Christmas as hosts

After returning home from Corby parkrun on Christmas morning, it was very much go-go-go in our house.  I had offered to host Christmas for the first time and we had Dan’s parents, Great Aunt and Nan joining us for dinner.  Luckily they were running slightly late and then hit a little traffic on the A14 so it left me plenty of time to shower and change following the parkrun fun.  Dan’s Great Aunt actually ended up feeling too poorly to make it, so dinner for six became dinner for five instead.

I had set the table the night before to save time.  In our previous house we had always needed to have our table on the smaller size setting and pressed against the wall in the corner of the lounge so that we could squeeze by.  In our new house, we have a separate dining room and I had so been looking forward to being able to host dinners!  :)

Hosting Christmas for the first timeExcuse the horrific bright orange and pine walls in our dining room.  Annoyingly, despite putting a lot of work into the upstairs rooms, due to waiting on a plumber we haven’t yet been able to start the larger task of the downstairs rooms just yet.  These are the ones that people actually see though!

Dinner was timed to perfection, and our guests sat down for starters just before 1pm.

Do you like the little Santa outfit I found in B&M for our Champagne bottle?!

Christmas champagne Santa outfit bottle warmerI don’t actually like turkey, but of course, the best bit about Christmas dinner is all the veg anyway…

Christmas dinner vegetables

After dinner we moved into the lounge where it was time to begin opening the presents.  When I still lived at home, one of our family Christmas traditions was that we always opened up our gifts together in the afternoon, after having eaten Christmas dinner.  I had explained to Dan that when we had our own family I wanted to keep this tradition, although Dan really wasn’t sure about that at all.  Turns out, we both now totally understand why presents were opened in the afternoon and not in the morning.  Christmas dinner cooking takes over all time in the morning!  Well, it did when it followed parkrun at least!

I had some awesome presents, both running and non-running related which I’m sure will pop up on the blog over the coming weeks.

I have tested out a couple of the running items already though…my new running cap with inbuilt light…

New running cap with inbuilt light from Aldi…my new compression socks…

Compression socks…and my new parkrun barcode band…

parkrun barcode band

…which I wore on both Christmas morning and also on Boxing Day morning, when I headed over for parkrun number 2 of the week – Bedford parkrun.
Boxing Day parkrun
I have only run the Bedford course once before, back in August.  I had no intentions to run the course quickly by any means, but hoped to remain consistent and tick off another parkrun – parkrun #40.

I had started off too far back in the pack of runners.  Bedford isn’t a course where you can really spread out at the beginning, as the track follows narrow footpaths around the edges of the park, with some more enclosed sections as you run between the edge of the park and the pond on the inside.  After a few hundred metres, I quickened my pace slightly and spurted up along the inside of the runners on the grass verge, through the mud.  Turns out other parkrunners aren’t too fond of mud so I used it to my advantage!  I found my place in the pack and settled into a rhythm again.

I was wearing my heart rate monitor for the first time since switching to my new Garmin 310xt at the end of October.  I had intended to set it up to display my heart rate before setting off on the run, but had bumped into another runner from my club when I arrived so ended up talking as I walked down to the start line instead.

There were several children out on the course, including one that looked no older than four, who was picking his little legs up really high to try and keep up with what I presumed was his Mum.  There was also a young boy who came past in a 100 parkrun t-shirt.  I have a lot of respect for any parkrunners that have completed 100+ of the runs, but double the respect when it is a child who has completed that number of runs!

In the end, I was very consistent and my splits were as follows: 9:05, 8:56, 9:12, nubbin (0.1m) at 7:41mm pace.

Garmin time: 27:57
Official time:
27:58
Position: 156/289
Gender position: 35/110
Age category position: 6/13

Do you keep any family Christmas traditions since leaving home?
What is your favourite Christmas meal item?  
I think mine has to be the roast potatoes.  All of the ones I cooked disappeared this year so I must have done something right when it came to cooking them!

Our home, six weeks in

I can’t believe we’ve already been living in our new house for six weeks.  In some ways it feels like hardly any time has passed since bundling all our belongings into boxes and piling them high into the garage of our new house.  Yet, at other times it feels like we have been here forever and that this is now very much our home.

New home card

Our new house is just three roads away from our last house but only once have we accidentally made a wrong turn and headed in the direction of where we used to live, and that was when we were on our way home from the pub so surely that can be excused!

