Christmas Sherlock

In case you’ve missed this and I know some of my International friends might have. Here is the Christmas Sherlock trailer….I don’t need presents this year. I have new Sherlock, Star Wars and then new X-Files. I can’t wait!

 

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Apple Fair

Saturday was the best day of the year in this house ‘Apple Fair Day!’.

Seriously L and I love it more than Christmas. There are tents with Medieval Storytellers.

Giant apples, seriously never seen such amazingly huge apples. I should have gotten some to make a pie but got distracted by Mulled Cider!

  

There are stalls selling apples, apple cakes, fudge, heavenly apple juices, ciders, crafts and most importantly for us a huge HogRoast washed down with hot apple juice.

BEST DAY EVER!

If you have a local Apple Fair in the next couple of weeks, pop along and support it. 

British Apple Orchards are making a tentative comeback. Since the 1950s 60% of British Orchards and all the biodiversity that came with them, have been destroyed. But in the last 5 years new planting schemes are slowly bringing them back. If you have a spare patch of garden plant an apple tree, you won’t regret it!

    
 

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New York with Kids

We finally went on holiday hurray!!! Paul has wanted to go to New York as long as I’ve known him, but he really didn’t want to take Miss L while she was little so we’ve waited until now. In hindsight, New York is a great city for kids so we could have done it earlier.

Here are my top tips for travelling to New York with kids…

Flight

We flew on Virgin from Heathrow, as a 12 year old L was treated as an adult  so we couldn’t reclaim her air tax which you can sub-12 and from 12-15 next year!  Seat Guru is THE most useful site, I discovered that the 747 Virgin planes have an economy section upstairs near Upper Class. There aren’t that many seats, but you get good service, it’s quiet, you get more space and you’re own loo! Amazing!!  The best place to sit in economy by far, I had the misfortune of being downstairs on the way back as the plane was busier and it was horrendous.  From now on, upstairs only!

Hotel

There are more of these popping up in the wake of Air BnB and HouseTrip, we discovered that Best Western have a ‘Hospitality’ Hotel there. You basically get a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment with a kitchenette which is ideal if you have kids. It was way bigger than a hotel and great if you wanted to have a nap and the rest of the family want to watch TV.

The hotel also provided a breakfast room with an all you can eat breakfast and you could either eat it there or take it to your room. The other upside was you could get food delivered and eat it at your own dining table in the lounge, saved a fortune in restaurant costs.

It wasn’t the most amazing view out of the windows, but there was a cute restaurant garden to the side of us, which was a lovely little haven.

 

 

One word of warning if you stay in an old building in Manhattan in the summer it is HOT and I don’t mean a little bit. I mean full on Floridaesque tropical 95 degree heat.  We had these ancient air conditioning units which my European Eco sensibility struggled with (the electricity consumption must be horrendous in Manhattan) but after an hour of having them off it was unbearable so we learnt to live with them. The city was so hot and obviously had been for weeks so the whole place had heated up.  If you have any breathing issues I’d avoid it until cooler weather the pollution was horrendous with the heat. Our next trip might be planned for Spring as I think it’s cooler and therefore more enjoyable.

City Pass

There are several different City Pass schemes in NYC. We went with this one as it covered pretty much all we wanted to in the time we were there.

For the three of us to do

RockerFella Centre, Empire State, 9/11 Museum, Landmark Cruise, museum of Natural History and the Met Museum of Art it would have been $450.50.

With the pre-booked tickets it was $377 so saved us a fair chunk. You don’t have the buy them here and most of the places above will sell them to you, we got ours at the Rockerfella Centre

 

Rockerfella over Empire State

I’d been to the Empire State building back in 2001, but I remembered it being very crowded and frankly a bit rubbish. I’d heard on various forums that Rockerfella Centre was much better, and less crowded so we decided to head there on our first day. We bought our city pass there and headed up.

 

 

OH MY WORD! The view when you get to the top is spectacular! There are three viewing decks which are wide and spacious and plenty of room to take lots of photos and just marvel at the city, especially Central Park. I’m so pleased we went there first.   It was baking hot, but there were some air condition parts to hide in from the sun for a while and we spent ages up there. Probably my favourite place in the city.

