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The nightmare that was buying our house.

I know that house buying stories are as bad as birth stories in the oh-my-god-seriously-why-are-you-telling-us-this stakes, and that a lot of people probably really do not care. If that's the case, just stop reading now and pop back another day, I won't be offended, promise. But if you're buying a house and it's taking a while, or not going smoothly, or you just fancy making yourself feel better about the process, then, read on. Trust me. It will make you feel better!

As you'll know if you've been reading for a while we've just bought a house, but it's not been a very easy or quick process. We first saw the house we've bought last October. Right before Jim left for India. In fact our offer was accepted whilst he was sat on a beach in Goa (he claims that he goes for work. Sitting on a beach in Goa doesn't sound much like work to me. Does it to you?) I was at work. Working. No alcohol or beach involved.  

The lady we bought from was in her 70's, and we were told she wanted to move in February or March of this year. Awesome we thought. We'll be moved in by the spring and we'll have the summer to do it up (and have time to plant some veg). We made some decisions based on this info - for one, we decided not to go snowboarding so we'd have the money to move and not worry. We started planning what to buy. I started pinning excessively. I started dream blog posts. Jim started dream kitchen planning. I started kitchen panicking. Why, oh why, oh why did I say he could design the kitchen? Am I crazy?

And then our seller went to China for a month or so and didn't find a house. So she pushed the move to the beginning of April. Then the end of April when she still hadn't found anywhere to move to. It seemed to be constantly moving backwards. I thought we'd never move. Then our seller found out she was sick. Really sick, and so pushed the move date again to the middle of May so she could move to live with her kids. It was sad because she was a lovely lady and she was so ill, but also it still never felt like we'd ever ever move. 

And then, on the 24th May, after many chats with our solicitors, we got a phone call to say we'd exchanged. The purchase was under way. Money had been requested from the bank. We were moving in a week. Completing by the end of May. We spent the bank holiday packing. And then, on the Tuesday, we got another call from our solicitor. Our seller had sadly died over the weekend.  The weekend after we exchanged, but before we completed. Even our solicitor didn't quite know what would happen. Were were still buying the house? Was it appropriate to ask these questions at a time like this? Would her children have any interest in our situation? They'd just lost their mum after all. Would they even still sell to us - in the last 6 months house prices have gone up a lot. So many unanswered questions that made a week seem like a month.

Finally we were told that the ownership of the house was passing to her children who had to sell to us because we'd completed, and that we were locked into buying the house. They had to sell to us, we had to buy. We just didn't know when. Although, with our mortgage offer running out at the end of June, we hoped it'd be soon.

But because we'd planned to move on the 30th May, and we had all the stuff sorted for it - van and everything, our sellers children let us move in whilst the probate was being sorted, It was being rushed through because of the circumstances, so we'd be fine for completion at the end of June. We just couldn't make any structural changes.

Mid June we got a call to say Probate had been granted and we were completing on the 27th. Our mortgage offer ran out on the 30th. Awesome. All sorted. Done. So Jim went to Glastonbury and I started planning a pineapple party.

And then at lunchtime on the 27th I got a call from the solicitors. He told me the Halifax wouldn't send the money as the valuation on the house had run out and we needed to be credit checked again so we couldn't complete that day. I called Jim at Glastonbury. He was really happy to receive that call! Over the moon. Then I called the mortgage brokers who knew nothing about the valuation running out. Everyone assured us that it's be sorted on Monday.

Monday rolled round and the Halifax's computer systems were down and the only way we could get the mortgage the day our offer expired was to produce 3 months of wage slips, which was all well and good for me but Jim was still in a field in Pilton with no phone battery or access to his work emails. We lost the mortgage offer and as the way you apply for a mortgage has changed in the last 6 months we weren't even sure if we'd get a new one. The Halifax's answer to us losing the mortgage and potentially the house was to tell us to complain to them! Oh, okay then.

During that week we had a call to say that if we didn't have a mortgage offered to us by the 15th we'd potentially lose the house, they'd kick us out and keep the deposit. Awesome. Now it's looking like we'd be homeless and skint. Our solicitors and mortgage brokers called in every favour ever to try and get us a new mortgage. Seriously all of them. A week later we finally completed. But for a week there were tears and threats from my dad to come home from his holiday to help, and more tears and Jim telling me it'd be ok. A lot. More than a lot.

