25 November 2013

The Cottage - October 2013

As soon as I stepped out of the car I realised that from now on I'm going to have to label these posts with their date. It's all moving so fast and so dramatically that you need a timescale to be keeping up with everything.

We'd been on holiday, we'd had work, we have a baby so it took a while but I eventually managed to get up to Norfolk to meet with the builders and to see the progress. And my god what progress - I stepped out of the car and saw this...

Please note lack of roof! I'm now reliably informed (by the builders) that the roof was off for only a couple of days but it was pretty shocking to arrive and see (even though I knew it would be happening at some point).

The builders have not only been moving at a fast pace but their work is AMAZING (they are not reading this) and they pretend not to mind that I can't make a decision about anything.

So... they've gutted the place (as instructed). There is no roof, no plaster in the whole of the upstairs, all the lintels have had to be replaced and we've discovered that the extension is basically not attached to the rest of the house (thanks previous-builders-that-husband-won't-let-me-name). Decision on bathroom layout still to be made but had a great meeting about the kitchen and think we have something decided that will make it a lot more usable but I need to go away and think about it all (obviously).

The back...
The dining room into the hall

The main bedroom with new lintel
View from the third bedroom

Middle bedroom

The kitchen...

To see a layout to help get an idea of where these pictures are then see here for the floorplans.

22 November 2013

Doing New York

When you tell people you are going to New York you get so inundated with suggestions that it's hard to know what you can actually achieve in the time that you've got, especially when there are three of you to make decisions and a 1 year old to consider. I think we did pretty well at deciding what to see and we all loved the city to much I hope we'll return so I wasn't too anxious about missing those bits we didn't make it to.

I would like to say that we found New York to be really baby friendly. Even the places we were told were not baby friendly that we accidentally poled up at, were really lovely and accommodating and mostly had high chairs. I've done a whole separate post on where and what we ate while we were there - I'm still struggling to shift the New York weight.

Manhattan Sky Line from the Circle Line Boat
One thing that was consistently recommended to us and was I think, all of our favourite part of the holiday was the Circle Line Tour which is a trip around the island on Manhattan. Due to the tides we weren't able to go the whole way around Manhattan but the tour guide (David) was so fantastic it really didn't matter at all - we more than got our monies worth. Informative, funny and absolutely stunning this tour not only gets you really involved with the history of New York but helps you get a real grip of the geography. I may live in London but I was really intimidated by the idea of New York and yet it is so manageable and easy to understand once you get to know the layout and this tour really makes you feel like you've seen most parts of a city that would take a long time to see every part of - you could spend a good three months in the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone. If you do one touristy thing while you are in New York let it be the Circle
Line Tour. I hope you get David as your guide.

My lovely friend from school, Vanessa who has lived in New York for the past five years, took us on a walking tour of Midtown, Times Square, Greenwich Village and China Town. We were exhausted and our feet hurt and thought she was a turbo New Yorker - til we saw her two days later when she said every time we weren't looking she wept for her feet (a slight exaggeration I'm sure) and had to wear flip flops into work the next day her blisters were so bad. If you don't have someone to do it for you I really think a walking tour of the city is a great idea - I think you'd be hard pressed to see a lot of areas without a constructed tour by someone who knows what they're doing. What we didn't cover with the walking tour was Central Park which we did a couple of days later although we could only manage a couple of hours (due to our sore feet... thanks Vanessa). Central Park is just beautiful - and without sounding cliched and cheesy it was everything I wanted it to be. Huge swathes of green with skyscrapers in the background. I could spend a lot of time there.

Central Park from the top of the Rockefeller Centre
Probably the most 'touristy' thing we did was go to the top of the Rockefeller Centre - Top of the Rock. Apparently better than the Empire State building the view is phenomenal but there is a big queue to get up to the top and a HUGE queue to get down to the bottom again so be prepared. Central Park, so huge when you are in it, looks like a piece of patchwork. Had I not had a 1 year old I would have spent hours up there (not queueing to get down).

