The Fash Flash: Don’t Sweat It.

Something has happened to my style lately and I am now a complete convert to a good old sweatshirt. Of course I’m not talking 80/90′s throwback oversized numbers but a super soft well fitted sweatshirt with a well chosen slogan can seriously do some wardrobe distance. It’s particular strength being the ‘I don’t even want to get dressed today but I can feel like I’m in pyjama’s while looking semi-cool’ look. I used to think they were super unflattering – particularly if you have a bigger bust, but with a complete boob monster in tow still and the cup size to match, I’m re-thinking my pre-conceptions.

I thought I’d do a little round up of some of my favs, with some boutique and small business finds.

Let’s get started!

Strong Girls Club and Rebelle by Mutha.Hood – Owned and designed by Gemma (follow her on Instagram for hilarious pink, tassel and llama loving stories) I love nearly every design she produces. Bea and I have the matching ‘Strong Girls Club’ sweats (see above,) and I recently bought my bestie and I ‘Rebelle’ sweats in the flash sale. A must have for all Mothers of Daughters, Boom.

Mother Neon pink hoodie by The FMLY store – Possibly the original purveyors of statement sweats, or certainly the first that brought them to my attention, The FMLY Store (formerly Selfish Mother but now expanded to include the whole family,) this brand has a huge range of styles and slogans. I’m currently coveting a supersoft design (I already have an original boyfriend grey and coral ‘Winging It’ and Hot pink ‘Mama’ scoop neck,) or the new super casual outline design on the spring hoody. Another bonus to buying from them is their #GoodTees programme where they donate £5 from each sale to various charities – a total of £811,574 has been raised so far!

Scamp and Dude – Next on my list to purchase are these super cool animal print and lightening bolt striking designs from Scamp and Dude. Another Adult/kid brand you can get these unisex designs and give a little person some superhero confidence too – every product has a lightening bolt embroidered on the sleeve for kids to press and feel when they need a little boost. The range was inspired by creator Jo’s stay in hospital when she suffered a sudden brain haemorrhage and had to leave her children while in hospital, which inspired her to make a product that made children feel more secure when away from their loved ones. Check out the accessories range too – I love the pouches and the Superhero Sleep Buddies. (You might also have seen on Instagram that ASDA have ripped off the ‘Superhero has my Back‘ design so please do support her ORIGINAL brand. Shame on you ASDA.)

A Finer Thread – For a luxe take on the trend A Finer Thread creates embroidered designs on classic colours, like these chic J’adore sweats. Everything is made to order and you can even order bespoke designs so check them out for a special treat.

Lastly, the very reasonably priced and wine inspired FWP by Rae range includes this Premier Cru – first spotted on our very own Erin, but also worn by the instagram fash pack including Kat from Does my Bum look 40, amongst others. (Check out her blog for fashion forward styling for when you no longer want to feel like you’re dressed like a teen.) Who doesn’t love a reminder that it’s almost wine o’clock?

Have I missed any? I’d love to hear of any new brands I should check out!

Love,
Rebecca

Renovation Ruminations: Tiles Tiles Tiles…

I think it’s time I kicked off with some interiors inspiration for the renovation project, right? In truth, you might expect that I would have this all sorted but in fact it has for a long time felt hard to see past the project even starting and getting those piles in, so I didn’t really focus too hard on the interior aspect. The bathroom has had the least of my attention because, well, bathrooms just don’t really excite me. Of course that hasn’t stopped me pinning them and fortunately, as I always say to people who are planning a project big or small, if you pin loads of images you like to Pinterest you can often then find a theme. Particularly because I’ve been using Pinterest for so long, I can also see if my tastes have changed, or pick out things that look dated already which helps to refine what I like, and also try to sift through rooms that are ‘Gorgeous but not me‘ and ‘Yes, I can live with that!

There are a few key themes that have inspired me and tiles have been my latest obsession so lets get on and have a look!


Grown up mermaid tiles

For the longest time I thought if I ever re-did a bathroom I’d keep it all white, white, white. In fact, I’ve learnt enough about myself that I can start neutral but I always seek colour eventually, and I also really don’t want a clinical or cold looking space. I’ve always love patterned tiles, be they Morroccan style, mosaics, or just interesting colours and lean towards anything with a handcrafted feel, so although I started planning a black hexagon tile floor, we soon moved towards looking for something more colourful.


Fish scale tiles // Circle tiled Shower // Star tiles // Concrete and patterned teal tiles.