The really crap thing is when I called the Halifax to make the complaint they suggested we make, I was told our valuation hadn't run out at all and they aren't sure why we were told now we're waiting for a letter from them to explain what happened and why their mistakes meant we had that week and a half of hell.

So, if you're buying a house and it's not going smoothly, just feel free to pop back and read this from time to time and thank the stars you're not stuck in a probate induced limbo........and hopefully you're not at the whim of the Halifax either. 

Shut the front door

I'm not sure when the need for a beautiful front door crept upon me. Maybe it was during the hours reading SF Girl By Bay, or maybe it was when I lived in the old vicarage with the beautiful blue door, or maybe it's just a curse of getting older. I'm not sure, but all I can say is I have no love for our current front door and it's not a stretch to say that I spend too long dreaming about a new entrance way for this new house of ours. 

The door we've inherited is green, dark green, with a scruffy surround, a tatty letter box, a phenomenally temperamental lock with a mind of its own and it also isn't very air tight, so I can see it being a problem in the winter. But mostly it's a bit ugly and has me searching Pinterest for the perfect replacement. In my head because the hallway will eventually be black and white and grey (once the yellow and orange woodchip has been painstakingly scraped off, and it's been replastered, and painted) I think a black door, with a beautiful knocker (stop your sniggering children), would be the most sensible choice - it would look classy and I can see it all trussed up at Christmas with a wreath and the likes, but my heart tells me that a beautiful bright door would make me even happier.  
All doors can be found on my Pinterest board!
What do you think? Go with the classic black that I know will look lovely with my monochrome hallway, or scare all the new neighbours into thinking we're crackers with a bright and bold choice that will make us happy when we approach? Or do you think these bright door only work on a beach house in San Diego or somewhere? (If so, can I have a beach house in San Diego? Pretty please.)

And then do we go with a simple door or should we go all high-tech and have one of those ones that just knows you're approaching and unlocks itself or one with a key code on it? This option does terrify me that I'd get too drunk to remember the code but how awesome would it be to never have to worry about fumbling about in the bottom of your handbag for keys again and you'd get to feel like a spy every time you entered the house. Plus with the keycode, if I got  really annoyed with Jim I could just change it..........(no, no, that would be too mean, wouldn't it?)

*Also, yes, we do watch far too much DDD in our house! This was the first thing that came to mind when thinking of a blog title. 

Dream Home: The Guest Room

One of the things I've been really insistent on for our new house is having a beautiful guest bedroom that people will want to come and stay in. Jim really does not get this (he thinks they should just be happy they have a bed not a blow-up mattress – men!) but I think there is something really lovely about having a space that people will look forwards to visiting. Also, I have spent far too much time on Pinterest and have more ideas than one master bedroom allows. 

Our guest room budget is pretty small, given that it's the room we'll mostly likely be shutting the door to and being content in knowing it's sorted, but it doesn't mean we can't make a big impact with some lovely pieces and when I saw the current competition from Hilary's Blinds to redo a bedroom, I thought I'd have to enter.

We’re really lucky in that our guest room is really rather big. Big enough that we have been able to add a king sized bed to the room (we already had this) and a giant wardrobe (a hand-me-down) and it’s still got loads of space left over for me to play with. 

I want to keep the room really simple and relaxing, elegant but comfy. A boudoir rather than a room. I’ve already got some lovely lights that are super fancy (you just tap their base to turn them on) and I’ve earmarked some artwork from our current collection for the walls too, but there are still some bits that I am dreaming of to make the room lovely. Here are some of the essentials that our guest room needs to include;

1. A blackout blind is a must for the guest room. I know what I am like with sleeping in light rooms, so we have to block out the light for guests. This Monochrome blind from Hilary’s would be just perfect. 2. The carpet in the room is pretty dire, and whilst it’s not in our budget to be replaced just yet, having something for guests to sink their feet into when they get up would be a must. 3 As would curtains to fit around the blind. I love the look of a window with layers and sometimes, if you’re just getting changed, you don’t want a pitch black room, so a light curtain over the window too would be ideal. 4. I love the idea of having a full stocked  guest room, with big fluffy towels, carafe of water for guests, and midnight snacks and pretty jars full of any toiletries they might need, plus magazines or books, and maybe a guide to Sheffield for infrequent visitors to the city. This bar cart come guest room organiser has everything you could possibly need. 5. And to finish it off in style, simple,beautiful bedding, filled with a soft duvet and fluffy pillows of course.

