A first lick of paint… discovering Frenchic

Sometimes something drops into your inbox at exactly the right time. That was the case with an invitation from Frenchic to their Blogger and Media Showcase event in London, which took place last week.

When I first received this I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation about the new house we were in the process of buying. At that point though, despite everything being in place from our end, our vendor’s solicitor was still fast asleep! I didn’t know if accepting the invitation would be tempting fate or not. As it happens, it was probably one of the best things I could do.

Our new home

The house we now own had the same family living it for nearly 50 years. It’s fair to say that nothing has been updated since the 1980s. There are some interesting carpets, lots of floral wallpaper, dated tiles and some very dark wooden doors. It’s not a property with what estate agents would call “character features” but instead has tonnes of potential. We realise that that equates to lots of work, but we are thrilled about the idea of a challenge. We want to be able to put our stamp on the place.

I’ve watched enough upcycling programmes to know that it is possible to do a huge amount with a bit of imagination, lots of enthusiasm and a limited budget, but finding the right materials can be key to success. And that’s where I think Frenchic is going to pay a key part in our home’s transition into properly becoming ours.

Introducing Frenchic

Now, before last week I wasn’t really familiar with Frenchic. The name rang a vague bell, but if I’m honest that was all. A massive lack of funds means that I had been staying out of the shops recently. A fear of jinxing things with the house had stopped me from even pinning interiors ideas on Pinterest.

The fact that the Frenchic day took place just a couple of weeks after moving really make it perfect timing. Since coming onto the market in December 2014, Frenchic’s eco-credentials mean that it has become a firm favourite with everyone looking to update their home or up-cycle in as environmentally friendly a way possible.

Frenchic

There are no hidden chemicals in Frenchic paint and it simply lacks that paint smells that I got so used to using chalk paints in the past. It goes on like a dream, and their range includes genius ideas like an Al Fresco range for use outdoors and also their Lazy range (genius name!) even has the wax already in the paint. That means that once it is dry you don’t need to wax it, just buff it up. In addition to these and their standard chalk and mineral paint, they’ve also got a wall paint, one for trims, and additional products like a crackle glaze (to use between paint coats to give a crackle effect) and waxes and a finishing coat product.

I was blown away at the blogger day when everything was demonstrated to me. As I sat there I was making a mental list of the various parts of my house that need things doing and the products I could use to transform everything. There are wooden fitted wardrobes that need refreshing, old bathroom tiles that need updating, a wooden banister to cover, dark wooden doors that need a lighter shade and a whole 1980s kitchen that is incredibly functional, but as ugly as sin.

Frenchic

I kept my project for the day small to allow me the headspace to come up with more details plans of what I could do where. Encouraged by some of the Frenchic stockists I decided to try my hand at using some of their paint as the base on a little birdhouse. I then went on to decorate with decoupage (another craft that I have strangely never actually tried my hand at).

Decoupage

I kicked off by using the Al Fresco range on this simple wooden birdhouse (available from The Works here). One top tip was to use a light colour if you’re going to decoupage over it, as otherwise your background colour will swamp your decoupage detail.

I then set about with a pile of paper napkins to choose my decoration. Inspired by a birdhouse that one of the staff had already completed, I went for a bumble bee theme. I quickly set about tearing out bumble bees. The trick to decoupage using napkins is to use just the top layer of three ply napkins. Normally this is the only layer that has the picture printed on it. All you need to do to separate the layers I wet your finger and thumb and then press them hard onto the napkin, and hey presto – when you separate them again the napkin comes apart.

I was then taught how to simply use Frenchic Finishing Coat to attach the napkin. Paint a thin layer on then lightly lay your napkin detail in place. Then use some scrunched up cling film, to work from the centre of the picture outwards to squeeze out the excess finishing coat from underneath and also expel any trapped air bubbles. On a bigger surface you can even put a plastic bag over your hand to smooth it out.

Frenchic

I decided to use a complete sheet of napkin to cover the roof of my birdhouse. Then I added further details to the front and sides by tearing out some of the bees. I also added some plants on the sides from a different napkin design. What is strange is just how addictive the whole process was. Suddenly I felt my creative juices flowing and away I went. Several people stopped as they passed by to tell me how much they liked what I was doing. That just seemed to inspire me even more.

