Social Distancing and Isolation fun for toddlers!

Hi everyone! I hope everyone is surving in these strange times we are currently living through. Despite being two key workers, we have elected to keep the girls both home currently as we are able to do half a day each from home and cover childcare. We think this will lower the likelihood of the kids succumbing to A.N.Other bug and end up causing us both to be out of action when actually well. So that’s us right now. I’m posting lots on Instagram so if you want to see what we are up to or hear about life in GP land during this crisis, make sure you check in there. 🙂

Gorgeous Sensory Play dough kits from Organised Chaos with Kids on Etsy.

Sometimes however a blog post is the best way to share information so I’m putting this together for all the mama’s reading who need help with the very little people in their lives. It has struck me that there are tons of resources to help parents of school aged children out with homeschooling or just keeping them happy, and less for toddlers. I have been quite outspoken on Instagram about asking people to just please #stayhome but I am under no illusions about how difficult that is with a small child especially if you haven’t got a sibling for them to play with. Having two is my personal saving grace right now (and there have been many points in the last 3 years that I never thought I’d say that!) So I shouted out to my Instagram friends and followers to point me in the direction of some great resources, ideas and online classes they can do at home to get through the day. I can’t vouch for all of them but there are some personal favs and each one comes recommended by another mum just like you. Take a deep breath – there’s loads here to keep you busy, and just remember you’ve got this, and its is finite. We can get through this together.

Instagram Accounts

@fiveminutemum is full of brilliant play and learning set ups that aim to give mum 5 minutes peace to have a cup of tea. She also advocates play set ups being super easy and simple in case the kids don’t love them – then nothing lost, but if they love it she shows how you can extend the activities. She also has a website – start by reading her golden rule post and a book which is suspect is going to fly off the shelves!

@busytoddler Scriolling through this account the ideas look best for 2-5yo’s but there’s definitely a few for younger kids, like this Toy Wash

@bbctinyhappypeople looks great for young babies with links to their BBC Tiny Happy People website and loads of things to encourage your Childs natural development if you feel you need something to focus on and replace the outside interaction your baby would normally get.

@organisedchaoswithkids makes incredible sensory play doh (we have the unicorn set) and kits for open-ended play for toddlers right through to much older kids. Her instagram grid is beautiful but her stories are bursting with ideas and before she started this venture her grid was full of play ideas so scroll back and get busy! This is her sensory dough Etsy shop.

@Inspiremyplay has tons of great ideas that work across several ages but I noticed lots fo sensory play set ups and ideas for keeping kids busy like this dyed spaghetti set up with ocean animals.

@whatshallweplaytoday is slightly more prop intensive – ie you would need to have a decent range of open ended play toys to make it work) but also has lots of ideas for play set ups for littles. Also you may often think you don’t have the kit for this but scouting around different play sets often means you can pull something together.

@play.hooray is another personal favourite and she is doing a daily 10am play along live – with the required items (nothing more complicated than cardboard, elastic bands and some pens or crayons today) with ideas across her account for babies right through to preschool and early years learning.

@mumlife_mcr has lots of preschool level activities for I would say 3-5yo’s

@beckys_treasure_baskets is a great site for babies right up to 2 and 3yo’s with fantastic sensory play ideas.

Activities

Moon Dough – I think some people would know this as kinetic sand or we have bought some in the past called sand clay but what I didn’t know is you can make your own (and get any appropriately aged children involved in the making of it too, it’s another activity!) Afewshortcuts.com has this recipe you can use and which can be made Gluten free – bonus!

Montessori Family Box This was suggested by one reader because they get so much use out of it and when I looked into it I could see why. Aimed at slightly older kids (age 3-6) I think a slightly younger second sibling might also enjoy it and I can see there’s real longevity. The kids I see enjoying this however are the forest school loving preschoolers – perhaps those who are the older ones in their year and waiting to go to school, but getting a bit bored at home!

Along the same line is Okido Magazine which we asked for form the Grandparents for Bea this Christmas. It’s a monthly arts and science magazine for ages 3-7 which I mainly love because it has no plastic tat attached! It’s full of gender neutral stories, crafts and science experiments and provides loads of activities for dipping in and out off. I find it perfect for Bea’s age (5.5 or Y1.)

Painting for little’s – yes it’s messy but hey, what else have we got to do these days?! And the weather is perfect for messy play. Try food colouring shaving foam to let little’s do ‘mark making’ or make a ‘paint’ with cocoa powder, coffee granules or tomato puree for them that doesn’t matter if they put it in their mouth.

