Learning to…

I’m learning to navigate this whole insta thing.

This last month my followers have jumped from two thousand to three.  I’ve been shocked by the report on my phone telling me exactly how long I’ve spent on it, but I love the new world I’ve found here inside my phone.

I’ve posted an astonishing 3387 pictures, and hope that since this first post in December 2012 that they are a little more sophisticated, I know for sure that my captions are!

For a good few years I posted multiple pictures of cakes, cats and my children. There were a lot of trees too, and they were never knowingly under filtered. Little by little I got drawn into following accounts, it was more exciting than Facebook. You could interact with so many different people and have a feed full of beautiful pictures which were tailored just for you. At first I loved the lifestyle accounts and the instamums. (Erica is still my number one girl crush). My account was private but I toyed with the idea of a fashion account, I found it hard to manage the two, and noticed that my house was getting more attention than my clothes. So in January this year I tentatively joined in the hashtag #ahouseindays. I soon stumbled across this insta interiors community. Since then I’ve become interiors obsessed, made friends, started a blog, won prizes and had an actual magazine shoot in my home. I love all positive things it has brought in to my life, and the attention but I do find it difficult to manage.

The first stage was becoming interiors obsessed, even more than I already was. I went through a stage of wanting all of the new things I saw other people have all of the time. My house is now so full I think I’ve gotten over that. I’ve learnt love just how my house looks as it is and take a pride in being able to share it. I’ve also come to realise that this is my style and enjoy what I already have. That is apart from plants! I’m blaming insta totally for my plant obsession, and any plant lover knows there is always room for another plant.

I’ve made friends, real actual friends who I connect with on a daily basis. Some of whom I’ve met in real life. I was so nervous before I met Janice from @lovefrenchvintage in France this summer, but I realised once that connection is made you’re pretty much guaranteed to get on in real life too. Continue reading Learning to…

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Me and Tim.

This was first published in May this year.

It’s my wedding anniversary tomorrow. Twenty one years since the day poor Tim was so nervous, he’d had a large glass of Brandy, had to have his Uncle Colin fasten his tie and had forgotten his name and address by the time he met me in the Registry office at noon. Last year we mistakingly thought it was our silver wedding anniversary and had a weekend away to celebrate.

I was eighteen when I met Tim, we both have different recollections of how and when. I remember his friend bringing him to a Eurovision party I was hosting, he remembers me flitting around a local night club well before that being annoying, but we’ve agreed to differ. We both do agree that a few months later, having set my sights on him and knowing he was an electrician, I asked him to mend my hairdryer. Two days later he turned up to mend the it (he never got around to it, something I was going to have to get used to) and the rest as they say is history.

I was nineteen and he was twenty one. I wasn’t looking for Mr right and I can’t imagine he was looking for Mrs right either. It just kind of happened. I going through a pretty rough chapter of my life, having lost my mum two years earlier and I had an awful lot on my plate trying to juggle a grown up job, an errant dad and a wayward younger brother. Poor Tim must have wondered what he’d stumbled into, when he introduced me to his mum and dad he warned them I wasn’t like any other girl he’d ever brought home. I’m still not sure what he meant!

Two years later we bought our first house. It was a tiny cottage and it was beautiful. Tim didn’t dare tell his parents until just before we signed the final papers! His dad’s reaction was ‘Well you could have done better and I don’t mean the house!’ (honestly that’s nothing to what he thinks of Meghan Markle). I suppose you could say he didn’t agree with us ‘living in sin’ or that he particularly liked me all that much. We were dead poor, but that house was gorgeous and we were so happy there. His dad still wasn’t keen, and I had yet to learn to bite my tongue and ignore him, but that would come in time.

Next I wanted a baby, but Tim said we had to get married first. Well with me being a feminist vegetarian member of Greenpeace you can understand that I wasn’t too overly impressed with that idea. We carried on with the ‘I want a baby, we need to get married, I’m never getting married’ conversation for a about seven years until one day it went ‘I want a baby, we need to get married, alright then when?’ And again, being a feminist -vegetarian-member of Greenpeace, I certainly didn’t want to get engaged (this is the bit where my future self would tell my past self to stop being so bloody stupid and get a ring, cos you sure as hell won’t get one later) so we set a date for the following May, because it would be sunny (and we had a share option due to mature) it was seven months away, and that’s when, with the worst possible timing in the world, I found out I was Pregnant.

