Too many hobbies?

I struggle to sit down and do ‘nothing’. My gran likes to tell me that I’m a ‘do-er’ like my mum. Relax, she says. Don’t look for things to do. But I always need something to work towards and I can never decide on one thing…

A hobby: ‘an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time’. My problem: some of my ‘hobbies’ spill over into not being enjoyable or relaxing – sometimes I have so many that they can feel like a list of chores! #firstworldproblems

Is that just me? Much to my boyfriend’s amusement, I am always working on a project or trying something new. I am one of those people who has a home littered with lists of things they want to try and places they want to visit. Maybe I have too many hobbies..

Dance – top of the list and the most spontaneous activity. I dance almost every day. Even when I feel physically tired after work – I can’t resist the adrenaline buzz that comes from movement. And listening to music. It’s my favourite way to unwind. I’m also trying to work towards getting and improving my flexibility in general, which leads me into…

Pole fitness – Since taking this back up just before Christmas, I’m still loving pole. I always look forward to my class on a Thursday evening – even though it can take me an hour to get to it. And YAY – my X-pole arrived yesterday so now I can get extra practice at home!

General fitness – grouping both my cycling and running here. I’m aiming for once a week each but getting back into cycling after the winter lull is proving mentally challenging. I do the local ParkRun most Saturdays, incentivised by the attendance of  friends/family – and bacon afterwards. I’ve already got a charity fun run, charity cycle and a Monster race lined up this year so I really need to get the miles in…

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Piano – I have been playing on and off since the age of 7. After 2 years away from home at university, I missed having a piano so much that I saved up for an electric one which has now moved through 6 houses/flats with me (not without difficulty!). Long (and miserable) story short, I now can’t play for very long without triggering a tendonitis flare-up. I will always love playing though.

Writing/blogging/photography – I love writing, although admittedly I haven’t written much for pleasure since my teens – there never seems to be time! But it’s part of the reason I started blogging. I love the whole creative process of putting a post together, including taking photos. I have a pretty decent camera on my phone and I really enjoy searching for the perfect ‘shot’ when I’m out and about. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a DSLR for a while but it’s potentially a big commitment both in terms of finance and in terms of time spent learning to use it effectively. And blogging – the biggest stalling block is having to sit down with my laptop. I’m not completely desk-bound in work but I still want to avoid being sat in front of a screen for too many hours of the day. Also, using a mouse is a trigger for my tendonitis so unless I’m careful, blogging = wrist pain!

Reading – there’s seems to be a common theme here – things I did before and after uni! I have always been a voracious reader. I can pick up an average-sized paperback, zone out and finish it in a day. That’s come in handy since joining a book club last year!

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DIY and interiors – I just spent a fair chunk of the bank holiday weekend either wielding a drill, a can of spray paint or moving furniture around…

Learning languages – here’s where we start to move into ‘because I think I should…’ territory. I studied French up to A level and over the past 9 months or so I’ve been trying to pick up the language again using the Duolingo app. This free app allows you to practice key words and phrases in chunks, monitoring your progress. I go through phases – some weeks I’ll be really keen and fit in lots of 5 minute practice slots. Other weeks, despite the daily reminders, I struggle to find even 5 minutes of quiet time. Unless I have an incentive, such as an upcoming trip to France, I think I’ll struggle to maintain my progress on this one. The Duolingo app is great though!

Maybe I should focus on one or two activities. But how do you choose when you enjoy them all?!

H x

Sunday Shelf Styling

This weekend was a pretty quiet one – managed to get a couple of items ticked off the DIY to-do list (wild, I know).

This little shelving unit is yet another steal from my parents’ garage. It’s seen a lot of different paint colours over the years – latterly, shocking pink from it’s days above my uni room desk. Not surprisingly, my taste has changed over the years! It’s a little battered and bruised but hey, that’s rustic right?! Took quite a few coats of paint to cover that pink up…

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H x

Bank Holiday DIY: Terrarium

My collection of houseplants started, as I expect most people’s do, with a humble spider plant. It survived all the way through my university years and now sits on my desk at work. Thanks to my Mum and my boyfriend’s mum, my current house is hardly short of plants – I’ve got everything from tiny succulent pots to a palm-like mini tree over a metre tall. I can’t lie and say I’m green-fingered – my boyfriend is usually the one who waters them!

Houseplants seem to be having a big moment in interiors trends. They are great for adding colour and interest to a space. Plus (here’s the scientist popping up!) some of them remove unpleasant chemicals from the air! Succulents seem to be particularly popular right now.

