Gender reveal & bump update: 25 weeks

Hello!

Long time no see! Things have been pretty crazy over here lately. Mainly because I’ve taken on a lot more social media work recently so I just don’t have the spare time left to blog anymore, especially as I’m still filming and editing weekly vlogs.

I hope you’re all enjoying this lovely, hot weather. I really wish I was. Instead I’ve spent most of it sat inside with the curtains closed trying to keep myself awake. I hate it! I hate wasting sunny days and I’m getting major mum-guilt that I barely have the energy to talk to Huxley, let alone play with him or take him anywhere fun.

So, back to business. You may have noticed from the title that I’m actually 25 weeks pregnant now so doing a full-blown gender reveal seemed a bit silly as I’ve known the gender for weeks and you’ll already know what we’re having if you follow any of my social media or watch my vlog but I’m excited to say that we’re having a girl!

I think we were both a bit shocked as we had just assumed it would be a boy for some reason and I think Nick quite liked the idea of Huxley having a brother but it will be nice to have a girl. She’ll be the first granddaughter on my side of the family as my sister & I both have boys. My only worry is how much money I’m going to spend! I’ve already bought tons in the shops and we’ve saved loads of stuff from when Huxley was little anyway. I can’t help it! Girls stuff is just so cute!

25 weeks pregnant

25 weeks pregnant with a girl

25 weeks pregnant with baby girl

Styling a Chesterfield sofa

I was recently contacted by The Original Sofa Co* who have been making Chesterfield sofas for over 135 years at their workshop on the North East coast. Now, you might be thinking, what on earth is a Chesterfield sofa but I promise that once you see one, all will become clear! They are a total classic item and wouldn’t look out of place in any stately home across the country. They have an impressive client list that includes the Google head office and Harvard University! Furniture like this really is the definition of an ‘investment piece’ and is the sort of thing you can expect to hand down for generations to come. At the very least, they come with a 50 year guarantee!

Inspired by the look and feel of the Chesterfield, I wanted to create some moodboards on ideas of how to style these beautiful, traditional pieces for the modern home.

Traditional English Heritage with a Modern Twist

This look is based around a traditional English heritage style but with a slightly modern twist, editing it to suit any regular home up and down the country. Expect to see lots of tweed and tartan! (I totally can’t stop thinking about Ron Burgundy with his many leather-bound books and apartment that smells like rich mahogany!) This sofa is the ‘Wilmington‘ named after the 1st Earl of Wilmington, Spencer Compton, who became the UK’s second Prime Minster back in 1742.

 

Modern Heritage Interior

Pretty in pink

If you’re too scared to bite the bullet and fork out for a pink sofa, despite how awesome they can look (hello Gal Meets Glam!), it’s easy enough to add plenty of gorgeously girly accessories to make your living room the bijou boutique you’ve always dreamed of. This look features the Goderich Chesterfield sofa which is covered in a contemporary stone fabric rather than the more traditional leather that this style of sofa is generally associated with.

 

Pretty in Pink!

Grown-up tropical

This look focuses on the current trend of ‘tropicals’ with a grown-up, elegant twist. Lots of pineapple and palm trees to make you feel like you’re on holiday in your own home. I love the earthy, muted tones with pops of gold in this look. To be honest, this one is probably my favourite. This look features the Wilmington Unbuttoned Chesterfield Sofa which might appeal to a wider audience, especially if you really do plan on handing it down through generations.

 

Grown-up tropical

 

So what do you think? Would you invest in a Chesterfield Sofa? Which of these looks do you like best?

This post is in collaboration with The Original Sofa Co

Race Day Fashion

I love looking through the pictures to see what people wore to the races. I find it so much more interesting than any of the red carpet stuff. It’s easy for a celebrity to look amazing with their insanely expensive designer dresses and hair and make-up artists on stand-by throughout the evening. What I love about race day is that they are real people, wearing real outfits, having a good time. I’m sure if you’ve seen any race day photos before you’ll know that there are some people who hit the nail on the head and look effortlessly perfect and there are others who don’t quite get it right and end up looking like they got dressed in the dark.

I thought I’d make the effort to put together some outfits for men this time as well as women as it’s important for men to look the part too*. I know a lot of people think it’s easy for men as they can just stick on a black suit, a white shirt and they’re ready, but I think men these days like to have a little more fun with their choices, especially with people like Will.I.Am, Pharrell Williams and the One Direction boys constantly pushing the boundaries.

