Thursday, 30 May 2019

Half Term

We've worked so hard since Saturday, especially John and my Dad, and I'm really pleased with the progress we've made on the house this week.

We began by emptying the spare room and office of furniture, no small task because, as you can see, they are a bit of a dumping ground.

On Sunday we pulled up the laminate and carpet, removed the old skirting boards, and took it all to the tip.

John spent bank holiday Monday building a frame to box in the horrible upvc window panel in the office. It took him most of the day but I can already see what a difference it makes, helping the room look more finished and less like a utility room.

On Tuesday and Wednesday John and my Dad laid the new flooring, the same as we had in the living room and hall. We had a lot left over so only needed to buy a few more boxes.

And today they fitted the skirting boards.

Tomorrow involves lots of filling and sanding so that we can start decorating the room, which will be Bella's bedroom (I'll go into that more later - it's musical bedrooms here!) But that's where we are for now. 

While John was laying floors, my Mum and I were busy in IKEA, choosing a wardrobe and bookcase for Bella's room among lots of other things, and Bella chose some new things for her room.

She has a great eye, and there is a theme emerging of blush pink, mustard and lots of plants. (I am very proud.)

I also treated myself to a few things for the house, including this gorgeous mat which holds together really nicely the bits I like to keep on the kitchen table.

A new mustard velvet cushion came home with me....

and this plant and basket.

I remembered that I needed a new apron, and was delighted to find one that had those two apron essentials: a front pocket and long ties so that you can knot the apron at the front, not awkwardly behind you. I also bought new tea towels. I love buying tea towels.

On a whim, I tried these curtains in our bedroom that had previously been hanging in the spare room downstairs. I had to let them down a little, but they look so much better than the navy ones which were there before, and feel like I got a brand new pair of curtains for nothing! We bought this pair ten years ago for our house in Leeds and I had gone off them a bit, but hung onto them because they were really good quality (most of out curtains are cheap as chips from IKEA). The navy ones I took down will go in Bella's new bedroom so nothing is wasted here.

Yesterday it rained all day and I indulged in an afternoon of solid baking. I made tea loaf, chocolate covered flapjacks and tried a new recipe, red velvet brownies from a Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. (I can't find the exact recipe online but if you search you will find lots of similar recipes.) They aren't really chocolately enough to be called brownies, but they are delicious, a bit like a red velvet cheesecake tray bake.

Today we got out into the fresh air for a walk, and everything was so green. May is always the greenest month, with all the leaves so vibrant and bright before they start to slowly fade, and the woods were glorious today.

The cow parsley is as frothily beautiful as ever.

So, that's half term. One more day of working on the room plus all the usual housework, then Saturday is John's birthday so we'll have a day off then and do something nice, if the weather is cooperative. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Hedgerows in May

Finally, it's half term. The last week has been relentlessly busy and I am so looking forward to the next week off. I have just cleaned the house and filled the fridge, the dog has been walked, children fed, and I am now I'm done. Off duty. John has booked the half term week off too, because we are doing some work on the house. I am really hoping that in amongst the ripping up of old flooring, decorating, trips to IKEA and general chaos, there is a little time to relax and potter.

The cow parsley is spectacular at the moment. Last Saturday started out as a bit of a typical Saturday - errands, shopping, housework, washing - but a spontaneous afternoon walk with my sister and nieces, plus a stop for tea and cake/ ice cream, made the day unexpectedly wonderful. 

I haven't given the garden as much time and attention as I usually do at this time of year. It's looking a bit rough around the edges but it's green, the borders are full, there are currants on the bushes and lots of things in flower, even if they are all purple. 

The sweet peas, however, have been a massive fail. I don't know why. Well, actually, I do have a few suggestions: I planted them much too late, the plants were from the bargain corner in the garden centre and a bit past it before they sat out unwatered for five days before I had time to plant them...oh, and Ziggy keeps burying his bone in the planter. 