I’d had my eye on a terrarium for a while and a family member bought me a beautiful angular copper one for Christmas. Despite how much I love it, I’ve only just got around to filling it with plants….this was my mini bank holiday project!

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I chose three cute little succulents for my terrarium. I won’t go into detail about how I created it – there’s tons of info out there on the internet (Pinterest is a good start for tutorials :-))

I would consider buying a ‘pre-prepared’ terrarium. This one was surprisingly tricky to arrange. My hand only just fits into the top opening and it took a while to get it looking tidy – the soil and gravel are easily trapped in between the plant shoots. I’m really happy with how it looks though – for now it’s on the window sill in my closet so that I can appreciate it in the mornings when I’m getting ready.

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I have also added this Aloe plant to my collection – a plant with white spots in a white pot is a winner!

Let’s see if they survive….

H x

 

DIY Ikea Kitchen – The Finished Result!

As promised, here’s some photos of our (95%) finished IKEA kitchen.

I talked a little about the trials and tribulations of the DIY process here.

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The kitchen is almost a replica of one of the displays in IKEA Bristol at the time – off-white shaker-style doors (GRYTNAS), speckled black acrylic worktop and grey laminate flooring. We didn’t want the fuss (or expense) of tiling, so we chose these narrow edging strips to border the worktop.

Originally I was very keen on wooden worktops with the white cabinets. After a little research I realised that they needed regular maintenance and have to be treated very carefully to avoid burn/scuff marks. I thought this could drive my boyfriend (who is very tidy and clean, bordering on obsessive!) mad with worry. Wooden worktops just aren’t practical for us now, but I wouldn’t rule them out for a future kitchen….

The kitchen is relatively small, narrow and dark at the farthest end, so I  wanted a simple, relatively clean design and colour palette. White walls open up and freshen the space and complete the calm and bright atmosphere that we wanted from a kitchen. To stop it feeling too ‘cold’ I’ve added small pops of colour from kitchen accessories and artwork.

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I love fun touches like my Edward Monkton Tea/Coffee/Sugar jars (I love Edward Monkton – I have quite a few mugs with other designs on too!). The Fixie Bike Pizza Cutter was one of my cycle-mad boyfriend’s birthday presents from his family this year.

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The ‘Kitchen’ Print was from the lovely Etsy shop Ivory Mint Cards. The moment I saw it I knew it was the perfect wry reminder of the design process – particularly Ikea’s cock-up with the sink measurements! I chose it in orange to pick up the colour of my casserole dish which I sometimes have out on display.

I found this ‘Caffeine Tea’ card in the gift shop of Bristol’s Arnolifini gallery last weekend (from the For Science range) I think it’s a nice nod to our scientific background – it will probably go up next to the ‘Kitchen’ print.

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In addition to the bright accents, my reclaimed wood chalkboard adds a bit of warmth to the space and breaks up the white and grey.

Minimalist purists will notice that, unfortunately, there are a number of different chrome finishes – we went with brushed chrome for the handles, tap and plug sockets, but they don’t match the shiny kettle and toaster that we already owned!

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I kept the wall above the sink free from cabinets to keep the space open. In hindsight I think it would have been ideal to put all the wall cabinets on that side of the kitchen (with the hob) and have the sink on the other side with clear walls to make the most of the light from the window. However we wanted to keep close to the original layout to avoid the cost and complexity of moving services around.

We’ve crammed in as much storage as possible at the far end of the kitchen with a tall cabinet next to the built-in fridge/freezer. IKEA didn’t have the model we wanted so gave us an upgraded one for the same price (bargain!) – unfortunately the design change meant that the false front at the top of the fridge door wouldn’t open against the slanted ceiling. We got around this by using two drawer fronts instead. Not quite as good aesthetically but at least we can access our food!

The future:

  • I’m going to add some slim white shelves next to the boiler to balance out the cupboard on the other side of the sink. We are also going to build in a small wine rack in a gap under the window.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into how we completed the project – we are really pleased with the result!

H x

The Saga of our IKEA DIY Kitchen

Our house needed a lot of aesthetic work when we bought it in 2014. The kitchen was a BIG project – original 20 year old cabinets and poor use of space. Outdated design aside, the entire kitchen was filthy dirty with years of chip fat grease lingering in every crevice. I couldn’t wait to rip it out!

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First things first – removing an old extractor unit with 20 years’ worth of grease!

As this is our first house and we might not be here in 5 years, we wanted to keep the cost down. We were also restricted by  the room layout and the type of house, keeping future potential buyers in mind. It is a galley kitchen and we kept the oven and sink in the same place to save moving the services. We considered keeping the relatively new cooker and under counter fridge that had been left behind. We eventually decided that in-built appliances would not only help the re-sale value, but be a better use of space.

