New projects 

It’s been a ridiculous amount of time since I last blogged. Life has been very hectic with a toddler, a return to work and a number of house projects underway! 

We’ve started putting the wheels in motion to extend our house. When we bought it this was always the plan and now feels like the right time to do it. We’re in process of getting plans drawn up so it’s very early days, but it’s very exciting as we’ll likely change the layout of the house downstairs a fair bit plus gain extra rooms upstairs. Lots of blog posts to come on that I suspect.

In the meantime we’ve been working on our spare bedroom. We thought this one day may become the bathroom so didn’t plan to do anything as yet but after discussions with our architect we now know it will definitely be a bedroom. So we’ve started doing it up for little B. We had to rip out some old cupboards which used to have the hot water system in, a lot of mess but it’s really opened up the room. I’m starting with a blank canvas, we’ve so far painted the walls and ceiling in Farrow & Ball’s Wevet. But I have a plan in my head for a mural wall and lots of other little features to make it a fun space for him that will hopefully work for a few years as he grows 

My year

I truly cannot believe that we’re at the end of 2016. What a year it has been. It’s been an amazing year, even if I feel I have lost half of it in a sleep deprived blur.

I’ve always found myself getting a touch emotional on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know why, except this year I do. It’s been mad, unbelievably rewarding, challenging but full of absolutely wonderful memories and moments watching our little man grow from a 10lb screwed up wrinkly bundle to the happy, smiley and non stop little human that he now is.

Without realising it he has completely changed me. I worry a lot less about trivial things, though I worry about him all the time still. I’ve developed a patience I never thought I would have. I’ve tried to be the best mum that I can, but I still question myself every day and feel guilty on the bad days where I feel I’ve got it completely wrong. Other days, (which is in fairness most of the time, we just still don’t talk about nights!) when he is just an absolute delight to be around and I see how much happiness he brings to other people I am completely floored by how much I love him (and truly can’t believe we made him). He has taken all of my energy, time and focus. I could of been a better friend to many of my pals, and a better wife this year and I feel bad about that, but it’s tough to do everything. That’s something I’m still trying to get my head round and find the right balance. 

I fell in love with our village as soon as we drove up to it to view our house but this year has made me really realise how lucky we are. There’s an amazing network of friendly people in our village, our own fab (small but perfectly formed) toddler group and access to beautiful countryside, which I’ve seen more of, more than once a day usually when I have been manically walking to entertain the little man. I would hate to leave this village, and it’s made us more determined to make the big alterations to our home to make it work better for us for the next few years. Watch this space for more blogs on that subject.

Part of me misses the old me, the social butterfly, always organised, always well presented (ok that last bit is a fib, I’ve never been polished but what I mean is washed hair and a bit of make up and no snot down my front), but what I have in exchange is irreplaceable. The old me is in there somewhere and it’s my New Years resolution to make a little bit of time for her (really not sure how I’ll do that yet) and the other people that I love. 
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(These pictures were taken exactly a year apart today, and yes it is ok now to laugh at how fat my face and hands were, I can now find it funny!)

Sleep deprived blogging

Well as I have nothing else to blog about at the moment (and I’m definitely not going to be able to even think about using my sewing machine any time soon) I thought I’d might as well give a little update/ramblings on my new role as a mummy now that we’re 11 weeks in.

I’m still winging it day by day and I’ve no idea whether I’m getting things right or wrong, the only markers being the little man is healthily gaining weight (13lb 14oz last Thursday) and is a happy smiley chappy through the day. We won’t talk about the nights, and I don’t want to hear about people who have babies who sleep through from 6 weeks old (for my own sanity I refuse to believe them in any case).