What can I plant here instead? What can I plant in late May which will have height (need to hide the awful fence) and colour and interest? And not cost a fortune? Please help me out you lovely lot, with your gardening knowledge. 

In the mean time, I have bought supermarket sweet peas (the shame!) instead.

I cleared everything - plants, cards, flowers, ornaments - from the wooden mantel and put just a few lovely pieces back. All the colour and clutter was annoying me. I like the calmer look and, a week later, it's still looking tidy.

Don't worry, I found a place for the clutter.

I finally got around to buying a new alarm clock, after the cheap one I'd had for about ten years finally packed up. I love it. I really like to know what the time is when I wake up during the night. I've noticed that people seem quite divided about whether they have an alarm clock, or use their mobile phone as one. Personally, I like to leave my phone charging downstairs, I always have done, and I forget to switch my phone to Do Not Disturb mode and get annoyed by the pings during the night. My alarm clock is pretty, is has a low light mode so when the stupid, noisy fox barking in the road wakes me at 2am, it doesn't hurt my eyes.

 Ziggy, at almost two, is finally showing signs of calming down and is now displaying classic whippet lounging behaviour, disturbed only by the sight of a bird/cat/squirrel or the sound of someone possibly opening a packet of something in the kitchen, in which case he's on Full Alert. 

Thank you for your birthday wishes for Angus. The Lego building is still going strong. 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I'll be back soon with, hopefully, some progress photos of our DIY, or maybe just some photos of dusty, half filled rooms and me sobbing into my gin, out of shot. We'll see. 

Sunday, 19 May 2019


Angus turned ten last weekend. We were all up very early, John and I blearily watching him open his gifts in a sun drenched kitchen while drinking cups of tea. By 9 am he'd opened his cards and presents, built a Lego set and eaten a plate of waffles. Later that morning he celebrated with his friends, going to Flip Out for an hour of intense bouncing and jumping, followed by the all you can eat buffet at Pizza Hut. I've eaten better meals but if you show a group of ten year old boys a pile of pizza, a salad bar, several "unlimited-refill" fizzy drink options and a make-your-own ice cream station, then they will be very happy indeed. Bella came too and was very good about it all, I actually think she may have had fun although she rolled her eyes about having to spend the morning with all Angus's friends.

His gifts included sports wear, Lego and books, all his favourite things. His Leeds Utd football top was a hit, (although we are not feeling quite so celebratory about the end of their season...) and his San Jose Sharks hat was put on straight away, even while wearing his pyjamas. He was given a child's Fit Bit-style watch, and loves telling us at regular intervals how many steps he's done that day, regardless of whether we've asked or not. Not to be outdone. Barry the Badger was given a bath and received a few new clothes in honour of the big day.

The cards this year were excellent.  

Lots of badgers, and Bella painted him one.

The birthday cake was, as ever, traumatic. Angus had requested a chocolate cake covered in white chocolate buttons. Very simple you'd think, wouldn't you? The first was underdone in the middle, despite me testing it with a skewer, and when I cut it in half the centre was completely raw, there was no way I could ice and serve it. The second cake was overcooked and bone dry, when I'd cut off the burnt bits and covered it in icing. I didn't have the time or energy to make a third, so we sang happy birthday and blew out the candles in the afternoon when my family all came round for a little tea party, and I just kept offering drinks in the hope that no-one choked in a crumb. My sister brightly said, "the icing is really good!" which I think says it all. I struggle with chocolate cakes, at least making one that is moist but still firm enough to be iced and decorated. I think in future I will just make a gooey chocolate fudge cake, something that is covered in frosting and looks a bit of a mess but tastes amazing. 

Thank goodness for a cake topper in the shape of a badger wearing a party hat and bow tie, and holding a balloon. It was a brief distraction from the awful cake. But it was a lovely day, all in all, and so far ten is shaping up well: we still love badgers and reading, especially if they are fact books about natural disasters or explorers, we still love the outdoors and sports, and the Xbox, of course.