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November 2018 mont­­hly family lifestyle roundup

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Welcome to my November UK family lifestyle roundup.  It's my monthly roundup where you get an insight into the person behind this blog and what my little family and I have been up to for a whole month.  It's also a place for me to document our lives each month and save them in this category so we can look back through them and remember what we've done!

Although every month feels busy, I didn’t feel like we did many day trips or outings in November.  Ben has been busy working in his workshop on a couple of furniture commissions, so we didn’t go out anywhere extraordinary at the weekends.  This is going to be the difficulty of Ben trying to set up his own business – he already works full time, so it only leaves the evenings and weekends to do it. 

With cold dark nights upon us and little time after work/dinner/kids, it really only leaves the weekend days for him to make things in the workshop.  It’s fine and I support him, but it means we are getting a lot less family time together at the weekends.  I’m sure the summer will be better when it’s lighter and warmer for longer and he can work more evenings on his business venture and make use of working outdoors in the sunshine until late!

We still did a lot of little things this month and even managed to alter our kitchen to improve it. 

Plus we've been feeling a bit more festive as the kids get excited for Christmas and we've seen displays, trees and lights in shops.

Here’s what’s been happening:

We see two sets of fireworks

We went to see two sets of fireworks this month.  Well, we all went to the local Churchdown fireworks which is the next part of Gloucester to where we live in Brockworth.  The display was amazing.  I also took Bella to Calton Primary School’s fireworks at the end of the month in Gloucester, so Bella and I saw two displays!  Last year we went to Birdlip which was brilliant, but I want to keep trying different venues each year.  In 2019 I want to go to Alton Towers to see their fireworks extravaganza!

New kitchen worktop and design

Our fridge-freezer had been on the brink for ages and had started getting too warm, causing food to go off quicker than usual.  It was around 10 years old and only a cheap appliance.  It was definitely time for a replacement!  I had a plan though – rather than get another tall fridge-freezer, I wanted to get individual under counter versions and extend our kitchen worktop instead.  Our kitchen is really small and the room I was most disappointed with when we bought this house.  I was happy when we looked round, until I saw the kitchen and my stomach sank.  I had hoped for a kitchen diner, a hub of the home where we could cook and be together as a family, but instead we have a poxy kitchen that even me and Ben can’t cook in together without constantly getting in each other’s way.

We have a side door on the kitchen which we never use.  So I thought we could increase our kitchen worktop space by around 50% if we get under counter appliances and cover up the door!  We did get a quote to brick it up properly and insert a window to the top, but we were looking at around £1300-£1500.  Instead, Ben thought he could cover it up with something, leaving the window at the top and then it could be reverted back to a door in the future if needed.  We went with this option and it actually looks great!  Ben boarded up the bottom half of the door, painted it, added new worktop, a windowsill and tiled so it blends in with the rest of the kitchen.  We just need to add some skirting board under the counter to complete.

It looks great and has given us extra worktop space and also somewhere to sit in the kitchen.  We have added two bar stools so the kids can eat their breakfast in the kitchen now or do their homework and I can keep an eye on them.  I hope it will make a big difference.

I go shorter again with my latest hair cut

Yet again I went to the hairdresser for a trim and decided to have more cut off!  I definitely went too short for my liking this time and so I’ll grow it back down to the last length which I feel suits me more.  For now though it is chin length!

Kundalini clubbing

I went and experienced Kundalini clubbing in Stroud for the first time with a friend!  It was definitely an experience, but also very fun!  I hated the beginning as we sat in a large circle (30-40 of us) and had to go around and introduce ourselves and why we were there.  I felt like I was at an AA meeting or something!  I hate speaking in front of large groups of people so my heart was racing and palms getting sweaty the closer it got to my turn.  That over, we had some raw cacao drink for a burst of energy for the night.  We had to do some sort of salute to the North, South, East and West – again something that felt a bit bizarre, but I went with it.