Back home

I’m delighted to have come home with a gorgeous finished birdhouse. I am planning to hang in my kitchen to constantly remind me of my first project in this house. There was also a goodie bag packed with Frenchic products, so I can start putting our own stamp on this house. As I sit writing this a week later I’m delighted to say that project number one is already complete. Watch out for a blog post on just that very soon, and I’ve got a couple more planned. I’m also back to pinning like mad on Pinterest for inspiration of what else I can do.

One of the Frenchic team also introduced me to their fantastic Facebook group. It is full of people sharing their Frenchic projects, and is so inspiring!

Be warned, if anything stays still in this house, it now stands a very good chance of me painting it!

Disclaimer: I was delighted to be invited along to the Frenchic blogger and media day. This post includes affiliate links.

Coming home

We’ve just had a quick mini-holiday to round off the school Easter holidays. I say “mini-holiday” but I might be exaggerating things a bit. We were actually only away from home the one night, but squeezing in a bit of fun around B’s work trip to the Isle of Wight felt like a perfect little holiday and certainly recharged my batteries.

There’s so much to share about our trip (which will be happening very, very soon, over on my new travel blog) but the main thing I’m focussing on today is what it felt like when we got back. B and I have been lucky enough to travel loads in the time that we’ve been living together, but this week’s little adventure was the first time since we moved house and it’s felt very different.

There’s no way that our new house is sorted yet. The living room still seems to be full of boxes, and three quarters of the garage at our old rented flat still needs to be cleared, but it is most definitely our home now and every day we’re making more and more little steps towards making it the perfect family home that we’ve been dreaming of for all these months.

Isle of Wight ferry home Wightlink

As we headed back on the ferry over the Solent yesterday as well as feeling a little bit sad that our trip was drawing to a close, I also felt completely refreshed and looking forward to going home. I’d not realised just how much moving had physically and mentally taken it out of me, but a bit of us time and relaxation has made a huge difference.

And that’s the thing. For the first time in months, possibly longer, I realise that I now have somewhere to live that properly feels like a home. We may not have made it perfect yet, but a home isn’t just made by the state of the decor the possessions you have in it. It’s made with people and love.

We always said that we wanted a home full of love and happiness and that’s exactly what it felt like we came home to last night. This week’s challenge is just make make it a little bit of a tidier home!

Knowing no one

The problem with moving somewhere new and knowing no one is knowing no one. I work from home and my kids are staying at their old schools back in a neighbouring town, so my opportunities to get to meet new people are somewhat limited locally.

For me, one obvious way to do so was to pop along to the local WI. I’ve been a WI member for four years now and I absolutely love the Herts Belles back in St Albans. In that time I’ve made some brilliant friends, learnt some new skills and had an amazing amount of fun. I realise not every WI is quite the same, but talking to this local one they seemed friendly enough on Facebook when I enquired about meeting details.

So last night I went along, trying to ignore the slightly nervous feeling in my stomach. With it still being school holidays locally they weren’t meeting in their usual venue, but instead at a local church. I knew roughly where I was going and pulled up in the car park outside slightly surprised to see quite so many women heading towards the church. I’d looked at their photos on Facebook and whilst they seem to have a healthy number of attendees I didn’t think there were quite this many.

I followed them towards the door of the church where I met three women who instantly asked “are you here for WI?” I uttered the word “yes” and before I could say any more the door was held open for me and one of them said “excellent, we can follow you then”. I quickly explained that that probably wasn’t the best idea, seeing as I’d never been there before, but it seems the only hall these women they could find in the church was for Slimming World!

After a quick discussion as to whether or not this was some sneaky NFWI ploy to get us all to lose a bit of weight, we tried several doors before venturing down a dark corridor and finally finding a room in which they at least recognised most of the women inside.

Once there everyone was delightful and incredibly welcoming. They were all very keen to find out about the Herts Belles and where I was living locally. Space was made for me to sit next to someone and I was given a quick run down of how they do things there. I’ll be honest and say it is a much older and traditional WI that I am used to, but I was made to feel so welcome by everyone there.

The official part of the meeting was done much more formally than I’m used to (I’ve certainly never had a set of minutes read out in full before) but I was surprised to find that they don’t actually sing Jerusalem, as I’d expected them to do so.

It was also interesting to hear about meetings that they’d had previously and also about future meeting and trip plans. I realise that with the kids I’m not going to be able to attend all meetings but it still seems like they have a nice bit of variety throughout the year.

Tales of a recent Gyles Brandreth event (that I think was a county event) and his advice for public speaking (“always make sure you have your nipples pointing forwards at your audience”) led our speaker for the evening into talking about how he was once researching Victoria vibrators and came across “nipple jumpers” which were apparently a thing to give people the look of erect nipples that you might get on a cold day, even when the wearer was warm. It was quite a start!