Well let’s say it was a lovely surprise once we’d got over the shock. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know it didn’t end well and we lost our first baby just before Christmas. The wedding went ahead as planned, all be it with me in a normal wedding dress and not in a bell tent to cover my eight month pregnant stomach. We were married in the local registry office with a reception for forty in our back garden. Unbeknown to us I was infact already pregnant again, and I suffered with terrible morning sickness all throughout our honeymoon in Rome and Florence. I lost that baby too, and then another one later on that same year.

Eventually, against the odds, our lovely Lily was born and we had to move house because we couldn’t fit the pram and high chair in the house at the same time. After we moved into our current house, we then lost three more babies before Iris was born three years later. A good few years after that we became a family of five when we began to foster (see previous blog ‘We are a fostering family’)

So we’ve now been together for twenty eight years, and have been through some incredibly tough times but lots more fun times and are are still plodding on. Here are my reflections on our happy marriage.

1. We were so young when we met we did our growing up together, we had no check list of what we were looking for in a husband or wife but have somehow grown around each other and are two halves of the same person.
2. We respect each other.
3. He is the best dad any child could ever wish to have.
4. We both have the same values, ideals and as I’ve eventually persuaded Tim the same politics too.
5. We are both family focused and that’s a good job as our hands are well and truly full with the girls, and will be for the foreseeable future.
6. We know each other inside out.
7. We don’t lie to each other, (although I’m very good at manipulating the truth).
8. We’ve been poor, and we’ve been better off. I’ve always had a shopping habit but we live within our means and only spend what we can afford. Tim has no idea what he earns or what things cost, but what he knows can’t harm him and it’s in his best interest for the house to look pretty and for me to be well turned out.
9. Tim is a grumpy sod and I’m an over anxious control freak, we both know and accept this.
10. We argue. I’ve always been one to get things off my chest and speak the truth. Tim prefers to bury his head and carry on like every thing is ok, but usually arguing wins through.
11. I once threw a cucumber at Tim’s head (his football skills came in handy as he did a super fake dive) and he once threw a hairbrush at me.
12. Tim is super laid back, to the point of inertia. I’ve had to learn that somethings will just never get done. I’ve also learnt that to get things done we need a slow build up of gently nagging flowed by a full blown paddy.
13. Once when I’d been admitted to hospital Tim dashed home to get some essentials for me. I’ve almost forgiven him for coming back with a hairbrush in one pocket and a pair of knickers in the other.
14. We would both argue that we’re the better driver and I still maintain that knocking the wing mirror of his brand new car or getting another one stuck in a gate do not count as a crash, unlike the time he reversed into a member of our anti-natal classes car or drove into that woman in Batley when I was showing him a picture in a magazine.
15. I’ve never felt more proud of Tim as I did when he carried my Grandads coffin down the aisle at his funeral or when he recently stood and read a poem at his mum’s.
16. The way to my man’s heart is definitely through his stomach, unless it’s mackerel carbonara.
17. Tim prides himself on bringing me breakfast in bed most Sundays, but to get the said breakfast in bed it requires at least an hour of me huffing and prodding him.
18. Tim is still trying to learn that when I’m upset, cross or anxious I don’t need an answer I just need an ‘awwwwww’ and a hug.
19. Having (literally) dealt with the fall out my uterus caused twenty years ago he’s once again at the mercy of it as it drags me kicking, screaming, sweating and crying through the menopause.
20. I will never have matching crockery or a full set of glasses as Tim breaks at least one item each week.
21. Tim likes sport, Tim needs to watch all the sport, especially football. That’s ok as if he takes the little one to watch the football that’s a free Saturday for me, and I’ll always nod off before match of the day starts.
22. No matter how annoying Tim’s family are we both know that no family can be stranger than mine.
23. We have blue jobs and pink jobs. Blue jobs are the jobs I don’t want to do.
24. When we lost our babies I was so sad and upset for such a long long time and Tim just wanted to make me happy. He still does.
25. I say the wrong things at the wrong time and have a temper like a ferocious dragon. Tim has had to pick up the pieces on many an occasion and has got me out of more than his fair share of sticky situations.
26. Tim was once nearly beaten up in a pub one New Year’s Eve when I pulled the tail off a man’s lion costume and handed it to him to hold.
27. My anxiety has lead to some quiet bleak episodes but somehow he always understood and supported me. When I’m in a full blown anxiety driven panic he’s the one who knows how to calm me down.
28. When I was pregnant Tim used to go and buy me McDonald’s milkshakes at two in the morning. Likewise I once had to park my car in a very dubious area and go and find him in a grotty take away whilst wearing my pyjamas at a similar hour.
29. He will never accept that I’m poorly, and when I broke my leg he made me walk over a pebbled beach towards the car before he took me to the hospital. A few years later, when I broke my arm, he sat me in the bath and went to buy a Christmas tree before he’d take me there.
30. When he had appendicitis and been ill all weekend I did just drop him off at the hospital doors on the Monday morning.
31. We are on cats number six and seven and once had a goldfish called Simon.
32. Tim doesn’t like drawing attention to himself in public, whereas that’s what I spend the entirety of my life doing.
33. I’ve lost my wedding ring twice. Once it turned up in a bag of spinach in the bin, the other time it turned up six weeks after I’d lost it on Valentine’s Day, in a puddle, in a car park!
34. Tim hates his elbow or Adam’s apple being touched and I can’t bare him touching my feet or little fingers.
35. He must be crazy and Sagittarius cos I’m a Leo and I’m hilarious (little nod to the Housemartins there)
36. We love each other unconditionally.

