Saturday, 29 April 2017

Can you DIY on a budget?. Our top tips including bargain hunting, upcycling furniture & buying secondhand or nearly new items.

Can you really DIY on a budget? When I first start looking into doing a room makeover it soon started adding up once I added in all of the paint, wallpaper, carpets, accessories, lighting etc... for each room.

I think at the moment every room in our house needs a freshen up. Rooms that you think you only decorate a year ago when it was actually four years ago are looking a bit tired and in need of some TLC. However, when you have some many rooms needing a makeover how do you do it on a budget? 

Shopping around is a firm favourite of mine. Although does require some patience too! Don't just go with the first shop you find for everything. If you can hold off until offers pop up on paint i.e; 3 for 2 or two pots of paint for X amount that saves some pennies straight away. Also look out for end of line ranges etc.... My Mum recently picked up some pink Dulux paint in a local store reduced to just £2 per 2.5 litre pot as it was old/end of range stock. That's paint for Thing 3's bedroom sorted and at a cost of just £4. 

eBay is a good place to look for new furniture if you are looking to add new pieces or replace existing furniture. You can buy new items on eBay as well as good condition secondhand pieces and it's always worth a look before you pay full price in store. If you do end up looking at buying new always search for discount codes for the stores you are looking for. There is sometimes valid discount codes or even a discount if you sign up to the stores email newsletters. 

Upcycling furniture is also a good idea. I recently upcycled our bedside tables as the dark wood was really depressing me! The furniture itself was still solid but it was the colour that bothered me and they needed a freshen up. I bought a tin of furniture paint from our local Wilkinson store and some crystal drawer handles from Amazon. All in it cost £17 for both bedside tables and I think they look much better although far from perfect as it was my first project! 

Our upcycled bedside tables. 

DIY, do it yourself. Every day I tell myself it would be much easier just to get the professionals in to paint, lay carpet, replace the kitchen etc.... but that also comes at a price. So if you can give it a go then do. It may take longer than a professional would take and it may not be perfect but having done it yourself you can save lots and you can say 'I did that' even if it's closely followed by 'and I'm never doing it again'! 

Last year with the help of my wonderful parents we did a garden makeover. Our front garden had been neglected since we had the extension done and we needed to make it look like we had space for 3 cars (building regs requirement!). We bought membrane for under the gravel from Poundland, some of the gravel was free from Gumtree and another set of gravel we paid a little bit for also from Gumtree. The paving slabs were relocated from my parents house and we bought lavender from Aldi. You can read all about that makeover here; Our DIY garden makeover

Before and after of our budget garden makeover

More recently we decided to decorate the hallway. The stair carpet was cream and had seen better days. We were going to replace it when we did the extension but our budget didn't allow it and it just got left until now. So yet again my Mum found a bargain on eBay and with the help of some Dulux Chic Shadow paint that we had bought for something else but was ready to use and a brand new piece of underlay and carpet from eBay for the grand total of £1.98 we transformed our hallway. We do need to find new curtains and a new light fitting but I am still shopping around for those! 

Before and after of our stairway. I cut the cream carpet so I could gloss the woodwork without taking up the whole carpet and having kiddies tread on the gripper rods! The OH fitted the carpet and whilst it's not perfect it looks fab. 

So remember with DIY. Shop around, look for bargains, reduced items or discount codes. Try a bit of upcycling of existing furniture too. Don't rush things if you don't need to and enjoy decorating! 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Why I'm a tired mummy, nearly 20 years on into parenthood and I still haven't learnt how to parent properly. Ongoing investigations into the sleep thief in our house!

With nearly 20 years of parenting under my belt you would think I could get it right but most of the time I still feel just as out of my depth as a new Mum feels in those first few days at home with a new baby and still just as sleep deprived too. 

'Oh it gets easier as they get older'. I hear that ALOT! However I am sorry to tell you that sometimes (and in my case) it isn't true. 

Sleep is a big issue in our house, a real big issue. I'm not getting enough of it is the issue. From a teen that stays up late then naps after school so then is up late again and so on and so forth to a four year old who takes nearly 2 hours to settle some nights and then doesn't want to get up in the morning, yet isn't tired the next day after school. 


