Not being one to moan (ahem) I’m trying to remain chipper, but HOW DIFFICULT is it to get a builder to come and do work on your house? Our kitchen/diner plans have completely stalled as the builder we thought was the best one is really busy (and also much more expensive than the others). I understand the whole paying more to get good quality thing, but it seems everyone else does too as he’s rather in demand.
So we’re cracking on with our plans to freshen up our house. It’s basically had nothing done to it except for basic maintenance for quite a few years as it’s been rented out, so it’s looking a bit tired. We started by going round the house with a notepad and pen and listed down every single thing that we think needs doing – new bathrooms, new carpets, new kitchen, flooring… Then we went back over the list to see what we can afford to do now, what will have to be put on hold until budget allows us to start work and how we could freshen up bits and pieces until they can be replaced.
We LOVE Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday this year falls on February 17th). Forget dinner, we waive it completely and go straight into pancakes. Of course, in order to do it properly, you’ll need some fantastic equipment. For perfect pancake preparation, here are my recommendations. You’ll need:
I’m SO glad that January’s over. It’s always such a long, miserable month, and with added cold weather and post-Christmas cashflow it can make you feel really low.
Happily today it’s February! My first trip of the year (on the gorgeous Disney Dream) starts next week so I’ll be getting some sun, and we’re carrying on with a few bits of house refurbishing. It’s amazing how much difference little things make.
Happy Monday! Hope yours is going well. I spent most of the weekend dreaming and drawing and planning (oh and making yummy barbecue pulled chicken too). We’ve been working and saving really hard for our upcoming kitchen refurb and it’s lovely to think that this is the year that we’ll actually be able to start making our dreams become a reality. I spend so much time in the kitchen, it’s one of the places that I’m really looking forward to starting work on. We want to knock the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room to recreate a larger, more sociable space – something that really hit home to me during our New Year’s Eve party, when I was stuck at the sink clearing plates between courses, listening to everyone having fun in the next room.
I can’t believe we’re finally going to refurbish our house! I’m so excited and seem to be spending hours (okay, more hours than usual) on Pinterest and various home websites, planning and plotting and dreaming about how our home could look.
So things on the house front have moved on AGAIN. After the third house purchase fell through, I’ve got to be honest, we were pretty despondent. I’ve never heard of it happening before, but the last one got right to survey and then the survey came in 20k under budget. Anyone else had any experience of that?
Anyhoo, it’s all change again, because we think we’ve found the perfect house – the one we’re already in! We’ve got some lovely plans to do the place up – with a spacious kitchen diner instead of our poky kitchen and separate dining room (more of this later, but my Pinterest page is burgeoning) and new floors and even bathrooms when funds permit.
Happy Sunday! I hope you’re having a lovely chill-out day wherever you are. I’ve had a such a lovely week this week, with some AMAZING career news (that sadly I can’t tell you about yet – I know, I hate it when people do that too), and a visit from Sam, home from university for a couple of days (he’s loving it, by the way – London/uni life really seems to suit him). I also had an incredible time at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – more of this later on in the week. We’ve also put an offer in on the HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS, but I’m really trying not to get too excited as it’s very early days and we’re still waiting on a mortgage too (but check out the garden – above – how pretty is that?).
So since our original offer on the House of Bodily Fluids back in July, we really haven’t heard very much. We didn’t really chase it as I guess we’re not in a massive hurry, but all of a sudden it kind of dawned on us that we hadn’t had any paperwork, and started to chase a bit harder. Our solicitors, worryingly, had heard nothing at all from their solicitors. I drove past the house and they hadn’t even STARTED clearing it, and you can imagine what a job that’s going to be. Then we started to hear rumour that the probate wasn’t going smoothly and there were issues with the man’s business that had to be sorted before the house could be sold… Ugh.
So with news that the House of Bodily Fluids could soon be ours (I guess we shouldn’t totally get our hopes up until we’ve actually exchanged contracts), we’ve started doing that nesting thing where you go out window shopping for things you’ll never really be able to afford but you’d buy if you had unlimited funds (known as ‘champagne lifestyle, lemonade budget’ in our house).
So I wrote a while back about our house dilemma: stay here or move to pastures new. We’ve been looking around for a while, and a house in the same village we currently live caught our eye. And kept catching our eye. It was in an area that we quite like, a nice size… but there it was, every time we did an internet search – that same house. It didn’t sell. And in a buoyant market that seemed a little odd. Read more
We’ve lived in this house very happily for the last three years. I love that we’re quite near the local fen, which is a lovely place to walk the pupster, and we’re also the last house before a wide, public footpath which is covered in beautiful pink rose bushes during the summer that tumble over into our garden.
We’ve got loads going on here at English Towers at the moment. There’s possibly a move on the cards (New, New English Towers?), or possibly the chance to refurbish the current English Towers. Whichever way, I’ve absolutely set my heart on a new kitchen. My Pinterest board for kitchens is getting bigger and bigger, and there are bits of magazines everywhere.
