29 Mar 2020

Home | A Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

The week of questionable cooking

As soon as we had our first viewing on our house, we knew that we would want to install a new kitchen. Since that point (April 2019 if you’re wondering), we have probably been through about 15 different kitchen ideas, jumping between every possible provider (Ikea, B&Q, Wickes – we did em all) and every possible budget (our lowest quote was £5k, our highest £17k) before eventually settling on our final decision. You could say it’s been a journey.

The kitchen already there was usable but dated and knackered. There was a hole where a dishwasher once was, screws poking out cupboards, a dripping tap that liked to admit a horrible high-pitched wining sound, limited storage space and horrendous orange tiles on the floor which were always cold (I really hated those tiles). We’ve spent the last six months with half our kitchen things still in boxes and it feels really good to have finally unpacked.

Our new kitchen was designed and booked with Complete Kitchens Ely. The best thing about the process, in my opinion, was the fact that they mock up photos of the kitchen for you; it made it so much easier to visualise how things were going to look with actual photos. We had a couple of meetings with them where we picked out the cupboards/worktops etc and they talked us through the final designs, and then we bought the flooring, tiles, sink & tap and white goods ourselves to save on cash.  

The layout of the kitchen is relatively similar to what it was like before only with much-improved storage solutions so we make full use of the corners. We moved the location of the dishwasher (not that we had a dishwasher before – just a big space where the previous owners used to be), swapped a gas hob for an induction, stainless steel sink for a ceramic and our small fridge for a larger, integrated one. 

We also had a breakfast bar built which doubled the amount of worktop/storage space and fulfilled a fantasy of mine. A breakfast bar guys. It made use of all the dead space by the back door and doubled the size of the kitchen. 

We picked out pale blue cabinets, white worktops, pale oak-effect flooring and white tiles with grey grout. The flooring would continue out into the hallway and utility room, and we also planned to rip out the units in the utility room so we could do something with the room in the future; the current units were bulky and unnecessary for such a small room. 

Finally, at the beginning of Feb this year, the fitters arrived on the doorstep and renovation week began. Here’s how it went, with plenty of before, during and after photos:

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Day One

We get an hour into things before a broken valve on the radiator (which needs to be moved to accommodate the breakfast bar) causes a minor flood. A good start. I do a Usain Bold impression in an effort to find a mop. The fitter asks if the child’s t-shirt found down the back of the radiator is mine. No, no it is not. 

I’m told the water will be turned off for two hours max and fill up enough glasses to keep me hydrated for approximately four days. Not sure what I think is going to happen in that two hour period.

The whole kitchen is ripped out by 10am and the electrician spends the rest of the afternoon sorting out the electrics – we’re having two new double plug sockets put in over the breakfast bar and now-defunct old switches and thermometer removed. There’s about four sizable holes in the wall by the end of the day. 

Dinner: Dominos takeaway. No cutlery or washing up required. 

Day Two

The new kitchen is delivered at 7:30am and by the end the day, a lot of the units are in place. The room is overflowing with boxes and dust but even the fitter seems surprised by the speed at which he’s progressing. We discuss handles and the curve of worktops, and I fail to know where the gas meter is. 

Gary and I spend part of our evening bringing in the new fridge, cooker, hob, oven & hood from the garage and the room becomes even more cramped. 

Dinner: Indian takeaway; washing up is done in the utility room.  

Day Three

Gary and I have swapped so he’s now working at home for the next two days and I’m in the office. It’s peaceful, there’s less dust. 

When I get home, we have a working fridge, oven and half an extractor hood installed. Plus some of the doors now have handles. 

Dinner: Tesco’s cook-in-3-mins pasta cooked on a camping stove in the utility room. I chop up some salad whilst sat on the stairs. The glam life chose us. 

Day Four

I don’t see today’s progress until we get home from a night out at gone midnight. The flooring has gone down and oh my does it make a difference. The units in the utility room have been ripped out so there now really is absolutely nowhere to cook or wash up. The washing machine is currently unhooked and the toilet in the utility room has been temporarily taken out so the flooring can go down properly. 