Easiest thing in the world to do with little kids is water play. Nice weather? Use a bucket or dishwashing bowl in the garden with some cups. Let them bath their dolls or wash their plastic animals. Crappy weather? Stick them in the bath and do the same!

Chalk on the floor outside or if you’re indoors, something like an Aquadoodle is also great for budding artists – no chance of drawing on the walls!

Online Classes

Myleene Class (youtube) Is running a Music Klass on youtube and instagram for home schoolers but it also doing a Wednesday evening lullaby session for tinies.

Little Linguists is a local class someone tipped me off to doing languages for babies and toddlers. They are doing online classes now for £4 – find out more via the Little Linguists Facebook page

Another local class (but a national franchise I think) is Toddler Sense, also doing online classes – See one of their Toddler Sense classes via Facebook live here.

TinyTalk South Manchester Baby sign classes – again local to me and run by a mum friend, she has moved her usual baby sign and toddler sign classes online for the same price.

Heartbeeps is a music class for 6w – toddler ages and is also doing online classes – more available here via the Hartbeeps Facebook page.

For Baby And Me is a local class I used to attend for Baby Massage and also running pram active classes. She has since expanded into Toddler yoga and is doing online baby massage and yoga classes currently via Zoom! See more on the For Baby and Me FB page.

Of course the downside of doing online baby classes is that you miss the social interaction with other mums which I think is one of the most important things about those classes. At least planning something gives some structure to your day which is half the battle. Also, if you’re still working from home, being able to carve out a small bit of time to dedicate to your little one might also make you feel a little bit less mum guilt!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would love for anyone reading who has a tip, link or contact to share to comment below. Thanks to all the amazing mums who answered my call out for sources for this blog post and I really hope it helps some of you in the coming weeks and months to stay sane and enjoy this albeit enforced but still very precious time with your Little’s.

Stay safe and #stayhome, Rebecca x

3 things that made my 2019 better…

I know, it’s a big title. 2019 was a year of ups and downs for us as a family, we identified Cora with a dairy allergy and Be a was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Both were game changers and massive learning curves we had to navigate. We went on some epic holidays though, didn’t have much to do to the house and as a consequence we were able to slow down a bit and just enjoy being a family of four, in a way that we hadn’t really been able to since Cora came along, between the sleep deprivation and house renovation.

Anyhow, it was a year in which I finally found some time for me, and there were a few key habits that I started and kept up that had a really positive impact on my life last year, so I thought I’d document them here and maybe inspire you to take some time out for you in 2020.

The books we exchanged for book club secret Santa!

I started reading again…

Actually, this isn’t strictly true, depending on your definition of reading. What I did was joined Audible. For years now I have not had time for reading, or haven’t really found a place in my life where it could fit and work for me. I don’t go to bed early to read – I like to get into bed and go to sleep. I don’t tend to read in the evening either and obviously between kids and work, I’m not going to read in the daytime or on holiday either. I’ve never been ablate listen to audiobooks before but I ended up downloading Period Power as I wanted to badly to read it and my pre-ordered copy was delayed. I combination of the friendly tones of the author and the fascinating subject matter really hooked me in and after it finished I went straight onto Becoming by Michelle Obama. I’ve long wished I had a commute I could make on public transport to make use of that dead time and finally realised I could use those 3+ hours I spend commuting a week, and get real satisfaction out of them. I’ve now listened to book club fiction and finally ticked several non-fiction titles off my list, ‘How to Talk so little Kids will Listen (game changer,) The Chimp Paradox, and I’m currently listening to ‘How not to Die’ by Michael Gregor. 6-8 months on I’ve discovered my love of reading so much so that I’m actually making time to pick up reading books at home too. It might be that some of the subject matter is positively impacting on my wellbeing, but I’m getting huge enjoyment out of it either way.

I started a beauty routine…

If you follow me on Instagram., you might have seen that I joined Beauty Pie – the members only beauty club for massively discounted beauty and make up products. I really felt like my age (and again, those sleepless nights!) were starting to creep up on my skin and it was time that I started to look after it better. The stumbling block being that I am not good at spending money on premium beauty products. I also felt like I didn’t know where to start so didn’t want to lay a lot of money out. Anyway, this isn’t about Beauty Pie – if you want to find out more about that then head over to my InstaTV and listen to my explanation and favourite skincare products. I might even do a blog post one day ;). It has become less about the product however and more about the time spent. The ritual of that mini-spa like experience every evening really helps me unwind before bed. I use a melting oil based cleanser that I massage off and swipe off with a hot wrung out flannel. The smells and the steam are so soothing it feel like a real act of self care. Following it with eye cream carefully applied, serum and massaged in moisturiser and I feel like I have cleared my mind and committed to some real self care – such a rarity as a mum!

