And we’re back in the room!

Just one week on from my last blog (this is getting a bit much, can I really keep up this regular blogging lark?) and we have come a LONG way.

We have a floor, and a working oven, and paintwork nearly all finished. We plugged in the kettle and toaster in the kitchen today, after 3 months of them being in the living room, and we had dinner cooked in the oven last night.

And here is the room as it looks today:

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A temporary sink and worktop have been put in, but we’ll still be without a hob for another 3 weeks until the proper worktop is fitted. Trying to work out what we can cook in the oven *without* needing a hob too is an interesting challenge – we can roast veg, but not if it needs parboiling first.

No bechamel sauce, no sautéing onions…but it did occur to me I could make rice pudding if I wanted to – and that would tick one of my ‘autumn comfort food’ boxes, too, though what I really crave is a big home-made vat of winter veg soup, preferably with carrot, butternut squash and lots of cumin in it.

We’ve also had a big success with the finishing work in the garden this week – a new patio and garden path have been laid, a huge improvement on what we had before.

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The lawn has taken a bit of a battering, but a bit of lawn seed and we hope to get it looking better soon (though I have my doubts it will recover much over winter).

I was a little bit aghast when I saw how much lawn had disappeared under the new garden path, but I knew I would love it once I got used to it – and already the trip down the path to the compost bin is much less of a hassle than it used to be. And a good wide, flat path makes a great surface for toddler scooting and bike riding practice.

Also here’s a view of our funny little side return and new back door –

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Actually a lot bigger than I was expecting, I’m hoping we’ll find room for some useful garden storage if I can find something very slimline or compact. At the very least, somewhere to stash a watering can or two.

We also have a downstairs loo taking shape – no door yet, and the loo has not been plumbed in yet, but the sink went in today.

We found a really compact corner sink which still had space for a cupboard below, (somewhere to stash the loo rolls!); I think it’s a really efficient use of space, but we failed to consider whether the wall we were fixing it to was strong enough to bear the load of a wall-hanging sink! Whoops!

Luckily the plumber managed to install it to his satisfaction, so I think it will be OK, but children will have to learn not to hang off it or try to climb it – a lesson there for anyone installing a cloakroom or downstairs loo, I think.

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The plumber also plumbed in the dishwasher for us, and having given it a spin tonight, I am lost in admiration at the shininess of our cutlery (I’m easily pleased…) – just goes to show that our old dishwasher, which I thought of as a reliable old workhorse, was actually ready for the glue factory. (It did have a good innings, though, it was at least 20 years old, if not more!)

What’s on next week? Washing machine arrives (woo hoo!), decorators should be finished, and the patio will be sealed, which I hope will mean we avoid the very annoying flaking off and crumbling that ruined the poor patio in the old garden. Then nothing, until the worktop is ready and the final finish of the kitchen units can begin.

And in the mean time? I’m going to spend a lot of time standing in my kitchen, staring at the lovely view of my garden, enjoying the afternoon light and the sunsets. And maybe knock up the odd rice pudding…

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Almost there…and yet not quite

This week was the big one. Our kitchen units started to be assembled on Monday, and on Wednesday, the kitchen window and door finally went in. This was the moment I’d been waiting for – finally the room starts to look like a proper room, and finally we can get back into the garden.

That first view of the back of the house was an exciting one…I am still amazed at how smart it looks, with all the render painted white instead of murky cream, it feels really fresh and clean. I hope it keeps that look for as long as possible!

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Then we had a chance to examine the garden itself and see what had survived and what might be on its last legs…the raised flower bed has been swamped by marigolds, unsurprisingly, and the new heuchera I planted there seems to have vanished, but my other two heuchera are doing very well.

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The herb bed has gone to seed and needs a serious overhaul, and my window box which used to house the herbs I used most often, near the house, has completely given up the ghost, as it didn’t get enough water. I need all-new Herb Solution – to me, there’s no point growing them if they aren’t used regularly in cooking, (except for lavender which I love anyway and would always grow for the scent alone) and for that reason they should be convenient and near the house. The plastic window box is a bit of a shabby solution, though, I’d rather have something that looks a bit nicer.

Coming up next on the garden agenda is a new patio and path, as what was there before is now beyond repair. We thought this was worth doing before winter sets in, and is a relatively small add-on to the general chaos we’re living with. Still to be fixed is where the washing line will go, and if we have room for a water butt. Oh and a new back gate….

In the mean time, we’ve done the first bit of garden tidying in nearly three months today, slightly hampered by the fact I couldn’t find *any* of my secateurs (and I own at least three pairs!) – they have disappeared somewhere in the garage out of sight. But we could get hold of my loppers, so I could do a bit more of the heavy-duty chopping back – although using loppers to dead-head a rose feels a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

Then we come to the inside. Besides the kitchen units going in, the walls are being painted, downstairs loo tiled, and floors going down any day now. We can really begin to see what a nice room it’s going to be.

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What’s the snag? The snag is that once the carcasses of our units had gone in, only then could the kitchen fitters make the final measurements for the worktop, which could finally be ordered. The people doing the job of measuring up were booked in for Friday…but they didn’t show up, and it turned out that although the appointment had been confirmed to us, it had never been confirmed with *them*. So, no worktop means no hob or sink for at least another month, the earliest they can put it in.