So after three weeks of back to back holidays, I have a huge amount to write, but I’m taking my time, settling back home, attacking the Giant Washing Mountain of Buckinghamshire, and doing a bit of nesting.
I love our house and, although I’ve loved every minute of gallivanting about on the med, it’s just been wonderful to come back to English Towers, find my slippers (although one was populated by a spider of epic proportions that prompted much hopping about and squealing), dig out my jimjams and kick back with a cuppa and a magazine. I’m having a bit of a magazine crisis at the moment. I’ve gone off my old favourite so I’ve been buying a few different ones to try them out. This one is really good. One of my Instagram friends described it as a ‘lovely cosy warm jumper’
But most of all it’s been lovely to get back in the kitchen and baking again. On Sunday, we had a Moroccan chicken pilaf (an easy, one-pot wonder) and then lemon drizzle cake (which seemed somewhat apt as we sat at the table and watched the drizzle in the garden):
Lemon Drizzle Cake
170g golden caster sugar
170g self raising flour
3 large free range eggs (duck eggs are fab for baking if you can find them)
2 large unwaxed lemons
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
So it starts off just as a normal ‘pound cake’ really. Weigh everything out first, then cream the butter and the sugar until it’s really pale (preferably with an electric whisk – this should be really light).
Break the eggs into a bowl and add the juice and finely grated rind of one of the lemons, then it’s easy to just dribble it into the butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time.
If, when adding the eggs, the mixture starts to curdle, just add a tablespoon of the flour – this will bring it back together. Now stir in the flour until it’s just combined.
Pour into a buttered loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees/gas 4 for about 30 – 40 minutes. Check to see if it’s done by popping a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean. If not, put it back in for 5 minutes.
Bring it out of the oven. Put the zest and juice of the second lemon into a bowl and whisk in your sifted icing sugar, then carefully take the cake out of the tin and spoon the lemony liquid all over the top of the cake. Serve at once with lots of cream or ice cream. Or leave to cool and scoff with a cup of tea. Either way, it’s divine.
It dawned on me today, while I was ironing a t-shirt, and dwelling upon the fact that I swear I’ve ironed the same t-shirt (black with a blue Cylon on it if you’re interested) three times already this week, that I live my life on a bit of a loop.
Week in, week out, the same things happen to me. For example:
1. I spend a ridiculous proportion of my time in the car.
I do the school run a gazillion times (okay, ten, but then there are extras because the Mad Professor never really seems to be at school that much and does things like going in at 8.30 then being finished by 11am, but mysteriously still needing lunch money), and the twice weekly trip to kickboxing, then pick up an hour later, for the Dude. Which reminds me, I need a new CD. Maroon 5’s new one is very good but I know all the lyrics now. If you’d like me to sing them to you, just give me a ring, kay?
2. We laugh at the same old jokes.
Our in jokes are recycled hundreds of times. The fact that we call Blockbusters ‘Blockbastards’ for instance, and our Volvo is called the ‘HAHA VULVA‘ after the lady with Tourettes in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. Rent it at Blockbastards, quick).
3. I get this look. A lot.
This is the look that says ‘bloody biscuits? You know I hate biscuits’ and warrants the same response from me every day: ‘the vet says they’re good for your teeth, so eat up and stop giving me the face’. I then sleep fitfully and with one eye open in case she comes in the night to take her revenge.
4. I act like a bit of a tit
This week, on being asked to rinse and spit at the dentist, I spat all over the floor (in my defence, the anaesthetic had kicked in and I couldn’t feel half my mouth). To add insult to injury, I then dissolved into helpless giggles for ten minutes while he stood patiently, holding his drill (not a euphemism) waiting for me to recover.
Oh, and not forgetting the old ‘get to the top of the stairs then forget what you came up for’ routine. Several times a week.
5. I laugh like a loon
Happily, one of my favourite Groundhog Day moments is a good cackle. There’s not much in this life to make you feel better than a good belly laugh. This week there have been lots of belly laughs, from noticing that my Dad’s tractor has ‘SeaBiscuit’ sign-written on the side (for some reason, this completely floored me), or a coffee with a friend where we cackled, snorted, shared hair-raising personal secrets and basically behaved like ten year olds for a couple of hours.
6. I watch crap TV to keep myself awake
Ahhh, waiting up for partying teens to return: surely one of motherhood’s shittest jobs (and one they sneakily forget to mention at ante natal classes). I spend vast amounts of time waiting for people to come home from parties, trying to keep myself awake by watching early Kardashians episodes, texting them things like ‘don’t drink too much. You puke, you die’ and random movies like Hostel 2 (don’t bother – there’s gullible girls, evil murderers, a few bits of DIY machinery and, well, a bit more blood. You’re welcome.)
