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March 2014

Living Arrows : 13/52

Living Arrows : 13/52

by Clare Mansell
F2.2, 1/640, ISO 100
This week the builders have moved on to to slightly less destructive work which means we’ve been able to spend a bit more time in the garden without fear of something being dropped on our heads. This is particularly good news for Theo who loves nothing more than peddling round on his trike.

He is taking the building work remarkably in his stride. His sleeping space has changed, the sitting room has gone, we are constantly surrounded by drilling and banging and half his toys are packed away in storage, but the promise of a “new bedroom upstairs” seems to have satisfied his curiosity so far.

His transition from cot to bed will come with the new room in the summer (we are pushing it a bit as he’ll be nearly three, but so far it’s working) and at the moment he is fixated on getting a bed “with a ladder” so we’ve been showing him pictures of mid-sleeper’s online.

After three bedrooms in three years I can’t wait to have somewhere permanent for him that we can decorate and buy furniture for. I think it’s probably safe to say his room will be finished way before ours!

living arrows

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Aqua Sana Spa – It’s not all about cake (honestly!)
Earlier this week I went back to Center Parcs for the second half of my Family Blogger trip, a day at the Aqua Sana spa. I took Jenny my old BFBS colleague as she lives close to Longleat.
I’ve done a couple of spa days, but had no idea what the experience would be like at Center Parcs.  Although I sadly don’t have many photos to share (cameras and steam not being the best of friends) it was a brilliant day.
A full day at Aqua Sana is, I think, pretty good value for money. For £69 you get access to the spa, a coffee and pastry when you arrive and a choice of lunch. 
There are a dizzing array of steam/sauna rooms (honestly I lost count, there must be 8 at least) a small outside heated pool, various relaxation rooms oh and that cafe! I was rather relieved that this particular spa day turned out to be one of those days that’s all about pampering rather than one that’s all about being healthy. Lunch was lovely (odd how doing nothing works up such an appetite) and red velvet cake and tea ended the day brilliantly.
We also had two treatments each. We both had the paraffin foot pedicure (above) which is held in the foyer of the spa and is a perfect quick treatment if you are popping in during a longer stay and we had massages too. Head, back and shoulders for Jenny and scalp for me. 
It was a brilliant day out, perfect to destress mid-house build and catch up with an old friend. If I lived nearer I’d be seriously tempted to go back on a regular basis.
PS – If you missed my post last month about our stay at Longleat Forrest, you can read it here.
CenterParcs Family Blog Club

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House remodel : Week 3

House remodel : Week 3

by Clare Mansell
Site meeting about the rafters. Chaired by the dog.
(i) The roof starts to take shape (ii) The view of the house across the rape field 
(iii) Wider shot of the roof at first floor level (iv) Outside room, still being painted! 
(v) The hallway with newly constructed sitting room wall (vi) Site meeting, chaired by the dog.
Three weeks down and we are in to the start of our fourth week of the build. We have now turned the corner and moved from destruction to construction!
The hall and sitting room are no longer entirely ceiling-less as the rafters for the first floor have started to go in and work has begun on constructing the roof frame, this will mean that very soon we will actually be able to see the shape of our new higher roofline.
On Friday I held my breath and ordered our new staircase (after getting the builders to check and double check the measurements!) the staircase is quite an exciting (and expensive) part of the build as it is oak and open riser. I grew up in a 1970s house with open riser stairs and have always wanted to have them in my own house, not least of all because it means never having to try and clean that awkward crease where the riser meets the tread. Our stairs have been ordered from the lovely team at Stairbox.com who actually featured last week (very briefly) on DIY SOS, it’s worth a watch! 
Painting continues on the outside room. We ran out of the base coat and had to order more in, only to discover they sent us the wrong mix (Grrr!) All we need now is a couple of days of sunshine and we should be able to get the top coat finished and peel off all the masking tape which I think has permanently adhered to the glass.
Three weeks in we are fairing up pretty well living on site, though when there are strong winds (as was the case last Friday) the billowing wrap round the scaffolding is very loud and very annoying! We also recently all had coughs and colds and sleeping in one room has not been ideal, but on the plus side the neighbours continue to be wonderfully supportive and generous with their enthusiasm for the project and although we haven’t had blue skies to keep us feeling perky, the field of rapeseed next to us is turning yellower by the day which can’t help but make you feel cheerful.