Several cross words with the kitchen fitters later, we are hoping they will either speed up their delivery time with the worktop or put in a temporary sink for us. We’ll wait to find out what they say on Monday. In the meantime, all the other finishing-off work continues as planned and fingers crossed, we’ll have a room we can actually start using soon, even if it’s missing the kitchen sink.

Here, anyway, is the kitchen as it looks right now (with fridge temporarily plugged in in the middle).

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And here is the finest looking thing in the garden right now, a creeper which has wound itself around the olive tree and turns an amazing shade of red in the autumn. Dear old garden, it’s nice to have you back in my life.

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Furnishing a nursery, the shambolic way.

There are plenty of things to feel guilty about as a parent – too much screen time, not enough fresh air, distracted multi-tasking parents leaving toddlers to their own devices, the list goes on – but one thing I can’t bring myself to feel ‘guilty’ about is the rather chaotic state of my daughter’s bedroom.

It is, of course, no concern of hers that none of the furniture matches and the curtains and carpet have seen better days – as long as she has a comfy bed in a snug, secure, well-ventilated room with all her toys around her, what does she care?

I will, however, admit to feeling a bit ashamed that her room is such a mish-mash of styles and inadequate storage. We haven’t done anything with any of the bedrooms since we moved in, bar putting pictures on the walls and clothes in the cupboards – the rooms were all decorated neutrally and the previous owners left their curtains behind, so decorating the bedrooms has been bottom of the list in terms of priority.

Where I’ve been particularly slack is in sorting out proper storage for the toddler’s room. It is an odd shaped room, above the garage, with irregular walls and pipes sticking out in awkward places (though it also has the advantage of a bay window with a deep windowsill, facing south and east, which lets in heaps of light).

The odd corners and alcoves would lend themselves to built-in furniture, and I’d like to hide the ugly pipes, but ultimately, eventually, the toddler will probably move into one of the two larger rooms and this room will be the spare room (as it is big enough to take a double bed, just). So there is no point building in toddler-friendly toy cupboards or drawers unless they can function as adult storage later on.

What we have instead of sensible storage is a motley collection of objects – starting with an inherited, rickety three-tier shelf unit which houses everything from socks to nappies to jigsaw puzzles. This unit really ought to house ornaments and delicate objects but frankly I just don’t know what else to do with it.

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The only really sensible bit of storage is a plain and uninteresting chest of drawers – but which, no matter how often I tidy it, never seems to have quite enough space for everything. I’ve allowed some bulky items – winter coats, old grobags, spare towels – to overspill into a wicker hamper, and more things are in boxes under the bed – I just don’t see an end to the quantities of stuff I have to find homes for!

We also have a bookcase which has previously contained bibs, toiletries, and bags of cotton wool, now starting to fill up with toddler books – but I needed to find a home for my more precious childhood paperback books which were in danger of getting damaged by toddler hands.

We found these shelves from Great Little Trading Co to be a good solution – this picture shows one of a pair, also adorned with various pieces of toddler artwork and other ornamental bits I would like to keep out of her hands.

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Above the shelves is a glimpse of the bunting I made whilst waiting for the toddler’s arrival – hand sewn, very laborious. I also found time to embroider the picture below during her early months – not quite sure how I did it, but I will confess I cheated slightly to try and get the French Knots right.

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I am perhaps most fond of the mobile which hangs over her bed – five hanging birds made by me from a Crafty Creatives kit (from Box 10), which might possibly be my favourite crafty thing I’ve ever made.

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There is also a monkey I painted myself, from a kit my mum gave me – he would look better hanging from the ceiling somehow, but I haven’t worked out a way of suspending him that we won’t knock our heads on all the time!

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When I look round her room, I do feel the special and handmade objects in the toddler’s room slightly make up for the disorganised state of it – at least it’s quirky, and full of things you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, and whilst I’m never going to be an expert at dressmaking, knitting or quilting, I can take pride in having decorated her room with things I’ve made myself, which she might (hopefully) treasure for years.

My long term plans for Improving This Mess so far include starting a Pinterest board for future design and storage ideas, a way of assuaging that parental shame that her room does not resemble the beautifully decorated nurseries I’ve seen elsewhere. I am keen on the idea of book slings, which seem to be an easy-ish project I could attempt myself, but I also like the Ikea hack I first saw on Gill Crawshaw’s Baby on Board blog, using Ikea spice racks painted in fun colours as instant toddler-friendly book storage.

I doubt very much that any of these ideas will be put into action in this current bedroom – it will probably happen when the toddler moves to the larger room, which has the space and potential to be organised as a practical and fun room for an older child.

The remaining question is whether we tackle one bedroom at a time or do a big swoop on them all at once (and move ourselves into the back bedroom at the same time, with the toddler going into our current bedroom). After the big renovation work downstairs is done, the short answer is that we are in no hurry to do more right now – so the poor toddler is going to be stuck with her shambolic room for a little while longer. Sorry, love – your chance will come!