I’ve been working hard on the upstairs rooms whilst Dan has been at work over the Summer.  Two of them were painted/wallpapered a dark red, and the other two were painted a dark purple.  It’s been my mission to peel the wallpaper, in some places scrape the paint, refill the walls where necessary and apply several coats of new paint so that we may turn them into our own.

The upstairs office is my favourite room in the house.  It has two large windows with blinds (kindly provided by companies like Bill’s Blinds Ltd) that take up most of the front-facing wall which let a lot of light through into the room first thing in the morning.  When we arrived, this room was covered with two walls in bright red wallpaper, and the other two sides in bright yellow.

The original office in our house(By the way, the fact that BBC iPlayer now lets you catch up with programs online for a month, rather than just a week was a lifesaver at keeping me sane during all the wallpaper-peeling and painting of the last six weeks!  I think that is a bit of Casualty you can see on the laptop in the background there!)

I had visions of our office being very plain – white/magnolia walls with a little colour in the room coming from pictures hung on the walls. I know how colors influence mood. I didn’t want anything too bright or distracting whilst we were trying to concentrate and get work done.  (Office ideas on my Pinterest board here)

The walls were fairly easy to peel of wallpaper in this room by dampening them and using a scraper.  It’s quite satisfying when you get a big chunk to come off in one go!

Scraping off wallpaper in the officeAs we had decided to have the walls painted in magnolia it meant three coats of paint.  We soon discovered that I was not a fan of rolling, and Dan was not a fan of cutting in with the paintbrush, so we had our jobs set out for us and I became the cutter-in!

Painting the officePainting the office Painting the officeThe step ladders were great fun for Bella, and it still leaves me in stitches that she walks up them like she would do any set of stairs, before appearing to check over our freshly painted walls for error!

Bella sat on the step ladderBella sat on the step ladderWe had to take the radiator off the wall so that we could paint behind it, although the radiator itself still needs to be painted.  I’m not a fan of it staying the bright red colour that the walls once were!Red radiatorHere is our office at present.  Not complete by any means, but definitely on the way there now!The office getting thereIt’s actually really hard to photograph the office as it is built as an extension of the house.  The wall you can see jutting out on the left of the above photo was where the fourth bedroom used to end, until the extension was built and the room doubled in size.  Behind that wall I have stacked and now filled a bookcase.

Just before reaching the wall there is a box for where the stairs jut out (shown below).  Here, we are planning on installing more shelving so that all of my craft boxes are easy to get to.

The craft corner in the office

Despite having stripped wallpaper, painted walls (three times!), removed and replaced the inbuilt desk, removed curtain poles and removed and replaced the radiator, we still need to; skim the ceiling, add coving and replace the skirting boards, add long shelves above the desk, add pictures to the walls and my medal hanger(!), move the electric sockets (as currently they are behind the filing cabinet and the bookcase), add shelving to the top of the stairs for my craft boxes, resurface the desk, change the carpet and replace the curtain poles and add curtains.

Curtains are ridiculously expensive.  Because the windows in our house are all incredibly wide it has meant that we are looking at about £70 a set of curtains, and because there are rooms like the office, where we would need two sets of the same design, it works out rather expensive when you add it all up!  Luckily, my Mother-In-Law has offered to make us a few sets over the coming weeks, although the cost of the fabric still works out pretty expensive! Hope you will find this resource useful for the best window solutions: https://www.ezwindowsolutions.com/louisville/.

Big windows in the office

Our ‘back spare room’ is the other room that we have been working on and we didn’t have quite such an easy time with this one.  The wallpaper had been painted, and also laid on top of silk paint and was a nightmare to remove.  The walls were so dark and the paint underneath so thick, that we needed to remove as much of the paint as possible, so there were some aching arms for several days running!Back spare room

I let Dan choose the colours for the back spare room and he went for ‘Natural Hessian’ with a feature wall colour of ‘Intense Truffle’.

Feature wall in the back spare room

It feels like we’re much further off from finishing this one and still need to replace the curtain pole adding the curtains, add carpet, have the ceiling skimmed, add coving and replace the skirting boards, buy a small sofa bed for the front of the room and a set of wardrobes as this is the only room without inbuilt storage.