We didn’t go all out on a ‘dream’ kitchen for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.  It’s not the most radical design ever – the worktop, cupboards and laminate floor are all identical to one of the display rooms in the Bristol store! I’d read a lot on blogs about customising with more unique hardware from other stores, but in the end I was so keen to get a new kitchen that we decided to go all-in at IKEA.

I am terrible for diving head-first into projects whenever I have a spare minute. After just a few months I enthusiastically started ripping tiles off the wall. While we were prepared for the hard work of a complete DIY re-fit, I don’t think we were prepared for the amount of time it would take (7 months) or the stress of unforseen setbacks.

The main stages of the project:

  • Remove all tiles
  • Remove all cabinets
  • Move sockets and re-plumb sink to accommodate movements to washing machine and addition of dishwasher
  • Wire in underfloor electric heating
  • Plastering (An unexpected delay. The tiles had been stuck directly to the plasterboard (d’oh) and after they had been removed the wall surface was a complete mess)
  • Decorate
  • Assemble new cabinets and fit
  • Install worktop
  • Finishing details (e.g. splashbacks, light fittings)
  • Lay underfloor heating and laminate floor.
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    Taking over the house with cabinet assembly

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    Father to Son plumbing lessons…

Given this was spread out over such a long period of time, it was incredibly inefficient. We still needed to cook, so things were moved in and out. But the biggest and entirely unexpected delay was with the worktop.

We chose a pre-cut Acrylic worktop. As the name suggests, the dimensions are taken and the worktop is cut to size, including the holes for the hob and sink, in Germany. This means a 6 week lead time. It was a crucial stage of the project and was already holding up the installation of half the kitchen.

Unfortunately for us, when the sink section of the worktop arrived the hole had been cut in the wrong place. The kitchen designers responsible for interpreting our measurements had made an error. (They also use a ridiculous system which is very open to interpretation, but that’s another story). It wasn’t our fault so the bill was on IKEA – lucky for us, as the worktop wasn’t cheap – a third of the cost of the entire kitchen!

It’s a well-known fact that IKEA customer service is terrible and it took over a week to painstakingly explain to them what they had got wrong. The replacement took another 6 weeks to arrive. We had removed the sink on the day of the original worktop arriving, so were without water in the kitchen for the entire time. It was incredibly frustrating!

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Spot the mistake with the sink cut-out….

Once that drama was over, we were able to get on installing the sink (YAY) and actually finish the rest of the kitchen.

Last thing was the floor. Originally it was tiles laid directly onto concrete and was freezing cold in winter. We removed the radiator to give us space to fit cupboards right up to the wall and plumped for electric underfloor heating, laid on a thick wodge of insulation. The kitchen is so narrow that the area of the mat is only 2m2 – it wasn’t too expensive and we’re hoping that running costs won’t be too high at the low levels we’ll be using.

We have now had our lovely new kitchen for nearly a year and we still love it.  For months I just reveled in the joy of having a working sink! I wanted to try to capture a few memories of the project so that we don’t forget how difficult it was at times. We had an electrician and plasterer in but the rest was LOTS of hard work by the two of us and my boyfriend’s dad.

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Half a new kitchen!

I’ll throw in some more pictures and decorating detail in my next post. If you’re struggling with kitchen re-fit at the moment, keep at it – you’ll get there!

H x

Distressed Coffee Table: Revisiting an old up-cycling project

Now that the majority of the painting and carpeting is done in the house, it’s time to focus on furnishing it.

My parents’ garage is full of old furniture, passed down the generations; my dad is a hoarder and hates to throw anything away. It’s a bit of a treasure trove! When I last visited home I took a quick look around  to scout out any hidden gems.

I came across this cute console table. It was in need of some TLC but I loved the carved legs. 2 years ago I attempted a quick rescue by painting it with some white eggshell wood paint I had lying around. Unfortunately, I have a habit of rushing into projects like this and didn’t think it through. The wood was cold and damp and should have been primed before painting. The legs had also started rot from its stint as a gardening table. In the rush to move into our flat, I had to abandon it again.

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I was determined to re-visit it and brought it to our new house a few weeks ago. I decided to try some proper prep work this time (!) and had lots of fun with my new favourite toy, my boyfriend’s mini sander…

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Then I chopped the ends of the legs off and voilà ….a distressed coffee table!

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I will probably prime and paint this at a later stage, but for now, I quite like the distressed effect.

What do you think?

H x