After these two parts which were either a bit strange or increased my anxiety, we did some kundalini yoga and I felt much more relaxed.  It’s more breathing technique than posture and I found it very relaxing and empowering. 

Next was dancing!  All sorts of club music and tribal music to dance around to for a couple of hours and to let myself go!  This was so much fun as I haven’t danced around since going ‘club clubbing’ over 7 years ago!  Then a gong bath to finish which is super relaxing – lying on yoga mats with a blanket and listening to the soothing sound of live gongs.

Ben creates a custom bespoke fitted wardrobe (for a customer!)

As mentioned above, Ben has been working on creating a bespoke fitted wardrobe using a mix of new and reclaimed materials.  He’s so far only made standalone furniture items, so this was his first installation in someone’s house.  Luckily it was at my best friend’s girlfriend’s house, so it meant they were very relaxed about the whole thing and understood he had limited time around his full time job and family life!

It took a few weeks of lots of evenings in his workshop and whole weekend days, but it is finally complete and looks amazing!  The customer is very happy with the new wardrobe so well done Ben!  He’s had a few commissions so far and already has another one to start now he's finished the wardrobe, so this is a great start to his side business.

Reverse advent calendar

I took part in the ‘reverse advent calendar’ which is organised by the UK Money Bloggers who I am a part of.  I saw it a little too late last year, but this year I knew I wanted to get involved once I saw everyone’s blog posts on the subject.  It involved adding an item of food or toiletries to a box once per day for 24 days – the length of an advent calendar.  Instead of receiving during advent, it’s a way to give.  It’s all about raising awareness of food banks and especially at Christmas when they see a 45% increase in their services in the two weeks before. 

Read more here: Help others this Christmas with a Reverse Advent Calendar

I try the vegan burger at The Swan, Cheltenham

Not only did I go Kundalini Clubbing with a friend this month, but the following Saturday I went out into Cheltenham for a meal with two friends.  I rarely go out and never two weekends in a row, so this has been a real treat.  I definitely need to get out more and have a bit of a social life again instead of just working and being mum which is often how I feel!  I wanted to try the vegan menu at The Swan in Cheltenham as I’d seen it shared in a local vegan group and luckily my friends were happy to go with my suggestion.  We all had a vegan burger and all thoroughly enjoyed it!  It’s a lovely cosy pub in the centre of Cheltenham with friendly staff and great vegan food.  I recommend it and will go back again as soon as possible!

Building quotes

We got a fair few quotes for our home in November.  I mentioned the kitchen one above to brick up the door, but we also got more.  I quite desperately want our artex removed and plastered, but we had a quote of £1600 for that!  It’s too much at the moment.  I should probably get a few more quotes just to see if that’s right.  It’s two smallish ceilings, a large ceiling and three walls.  I’ve no idea how anyone ever thought artex was a good idea or that it looked attractive!

We also had a quote for the front of the house to change the window on our garage conversion into a smaller window and door.  I’d like to convert the room into an ensuite room to rent out and to give its own entrance so people don’t have to access it through our home.  When we don’t have people staying then it will be a guest room for us and will also provide us with a downstairs toilet.  It’s all an idea stage at the moment, but it was good to get a quote of just £1300 to add a door to the front if we need to.  We’d need quotes of adding an ensuite (probably Saniflo unfortunately) and also relocating all our meters which are in this room.  That’ll probably be a porch on the front which is something else I’d like to add to our home.

We have lots of ideas at the moment, but we’re not moving forward with anything just yet.  I have a two year plan at the moment to save an emergency fund to cover our mortgage and bills for one year in year one, and then to pay our personal debt off in year two.  I think at the moment these two things are the most sensible financial things to do before improving our home anymore.  If anything happens with either of our jobs then we can think about converting the room into a lodging opportunity if we need the money!  But for now I think it’s safer to wait and get all our savings and finances on track.