I committed to an exercise class…

Feeling ever despondent about the changes in my body since having children I started to look for an exercise class that might help. I wasn’t looking for a fat burning or weight loss type of solution, but wanted specifically to target my core and spent some time looking for a class that would feel impactful enough. Eventually I tried a physio led pilates class (at G4 Physiotherapy if you’re local) and really felt like I had finally found something that was going to make a difference. Wanting to address my core postnatally I had an introductory session to get assessed before I started which I found really thorough and then I committed to twice weekly classes for 8weeks to get a head start, until my work pattern changed and I had to drop to once weekly. Since then, for over 6 months now I’ve booked in to the Saturday morning class, and felt all the better when I’ve left at 10.30, ready to face a busy weekend.

Reading this back, I can see it reads like a classic self care article in a magazine, and I also know that much of what I managed this year was because my youngest child is becoming more independent which means not only is she happy without me, but I crave time without the kids sometimes, something for me, in a way I didn’t consider in the throes of new motherhood – the first time at least! So if you are reading this and thinking you don’t have the time or inclination to do things like this yet, know that one day, not only will you want to but you will find opportunity and it’s ok not to just now.

So, I know I’ve totally missed the boat on analysing the last year, but well, frankly January was a wash out over here and its only now I’m really in the frame of mind to think about it. I’d love to hear what stands out to you as a success from 2019?

Rebecca x

Planner planner, on the wall…

Typically, it’s the 3rd of January and I have just ordered our new Year Planner to put on the kitchen wall. Organisation in our house is pretty multi-layered if I’m honest, using a combination of the kitchen wall planner, a shared iCalendar with Pete and then I also use a BuJo or as of this year I’m trialling a Hello Day planner which I won on Instagram! I’m a list maker through and through which is why I have loved having a BuJo but I’m giving the planner a go to see if it saves me time in not essentially DIY-ing my planner and yet still accommodate my extensive lists.

It might sound like a recipe for disaster but we use the different spaces for different things really. The shared calendar means we don’t have to remember to tell each other when we have made individual social plans – we just add them to the calendar and check the diary to make sure we can plan nights out. My own planner is full of detail, lists of what I need to get done every day, meal planning, holiday planning, budgeting, childcare, birthdays… you get the gist. Then the wall planner acts as a visual aid for us to plan ahead – school holidays, annual leave, weekend activities as a family etc. Because its on the wall in the kitchen it has to look good also, so I thought I’d share a few of the ones I looked at this year, in case you need one too!

This year I chose the Terrazzo planner from The Native State. I wanted something portrait to fit in the existing magnetic poster hanger I have and the burnt Sienna tones mixed with pink and green blend perfectly with the room.

Close runner up was Gayle Mansfield designs and the only thing that stopped me buying one of those was the landscape orientation. I loved the mustard or pink colours though and the typographic style.

The last 2 years we have had a planner from DoodleLove via Etsy. First the Eucalyptus planner which is still available and really calming and beautiful I think, and a more colourful one in 2019.

Do you use a wall planner? I hope you might have found a new independent brand reading this – all of the creatives listed have prints, cards and other items for sale if you would like to support indie brands when you need a new piece of art or gift. Check out DoodleLove’s prints here and Gayle Mansfield’s Magnifique print is next on my shopping list!

Happy New Year readers!

Rebecca x

The Edinburgh Pad AirBnB

The first time we used Airbnb I felt really anxious that the booking would get cancelled before we got there leaving us high and dry. We’ve had varied success with it since but our last trip to Edinburgh proved to be our best Airbnb find ever and I had to share it with you. If you’re into staycations or interiors you’re going to love this – I was pretty much ready to relocate permanently!

The master bedroom

The property is a 4 bedroom first floor flat, overlooking Edinburgh’s beautiful Meadows. With the autumn leaves turning and the sunshiny days we were blessed with, you can imagine what the views were like. The entrance hall was bright and airy with vintage and scandi details, lots of wood, bright colours and handcrafted details.