Back spare room

It was handy running the two rooms alongside each other.  It meant that rather than having to wait for things to dry we could move from one room to the other and back again, getting much more done in a day.

I could probably recall for you the layout of every DIY store within ten miles!  We have been to have our kitchen designed…

Designing our kitchen…although the design we received was almost identical to the one we had spoken about together previously.  (Although in olive green, not pink!)

We have also measured a million (probably not an exaggeration by very many!) items for the bathroom and ordered a bathroom suite which arrived yesterday.

Measuring up the sink and toilet for the new bathroomIt’s been a busy Summer!

Do you do your own DIY in the house?

 

House moving tips

Having just gone through the house move process Dan and I picked a fair few tips up when it came to getting super organised and making the moving process run as smoothly as possible. I am sure movers for apartments will also find them useful. I pinned loads of ideas on my Pinterest boards but not all of them were relevant or particularly helpful.  I’ve put together some of the best tips I’ve come across here, adding some of our own into the mix as well.

24 House moving tips

Pre-move:

  • We made sure to start packing early.  We have collected a lot of ‘things’ over five years of living in our old house and I really didn’t want to leave it until the last minute to organise them all!  As soon as our house went on the market I started thinking about packing up our belongings and this took some of the stress out of the process, as I still had a lot of time to collect together items.
  • One of the first things I did was to pull all of my clothes out onto the lounge floor.  I made six piles – one of clothes that were good quality or had been expensive that I would try and sell on eBay, one of clothes that were still very good quality but that wouldn’t go for huge amounts – these were put aside for a future car boot sale.  A third pile of clothes and smaller items that I took to the charity shop, a fourth pile was for clothes that had no life left in them so were destined for the clothing banks.  The fifth and sixth piles were for clothes I wanted to keep.  One pile of clothes that I would still be wearing before the move and the other with clothes that were out of season or I could live without for a few weeks, so could be packed up in suitcases there and then.Bags of clothes for the charity shop
  • We found that clothes were much easier to carry and also to transport when they were placed in bin bags.  We ended up putting several bags of clothes into our cars as we had filled the moving van up.  We would not have been able to stack many boxes into our cars, but bags of clothes were easily moulded under seats and into weird positions.  We made sure to keep our rubbish bin bags black, and our bin bags for clothes white so that we didn’t accidentally bin any bags of clothes!Bag of cats or coats(Coats, not cats!)
  • As we took apart items of furniture we put all screws and fittings into freezer bags and made sure to label them with what they contained.  Some people suggested photographing how to put together tricky items, but most of our furniture is fairly easy to take apart and put back together again.Label up fittings during a house move
  • We picked up two sets of marker pens and packing tape.  You either end up losing a pen in the piles of packing or getting really frustrated when you get to the end of a roll of tape and hadn’t thought to purchase another!
  • Dan’s Dad is Managing Director of New Zealand Van Lines Ltd Auckland movers, so was able to source us 100 boxes that the company uses for packaging parts when providing moving services to Argentina and other locations abroad.  They were all 50cm by 50cm so stacked perfectly on top of each other as our dining room slowly turned into a pile of boxes over a few months.  It made our game of Van Tetris much easier than it would otherwise have been when it came to loading the other week.  When I took my belongings to and from Uni I remember using boxes from the local ASDA to transport items back in my Dad’s truck and it was a nightmare trying to wedge items together so that everything fit and that nothing would slip and break.Loading the moving van for our house move
  • I studied lots of ways to label the boxes and the way that I found most efficient was to mark each box with a number.  Alongside this, I made sure to keep a notebook detailing what each box contained and which room it was to go in when we arrived.  I then wrote a box number, which room it was to go in and whether or not the items were fragile/heavy onto each box.  Each room had a code (a very basic one…K = Kitchen, SR = Spare Room!)  It was super easy to work out where our pillowcases were when we arrived!Setting up a notepad for the house moveIt’s amazing how quickly a box begins to get heavy so we made sure to have a stack of cushions, towels and cuddly toys that needed to be packed to wrap around breakables and fill up some of the heavier boxes.
  • I transferred insurance onto the new property as soon as we knew the moving date.  I wasn’t really sure how this worked going into the move but apparently from when contracts are exchanged you need to have insurance on the new property.  Your contents insurance remains on your current house until the day you move when it is also transferred across.
  • Because I was working on the day of the move I took the upstairs (smaller area) and Dan took the downstairs to clear the final items.  On my rounds I double checked drawers and behind radiators, and then got Dan to walk round and check the upstairs once I had finished.  I’ve heard lots of stories about photos that have slipped down the back of radiators, or like Dan did, – an entire drawer of kitchen knives and utensils left in the old house! (Which I then ended up going over to collect after I’d finished work on that Monday.  Good job we only moved a few roads away!)
  • One of the best pieces of advice we received was to keep an open first-night box out during packing.  Our box contained deodorant, moving clothes, work clothes for the following day (as we were both working on the Tuesday), water bottles, contacts for me, two sets of cutlery, Bella’s food/litter/toys, towels, soap, screwdrivers, a towel, etc… out so that we didn’t have to trawl through loads of boxes to find the items we would be needing that evening when we first arrived.
  • I meal planned for the fortnight before we moved to try and eat through what was still in our cupboard and minimise how much of it we had to box up and move with us.  Some of our eat-up-the-cupboard meals were pretty random.  Rice with baked beans, a lump of sausage meat and a quarter of a pepper anyone?…!
  • Something we didn’t do, but would have done had our fridge been arriving a little sooner to our move date was to place an order for a delivery food shop to arrive at our new property the day after we moved.  Who wants to go and traipse around the shelves in Tesco when you’re already knackered with so much left to do back at your new home?!
  • We wrapped cling film around everything we could!  Why spend ages repackaging something that is already all together?!Cling film anything you can when you move house