Some other bits that I would love to include in the room is a nice dressing table, the room has a chimney breast in it, and I'd love to add a floating dressing table in one of the recessed spaces, with a big fancy mirror above it for guests to get ready at. The room also needs loads of plugs. I know how annoying it is to not be able to charge your phone because of a lack of plugs. And a big comfy chair , a bit like this one from Loaf for chilling out in when guests need a bit of alone time, probably from Flash! 

What are your guest room must haves?

The Blog Hop

I’ve been invited to take part in the Blog Hop by the lovely Anna at Angel in the North. I've been reading so many posts this summer of other Blog Hop participants and loved them all, so I'm really happy to have been included too. I just hope my answers live up to some of the others already written. And what makes it even more fun is that my other blog hopper this week is Toni at Lemon Freckles
So, onto answering the questions.......

Why do I write?
I write because I enjoy it.
People ask me why I blog all the time. It’s mostly people who don’t understand blogging and think it’s dumb, and I tell them because I enjoy it. Just like they enjoy running, or playing football or collecting shoes or handbags or whatever. I enjoy it.
Sometimes I write to collate the things that I love and share the things that I make (and so I don’t have to text my friends with everything I love)
Sometimes I write for me so one day I’ll have a better memory of events.
Sometimes I write to get the crazy thoughts out of my head. Mostly I don’t publish those posts, the act of writing is enough!

And the fact that you, none obliged, people pop here and read it is just awesome. 

But I also write because I love being partof this whole blogging world. I've met some wonderful people through blogging, online and in real life and I really love the community that there is round it, not only in the UK but across the world too. 

What am I working on?
In terms of improving my blogging there are a lot of things I want to work on. I want to up my photography game. I need to stop shooting so much with my phone and pick up my camera again. I need to get better at (and find the time to) stage shots more. I need to plan further ahead so I am not rushing to take shots. I need to find that spot in the house with perfect lighting. All the images used in this post are shots from my very neglected flickr stream, from the days my slr was always in my bag and I used to spend time thinking about my photography.

Talking of planning ahead, doing the big blogging bootcamp last month has me thinking about getting some sort of schedule together around my blogging. I also want to sort my tone of voice out. 

In none blog life I’m working on the house. All of it. Every single corner of it. Not at once, as much as I’d like to, but we’ll be working on it for a while now. So expect updates as a by-product of that. And I have so many must do craft projects that are just sitting there waiting for me to start now I have everything unpacked so expect some posts on those too!

How does it differ from others of its genre?
In all honesty, I don’t think it does that much. I’m a lifestyle blogger. Like most lifestyle bloggers I talk about the things I love. I have my monthly ‘Goals’ posts and my lust lists that are regular features. Whilst I do chat about clothes that I'd love I don't really do fashion posts. I admire bloggers who can get up in front of the camera and pose, that’s just not for me. Plus, I’ve talked before about how converse, jeans and a tshirt won’t win me any style awards.

But one of my big selling points is that the other blogs out there don't have Flash! He's the superstar round here. 

How does my writing process work?
At the moment it’s a little chaotic. Working full time and having a lot of commitments I do find it hard to eeek out some time to sit down and blog, so I write and post when I can. I’m sneaking in posts during lunch breaks, or in the couple of hrs that I should be spending painting and sorting the house whilst Jim is at Football. Recently I’ve been getting up and writing early on Saturday mornings whilst catching up with True Blood. Any time Jim and Flash are both asleep or occupied seems to be my most productive period. 

It usually starts with something I have done, an image I've found or a diy I've tried or an event ,and I work from there. I try to convince myself that the excessive time I spend on Pinterest is all 'blog' work as I find a lot of inspiration on there.

So, there you have it, my Blog Hop answers. I hope that you've found it interesting. And as part of the hop, you nominate two other bloggers to join in with the fun. Next week I've asked two wonderful, dog loving ladies to answer the questions - I love reading their blogs so am looking forwards to their responses. First up we have Laura from The Mrs Makes, and next we have Michelle at Life Outside London

Lust List - We're all going on a puppy holiday....