We had a couple of false starts with the shopping. I had a few specific things that I wanted, and failed, to get which I think really set us on the wrong path. Once we got advice (again from the wonderful Vanessa)  we were on a roll - I really recommend Ann Taylor, Loft and White House, Black Market. Joe got some lovely shirts from Loehmann's and if you are in the area it's definitely worth checking it out for discount designer clothes.

We, of course, went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (huge and a lovely cafe for lunch) and my Mumma (and Ned) went to the Museum of Modern Art (she said better to spend more time in the Met) and we all went to the Frick Collection which is just down the road from the Met and definitely worth a visit. There are so many famous pictures and artists in there it's pretty incredible and surprisingly few people have heard of it.

I fell in love with this city. It's intense and expensive but mesmerising and addictive. There is so much to do and see and yet I feel that, for a huge city it is quite an easy place to be. We stayed at the Marriott East and could not have been better placed or looked after - I'd really recommend staying in Midtown if you can as you really are able to get everywhere relatively easily and check out where I recommend eating here.

18 November 2013

The Cottage - Everything Out

My god having said I would be updating you on how our cottage in Norfolk is going I haven't... But I am now and I'm splitting it into two posts rather than one HUGE one.

The whole idea of doing the cottage up was quite difficult to manage. It was Joe's dad's cottage and he was very unwell and not keen on changing anything... at all. Still we made plans and agreed that work could go ahead from the beginning of September 2013. Then sadly on 4th August 2013 Joe's father died which not only stopped us in our tracks but made money issues very murky in terms of probate and our plans for the cottage get a whole lot bigger. When we initially made plans it was to do what was necessary, freshen everything up and yet keep it as close as possible to what it had been so it wasn't too strange for my father-in-law. Now that he has gone we are able to completely re-do everything and ensure that we can bring the cottage up to rental standard.

We were so shell shocked that we only managed to pack half the cottage up before we had to leave it all to movers to do the rest for us. It was very strange - we were there for the funeral, then went away for two weeks and the next time we saw it, it was... well you'll see in the next post what it was like but when we left we hadn't made any decisions. Now, we are decisions a-go-go...
Dining room and kitchen in the process of being emptied

Sitting room
Sitting room into the office extension

12 November 2013

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding

The title of this sounds a bit gross I know and I have to say when my mum first suggested it I thought she had gone nuts but it was totally yummy and has now made me believe that any form of leftover can be made into something delicious. Which is true to a certain extent. I made cheese, ham and cucumber sandwiches for Ned's first birthday party (along with lots of other things) and there were some leftover which I was determined not to throw out. I ate the ham for lunch but really they would have been lovely in this but I was hungry. So there.

This is a hard recipe to write up as the amounts depend on how many sandwiches you have. It would also work well with lots of other kinds of sandwiches - ham, tomato... probably not cucumber... so don't feel restricted by the fact that this recipe is mainly cheese. You can also add whatever you like - my husband doesn't think something is cooking if it doesn't involve an onion. Garlic would be nice too but this is the basics - do with it as you will.

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding

Leftover cheese sandwiches (I had about 20 which were quarter squares on a mix of white and brown bread)
2 eggs
¼ to ½ pint of milk
Cheese (preferably something tasty and melty - cheddar, red Leicester etc)
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and butter an ovenproof dish that will suit the amount of sandwiches you have - you want at least two layers of sandwiches in the bottom and enough room for this to rise a bit.

1. Layer the leftover sandwiches in the bottom of your buttered dish and squish them in a bit.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the milk. Beat a bit more and season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the egg/milk mix over the sandwiches and leave to stand for half an hour or so.

4. Grate cheese over the top (I even splodged on some cream cheese that I wanted to use up) and cook for about half and hour or until the cheese is starting to go golden and it has puffed up a bit.

5. Serve with a salad and some chutney. It was delicious.

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding

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