 

 

The Natural History Museum

Like most of you we are big fans of ‘Night at the Museum’, so Miss L especially wanted to go there. It’s next to Central Park, so we walked through had an amazing brunch at ‘Good Enough to Eat‘ which is a couple of blocks away (get the pancakes with strawberry butter.  Seriously strawberry butter should be a thing everywhere!).  It was on the City Pass (museums in NYC aren’t free like in London), and as we had that we got an extra free admission to one of the specialist exhibitions.

We were especially pleased to find Teddy Roosevelt sitting on a bench, so we had our picture snapped with him.  Top tip get a map, it’s vast and there is lots there. Particularly good are the Dinosaurs, the Space section and the Hall of Human Origin. We really enjoyed them all.

 

Central Park

I love Central Park and it’s such a feat of manmade engineering.  If you want to geek out at how it was constructed have a read about it here.  If it’s hot, take water with you, places to buy water are few and far between.  We didn’t do the tourist thing of going in the horse and carts, the horses looked miserable and I did at once point see one of the drivers actually nodding off to sleep whilst driving the cart! Pretty much the horse was doing everything!

Get a map or an app to guide you around, it’s well worth it as it’s pretty easy to get lost in there, it’s vast. We did two days of wandering around in there overall, and we covered maybe less than half?

 

World Trade Centre and the Museum.

The new building is up and the memorial park is beautiful. We decided to take Miss L as a history lesson for her. She was born 2 years after the buildings came down and to her it’s history, an event she see’s on TV every September on the news. Now my daughter is the chattiest child on the planet, questions come out of her every three seconds or so. We walked in to the park, she saw the giant memorials with all the names on and she was silent for the next two hours, not one peep out of her.   They are just so vast and shocking, I did feel that it was like walking in a graveyard, it’s that kind of feeling if you know what I mean?.  She said later that it made her understand better what’s happening now in the world and how it started, which I thought was quite perceptive of her.

There is a really good app which we used called 9/11 memorial app and you can look at the memorial, see a name and click on it on the app to find out about that person and their life.

The museum is very tastefully done, and there are lots of huge parts of the original buildings, trashed firetrucks that were crushed, it gives you a very good idea of scale.  There’s a room with a photo of everyone who died and I was fine, in there looking at the photos and then there are little cases with their personal possession and there were of course unbreakable Nokia phones, glasses etc.  But then there is one little case on it’s own which has a teddy bear and some children’s headphones that belonged to two of the toddlers on the plane, and I utterly lost it and throughly embarrassed myself in a very un British way of sobbing very loudly.  Basically take tissues with you, it’s very moving.

City Cruise

There are a few cruises  you can take but obviously we had a City Pass so opted to do the Landmark Cruise. Didn’t know really what to expect, but it was fabulous! There was a tour guide talking and there were great views of the city, we got the see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where some of my mine and Paul’s relatives passed though. Not to mention great view of the city. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable 2 hours.

 

All in all New York is actually a really great place to take older kids, there is plenty to do and see. It wasn’t the cocktail/spa day holiday I had in my mid twenties there, but you know it was maybe better. I got to show my family one of my favourite cities.

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Strawberry Lemonade for a Drinks Dispenser

I needed to make some non alcoholic drinks for my BBQ. I had a quick look on Pinterest and found some lush looking recipes and went with Strawberry Lemonade.

I found this great recipe on an American Blog, but it was American products in American sizes and I never understand them!

So here’s my lazy British Version, this is enough for a large Kilner drinks dispenser, warning that’s a LOT of lemonade!. Take the amounts down for smaller containers.

You will need:

A large drinks dispenser or punch bowl

1 carton of Tropicana Lemon and Lime Juice

1/2 Carton of Innocent Strawberry and Banana smoothie

1/2 Carton of water – I reused the Tropicana carton

1 Large Bottle of Sprite

Cut up Lemons, strawberries and lots of Ice

Tip in the Tropicana

Refill the Tropicana carton half full with tap water, and tip that in.

Add half a carton Strawberry Smootie (you might want to strain this if you can, the drinks dispenser gets a big clogged up & you have to shake it. But if using a ladle for drinks don’t bother)

Tip in the Sprite and add fruits and ice.

Give it a good stir

Close the lid and you’re done.

 

We did have some problems getting it to come out. Would pour fine for a while and then clog, so we just gave it a good shake.

