Sunday, 15 January 2017

Fresh

Flowers - having fresh flowers in the house is a real antidote to the gloom outside. My first bunch of Bloomon flowers from Mr M are still going strong on the butchers block in the kitchen, whilst these sumptuous anemones were a couldn't-help-myself purchase from my local M&S. I've always been a sucker for anemones and ranunculus at this time of year, although the latter is phenomenally expensive around these parts.

Air - I've fallen out of step with our daily walks of late but the walk along the river on Monday was bracing and brief and so very needed. It blew away many of the cobwebs that had settled in over Christmas and reminded me how much I like being outside, and how much I like walking with friends. All the more so because soon enough I'll be back in an office ruing the time I could have been spending outside.

Scent - I'm finally lighting the lovely candles that I've received as gifts over the last year or so. I'd been squirrelling them away until rooms were decorated. They smell divine. I seem to have developed a leaning towards geranium and citrus. So sharp and fresh.

Produce - this weaning lark really is quite boring. I'm not going to lie. So much chopping and washing up. It does however mean that the fridge is stocked with lots of fresh fruit and veg. You would think that this, coupled with the usual new year mantras, would have me eating really healthily. I'm still on my sugar fix - I'm blaming/using the excuse of breastfeeding. My daily biscuit eating competition has reduced significantly (the bourbon biscuit/custard cream sales will be significantly down as a result) but I'm not yet ready to say no to a slab of cake in a cafe or a mini magnum.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sleep

Oh to sleep this deep. Alice isn't one for scheduled daytime in-the-cot-like-the-books-say naps. She prefers the floppy-limb-pin-me-to-the-seat type. If I'm lucky she might doze in the pushchair but that does require me taking her out in said pushchair, for roughly 4 miles without stopping, of which I have been somewhat lax of late. I get nothing done during daylight hours. It has taken me a long time to accept this. I have NCT friends who manage to cook dinner and bake cakes and do chores like folding pants. Daily. I'm chuffed if I manage to make a sandwich, feed the cat and replenish the toilet rolls. We are however very good at external activities - notably coffee and cake, shopping (still requires multiple fly-bys - gone are the days of standing in the same spot to ponder a purchase) and our new weekly 'baby tar and feathers' class, I mean, art class. Yes - this 7 month old is now taken to a regular 'eat as much paint, glitter and paper as you can' class. I'm hoping that she will be included in the RA Summer Exhibition this year. On our fridge.

I can't complain though. We have a bedtime routine in place, and we've been lucky. Whilst Alice doesn't really do daytime sleep she has, for the most part, slept through the night since she was about 4 months old. She is usually in her cot by 7pm - which then gives us roughly four hours to do chores, cook, wash up, collapse on the sofa, flick through Instagram (me), read football news/play iPad games (Mr M) and get cross at the things that we should be doing - like going through the boxes gathering dust and taking up space in the conservatory and spare room, emailing friends, knitting, planning the future, world peace. Late to bed, always making time to read by shortening sleep time (me - stupid) we get woken up by Madame either shouting, coo-ing or filling her nappy (the video monitor microphone is crystal clear) from 6am onwards. She has however taken to waking up at 3.22 every so often. Oddly, I used to wake up daily at 3.21 when work was especially horrid back in the day. I know we've been fortunate - some of the NCT babies are still waking up every couple of hours which is just awful. I am, however, finding the inconsistency a bit of a killer. Some say it's teething, others weaning. I just know I'd like a sleep week - a little bit like reading week at Uni - just to catch up, and then the merry-go-round can start again.

