Tuesday 16 June 2015

Reunited with my Little Sister

When I was the delicate age of three and a half, my mum gave birth to a red-faced little bundle named Rosie. She was born at home thanks to a carefully crafted selection of delaying tactics by three year old me, and a slight tantrum from the girl next door who I was to be sharing a room with for the night. My mum’s birth story makes for amazing reading; it’s an angry diatribe wondering where the hell my dad is and how they’re ever going to make it to the bloody hospital.

By the time I was safely tucked up asleep on an airbed in my neighbour’s bedroom, my little sister was well and truly on her way. Realising they didn’t have enough time to get to the hospital, they rang the midwife who said she would try her best to get there. It was snowing, and the midwife lived on the wrong side of a hill, so paramedics were sent too.

As my mother tells it, the paramedics arrived, took one look at her lady bits and rushed to stand near her head, leaving my dad in charge of her medical care. Just as my mum was preparing to give birth, there was a knock at the door. The midwife rushed in, and my sister arrived less than a minute later, born onto the bare floorboards of the living room floor.

The midwife bundled my mum and new baby upstairs with a cup of tea, and I arrived a few hours later keen to meet this new baby I’d been hearing about. According to my dad, I was delighted, excited and absolutely thrilled to have a little sister of my own.

This obviously waned somewhat when she was old enough to steal my toys, ruin my games and get me into trouble. We’ve always been close, but far enough apart in age to have our own lives too. My sister is someone I can say anything to, who will always make me feel better when I’m upset, and who I never have to worry about looking like a dick in front of (this is important to me).

Two years ago, she disappeared off to Canada. I knew how excited she was about seeing the world (and, more importantly, getting out of Burnley), and felt a twinge of jealousy that she was enjoying life as a free spirit. She was supposed to go for a year, but soon fell in love with Canada so decided to stay for another year.

We kept in touch through messages and Skype, but I missed not being able to see her. In a weird way, I simply adjusted to the distance. I got used to not seeing her, but made sure we spoke a lot and that I knew what was going on in her life.

Last Tuesday, she came home, and I cried at the airport before she’d even arrived. Ebony came with me to meet her. Ebony wasn’t yet 18 months old when Rosie left, and though they used to play together a lot, she didn’t remember her. But excitement is contagious so Ebony was pretty excited about finally having an Auntie again.

It’s remarkable just how easy it is to see a sibling again after so long. It feels like she’s never been away, except that she’s now tanned and keeps name-dropping amazing things and places. So far, we have made fun of our parents, drank way too much amaretto and I’ve had to wake her up at noon. Just like old times.

Ebony has already fallen in love with her Auntie and keeps asking me when she can come to play again. I don’t think Rosie will stay put for long, she has a bad case of wanderlust, but I’m very glad that she’s back for now. And that Ebony will get the chance to get to know her. (And I’ll have someone to bring me Amaretto again.)

Monday 15 June 2015

Dreaming of a New Living Room

We’ve been in our house for a year now. The previous owner painted everything magnolia before putting it on the market, and at the time I thought that was a good thing. It’s surprising how quickly you can tire of magnolia though, especially when it’s all you see.

I used to love Christmas in our old house. The living room had wooden floors, a beautiful fireplace and white walls, so it always felt like the perfect backdrop for Christmas. I loved how the room looked when it was all decorated for Christmas, and how homely it all felt once the tree was up.

After spending last Christmas in our magnolia living room with its dark carpets and textured wallpaper, I set myself to have the living room finished before this coming Christmas. I’m actually quite glad we didn’t do it sooner, because I’ve decided to switch the living room and playroom round so that we don’t have to trudge across a carpet of toys to get to the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to work out what sort of sofa to get for the new room. Tesco have a sofa buying guide which I would recommend reading if you’re in the process of choosing a sofa. We bought our current sofas when we were first married. They are huge, and feel a little oversized in our current living room but it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as it was in the first house we rented. I think that entire house was actually smaller than our sofa. The playroom is in desperate need of some seating, so I’m thinking about buying a new sofa to go in the living room and leaving one of our current sofas in the playroom.

The sofas we have at the moment are dark grey, which is great because the fabric still looks clean even after three and a half years of abuse from Ebony. I quite like the idea of going for a coloured sofa now, as a way of adding colour to the room. No matter how many coloured living rooms I pin, or paint samples I look through, I always seem to end up painting everything white.

The soon-to-be living room is also missing a working fireplace too. I love the idea of having a wood burner, especially because the house gets so cold in winter. I’ve been doing a bit of research to work out whether this is possible, and having a look at some of the DEFRA approved stove options out there.

We’re definitely going to rip up the carpet and will hopefully be able to tidy up the floorboards underneath. That’s what we did in the old house and I really loved how it looked. I’ve also been looking for other bits and pieces to make the room feel more homely. Our current living room feels totally devoid of life because it’s temporary so we haven’t bothered to invest much love into it. I’m looking forward to buying brightly coloured cushions, prints for the wall and a big rug to go on the floor.
The house still feels so unfinished, it would be nice to have a pretty place to retreat to at the end of the day. I’m just really hoping we manage to get it all done in time for Christmas. And that I can figure out a way of explaining how Father Christmas would get in through a wood burning stove…

This post was in collaboration with Tesco.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Creating a Father's Day Gallery Wall with Truprint

Our house has a spare bedroom which doubles up as an office for Laurie and a place for friends to sleep when they stay over. It was previously decorated by the one-style-suits-all decorating genius who coated our entire house in magnolia paint before fitting reams and reams of brown carpet. I decided to decorate the room for Laurie’s Christmas present, in the hope he might use it more often.