What he was really there to talk abut was Victorians and death. They way that they mourned the dead, what they did with their dead and how Queen Victoria pretty much ruined the whole mourning “business” by choosing a white funeral for when she died. All this with the occasional background noise of screams from a drama group that were rehearsing in a nearby hall. It certainly set an atmosphere!

It may all sounds like a bit of a morbid topic, but was actually fascinating. So much so that a few of us from the Herts Belles are now wondering about booking a little trip to Kensal Green cemetery in London for a tour.

Talk over, vote of thanks delivered, it was time for a cuppa. Being polite I held back a little and chatted to a few people before getting my (excellent) cup of tea and a nice biscuit to go with it. I then sat down and continued my conversations with a few of the women I’d met whilst slowly drinking my tea.

I noticed the President sat back at the table wearing her coat and looking a tad concerned. Also, a couple of other women who had headed off after the vote of thanks seemed to have returned to the hall. News soon spread around to tell us that there was a slight problem. We were locked in!

Yes, it seems that as we weren’t regulars there on a Thursday evening, and were tucked away down a dark corridor, we’d been forgotten about and locked into the church complex. I knew some WIs can be a bit “wilder” than others, but I certainly hadn’t been expecting a WI lock in at my first meeting!

I dropped my boyfriend a text to let him know that the meeting had finished, but saying that I wasn’t quite sure when I would be back as we were being held captive somewhat. “Well at least you can drink tea whilst you wait” he replied. Well, not really. There I was taking my time over my cuppa and enjoying chatting when a woman appeared at my side and told me to drink up quickly as there was only me and one other woman still with cups and they wanted to be able to finish the washing up. Well that told me. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk hot tea quite so quickly.

Apart from the rushed tea drinking and being held captive it was a lovely evening and so nice to actually meet some local people. It was also my first step towards becoming a bit of a WI tourist too. I find it fascinating just how different WIs can be despite working towards the same aims and goals. I’ll be becoming a dual member when I go back, but I’m also looking to broaden my WI horizons a bit more and find out what other local groups there are so I can see if there are any more meetings or activities that I can join in with in the area.

Finally… we moved

Finally, finally, finally the waiting was over. This whole house buying process has made me realise that I’m no where near as patient as I always thought I was. From an admin point of view, I had absolutely everything in place for us to be able to buy this house, but for a while I felt so utterly helpless as other things (out of my control) held us up.

The day that our solicitor phoned to say that we’d finally exchanged I’m not sure that I actually believed him. We’d been ready and waiting for a week – even with our deposit money sat in the solicitor’s bank account – yet there always seemed to be some reason why it couldn’t yet happen. Then when it did I didn’t really know where to start.

There was quite simply so much to do. We had a week between exchange and completion, but luckily were planning to have a long overlap with our rented flat, meaning that we at least had time to clear that properly and clean it before handing back the keys, rather than having to rush. Moving house requires quite a bit of organising, as does juggling kids during the process. There were vans to hire, things to move, a storage unit to clear, plus all the general admin that goes with it. Utilities companies to talk to, address to change, things to organise. Lists, lists, lists.

It meant that the week between the two went in a complete blur and to be honest I’m not sure I really remember any of it properly.

We’ve now been home owners for three weeks. And whilst I’m still looking at a pile of boxes filling up my living room, I do at least feel like I have a proper home again.

So much of my efforts have gone into making sure the kids feel at home and have bedrooms that were ready for them and as a result of that I’m still living with all may clothes in a suitcase, but at least they’re in a suitcase in my own bedroom. One day soon I  keep promising myself that I’ll sort them out, but in a way they seem so irrelevant compared to everything else.

The house itself has turned out to be an utter delight and everything that we hoped for. Despite having been empty for so long it hasn’t really taken long to make the place warm and homely again. We were also incredibly relieved to discover that (nearly) everything in here actually works. With the previous owner no longer around to ask, it was all a bit of an unknown when we bought the house, and we were slightly concerned that we’d end up having to fork out for a new boiler soon after moving, but a quick service (from a lovely local man that we were lucky enough to have recommended to us) has shown that it’s working perfectly and should last us for years yet.

I constantly feel like I’ve still got tonnes to do and at times it can feel incredibly frustrating that things aren’t happening sooner – especially when it’s things that I’m waiting for others to do for me – but I need to keep reminding myself that there’s no mad panic to get it all done instantly, even if I want to. The only person setting deadlines is myself.