How amazing are these? But could you live with it? There’s something very ‘holiday’ feeling about these designs I think. They remind me of a beach hotel, somewhere like Miami, or Australia, but I wonder if I’d tire of them or if they would feel out of place in the middle of a bleak English winter. But then maybe they would be just the thing to brighten up your day?

Or if you’re not 100% about taking the plunge with colour, how about this ever so pale and restrained touch of colour?


Pale and Interesting

I find these pastel and muted tones so restful. They’re just the thing I think for a change from the now classic white metro or subway tile, but with a bit of a modern twist. The pale green/grey/blue tones are just so pretty and elegant.


Pale Green shower // Blue metro tiles and marble // Pale blue herringbone // Grey metro tiles

Then there’s the Monochrome trend. Whilst I never would have described myself as a monochrome lover, I find myself decorating in Black and white more and more. Its the perfect backdrop for other materials (wood and metals in the case of the bathroom,) and a brilliant foil for colour too – in fact both the girls bedrooms have black and white wallpaper which is perfect to balance out all the colour that comes with the mountains of toys.


Black Chevron and brass shower // Black Hex wall tiles

What I do like a lot however is texture and a monochrome palette is the perfect way to introduce pattern like the current trends for interesting tile laying (herringbone or chevrons to name but a few) or shapes, like hexagons.


White Herringbone wall tiles

So what do you think readers. Could you or have you stepped away from white tiles? I’d love to hear if you have any recommendations!

Rebecca x

#FFHouseReno: Part I [Foundations]

Well hello, finally I can write our first post about the extension, not in the planning stages but the happening stage. Whoop Whoop!

Yeah, well it was exciting for about 2 weeks I think! Already it feels slow and dirty and messy and just muddy. The mud. Seriously. People warned us about starting building work in January and they were right! But let’s skim over that and start at the beginning.

We were supposed to start on January 3rd and were immediately foiled by the piling company still being on Christmas Break for another week. The next week came and went and I think it was 22nd of January before everything came together and the work finally started. 18x 3m steel tubes were delivered, the drain survey people, piling contractors and our building company all arrived on site at once and things finally started happening.

It was a pre-requisite of our build over agreement that we survey the drain below the works both before and after the building work, and although we had already surveyed the drain to get the drain position and structural calculations for the build over agreement in the first place, that was 2 years ago now so we repeated it to make sure there had been no damage in the interim that we could get blamed for later. All was well and the position was once again marked out ready for the piling.

The piling process was pretty incredible. Our piles were a combination of augered and driven piles. Most people think of driven piles when they think of piling – if you’ve ever been in the vicinity of piling work you might recall the thud thud thud of the piling taking place and the ground literally shaking for what seems like miles around. Because of the drain, our piles were augered which looked like a huge drill bit and essentially drills down, turfing the ground up out of the hole it creates. They did this to below the invert of the drain, about 5m down and then put the steel in and drove the last meter or so down. Fortunately for us, that meant the impact and vibrations of the banging was so far underground it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but that said, it was still thumpingly loud, like make-your-chest-vibrate loud, and the house shook. I’m so glad we have forgiving neighbours! There were other benefits to this method – one being that when drilling down, they would have had a heads up if they had hit anything (like the drain!) However, it also involved some guess work and the final depth depends on when the piles hit firm ground – at least one of the piles needed to go deeper than the planned 6m and the deepest is at 9m underground which is pretty mind boggling. Once in place we could look down the piles to the bottom and it was like looking into the centre of the earth.

Once the piles were in place we breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. It was a little bit weird that something we had been focusing our whole minds and worry on was over in a matter of days – I think they were finished in 4. However then there was another wait while the piling contractors disappeared again and our builders picked up the work, digging our foundation trenches, before the Piling company came back to finish off. They had several staffing issues and other overrunning jobs which was beyond their control but it was incredibly frustrating. They were responsible for not only the piles but the whole foundations on top of them so until they finished our builders couldn’t do anything. They eventually came back and created the ring beam – a steel frame that rests on the piles and then was set in concrete to form the foundations and finally the foundations were done! That whole process took 2 weeks, but it could have been a lot quicker as I think we had at least 4 working days where nothing happened at all in those two weeks.

Since then our builders have been on the job and it seems like everything has been happening really quickly. We joked that as they had already built up 9 meters we could expect the rest of the work to be done in another 4 weeks or so! Sadly not!

