Destruction is progress

We got the house on Wednesday. The house which we’ve been waiting for for six weeks. It was surreal walking to get the keys, knowing that we now owned this whole house and yet we weren’t going to live there.

Unfortunately J had a work meeting on Wednesday afternoon so we had a really quick look around then off we went. Feeling like we were visiting to decide if to buy again but also talking with real plans for the first time. ‘Tomorrow we’ll…’

Thursday was our first chance to really get our hands on the place. Tools in hand, working clothes on we trotted off to discover and explore what it actually was we’d bought. Starting with peeling back the carpets. Unfortunately one floor is rotten, we think they didn’t vent it properly when they laid an extension slab out the back. Still better to know now…

Otherwise just getting the carpets up and beginning to get rid of some of the dust and actually airing the house! I don’t think the previous owner opened it up quite so much… Or vacuumed. It was a good day with a lot of progress, pulling carpet up is surprisingly satisfying.

By Friday morning the previous day’s exertions were making themselves known, a grizzly back, sore arms, dusty eyes. Thankfully the excitement of finding more and pulling more back was stronger. This time we started at the ceiling, the ceiling in the room where the roof is leaking… And yes it is definitely our roof which is leaking. Leaking roofs are not cheap.

The rest of the weekend has been spent meeting neighbours, pulling wallpaper off, ripping up the garden, we had a 6ft bramble in there along with *a lot* of ivy. Today we burnt a lot of it, I do enjoy a good fire. We also knocked down the odd concrete wall in the back garden with the help of some good friends.

There is so much more to do, but as we progress I need to make sure I remember where we started. And that the key thing now is that ‘destruction is progress’. So destruct we shall.

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In the middle time

I realised last I left the house purchasing stuff at waiting on paperwork. Well the paperwork went through and we exchanged contracts, so we are now in the middle time between having committed to buying the house but not owning it until a few more months because we agreed on a delayed completion.

Time to worry, plan, fret, dream and such like. It is an odd time, one where there is impending work but the exact details of which we don’t actually know. So many decisions to come. It is exciting of course, but scary too, like standing on the edge of the precipice and looking down and not being able to see the bottom…

So Pinterest has become a good friend for ideas. I have begun perusing websites I hadn’t seen before, begun looking at magazines in dentists waiting rooms which are *all* about kitchens. Who am I turning into?! We’re getting there, taking tiny steps in the right direction, zig zagging a bit here and there and inching closer still to being home owners. Exciting times.

Allotment!

Embracing the true spirit of now living in the suburbs we have signed ourselves up for an allotment. This it would seem is either going to be madness or genius. Yesterday to show our intent to actually do something to this allotment we went down there and started to discovery what it is we have actually signed ourselves up for. One short hour of digging and trying to pull out the weeds and grasses which had covered the raised beds and we were beginning to feel like we might be making a little progress. I imagine by next weekend it will look nothing like how we left it, the space we made will likely have been devoured by the weeds we didn’t fully remove but the fight has begun.

To be completely honest we have no idea what we are going to do with this or how. However now we have it we shall have to learn!

When we arrived it looked like this

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After the hour it looked a lot more like what you would expect from an allotment (or to our eyes at least)

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Both photos taken from approximately the same angle. One of the more exciting discoveries at our allotment was some rhubarb! Which is one of my favourites. So now to decide what to attempt, to clear it up even further and to work out what the hell we are doing!

If anyone knows of any good allotment blogs please point me in their direction!

Cooking and some cookbook recommendations

We’ve been cooking again, really cooking. It has been glorious. Finally trying new things, creating delicious dinners, odd but tasty leftovers and everything in between. Partly this is because we’re trying to be a little more frugal so cooking at home is the way forward. Partly this is also because for my birthday this year I received three wonderful cookbooks. I love cookbooks and often flick through them for inspiration but I recently realized that I was getting into the habit of falling back to cook what I knew, rather than trying new things. So new recipes from new cookbooks it is.