7. Something REALLY weird happens
This week it was getting a crossed line while trying to ring a travel company and being dropped into the middle of a conversation between an old lady and her doctor. Even more mortifyingly I thought she was actually telling ME about her terrible Psoriasis and had answered her several times before I realised she couldn’t hear me. Just call me Dr English.
8. My boys make me go WOW!
This week it was this amazing pic from Sam’s Biology field trip of two of his mates Mick and Brendan skimming stones on Broadhaven beach. Just beautiful:
9. I buy weird presents for people
This week it was ‘get well cheese’ for my Disreputable Dad, who is very poorly. And partial to a bit of Suffolk Blue. What? Cheese cures all ills.
10. I’m happy
Really, really stupidly happy. I have fun, don’t take myself too seriously (see number 4.) and have the best family in the world. Now what the hell did I come up the stairs for?
So when I was telling you about my recent Florida trip, I promised to tell you a bit more about the missed exam/screeching business.
Before I left, we all sat down and synchronised diaries. No stone was left unturned. And no teenager was scheduled to be left alone in the house for enough time to a) have a party or b) burn it down.
Picture the scene, then:
We’re all in the bloggerbus, tootling happily across Florida on our way to Cape Canaveral. My phone rings. It’s the school. This is not good. I’m in Florida, the boys’ Dad is training in Hampshire (after dropping them off at school early) and my Mum is in Venice. With a startlingly accurate sense of ‘oh shit’, I answer the phone:
‘Oh hello’, says Perky Voiced Lady, ‘it’s the school sixth form manager here’
Me: ‘Oh hello, how can I help?’
PVL: ‘Well, your son was supposed to be in a Biology exam this afternoon…’
Me: ‘WHAT?! What do you mean SUPPOSED TO?…’
PVL: ‘Ahaha well yes, that’s the problem. He hasn’t turned up, and the exam started ten minutes ago’.
Cue panic. MAJOR PANIC.
A quick mental tally of the facts brings up the following hastily-arranged pre-Florida plan: the Prof has a Biology exam Monday afternoon. He doesn’t need to go to school with the Death Wish Dude in the morning, so one of his BFFs who has just learned to drive is picking him up and taking him to the exam.
So what went wrong?
After promising to investigate, and leaving PVL to find out how long after an exam has started the candidate can still enter, I grab my phone and ring the boy. No answer. I ring again.
There’s a weird mumbled snuffling. And then, wailed, ‘Muuuuuuuuuuum… I missed my exam!’
This is bad. All sorts of hideous things rush round my head. Is he drunk? At 1pm? Has he been drugged? Been attending an all-night party?
I settle for the first thing that comes into my head: ‘WHERE THE *HELL* ARE YOU?’
Prof, still wailing: ‘I don’t knnoooooooow!’
Ah, well that explains it then. I’ve woken him up. The Prof is one of those weird, deep sleepers who talks rubbish for approximately ten minutes after you’ve woken him up. As a small child, he did lots of walking into cupboards and weeing in the laundry basket. I’m talking serious post-sleep discombobulation here, people.
The best thing, I find, in a crisis, is to shout. A lot. My shoutiness kicks in and I yell at him, while my fellow passengers stare and me and stifle small giggles: ‘GET DRESSED! GET OUTSIDE! YOU’VE GOT TO GET TO SCHOOL!’
I ring my brother, who is too far away to help. He rings my Disreputable Dad, who is nearer, and pretty good in a crisis, and mobilises him on a mercy mission to get to our house, pick the boy up and get him to school. STAT.
I ring the school back. They inform me that you can enter an exam within the first half an hour. He has about twelve minutes.
Cue Benny Hill music.
The boy rings back. He’s in the car with his friend. They’re racing to the school. And he’s really reeeeally sorry.
For the rest of the entire trip, I am teased mercilessly about my blogger bus shoutiness. This includes everyone yelling ‘WHERE ARE YOU?!’ if I fall behind while we’re walking along, and me replying ‘I don’t knooooow’ in my best Mad Prof voice.
Sooo it turns out, he got to the exam. he reckons he did okay, and, miraculously, even managed to finish. His mates had banged on the door and rung his phone (he had 20 missed calls) until they were going to miss the exam themselves, and had headed into school. Thank goodness they had the sense to tell one of the teachers.
Oh, and in all the excitement, nobody remembered to cancel my Dad, who spent twenty fruitless minutes banging on the door and shouting through the letterbox before giving up and going home. Sorry Dad.
Note to self: next time? Make better plans.
- A summer holiday capsule wardrobe April 10, 2015
- Breville’s new Perfect Fit for Warburtons toaster #toasttothetop! April 8, 2015
- My top tips for planning a family villa holiday April 7, 2015
- Moroccan spiced slow roasted leg of lamb April 5, 2015
- Researching beautiful new technology in the kitchen April 3, 2015