinterest is obviously more visual than some of the other specific recipe websites I spend less time searching because the meal suggestions jump out at me more rather than looking through a list of recipe names.

I will quite often grab a cook book too that I haven’t opened in a while and choose a couple of things out of it for the week.  My current favourite cookbooks are Deliciously Ella Everyday and Jamie Oliver Super Foods.  Other great places to look for family meal inspiration are Jamile Oliver’s website and the BBC Good Food page.  I always like to pick up the free magazines in the supermarkets too as it’s always good to have a reminder about what’s in season and they will quite often include a plan for the week.  When the kids were smaller I used the Annabel Karmel app quite a bit too.

Right now I’m trying to reduce the amount of meat we are eating and so am trying to do two meat free dinners a week and one fish.  Mr G is a huuugggeee meat eater so isn’t all that happy about this.  I tried to sell it to him by saying that if we are saving money on meat during the week then it means I will be able to spend more money on better quality meat for the rest of the week.  I’m not sure he’s all that convinced… This doesn’t happen every week but if I use this as a rough guide it can help because it forces me to find new meals.

Whilst looking for meal inspiration I like to keep a few things in mind:

  • Is it healthy (ish)? For obvious reasons.  If I eat crap, I will feel crap.  Plus I want the kids to eat a varied diet and grow up with an understanding of healthy eating.
  • Will the kids eat it? This means nothing to spicy (sob! Although I’ve got quite used to throwing chili seeds on top of my food when I’m dishing up if I fancy some heat)
  • Can it be cooked in under an hour but only about 20 mins prep? Master B is hard work (understatement) around dinner time so the least time I spend in the kitchen the better.  The slow cooker is my friend.

If I can say yes to all of the above then when it comes to the day of cooking I’m more likely to stick to my meal plan and not give in to the call of the fish fingers coming from the freezer.  I always like to have something in the week’s meal list that is in the freezer or a store cupboard staple.  That way if the week doesn’t go to plan we can jiggle our list around and fresh food doesn’t get wasted.  Something like a chili (with frozen mince) or pizza can work well for this type of meal.

It would be great to hear where everyone else looks for inspiration so I can change my routine up a little.  Are there any great sources out there that I’m missing?  I’d love to hear about them.

February Wish List

Feb Wish L

1.Mango Lace Insert Blouse | 2.Zara embroided cuff shirt | 3.Topshop Leigh Jeans |  4.Lisa Angel double stud Pearl Earrings | 5.Zara Suede bag with fringing | 6.Chanel Lip Colour | 7.Ciate Velvet manicure kit ‘Mink’ | 8.Missguided Coat Khloe coat | 9.Lulu Guiness Tangle Teezer | 10.Christian Louboutin ‘You You’ peep toe pumps | 11.The Miniaturist (Waterstones Exclusive Edition) | 12.Mathew Wiliamson Cross body bag

Happy February, happy end of January and happy pay day! January really was an extra long month for me this time round.  I’ve been making a shopping list of things I need have been coveting to help me get through one more winter month and now the start of February is here I’m off to the shops…or rather staying inside in the warm and hitting ‘Add to basket’.  First up on the list is the Missguided Khloe camel coat, I’ve been searching for a coat like this all month and this one keeps going in and out of stock so whilst its available in my size I’m snapping it up.  Another item I’m not going to waste any time mulling over is the Butterfly by Matthew Williamson cross body bag, it’s so close to the Chloe version and it’s in the sale so it would be silly not to).  Perhaps the Louboutins will have to wait for another month though…

Chaos and To Do lists

Life has been really chaotic the last few weeks and annoyingly, this has been for no particular reason.  I don’t even feel like I’ve been that busy, I just feel like I’ve been really unorganised. I guess we all have weeks like that though and with no 9-5 to keep me in a routine it’s easy to get a bit lazy sometimes.  The house is cluttered and untidy, my wardrobe is depressing mess, my diet has been appalling and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve had the same nail varnish on my toes for the last 8 weeks!  I have a mental To Do list that feels like it has a million things on it and every day that passes it grows.  URGH.

With Christmas fast approaching I feel like I’m seriously going to have to get my arse in gear if I want to be able to sit back and enjoy it this year.  On Sunday we went to Ikea to grab a few bits and pieces (or half the catalogue..whatever) to try and spruce the house up and motivate me to get it looking how I want for Christmas.  I’ve now passed on most of that To Do list to my very handy husband so that’s one thing kind of sorted.