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Living Arrows – 12/52

Living Arrows – 12/52

by Clare Mansell
There is a lot of learning going on at nursery that we only hear about indirectly. This week the new game in the playground has obviously been hide and seek. Theo’s counting is still hilarious (8, 4, 7, 9, TEN!) But he’s obviously keen to give this new game a go and when we went on a walk in the woods yesterday afternoon every tree was a surface to hide his face against and practice the routine, though to be honest I’m still not sure you are supposed to jump out at the end and say “Boo!”

His nursery is such a magical place, staffed by such lovely people, I honestly don’t know how we (or he) got so lucky, but we are blessed that he’s growing up in such an exciting and happy environment.

living arrows

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The 4 homes that got us to where we are today…

Although I tend to steer away from writing long blog posts, I recently read a great post about a fellow blogger’s journey to their dream home and thought now might be a great time to recap on our own (not entirely smooth) journey to our current house renovation.

Jim and I married in 2007. When he proposed we were both living separately in different military accommodation in Germany and though we knew he was due posting, we don’t know when or where.

Sometime between getting engaged and getting married we found out Jim’s next posting was to Alberta in Canada and that we were going two weeks after our wedding.

We knew nothing about the house we were getting and the first we saw of it was when we arrived in the taxi outside. Our first married home was a privately owned house in a condo in the town of Medicine Hat. It was pretty big inside with lots of nice (and unexpected) bonuses like a dishwasher, electric garage door and walk in wardrobe, but it had very little outside space and it was 50km from the base where we were both working and where the majority of the British Forces lived. Also despite Jim’s fantasy of being emerged in “a real Canadian community” the few neighbours we met were all retirees!

For the first few weeks in this house Jim and I worked totally different shifts and commuted independently to and from the base. I would come home several hours before him and sit in an empty house feeling miserable (and occasionally crying) or walking the empty streets around our house. Quite quickly we (and by that I mean me!) began to talk about moving to a house on the base, but we were told there was such pressure on housing that we would never get one. Thankfully they were wrong….

So six weeks after we had arrived we moved again…

Our new house was right on the corner of the village with a huge garden, white picket fence and a deceptively large interior. Although it looks like a bungalow we had a huge basement which accommodated a laundry room, our bedroom, a bathroom and a cinema room. It was cheap to rent, always warm (even at -40c) and close to work and our friends. We had great barbecues in the garden in the summer and equally good fun in the winter. I really loved this house on so many levels. The only downsides were mowing the HUGE lawn and the fact I used to envy our neighbours who lived in the prettier weatherboard houses, so you can see where that particular fascination of mine started! Indeed it was while we were living here that we bought our current house in Sussex and began to dream of transforming it.

In August 2009 we left Canada and moved to Cyprus to house number 3, and this was what was waiting for us when we arrived…

The houses had been built in the 1950s and save for the addition of double glazing, they had not been touched since. Though a part of me loved the novelty of the blue formica kitchen when we arrived, by the end of our time I hated it with a passion. On the plus side we had sea “glimpses” from our bedroom and a beach moments away, but the downs were many. Our garden was untameable. Over-run with weeds in winter and a dust bowl in summer. The house was almost always too hot or too cold as it had no air-conditioning and no central heating and temperatures in Cyprus would fluctuate from just above freezing to +40c. The green carpet (an MOD special the world over) was hideous and the original 1950s bathroom and plumbing was awful. Though it looks good in the photos, don’t be fooled I was trying hard to make it look good!

After another two years we were off to Northern Scotland and I had mixed feelings about living in a modern house on a large housing estate…

After Cyprus this house felt quite luxurious. An en-suite, four bedrooms, central heating, a utility room and neutral coloured carpets. In truth the house itself was pretty good, but despite its location surrounded by hundreds of houses it was also one of the loneliest places I have ever lived. I hated the penned in feeling of being able to see into my neighbours houses (and for them to do the same) The house had dark window frames and though it faced east/west it also felt quite dark inside a lot of the time too. In truth I’m probably a little harsh on this house because I spent a lot of short Scottish winter days pacing around it with a very young baby whilst Jim was in Afghanistan, but by the end of 2012 when we heard the news that we were heading south, I was delighted to leave and incredibly excited to finally be taking control over our housing.

And so we arrived in Sussex at the end of January 2013 to a house with lots of potential and lots of work needing done. A few days later we met with our architect to discuss ideas and an entirely new journey began to transform this…

into this…

We are now 3 weeks in and the house is slowly taking shape. If you want to follow our journey, click on the link below to add to your Bloglovin feed.

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