The lounge was huge, with a gas fireplace perfect for cosying down in the evening for TV binges, and we were delighted to find lots of toys hidden away – the marble run was a particular hit! Isn’t the decor in here just gorgeous? The whole place spoke to my particular passion for period features mixed with modern pattern and colour. G Plan coffee and side tables mixed with typographic art, Bluebell Grey fabric panels and velvet jewel toned cushions made for a bright and inviting space.

The Master bedroom was similarly stunning and my favourite room in the house I think… I think I felt so at home as the colour is so similar to our bedroom wall colour. The furniture has a vintage French country vibe but the whole room is brought up to date with modern art work and pops of colour in the chair and recovered stool (Bluebell Gray again.)

There’s a lovely en-suite tiled in grey toned plank effect tiles and with my fav patterned Lino – I’ve seen this in other houses and it’s a brilliant compromise (and warmer underfoot) if you lust after encaustic tiles but can’t afford them or just don’t fancy the upkeep.

The flat has a second large double bedroom in a more feminine traditional style of muted greys and pinks which we didn’t really need or use but made it a feasible space for two smaller families wanting to go away together.

The small double was next door to us and perfect for Cora. With mid century sidetables, yellow velvet cushions and a patterned rug, this had a bright scandi vibe yet still felt very cosy.

Finally the smallest room had a single in with a trundle bed beneath. Aimed at kids it was kitted out with books and Bea absolutely loved it.

The location of the flat was brilliant too. Between Marchmont and Newington it was walkable to Bruntsfield (an area known for its independent shops and restaurants) and straight across the Meadows took you right into the old town. We walked and walked in mainly beautiful crisp weather which was perfect for exploring!

I’ll try and do a quick blog post on what we did whilst in Edinburgh at some point but wanted to get on and share The Edinburgh Pad. I can’t wait to go back at some point and stay here again soon!

Rebecca x

The Florence Finds House Tour: A Dressing room makeover with IKEA PAX.

One of my favourite views…

I have always been a massive fan of PAX wardrobes. They are astoundingly cheap by comparison to any other kind of ‘fitted’ wardrobe and brilliant quality. I also think the varied interior options are incredible, especially if you’re like me and crave a place for everything, and everything in it’s place. We had 2 PAX in our old house, although they didn’t fit the alcoves either side of the fireplace in our bedroom then and we sold them with the house. There were two hold ups to us finally getting our dressing room sorted and installing the fancy ‘wardrobe of dreams’; One being money (isn’t it always?!) and prioritising other bits ahead of what seemed like a bit of an indulgence, and Two, until they developed the corner unit, I just couldn’t make the units fit and give us adequate storage.

We lived with a couple of old Billy bookcases (also IKEA) as shelves, and a John Lewis hanging rail for 4 and a half years, before we got around to buying and fitting the wardrobes and at the same time we papered the walls to provide a fun feminine contrast to the bedroom and papered the back of the open shelving too. So here is what we did!

The Wardrobe delivery!
The corner PAX unit which made this room possible 🙂

We created this dressing room or walk in wardrobe when we moved in. It used to be accessed from the hallway and was its own room so we bricked up that doorway and knocked through the double doors into the bedroom. That means one of the long walls is out of action for putting any wardrobes against and there is also a beautiful, but rather large window. It’s a narrow room and the window is almost the width of the wall at that end, so we were limited by not wanting to block that at all, and only having an L shaped run of wall to work with.

IKEA has a brilliant PAX online planner which allows you to create a virtual room with your dimensions then fill it with different wardrobe options and even add the interior fittings you want. After a bit of tweaking, we printed out the plan and took our list of products to IKEA to buy them, then got them delivered.

PAX are pretty easy to assemble, but be warned, you often need to assemble them in situ as they would be too big to move. Pete put ours together during nap time one day, in the room itself but didn’t add the backs because we wanted to paper them before installing the back panel for a seamless finish. This then lead to much swearing and sweating trying to move them out of the room to lie them flat and add the back panel, despite the double door access and our relatively high ceilings!

