Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Surviving house renovations: Things that make living on a building site a tiny bit more enjoyable

We have moved into our first house a year ago. After a year and a half of 3h daily commute, we wanted a house within a walking distance of work, and the only way we could afford one in the area we liked was to buy a house that needed a lot of work done. A LOT of work.. We thought it would not be such a huge issue, as my dad is a builder and was willing to help us renovate the house. We were 100% sure it would be all done and dusted within 6 months, 1 year max if things did not go to plan.

Well let me tell you: it's been a year and we barely scratched the surface! Between my dad being very ill for long periods of time, him having crazy work schedule,  less-than-reliable local tradesmen, us having no clue about renovations, and just generally all the surprises that a 125 year old house has to offer, we are still living on a building site! But after a year of such experience I have realised a few things that can help endure it.

Concentrate on one space at a time. 

  • Even though building-wise it is not very time efficient, this approach leads to having at least one space completely finished before the rest of the house becomes habitable. Unfortunately for us we had to do a lot of work on the roof and the loft before we could move on to spaces one can live in, but once our spare  bedroom was completed bar a few details (like skirting boards and the last layer of paint), it finally became so much more manageable to tolerate the building site in the rest of the house. 
  • I think having at least one room finished allows two things: first, it can serve as a space to escape from all the tools and materials and general crappyness scattered all over the place; and second, it serves as a reminder of why we are doing this. Since our renovations have dragged on for so long, a lot of the time we are wondering: why did we take this on? why didn't we just buy a nicer house that didn't need that much work? But once you see  something finished, you know it is all worth it in the end. 
  • And a minor third reason - furniture. We only had the bare necessities when it came to furniture during the process, e.g. our bedroom only had a bed and 2 cheap small chests of drawers. We always planned to buy all the furniture we needed once the rooms were finished. As we started with bedrooms, I cannot find the words to express how much sanity can be brought to ones life by a wardrobe! 
Keep the building stuff contained. 
  • If there is a space that can be used as a storage room and closed off so it is never visible - do it. We use our front living room for this, so all the building stuff is piled in there. Out of sight, out of mind! 
Keep the house tidy.
  • This is the part that I struggle the most with myself. It is very hard to motivate yourself to clean the house when all of it is such a mess anyway. So it is very easy to go for a week.. then another week.. then two more weeks.. without cleaning up anything. And when we stop tidying up, our mental state gets much worse. Even though the paint is peeling, the floorboards are coming up, the stair banisters are half-destroyed, and electric wires are hanging out of bare walls (not live, don't worry!), it just feels so much better when the surfaces are dusted, the floors are squeaky clean, the dining table is not hidden underneath 2 feet worth of papers and booklets and invoices, and the bathroom walls are not covered in mould. The clean smell of disinfectant spray and bleach can definitely lifts the spirits!
Fill the house with things that make you happy.

  • For me this generally means flowers. Fresh flowers add so much warmth and happiness to a place that it's impossible to feel sad about my living conditions when I see flowers everywhere I turn in the house. I always have a bouquet on my dressing table and another on the dining table. 

  • Another thing that brought a lot of joy and happiness to our house was adopting a cat! We did not want to adopt one before we finished all the renovations, but come last September we were suddenly aware that the renovations will not be finished for a very long time, and I was dying to have a creature of my own to love! So we adopted a cat from Cats Protection, and she is the sweetest girl ever. Because she is already 9 years old and had a family before, she is never bothered by any housework-related noise. Our adorable cat is the best thing that happened to us last year, and she makes our crappy house truly a home. A crappy home, but at least one that I now enjoy to live in!

Remember that it will not last forever. 
  • Even if sometimes it seems like it will go on forever, it is useful to remember that one day, maybe a bit further away in the future than we imagined, the renovations will be done. The walls will be replastered and painted, the kitchen and bathroom will be relocated, the windows and wiring will be replaced, and then the only thing to worry about will be cushions and drapes and flower pots. And these are all happy worries!
I hope this is of any help to someone. Tackling full on renovations is never easy, especially when doing graduate degrees and planning a wedding. But if we - probably the most unorganised people - can manage, so can everyone else. And it all is going to be worth it in the end!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Weekend travels: beautiful Sheffield

This weekend me and my husband to be managed to get away from never ending house renovations and travelled to Sheffield to meet our friends. Before catching our train back, we had a few hours for ourselves so we wandered around the city.