Activities for this week:
Riverside walk with coffee and cake
Coffee and cake followed by the 'loud music and enthusiastic people' baby class
Walk with new friend and baby followed by coffee
Tar and feathers baby class followed by hose down and weekly germ-fest and possibly coffee
Baby yoga class followed by jasmine tea
Finish brilliant new read - Golden Hill
Work out how to free up the storage blockage on my iPhone
Persevere with weaning despite Alice's clamped-shut-bottom-lip-sucked-in-spoon-shall-not-pass mouth
Go to bed early

Important points to note:
All coffee is decaffeinated
All cake is full fat, preferably with icing
Most classes require my 'isn't this fun' smile, when sometimes it really, really isn't
Germ-fest is our local playgroup - it is astonishing the speed with which green snot forms following attendance

Have a great week!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

2016 - what a year. Alice arrived in May and our world turned upside down. I have to keep pinching myself - I never thought I would be lucky enough to be a mother. We are so, so fortunate to have her. The journey has been long and emotional, but she's here and it's all been rather overwhelming. Writing gift tags to 'Granny and Grandpa' brought a lump to my throat at Christmas. My heart skipped a little beat as I signed cards from the three of us. I wasn't as prepared for the shift from career to carer as I should have been. The simplest drop of a letter, but what a change. I'm finally getting the hang of it now - it really did make me realise just how selfish a life I had been leading pre-Alice. Goodness. The things I've learnt.

She hit the seven month mark last week and is turning into a delightful little imp. It's been an epic and exhausting adventure, and I'm afraid that all I could muster last year were snaps on Instagram. Words escaped me. Sentences were elusive. Lack of sleep really does lead to muddle. Mr M has become a master in second-guessing what I want (usually biscuits and tea, followed by more biscuits). I always knew he would be, but he's been incredible. Fatherhood suits him. The pair are as thick as thieves.

And as for Pickle, we think she is quietly delighted to no longer be the centre of attention and baby substitute and has taken to Alice rather well. I frequently find both on my lap. In turn, Alice is obsessed with Pickle. Pig needs to start looking for refuge higher up for when Alice starts crawling...

Do you have resolutions? Do you bother? I have a list of things I want to do. Blogging is on my list. My reading pile is tall. The cottage needs to be finished. I must start using my gym membership. Drawing. Painting. But most importantly, I want to spend time with loved ones - family, friends, new and old.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

February


Growth - the spring bulbs are up, the jasmine is out, the forsythia and chaneomeles are almost in bloom and my bump is getting bigger and squirmier.

Breathing - I've started pregnancy yoga and am learning how to the breathe. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I've always known I'm a bit rubbish at doing it properly - I even wear a bracelet engraved with the word 'breathe' - to remind me to breathe when I'm stressed. When the pressure at work is particularly awful, I'll wake up halfway through the night hyperventilating. All very silly - but, I am learning some useful techniques and have already found myself applying it on the commute.

Almost - a word that is becoming a little overused this way. We've almost finished the sitting room, bar the new bookcase being delivered (delayed by 4 weeks - grump), agreeing on the sofa (I'm thinking Ikea's Ektorp given its machine-washable fabulousness and shallow-depth and the fact that in 13 weeks time life will change forever, however Mr M's not keen) and ordering the sideboard for the TV.

Progress - slow, but getting there. The hallway has been stripped. I'm almost there on the never-ending sorting of the front room's contents. The walls are partially stripped and the peculiar headboard has been dismantled. The temptation to get a skip and chuck all our stuff in it is particularly strong right now given that we've pretty much run out of room in the storage unit - the delayed bookcase is really not helping!

Stumped - should we take the ceilings down, who should be brought in first - the plasterer or the electrician, where on earth do people buy flat sheets for deep king size beds from (Any idea? Had no idea it would be such a tricky thing to buy), which pram-travel system thing we should go for, why do I appear incapable of going to bed early, how did I manage to choose such rubbish books from the library (such a disappointment), why did we buy a house that needed so much work? Gah!

And then it was March…and we began to run out of weekends to get everything done.

Right-ho - off to practise that breathing!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Making progress

The sitting room carpet has gone. 
The woodwork is primed. 
Lining paper has started to go up.
Two brilliant books read - this one, and this one. I wanted to pack my bags and immediately head to Provence with the second one. Oh, to be back in that beautiful land. 
New recipes tried, like this one from Jamie's Everyday Super Food.
A very clean hob.
Bunch of daffs on the window sill.
One very dead mouse.
One cat in the dog house. 

Crossing things off the to-do list makes up for those aching muscles.