 

Men's race day fashion

 

This is quite a classic look and a light brown suit with the added up lift of sky blue makes for a great summer look. You could go super trendy and omit socks for this look or add a big chunky watch to make it extra snazzy. Yeah I said snazzy.

 

Women's race day fashion

 

I almost fell off my chair when I saw this dress. It’s just utter perfection. Why do the shops always stock the best stuff when I’m a massive pregnant whale and can’t fit into anything? I love the pop of bright nail varnish to bring all the colours of this outfit together while the neutral bag and shoes let the floral print take centre stage.

 

 

Men's race day fashion

 

I have to admit that this look was slightly inspired by a mix of Louis Tomlinson from One Direction with the polo neck and Rosie from Rosie Outlook’s brother with the tartan jacket as he wore a tartan jacket to her wedding and it looked awesome. Paired with rolled up chinos, no socks and loafers this is the ultimate in cool suit-wear for the modern man. You definitely have to be a certain type of person to pull this off. I know there’s no way on earth I could convince Nick to dress like this.

 

Women's race day fashion

 

Another dress that I’ve TOTALLY fallen for. I love that this is like a dark, edgy floral for those who like to feel girly but without rocking that super sweet pastel ‘pretty girl’ look. I would definitely wear this.

*This post is in collaboration with Suit Direct

A trip to San Diego

After spending a day or two in Los Angeles, the plan was to have a nice, easy drive down to San Diego and maybe stop in the shops at Disneyland and visit Huntington Beach again on the way. Turns out, the weather had other plans for us and with it threatening to rain the entire time we were in San Diego we decided to wake up super early in the morning and drive down a day early so we could go to the zoo. I’m pretty glad we did as this turned out to be the best day weather-wise and the day we were meant to go to the zoo, it rained torrentially all day!

If you watch my vlogs at all, you’ll know that Huxley is OBSESSED with animals so San Diego Zoo was basically like taking him to the Holy Grail. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited. As we walked through the gates he started singing ‘We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, How about you, you, you?’ which I didn’t even realise he knew! Bless him. It’s been about 6 weeks since we went now and he still studies the zoo map every single day and asks at least once a day if he can go back. He was totally besotted with the pandas. I didn’t take that many photos as I was trying to enjoy the day rather than snap photos of giraffes and tigers that a million other people had taken before me. You all know what a rhino looks like anyway! The elephant enclosure was amazing and the general feel of the zoo was exactly as you’d expect – totally awesome! Loads of beautiful green plants and the enclosures were all really lovely looking. The only thing we messed up on was that we took the sky ride thing across the zoo once we’d walked halfway around. I thought it was a return journey so we left Huxley’s bike and then because the queue for the return journey was ENORMOUS, we ended up walking most of the way around the zoo without Huxley’s bike which was a bit of a fail, especially with me being pregnant and it being so hot! It was an awesome way to see the zoo though as you could see all the animals chilling in their enclosures from above. (You can watch my vlog here if you want to see a bit more).

San Diego Zoo Giraffes

Panda at San Diego Zoo

I have to admit that after everyone telling us for months how much we’d love San Diego that we were both a little bit disappointed. I’m sure the crappy weather didn’t help as we’d basically planned to spend every day at the beach but instead we were scrambling around trying to find other things to do to fill our time and to be honest, we didn’t find much. We’ve got no interest in SeaWorld and the Safari Park was too expensive and we didn’t feel like San Diego had that much else to offer. The same thing happened to us with New Orleans though. We both agreed that it wasn’t somewhere we would rush back to and that it was nowhere near as good as San Francisco. I think we’ve both decided we’re definitely more NorCal people. Sorry Southern California!

One of the days we decided to check out the Mexican border and nearby town of Chula Vista as they are said to have the best Mexican food. We wandered around an outlet mall and bought a few souvenirs in the Disney store before looking at the enormous barriers and deciding we didn’t fancy standing in a queue for up to 6 hours with a toddler just to say we’d been over the border – especially as we lived in Mexico for 3 months anyway a few years ago so it’s not like we’d never been before. We drove to the funniest looking Mexican restaurant ever called Fernandez Catering. Literally on the side of a motorway and looked like someone’s house and we were definitely the only non-Mexicans in there. It was bloody awesome. Nick had a beef stew called a ‘birria’ but I didn’t eat anything because my pregnancy sickness was overwhelming at that point.