It now has a nifty fold down desk, and very bright yellow walls. The yellow is a lot brighter than I had imagined, and can be a little blinding on particularly sunny days (because it feels as though you are In The Sun). I painted it yellow because we stayed in Edinburgh in a quirky little flat with wooden floorboards, yellow walls and hundreds of books. It was a really lovely flat, so I used it as my inspiration when decorating the room.

The room was in need of a few extra finishing touches to try and tone down the walls a little, and I still haven’t got round to sorting out a lot of these. So, for Father’s Day, I thought we might try to make the little more homely for him. The great thing about being Laurie is that he has a very lovely wife who takes hundreds and hundreds of photos of him and his daughter (interestingly, there are about eight photos of me and Ebony, and I took them myself with a tripod). I decided to get a few of these photographs printed off to create a gallery wall in Laurie’s office.

Truprint very kindly provided the photo prints for me, so I spent a good few hours uploading photos to their site and trying to decide which one should go in which frame. I decided to get the frames from Wilkos because I wanted all black and they had a good selection of sizes. I usually go with Ikea frames but didn’t really have time to go there and buy the frames before ordering the prints (and am not making the mistake of karting huge frames back home on the bus with me again).

Once I’d chosen the frames I wanted to feature on the wall, it was time to choose which photos would go up. I wanted to choose some of Laurie’s favourites, as well as sticking up a few of my own. I also wanted to make sure that the photos reflected the whole of Ebony’s life, rather than just all being from a particular moment in time. I also wanted to put a feature up that wasn’t just a print. I was hoping to find a ‘L’ that could go on the wall, but in the end settled for a blackboard. I got Ebony to draw a picture on the blackboard so I’m sure Laurie will love it.

Once I’d decided which prints to get, I placed my order. It only took a couple of days for all of the photographs to arrive. We spent some time putting the photos in the frames, and then tried varying layouts on the floor to see what looked best. If I’m honest, this took ages. We kept trying new layouts only to decide something still wasn’t quite right, but in the end we got there.

Then it was time for the hard put, putting it up on the wall. One of the frames I’d chosen was quite long, meaning it would be pretty obvious if it wasn’t hung straight. I had to get a spirit level out and, erm, there might be a few extra holes in the wall behind that frame.

I’m really pleased with how it looks. It’s definitely worked at toning down the walls simply because it draws the eye and takes your mind away from All The Yellow. It’s not a huge gallery wall because I figured it would be something we’d want to add to over time. I hope that every six months or so we’ll pick out a new favourite photo to add to the collection.

The only thing I do regret is that at one point Ebony said, “I don’t want you to hammer me,” in a way that made me question all of the parenting choices I have made to date. Do I really seem like the sort of mother who might randomly start hammering people?

Truprint let me trial their service in exchange for this post, but all the words are mine all mine. You can see the Truprint full range of Father’s Day Gifts here. And you can get up to £30 off your order by using the discount code LOVEMYDAD. The full terms and conditions are as follows:

  1. Code LOVEMYDAD gives £10 discount on order £20-£49.99 and £30 discount on orders £50 or more
  2. Minimum spend does not include P&P charges
  3. Offer is valid until midnight 15th June 2015.
  4. Offer is valid for single use during the promotional period and to customers residing in the UK on Truprint.co.uk only.
  5. P&P charges will apply
  6. Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or on pre-paid prints.
  7. Please allow an additional 1-2 delivery days during this promotional period.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Review: find-a-present.uk

A photo of a jug holding flowers

Our kitchen was fitted last September, but we still haven't really finished it. Every so often we manage to tick off another job, like the shelves we fitted a couple of months ago, but mostly it remains a somewhat unfinished room. It is slowly coming together, but I really think this is the sort of house that will never feel finished. 

When the team over at find-a-present.uk got in touch to see whether I'd like to try out their service, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to treat ourselves to some new kitchen wares. The company is based in the Netherlands and offered me the chance to trial their newly launched UK website. 

The site aims to simplify online gift shopping, offering suggestions for different occasions, ages and interests. On first glance, the site seemed to be filled with mostly novelty items, and I felt slightly disappointed. But then I discovered the search bar and a whole world of amazing possibilities opened up to me. The site is easy to use and gives a lot of helpful suggestions when you're stuck for present ideas. 

I wanted to get something for Ebony who has been talking a lot about camping lately. We don't have a tent so she's never been camping, but it's something she really wants to do. A quick search on the site brought up a Playmobil camping set which I knew she would love. Complete with tent, picnic table, sleeping mats, camping accessories and people, this toy has been a big hit. The first day she played with it, I managed to get an hour of uninterrupted work done. And the day after, I got a lie because she navigated straight to the toy (instead of my face) when she woke up. 

The website works by drawing in gift ideas from other sites, like Amazon. You simply search for something (like 'garden' or 'camping'), and the search results will feature suggestions from a number of sites. When you come to buy the gift, you buy it direct from the seller's sites, but don't pay any extra for using find-a-present.uk as your gift finder. 

When I ordered, we didn't have any birthdays coming up that I hadn't already ordered presents for, so I decided to buy some things for the kitchen. I really love the jug I bought, it looks so pretty with flowers in. I've been looking for something like this for a while but hadn't find anything quite right so was really pleased to discover this beauty on the site. 

I also bought some new kitchen scales to replace the ones sacrificed by the kitchen fitter (he filled the bowl with wood oil... why? Who knows). I really love how bright they are, and they look great with the yellow pendant lights we have in our kitchen. It's a very white room so the bright colours add a bit of fun to the decor. 

And finally, I bought a wooden herb garden for the kitchen window sill. It looks beautiful for about three days, then I somehow manage to kill the herbs again. Though this is no way the planter's fault, I am just terrible with all plants. 

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