To paper the back panels we simply treated it like wallpapering, but had to do it in situ in the bedroom again. The back panels are kind of bifold for the double wardrobes and that was NOT easy. Should you be planning to attempt this I would strongly suggest doing the panels first and allowing them to dry. We applied the paper then installed straight away which caused a lot of stress about the paper slipping on the panels because the paste was still wet. Slight rookie error but it all came good in the end and it would have been impossible to create a decent finish papering it with the back panel already on. The paper by the way is Harlequin Standing Ovation Exuberance in Heather/Indigo, chosen for the blush tones and near perfect match to our bedroom wallpaper (Dulux Denim Drift) along with smudges of khaki, another colour I love. I did look at some of the murals available online and Bluebell Grey’s wallpaper murals too as I thought they would look stunning with big blousy florals draped around the window and double doors from the inside, but it was impossible to find one with the correct pattern placement so as not to loose the majority of the design in the window and door areas. I also had to accept that the majority of the view of the room would be from outside it, so the priority was making those areas look good.

We went to town and papered the whole room, (well all the room that can be seen – It would have been a gigantic waste of money to paper behind the wardrobes, probably £200 worth of paper would have been lost so we did the top couple of feet behind them only.) It wasn’t easy, and is a bit slapdash in places because our walls are anything but straight so the doors, corners and windows in a short space was hellish. Words were had. But I can confirm, we are still married. 😉

Finally the wardrobes were put into position and (using the provided kit) all bolted together. I’m so pleased with the quality, rock solid and the pale oak finish is calming and restful. We haven’t bolted to the wall as we felt they were so heavy all bolted to each other that even a climbing child wouldn’t be able to topple them. Frankly we cant move them! To solve the issue of the wide window and not wanting to obscure it, the wardrobe closest to the window is a reduced depth one, designed for hallways and narrow spaces. its is still deeper than the available wall space (less than 20cm!) but the wardrobe doesn’t go all the way up to the window and the front of the wardrobe being set back from the central one actually works well with the same arrangement on the opposite side. At least I like to think so.

Of course the fun bit was arranging my shoes and bags, hanging all the clothes, finally having space for everything and everything in it’s place!

A quick note about interiors. We do have wardrobe space in spare bedrooms upstairs which I tend to use to rotate my winter and summer clothes. This was mainly because of the lack of space we had before though, as I dislike having my clothes where I can’t see them. I find I just forget about them! So I planned the interior space very carefully. We have 3.5m of wardrobe space (if they were arranged in a straight line,) and only 2m of hanging rails. I much prefer folding clothes on shelves, and use drawers for things that don’t hang well, so hanging was 1/4 long hanging, and 3/4 half height. We put a full wardrobes worth of shelves either side of the central wardrobe, for symmetry, and deep drawers in the middle with hanging above. The side/corner wardrobe is also split with a set of smaller drawers for underwear etc. We also kept the height of the top shelf identical across the whole width of wardrobes, just the right size for their SKUBB storage boxes for a neat look. I splashed out on one of the fancy wide shallow drawers with the inserts for jewellery etc and now have all my sunglasses, hair slides, earrings and belts laid out so nothing gets hidden away. It brings me immense joy every day!

I hope you like what we have done, and feel free to hit me with any questions about installing PAX! The wardrobes cost between £6-700 if I remember correctly, which was vastly less than most fitted wardrobes and freestanding ones too.

Of course we still have bits to finish in here. Theres a couple of corners of skirting that never got put back when the original room was created, then waited for this project to be done and still haven’t been sorted. I also wish we had done the radiators (its in the plan to change the rads in this room and the bedroom to the old victorian style but again, time… money… soon!

I hope you have enjoyed the tour!

Rebecca x

June Loves

I rarely have time these days to do a comprehensive blog post focusing on summer dresses for example, a brand I am obsessing over or good reads. That doesn’t mean however that I don’t have things I want to share so I’m starting a new monthly post sharing the things I’m loving right now. They won’t just be purchases, you might find rediscovered old wardrobe or beauty items, eats or things to watch or read. And here comes June… (better late than never but I started writing it in June and now I have room for July too!) 😉

Madewell

J.Crew’s little sister, the less preppy, younger (and personally I feel more mum-life friendly) brand was one I hit hard on our recent trip to California. I bought glitter star sunglasses (much asked after on Instagram, clear with holographic star frames,) a set of three celestial inspired necklaces for layering, and a updated my wardrobe with a summer version of the Transport tote I already own, the smaller Medium Transport tote which has a cross body strap and handy front pocket detail. Side note, the brass colour to Madewell jewellery never rubs off or fades. *These links are to the US site which ships to the UK but you can find Madewell in John Lewis now too.

