My favourite things from Ikea

So, I have already failed my self imposed 30 day blogging challenge. I have no excuse, other than this whole house buying thing is exhausting. I am stressed out because of what happened last time, because we are meant to exchange on Friday but the mortgage survey only happened today (!!!), because we only have enough furniture to furnish half the house.

To solve that predicament, Saturday we engaged in the very adult entertainment that is a trip to Ikea. I truly love Ikea but my previous trips had been tainted by the hideousness of the journey to Wembley – the North Circular always seem to dreadful on a Saturday (or is it everyday?) – and then, when they opened the Reading shop we were getting rid of stuff rather than acquiring it, so we never paid a visit.

On arrival, we were really surprised at how quiet it was for a Saturday afternoon. On departure, we were shattered and remembered why we don’t visit very often. And this was just a trip to look at stuff, I dread to think what it’s going to be like when we actually make the trip to buy things. I think I will suggest husband takes a day off work on a day L has an after school club so we can spend the whole day taking things from the shelves.

So while I was there, I thought I would share five of my favourite things that I have seen on Saturday. In no particular order:

Stuva/Fritids loft bed: the Stuva loft beds seem to be quite popular – in fact, they are sold out all over the country and because of supply issues it shouldn’t be back in stock until late June. But Lily loves them and so do I. She has been going on about having a bed with a secret hideout for ages and this bed is going to make it come true – come back in July to see the end result! They have several options for doors and drawers but this is Lily’s favourite.

Pax wardrobes: probably the next best thing after fitted wardrobes. We really really wanted fitted wardrobes, but having just bought a house at the very top of our budget means we don’t have that much spare cash, so the Pax wardrobes were the reason we visited Ikea, to be honest. We wanted to see if they lived up to the fame and I have to say I was impressed. The customisation options were amazing and I love all the little organisation tools that they have. I have designed several options on their online tool (the most awful flash thing that keeps crashing but eventually worked) and we are almost certain we are getting two of those. Does anyone have one and care to share their experience?

Finnvard/Linnmon Desk: husband and I will be sharing a study, and I have always wanted to have a drawing board – because I do draw by hand fairly often. So this is amazing: a massive desk that will fit all of husband’s screens and that I can tilt to use as a drawing table (don’t worry about his screens, we are getting one each!). We just haven’t decided if we are getting this one, with the white top, or the wood one (which is 5 cm bigger).

Ribba frames: great looking frames, at lovely prices in a great range of sizes. Nothing more, nothing less. They come in black, white and wood effect but all my other frames are white, so the new ones are white too – they look great in coloured walls.

Voxnan shower shelf: this was probably the best thing I didn’t know I wanted from Ikea, a little shelf that attaches to the shower pole. Genius. I knew I wanted some sort of wire shelving for the showers, and husband thinks suckers wouldn’t work because of the tile texture, so I was somewhat dreading the prospect of drilling into tiles and cracking them. And then we found these, which is brilliant for two reasons: reducing the amount of clutter and no drilling. I hope it’s as good as it seems.

I have to say it was hard to pick five and I could have gone on and on, but now I will ask the world (or my 3 readers!): what are your Ikea favourites? Anything I overlooked?

Images: Ikea UK 




Hello Fresh vs Gousto vs Waitrose Cook Well


Dinner boxes seem to be getting really popular in the last few years and after many months of getting Hello Fresh discount codes, I finally caved in. Evenings here can be chaotic – I suspect it’s probably the same in all households with children, with all the after school activities. And even though I only have one child, I have my own Girlguiding evenings which now are not the same as Lily’s, as I volunteer in a different pack from hers, so I thought I could give Hello Fresh a try and see how it went. Then, I thought it would be nice to get a Gousto box or two and compare. And then, I got a reward on my John Lewis app saying I had 50% off a Waitrose Cook Well box – which I didn’t even know existed until then, so I thought I might add that to the mix as well.

First of all, I would like to make it clear that I wasn’t sent any free boxes for the purposes of these review. I bought them all with discount codes I had, so none of them were full price either. Second, I am sure it’s not an original post to write, there must be millions of reviews and comparisons out there, but I thought it would be nice to remind myself in the future in case I am tempted to get them again. I will be giving no scores, just say what liked or not about certain aspects of the boxes.

Delivery: My Hello Fresh and Cook Well were delivered by DPD and Gousto by Yodel. When we lived in Berkshire, DPD were great and Yodel was a bit less so. Now here in South Wales, I feel it’s the opposite. DPD treated the boxes dreadfully. Tins dented, little plastic pots of seasoning smashed, broken pasta, and on my very first box, a box of meatballs seemed to have exploded and there were meatballs everywhere. Hello Fresh were great and refunded a lot more than the cost of a box of meatballs. The one good thing about DPD is that they will give a time for delivery and I have found them generally reliable to stick to it, but I am a bit wary of using them for anything delicate now. (I would just like to point out that it’s not just the food boxes that were mistreated. My first ever delivery to this house was a couple of bags of cat litter and one of them was ripped. I thought it was unlucky as I had never had a damaged one before, but after I got my food boxes I am not so sure.)