Here’s to the next twenty one years 😘

Advice to my daughters.

Don’t scrimp on haircuts or shoes, always spend as much as you can afford on them.

You can be anyone or anything you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Find someone who adores you just as you are and loves you just as much as I do, like I did with your dad.

Be kind.

Don’t wear chipped nail polish.

Always wear good knickers.

Don’t save anything for best, wear it, eat it, drink it, who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Eat plenty of fruit, but remember smoothies rot your teeth.

Take your make up off before you go to sleep.

Always be the better person, don’t ever give anyone a chance to speak badly of you.

Never be knowingly underdressed.

Instant coffee isn’t real coffee.

Get out in the fresh air at least once a day.

Don’t worry about being too fat or too thin, too tall or too short. Love yourself as you are.

And if you can’t love yourself as you are, change it.

A fringe always looks good.

Live in the present, don’t worry about what’s going to happen or what already has.

Surround yourself with things and people who excite you.

Lipstick only comes in one shade worth buying, and that’s red.

Don’t leave it until you’re too old to have a baby, they’re hard work and things don’t always work out as you’ve planned.

Look after your sister.

Work hard but remember to have fun too.

Don’t waste time making your own pastry.

Leopard is a neutral.

Look after your mum, she loves you more than you’ll ever know.

Game Changer

What was your interiors game changer, the moment you found your style?

Our first house was a little cottage and it was tiny. It was the nineties and it had quite a look, very ‘Changing roomsesque’ with lots of bright colours, stencilling and lime washed wood. We had a blue checked sofa, a plump yellow arm chair and lime green towels from Habitat. We worshiped at the alter which was Ikea. We loved that house, we even had our wedding reception in the garden there, but when we had to start putting the pram outside to put the high chair up we knew we’d outgrown it.

We bought our run down wreck of an Edwardian house with no money spare for renovations and a very demanding baby. We had one week to clear the main living room of graffiti, nicotine stains and beer bottles before we were to host our daughters first birthday party. Then we ran out of money.

The kitchen consisted of an old grease encrusted free standing gas oven and a sink unit with a sloping concrete floor which had been painted red. There was a rusty freestanding bath in the bathroom, bare floorboards and woodchip wall paper hanging off the hallway walls. The front room had a hole in the wall where the fireplace used to be and the paint splattered bedroom walls were the things nightmares were made of. We had to bide our time and learn to live with it, we had no other option.

Slowly we moved into rooms and began to renovate them, but the sheer scale of the house terrified us and we lost our nerve. So at first we played it safe. The beautiful green living room you see on my insta was painted pale cream, with curtains the same colour (I can’t bring myself to admit to magnolia) The dinning room was pale blue and BEIGE (yes, I know!). Nothing could be bought off the peg, everything had to be made to measure so we wanted to make sure they’d stand the test of time. It was all a little bit boring to be honest and certainly not us.

The game changing moment, the time the house first began to find its feet and personality was when we went dark in the dinning room. We’d had the paint mixed to match a sofa I’d fallen in love with. Tim hated it the whole time he was decorating but when he’d finished it felt so cosy and dramatic, bright colours just popped against it. We’ve never looked back. The dark grey of the dinning room was quickly followed by the rich green in living room. Then came the pink fridge and turquoise walls in the kitchen then tiled floor in the bathroom and all the stuff, the Pompoms and fairy lights, the cushions and the plants. We’d found our style. A quirky eclectic riot of colour.