I've heard alcohol is the answer (for me not them!). However as much as I might think that drinking myself into a drunken stupor most nights seems like a better option than dealing with bedtime I figured I better deal with the issues that the children have instead. 

iPads/iPods/Phones/Tablets these are a big deal in my house bordering obsession including the husband. I'm a lone warrior against a ban on gadgets in the evenings as I fight against 6 people who can't step away from the technology. This really doesn't help sleep at all and probably the reason they all find it so hard to settle once they do go up to bed. It's constant during the evenings and at weekends and whilst I try and enforce it I get no back up and even the oldest members of the family break out in a cold sweat at the mere suggestion of stepping away from the technology and focusing on the sleep issues and family time. 

It's difficult to implement rules for bedtime routines when you feel like you are doing it all on your own. Thing 5 who has problems settling down to sleep at night is my main issue. We go up to bed, I read him a couple of books and then tuck him in and turn the light off. However, I can't leave the room. First bad sleeping habit right there. Every night I sit and wait for him to fall asleep before retreating from his bedroom feeling slightly stressed yet relieved he is finally sleeping. However I have completely lost my evening and any chance of relaxing myself before my bedtime. 

Each morning he is a nightmare to wake up for school. He is tired, cranky and moody. And yet every evening when I think he is going to be tired because of a full day at school and a rubbish morning wake up call it still takes another hour or two to go to sleep again. 

Last night in desperation to get just 5 minutes of my evening to myself I let Thing 5 have the iPad as he wouldn't sleep anyway. Yet I still don't get 5 minutes as he calls me for anything and everything. The OH is blissfully unaware of what is going on and sits most evenings playing on his Playstation whilst I deal with bedtime and I guess that's what stresses me out even more. 

So I think I am going to have to go with a complete ban on technology until bedtimes are sorted. No more afternoon naps for the teen and getting the OH in to help with bedtime with Thing 5. Once he starts losing some of his evenings he might realise how much it needs to be sorted. 

As for the alcohol, I might get to have a glass once I regain my evenings! Or maybe some celebratory chocolates! 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Our DIY kitchen makeover. Installing a new kitchen ourselves using the Ikea Bodbyn Grey range. Our progress so far.

Our Ikea kitchen makeover using Bodbyn Grey units

A couple of months ago we decided our kitchen desperately needed a makeover. I was going to go for a lick of paint on the walls and some cupboard paint and a recover of the existing worktops using fablon style patterned coverings. 

However we had to admit that it all just needed pulling out and a new kitchen being put in it's place. We've lived here nearly 11 years and the kitchen was here when we moved in. It was a lovely kitchen and there was no need to change it but over the past few years we've repaired doors, changed cupboard handles, fixed leaks under the sink and replaced built in ovens. 

How could we install a new kitchen on our chosen budget though? Was it possible? 

When others tell you how much they paid for a kitchen you wonder whether you can even manage to afford to change one cupboard! 

After looking around at a few different kitchens we found the Ikea Bodbyn Grey range and we loved it. With the help of the online kitchen design tool we were able to play about with lots of different kitchen unit combinations until we found what would fit perfectly in the space we had. 

Once we had planned our design, which units we were going to have and had a bit of a floor plan change about we went ahead and priced up our Ikea Bodbyn Grey purchase so we could stick within our budget. 

It was difficult to remember to add everything we needed. From units to handles, plinths to side panels. It would be so much easier if we had a company to come in and do it all for us but doing it all DIY style also means we have done all of the hard work ourselves (or at least the hubby has anyway!) and saved some money too.

The Ikea range also has so many different storage ideas and products for the kitchen and once we have fitted ours we will definitely be adding the handy storage solutions that they have instore to complete the kitchen and help keep us tidy and organised. 

So what stage are we at in our kitchen makeover? 

Currently we have built an oven unit and moved the oven from one side of the kitchen to the other. This has made the kitchen look slightly bigger and brighter. We did also pay for someone to come in and plaster the walls and ceiling, something that the hubby just didn't want to do. 


The new oven unit and side units. we also bought the extra bamboo drawer inserts which look really nice. 

However progress has now slowed slightly as I am struggling to admit that the rest of the kitchen just needs to be pulled out and I will have to live without a sink and a hob for a while! 

As you can see the kitchen is in a right state now we are between taking the old kitchen out, the new plastering is done and we are waiting to put the new kitchen in.

