Creating our dream kitchen

Those of you who have been following my blog will know that back in December I decided to do a DIY job on the very dated kitchen we inherited when we bought our house.

grey shaker charcoal kitchen cabinets

With a baby on the way I suspected that we wouldn’t have either the time or the money to have it totally refurbished, so I set about the painstaking task of painting the kitchen cabinets, the tiles and the walls to update it as best I could. Looking back, I can’t quite fathom where I mustered up the energy for this and would say that the maternal ‘nesting instinct’ is definitely not a myth.

Six months on, and all that work seems very futile indeed – since we decided on a complete refurbishment afterall! I like to tell myself that the DIY job I did gave us a glimpse of the potential and spurred us on to take the plunge. Either way, I can’t get too upset about it – I am now an expert on how to prime your kitchen cupboards and which paintbrush works best with tile paint. Life skills. And I also have a fantastic new kitchen!LG American style fridge freezer in modern kitchenlight grey shaker kitchen cabinets with charcoal island

We put a lot of thought into the design of the kitchen, which was a complete renovation and included knocking down walls to create an open plan kitchen-diner. For the look and feel, we knew that we wanted something modern but also something that would stand the test of time. After numerous visits to various showrooms, purchases of home magazines (I could read them all day!) and endless Pinterest boards, we decided on the shaker style kitchen cabinets choosing a light grey colour (partridge) for the wall units and charcoal for the island. We settled on white quartz for the worktop speckled with silver to add a touch of glamour. Traditional oak eight-seater dining table with white high-back chairs

We incorporated modern fixtures and fittings including brushed metal door handles and mixer tap to add a modern feel, and continued this through the appliances with an integrated double oven, an American style LG fridge-freezer and a touch control ceramic induction hob with a glass extractor fan. The splashback behind the hob is aubergine-coloured glass which adds a flash of contrasting colour to create a bit of a feature (it’s also so much more practical and easier to clean than the tiles I’ve previously been used to!) We completed the look with a dark grey vertical radiator which we sourced online from Best Heating. We also bought the roman blinds online from Roman Blinds Direct. The floor is Amtico in Mirabelle Creme which gives a brilliant stone effect – it’s extremely practical and easy to clean (or *ahem* it hides the dirt well when you don’t clean…).

tall vertical grey radiator in kitchen

For the dining area we chose a traditional eight-seater oak dining table with cream canvassed high-back chairs and invested in a statement glass pendant light from John Lewis which really sets off the entire room.

We won’t be moving house for a long, long time.

Modern kitchen accessories, statement kitchen light

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Recipe: Super-quick salmon stir-fry

I can’t take credit for this – it belongs to Jamie Oliver. But I make it so often I think I’ve earned the right to share it with you. I always keep some salmon fillets in the freezer and pull them out for this when I realise it’s 7.30pm already, and I need to eat before I start turning into a diva (i.e. Monday-Friday). Think healthy fast food.

super-quick salmon stir-fry

It doesn’t really matter which veg you include – I use whatever I have in my fridge, or you could just add one of the bags of pre-made stir-fry veg if you really do want to save time.

Ingredients (serves 2): 

200g basmati rice

2 salmon fillets (Jamie dices his, I just leave mine whole as I’m lazy like that)

1 crushed garlic clove

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger finely cut (or I use the ‘Very Lazy’ ginger – see the theme here? Fiddling around peeling ginger frustrates me)

1 fresh red chilli finely chopped

bunch of fresh coriander – leaves picked and stalks finely chopped

1 heaped tablespoon Pakta’s tandoori curry paste (or I use whatever curry paste I happen to have in my fridge – it all tastes just as good)

Half a 400ml tin of coconut milk (this is soooo much cheaper if you pick it up from the ‘foreign foods’ aisle in the supermarket, rather than in the section with the noodles, stir-fry sauces etc.)