Fernandez Catering Chula Vista Birria

We visited two other Mexican restaurants nearby after that where I managed to eat a pastor taco (thankfully!) and it turned out to be probably the best damn taco I’ve had in my life. I have to admit that I spent most of our San Diego stay asleep as Huxley was a total nightmare going to bed while we were there. I have no idea why as he’d been no trouble at all during the rest of our California trip. But it got to the stage where we were having to drive around for an hour or two at midnight in desperation trying to get him to fall asleep. Yeah, that didn’t make it very fun.

There was one day where the sun poked it’s head out for a little while and we decided to go to La Jolla as people had told us how nice it was. Again, it was okay, but didn’t stand out in my mind as being that great. Huxley enjoyed seeing all the sea lions on the beach though (despite the smell!). People were swimming in the sea with sea lions swimming around next to them but when we got to the beach there was a warning sign saying not to swim because there’s so much yucky stuff in the water so we left them to it and went further down the coast for a dip.

La Jolla San Diego

Watching sea lions at La Jolla San Diego

Sea Lion on the beach La JOlla San Diego

San Diego beach

Beach at San Diego

As you can probably tell from the moany tone of this blog post, I wasn’t sad to leave San Diego and I was actually pretty damn excited about getting back to San Francisco. We drove about 8 hours all the way to Santa Cruz with a few hours stop in Los Angeles for some food. Thank god for iPads!

Driving in California

Top Trends for Spring/Summer 2016

It’s finally that time of the year when shorts, sundresses, and sandals can once again be pulled out of storage (or bought anew from that favourite shop) for the season. And now that spring fashion is in full swing, why not start looking ahead to the styles that perfectly reflect the balmy, sun-washed days of summer? From laid-back designs to feminine details and everything in between, the season’s offerings ensure that there is something for every taste. Seamlessly take your wardrobe from spring into summer by incorporating these top trends into your warm-weather rotation.

Pajama-Inspired Pieces

It may be true that wearing underwear as outerwear is nothing new (hello, corset trend), but this season, silky pajama-inspired separates are topping the trends as an elegant way to rock boudoir fashion. And though the slip dress has certainly become the go-to option for adding a slinky style to your arsenal, there are a variety of other pieces to consider as well. Bustle lists everything from silky tap shorts and lace-trimmed rompers to satin pajama blouses and camis as more unexpected, but just as seductive, lingerie-inspired separates. For a subtler take on the trend, pair a floor-grazing kimono with ankle boots for a sultry daytime look.

1. slip dress lyst

The Flat Mule

The chunky mule had its moment in the fashion spotlight, but now it’s time for an updated version of the classic shoe to take center stage. According to Style Caster, fashion lovers are opting for a more lo-fi take on the shoe for the spring/summer season, with flat mules in leopard print, flashy metallics, and classic leather making the rounds. A dressier alternative to a shoe you might wear poolside, the flat mule is versatile enough (not to mention comfortable enough) to be paired with anything from denim cutoffs while running errands to a mini dress on date night. As seen in Lyst’s extensive collection of options, there’s a flat mule out there for everyone, whether you love the bold finish of a print or the chic simplicity of a neutral.

2. flat mule lyst

Ruffled Accents

If just hearing the word “ruffles” brings to mind your grandmother’s matronly frock or the less-than-flattering bridesmaid’s dress you were made to wear in your friend’s wedding two summers ago, it’s time to give this particular accent another try. This season’s ruffled pieces are decidedly fresh thanks to cascading silhouettes, unconventional fabrics, and asymmetrical hems (see designers such as Balmain, Chanel, and Jason Wu for further proof). While the demure detail still retains its signature feminine flair, this trend takes on a modern, minimalist vibe when styled with vintage denim and of-the-moment mules.

3. ruffles lyst

The Tassel Earring

The fringe trend has officially broadened to encompass the jewelry world this season by way of the fun, flirty tassel earring. Swingy and statement-making, these earrings come in all shapes, colours, and sizes. Adorn your lobes with a technicolour pair that pops against a neutral ensemble or opt for smaller chandeliers in a solid hue for a more versatile approach to the tassel trend. Brit + Co even named the tassel earring summer 2016’s accoutrement of choice. And really, with styles ranging from sleek, silvery drops to bold and bright ear jackets, who could argue with that?

