June 8, 2023

Kitchen Project - Middle and Middle

 Progress has been made!  Where once we had this totally functional corner:

Now we have this totally yuck corner:
On the plus side, we have theoretically added about 3 inches of space to our kitchen by removing the disused pipes and trunking.  On the minus side, it turns out that the counter was actually holding up most of the tiles.  When speaking to the handyman he suggested we just get the corner plastered and painted rather than trying to tile it again. So now we are waiting for the plasterer to get in touch.  

I am slightly worried this is what it will still look like in 6 months, but I will be more patient than a week. We are just going to paint it white, and then  put the full size fridge freezer there.  Currently the half size freezer is back as a makeshift counter.

I disassembled the large drying rack to gain some counter space.  It has reverted our kitchen to the previous awkward layout with clean dishes next to the cooking space, but at least we have a prep space to the right of the sink now
One thing that has always bothered us about this kitchen (besides the size) is why the draining board is to the left of the sink.  I think it's because the family before us had a full size fridge freezer where we have those open shelves and they wanted counter space next to the fridge, but it means there is a super awkward small workspace between the draining board and the stove.  We are getting a quote from the handyman to replace the worktop and flip the sink around.  It would also be centered under the window then, which would be an improvement too.

So, we are waiting for quotes and plasterers.  I have a mental budget of under £1,000* for improvements that will last us 5 years.  We are at about £250 so far so I'm hoping that we can get it plastered and a new sink and a new counter and dishwasher installed for under that price... but we will have to see what happens.

*not including price of dishwasher.

June 7, 2023

Wednesday Updates

There are other things in my life besides the kitchen!  Here are some updates:

Kindle: I got my Kindle to work with Libby and I managed to download and read my first book! I read Love Lettering by Kate Claybourne.  It was pretty good, but not as good as Nora Goes Off Script, which I really liked.  Also, I can't read too many lovey-relationship stories in a row.   I also had to start putting books on hold on Libby in addition to Audio Books so I'll have to keep an eye on that holds list.  

Reading: I started listening to The Family Firm by Emily Oster and I feel like she has written the book I was going to write when I thought about stuff more.  I also decided I would enjoy reading it more than listening to it so I returned the Audibook and now have to wait approx 14 weeks for the Kindle book.  I've stated listening to The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen which I'm not sure I "get".  It was recommended on an episode of What Should I Read Next by someone I didn't really relate to so I'm not sure I'm onto a winner... but also it won a Pulitzer so I should probably give it a go?  I'm not very far in yet, maybe it gets more funny / engaging.

Weekends: We have had some epic weekends.  Not epic in the form of climbing mountains or anything, Epic in the form of really fun.  Last weekend we went to the bike park and had one of Isaac's friends over after.  On Sunday we had two different friends stop by with their kids while we put together the climbing frame in the garden.  We got the paddling pool out for its last jaunt (two of the three rings have died).  The sun has been out for WEEKS and it's soooo nice.

Planning I've been using an Erin Condren Daily Duo.  I love the layout and design and stickers... but it's huge.  I don't have that much daily planning to do.  My days are very similar.  It's nice having a place to put daily to-do lists but I don't feel like I'm using it to it's full potential.  I think if I was in the US I may be able to sell the July-December.  Because it's dated I feel like I either need to use it (not very well) or just abandon for a bit and go back to a pseudo-bullet journal that I used to use.  

Clothes: I've been ordering from Vinted recently.  I bought 4 pairs of jeans (mini-boden!) for £12.  I got a new pair of Fat Face Pyjamas for £13.  The site is basically ebay before ebay turned into a weird cross between Amazon and AliBaba (IMHO)

Have you used Vinted?  Is the sun out where you are and are you having an epic almost-summer?

June 4, 2023

Kitchen Project: Before and Middle

Kitchen project is continuing.  This weekend, I emptied the entirety of the cupboards which are (hopefully!) coming out on Monday:

I also emptied our makeshift larder/pantry (the cupboard in our dining room):
Then it was time to figure out how to get it all back into the cabinets, ideally in a way that was usable and sort-of made sense
I did throw away some apple cider vinegar that expired in 2019 (although does vinegar expire?) and some sesame oil which expired in 2017.  I would love to be a person who cooks delicious asian food.  I love asian food! But, I do not cook asian food.  And asian food needs its own ingredients, like sesame oil.  And right now we don't have room to have more ingredients - we don't really have room for the ingredients we do use.  So I tried to be more ruthless about what stays in our house and what gets thrown away or donated to friends.

We do keep a back-stock of Bob's Redmill Cornmeal, because you can't get it in the UK, and because it is delicious.  We also have one of the largest collections (unconfirmed/probably not true) of Trader Joe's spices in the UK for the same reason. 