We're planning a little holiday down to the south west at the end of August, and I, for one, can not wait.* We talked about going away somewhere that we could guarantee would be hot, but then the issue was Flash. It's not that we couldn't get a sitter for him if we went away, it was that we wanted to take him away with us. We wanted him to have a little holiday too. So we're heading to Cornwall, via Southampton, for a little jaunt to the boat. We'll be camping on a cute site 5 minutes from the marina in Mylor so most days will be spent by or on the sea!

Now, Jim and I are perfectly equip for a trip to the boat, or a week in a tent, we have all our camping gear ready to go, and I have enough summer/sailing/Bretton striped/oh-its-not-as-warm-as-we-thought-it-was clothing to last a lifetime, but Flash most certainly needs some new gear for the holiday. Jim says he doesn't, but what does he know?

The last time he came camping with us we thought sod the sleeping bags and took a duvet and pillows with us, so Flash thought it was just like home, although he was a bit confused as to why he couldn't get through the fly screen on the tent and also why he wasn't allowed to run free in this new massive garden he'd recently acquired (that was mostly because he was eating mud. All the time. Oddball!) He even had a life jacket for on the boat which certainly turned some heads. He became the star of the marina strutting about in it. Everyone knew his name!

Here are a few of the bits I think he'd love for his holidays this year though.

1. This navy rope lead would be perfect for trips to the sea, and it's make my dad happy with the sailing nod too! 2. Would a dog sleeping bag be a bit excessive? (Maybe, I might just make him one). 3. I love these H20 water bottles and maybe this would help on walks to keep him hydrated on the go, rather than drinking dirty puddle water like he does normally. 4. It wouldn't be a holiday without a treat or two and these cranberry and cheese Barks and Bunnie treats sound just up Flash's street (as will the be ice cream, whitebait, pasties and everything else we eat!) 5. Nautical bow tie collar for trips to the yacht clubs,

But on a more serious note, here are a few things that we've found really useful when camping, sailing and holidaying with Flash;
  • EzyDog LifeJacket for when he was on the boat, pontoon or near the sea. He's not a great swimmer, and he's a little bit stupid sometimes so it made us feel safer, plus, it has a handle on the back too in case we need to lift him out. We're getting Flash a new red one this year as he's grown out of his Camo one (so sad they've discontinued that colour!)
  • Screw in stake for on the campsite
  • Long piece of rope for tying him to the stake or on the boat. 
  • A hoodie. Camping and boating gets cold for such a little dog. Although he prefers being inside Jim's jumper to wearing his own. 
  • Lots of treats and treat hiding toys like our kongs - they keep him very occupied. 
  • Doggy first aid kit
  • A couple of towels. One for mud. One for drying off. 
  • His bed for when he wanted to chill out in his own space.
  • No spill travel bowl for in the car and for sailing with. 
  • Flashing collar for night time walks on dark country lanes. 
I'd love to hear if you've been camping with your pooch and what you found useful. 

*My last break was Glastonbury, last year, as in 2013, and i'll be honest, I'm not sure I class Glasto as an actual holiday more an endurance test (and a chance to figure out which friend I'll murder first when I'm kept awake by their 6am shouting for the 5th night in a row.) Hmmm, I really need a break. 

House Tour - Our far

I thought it might be nice to do a bit of an update on some more of the house, this time we're looking at the garden. Our last house had a small shared yard, shared with some pretty grumpy and dog hating neighbours, so having an actual garden is quite exiting to all 3 of our little family members. Flash in particular is loving having somewhere to play and sunbathe and chase birds.

This is the garden on the day we moved in; 

On the day we moved in Flash started investigating (i.e disappearing into for a scarily long time) the mess of bushes at the bottom of the garden. So when we decided to take a look where he was disappearing to, it turned out that about half the usable space we had outside was being taken up by these bushes and I'm yet to discover what the point of bushes are, apart from a place for Flash to hide.

On the good side, it's full of flowers, rose bushes, and peonies and honeysuckle. The lady we bought from obviously loved the garden before she got ill and had spent a lot of time making it pretty, but it had clearly got the better of her in recent months.

Jim's mum is a gardening wizz, she loves it, and offered to come over and help sort the space out. It was her first job in the house. And I couldn't believe how much she got done in 2 days. (Well, in one day really as she had to stop as she'd stacked up all the debris in the middle of the grass ready for taking to the tip and ran out of space, then we hijacked her for a trip to Ikea.)