The kids have been with me for a fair chunk of the Easter school holidays so far and so my efforts have been concentrated on them, but now they’ve gone to their dad’s until they go back to school it’s time for me to get organised and try to get everything else finished off so I can properly crack on with life again. So much seems to feel in limbo at a time like this and I’d discovered that I’m someone who finds that limbo position difficult and quite frustrating.

I’m also keen to try and get some balance back in my life again. The last nine months have been treading water and making do. I feel like now we’ve properly moved on and can actually live life to the full once more. It’s amazing the things that I’ve missed over the last few months. Simple things like having a home for my possessions, being able to open a cook book and have space to properly make a family meal from it and having time (and space) to craft again.

Expect this blog to be my happy place once again. Somewhere where I can share all the things that make me smile. I’m expecting it to feature a fair bit of crochet, lots of news of what we’re getting up to at home, and also a fair bit of tea drinking. You have been warned!

 

The waiting…

I’m sat here today unable to concentrate on anything. Every time my phone pings I jump in the hope that it’s a message or email from either the estate agent or our solicitor. I am literally on the edge of my seat and getting nothing done as a result.

I’m someone who likes to be in control and get things done. When a job needs doing I crack on and do it. No faffing around. But, I’m utterly useless when things are out of my control. And that’s exactly where things are now.

We’re in the middle of the house buying process. Our offer was accepted, our mortgage is arrange and we have the deposit all in place. The searches have all come back without any problems and even the full building survey failed to tell us anything that we didn’t know already.  The property is empty. We’re in rented accommodation. It’s a probate sale and there’s no chain.

It should all be straightforward from here. But it isn’t. And right now there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I am desperate to move. Utterly desperate. This flat is far too small for all of us and I’m simply sick and tired of tripping over stuff when ever I try to move in here. I want to be able to give my kids a bedroom each again. I’ve had enough of paying money for storage for most of my furniture and boxes of stuff and I really, really want to be reunited with some of my possessions, that I haven’t seen for months.

Emotionally I’m also ready to move on. Staying here was only supposed to be temporary and I need to move to the next chapter or my life. Of my new family life.

The school Easter holidays are fast approaching and we need to have more space by then. Need to. I’ve told everyone that. The estate agent and our solicitor. There’s just one person that I have no control over and that’s the vendor’s solicitor. And that’s where the whole process seems to be stuck at the moment.

I can see no reason for any legal hold up. Nor can our solicitor. The estate agent can see no reason for any logistical hold up, and he says neither can the vendors. We’ve signed all the contracts and other paperwork and our deposit is already with our solicitor.

Waiting.

That’s all I feel I can do at the moment. Wait. Patiently.

The problem is that I’ve discovered I’m not very good at being patient.

I want to crack on and do things. I want a definite moving date in the diary so I can pack boxes, plan electricians and get quotes for replacement windows. I want to get in there and start cleaning and decorating. I want to start exploring the house and garden and start making plans for what we want to do with them. I want to move.

But all I can do is wait And hope that it won’t be for much longer.

A clean slate

This is a slightly harder post to write than I imagined it to be. I can’t really put the last year into words, but the one thing that I know I have to do, is find a new blogging home. I’m not Mrs C any more and so it seemed wrong to write about being someone that I wasn’t.

Despite everything that has happened, there are so many good things in life right now and I want to document and share them. I want to write about the new family home that I’m hoping to move to soon. I want to share photographs of all the crafting I’m doing, and all the projects I’m planning for our new home. I want to share my excitement about moving to the countryside and everything that entails. I want to write about the footpaths we discover and the places we find to share a flask of tea in. I just want to write about being me again.

I’m hoping that this new blog is exactly where I’m going to do that. Over the last couple of years, necessity has meant that Being Mrs C became something to help me earn a living. I want to go back to blogging for me. So what I’ve done is split up where I’m going to be online with what I think a professional would call “a portfolio of sites”. I’ll be jumping between them somewhat, but Penny Blogs is going to be the place where I stick to being me. To writing about the things I love and my life. I’m sure I’ll be linking out to the other sites when it is appropriate to do so, especially when posts there are about vintage finds or travel adventures. But here I’m going to keep it personal. No planned reviews or sponsored posts (they’ll be elsewhere).

Back to Being Penny. Drinking tea, reading, a spot of crochet and writing about what makes me smile.