I did get everything back in, although the seasonings/condiments/breadcrumbs/salt(?? misc??) shelf is hard to view and will just need to be checked before we buy more ketchup or mustard.  I found we had two unopened ketchups. 
The next project is going to be sorting these open kitchen shelves, once we eat down our apocalypse store of pasta.  There is too much kitchen real estate being given to baked beans at the moment:
I am a bit nervous about losing this counter space - it is the largest counter space in our kitchen.  However, we will make due and hopefully the addition of a dishwasher means we won't be using counter space for drying dishes anymore, which should definitely be a net gain.
You know what takes up more room than I want?  Bins/Trash Cans.  Why so much trash can needed?  Also, this counter is a total bodge-job from the previous owners - It's higher than a normal counter, so there are two small pieces of counter holding it up.  It used to have a boiler underneath before we re-did our heating system.  The panel on the side against the wall used to enclose the boiler pipes, but is now empty.  We could get 2 more inches of space if we took that out, but the border between "inches of space" and "trashing the kitchen" is very fine.

In case you're wondering, this is our whole kitchen, from January.  We have packed about as much storage as possible in here, but will probably try to build an extension someday.  

One of the things that makes the kitchen awkward is that there are 3 doors and 1 window in the small space.  But, within the confines of what we have, we've definitely made it work well since we bought the house 6 years ago.

Have you ever done a major kitchen remodel?  What about a minor one?  What's the biggest improvement you've made to your kitchen since you bought your house?

June 1, 2023

Kitchen Projects - Before and Before

We are finally getting a dishwasher.

I have wanted a dishwasher for years. My first plan was to move the washing machine "somewhere else" and put a dishwasher there.  The options for "somewhere else" and associated costs were as follows:

Build an extension (£50,000+)
Remodel upstairs bathroom (£10,000+)
Put in current bathroom (£500, but need dodgy builder because this is technically illegal)
Convert downstairs bathroom to utility room (£3,000+ and loss of bathroom)

Unfortunately, the good ideas were not financially viable, and the financially viable ideas were not good.

I realized that if we remove a counter and two cupboards from our kitchen we can fit a full fridge-freezer (right now we have a under counter versions of both).  This option should be less than £500 (quote coming on Monday) and means we get a full fridge freezer (no more bending over!) and a dishwasher.

So, we need to say goodbye to this messy corner:


More importantly, we need to empty out the two cabinets.  This is not as easy as it sounds - we have a very small kitchen with many many things in it.  On Saturday I started the emptying process:

The left cabinet has baking supplies.  I decided to be a decanter and put as much as possible into Jars which we can put on our over door shelves.  It's gone OK:
I know labeling jars is silly, but I also know paper taped onto the side is not my favourite look:
I have no plan of action for the right hand cabinet - tea/coffee supplies and random spices and cooking seasonings:
And I also think far more kitchen real estate has gone to tupperware than I would like:
So, it's a work in progress. But I am getting somewhere!  One of the big considerations now is "how much of x do we really need in our kitchen?" During Covid we started ordering things in bulk because going to the store was awful.  At one point we had over 100 pounds of flour in our house.  Every time I would go to Lidl I would stock up on everything.  But now I'm more aware that space is the limiting factor for our kitchen, so perhaps we are better served by keeping less stock and re-buying more frequently

It's weird how quickly the "stock-up" mindset came in, and how tricky I'm finding it to change!

Do you like your kitchen?  Do you have enough storage?  Are you a stocker-uper or a buy-as-needer*?

*I know Gretchen Ruben calls this Underbuyer and Overbuyer, but who is to say what the right level of buyer is?  If there's an under-buyer shouldn't there be a "buyer" who does the right amount?  I think these are different forms of shopping, not "under" or "over" shopping.

May 27, 2023

Bank Holiday Saturday & House Projects & Meal Planning

 I feel like I'm on holiday a lot lately - but 3 bank holiday Mondays in one month can do that for a person.  Thanks King Charles!  This Monday is a bank holiday (not memorial day.  Late May Bank Holiday maybe? Spring Bank Holiday?  

The sun is out and today we spent half the day at the beach and half the day at a friends farm, culminating with a BBQ in a firepit.  Everyone is tired.  Kids fell asleep in the car on the way home.  Sand everywhere.  The beach was suprisingly quiet even though it's half term (school holiday) and a long week end AND the sun was out.  

Downside, Lilah got carsick on the way.  We were using the rear seats of the 7 seater.  She kept saying "I'm tired" and I think she meant "I don't feel well" because suddenly - much sick.  In good news, we had a whole bag of clean laundry in the car and she had a blanket on which caught most of the mess.  She perked up when we put her back in the middle seat and we may not use rear seats again for a while.

In other random news, I finally got a kindle!  Very excited.  I think I can put Libby books on it - I know you can only do it for US based accounts but my Libby account is based in my US library so I'm hoping it will work.  I need to spend 10 minutes setting it up.  Then I can get all the books! Not just the audiobooks! Yay!

