Category: Living

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!

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.

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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Adventures with Gnocchi

 

For some reason I decided I wanted to try making potato Gnocchi. I have never made it before, it couldn’t be that hard could it?! Well yes, as it turns out there is definitely a knack to it. One which with practice I will hope to achieve.

If you read everything on the web you are led to believe that potato gnocchi is almost like the devil incarnate, it will never work how you want it to, you will always over flour or cause some other trouble. Most recipes recommend an egg, then say that the real way is without an egg. Navigating potato gnocchi land is not so easy.

I found an excellent video on Saveur where the chef Cathy Whims talks you through making gnocchi. It looked easy enough from her video…

So I cracked on, boiled my potatoes with their skins on, peeled them warm, grated the warm potatoes (this was not so much fun, those hot little bastards hurt your fingers) and then mixed in the flour. And this was where it all started going a little wrong… I didn’t use enough flour, not at all. Even with the generous dusting I had put on the counter, even though it came together and rolled nicely it was not really a dough, more grated boiled potato with a tickling of flour.

I didn’t realise this though, they looked like they should they were gnocchi sized and shaped! But upon putting them in the pan for the briefest of time and pulling out gloopy little starchy falling apart-y blobs I realised the error of my ways.

So gnocchi, you had not defeated me yet, I will try again, I feel like this is one of those things that when you master it you’ll never turn back and it seems like a good dinner thing. Onwards with culinary adventures!

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Moved

We made it. After returning from San Francisco we went head first into sorting things out, throwing stuff away, giving stuff away, selling stuff. Anything to try and process everything we had in our flat in Washington. It was both incredibly cathartic doing all that sorting and getting rid and at times hard. There were moments when I had to stop because I couldn’t bear just throwing away things which were still good but we couldn’t fit in our luggage or take with us.

So six suitcases later we arrive at Heathrow, tired, excited and feeling slight trepidation about what happens next. J chose a lovely flat, lots of natural light and space, plus thankfully warm, especially these last few days. The first few days were tough, not so much a cultural adjustment, it all felt very familiar, more a life adjustment. The odd feeling that this was it, we weren’t just visiting like we had been for the last couple of years.

We’re getting there, day by day. Seeing friends, trying to write the long list of people we want to catch up with and balancing it with needing to live a leaner life and within a tighter budget. London thankfully is still the wonderful city I remembered it to be and we are enjoying discovering a new part of it (we’re NW now not SW as we were before).

Now to wait the few weeks (months?!) until our stuff arrives across the ocean and then we’ll all be set!

2012 in review

2012 was a year of travel, a lot of it. It was another busy year, I remember feeling incredibly positive at the beginning of the year, I think because 2011 had been such a tough year in many ways. By mid-autumn admittedly that positivity had dropped, it felt like we were mired in just getting stuff done and dealing with crap.

In short I did the following travel:
2 trips to South Africa
1 to Australia
1 trip to France and the UK
4 trips to the UK
1 trip to Canada
1 to San Francisco
A few nights in New York

All of the above coupled with an incredibly busy work year and no proper holiday meant that by the end of the year I was exhausted, physically and mentally. If nothing else 2012 has taught me how much I really need to look after myself and what a work-life balance is not.

2013 starts with a huge change, we move back to London and have to work out living in somewhere we know so well but which will be different from before. I am hopeful again for next year. I am planning holidays in my head already, we have a friend to visit in Istanbul, we have Italy to explore and we have time to spend together on a beach doing sweet f.a.

I am also looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, keeping new ones and taking the next steps in J and I’s life together. We want to buy a house at some point, we’d like somewhere of our own, who knows maybe that’s what 2013 will hold for us.