Dinner: Franco Manco after work – my sister got us theatre tickets for Christmas and they’ve coincided with kitchen week. So no camping stove or takeaway tonight! Pizza for the second time this week mind… 

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Day Five 

After a late one the night before, 3 workmen arriving early to immediately start drilling and having banter in the garden directly under the bedroom window is a bit disorientating. The garden has essentially turned into a workshop complete with workbench and a lot of mess. 

The downstairs toilet is put back in place, the worktops go down properly complete with joining, the sink & hob are put in, more cupboard handles are added and some of the skirting boards and plinths are put in place. It’s definitely coming together but they do need to come back tomorrow – aka Saturday – at 8am… 

Dinner: Fish and chips takeaway. My body is really starting to wonder what the hell is going on. What have you done with the vegetables?!

Day Six 

Gary lets them in first thing whilst I hide in bed. We decide to go out for a few hours to escape the noise and spend most of that time buying new things for the new kitchen. Whilst we’re out, the tap is installed, the skirting board and plinths are all finished, the dishwasher goes in, the rest of the hood is fitted and the washing machine in the utility room is re-hooked up. All the various holes in the walls are plastered over. They spend a couple of hours clearing everything out. Apart from a hole in the floor in the hallway where a sunken mat is going to be put in, and the tiles, it is finished. We sign all the various paperwork, discuss the final bill, thank the fitter for working on a Saturday and then spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning the worktops/mopping the floor/gazing at our new kitchen like it’s our first-born child or something. It looks completely different and we are thrilled. 

Dinner: Because things are still drying, we opt for a meze-type situation. There are ACTUAL VEGETABLES involved. We let the oven run for a couple of hours to get rid of the new-oven smell and then give it its first run by heating up some samosas. 

Day Seven 

No work men today! We spend most of the afternoon emptying every kitchen box (some of which haven’t been touched since we moved), sorting through everything and allocating them a cupboard/drawer. It’s like organisation porn I swear. We order a new kettle, bar stools and shelving unit for the cookbooks to finish things off.

Gary puts the dining table back together and we cook our first proper meal in the kitchen which is more complicated than usual as we have to figure out how all the new appliances work and I cut myself twice on the new knives, but hooray real food!

Day Eight

The tiler comes over and spends the morning, well, tiling obviously. Never thought I would spend half an hour gazing at tiles but this is what I do when he leaves. One final guy comes to fit the sunken mat, and the hallway flooring is finished off. 

Since then, we have painted the whole room white (two coats in one day… a lot of painting), put up some shelves to display our cookbooks (this makes my heart really, really happy), added bar stools, a floor lamp in the corner, a new blind and a clock and Ikea peg board on the walls. The little dog print is one I’ve had for yonks but absolutely love, and the heart spoons were a wedding gift which we thought looked cuter hung up rather than being used for their actual purpose. We also have a little gallery wall above the dining table - the ice cream and sunflower photos were both taken by me, the avocado print is from Desenio and the ‘pubs of St Albans’ and the ‘cheese’ prints are both tea towels we were given as wedding presents; both ironed and framed. 

Completely in love with our new kitchen.  

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

Kitchen Renovation Diary

28 Mar 2020

Chasing The Sun

Chasing the sun

Once a phrase used to reference jetting off to some exotic - or at least warmer - location, I now chase the sun around my house. 

In these times of lockdown, when the sun on your face is savoured like an expensive wine, I desperately follow the sun around my house during the day because the jewelled eyelashes, and warm toes and that oh so bright light are everything when it comes to keeping a calm mind and optimistic soul. 

I start outside if warm enough, making the most of the morning rays before the inevitable shadow sweeps across our NE facing garden. I then decamp to the living room, sprawling across the floor as the carpet is alight from the squares of the windowpanes. From there, to the box room where the leather chair by the window absorbs the heat and warms the cockles. And finally to the kitchen, where the evening rays filter across the end of the dining table and where I perch until the sun inevitably disappears; finished for another day. 

I follow the sun around the house as I read and write, make lists and stick photos in albums, bake and hum. I keep chasing the sun. 

As the world stills, as others fight to keep us all going, there is bizarrely a sense of calm. My job is to stay at home, stay where it’s safe, to make it safer for those risking it all. To imagine days where the sun will feel unlimited once again, only this time I won’t take it for granted. 