Handful of mangetouts

Handful of bansprouts

1 lime

 Method

Cook rice according to packet instructions. Add the garlic, ginger, half the chopped chilli and coriander stalks to a wok on a high heat. Stir for 30 seconds and then add the curry paste and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the salmon, cook for a minute or so, then add the mangetout (or whatever stir-fry veg you have) and coconut milk. Let everything cook for a couple of minutes and season to taste.

Drain the rice and divide between your serving bowls before spooning the salmon and veg on top. Halve the lime and squeeze over the juice. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves and chopped chilli. Jamie also sprinkles on crushed peanuts if you like that sort of thing.

Don’t thank me, thank Jamie.

8 things I won’t be doing if I have a second baby (and won’t be feeling guilty about)

As with everything first-time around, being a first-time mum is a little daunting – you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing and you have a lot to learn. You can ask for all the advice in the world (and will no doubt be given it even if you don’t ask), but the only way you’re really going to learn is once you’re actually ‘on the job’.

8 things I won't be doing with a second baby

Yet once on the job parenthood tests us – we suddenly have a real human being who we are completely responsible for, and the pressure (along with hormonal urges) to be the perfect parent can sometimes get the better of us. We’ve hung on to every word in the antenatal classes, we’ve read up and watched videos about everything we’re going to need – and we’re ready to put it all into action. But after a couple of months of finding your feet, you soon realise that what works for you and your baby isn’t necessarily what you’ve been advised ‘is best’ – and it’s your right to throw the rule book out of the window.

I feel that I’ve already learnt such a lot on this crazy journey of parenthood and here are some of the things I won’t be doing if I have a second baby.

1. Stress out about breastfeeding

Throughout pregnancy I felt I was constantly educated about how breastfeeding will give my baby ‘the best start in life’ – with every leaflet, antenatal class and visit from my midwife there was another reminder that ‘breast is best’. And I really did want to make it work.

Yet when Taylor first latched on I couldn’t quite believe how painful it was – and with every feed I got more sore and the pain became more and more unbearable. In the end we introduced a couple of bottles as I was so sore I couldn’t bear the thought of Taylor latching on again, but then my milk production slowed right down and I ended up expressing alongside feeding to try and increase it again – meaning that I hardly got a minute to myself (day or night).

Not being able to breastfeed made me feel like a failure and like I’d let my daughter down. I kept thinking (and was advised) that if I kept at it, the pain would get less, and the production would come back. But neither happened and one day I just decided to stop. Once I made that decision it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve never looked back since. I like to think that I might try it again, but I certainly won’t beat myself up if I can’t.

2. Try to maintain a tidy house

When you’re the one at home all day whilst your husband is out earning the dollar, it’s difficult not to feel a little judged when he walks through the door at 7pm to a bomb hole. In those early months I couldn’t grasp the fact that I had absolutely no time to ‘get things done’ – pretty much every minute was spent holding, feeding, or rocking to sleep a screaming baby and any time I did have was spent madly dashing around the house trying to clear away the carnage we were leaving in our tracks. At the time you can’t imagine this is ever going to end, but it does – a few months in and you’ll have a much more content baby who is happy to be put down and take a nap. Housework can wait until then – embrace the moment, cuddle up and realise that your life isn’t yours for the time being.

3. Worry about establishing a routine early on

At some point during the first couple of months I started to try and get Taylor into some sort of routine with her feeding a sleeping. Endless times did I try and rock her to sleep in her crib, only to give up 45 minutes later, put her in her bouncer and watch her fall asleep straight away.  We made up endless bottles of milk that went to waste, convinced that she must be either hungry or tired, ‘why won’t she stop crying??’ Around three-four months something just clicked. Perhaps Taylor finally got used to being on a 24 hour clock, or I just got to know her better and read her signals, either way I hope I’ll be less frantic if there’s a next time – babies will find their own routine eventually, and it’s very little to do with you.

4. Care what people will think when she’s making a scene

As a new mum I often felt as though I was surrounded by ‘perfect parents’ with ‘perfect children’ and when Taylor would have one of her hissy fits I did feel as though I was being judged by those around me for not being able to comfort my baby. I’m sure this was entirely nothing to do with other people, and everything to do with my own lack of confidence in what the hell I was doing.