Looking after Joshua and being totally responsible for him truly is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. As my best pal keeps telling me (and she’s always bloody right!) those first 6 weeks (oh and once you get past those first 6 weeks the goalposts change and it also includes the next 6 weeks!) are like crawling through a long dark tunnel. It’s one hell of a journey and a steep learning curve. I’m lucky in that my mum doesn’t work so has been around to help me out (which has been an absolute god send).  The days at work dealing with what those of us in the comms world deem a sh*t sandwich seem like a doddle in comparison now. A ferocious journalist with a corker of a media enquiry at 3.30pm on a Friday pales in comparison to dealing with a small person at 3.30 am when you’ve already been up twice that night feeding, your eyes are stinging and you feel so tired you feel sick. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world and when you see him smile first thing in the morning, melting your heart it makes it all totally worth it.

I’ve found myself questioning everything I do and doing things I swore I’d never do as a parent (much to the amusement of my besties I’m sure). Take last week for example, I found myself sat in a circle with other sleep deprived mums, frantically bouncing our babies on our laps in a bid to not be the one with the grumpy baby, a large gold sequinned sheet of material in front of us with a lady fully immersing herself into a sing songy world of baby tunes and encouraging us to join in, judge me. I said I’d never go along to these things, but he loved it, (well up until the point he had to wear bunny ears, que a meltdown so I had to wear them) so much so I’m going back next week. I’ll leave my dignity at the door. (Those of you locally it’s called Hartbeeps and rather fittingly the session was called Baby Bells, it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a sensory based activity).

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Step by step guide to painting old furniture

A good friend of mine is always laughing at us about our obsession with buying up old furniture to renovate, ‘Why don’t you just save yourself some hassle and buy new’ she often says. But where’s the fun in that?! Not only is up cycling a great way to save money, I love old things, imagining the stories behind them and giving a new lease of life to something with a bit of history.

I shared some images a while ago of my latest find, an absolute steal at £27 it was an old drinks cabinet (very retro, it even had a light inside to highlight your Baby Shams no doubt!).

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I wanted something for our revamped dining room to replace some awful shelving I’d had enough of and took a hammer to and this looked perfect for storage. I took some pictures as we went along with a view to doing this step by step guide (and to prove to my friend how easy it is!)

I’m by no means an expert but hopefully this will show how easy it is to do and encourage you to have a go.

What you’ll need…

  • Sand paper (a hand held sander ‘mouse’ is even better if you have one, although not essential)
  • Sugar soap
  • Paint brushes (including a really small one for any tricky details)
  • Good quality primer (we buy all our paint from Johnstones in Cambridge, if you’re local check them out)
  • Paint of your choice (we always use eggshell as I’m not a fan of anything glossy. But chalk paint is really fashionable at the moment)
  • Matt varnish (not essential but it does protect the finish. You can also use a wax, especially if you are going for a more distressed finish)

Step by step…

  1. Good preperation is absolutely key to getting a good finish. You’ll find that lots of older furniture will have layers of varish, polish or wax which you’ll need to rough up in order to get a good finish with the paint. Start off by giving the piece a good sand all over.
  2. Once you’ve sanded it, brush off the worst of the dust and then make up a sugar solution and give it a good wipe. This stuff is brilliant and picks up all the annoying little bits of sanded mess.
  3. A tip we’ve learnt as we’ve gone along is to make sure you tape up any edges you don’t want to paint. We’ve found that when painting furniture with doors, it’s best to leave the edges as it can affect how they open and close. Spend a bit of time properly masking taping edges and you’ll be glad in the long run!
  4. You’re ready to paint! Start by putting a coat of primer all over. Don’t forget the backs of legs and underneath. If you are painting a chair it’s a good idea to turn it upside down first and start there.DSC_0425
  5. Once the primer has dried, check it all over to make sure you don’t need to lightly sand again. If you do repeat step 2 again.
  6. Time to paint with your chosen colour. Most pieces will need two coats – allow enough time for drying in between and try not to be impatient. Try to keep your brush strokes going in the same direction.
  7. The next step is option – if you want a distressed look, use a piece of sandpaper (wrapped around a small block of wood usually helps) and sand any edges to give that vintage feel. Focus on areas where chips and scrapes would naturally appear to make it look authentic. This looks is usually more effective when you use a colour and then take it back to either the primer coat or the bare wood.
  8. Once you are happy with your finish, give it a coat of the varnish. This is especially important for pieces like dressing tables – make up will then easily wipe off!
  9. That’s it. Wait for it all to dry before putting it back together and then step back and enjoy your master piece!