I guess it’s not surprising but we have had a taste already of the disruption the work will bring. There will be times when we have both the downstairs toilet and the first floor bathroom out of action and holes in the walls of the house so this rates pretty low on the scale of inconvenience, but the outside pipes to the kitchen sink and dishwasher were disconnected during the piling and we’ve had a bucket under the pipes collecting the water that gets emptied daily since then. I’ve been a bit paranoid about using excessive amounts of water, which when you’re constantly cleaning up after 2 kids is not that easy. However I’m sure there’s much worse to come!

I’ve also had my first wobble about the plans as the layout of the steps coming down from the extension were marked on the ground and it just looked massive. In fact the modest strip of paving outside the sliding doors, then the planters and stepped path down to the rest of the garden is almost as wide again as the new room we are building, and eats into the garden further than I expected, however, theres no other way of achieving the design I want so I’m trying to hold my nerve. The foundations for that area were concreted in last week and the supporting walls that are above ground but below the floor level of the house were put in too. The highlight of my week was the insertion of a piece of steel that will be between the glass corner and the sliding windows, that essentially holds the roof up over the largely glazed area. It gave the space a sense of a perimeter and felt like real progress.

Right now however, I’m still having a lot of trouble visualising it all. Because it’s below the floor level of the house it’s hard to get a sense of the space, and the weather has been so awful that it is hard to see past the mud. Thank goodness for the break in the weather. My to do list this week involves trying to pin them down to a rough timescale so I can try and plan when its going to be worst inside and we can try to get away. We met with another contractor to do the finishing last week (the bathroom/utility and loo fitting, tiling, wall panelling etc etc etc) and are awaiting a revised quote and I need to make a decision on who we will be sourcing our internal crittall door from. We’ve also got tile samples arriving and colour chips as I think we will be making a bespoke colour way of the tiles we want. So all together that is super exciting, especially as I feel like I’ve finally found my bathroom mojo after weeks of being less than excited about it – I just couldn’t get interested in off the shelf all-in design, but now I can’t wait to share our plans with you!

I hope that was interesting for those of you planning building work. The photos aren’t very inspiring but I hope they are illuminating at least and I’ll try to do a monthly update and progress report amongst the fun interiors posts. We are actually on week 5 now and a lot more has happened – as always follow along on Instagram – I tend to update my stories almost daily with progress including live videos walking around the site – quick and easy for me, brilliant if you happen to be super nosey. ;)

Happy Thursday Guys!

Rebecca

What to Buy: Fresh Fitness Gear

Good morning Readers!

Rebecca has very kindly asked me back to post occasionally on all things fashion, and I’ve jumped at the chance. My posts are going to be a bit more current and pick out relevant seasonal and lifestyle trends, rather than a monthly edit. If of course you guys have things you’d like to ask me/content you’d like to see, please do comment and I’ll see what I can do.

As we speed into February I have been thinking about one of my resolutions, which was to make 2018 a healthy one – in all senses of the word. Starting a new job in Spring last year, after having been at my old company for 16 years (since I graduated!), really took a toll on routine, and I was quickly feeling tired, out of sorts and grumpy. Exercise makes me feel so much better when I do it consistently, and I’m lucky to have found a local class that not only fits with my busy schedule, it’s also fun (and the other members are lovely too).

So, you might be thinking “why is she telling us all this?” The reason is that I really believe good kit helps get you motivated to go out and sweat. If you feel good by looking good, you are more likely to push yourself out there. I had a draw full of gym gear, but two children have changed the “needs” I have. Now I’m forever reaching for the same tops and leggings so I took the liberty of charity shopping most of the kit (I too like Rebecca really do hate waste), and keeping the pieces that I love.
So without further ado, here they are. They work hard for me in keeping sweat away (the class I do is a Spin HIIT class, I’m a firm believer in maximum effort/results over minimal time,) but also are supportive and most importantly, COMFORTABLE.

Leggings:
Sweaty Betty Reversible 7/8 Yoga Leggings
Yes, these are expensive, but wait for a 20% code and they are more palatable. They wash and wear perfectly, and they are so comfortable. I really don’t ever have to pull them up, no matter how many stretches or squats I do. I don’t have these exact ones, but the patterns that SB produce are really fun, and the reversible nature of these means you have two looks in one – plain black, or patterned.
Biba Sport – Jungle legging. Again, these are really comfy to wear with a wide waist band that doesn’t fall down. Mine are tiger print, but I do love these jungle ones.

Tops:
I’m not really bothered too much about what I wear on the top, as long as the bra is supportive underneath. M&S do some great sports bras/tops, so take a look there. I also like this one from Nike.
For something over the top, New Look Sport is a good place to look for vests, as is Gap Body and I love this New Look Palm print vest.