We visited Ikea 3 times over the Easter holidays although the children didn't mind as it meant they could go in the Smaland creche every time. We've been buying the kitchen a bit at a time and building and fitting as we go, currently we have boxes of unmade units sat in the dining room. What I found easier was to add it all to my online shopping basket on the Ikea website and then delete items once we had purchased them instore. We are lucky to have an Ikea just down the road and found it easier to buy pieces as and when we needed them rather than have a whole kitchen boxed up and taking up space elsewhere whilst we did all of the work. 

So over the next few weeks we need to gut the kitchen, visit Ikea (again!), build all other new units, buy worktop and fit it all in place like a big kitchen jigsaw! once it's all in place it's then time for the floor and wall tiles. We have chosen large cream high gloss floor tiles for the floor and Wickes metro tiles for the walls. We have also chosen oak worktops. 

Wickes metro tiles for the walls

Oak worktops

At the moment we are on budget although when planning the kitchen I wasn't expecting to pay a plasterer and its also not so easy to avoid all of the little added extras that weren't in your original budget but it makes everything look better. 

I think I may be posting a finished update in around 2 years time!! 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Our day out with Camp Wilderness. Learning bushcraft, team work and enjoying valuable family time.


A couple of weeks ago we were invited to Camp Wilderness Hatfield Woods for the day. The day started at 10.30 and after a rather stressful attempt at finding where we were we arrived and settled ourselves in front of the camp fire. 

The children were a little apprehensive about what the day entailed but were happy to be outdoors and the sun was shining. 

We were split into groups and our first task was to design a tribe flag and think of a name for our group. We were with other families that we had never met before and it really brought us together as a group and got us talking and discussing our tribe name and the design of our flag. 

After we had designed our tribe flag we went back to the camp fire and showed everyone our design. We were then shown all of the different ways that you can make fire. All of the demonstrations were explained well and the children really enjoyed this part of the day. We then had to head off to gather wood to build our own camp fire to cook our lunch. 

The children enjoyed gathering lots of wood to keep our camp fire going strong and Thing 3 started off the fire to cook our burgers for lunch. Whilst lunch was cooking we were allowed to make more fire (Thing 3's favourite part of the day!), make things out of clay and sit around the camp fire talking to the other families. The children gathered more wood and played in the sunshine. 

After lunch we learnt about camouflage and how we can hide ourselves in the woods. We all got to try out the camouflage face paint and then we all went off for a few games of hide n seek in the woods. The children loved running around and hiding behind the trees so they couldn't be seen, I think the hubby liked it too! 

We also made survival bracelets which got us all quite frustrated until we got the hang of how to thread the cord! 

Finally we were shown different ways to make traps to catch animals when out in the forest and we were also shown some animal skins from animals that had been caught. The children had to guess what animals the skins were from. 

At the end of the day (around 4pm) we had hot chocolate, rice crispie cake and toasted marshmallows over the campfire. It was the perfect end to a perfect day and it was the best day out I had been on in a long time. 

The children were tired out, exhausted, dirty but very happy and had also really enjoyed the day too. Not one had asked for an iPad or a TV or even exclaimed that they were bored. 

I would highly recommend Camp Wilderness for the children. After an apprehensive start to the day Thing 3 said she would definitely return and would happily stay on on of the residential camps. We were well looked after, well fed and we learnt so much from our day with the Camp Wilderness crew. 

There is one more open day planned at Camp Wilderness Hatfield Woods on May 13th 2017.

Camp Wilderness runs three and five day residential camps all over the country for children aged between 6-15 years old throughout the summer holidays . Activities at the camps include; fire lighting, shelter building, wilderness cookery, camp craft, bushcraft tournament, fireside stories and more. 

Camp rules were the first topic of the day and also very important to listen to and follow when in the camp. The bell tents look great all set up and ready for their first residential occupants and the camp was well set up, organised and equipped. 

To find out more head to the Camp Wilderness website for more information. 

We would like to thank all of the staff on the day for looking after us, keeping us well fed and watered and teaching us all of our bushcraft that we learnt on our wilderness day out. 

I made this video of our day with Camp Wilderness, I hope you enjoy it and it shows a little of what we did on the day. 

                    Camp Wilderness 2017 from Laura Bovington on Vimeo.