During the move:

  • Dan and I had paced out beforehand the size of the van alongside the ever growing pile of boxes in our dining room.  When we loaded the van up the day before the move our bigger items went down one side of the van (like sofas, tables, washing machine…) and then our boxes could stack alongside these, as we had made ourselves very aware just how much space was going to be in the van.
  • I wrote a two page essay(!) letting the new owner of our house know about bin days, utility providers, paperwork for fixtures (like the boiler), items that we left and where they were (for example, we left the moving tools for our woodburner in the shed and the shower screen for the bath which we had never attached).  I also marked out which keys were for which doors and left a gift of a box of chocolates on the side.  I had planned to leave something homebaked, but there was no time for that in the end!

Leaving a note for the new owner during a house move

  • The absolute last thing that was packed was Bella.  She was also the first thing to be unpacked.  Dan shut Bella in the bedroom of our old house on moving day, and left her until he got the call to say that we could exchange keys.  When he arrived at the new house he placed her travel cage on the floor of our new bedroom and left her shut in there to acclimatise to her new surroundings.  We chose our new bedroom to shut her in as it is front facing so it meant that she would be able to hear and see us coming and going with boxes from the car.  She was very unsettled with the move and when I arrived home from work she was still cowering in her travel cage on the floor of the bedroom so I made sure to spend a lot of time with her and give her lots of cuddles.  She’s much more settled now and has discovered all the nooks and crannies in the house already!Bella exploring under the kitchen cupboards
  • Along with Bella, a bucket of cleaning items was also one of the last things to be packed. Best cat spray and odor removal came in handy. Not only did we scrub our old house from top to bottom, but we did the same at our new house as well!
  • I made sure to take utility provider contact details for water, electricity and gas for both properties before our internet was cut off (we were more than two weeks in our new house before we were reconnected!) and I used my phone to take photos of all meter readings before leaving the house the morning of the move.  I made sure to do the same when we arrived at the new house as well.  Although randomly, that afternoon a guy from Anglian Water came to read our meter so that was one we didn’t forget!

Post-move:

  • We knew all along that putting together the bed would be one of the highest priorities on our list when we first arrived.  We had no idea how long we would last before flaking out.  Putting screws (correctly) in a bed and finding the sheets aren’t very fun activities when you’re exhausted!Dan putting together the tableWe were both knackered the first days after the move and Dan managed to carefully screw all legs onto this little table before realising that they should have gone on the outside, not the inside of the framework!  Definitely allow time for error!
  • For months Dan had been planning our first meal.  We hardly ever order takeaway but moving house seems to be the ultimate time to do so and Dan was very excited about ordering from Domino’s Pizza!  There isn’t a Domino’s in our town but there is on the way to the yard where we rented the van from.  We had a vision of sitting on boxes and eating our takeaway before unpacking.  I’m not sure why this is always the image you see in films when people move…We sat on our sofa with the takeaway!
  • Dan and I each chose a soft sports drink bottle to keep out with us for the move.  When we were in the new house we made sure to always place it down in the same location.  It was easy for things to get lost on move day, so always putting them in the same place helped us to know where to find them when we were gasping.  Moving is thirsty work!
  • I made sure to check that all lights and hot water were working in the new house early on whilst it was still daylight.  We’ve moved from a house with a combi-boiler to one without and it has taken a bit of getting used to.  It was handy to know that when it was still dark outside the following morning I would be able to have a warm shower and find the lightswitches to be able to navigate my way around the house before work.
  • Because I couldn’t be there for the move itself, I enlisted the help of my brother.  Dan also enlisted the help of my friend’s husband and between the three of them they had completed the majority of the move by the time I returned home from work.  At lunchtime Dan nipped to our local bakery to buy sandwiches and cakes for the three of them and when I arrived to our new home that evening I served up some squash and chocolate cake my Mum had sent up with my brother.  Fully fed workers are much more willing to help! 😛
  • I was very glad that I had learnt our new address and postcode off by heart.  I had to relay it to so many people over the few days following the move and it helps to get it right! 😛

Any important tips I’ve missed?

What I’m loving right now

My Summer holidays are already four days in and right now I am loving…

…being able to mix and match my salads at lunch.

Pesto, ham, mozzarella and tomato salad

On Friday our new fridge freezer arrived and it has been amazing being able to have fresh fruit and dairy once more.  I was getting fed up of daily visits to the shop for milk and there was one evening last week where all I really craved was a cheese salad sandwich but I had to make do with butterless toast instead.  A poor substitute!

Salad items in the fridgeI’ve been having my fill of fresh fruit and vegetables ever since.

…having the internet back!

You don’t realise just how much you rely on the internet until you don’t have it any more.  For me it wasn’t just about entertainment (blogs/social media/netflix…) but also vital admin house things like transferring money or finding the phone number for our solicitor.

I’ve had the internet back for all of a couple of hours so far and have already caught up with so much during that time.  My recent daily ritual has been to either fill my laptop bag with all my fully-charged electronic devices and take the fifteen minute walk to McDonalds, where I would sit in the corner of the restaurant and nurse a milkshake until my laptop battery ran out.  Or I would sit out on the grass a little way in front of our row of houses where there was a BT WiFi hotspot.  (Not preferable when wet though!)

A friend sent me this earlier today and this was totally me last week!  Haha!

McDonalds free wifi image

…being able to run during the day and not having to schedule my run in at a precise time when our (now joint) car was free and when I wasn’t rushing off elsewhere.  I ran Thursday at club as I normally would have done in the evening, but on Friday it was during the middle of the morning and again yesterday.  There’s something nice about not having to rush out to get somewhere for a certain time and not being on a time limit for when you must return.

…having a project to work towards.

Peeling off the bright red wallpaper in the new houseAs I mentioned the other day, most of the rooms in our house are either bright red, yellow or orange.  Some are even a mixture of all three colours!  Red, orange and yellow are not really the colours we would have chosen for our house and it could really do with a freshen up – lots of the layout of the house needs adapting, both the kitchen and bathroom will need redoing completely and we have a long-term plan to extend into the garage as well.  Upstairs in the bedrooms the main issue is simply the colours or peeling wallpaper, so we are tackling this first of all and whenever I’ve had a spare half hour (or seven!) this week I’ve been stripping wallpaper or pulling away dado rails.

Peeling off the bright red wallpaper in the new houseOf the four bedrooms one of them now has the majority of the wallpaper removed and another has had a first coat of paint applied.  We’re getting there slowly but I like that again there is no rush but that I can complete it a little bit at a time.

…snuggles with my Bella cat.

Bella cat is all snuggly

Bella has been super snuggly since we moved and I only have to sit or lay down for a second and she has jumped up onto my lap or my back for a cuddle.

Bella snuggle asleep…she’s pretty cute though!

…cake!

Chocolate anniversary cakeMy Mother-in-law made Dan and I a cake for our upcoming anniversary which she brought round on Sunday afternoon and I’ve enjoyed a little slice each day since!

Chocolate anniversary cakeWhat are you loving lately?
Is your house filled with bright colours or have you stuck to more neutral tones?