Lastly, a top I have just discovered for wearing over the top of everything, under my coat, is this one from H&M. I love it. So easy to wear, and actually, great for non-sport related activities too as another layer – this outdoor jacket.

I hope this has given you some inspiration of new places to look for kit!

Back soon…
Erin
x

Introducing the #FFHouseReno

Well where did January go?! Over here it was in a constant state of anticipation for our extension project to get underway, under leaden skies, flat light and constant rain. I for one will not be sad to see the back of January!


How the house will hopefully look when it’s finished!

On a more positive note I thought I would share with you our plans for the building project we have just embarked on (yes, it’s underway as I write – you can follow along on Instagram and I usually update my stories daily with progress if you’re really keen on keeping up!) and get a little bit excited about the planned results! It’s been a long time in the making and what we are doing has evolved through the planning process too, so I’ll talk you all through it here.


The current layout of the house.

Initially the brief was ‘a glass box extension to create a living/dining family space adjacent to the kitchen.’ As you will see from the existing plans below, we currently have a living room, a dining room and a kitchen downstairs, plus the W.C. but the rooms are all off the hallway and just not ideal for family life. We very quickly realised after having Bea that we needed space where we could watch her while we cooked etc and this is even more necessary with Cora as she is a little terror! Also, our Kitchen is just that, a kitchen. We have a peninsula with seating at the worktop which is where we often feed Bea or eat together, but it’s a bit like the three monkeys sitting in a row, isn’t ideal for incorporating a high chair, and I long for a kitchen table to eat around. Although we are lucky to have a dining room it’s a total pain hauling everything in there and then it means there are two rooms to tidy after dinner instead of one!


The ground floor plans: The blue area is the new living space where the deck used to be, the utility area is green and the new WC is pink.

As the plans progressed I started to think about other things that would make family life easier and the biggest thing I wanted was a utility room. Currently our washing machine and tumble dryer are in the cellar, which although dry is damp and dusty and cold, not to mention filthy. It’s a bit like having it in a cross between a garden shed and a garage, and tricky to go down there when there are children crawling or toddling about the house too, that I can’t trust not to come after me. The stone steps to get down are the stuff of nightmares where parenting is concerned. To have those upstairs, with a sink for dirty jobs and a second fridge/freezer plus some storage is pretty much the holy grail for me and I set about trying to convince Pete we needed one. As it happened the back of our house is a bit like a tetris block when viewed from above and extending just the kitchen didn’t square off the house without going around the corner too – this meant a bigger living/dining space and making use of the space which is currently a bin store, into a utility room.


The first floor plans – the purple area shows the new extended bathroom.

As time went on this project became the final stage in creating our medium to long term home, (I’ll never say never to moving again but we plan to be here a while!) and once the idea of the utility room worked out we then had the option to build upwards and extend our family bathroom which is currently a bit awkward and certainly not ideal for the whole family to be in at bath time. Extending the bathroom also meant we could do something I had seen a neighbour down the road do which was take the awkwardly placed separate toilet off the landing and put it into the bathroom. The landing currently doglegs around the toilet, so removing it meant the landing would be much more spacious and we could put in a window to bring light onto that level as it currently only gets borrowed light from other rooms.


How the exterior looks to the rear currently.

Initially we (well, Pete,) discussed the plans as phase one and two. Living/dining area first then the rest later, but as the scale of the project became apparent I became more certain that I was not going to do it twice, especially with the kids living through it too. We can’t afford to move out while the work goes on so I certainly don’t want to put ourselves through it again and it’s all so interlinked that it wouldn’t have made sense to stop and come back to it later either. There was no easy way of splitting the project.


What the exterior will look like.

As this also represents the final stage of our renovation, we can finally sort out the hall, stairs and landing which I have hated looking at since we moved in but it didn’t make sense to tackle (and later have builders traipsing through,) before we did the rest. As there will be walls knocked through into the hall and landing we will be replacing the floor, carpets, plastering, decorating and finally making it just the way I have imagined it.

So you can look forward to a lot more posts from me on bathrooms, living spaces, utility rooms, hallways, and all the details in-between, plus the smallest room in the house, our W.C. ;) Now the work has started although I’m anxious to see it progress I really cannot wait to have it finished and am so excited to crack on with the fun decorating part. So many decisions though!

Until next time…!

Rebecca

*All architectural plans and drawings by our Architects SpaceAP.