A more runny water like drink would work perfectly, so flavoured ‘Spa’ water or Pimms would be fine.

Looking forward to trying those next!

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Reluctant Entertainer

It’s not that I don’t like my friends, I do a lot. In truth my main reason for moving is to have a bigger house so we can host gatherings, BBQs, and have friends and family to stay. I would LOVE that.

However this past Saturday when my lovely husband, tipsily suggests that the 9 people there, come to our house for a BBQ on the 1st August…well frankly I could have strangled him. Our house is a bomb site, there is stuff which I was going to put into storage *everywhere*. You can’t get into the dining room, the office is now piled to about my height and more importantly for 9 people to come to a BBQ, you actually have to have some garden furniture!  We have…a £5 leaf table I bought 20 year ago at a car boot, 2 chairs I got off a lady at work who’s mum died and couple of ancient Ikea fold down chairs. That is it!

The look of horror on my face must have been apparent as my friend’s lovely husband said ‘it doesn’t have to be fancy’…..ha ha…*SOB*…. how little he knows me!  I grew up with my parents throwing the most fabulous parties and dinners for their friends and family.  I’m not sure we’ve entertained for more than 5 people the whole time we’ve been married, we’ve never had the room.  But we have a large garden so it’s time I put my big girl pants on and actually entertain some people!

I had bit of a panic on Instagram and some of them came up with great ideas. Hay bales and picnic blankets were some of my favourites and I think I’ll do that for the kids. But my dodgy back can’t deal with sitting on the ground for hours, so we have ordered a proper grown up table and chairs from Argos. Something we should have done years ago, which I’m very excited about.

Then by some miracle Homebase who’ve I’ve worked with many times, asked me if I’d like to choose some outdoor entertaining bits! What great timing!

So I chose this rather fab gazebo (£19.99) as it’s 2.7m x 2.7m it will either do for the kids to sit under, or if it rains for Paul to BBQ under.
Picture from Homebase as it’s not stopped raining since I bought it.

This brillant Kilner Drinks Dispenser (£24.99) it’s like those ones you see on Pinterest!! So excited to make some cocktails for it!

And as the evenings are getting darker a little earlier I picked up two of these solar light jars (£7ish) they aren’t on their website anymore but they might still be instore?. They are great and really bright, they look like fireflies.

I’ve created a board of BBQ ideas on Pinterest which have some great drinks ideas, recipes and decorations. Wish me luck!

Follow Liz’s board BBQ Ideas on Pinterest.

**full disclosure Homebase gave me £60 to spend instore**

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My Adventures in House Hunting

I have now been to see 10-15 houses in the last 6 months and I’ve still not found one we want to buy.  House buying/selling is incredibly expensive now, so as a buyer I’m thinking twice but third and forth times too!  I’m not saying a house has to be perfect, that would be dull but there are certain things that trigger warnings in my head.

So here’s what I’ve learnt in my 6 months of house hunting….

1. Let the estate agents show it, don’t do it yourself.  

A) you’re paying them a LOT of money, make them do some work.

B) It’s beyond awkward walking around a house with the owner trying to be enthusiastic about anything you can see. And then trying to think of an appropriate goodbye, when you know you are never, ever setting foot in that house again.  Maybe this is an #Englishproblem?

2. Clean your house, and then clean it again.

Then call round your most picky friend or relative to pass muster. Having a dog I know I could be ‘nose blind’ to smells, so having someone to check my house doesn’t smell of wet dog is essential.  And I know it’s not easy to keep it clean (especially living with kids and animals) but do a deep clean to start with and then clean as appropriate going forwards.

Today I went to visit what looked on paper like a lovely house.  Was confronted with three bathrooms FULL of black mould and loos that hadn’t been cleaned in the last…2 years? Delightful! The estate agent suggested I could always replace the bathrooms (they were THAT BAD!) not for the price they were asking!

3. De-clutter…but not too much.

I quite like family pictures around the house, books and of course children have toys in their rooms. It’s normal and makes me like your house, also I get to see how you use/need storage.  Houses without ‘stuff’ are cold and clinical and frankly a bit weird.  I can think of three houses, that have put me off as there were only beds in the bedrooms, what’s up with that?