Check the yellow dust by the tree. Loved it. 
Once all the debris was moved, we called my dad and his chainsaw in to hack away at the roots and the bulk of the big bushes, again creating a huge pile of rubbish. One of the bushes was bright yellow when cut open which added a fun dimension to the dust floating about too! It took them a couple of days but once they were done, we were all amazed at how much more space they'd uncovered. See, this is the garden after;

The random tennis ball is a permanent feature
We were lucky that one of the bars I work for was having new garden furniture so we got some of the old stuff which has saved us a small fortune. Who knew that garden furniture cost so much money? Not me.

Erm, yes, we do have branded garden furniture. What of it?
And I've added some fairy lights to the patio area (can you call it that?) to make it a little prettier, because, honestly, when do fairy lights not make everything better? And we've brought in a few of our plants from the other house too, but mostly we're just loving having some outside space of our own. Breakfasts in the sun have become my favourite. It's also become a great place for slightly drunken chat with the neighbours who seem to be out in their garden alllllll the time, mostly slightly drunk too!

Remember my snowboard bench? Here it is in it's new home. 
(excuse the colours here. No idea what's going on!)

So, what are the plans for the future when all the money and all our time isn't all consumed with the inside of the house?
  • We're planning on re-seeding the lawn but I read that autumn is the best time to do this so we might wait (yes, my 18 year old self would be totally horrified at that statement but she'd probably feel better knowing that it's about 99% certain that I'll be calling my dad in to do it for us) I also want more grass adding up to the about the tree. 
  • Talking of the tree, we need to cut it back to let more sunlight into the garden, it's so big that it cuts out all the light during the middle of the day. I'd also like to install a swing onto the tree just because I think that would be awesome. 
  • We're going to pull down the old outside loo (next to the table) and put something up there that isn't ugly and already falling down, probably a shed to house outside stuff like strimmers and bikes and that sort of stuff.
  • I want to add pots of herbs all the way along the bottom of the fence, so when you walk outside that's the first thing you see. 
  • We need to replace the fence all the way down with something a bit more Flash proof. And the gate. And paint them both an awesome colour (turquoise or pink i think). And then hang planters of flowers and herbs all over them. 
  • Add an area at the bottom of the garden for growing veg and fruit and the likes. I've missed my homegrown fruit and veg this year. 
  • Move all the huge planters and the random bits of stone that spiders hide around out of the garden and replace with something prettier. Or paint them and plant nice stuff in them at least! 
  • And one day - repave the concrete area so it's not horrible to walk on barefoot and doesn't look crappy! 
The list could go on for forever, but what would you do with the space?

A July round up and August Goals

Can I start by asking how the crapping hell it's August? Seriously? How?

Thankfully, even though it was busy, July didn't seem as crazy as June, which was needed really. But in July we finally bought our house. (Only 10 days after the mortgage offer expired and after a crap load of tears and some heated calls to the Halifax. More on that another time) We dog-sat 3 out of 4 of my brothers dog for a long weekend, sadly though one of his dog passed away this month, so it's lovely to know we got to spend some time with Murphy and take him on fun walks and kiss his big seal-like head before it happened.

We had 'Our Tiny Bees' come to our WI meeting - their lip balm is amazing. Must order some other products soon. Please take a look at the site as they are awesome. We had another weekend with Flash's furry cousin, Molly. Flash also started properly at 'Doggy Den' the doggy daycare centre near our house. Just one day a week so he has some dog play times but he's starting to love it. There was some Gin tasting of yummy Langtons Gin. I fell in love with Invisibobbles and the fact they don't kink my hair even after ages of being tied up. I got my craft room to a state that doesn't offend me. The dining room is very almost complete. I just need to procure a lot of wood now........ We undecorated the living room, ordered a sofa, bought side tables and curtains to hopefully create a proper room in there (as soon as it's been plastered and painted and carpeted.)

I fell in love with some gems from Bauble Bar. And bought Flash a paddling pool, which he hates. There were BBQ's in the rain, hail and thunder with friends and the weather just made them better! It was Tramlines weekend which meant loads of friends from Manchester came to visit and we got a chance to bust out the smoker and put the garden to full use. And we planned a trip to Cornwall for next month and made a start on our Vancover/Whistler plans for March. All whist it actually felt like summer! 

And onto next month. Here are my goals for the month.