As an update for 'Make our house more suited to our needs' project, we donated a loveseat to charity and now have a much more functional small room for kids to play in.  We also have finally decided what climbing frame to get for the garden and are going with this one:


Instead of a ballpit at the bottom we will probably make a sand pit.  We need to figure out how to keep the cats away.

We had our FLOM on Friday and planned meals for next week:

Sunday: Salmon & Potatoes
Monday: Mac & cheese with ??? can someone suggest a main to go with mac and cheese?
Tuesday: Egg sandwiches & home fries
Wednesday: Jacket Potato & Beans
Thursday: Chicken Gyros
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Out to dinner with Andy (hopefully! Everyone ended up ill last time we had a dinner planned)

What are you doing for Memorial Day/Bank Holiday?  Any recommendations for good kindle reads...? I've been thinking I want to get into a good sci-fi/fantasy book.

May 25, 2023

School Schedules and Childcare and Time

We are in the process of sorting out childcare/school schedules for next year.  Isaac has gotten into the school across from our house (yay!).  Right now he attends nursery 4 days a week, where we can drop off anytime after 7:30am and pick up anytime before 6:00pm.  Sometimes we drop off at 7:45, sometimes at 9am.

What I realized about school is that it starts at a certain time.  Every day.  You can't drop of early and you certainly can't be late.

In 2020 I got on the wait list for after school club, and this week we were informed there were two spaces available: Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  We also found a child-minder for Monday afternoons and Thursday Afternoons.  I wasn't sure how much childcare to take - we certainly don't need 4 full days plus 1 school day.  

However, I soon realized that it's always possible to reduce the amount of childcare one has, and often difficult to increase it.

For now we have decided on 4 days of "full" childcare and 1 day of school hours for Isaac, and 4 days for Lilah.  Andy will be taking off Fridays to spend with Lilah (and Isaac after school) and I can go back to full-time work starting in September (right now I'm on 80%)

School is going to be such a different experience for everyone.  I don't know how working parents manage - I only found out today that I have 4 full days of cover in 3 months time.  I could have had 2.  Or none.  

I'm also aware that lots of working from home parents have made the decision to not do after school care and instead pick up kids from school and have them at home while they finish off work.  Andy and I both have decided that we don't try and work while watching kids, and we don't use TV to entertain them either.  This probably makes our life harder.  For us we would rather have more dedicated childcare time.  We don't want to try and manage with less, or have the kids home with us but without our attention.  

I've thought a lot about Emily Oster's Second Best choices article.   I feel there is a push that "at home is best" for kids.  That childcare is somehow always worse than being with parents.  I have to remind myself that's not really true - maybe being at home with me would be best.  But maybe me working school hours, and experiencing the associated career downsides, would drive me nuts.  And that would cause it's own problems.  

Maybe being at home watching TV is second best to being at home, or maybe childcare is second best to being at home because we are lucky enough to afford it.

All this to say, that we are making a parenting decision now which either has all sorts of ramifications or impacts almost nothing.  But at least I don't have to continue worrying about how much childcare we will get in the spring.  The answer is - enough! Yay!

If you are a parent, how did you decide how much childcare you needed for your kids in early school?  If you're not a parent, were you in wrap-around/after school care or did a parent pick you up every day?

May 24, 2023

Galavanting through Wales - Weekend Adventures Again

We had visitors last weekend, which meant I spend the weekend galavanting through Wales. I used to spend a lot of time galavanting.  Now I spend slightly less time doing so.  It made me remember that there is a world more than 15-25 minutes from my house, and that world can be very fun.

Friends arrived Friday night after a terribly long train journey.  Their journey of 2 hours became 6.  I felt particularly bad as my 2 hour London train had become a 4 hour London train the previous day.  "What is the chance the same train will be super delayed two days in a row?" I thought. The answer - high.

They arrived in good form for all their travel.  I couldn't believe I hadn't seen these friends since I left Portland in 2016.  It felt like no time had passed at all.  People are great.

On Saturday we visit Big Pit, which is a former Coal Mine and now amazing museum.  Everyone should visit Big Pit.  Guides are former miners.  I have traveled a lot and never experienced anything like it.

Saturday evening was takeaway curry.  I was full for 3 days.

On Sunday friends were traveling in Inverness (Scotland!) for more great adventures.  Isaac and I took them to Cardiff Castle for sightseeing.  I only took a picture of the keep, but we walked all the way to the top.  It was a gorgeous day.  Everyone should visit Wales in May (when the sun is out)

Finally it was time to take friends to the train station. They are onwards on their big adventure, and I am reminded to have more medium adventures.

Also, can you tell who doesn't watch TV at home?  Isaac was very excited to watch this TV (its a rolling series of ads)

This weekend is another adventure weekend.  Beach on Saturday, friends on Sunday, and an American BBQ on Monday.  Happy Memorial day everyone!

Have you had big adventures recently?  Little adventures?  What is the difference to you?