At every postnatal class I attended with her, it seemed as though she was the only baby ‘acting up’ and would scream the place down until I finally had to leave. I did feel as though other mums were probably thinking ‘she’s obviously tired, hungry, wants a cuddle’ etc, but I soon came to realise that when Taylor was like that, nothing at all would calm her down. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection at 11 weeks and had to stay in hospital for three nights for intravenous antibiotics. After she came out she was so much happier. She still of course has the odd meltdown but I’ve learnt to deal with the fact that babies often disturb the peace – and other people will have to deal with that too.

5. Have baby sleep in our room until six months

nursery baby's own room

I know that the guidelines tell us six months, and I would’ve stuck to this had Taylor not been such a restless sleeper. It was either us waking her up, or her waking us up – either way, none of us seemed to be getting any sleep. Taylor would thrash around in her crib bouncing her arms and legs off the bars like a caged animal.

I started to put her into her cot in her own room for her daytime naps (as she refused to go down in her crib) and she seemed to instantly prefer it. She then went through a phase at night of constantly spitting out her dummy and crying for it back – I would be up all night putting in back in to try and prevent an all-out melt down. We endured this for a couple more weeks until our health visitor suggested we try her in her own room at four months. She seemed so much more content from day one. And I am a much nicer person now that I get to sleep.

6. Buy a separate changing bag

Don’t get me wrong, I love our changing bag and I do use it all the time, but I love my leather handbags more. I now realise that my changing bag is just a big bag with lots of pockets – of which I already own plenty. I don’t even use the bottle warmer/cooler compartment which came with it as it’s pretty rubbish compared to my separate AVENT one which was bought for us as a present. I could be £70 better off.

7. Buy lots of newborn clothes

There’s nothing quite so tempting as browsing cute newborn clothes when you’re nine months pregnant and super excited about the imminent arrival of your little one (apart from perhaps a box of Krispy Kremes). But trust me, you really don’t need much.

Aside from the fact that your newborn will live in nothing other than babygrows and vests for the firsts few months of his/her life, your family and friends will have it covered. Yes, everybody else loves cute newborn clothes just as much as you do and you’ll be amazed at the amount of gifts you’ll receive.

8. Sterilise bottles after six monthsavent bottle steriliser

Okay, so I’d be fibbing if I was to say that I don’t do this anymore – at seven months I still do. But this is really because I find the steriliser a good place to keep all of those ugly bottle parts which would otherwise be making a mess of my cupboards.

I do however struggle to see the logic in sterilising the feeding bottles of a baby who is now deemed okay to drink tap water from an unsterilised beaker – and I won’t be judging anyone who has done away with the steriliser altogether. I’m sure I’ll be doing just that next time.

Super Busy Mum
MaternityMondays

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Life before Google

Life before Google

  • You carried a dictionary and thesaurus in your schoolbag
  • You had pen pals and bought fancy writing paper for your letters
  • You used to hold the AA route planner print-out on your steering wheel as you tried to drive
  • You actually had to leave the house to buy your Christmas presents
  • And your groceries
  • Encyclopedias were actually read
  • You would keep the negatives of your holiday photos – just in case you lost the prints
  • You had to look interested in your nails when your mate/date popped to the toilet
  • You had to have awkward conversations on your parents’ landline with potential dates
  • You would send out party invitations in the post
  • You visited HMV every Saturday
  • You found jobs in your local paper
  • You’d spend half of your life listening to ‘on hold’ music on the phone as you tried to book trains, concerts, holidays…
  • You owned a cheque book
  • You took at least five paperbacks on holiday
  • Hours would be spent getting to the next level on Tetris

 

You Baby Me Mummy

10 newborn essentials that will make your life easier

I’m not going to lie, the first few months after having a baby are hard work. Alongside the utter joy and unconditional love that you experience when you return from the hospital with your newborn, is the daunting realisation that your baby needs you around the clock and you can say goodbye to life as you knew it before – at least for the time being.