The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy This is a beautifully written book with fabulous images to accompany the recipes. Recipes from across the middle east which I really like and inspiring flavours and colours.

The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage  This is almost as much a reference book as a recipe book. Full of a huge number of recipes, some variations on a theme but all simple, straightforward and most importantly delicious. I made a lamb and aubergine stack last weekend which was yummy.

Ottolenghi by Yohan Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi  I’m sure everyone has already heard about this but this cookbook is a delight. Full of great flavour combinations in the recipes, straightforward, good instructions and beautiful mouthwatering illustrations.

Ottolenghi

Getting lost in the house purchasing maze

The purchase is still ongoing… We have filled in a lot of forms. We have spoken to solicitors, estate agents, surveyors, an architect and countless friends and family about the purchase. The latest hold up is our mortgage provider not telling us they needed additional documentation and then wondering why we hadn’t provided it when I called to ask how everything was going?! Grrrr.

We agreed with our vendor to do a delayed completion. I had no idea this was even an option before we heard about it. Basically we’ll exchange contracts sometime soon and then next year we’ll actually complete on a set date. This gives us time to plan which is most important as there is a lot of planning to do.

In the meantime we’re going to move from our current place to another one, closer to our new house and *shock horror* outside of London! We’re going to be proper commuters, in the main because to afford anywhere vaguely like what we were after we have had to make the decision to make the leap. I’m sad and excited. This is the next step in our life, the next place after the next one will be one we own and that is just immense, overwhelming. On the flip side we moved back to England to be in London and then are moving away from it. That bit I’m sad about. We’ll still be in the city, coming in for work and seeing friends up here, so all is not yet lost.

The whole affording to live in London is a conversation we’ve had many times over, both between ourselves and with friends. Some of the house prices I see astonish me, it is eye-watering to see how much it costs to get so little. Concerning too, I do wonder how long this can all last. But that is a longer discussion and probably one best over a bottle of wine with some heated debate.

Next steps

We’re currently trying to buy a house. We said that when we came back to the UK we would buy somewhere that was ours and was somewhere that we wanted to live and we could paint the walls and make it look and feel like *ours*. Then between April and the end of September my work travel went mental again and I was hardly ever around to even try and look for a house.

We kept getting asked about when we were going to buy a house and we kept putting it off. Until one weekend we finally got to go and look and realise what we could afford and what this all actually meant.

Now, we’re beginning down the long journey. Offer accepted, solicitors involved, survey done, ticking things off one by one. I’m learning something new practically every day and having to work out what all this new language is. That and having to spend the most money we’ve ever spent in our lives. It’s going to be a journey. We have very much made it that in our decision to purchase somewhere which is quite the project. Way to take the easy road.

I have a feeling this little corner of mine might become more about house renovations and trials and tribulations of such than anything else. However that will be my (our) life for the next many months so apologies in advance. If, and when, I manage to get to this space I apologise now that it will be considerably focused on houses and DIY.

It is both equally exciting and terrifying to be embarking on this next step.

It’s been a while

I haven’t really felt like blogging. Haven’t really felt like the things I want to say can be put into such a public sphere. I don’t know when my head changed about this, about when I felt like this wasn’t the place to say some of the things I want to talk about, but it happened.

There’s been a lot going on. I think we’re through the other side of the move tumult and life feels more settled. London is my city again, the city I come *home* to and the city I feel happy in. Work is there, complexity exists in my work status but nothing which can’t be worked through some how or other.

I’ve been travelling a lot in the last few months too. Since April 15th I’ve spent about 7 weeks away. Pretty much all of it good travel including two wonderful holidays which I really should write about.

All of this is to say that I think I might be ready, might be ready to try and put fingers to keyboard a bit more again and start revisiting my little corner of the internet again.

Thoughts from the airport

I’m currently in Dallas Fort Worth airport waiting for my flight to Salt Lake City. The sun is setting through the windows and I’ve found a quiet corner to while the time away. Airports are kind of funny places in someways, at once so transient and yet always there watching people come and go, seeing the emotions, the ups, downs and everything in between. That and the fact that quite often you get stuck in them for more hours than you might care to be and have the time to think, dream and switch off from day to day life.