Mutha.Hood

I have a new Favourite tee, the Solidarity Feminine from Mutha.Hood. I’m buying a huge amount of red and pink hi season, mainly to be worn together and I particularly love this with the Hush Santana skirt in red. The text on the left breast at the front is subtle but the message is loud and clear from the back!

FitFlop

Not that I’m getting chance to wear them in this hideously wet spell of weather we are having, I recently became fed up with all my sandals being uncomfortable and went on a mission to find some super comfy ones. I usually wear Birkenstocks as general run around flip flops but found no matter what I wore when I was really pounding the pavement on the school run for example, the soles of my feet were feeling really tender. I had seen Fitflop mentioned by a few bloggers and Instagrammers as being very comfortable and after trying a pair on I was sold. Fortunately I had some birthday vouchers from John Lewis that softened the blow a bit but I’m really happy with the ones I chose (Fitflop Barra) if you are looking for cloud-like cushioning and a quality pair of summer shoes.

IKEA SOLVINDEN LED festoon lights

I’ve had so many questions about where our new festoon lights were from. They were an IKEA find, £30 for 12. I could only find the multicoloured ones online but ours are clear. They have a great look, the LED should last, the bulbs are plastic so not likely to smash and our last set of outdoor festoons were IKEA and lasted around 5+ years so I was happy to buy again 🙂 This corner of the garden was high on the list for getting some TLC before the terrible weather started but has been put on a bit of a hiatus since the weather became awful.

I’m just gonna leave this one here…

Period Power

This should be a ‘May Loves’ as I listened to this via Audible on my commute for most of May. I’m going to write a full blog post on it but will just say this now – if you want to know more about *What The Hell* actually happens in your body every month, you NEED to read this book. Period Power by Maisie Hill (follow her on Instagram via the link) has genuinely revolutionised both my knowledge of my cycle and myself since reading and I can’t wait to share more about it with you all soon.

Thats it for now! Enjoy the read and I’ll be back soon 🙂

Rebecca x

Toys for 4 year olds: Aquaplay

Happy Sunday readers! Yesterday we celebrated Bea’s 4th birthday and we bought her a bit of a last minute present that has turned out so well I thought I’d share it with you all here in a quick review.

I asked some friends recently what their 4yo’s liked to play with and one suggested a water play system like this. We didn’t really have a ‘big’ present in mind for Bea this year but all we had bought her were some dress up outfits and an electric toothbrush – I always try in vain to buy toys that might give me 5 minutes peace and encourage some independent play now she’s getting bigger and particularly with the summer holidays looming. I also hoped we might find something that was Cora proof too – Bea was always so delicate and liked to do arty things, we have never had to put the crayons out of reach – they were always out in her bedroom to use, but now Cora draws on everything so it needed to be something she could use too.


The Aquaplay Mountain Lake is amazing! Bea didn’t look up for an hour once it was set up for her and Cora has been wading in (quite literally) too! It’s an amazing toy for the garden and we are using it inside because our Karndean flooring doesn’t mind being wet. And it’s got educational value in teaching about water movement and imaginative play. Now just need to figure out where to store it! If you’re stuck for a present or have been eyeing this wondering if it’s worth it, I’d definitely recommend it! (more Aquaplay sets here, including a smaller transportable one in a case)

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.

January Joy: Make some Resolutions!

Hi again! Its so lovely to hear from you all again – thank you so much for the comments, I’m glad to be back. It would appear I’m not more timely than I was tho 😉

So as promised… my resolutions. I know some people dont like resolutions but I’m a goal setter and I just can’t resist January as a fresh start for getting some plans, aspirations and must-try harder goals on paper. I thought about not bothering but realised how negative it felt and although it’s seen as cliche, I can be found making resolutions most weeks of the year so the first is no exception 😉

Here they are. Resolutions, the 2016 edition.
1. Clear out and declutter corners
2. Finish the house
3. Eat better
4. Learn to Knit

I actually started my first one before Christmas with our Cellar. I was brought up purging (my mum is pretty good at it with clothes and as a child we were always made to go through the toy cupboard and get rid of some things before Christmas, which were taken to the local Childrens home.) Unfortunately I’m now busy, lazy and married to a man who hoards. The dangers of having a big house are that you fill it and our lives have exploded from a 3 bed terrace to 3 sprawling floors of space that is rapidly getting filled. The thought of having to pack it up if we moved terrifies me and I’m a BIG believer that if you are putting something into a room to keep it out of the way where it doesnt get looked at year to year, it shouldn’t be in your life. So I’m trying to use my resolutions to action that thought. Clearing out the cellar (4 car loads to the tip later and we are half way there I think!) was an amazing feeling and I want to keep going. To keep it achievable I’m tackling little corners and spots of clutter at a time, rather than unachieveable whole rooms and after reading this A year of tidying I’m thinking I’ll buy the KonMari book – Has anyone read it?