22 Mar 2020

A Social-Distancing To-Do List

A Social-Distancing To-Do List

I’m doing what I always do when I’m stressed and things are out of my control: I’m making a list. I had a solid plan for this year, but we are now looking at potentially 3+ months predominantly home based. Because we are not dickheads (harsh but true) and because I have increased risk of severe illness should I catch Covid-19, Gary and I are taking social distancing seriously (and I’d be grateful if you could too; it’s not a lot to ask you to stay at home and watch Netflix). I can’t go into the office, I can’t go on holiday and, worst of all, can’t have physical contact with friends and family. So I need a new plan. A plan that can’t involve that much actual planning because who knows how long we are going to be in this situation for.

My new plan is to attempt to focus on the positives and the main positive that I can see at the moment, is that I’ve been given time. Alright, I didn’t ask for it and I’m still pretty peeved that my other more exciting plans have been thrown out the window but there are clearly more important things to be taking priority right now. All we’ve got to do is stay at home.

So here’s my list. A list of things to do now that I have gained back all my commuting time, social time, holiday time, siting-in-cafes-eating-cake time. A list to save my mental-health. A list of projects, of home comforts, of living in the moment; because that’s all we can do right now.

Re-watch all the Harry Potter films – it has been an age since I’ve watched all the HP films and this feels like an excellent opportunity to start making my way through them all again, and hopefully persuade Gary to watch them with me (no he’s never seen them; don’t get me started). 

At-home gels nails – I just invested in an at-home gel manicure kit which is something I’ve considered doing for a while because, whilst I love having gels nails, it’s not a cheap habit so I tend to reserve them for ‘treats’ and special occasions. And, in a weird kind of way, this feels like both. So once it arrives, hooray for fancy nails around the house for the next few months.

Read read read and read some more. And re-read all the Harry Potter books if things get desperate and I am in need of a comfort blanket. My dad bought me a brand new, beautiful set for my birthday (as my old set is so tattered the pages fall out) so excited to dig into them.

Bake cakes and cookies and whatever the hell else because baking is good for my soul. Browse my many cookbooks & cook new recipes on a regular basis (as long as people haven’t stockpiled the ingredients).

Kitchen dance parties – inspired by Beth Sandland – check our her corker of a social-distancing playlist here – all baking and cooking shall be accompanied by some serious dancing around the kitchen. Baking and dancing in combination are extra good for the soul.

Write my book – not all of it, although I suppose it depends how long this situation goes on for, but yaaay extra writing time! 

Life admin – all those boring tasks that I am constantly putting off – clearing my personal inbox, backing up my laptop, sorting through paperwork etc – there is absolutely no reason not to dedicate a Saturday to them right now. I am gonna be so smug come summer when all this is over (hopefully, please oh please) and I can dedicate all my time to drinking and catching up with people with no obligations. 

Finish putting our wedding & honeymoon photo albums together – pretty self-explanatory! 

Regular video calls with friends & family – probably the most important one. Social distancing only means physical distancing; so prioritise video calls with family & friends. I have a feeling I could end up talking to mine more than I normally do, what with everybody being at home with no plans. I’ve had an hour long phonecall and a virtual wine date already this weekend and another one planned for this evening, which means my social life has actually been busier than a non-social distancing weekend.

Finish the house – I mean, we really have no excuse not to paint the landings and hallways right now do we? If the house isn’t finished by the time social distancing is over, I will be unimpressed with our failure.

Couch to 5k – I did have other exercise plans – grateful the government announced social distancing just before I joined a gym – but seeing as they can no longer go ahead, I thought I’d attempt to get back into running outside as long as we're still allowed to do so. The Couch to 5k did me well last time I wanted to get back into running so I’m starting there again.  

Embrace that spring sunshine – being at home and avoiding others doesn’t mean that Spring and those fresh sunny days can’t be embraced. As the temperatures rise and sunny days increase, I plan to sit in the garden with my book or head outside for a walk in the local woodland (whilst avoiding other people obvs). 

Stay safe lads x 

15 Mar 2020

Crikey, What A Strange Week

I think it’s fair to say lads, this week has been weird. Anyone else really want to take a long hard look at 2020 and say what the fuck is this pal?! 