Yesterday I dug out an old notebook and set about making lists and already I’m starting to feel less stressed.  I decided to jot my lists the old fashioned way as opposed to using my phone as I’m trying to not use my phone for quite as much lately.  For me, it would be counter productive as I would just end up checking facebook, twitter, e-mail, Instagram or Whatsap every time I checked my To Do list and then end up wasting so much more time (I think everyone can relate to this!). I’m now slowly but surely ticking things off and starting to feel more motivated as a result.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to go about sorting out my wardrobe to be honest.  I guess I’ll have to tackle one thing at a time and perhaps it’s something I’ll try and sort out over the Christmas period or I’ll just pop a good word out to Santa and the Elves. As for my diet, I remembered to place my order for my veg box this week and I planned this weeks dinners and have done an online shop.  I’ve been doing Slimming World since January and only have 3.5 lbs to go before I achieve my target so I’m staying focused and going for it this week.  I’m hoping to achieve it by the end of the month.

Perhaps it’s a time of year thing,  is it just me that feels a bit out of control and unmotivated at the moment? Fingers crossed for a productive November!

(Now I’ve finished writing (ok babbling) I can tick off another thing from my To Do list!)

An Autumn Obsession

Autumn has officially arrived and I’m obsessed.  I’m so excited by this, every year I’m the same and I think I’m getting worse.  Come mid-September I have all these new ideas, I get the urge to change things and think about my goals.  I get this impulsive feeling more so than I ever do in January (it’s probably no coincidence that I began Suburban Fancy when I did), perhaps it’s because I haven’t really grown up and September has always reminded me of starting a new school year?  I get all these new ideas about things I want to do, places to visit and things I feel I want to achieve by the end of the year.  I get this huge sense of excitement when I think about autumn and all the things I associate with it. Here are some of the main reasons why I am totally obsessed with autumn…

Crumble | Um apple, blackberry, cherry, rhubarb, plum, pear, all six together? I even made a mango and pineapple crumble this summer because I missed eating crumble so much.  I’m quite partial to a strudel too.  Basically any fruit baked in the oven with lashings of custard is a winner for me and it just so happens to taste even better when there’s a slight chill in the air.

My Birthday | My birthday is towards the end of October so obviously this is a massive reason to love autumn… need I say more?

A/W wardrobe | I’ve got my poncho, faux fur gilet, a new crisp white shirt, tailored black trousers and last week I got myself a winter pastel manicure.  Fashion victim much?  It’s not as bad as it sounds I promise but it’s probably a good thing my birthday is in October considering the long list of coveted items I have at the beginning of every autumn.

Sundays | I ruddy love Sundays in autumn.  Sundays are so much more relaxing when you’ve got a roast dinner (followed by a crumble obv) to look forward to.  Plus my husband makes a mean roast so it usually means I’m not the one doing the cooking.  I was brought up having a roast dinner every Sunday and I hope to continue that tradition with my family too.

Autumnal Flowers | Autumn bouquets are my absolute favourite, there’s just something about that mix of the burning reds, rustic yellows and amber toned blooms that makes me admire flowers even more so in autumn than any other time of year.

Squashes | Who knew there were so many different types of squash out there?  This year I’m looking forward to adding roasted acorn squash to our Sunday lunches.  I also need to experiment with spaghetti squash. I’m on the hunt for as many different varieties and recipes as possible this autumn.

Dark nails | If my nails aren’t painted it makes me sad, I realise this might sound a little dramatic but there’s just something about polished nails that makes me feel just a little bit ‘done’, especially as most days I struggle to have the time or energy to make an effort with the rest of my appearance.  For me, autumn nails are dark, the first dark manicure after the bright hues of summer have gone is so very satisfying.  My faves are the ever popular Rouge Noir and Black Satin.

Boots | Oh boots boots boots.  Putting away those tired sandals and flip flops and shopping for awesome new boots is a whole new level of wonderful.

Cosy nights and candles | Last autumn my living room was being decorated and wasn’t really usable until a few days before Christmas so this autumn I’m itching to fill it with candles, throw a log on the fire and invite those dark autumn nights into our cosy new living room.  I’m toying with the idea of adding some orange accessories to really embrace the autumn period before Christmas hits in December.

Halloween | Any excuse for a party or to dress up my little girl before she can speak for herself and is able to refuse to wear what I want her to.  Last year I bought her the cutest little pumpkin baby grow and I started looking for this year’s outfit weeks ago.  I can’t wait to start carving those pumpkins!

Sadly there is one thing that I don’t love about autumn though and that is the emergence of the colossal spiders that have decided to take up residence all over my home – shudder!

The beginning of Autumn marks the end of the summer, those long summer nights, alfresco eating, bikinis on the beach and the warmth of the sun on your face that were longed for so badly since the middle of January.  I feel a little bit mad not to be clinging on to the last days of summer and yet in reality, I’m not a tiny bit sad about bidding any of it farewell.  Is it just me that is totally obsessed with autumn?