The second resolution is stolen from Pete. We still have several rooms to tackle and others that have been 80% completed but lack finishing touches. We also have an exciting project under investigation which I’ll share if it is actually going to happen. Either way there are lots more home posts to come from FF in 2016!

New Year, new house project…. Fireplace shopping today! #renovation #interiors #periodhouse #fireplace

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The last two are certainly the stuff of yearly resolutions. Delving a bit deeper though I want to expand my weekly standard recipe repertoire and find some less stodgy but satisfying and delicious winter options. We eat a lot with Bea and I obviously want her to eat well and try lots of things so that needs to be woven into he plan too. I’ve already branch out and bought Good Food magazine which Pete tried a Cod, Cauliflower and Chorizo dish from last night that was amazing, so I’m inspired to keep going.

And it wouldn’t be New Year without a new skill right? I suppose I could say I already know how to knit but I haven’t done any for at least 15 years and even then didn’t know how to cast on or off, so there’s plenty to learn and re-learn. I’d just love to whip up a new hat for Bea when I want to or little jumpers and cardigans, and to know she was wearing something I made with love would be, well… pretty special. Watch this space!

Of course there could be more… date night, trying to get fit again… but now it’s your turn readers. Have you made any resolutions? Got any goals? even if they are not for the year and just on your current to-do list, I’d love to hear them 😉

Rebecca x

PS Look how big Bea grew! I couldn’t resist including a few pictures as it’s been a while… 😉

Dream Destination: One World Observatory

When we visited New York recently we planned to visit the World Trade Centre site and museum but I hadn’t realised that there was a new viewing deck at One World Trade Centre and after seeing the promotional video we decided it was worth the trip. It remains the highlight of our visit now and I would unreservedly recommend going out of your way to stop by, it’s just breath taking.


Tickets are $32 (£20) for adults and can be bought in advance with a timed entry slot. We decided we wanted to go with the best weather so walked down one morning thinking if it was full we would book for later in the day, or another day. In fact when we went to buy some tickets we were told we could go now and so headed straight in.

I was a little nervous of going up there. Totally ridiculous I know, but I couldn’t help but think of the past. Stepping inside the tower is incredible though, its completely white as you descend (the photos here are of the PATH station below the tower,) and feels monolithic and permanent, making me finally understand why those poor souls in the towers on 9/11 didn’t flee instantly when the planes hit – the though of anything taking this down was unimaginable.

Although it was hard for me to forget at first, the OWO experience is very much geared towards the positive with no mention of the twin towers, just the pride this new building has become to New York. It starts a floor below, moving through a multimedia space with those involved in the planning and build taking about their experience then takes you in a ‘sky pod’ lift with video projected on all 4 walls. As the lift ascends it is as though you are moving through time, starting looking out over the swamps that NYC was first settled on then the early city and to more recent times with skyscrapers growing all around you as you arrive on the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds.

Stepping out felt like being at the cinema, dark with an air of suspense. We were ushered into a gallery type area with the ‘See Forever’ theatre screen of New York scenes then without warning the screen lifted and the view out across manhattan was revealed. It was truly breathtaking.

The tour then moves through a small cafe and down to the main 360 viewing deck. There is a ‘Sky Portal’ which shows real time video footage of the street below, under a large glass area of floor, just as if you are suspended above the street. I also loved the 2 large ‘City Pulse’ view points with guides who stood and gave snapshot presentations on New Yorks history and neighbourhoods with local insight – it was a really nice touch that you didn’t have to participate in but I loved.

Of course the star of the show is the view and I was totally wowed. We had great weather which helped but it was amazing looking out there in so many directions, with helicopters buzzing around you and so many iconic buildings and for me, memories of trips past. As you can see, Bea loved it!

If you happen to be planning a trip to New York this was my absolute favourite (tourist) experience there – definitely do it! Find out more here: One World Observatory

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Theres a fancy cocktail bar and restaurant up there too – if you go childless or just don’t mind taking yours in, that would have been the icing on the cake 😉



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