4. Insane Colours

Now I know not everyone’s taste is the same and hopefully most people can look past a room layout or room colour, but there are a lot of people who really, really can’t.  So tone down super bright colours and if in doubt white paint will make any room look better. Dull but sellable!

5. Finish up DIY jobs.

I found a house that I LOVED, double fronted Victorian, right sized garden, it even had a back porch but…so so so many DIY jobs that needed doing. Peeling paint in bathrooms – ‘why?’ of course sprang to mind – looked up and all the vents were blocked, easy in a normal house to sort but not one with 17ft ceilings and a shower underneath! Wouldn’t have even noticed them if they’d been clear. Plug sockets were off, ceiling roses missing/bare wires, all the garage windows smashed. Lots of little jobs which became quite hefty, once you started adding them up.

6. Get certification

The Victorian House of dreams had a pretty big nightmare lurking. Had a chat with the owner, a builder and he had done a beautiful jobs installing reclaimed fireplaces and floorboards etc. Now as you know from my electrical nightmares with this house, I am maybe a little paranoid when it comes to electrics now.  So I asked who’d done the work on the electrical re-furbish of the Victorian House and I got this answer ‘Well I did them all, I’ve got no certification but I know what I’m doing’. WTH??

That was a MASSIVE red flag and that’s that house was out of the running. I know how much it cost to just re-do the lighting circuit of this house and the Victorian House was three times the size, so re-doing all of it would be about 10k.  If he’d said, ‘I did it but I’ve had it certified and it’s safe, here’s the paperwork’. I might have been slightly more accepting.

7. Stuff you can’t change and does affect the price of your house whether you like it or not.

We went to see a 10 year old estate house. It was super clean and tidy, perfect amount of bedrooms and downstairs was a good size. The nice lady owner showed us round and then we went into the garden…oh my word…. the road noise was awful. I hadn’t appreciated from the map that the road which was a fair distance away was so loud. This is a super busy 24/7 road,  living with it would be horrendous.  We aren’t even that picky we live on a main road now, but not being able to hear anything in the garden other than traffic is not good.  I think the road must be higher than the garden or something?

However she wanted the same price as other houses on the same estate, which were much much further away from the road and quieter. Just nuts!. Funnily enough I’ve just seen it re-list this week with a new estate agents, so I don’t think maybe anyone is being honest with her or she’s just desperate to hit that amount?

8. Internet

It’s like having mains gas (not as common as you’d think in the country) or electricity it should be on house details what your average speed is. If you have a good speed show it off!! Here’s a good little site to test your speed. Tell your estate agent and make a massive deal of it if it’s good and be upfront if it’s a bit rubbish.

If people work from home on the internet and you have a good speed then that is a massive selling point. My parents get 1.2mbps on a good day if the wind is blowing in the right direction. That practically means no Neflix, video chat, uploading files or photos to the internet and surfing is pretty painful. So working from home would be next to impossible…or living in the 21st Century, to be honest!  Which is fine AS LONG AS YOU KNOW!   If we lived there we’d be stuffed.

9. Big up your local facilities

We’re about to get a new school behind us and a cinema down the hill, the estate agent will be making a lot of this when we go to sell. Look around in your local neighbourhood and see what could attract people.

What’s your best selling tip??  I’m off to look at Rightmove again, wish me luck!

 

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Operation Get Rid of Hayfever

As most of you know hay fever is the bane of my life, every April to September without fail my life becomes a snotty, eye itching misery.  It came to a head three years ago where bog standard hay fever started to morph into food allergies, hives and seasonal asthma – fun times!.

I made some radical changes to my garden, I can’t get rid of all the grass and trees but I could alter what I planted close to the house.

Then last winter I was flicking through my phone and I came across a picture of my patch testing and I remembered that apparently I’m as allergic to milk as I am to trees, shrubs and weeds….but I’ve never had a reaction to milk, ever! Whereas all the others I most certainly have!

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Then I was reading about the new treatments for peanut allergy which involve being exposed to tiny amounts of peanut.  I’ve never stopped drinking milk or eating dairy and I wondered if that’s why I’ve never had a reaction to milk?  The very first summer I had hayfever I was 17 and it was also the first summer I didn’t spend every single moment outside, because I was a too cool teen. So could that be it?

