Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Life, Lately | April 2019


Welcome to spring! With the beautifully sunny Easter holiday we've just had, it really feels as if the seasons have turned a corner.

I tend to go into serious hibernation mode post-Christmas, and as a family, we had a couple of setbacks at the start of the year - serious illness and bereavement in both sides of the family.

And so it has felt like 2019 got off to a very slow start. Finally, everything is feeling fresher and brighter.



A Design For Life


For several months now, we've been planning to make some major changes to our home.

When we bought this place, four years ago, it had bags of potential - but not much else. A three storey Edwardian building that was previously three bedsit flats, we saw past the acres of magnolia woodchip wallpaper and scruffy brick fireplaces and tried to image the beautiful family home it could be.

Ever since then, we've been working away on the transformation, tackling very unglamorous projects like having the piping system buried into the walls, replastering, and having the roof replaced, always with the goal in mind to do a couple of large building projects.

I would love to say that we're making progress with that, but the reality has been far more painful and complex a project than we anticipated. We are wanting to add a downstairs rear extension over the site of what was previously a freestanding garage, to turn our current kitchen into a larger, open-plan kitchen/family room with doors out to the garden, and a utility room and downstairs loo.

Last year, our next door neighbours approached us to do the project jointly, as they wanted to do a similar thing to their house. We had an architect come round, draw up the plans and appointed a building firm, but things stalled majorly when it got to planning permission.

As it stands, we have had two potential designs refused permission to build. We then decided to pay for pre-application advice on a third revised design, which is now in once again.

Everything involving the local council has been torturous and severely delayed, and we've been through every emotion - delight, fury, despair. The whole saga has been rumbling on since last November and we still don't have a final answer!

It's been so bad we even seriously considered moving instead and looked at a couple of houses, but we couldn't find anything we loved enough, and actually, it made us want to realise our vision for this house even more, as it could be amazing.

At this point we are sort of resigned to our fate and hoping that there will be a way forward - and stuck in limbo once again awaiting an answer.

So there isn't anything exciting yet to show, but the process has been such a big part of our lives over the past few months that it would be strange not to mention it.

We're also looking into the works needed to turn the existing third floor of the house, which is currently two bedrooms used as a playroom/general dumping ground, into a master suite with a bedroom, bathroom and two dressing rooms. That won't need planning permission, so it may be that we jump ahead and get it done while waiting for the downstairs build to start.

At the moment, pending planning permission, the build is scheduled to begin in August, and hopefully by the New Year we'll have something to show for all the stress.

Four On The Floor


We've really hit our stride as a family of four now, and although there are definitely stressful mornings, on the whole we are really enjoying the feeling of being a little unit.

The bond between our son and daughter is absolutely lovely to watch - my little man is so kind and protective towards his sister it makes me the proudest mama ever!


At three, Theodore is hugely entertaining. He's so imaginative and plays wonderful games, plus he has a great sense of humour. He loves to go on bike rides and build houses and vehicles using his Duplo. Anything cars and dinosaur related and he's happy!


Romilly is now eight months old and she's such a happy and relaxed baby. She has really started getting on the move now and is crawling a little, but only backwards! I'm in no great hurry for her to really get going though. She can say ‘Mama’, ‘Dada’, wave and shake her head no, and she's a great little eater who loves all the food we give her - especially Daddy's homemade pizza.

I've been wrapped up in organising her christening, which we're going to do as a sort of ‘welcome to the world’ party to celebrate her birthday as well.

I'm definitely a Facebook mum bore, but I really don't care as my children just make me so happy. At one stage in my life, I couldn't have seen myself wanting to be called ‘Mummy’, but it's my favourite word of all now.

Family Days Out


The recent nicer weather has brought us out of hiding a little bit, and we've had a couple of lovely days out with the children.



Manor Farm Park is based about twenty minutes drive from us, and I've taken the children a couple of times for their ‘Toddler Tuesdays’. These are great events where they lay on activities for children, including crafting, animal handling sessions, and storytelling where they feature an animal the kids can meet.

There's also great indoor and outdoor play areas, and a farm shop cafe that serves delicious food. The whole thing is big enough to be interesting, but small enough to easily get round with small children. Of course, being a farm, it's very seasonal and the animal stars are always changing, so I'm sure we'll be back before too long.


We also went with Sebastian's sister and her husband, and the kids’ cousins, Annabel and Jude for a day out at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Of course, I'd grown up seeing the stunning property feature in countless films and TV programmes, but I'd never appreciated before just how breathtaking the Chatsworth estate really is. There was so much to do for the children, with a working farmyard and a huge adventure playground to explore, miles of beautiful countryside, and for the adults the history of the house itself and the beautiful boutique shops and cafes in the former stable complex are well worth exploring.

We had an amazing day that all of us really enjoyed. Theo can't be torn apart from his cousins at the moment - he's at the age now where he really wants other kids to play with - and Romilly was a little angel and sat happily in her pram, meeting the animals.