Thanks to that pesky virus currently jetting around the globe faster than Donald Trump can say ‘hoax’, everything seems to be slowly collapsing before our eyes. This week, work went mental, Gary and I cancelled our trip to Berlin, hen-do plans had to be rearranged last minute and some selfish fuckers bought all the pasta in our local Tesco (and stole hand sanitizer from our local doctor’s surgery – who does this?!). And one of our cats – our beautiful tubby purrbag – is no longer with us. Admittedly I can’t blame the last one on Covid-19 but seriously what the hell is this shit

It is all any of us can talk about – and quite frankly, what else is there to talk about right now? Got any plans? Holidays? How’s work? The economy? Oh yes, all screwed over by the virus.

I am trying to remain calm but there is no denying these are very, very strange times. As one of those people with underlying respiratory conditions they keep talking about, I would prefer to avoid the virus like, well, the plague… but the sources of stress right now is mostly coming from the impact on every aspect of life. It feels trivial to be upset over cancelled plans but equally, you have my deepest sympathy if you’re worried about the impact on your mental health. It’s the little things that keep us going after all. 

But people are dying. Jobs and businesses are at risk. We must be grateful for what we have. 

I am trying to focus on the positives: everyone I know is currently in good health. I have a job I can do from home, and my colleagues have a great sense of humour. More time at home will mean more time for the hobbies/house jobs I say I don’t have enough time for. Ryanair have removed their admin fee for changing flight dates. The internet is currently on fire with gifs and videos, providing light relief (check out this video and this video). I have a Netflix account. I already have enough pasta/loo roll in. We have FaceTime and WhatsApp voice notes meaning human connections, even when isolated, are easier than ever. The worry is real but there are reasons to be calm and cheerful. Keep looking for the light. 

Giving you a virtual hug in these disconcerting times. Stay calm, be sensible, look out for others and don’t be the dickhead stockpiling loo roll. 

2 Mar 2020

Five Highlights From February

Highlights From February

There’s something really quite satisfying about the first day of March being a bright and sunny one. Gary noticed this morning that some purple flowers and a daffodil have suddenly popped up in our very-poorly-tended-to garden. Ello ello Spring; is that you babes?

Here’s some highlights from the last month of Winter: 

Kitchen – it’s finally happened! The first week of Feb, the builders descended, our kitchen was completely ripped out and, six days later, we had a shiny new one to replace it. The room looks completely different and it’s made such a difference to how we feel about doing up the house; suddenly it seems there’s not that much left to do! More details on the renovation coming soon. 

Birthday – And that’s 28 years. My birthday was pretty chill; we went for a walk at a beautiful National Trust place nearby (just to truly cement that my early twenties have been and gone), went to the cinema (1917; what a film) and baked these incredible cookies. All in all, a good’un. 

Best man – not only has a fourth wedding been added to the calendar for this summer, my oldest and best pal has asked me to be his best ‘man’. No you cried. What a bloody joy. Stag do and speech prep already in full swing! 

Highlights From February

Highlights From February

Highlights From February

Highlights From February

Highlights From February

A staycation in London – we’ve had tickets to see Bear’s Den at the Hammersmith Apollo in the diary for ages and, as we wouldn’t have made the last train home, we decided to turn it into a mini staycation in London. We stayed at The Hoxton in Shoreditch which I have wanted to do for a really long time. It’s just as cute as the Instagram pictures make out and the food in their restaurant was good, particularly the padron peppers (I’m a sucker for padron peppers). We had brunch at Clerkenwell Grind the next morning which I would highly recommend (both for food and aesthetics), a nose around Shoreditch and a bit of cute cafĂ© hopping. It was great to soak it all in without an agenda or schedule.  

Reading – I sense this year is going to have a bit of a theme of me being excited to get back into things that were neglected in the madness of 2019, and reading is definitely one of them. Time really was in short supply last year and it’s been so lovely to be back into my usual habit of reading a couple of books a week. I’d forgotten how much it calms me and keeps me sane. At this rate, I may actually get through my to-read pile which I’m not sure has happened since about 2009.