So my advice is don’t try to do it all at once. You have to grow into your style. It can’t be bought as a job lot, or off the peg. A house which has evolved over time will have so much more personality and a style which is truly unique.

I

The heart of our home.

A post I wrote earlier this year made me reflect on this battered old pine table. The table was made for us and delivered here the very day we moved in, almost twenty years ago and the whole of our family life has revolved around it ever since.

As first it seated two rather tired, grown ups and a longed for baby sitting in her high chair. This was a special baby, a baby the grown ups were told would never be theirs. She was spoilt rotten and her every whim pandered to. She was a princess and she was enveloped with love. She was such a clever baby, she could do all the animal impressions by the time she was nine months old, and was firmly deciding what she would and wouldn’t eat soon after. She wore the grown ups out.

The table witnessed tears and heat ache as the grown ups waited for a brother or sister and had their hopes dashed time and time again, but eventually it had a Moses basket resting on it with the most beautiful baby girl inside. She was just perfect, smooth olive skin, spiky black hair, and the chunkiest legs you’ve ever seen. And she was such a good baby. She just laid their sucking her tongue while the grown ups still dashed around after her bossy big sister. The grown ups were so very happy.

The table was covered in newspaper for the girls to paint on, and make play doh jam tarts on, both girls learned to write on it, and if you look closely you can still see the indentations. The girls did their homework on it and revised for SATS, GCSEs and A levels there too. It was covered in blankets and was a den, and it was a wagon when the girls and their mum got chased by red indians.

Seven different cats have clawed at the rattan seats on the chairs and patiently waited for scraps under it as the family ate.

It held thirty three of the girls birthday cakes and witnessed birthday parties from carrot stick and egg sandwiches to dark fruits cider and dough ball fights. It strained under nineteen huge turkeys and homemade Christmas puddings and didn’t get bored with the same Christmas pass the parcel game every single year.

It entertained friends and family old and new, best friends and boyfriends. Hosted dinner parties, afternoon teas and buffets, it listened to chat as cups of tea and coffee were drunk around it and nonsense after too much wine.

Decisions were debated and and paperwork completed and the four became a five. It was a hard, difficult step, but still the family sat there. When things weren’t working quite as planned each week a family meeting was held and new rules agreed upon and soon the five began to work well.

Exam results were celebrated and cried over there. Student finance applied for and halls of residences decided on. The five became a four once more. The grown ups were excited, proud and sad.

It was danced on on more than one occasion and stormed away from on many more.

What other space could even come close to the title ‘Heart of the Home’?

This is me; a house in days.

I really enjoyed starting my blog earlier this year, and had some amazing feedback from it. I shared some tough experiences which I hope explain who I am. I’m proud that my stories gave comfort and strength to others who are going through or have been through similar experiences. Recurrent miscarriage, death, loss, parenting a special needs child and dealing with the resulting mental health issues and anxiety was tough, they were hard stories to share but I’m ok you know! Well I’m a bit eccentric as my father in law likes to say but I can still be happy and fun and I hope that’s what you’ll find here.

My Instagram account is interiors based on the whole, but you may have noticed I do like to tell a tale too. So to coincide with joining Stephen over on @alfredontheboy as a permanent co host I’m going to give it a relaunch. The prompts which Stephen sets are fun, quirky and eclectic, but for sure they always lead to a good story. The idea behind the hashtag is to be mindful; to really think about what we’re posting and the stories behind our homes. You can post every day, once a week or three times a day, it’s up to you. There are three monthly winners, one for consistency, one for inspiration and one for originality. I like the fact it makes me think of new things to write, as I do love to write, drawing from my experiences (and I will admit to using a little artist licence at times!) I always try and link it to playing along with other hashtags too, its really easy to do as our prompts can be bent and made to fit to lots of things, it’s up to you to be as creative as you like.

I’m going to see where the prompts take me with this blog. You know I’m an over sharer and always have a story to tell. As is the vibe with this hashtag, I might post everyday or I might post once a week so let’s just see what happens.

I’d really love it if you would subscribe to my blog and if you left a little comment I’ll love you forever and may even bake you brownies.