4. tassel earrings lyst

*This is a collaborative post

A trip to Los Angeles

At the end of our stay in California we tagged on an extra 10 days as a holiday. I know it probably sounds like we were already on holiday but Nick had been working really hard and we definitely needed the break. Granted, driving 8 hours down the coast with a toddler in the car isn’t the most relaxing way to spend a holiday but Nick had been banging on about going back to LA from the moment we returned home from there in 2010. Being a food writer, LA is obviously the place that gets talked about the most. It always has the newest, most innovative restaurants and most trends seem to stem from whatever is happening there. So, it was only natural that our entire trip was based mainly around where we were going to eat! (No changes there!)

Our first stop was a place called Ohana Poke Co on Sunset to try a poke bowl, which are all the rage right now and I can’t seem to open a website without a mention of one recently. And rightly so. It was light, fresh and totally delicious. Just what you want in the beating heat of a bustling city (or a nice beach in Hawaii I’d imagine!)

Ohana Poke Co Los Angeles

After that, we went straight to Grand Central Market, which is a little bit like Borough Market in London and is the home to the famed Egg Slut, whose line was by far the longest! The cool thing about Grand Central Market is that there are tables scattered around all over the place so you could go with a bunch of friends, all buy something from a different vendor but still all sit together at the same table without having to feel awkward about it. Not only that but it’s a photographer’s dream, with all it’s neon signs, cool hipsters and Instagram-worthy food porn shots waiting to be taken. (Sadly not for me though as mine are all blurry!)

Now totally full of food we drove to Griffith Observatory which is somewhere that we didn’t make it to on our last trip to Los Angeles because we were stupid enough to ditch our hire car! Personally, I think the trip to LA is worth it just for this. Not only are the views from the observatory arguably the best in the city, there are tons of awesome hikes you can do from there all while being watched over by the Hollywood sign. Add to that the fact that when the observatory is open it’s totally FREE. It’s a beautiful building to wander around and has some fascinating displays inside.

Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory

Hux at Hollywood Sign

After that, yep, you guessed it, more food. This time at Guisados, a Mexican place that Nick really loved. I wasn’t quite so sold on it but I think that’s because we ordered a mixed platter so I had no way of knowing what was going to be spicy and what wasn’t and that along with being pregnant and nauseous meant that I didn’t have the best time there.

As I’m writing this I can’t quite believe we did this all in one day but after that we went to Echo Park. Rather than staying at a grotty motel on the side of a freeway, we were staying in an awesome Airbnb in Silverlake. This meant that we were much closer to all the cool restaurants and our stay had a really lovely ‘neighbourhood’ feel to it. Our Airbnb hosts were amazing and I’d highly recommend their place to anyone looking to stay a few nights. The view of Downtown from the shower is unreal! Anyway, I digress! So, we went to Echo Park and it was golden hour and the light was dreamy and the air was warm and it was just so perfect. I actually spotted mega bloggers Evelina & Racquel Natasha snapping outfit photos a few meters away as we watched the turtles swimming in the lake! They are both SO BEAUTIFUL. Echo Park is another must-see when visiting LA for me, especially if you have kids.

Echo Park, Los Angeles

Echo Park at Sunset

The following day we got up nice and early and made our way to what is quite possibly the hottest brunch spot on the planet right now, Sqirl. We were a bit anxious as it’s notorious for having queues around the block no matter what time you arrive so we were pleasantly surprised to find no more than 4 people stood in front of us when we got there! I have to admit that a lot of the time I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food and it’s usually Nick forcing me to try stuff, and with also being pregnant, all I really wanted was a fry-up. But Sqirl is definitely NOT that kind of place. They are credited with being the ones who made #avotoast what it is today. They serve theirs with hot pickled carrots, garlic creme fraiche, sorrel and za’atar. See what I mean? Not your ordinary breakfast offering! So, I did initially turn my nose up at a lot of the menu offerings as some of them sounded truly bizarre. I played it safe and chose the quiche (which was probably the best quiche I’ve ever eaten alongside Tartine in San Francisco & Big Sur Bakery) and a side order of bacon (which was also out of this world) and Nick ordered their famed crispy rice salad. We added an order of ricotta on toast at the last minute after seeing someone tucking into it at the table and I can honestly say that was the best decision we made that day. It was truly life changing. You wouldn’t think that ricotta and toast would work. But trust me, it REALLY DOES. I also had a homemade rhubarb lemonade that was insanely scrummy. Seriously, if I could eat there everyday for the rest of my life I’d be a very happy lady.