Recommended: Cheeky Wipes

One of the things I am focusing on for January Joy and 2018 is reducing our waste so today I thought I’d share one of my favourite changes we made last year – we switched to Cheeky Wipes. I’d heard of Cheeky Wipes when Bea was still in nappies but didn’t give them a lot of thought and as I became more interested she was nearing toilet training and it didn’t seem the right time to invest. We have never branched into reusable nappies, but although I was pretty economical with the wipes when changing a nappy, it horrified me to see Pete going through multiple wipes each time or the amount that got used cleaning up after a meal for example. So I decided to take the plunge once I was thinking of moving on from cottonwool and water for Cora’s bum.

I should add here that Cora suffered with quite a sore bum when she was little and we found the best way to manage it apart from making sure her nappy was changed promptly was using cotton wool and water to clean her as even water wipes did irritate her skin, which was another factor that attracted me to cheeky wipes. If you haven’t already heard of them, cheeky wipes are essentially reusable (i.e. you wash them,) wipes, not just for bums but you can use them for faces after meals too. The ‘wipes’ are little squares of cotton, bamboo or microfibre – like flannels and you can get them in kits which come with clean and mucky boxes. Essentially you soak them in water and a little essential oil, wring them out and leave in the ‘clean’ box to use as required. Then you have a ‘dirty box’ and a mesh bag hooked inside, pre-filled with water and some oil again for freshness, where you put the used wipes to soak. When you’re ready to wash them you simply lift the bag out and throw it into the machine. They wash as normal at 30 degrees with the rest of your washing and work their way out of the bag during the cycle, ready to be soaked and scented in the clean box again – no drying required.

So here’s the nitty gritty. Do they really work? The answer is yes and I absolutely love them. We bought natural bamboo velour which have a softer smoother side and a more textured flannel side but with the softness of bamboo. Because they are textured the grip for cleaning is fantastic and even sticky or thick poo’s (Sorry, TMI!) can be easily removed with just a couple of swipes. I rarely need more than one wipe to be honest and I feel like Cora almost gets a proper wash every time she has her nappy changed which is a real bonus as she doesn’t get bathed daily because of her dry skin. In terms of cost, a full kit (with the two boxes, 25 wipes, and the oils,) comes in at about £40 but they currently have £10 off the kits and you can save any time using this link: (which as a previous customer I got sent to share with friends) Get 15% off any order over £40. We weren’t particularly heavy wipe users but it still doesn’t take long to have a cost benefit over disposables and I feel good every time I use them that I’m not adding to landfill or putting damaging waste into the water system and ultimately our waterways and sea’s.

We also invested in the hands and faces kit as we were about to embark on weaning. I love having the rainbow microfibre cloths to hand (you keep them damp in a box in just the same way and instead of having a dirty box just throw them in the washing machine ready for the next wash) especially as we do baby led weaning which is more than a little messy! They are super soft and pick up all the bits of food in every little chubby finger crease, even weetabix which gets everywhere and dries like cement! They are even still in regular use at Bea’s age so I can see them being incredible value.

You might be wondering what happens when you go out. Of course you could still use disposable wipes for convenience but we decided that if we were making the change for environmental reasons we needed to commit to it. The kits come with 2 bags to take out and about with you. You simply pop a couple of damp wipes in the fresh bag and when they’re used put them in the dirty bag which is lined with a mesh bag like the dirty box, that zips out and throws in the machine too. So it’s really not difficult to eliminate disposable wipes completely. And if you want to extend your environmental efforts Cheeky wipes now also do Cloth Sanitary Pad kits, Reusable Make-up remover kits and even toilet paper alternatives.

I’d love to know if you use Cheeky Wipes or something similar, or if you feel inspired to make the switch! I’ll happily answer any questions you’ve got too!

Rebecca x

You might also like to read:

January Joy 2018!


Snow Scene

Well, hello 2018!

January Joy came about because I love to celebrate the start of a New Year but also to try and improve what is a bit of a depressing month. Poor January gets a bad rap I think, but it can’t be denied that the weather, lack of festive fun and annual dose of guilt we pile upon ourselves after Christmas excesses doesn’t exactly make for a fabulous start to the year. Previously January Joy has taken the form of a series of prompts to bring some Joy to your January but (in keeping with one of my themes for the year,) I’m going to change it a little this year. We all have very busy lives and as my life has evolved I imagine many of your lives have too. I don’t have time for daily or even weekly prompts so I’m going to focus on a few themes that I’ll be working towards all year instead and I have several posts lined up for you this month that fit within those themes. I always like to start the year with a bit of reflection and goal setting! So what are they, I hear you ask?