Obviously this is very very not scientific and is me guessing, but I thought why not try something with pollen? So all the flowers that had been banned from the house, I brought back in to the lounge and all the living areas, house plants were brought back too. And then I’ve attempted to spend at least an hour outside in the garden every day since December mostly in 20 minute chunks with the dog and a little teaspoon of local honey. And you know what….this last weekend beginning of JUNE is the first time I’ve needed either eye drops or an antihistamine! And I’ve only needed one tablet so far which is a miracle because normally I’m on every antihistamine drug there is by now!

I don’t think it’s cured by any means, but it’s a lot better and I’ve had two less months of misery, which has been worth all the times I’ve stood in the cold in the garden all winter and spring!

But in the meantime if you are miserable and sneezing here are some top tips from Boots:

Angela Chalmers, Boots UK Pharmacist explains: “Many people with hay fever wait until their symptoms strike before they take action, but the earlier you prepare, the better.  Here are some things you can do ahead of time:

1)      Speak to your pharmacist now so they can determine the right treatment for your personal symptoms so you can put an effective routine in place before the pollen count rises

2)      Nasal sprays should be used throughout the season for them to work effectively, not just when your nose starts twitching!

3)      Some eye drops can be used ahead of time to help reduce symptoms, so it is never too early to start a protection routine

4)      Remember that your sunglasses can help too so include them in your prevention plans – they act as physical guard against pollen exposure around the sensitive eye area and are an easy way to stay protected on the school run or commute

And here are my top tips

1. I’d also add don’t hang your washing out on the line collecting pollen, for you to then wear or lie in more pollen inside.

2. Wash your hair/have a shower as soon as you come in from outside on high pollen days, it really helps

3. Nice cold flannel over your itchy eyes does help a lot.

4. Get a sensitive eye cream to put around the skin on your eyes at night, helps them not be so red and sore.

Have a good non itchy Summer!

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Hunstanton 

We were all exhausted in dire need of a break, so we went to Hunstanton which is about 40 minutes from home. I booked The Lodge which is in Old Hunstanton, in the attic which was just amazing! It’s beautiful with a sea view, just what my soul needed!

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We went for a wander down to Old Hunstanton beach and along the coast to Hunstanton, taking in the beautiful views

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How adorable is this cottage?

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And then there was this…

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I happily used the bubble bath provided, and locked myself in the bathroom for an hour while Paul and L chilled in the lounge. Heaven!

And this is how I finished off the day, in the garden

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We really, really must go again soon!

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Kitchen Re-Furb Reveal!

As most of you know, a new kitchen has been on my to-do list forever!  It’s small, but extending it would cost a fortune I don’t have.

Over the years I painted it, got rid of the faux Oak and that’s looked ok for a good few years, we got rid of some cupboards and got a dishwasher in.  But paint only lasts so long and it was looking really tired and we’ve decided that we’d like to move. I saw from the Estate Agents faces when they were valuing the house, that they saw the kitchen and the state of it was a problem. The rest of the house is fine, but there was lots of muttering about well the kitchen will need ‘some work’.

Thankfully a new franchise opened in town that does doors and worktops and general refurbs for kitchens. The cabinets of mine are fine, need a clean inside like everyone else but are solid and good. The tiles are an inoffensive country cream and the sink and tap are about three years old so I thought I’d keep those.  So we thought about it, got a quote for new doors, worktops, drawer fronts and drawers (mine were ancient and falling apart), kick boards, pelmets and infills with fitting and we went for it…and I am so so so pleased we did. It looks wonderful!

Here is the before:  (floral tablecloth is there to stop me using the disconnected sink!)

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After three days of very hard work by the lovely kitchen fitter who was an amazing craftsman, it now looks like a new room. The only real disaster, was when the ancient induction hob was being lifted out it cracked an broke! So a new one had to be ordered, which is much better than the old one. Thankfully none of the tiles popped off when the worktops were coming in and out which was a worry.  But here is my brand new shiny kitchen!

After:

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The floor was skimmed to make it flat and then filled in where we’d taken a cabinet out for the dishwasher. Then we had Rhino Floor laid over the tiles.  It looks amazing and I’m glad I went with it rather than tile as it makes it a bit warmer in there as there isn’t any heating.

I’ve moved the microwave and popped in on top of the fridge freezer as we hardly ever use it. It’s made a massive difference to the corner where the bread bin is, the room weirdly seems a lot more spacious now there more counter space.