10 newborn products to make your life easier

Being a person who likes routine and structure in my life, I found it quite difficult at first to accept that on some days the breakfast dishes would go unwashed, or I would go for days without cooking a decent meal.  I am also a person who likes my sleep, so when sleep suddenly turned from a necessity into a privilege, I did find it hard to adjust. Obviously Mr M was a huge help, but on his return to work I did feel rather overwhelmed at times.

Rest assured though that this period doesn’t last forever. I now have a happy, contented six month-old who will happily sit and inspect her finger food (whilst I wash the dishes) or play with her toys whilst I prepare a (decent) dinner. I even get to sleep through the night most of the time! I now look back on those frenzied few months with a smile and think about what a would do differently if there was to be a second baby.

The baby market is so saturated with gadgets and gizmos that it’s really difficult for a first-time mum to know where to start. Which products do you really need and which do you just think you need? I had some brilliant advice from family and friends and really came to appreciate some of the products we invested in. Other products I decided to go without and regretted, or I’ve discovered them since and wish I’d known about them before. Continue reading

A day out at Packwood House National Trust

We became members of the National Trust a few months ago and have already had so much out of our membership.

Previously, on those weekends where we didn’t have much planned, we would perhaps drive into town to spend money on things we didn’t need, or spend the days ‘getting jobs done’ around the house, which frankly is never fun. Now we (I) scour our National Trust handbook to see where we should go visit for the day.

Packwood House National Trust

Admittedly, Mr M isn’t hugely into the history (I like to think I am), but we both love the outdoors and we are both lovers of England and all it has to offer. The National Trust has certainly made us appreciate more of what’s on our doorstep and all of those great places at home you never think to visit.

A couple of weeks back we decided to visit Packwood House, which is not far from where we live. Once described as ‘a house to dream of, a garden to dream in’ Packwood House certainly offers dreamy escapism and there’s something quite enchanting about both the gardens and the house. There’s plenty of countryside to explore as well as various gardens and a newly restored kitchen garden which immediately makes you want to go dig up your back lawn and start ‘growing your own’. The Yew Garden is also quite spectacular – I can’t imagine how many hours it must take to keep those trees so perfectly pruned!

yew garden packwood house

After the gardens we took a leisurely stroll around the lake which has plenty of great spots for a picnic (as usual we hadn’t gone prepared). We also passed a couple of Packwood’s ‘Follies’ – a series of playful artworks created by artist Hilary Jack, which I imagine are great for older children to explore. This had-carved wooden bed structure is one of them – a nod to ‘a garden to dream in’ and (apparently) famous beds in history, folklore and fairytale (so I read).

Packwood House Follies Embedded

Following our morning of exploration, we headed into the Garden Kitchen Café for a bite to eat. We were pleased to discover that afternoon tea was on offer so of course took full advantage of this, stuffing our faces with clotted cream and scones. Taylor may have even been treated to a few cheeky licks…there were of course much healthier options available with everything made fresh – the soups and sandwiches looked particularly tempting (although obviously not as tempting at the cream tea!)

Packwood House lake National Trust

Stomach’s satisfied, we took a tour of the house which was restored in the 1920s and 1930s by Graham Baron Ash who created his own vision of the perfect Tudor house. The house is kept as when he left it in 1941 and as you walk around the house, you really get a feel for the great care and attention to detail that went into the restoration. Highlights for me included the Great Hall (where I think I would’ve enjoyed a party or two!), and the bedroom where Queen Mary stayed when she visited the house in 1927. Mr M, as usual, was rushing me around the rooms, so I didn’t get to take in as much as I would’ve liked, but if you have a thing for Tudor houses, then this is your place.

All in all we had a great family day out and really enjoyed all that Packwood has to offer. I’m sure we will be returning again this summer with a picnic blanket in tow.

Packwood House entrance sign

Life Unexpected