Tortoise BuJo spread

Slow Down

So often nowadays I feel like days, weeks and months are rattling past at a frenetic pace. We are quite a social family, we like to go out and do things, keep the kids busy, travel, and whilst we don’t do as much of this as before we had kids, it still all too often feels like we are rushing from one thing to the next, stressed preparing and organising for these things, instead of enjoying them. More often than not such a packed schedule adds more stress due to double booking, forgetting things and one of my biggest stresses currently, not keeping up to date with everything at home. The washing, the tidying, the stuff for school and work and so on. I want to feel more in control of all of this but also to just slow down and savour my girls while they are little. Having children has taught me to be more present, in the moment, not just to watch but to participate and I want to have time to do that, not through a series of day trips or experiences, just in our own home together. I’m hoping that making a bit more time available will allow me to take some time for myself, and I can introduce some mindfulness and self care, so I feel better able to tackle the rest of life’s chaos. A key part of this is getting more organised and I’ll be sharing my BuJo experience so far as part of that.


Talking about re-using and recycling made me think of this post a wrote a while back about Recycling your old scented candles.

Reduce

This year we want to continue to make changes to contribute towards reducing our impact on the environment. Waste has become a real bugbear of mine and so reducing it in a variety of ways is something I constantly thinking about. I’m talking food waste, plastic waste and landfill in general so look out for some blog posts on changes we have made as a family that really help.

Complete

Probably the biggest project we will be managing this year is the extension, while it’s not a resolution or a goal per se, its going to occupy huge amounts of our time and effort, both mentally and physically. The building work has already started with clearing the site and its pretty depressing looking at the mess and destruction, which looks 1000x worse in grim freezing damp January! I can’t wait for it to be finished but beyond that I’m determined to have the whole house finished by the end of the year. (Well, maybe not the top floor but we can just ignore that, right?)


Bauble iPhone wallpaper download

Connect

Lastly, I want to reach out a bit more via the blog, to make new connections with other bloggers and give Florence Finds a little more love again! Hopefully that will mean bringing some inspiring content to you guys too.

So now it’s your turn. What are your goals or resolutions, themes or inspirations for 2018? Are any the same as mine? Are some the total opposite? Please do drop me a comment and share!

Happy New Year readers!

Rebecca

Featured and Quoted…

Happy New Year readers! Whilst I’m trying to finish January Joy and a post on my return to work, I thought I’d pop in quickly to share something exciting! Last year an image I submitted as part of the #MyFaBHome competition with Farrow and Ball was selected as one of their 50 most inspirational rooms and included in their digital booklet. Apart from the fact that I’ve been slightly out of the blogging game of late and it’s fun to do a little trumpet blowing, I LOVE the booklet. The rooms featured are incredible and so inspirational, so I wanted to share it here as a little bit of New Year interiors inspiration for all of you.

There’s such a great range of modern spaces, heritage backdrops and quirky styling – it really shows how you don’t have to be decorating a country pile to use Farrow and Ball. I’ll certainly be spending some time pouring over it’s pages while I’m planning the interiors of our new extension… which incidentally started today!

Whilst I’m trumpet blowing, if you’re over here because you saw my review of The Watergate Bay hotel when they shared it earlier this week then hi! Welcome. And if you haven’t read it yet… you can find my whole review here. I’m working on a review of Another Place (the WGB sister hotel in The Lake District) too, so if you don’t want to miss that then please do follow along on Instagram or Facebook for post updates!

Right, back to January Joy… it’s coming ;)

Rebecca

Building over the Monster Pipe…

I think its time I finally shared our house extension plans that I alluded to in my (not so) recent blog post. It’s been a long journey getting to this point but I specifically want to share it because its not been straight forward and I hope the information or just the story will help others in a similar position in future looking to do the same kind of thing.

So briefly, (because I feel like I’ve talked about it ad infinitum and you can read the full story and blog posts here and here,) we bought this house with the initial intention to extend it and create a family kitchen/diner living space at the back. the house is a bit front and top heavy – double fronted with lots of bedrooms but a small kitchen and two separate and distinct reception rooms which don’t lend themselves to family life. The day we exchanged contracts we found out there was a large pipe running beneath the perimeter of the houses’ footprint which meant we couldn’t build over it but we decided to go ahead with he purchase anyway. 2 years later, with one baby, I really felt trapped, the house layout wasn’t working for our lifestyle and I felt like we should just cut our losses, (fortunately there wouldn’t have been any as house prices in our area have sky rocketed,) and start again somewhere else. However we realised that if we did that we would be throwing money down the drain… stamp duty would have been hefty alone on a new property, plus agents fees, solicitors fees. It all amounted to not far off what a small extension would cost and we really didn’t want to move so we decided to invest some time and money into trying again to make it happen.