I am one happy girl!

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Tweens and Social Media

I originally thought my daughter was a bit odd, she isn’t interested in social media AT ALL.  I mean nothing, she doesn’t want a Facebook account, not interested in Instagram, mention Twitter and she’s out of the room.

To be honest she’s not even that interested in Facetime or iMessage. In her eyes they are a necessary evil she needs on her iPad, so she can message me for more food when she’s in another room or to talk to her grandparents. But mostly for me to get her food!. I had a quick look and my nieces and nephew’s also don’t really seem to use Facebook that much and neither do my cousin’s kids – all of whom range between 11 and 23.

They, it seems are not alone. I was reading a report this week that tweens and early teens are now rejecting some ‘traditional’ social media like Facebook and are now using apps like Snapchat because they (in theory) have more security and anonymity.

The other shift is for private accounts or accounts with false names to protect their privacy.  I think that’s an excellent idea, I’d have hated all my young adult mistakes scattered across the internet forever more – my 25th Birthday especially should never, ever, see the light of day!

It’s great they are thinking into the future, because once it’s out there, it’s out there. Interestingly L banned me from putting her name on here when she was about six because she didn’t want to be ‘Googleable’.

Now she’s 12 all she has a gaming name that is a made up name so she’s untraceable and unknown to those at school.  Maybe the message taught at school and at home to stay safe on the internet is really getting through?

How do your kids use social media are they heavy users or are they not into it?  Do they use it differently to you?  I would love to hear!.

 

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North Norfolk Half Term Day Out

Had the most wonderful day yesterday. The weather was amazing and OH had the day off so we headed up to Brancaster for a walk on the beach, and then to The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe for a slap up lunch.

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I’d love to live in Norfolk one day, if you’ve not been I’d throughly recommend it , it’s such a chilled relaxed beautiful place. It’s definitely a little hidden UK jewel and well worth a visit.

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New Year, All Change

Ok that was a break and a half wasn’t it?  How are you all?  Good New Year so far?

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January was a whirlwind, lots changed and we had a lot to think about.  I’ve finally given up running Violet Posy Design, it was taking up all my time and I wasn’t earning a lot of money. Now OH has a full time job we can afford for me to give it a rest for a bit.  I had a great run though, and worked with some of the most amazing bloggers. I had a blast! I can’t thank them all enough for making my work days so much fun, and I made some awesome new friends along the way. That’s actually was what made it so hard to give up.  Thanks everyone for all the work you put my way and for all being so amazing.  It feels a bit weird not to be working on anything, so when I finally get really bored expect this site to change loads 🙂

The other change has been that after 11 years of ‘shall we stay in our home/move/emigrate/oh crap we’re out of contracts again’. We’ve decided to move locally and leave our little 1930’s house. The hunt is ON!

House hunting after so long is a bit odd. Last time Miss L was 6 months old and we were in a 2 up, 2 down Victorian terrace, which had been a love at first sight home. The day we walked in there I knew it was our house, waxed wooden floors, high ceilings, perfect for childless twentysomethings who didn’t care about on street parking.  Three years later….not so much. Ever tried carrying a weeks shopping and a baby in a car seat, for 3-5 streets?  It’s not easy and I don’t recommend it!

The house we live in now pretty much sold itself to me by having parking for 3-4 cars, a massive garden and lovely big bedrooms and it was the cheapest house we looked at!.  We didn’t have a massive amount of furniture, bed, cot, two sofa’s and my £5 dining room table bought at a car boot and a couple of inherited dining room chairs someone gave me when her Mum died.  This house was supposed to be the 5-7 year house, it turned into the 11 – 12 year house and now we are bursting at the seams.

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How will I leave my beloved bathroom??

So what do we all want from a house this time round?  This is supposed to be the 25 -30 year house, our proper ‘grown up’ house that we can grow into and old in. We’ve looked around a good few houses and there hasn’t been anywhere that I’ve utterly loved.

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There’s been one which was very sensible (above), one that is massive but needs work and a couple that are no bigger than what we live in now. But going around different houses is really good for your mind set. You can imagine living somewhere else and you see that actually you’re own home which I never see as being that perfect is in fact actually pretty lovely and it’s helping me say goodbye to our house, which is going to be very hard.  Wish us luck!

 

 

 

 

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