Famed ricotta toast at Sqirl LA

We’d planned to spend the rest of the day at the beach and playing in the sea. Unfortunately for us, the weather had other ideas. It was beautiful and warm and sunny in Los Angeles, until you got to Santa Monica. I’m not even kidding. It was literally just the beach that was shrouded in fog. You could see the clear-cut line where the cloud ended and the rest of the sunny city stretched away from the ocean. Being British, we of course soldiered on and settled down on Venice Beach despite not being able to see more than a metre in front of us. To be honest, once I laid down on the sand, it was actually gloriously warm and I could easily have fallen asleep there.

Fog at Venice Beach

After about an hour, we decided that we wanted the sunshine back so we parked up outside a Starbucks to use the free wifi like total tourists as our mobile phone credit had run out and Googled ‘water parks’. Unfortunately, due to it being only April, most of them were still closed but then Google threw up a lovely looking little park called Coldwater Canyon Park nestled in the middle of the mansions of Beverly Hills. It was amazing. There was a beautiful little manmade creek running the length of the grass which Huxley happily played in for hours. It was nice and shady and there were toilets and a regular play park right next door. And you could ogle all the incredible houses and keep your eye out for superstars at the same time. Dream!

Coldwater Canyon Park, Beverly Hills

After that we decided to return to Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset. It was crazy busy but totally worth every second. The sky turned a million different colours in the space of about an hour and it was great fun watching all the lights gradually switch on and it felt like the city came to life beneath you. They had the huge telescope open so you could get a look at Jupiter but the queue was quite long and Huxley was already getting a bit grouchy at this point so instead I queued up outside one of the smaller telescopes on the front lawn and got a glimpse of a teeny tiny ball of light. It was awesome.

Griffith Observatory sunset

Griffith Observatory sunset los angeles

 

If you’d like to see a more detailed account of what we got up to in Los Angeles then you can watch my vlog here.

 

 

Considering a Greek Island holiday

Now that I’m pregnant again it’s unlikely that we’ll be going on a big exotic long-haul holiday any time soon and I won’t be able to fly after 28 weeks, which will be around August-time so we were thinking of squeezing in a quick, relaxing getaway somewhere hot and pretty. Top of our list right now is one of the many, stunning Greek islands. (I had no idea that there were 227 of them!!!)

Although ‘relaxing’ is probably a bit of a stretch when you’re taking a 2-year-old along, we’re hoping that all the splashing around in the pool all day will wear Huxley out enough that he sleeps like a log when night falls. The prospect of not having to stress out about meals and cooking on top of this has definitely made us consider the joy that is all-inclusive holidays* which will be a totally new experience for both of us.

Crete is probably the most obvious destination when talking about a package holiday for a young family being the biggest and most touristy island, however it’s also said to boast the best food which I know will definitely pique Nick’s interest. I love the sound of the pink-sand beaches and Samaria Gorge looks so beautiful.

Crete

Santorini is obviously up there on everyone’s bucket list as it’s so insanely photogenic  - I mean, think of the Instagram shots, right?!? However, I’m not sure how child-friendly it is and I’m worried that it will just be a bunch of honeymooners and older couples whose kids have left home and Hux won’t have a whole lot to do.

Santorini

To be honest, the island that has captured my imagination the most from the pictures I’ve seen online is actually Zante. I never in a million years thought I’d be saying that as I know it’s notorious for it’s massive clubbing areas, in fact, my sister went when she was a teenager and had a typical Brits-abroad getting smashed type holiday there. But apparently, in a similar way to Ibiza, if you avoid the touristy areas, you’ll be rewarded with forest-covered mountains and insane turquoise seas with no noisy nightclubs ruining it all. (Also, it’s real name is Zakynthos – who knew!?)

zakynthos

So, who knows where we’ll end up! Have you visited any Greek islands before? Have you got any advice or tips about where we should go or what we should avoid?

 

 

Baby #2!

So, this is the reason some of my America vlogs were a little strange! If you’ve been watching them, you may have noticed that I started off the trip super upbeat, going on hikes and walking lots of places and then I gradually turned into a hermit who barely left the house and complained about feeling sick a lot – well this is why!