They sell off birds from the farm once a year, so we may be back just to add to our aviary!

Easter Celebrations


The Easter holiday really felt like an event this year, largely due to the amazing sunny, hot weather in the UK - almost unheard of here on a public holiday!

There was a really happy, holiday vibe in the air and we made the most of Sebastian being off work, and practically lived outside. On the Friday, we went to visit Seb's sister with all the family and cousins. They went mad in the garden, having a huge water fight that left them all completely soaked but very happy.


On Friday night, I had a rare evening out with some friends. We went to The Botanist to enjoy live music, cocktails and a good child-free chat, and then onto Zinc for a nightcap. I had a truly lovely time and it was great to be ‘adult Sarah’ and let my hair down a bit - literally and figuratively. I was having such a good time I didn't really take any photos!


On Saturday, we spent most of the day in the garden playing with the kids and testing out the new hammock. We also took a trip to local farm, where we got three new chickens to join our flock. We choose a Copper Blue Marin, a Black Rock and a Light Sussex hen to join our Nero and Ranger hens (whoever knew I could get this interested in breeds of chicken!).

The new arrivals were named by Theo - Skinnylegs, Skye and Sula. They seem to have settled in well.


On Sunday, Theo was super excited when he woke up to look out of the window and see if the Easter Bunny had visited (cue me, shuffling round the garden in my dressing gown hiding eggs at 6am!).

It was so much fun to watch him get his bunny ears and Easter basket and go hunting the trail in the garden. In the afternoon, all the family got together for dinner at my mother-in-law's. There were 19 of us including seven young kids, so a bit mad but such good fun.

Then on Monday we took it easy with a trip to the park and local shops to get ice cream, and then firing up the pizza oven in the garden in the evening. The Perfect Bank Holiday weekend.


Baby Body Journey


So, eight months in and I'm over the moon to report I am finally back into all my old clothes. It's been such a journey, and I really don't mind admitting that.

With my first baby, I didn't put on very much weight other than my bump and it came off quite naturally, whereas this time has been harder. I added a lot more weight while I was pregnant this time, probably because I was so tired (pregnant with a toddler and a full-time job is a total wipe-out at times!) and I stopped exercising about three months into it, other than a bit of Pilates.

Although I was able to be a bit more patient with myself, I did have times where I felt very down about my body after Romilly was born. I tried to make the most of it and think positively about my body and what it had done for me, but I just didn't feel comfortable.

Getting back to myself took a lot more effort this time, and I had to do various things. I started off by trying to get back into running, but there were a few limitations to that.


Then I discovered hot spin classes and weights! I've found something I genuinely enjoy doing and I've been at hot spin three times a week ever since.

A huge part of it is also diet, and I have been keeping a close eye on what I've been putting into my body. I've found simply healthy swaps to make in a lot of my evening meals - things like using courgetti instead of pasta and swapping to Quorn mince.

Lately I've been doing the Fast 800, which has worked really well for me - it's the updated version of the 5:2 Diet, which is the only diet I've ever been able to stick to.

It hasn't been easy at times, and I still have a few more pounds and some toning to go until I'll be happy, but I'm really enjoying feeling more like my old self and having my wardrobe back.

I'm Watching… 


We've been into the Netflix series Russian Doll recently. It's like a quirky, modern take on Groundhog Day starring Natasha Lyonne, who is fabulous in it, so I'm eagerly anticipating a second series of that.

Like most other people globally, I've also been absorbed back into Game of Thrones since the Season 8 premiere. I can't believe we've invested so many years into the world of Westeros and it's all coming to an end - there will definitely be a big hole in my life when it's all over.

I'm Reading… 


Sticking to my habit to try and read a couple of books per month has been a fun challenge, and thanks to the BookBub newsletter, my virtual bookshelves are groaning at the seams.

I've read a whole pile of things since my last update, but the standout ones were Two Brothers by Ben Elton - a WW2 epic that I really got immersed into, a couple of great thrillers - The Rumour by Lesley Kara, about how gossip can be truly harmful, and finally, The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. I must be the last person on the planet to read that, and I've seen the film so I knew what happened, but I still enjoyed the book!

I also read the history ‘The Covent Garden Ladies’ by Hallie xxx - a look into the brothel demi-monde during the 1700s that the series ‘Harlots’ was based on.

And now I'm on to ‘Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud’ by Shaun Considine, which is a telling of the famous rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the Golden Age of Hollywood - I love books about that time and place, the glamour it still holds all these decades later.

I'm Listening.. 


I haven't been coming across a whole lot of new music recently, but I have been enjoying a two new artists to me - the dreamy electro-pop of French For Rabbits - if you like things like Warpaint, this could well be your vibe - and the album ‘Fear of Falling Asleep’ by Tender has been on repeat on my Apple Music.

It's very much slow and hypnotic, sort of perfect for the long, warm days we're having right now.

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