I’ve been in DC since Wednesday, working and catching up with friends. It’s funny, everyone asks me if I’ve missed it and the truth is, not that much. The people yes, very much so, but living in DC I don’t really miss. It was odd going back though, at once so familiar and yet no longer mine.

I was nervous before coming over, I wasn’t quite sure why but there was definitely an unsettled feeling which came over me a few days before flying. It was fun though and nice to be back. It really is a lovely city and right now at it’s most beautiful. I’m looking forward to returning again with J, hopefully in the summer, a trip longer than 2 nights when we can really enjoy being back.

And now on to Salt Lake City, the home of the Mormons, the Rocky Mountains and apparently a lovely city. I’m looking forward to exploring somewhere new. Those itchy feet of mine have been on familiar soil for too long it would seem.

Lemony courgette pasta

This is one of my all time favourite dinners. So simple, quick and tasty. Recipe:

2 largish/3 medium courgettes
1 lemon
1 small garlic clove
Chilli (if you want)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Linguine/tagliatelle/spaghetti

Take a vegetable peeler and peel the courgettes into ribbons in a large bowl. After each one is peeled drizzle over a generous drizzle of olive oil. Zest the lemon into the bowl then cut in half and juice. Grate the garlic clove in (I find this helps to spread it around a bit more plus saves me chopping it). Add the finely chopped chilli, more olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix around and put to one side.

Courgettes

Cook your pasta, al dente if you like, or however you enjoy cooking. When the pasta is about five minutes off heat a saute pan or frying pan and quickly saute the courgette mix, try to cook so there is still some bite in the courgettes and you cook off a little of the garlic and the lemony/olivey/courgettey juice too. Drain the pasta, add to the pan and swirl around so it gets coated in the lovely juices.

Serve with a large heap of grated parmesan and maybe a glass of red!

Dinner

 

Moving and sorting (forever sorting)

We’re getting there. Slowly but surely things are getting sorted and it feels like finally this is home, this is where we live. Although of course the sorting, jeepers, there is so much to go through to sort, to do. The whole process makes me think that we need less. Always less.

There has been a lot on the internet recently about less, from ths excellent New York Times article Living with Less to Sui writing about clearning out her wardrobe and an old post by Peonies about living with only 33 items in your wardrobe (including accessories!) Each time I have read something along these lines I have thought about the concept and liked it, yet never actually done anything about it. Until this move.

Somehow this move came at the right time in my life. We sorted, we started sorting about a month before the actual move and have kept on going until now. So far we have taken 11 bags of clothes to the clothes recycling bin, 3 boxes of stuff to a charity shop, sold a lot of furniture in DC and not replaced it all here. Thrown away an awful lot of stuff. Sorted, resorted and shredded a lot of paperwork and just generally begun to get stuff in order. It is quite astonishing how much two people can acquire and what you really actually need.

To be honest it has been  a delight having our kitchen stuff back and I am so enjoying my cookbooks, pans and other kitchen gadgets. Cooking is one of life’s pleasures. But it has also been so good to have finally got to a point where my wardrobe doesn’t overwhelm and sadden me. I can see what I have (or don’t have). I am wearing the stuff I do have, each piece of it, no matter how ‘special’ that piece may be and I am looking forward to buying less but better when a piece of it finally dies.

Moving away from this relentless consumerism has felt refreshing, we have everything we need and I no longer need to buy. Instead we can save, we can spend on holidays, meals, experiences.

I am hoping that this whole long experience of moving and sorting and sorting and sorting will be  turning point. That somehow I will manage to keep on this track, to avoid the relentless acquistion culture shoved in our faces all the time. To keep our house freer of clutter. To get that kick out of getting rid as I have found myself getting. We’ll see but for now I am enjoying the small amounts of serenity this is bringing.

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