At this point I was fortunate to get in contact with someone really helpful at United Utilities to actually discuss the problem. Previously we had always been told that access to the pipe, should it need any routine maintenance, was the issue that prevented us building over it, but he conceded that actually any possible damage to the pipe was the bigger problem. He suggested that if we could find a way of ensuring the safety of the pipe, we might be granted permission to go ahead. So there was a glimmer of hope!

Next stop was finding a structural engineer willing to take us on. I had been through this process previously, looking for architects who might help us navigate the process and had been met with blank refusals to get involved. Responses ranged from ‘don’t bother, there’s no point‘, to ‘it’s not possible,‘ and I was immensely frustrated. What happened to all the people who make stuff happen on Grand Designs?! Eventually I spoke to a fantastic Structural Engineer, Nick Forman at BDI. He very helpfully pointed out that if UU were to want to access the pipe on our property then the hole they would have to dig would be so deep and wide to reach the pipe that the house would collapse into it. So it was never going to happen. I pretty much said to him, ‘I need somebody who is willing to take on a challenge and make this happen, it has to be possible.‘ And he made it happen. Nick is now basically my hero.

We invested in some preliminary drawings and calculations by BDI demonstrating how the load from any building work could be transferred into the earth beneath the pipe. We also were asked by UU to confirm where the pipe lay exactly (as they admitted that their public wastewater maps were very old and possibly inaccurate,) so paid for a CCTV drain survey. We are now the proud owners of video footage of the pipe beneath our home which is also essential to prove any pre-existing damage wasn’t caused by us, in case of dispute later. All of this was packaged up and sent of to UU and we waited with baited breath. Finally, just before Christmas almost 2 years ago now, an email landed in my inbox with no warning (we had expected to need to speak to someone again and explain further,) granting us a build over agreement ‘in-principle’. This essentially gave us the green light to invest the bigger sums required to get proper engineers drawings and calculations done and start talking to an Architect. We could actually do this! We couldn’t quite believe it.

Outside… looking in. I rarely look at the outside of our house in the dark because when we are outside it’s usually those long summer evenings. I love seeing life going on inside, framed by the windows, kids playing, Pete cooking (and sorry Instagram, all the daily detritus too like the back of Bea’s play kitchen ????.) it’s really the heart of our home so I can’t wait for it to be bigger and more family friendly! I also kind of can’t believe that nearly all of this glass and deck that we put in only 3 years ago is coming out ????????‍♀️… (Can you see the hydrangea heads drying on the Sputnik light too?! ????) #myhyggehome #instahome #bifolddoors #kitchen #modernheritage #lovemyrenovation #actualinstahomes #modernexterior #victorianhouse #igersmanchester #igersmcr #houserenovation #housetohome #housereno #bifolds #ecodecking

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We took the next step with SpaceAP, a fantastic local Architecture practice. At the beginning of the process our sole objective was to add a ‘glass box’ type structure to the back of the house, giving us the required living and dining space for family life. As a result we weren’t sure exactly how much Architect input we needed but we were keen to do things properly and get an outside view point. SpaceAP offered a design consultation session, where you walk around the space, talk about your needs then get some drawings done then and there demonstrating the possibilities. Obviously they aren’t usable for building purposes but we decided it was also a good way of testing the water with an Architect to see if we could form a working relationship. We asked Sonia and Sarah to give us two plans. One with the original glass box plan and one with the option of adding a utility room and extending the first floor bathroom.

Now at this point, Pete was all up for a two phase project, living area first, then coming back to do the utility and bathroom. I on the other hand was adamant that we were no way doing this twice. After this, bar one more project, the house will be D.O.N.E. so I wasn’t keen on dragging that out. At this point we were also planning a second child in the near future and I really wanted to crack on and get it done before that happened, if at all possible. Looking back that was really naive. We definitely could have done this all so much quicker by just being more on the ball pushing things along, but we intentionally had a hiatus from it (we weren’t ready to finance such a big project,) for several months in the first half of 2016, then I became pregnant with Cora before we picked it back up again. That was September 2016 and we hoped to start in January 2017, hoping to be finished in time for Cora arriving in late March. As time went on it became apparent that there was so much to plan and do that January was not realistic… and neither was the idea of being largely finished before baby number 2 arrived.
Eventually we resigned ourselves to starting later this year and I wrestled with the decision to start either in September, building through my last months of maternity leave, or on my return to work. In the end, the planning process has taken the decision out of our hands. Everything has taken that little bit longer than expected and we recently made the decision to wait until January, rather than start sooner.