 

 

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Bread

Back in March I blogged about starting my own personal GBBO challenge – where I would try baking a new recipe once a fortnight. I’ve pretty much stuck to it, although sometimes I’ll confess there may well of been more than a fortnight in-between. There have been some successes and failures along the way, one bake that really didn’t go well was my madeira cake, but practice makes perfect. A couple of weeks ago for the first time I made choux pastry, I’ve always avoided it as I thought it was really complicated (plus my auntie is the queen of profiteroles so I’ve never really had the need!). I couldn’t believe how simple it is, and how easy it was to get great results. I made six large choux buns which I then piped full of a rapsberry and vanilla cream – topped with more fresh berries. They went down a storm with the husband.

This weekend, (following the Great British Bake Off) it’s all about bread, which considering my background I probably should of covered first. For those that don’t know me, bread and baking is in my blood. My grandfather owned a successful bakery business until he retired around 15 years ago – and he was the third generation of his family to own a bakery business. We all worked at the family business at some point, I used to work every Saturday morning in one of the shops he owned (which was great as a teenager as I had an unlimited supply of donuts for my friends after our trips to the local pub on a Saturday evening). When my brother and I were small we used to ‘help’ out in the original bakery that he owned and he always told us we were natural kneaders. I really must get him to write down all the bread recipes he used to use as I’ve never found any supermarket bread that tastes as good. So, this weekend I’ll be trying out the perfect white loaf recipe from my Bake Off book. Whether I show my grandad the end result or not will depend on what it looks and tastes like!
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My little brother helping out at my Grandad’s first bakery – which had a traditional bread oven.

A foolproof Brownie recipe

Just thought I would do a quick blog post to share this brownie recipe with you all. It’s such an easy and foolproof recipe, and they always taste delicious.

I made them twice last week to take to friends for dinner and they always go down a storm. Great as a dessert, warm with ice cream or just on their own with a nice cuppa. I also tend to make them for friends when they need a little cheering up, they’re a great pick me up ; )

Enough of my rambling I hear you cry, just give us the recipe. Here you go, it’s adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe (from her How to be a Domestic Goddess book).

First up, grease and line a baking tin. I always use a square 22cm (approx) one, unless I’m making a double batch. Preheat the oven to about 180c (I usually have my oven about 160-170 as I swear it’s hotter than it says)

Ingredients
7.5 oz soft unsalted butter (or hard baking marg works just as well)
7.5 oz dark chocolate
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (don’t scrimp on the quality of this, use a good one and you only need a capful)
10 oz caster sugar
4 oz plain flour

Method
Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan.

In a bowl whisk the eggs together with the sugar and vanilla.

Once the chocolate has melted, let it cool slightly then beat in the eggs and sugar mixture. Then add the flour.

Scrape into your lined tin and bake for about 20 mins or so. I usually find 22 mins is spot on but it depends on your oven. The trick is to take them out when there is still a wobble – leaving them all gooey inside.
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Bathroom planning

Excitement has reached fever pitch in our house now as we’ve a date for when work will start on our (currently beyond hideous) bathroom. Work is starting at the end of the month so in the meantime I’m desperately searching for a bathroom cabinet that’s not just a boring mirrored one –  I want something a little different but I’m not having much luck sourcing it. I think I’m set on my colour scheme – I want something in a deep colour that says luxurious and relaxing,  I love Farrow & Ball’s Stifkey Blue and have wanted to use it somewhere for a while and I think the bathroom will be perfect. Next up will be finding some lovely new towels and accessories, the fun part!