 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Renovate


I can't believe how quickly 2016 is whizzing by. I'm finding that being pregnant has made me much calmer and more determined to reduce the unnecessary stresses that I usually allow to fester and niggle. We're in full renovation mode over here with a very defined end date in mind. So much needs to be done by mid May before the little one arrives. I have moments when I look around me and can't believe that we've been in the cottage for 3 years and have only managed to officially finish one room, but then I remember just how big the works have been each year - removing a chimney from top to bottom, the kitchen extension and driveway, landscaping a garden, new ceilings in the sitting room, restoring the windows and adding secondary glazing to preserve them, removing that horrid fireplace and replacing it with the most delightful Chesneys wood burner which we've pretty much had on every night since it arrived irrespective of temperature. We've squeezed in some wonderful jaunts - to Devon, Florence and I'm still raving about The Pig in Brockenhurst (which is where we first spied the wood burner in our room). Our cooking habits have changed - we're eating far healthier and thriftier, the latter more through planning and making the weekly roast last for three days, than we have ever done before - in part due to the pregnancy but also because I decided last year to ditch processed sugar and alcohol. The sugar has crept back in as it was the only thing that got me through the morning sickness (really should be renamed to all day sickness), but now that's out of the way and almost all of the Christmas treats have been inhaled it's time to cut down again although I might keep my cheeky hot chocolate on the list. 
So, with the next 15 weekends on DIY lockdown we've got quite a list. 
  1. Sitting room - almost there. All that's left to be done is the woodwork to prime, walls to line and paint, final coat on the ceiling, gloss woodwork and radiators, new carpet and furniture.
  2. Spare room and office - hmmm, these haven't been started...empty (both have been prime storage units since we moved in), rip out the awful fitted wardrobes, strip wallpaper, soundproof wall, replaster ceilings, sort electrics, reroute cables, fill cracks, paint linen cupboard interior, rescue fireplace surround, prime woodwork, line walls, paint ceiling and walls, gloss, carpet and furniture. Mr M will lose his office and have to take up residency in the spare room tucked into a corner without the luxury of double desks, but then he'll be working from home less so that won't be too much of an issue.
  3. Master bedroom - new carpet and gloss doors
  4. Hallway and landing - if we have time...strip wallpaper, replaster ceiling, line and paint walls, prime and gloss woodwork, new carpet…
  5. And breathe...
My mission is to banish the moth infested carpet once and for all. The 1960s carpet in the sitting room will be the first to leave the building. We removed the flannel sized carpet from the hallway at the weekend. I'd always assumed it was probably laid in the 1990s, but apparently it was laid in 1977 as the very handy Telegraph lining the floorboards informed us.

Nothing like a new year challenge. I'll be making regular updates here and on Instagram. 

A belated happy new year to you all!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dunsborough Park NGS open day

Don't you just love the NGS initiative? We managed to get to quite a few this year, but my favourite had to be Dunsborough Park in Ripley, Surrey. The first thing we came upon was the most incredible glass house surrounded by giant sculptures, with olive trees and vines fighting their way out.
Onwards to wonderful never-ending parterre gardens that were groaning at the seams with dahlias, verbena and anemones. Mr M had walled garden envy. 
I fell in love with the ginkgo hedges.
The anemone drifts were stunning. I managed to kill the anemone I bought at the bonkers Crocus sale earlier in the year - I was understandably envious.
The water garden was a delight to stumble across. I do love gunnera - my rather more manageable tribute at home is a bunch of rhubarb which needs to be moved as it looks a little sad. 
It went on and on. I hadn't appreciated that it's a 100-acre site. Each 'room' had something fabulous whether it was a sculpture, water feature or some clever framed view. I thought there was an air of Atonement about this one.
Oh, to have spent longer there. To have perched myself on a bench with a book. It would be the perfect setting for a Mad Hatter's tea party. Dating back to the dissolution of the monasteries, the current owners restored the gardens almost 20 years ago. They open up several times a year for charity - apparently Spring is fabulous with thousands and thousands of tulips, and every so often they host evening concerts which must just be magical. If you're local, do keep an eye on their website. I for one can't wait to go back.