So that’s where we are up to now. The process of contracting the builders has thrown up more uncertainty around the pipe, but I will leave all that for another day. Right now I’m enjoying the dust free house in the run up the Christmas and my remaining weeks of maternity leave, before it all descends into chaos in the New Year. We have a start date of 3rd of January, the legal Build Over Agreement has been signed of by UU and we are actually ready to go. As ready as we will ever be anyway… In all honesty, though it sounds exciting I can’t face doing it at all, but it will be worth it when it’s all done.

Next time I’ll show you the plans and write more about what we have actually end up doing! Fingers crossed work will have actually started by then. In the mean time, top tips for living trough the chaos of such a big project? I’ll take all and any advice you’ve got readers!

Rebecca.

Starting Advent Traditions…

I don’t know if it’s the political climate, the trend for more considered and authentic celebrations, or having a young family, but this year, instead of stuffing the advent calendar with chocolate I felt the need to do something more thoughtful. (Strike that, as well as the chocolate! You can’t leave out the chocolate!) Part of it was wanting Bea to enjoy the build up to Christmas more than just wanting daily chocolate, and part of it was a desire to start creating new family traditions and making memories. So I decided to fill the calendar with prompts for fun and celebratory things to do in the lead up to Christmas.

I thought I would share them here (we were a little late starting due to a sickness bug doing the rounds,) and you could perhaps take inspiration from the idea for the future or just pick a few to enjoy this year.

1. Light the Advent Candle
2. Write a letter to Santa (post before the 8th for a reply!)
3. Buy a Christmas Tree
4. Read ‘The Night Before Christmas’
5. Decorate the Christmas Tree
6. Sing some Christmas songs/carols
7. See some Christmas lights (We are going to an illuminated Christmas trail at Dunham Massey)
8. Make some Christmas cards
9. Put up some Christmas lights
10. Make some Gingerbread
11. Decorate your bedroom
12. Take a festive family photo
13. Decorate a Gingerbread house
14. Watch a Christmas film (Our Favourite is The Polar Express)
15. Go to a Christmas Party
16. Make some Hot Chocolate
17. Deliver some Christmas presents
18. Wrap a Christmas Present
19. Play some Christmas music (on the piano with Daddy)
20. Do something kind or charitable in the spirit of the season.
21. Eat a mince Pie
22. Hang up your stocking
23. Go to the theatre
24. Put out the carrots and mince pies for Rudolf and Santa!

Before you dismiss the idea as being too hard work, I need to let you into a little secret here – make the prompts work with you, not against you! For example, on Mondays and Fridays Pete works late which means I do solo school pick up, dinner, bedtime and all the tantrums in between. So on those days I’ve put in really simple things that don’t require much effort or input and that I hope won’t aggravate an already tired 3 year old. I’ve also manipulated the prompts to include some activities that we already have planned – for example, on the 6th it’s Bea’s school Christmas sing-along, and she has been invited to a party on the 15th. We are going to see The Snowman on the 23rd, and to a light show on the 7th. On the 17th we are seeing family we won’t see at Christmas.

I’ve also included some things kind of twice – buying and decorating the tree for example – as we didn’t feel ready (or able, as Cora has been ill this weekend) to put up the tree today but wanted to buy it. And making and decorating a gingerbread house seemed a bit ambitious for one day!

I’m planning on using my diary to keep a note of upcoming prompts so I can include Gingerbread ingredients in the weekly shop for example, and so I can get the decorations for Bea’s room put into a box ready rather than scrabbling about for them on the evening we need them. More than anything I’m just hoping to make some memories and savour the build up to the season. Particularly as I’m on maternity leave and it’s Cora’s first Christmas (although this is heavily biased towards Bea!) I’m hoping it will go well enough to become an annual tradition.

I’d love to hear if you already do something like this, if you can think of any prompts I could include in future years (I’m thinking ice-skating…?) or if you are inspired to include some in your calendar. If you do join in with any of them, no matter what the order, please do share and tag your photos with #FFAdvent and I’ll have a peep at what you are all up to!

Rebecca x

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