13 weeks pregnant

I’m currently 13 weeks pregnant and so far, this pregnancy has been quite different to my first one. When I was pregnant with Huxley I didn’t get any symptoms at all. This time round, I’ve had far more symptoms but I think I’ve still had it pretty easy compared with some women. I felt pretty nauseous all day every day from about week 6 – week 12 but was never actually sick. I can’t work out if I was less tired this time around or whether I just had less opportunity to realise I felt tired due to running around after a toddler all the time. I definitely had worse cravings this time around and my sense of smell and the nausea made me super fussy.

Since I’ve been home and passed the 12 week mark, the nausea has definitely worn off  but I am ravenous ALL THE TIME. I literally eat about 7 meals a day. I am getting a bit more frustrated this time round now though because I get so worn out even just walking down the road and for someone who is often left without a car and an energetic toddler to entertain, it’s not great! I’ve just taken on a new social media client though so we’re thinking about putting Huxley in nursery for another morning a week which should make things a little easier.

I was thinking I look much bigger this time around but actually I’ve just looked back at my 12-week bump pictures from last time and it’s probably about the same!

In terms of care, I’m being consultant-led this time rather than just seeing a midwife because of what happened when Huxley was born with him being in intensive care for a week. I never really went in to detail about that on my blog because it was too difficult for me but he was basically losing oxygen and I ended up having an emergency c-section which was all fine but the next day we noticed he was twitching a bit funny so we called the nurse in and they whisked him off to intensive care (NICU) and put him in a little plastic box with lots of tubes poking out of him as he was having seizures. The next few days were pretty intense as you can imagine and he had various blood tests and an MRI scan. Luckily, he had no further seizures and they decided he was okay and we’d just have to keep an eye on his development as he got older. The trouble is, because he’d been trapped indoors for a 4 days, he then had jaundice and on top of this, they have to test him for every other possible illness going while he’s in there and unfortunately his results were sent off on a Friday which meant we got stuck in there over the weekend and everything got delayed. It was all very stressful and meant that most of my family couldn’t touch Huxley or cuddle him the first time they met him which was quite upsetting. Anyway, you can read my birth story here if you’re into that kind of thing.

So, I’m being consultant-led anyway, but we got the blood results back for the Down Syndrome screening the other day and my PAPP-A levels are low (I don’t even know what that is) but apparently it means that the baby is growing small so I would have to be consultant-led for that anyway and it means I’ll have to have more scans than usual to check the growth.

Anyway, I’m literally going to have to go now because I’m so hungry that I feel sick, despite having just eaten a bowl of cornflakes and a gingerbread man.

But yay! It’s due on 3rd November and we’ll be finding out the sex at our 20 week scan which will be in June sometime.

A day at Muir Woods National Monument

A few weeks ago we went to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a national monument (which is slightly different to a national park but don’t ask me why!). It’s just outside San Francisco and is totally beautiful. It’s basically a huge forest full of enormous redwood trees. I’m not sure why we’ve never been before as it’s super close to the city but it’s just something we hadn’t got around to.

Muir Woods National Monument Entrance

Anyway, we turned up one Saturday, about mid-morning to find a nice long queue into the car park – it was the first sunny Saturday in about 4 weeks so we should have known it was going to be busy! After some sneaky parking manoeuvres we were off and ready to go. Our visit also coincided with their Junior Ranger Day which was cool because it meant Huxley got some stickers and an activity pack to fill in as we were walking around. They let us in the front gate with his little bike but we found out later that they’re not allowed in (neither are pushchairs – so bear that in mind if visiting with a baby/toddler). I actually felt rather awkward pushing his bike around as there are tons of signs about keeping quiet and his bike can be pretty noisy so we ended up carrying it anyway just to try and not disturb the peace!

Muir Woods California

Nick & I both had mixed opinions about Muir Woods. It’s obviously very beautiful but due to it being a national monument and so close to a major city, it’s also VERY busy (it’s the most visited national monument in America). I’ve just read on Wikipedia that in 2017 they are introducing a reservation system to limit the number of cars able to enter every day so that’s something else to bear in mind if you plan on visiting next year. We thought the traffic was bad when we arrived mid-morning but it was nothing compared to the insane queues we saw about 3pm when we were leaving. Add to this the entrance fee of $10 per adult too and we really started to question whether it was worth it. We’ve been to other places further down the coast in Big Sur (and I’m sure there’s more further north too) where you can see redwoods for free. We’ve just parked the car up at a random location and gone on a mini-hike in the woods and it’s been just as beautiful – and I’d go so far as to say nicer as there aren’t a million other people there.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees California

We had a really lovely time at Muir Woods but I don’t think we’ll go back. It’s not super breathtaking like Yosemite is and I think there’s better places to see redwoods but if you’re on a whistle-stop visit of San Francisco then it might be worth adding to the list if you’ve never experienced anything like this before.