It was our third visit to Sheffield, but the first one in the winter. I think I enjoyed the city more than I did during the summer! Sheffield is one of the greenest cities in Europe, but even without all the foliage it just felt very warm and cosy now in the winter.

Wintery Sheffield

One place that has become a must-visit for us is the Sheffield Millennium Gallery. It's a fantastic building and always has interesting exhibitions going on. We visited the Picturing Sheffield Exhibition and I think we found a contemporary painting we both absolutely fell in love with - it was The Longest Walk by Pete McKee. And I never even thought I liked contemporary art! Pete McKee's gallery, called A Month Of Sundays, is on the top of our places to visit list the next time we're in Sheffield.

Now we should probably go and explore art galleries in the city we actually live in!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Halloween makeup for wedding

This evening I stumbled upon this video featuring Ruth Crilly from A Model Recommends. In the video Amy Conway, a makeup artist for Bobbi Brown, does Ruth's glam halloween makeup. I love Bobbi Brown, I love Ruth, so I expected a great video. But it turned out to be more than great!

I always knew I wanted to do my own makeup for my wedding. If you google wedding makeup, all you see is very natural, rosy, barely-there looks. And I wear makeup much brighter than that EVERY DAY. I knew I wanted something really amped up, not sure exactly what, but I was certain that only I could deliver the oomph I wanted.

Now I know exactly what makeup I want for my wedding. And it's exactly what Amy applied on Ruth in the video. I am extremely excited now, even though I do feel a bit weird that I want a halloween look for a wedding. But now that I think about it - my dress is gray! It will look amazing!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Learning life skills, wedding planning, and the perils of exercising

Wedding planning - to tent or not to tent?

One thing I really enjoy is exercising. It is weird because one thing I really hate is exercising. I hate the  during but love the afterwards and the long-term effects of it: when I can't do any physical activity, it makes me feel very down and sluggish. However, I'm the biggest whinger when I exercise, I hate 'pushing myself'. Sometimes though I do get into the mood of 'let's try harder!'. Like I did on Monday. The outcome - I injured my back so much I struggle to walk. So the plan to grab my new life by the horns has been quite unsuccessful to say the least..

BUT despite the physical setback, I am moving closer to getting my driver's licence - I passed my theory part yesterday!! I couldn't be happier as I got maximum points for the multiple choice question part. When my fiancee took his theory test, he also got maximum points, and we do tend to compete a lot, so I am really glad we're even here. I already booked my practical test as well, so if all goes well, I will be able to drive by the time I turn 26. Which is very late I must admit, but better later than never!

Wedding planning hasn't been going that well. But hopefully we will book our venue in the next few weeks. I will share more wedding plans in future posts.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A fresh start

Feeding ducks in Coworth Park a month ago

Today was a good day - I felt like a stone was lifted off my chest. I spent the whole last year agonising over the degree I was doing, every minute of it made a tiny piece of my soul die. It was that bad. And today it's all over! Today I'm starting my PhD and I feel extremely happy. Ready for anything that might come my way.

So to mark this glorious occasion, I decided to bite the bullet and start a blog. I was toying with the idea for years now, have actually started a few blogs and deleted them few weeks later. And I suppose  that happened because I was always trying to start a niche blog - first knitting, then science, then beauty, then science of beauty, and I could write a few posts but I could never keep it up. I know that bloggers are advised to keep their blogs focused and on the topic, but once I stopped fretting over what 'my topic' was, I suddenly felt that I could indeed blog.

A very clever person once advised me to keep a journal of everything that makes me feel happy, so that when I'm sad, I can always open it and be reminded about all the wonderful things that happen to me all the time. Sometimes I get so consumed by sadness that all I can see is darkness, and tend to forget the happy things. 

When I look back at the last year, I think such a journal would have helped me so much, so finally I feel ready to start documenting all the things that inspire me and make me excited every day. And it's not just beauty, fashion, science, or knitting - all of these and many other things mean so much to me that I can't just pick one. So I won't. I have no clue which direction this blog will go, but I'm willing to give it a try and see where it will take me.

So what will you find in this blog? I don't know. I'm leaving that as a huge question mark, even to myself. If anyone ever reads it, I hope you will enjoy this journey with me!