Re-mortgage is finally complete

Wow, after starting the whole process of re-mortgage towards the end of August, we finally had our new mortgage in place in the middle of November!  It seemed to go on forever!  Read why I won’t use a mortgage adviser again to see why I’ll try and go it alone next time.

My teeth are finished

My teeth are finished!  Kind of!  The brace is off and my permanent false teeth are on – two bridges.  I might just need some bonding for a gap that is next to one of my canines and the tooth behind.  But otherwise, they look great!

Read my thoughts and final ‘braces at 30’ blog entry here: Braces 30– Was it worth it?

Reuben’s new bedroom shelves

In an attempt to minimise my office space even more, I moved a large square unit up to Reuben’s bedroom for his toys and books and it fits perfectly!  I now have more space in my office area and Reuben has plenty of space for toys and books in his bedroom.  I think it really brings his room together and feels more complete.  Before there was a much smaller unit there and it felt a bit bare.

Reuben has a hospital visit

Reuben had his first heart check-up appointment in one year.  We used to go every three months when he was a baby, then 6 months and now once per year as he is growing and everything is stabilising.  He has pulmonary stenosis and had two heart interventions called balloon dilation when he was a baby.  This involved feeding a tiny balloon up an artery from his leg to his heart and blowing the balloon up to force the heart valve to widen.  Scary stuff!  At a couple of our last appointments there was talk of open heart surgery, but luckily the pressure in his heart is going down as he grows, so it’s a case of monitoring it until he’s an adult and then he may need a donor, but we’ll see what happens when we reach that point or if anything changes in the meantime. 

We rarely think about Reuben’s heart now unless he has an appointment.  It doesn’t seem to bother him or affect him in any way so he just seems like a normal child.

Walking treadmill desk

Isn’t this amazing?!  I had been thinking of getting a treadmill desk for ages, but they are so expensive – around £1000.  But once I’d cleared the shelves out of my office space, I had lots of room so thought about it again.  I looked online and found just the treadmill part which could go under my desk and then bought a rising stand for my laptop.  I still need to get a better laptop set up as I look down to type, same as if I was sat at the desk, so I need to get a separate keyboard and split level stand so I look straight ahead instead.

Here’s a more in depth review of the treadmill desk:

Make your own walking treadmill desk and be healthier at work

£2k car repair bill

Eugh!  So last month I mentioned our Bongo was in the garage (again) and potentially needed £1000 of repairs… well, the final bill was over £1900!!!!!  Oh my goodness.  My actual cars usually cost that much or less, so a bill of even just £300 for a repair is the most I’ve ever had previously and I thought that was expensive!

The head gasket needed replacing which meant they had to replace the top half of the engine or something or other.

We were originally quoted £1200… then told £500 extra for the part… then turned up to a £2200 bill which we had no idea about and were not happy with.  They knocked £300 off, but it was still far too much. 

Our savings have really taken a knock this year due to this Bongo so now I’m only halfway to my savings target for this year. Grrr!

I just hope nothing else goes wrong with the Bongo or I’m going to want to sell it and just settle for a cheaper car for Ben.  Only problem is he now says he needs it for his furniture business to be able to pick up large pieces of wood and deliver his furniture.  If it takes off then he can get a separate work van and cover the costs from his business in the future as it’s too much to keep paying out of our personal accounts.  It’s definitely too much of an extravagance.  I think our previous cars cost a lot anyway, before we had the Bongo, yet they never cost us anywhere near this much.

Someone told me the head gasket always eventually goes and that we should be fine now.  I hope they are right!

Bella’s swimming lessons

On to some good news – Bella can swim!!  Yay!  It’s taken almost two years of lessons – a year in a class, then a year of private lessons.  She can swim a whole width on her back!  She is fine doing this, but still panics a little on her front, so needs to work on this over the next few weeks.  I’ve promised her a trip to town for vegan chocolate cake once she swims a width on her front, so she’s very keen to do it!

She technically got her swimming certificate at the start of December, but she had already swam the length on her back in November.  Go Bella!