Muir Woods National Monument

Nick & Hux

Nick & Hux at Muir Woods

Me & Hux at Muir Woods

Family photo at Muir Woods

Junior Park Ranger Day at Muir Woods California

Renovating a house

One of the things that I’ve thought about a lot while I’ve been in California is how much we’ve achieved in the past year. Facebook keeps sending me those reminders of what I was doing this time last year and seeing all the photos of our house renovation pop up really brings it all home to me how crazy the past 12 months have been. If you’d have told me 12 months ago that today I’d be sitting in California and our house would be nearly completely finished, there’s no way I’d have believed you. We were living at Nick’s parents, Nick was waking up at 6am to drive to the house to get a couple of hours work done before driving an hour to work all day as a food judge, having to do his copywriting work in his lunch break before driving an hour home and working until 10pm at night on the house before driving back to his parents and flopping into bed completely exhausted. This went on for the best part of 4 months. Then he broke his leg. (Luckily most of the house was finished by that point!)

bedroom1

I know it’s easy to make stuff like this look like no big deal on blogs and social media but I just wanted to write a post about what real hard work it’s been. Nick & I did 80% of the work ourselves (and I’ll be honest, 90% of that was just Nick). We knew that in order to maximise our return on investment, we needed to be doing the work ourselves. We didn’t hire a £250-a-day skip, we drove to the local tip several times a day or dug several enormous holes in our back garden and buried the rubble – which is completely backbreaking. We didn’t hire a decorator or a painter, we only had skilled tradesmen in for things that were completely essential. The only ‘luxury’ was having a tiler as Nick had made a bit of a mess in our last home so I put my foot down on that one!

bathroom 1

1. It will take longer than you expect

Everything you plan to do is guaranteed to take longer than you expect or allow for. Even if you get tradesmen in to do the job, there always will be delays, whether it’s people just deciding not to turn up for the day without letting you know, or delays with supplies being ordered and delivered or  in getting the building inspector to come and sign off the work before you can do the next bit, everything will take longer than you want it to. Try not to stress out too much. Most of the time it’s out of your hands. Go and have a cup of tea and appreciate the rest.

kitchen1

2. It will cost more than you expect

Yep. There’s a whole ton of stuff that we didn’t budget for that soon adds up. We were quite accurate with our estimates for the big stuff like plasterboard and paint but all the little things like nails, screws and paint rollers that cost £5-£10 each time means the costs quickly mount up. That’s without factoring in the furniture that you didn’t realise wouldn’t fit up the stairs (hello new bed*!)

kitchen3

3. Things will go wrong

Countless things went wrong during the renovation process. Nick sliced his hand open rather badly on a porcelain toilet that he was smashing out, Nick’s dad hurt his hand while he was knocking down a wall for us, my dad did his back in while he was helping to strip wallpaper and that’s without mentioning the physical things that went wrong with the house! You’re bound to measure something wrong at some point or drill a hole in the wrong place or drag a bucket along a freshly painted wall (yes these all happened) but don’t sweat, most things can be fixed quite easily – as long as you don’t nearly electrocute yourself on a random wire poking out the kitchen wall that the electrician assured you was dead!

garden1

4. Nobody around you will quite understand your exhaustion

Unless they’ve been through it themselves, nobody else will quite understand the extreme exhaustion you’re going through. The constant calculation of measurements for huge, really expensive items and worry that you’ve given the correct figures mixed with the hard manual labour is truly exhausting (& that’s before you add a toddler into the mix). Trust me, it’s nothing on a newborn baby.

kitchen2

Obviously, here we are a year later and I can honestly say it was totally worth it. I love our house so much. But this kind of project isn’t for the faint-hearted!

You can see the finished rooms at the links below (we still haven’t got much art on the walls though, I think it will always be a work in progress!)

Kitchen | Bathroom | Bedroom | Lounge | (I haven’t actually done an office one yet!)

*This post is in collaboration with Oak Furniture UK as part of their DIY Disasters campaign