Packaging: All boxes were well packed (though obviously not enough to prevent DPD damage), with a cool bag and cool packs that were still frozen when they arrived, so they definitely work. Hello Fresh was my favourite out of the box, as it is all very organised: the fridge stuff comes in the cool bag, and all recipes are bagged individually, with colour coded stickers so you know which recipe is which. All very efficient. Waitrose was similar. I was, however, a bit miffed by the amount of packaging for the individual ingredients. Loads of little packets and pots and plastic bags. My non-recycling bin was quite a bit fuller than normal – I blame the spices and seasonings. Waitrose was a bit better, with some ingredients portioned into paper bags or reusable little pots.

Flavour: Ok, I know this isn’t necessarily an objective assessment as everyone has a different taste, but we would discuss as a family after dinner what we thought of the recipes and we seem to agree, so I thought I would share our thoughts. The main reason I decided to sign up for these boxes, apart from the time saving, was because I was tired of my own cooking – same recipes, same spices and herbs, I wanted to try something new. Hello Fresh and Gousto have definitely delivered on this front: everything was very very tasty, and I have since reproduced some recipes from the recipe cards I got with the boxes. Waitrose, however, was a massive disappointment. Everything was very bland and I finished every single meal thinking I could have done it better my own way.

Time saving properties: This might be controversial but I think it saves very little time. Ok, it did give me recipes I wouldn’t have though of, helped me not have to think “what am I cooking tonight?” and saved me the supermarket run – which I normally do online anyway – but in prep time, although having it all separated by recipe helps, there’s still an awful lot of chopping, dicing and slicing, and most recipes still take a fairly long time to cook. Obviously it would help anyone who is getting them because they have trouble meal planning, or because food shopping is a chore, but to me, it wouldn’t be a deciding factor in getting them again in the future.

Portion sizes: All the boxes I bought were 4 portions, because there’s 3 of us and I normally make an extra portion for husband to take to work the next day, but in all of the boxes the portions are huge. One of the Waitrose recipes filled 4 takeaway boxes (!!!) after we had dinner. The ideal size for us, I think, would be 3 portions, but Hello Fresh doesn’t do the family recipes in 3 portions, and Gousto and Waitrose only do 2 or 4 portions. Looks like families of 3 are odd no pun intended!.

Value for money: I got the Hello Fresh family box with 4 meals, which costs £63.99, the Gousto family box with 4 meals, which is £47.75 and the Waitrose Cook Well 3 meal box for 4 people, which sells for £66. I had £20 discount on my Hello Fresh order and 50% off both Gousto and Waitrose. Considering my normal weekly shop, I think the Gousto box is excellent value for money, even at full price and Hello Fresh is ok, though I would struggle to justify paying full price for it. Now the Waitrose one is ludicrous. I could eat out 3 times a week and spend that much, and not have the washing up to do after it. It was just about ok at 50%, because the food wasn’t that tasty.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, you’re my hero! 😀 After all the testing, the conclusion I have come to is that I would (and will!) definitely purchase from Hello Fresh and Gousto again, though I am not sure I would do it on a regular basis – I still need to find out if the Gousto 2 portions box is enough for us, and if the Hello Fresh classic menu would be ok for my fussy child, but they exceeded my expectations. And I was extremely disappointed with Waitrose, even though I though it was expensive from the start, I could have given it another try if they food were decent – and it was not.

And now, for some discounts! If you would like to give Gousto a try, click here. And if you’d like to try Hello Fresh, there’s a code for that too. You get £20 off your first box and I get a £20 credit. If anyone tries them out, let me know what you think!

(I am not sure whether or not I have a Cook Well discount code but I don’t recommend them anyway – if anyone wants one, let me know and I will try to find out.)

PS: Because of the popularity of this post, I have written an update if you’d like to read.

(This post contains affiliate links. I get a small commission for every Gousto box that you buy through this website.)

How to get your confidence back

(If anyone knows, please leave a message!)

Last time I wrote about my job search, I went on a bit about how soul destroying the whole process was. Well, is. But I also mentioned that an agency phone call that gave me a little bit of hope that I was not as useless as I had been thinking I was. And I also mentioned I had booked a Revit course.

The course was last Tuesday, and I have to say it has been the biggest confidence boosting thing I have done in a very long time. First, because it was my first proper outing, by myself, outside of my little neighbourhood. I hadn’t gone north of the M4 yet, and as I drove there, it was much less daunting than thinking about it. It’s an anxiety thing, I guess. Pre-driving-to-unknown-places anxiety. I won. Then, there was the course. And, again, I was not as useless as I thought I would be. I am actually pretty clever. The course went very very well, in a great pace, as there were only two of us learning, and I left feeling really accomplished.

To top it all, the instructor, who is also an architect, said I was great, and really good ideas who would have thought?. That I should download Revit and practice everyday. I was so happy with the feedback that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t own a PC… I will investigate installing Windows on my ancient mac.

So today I was thinking about it all. About how being outside of the workplace and outside your profession undermines your confidence. See how many simple, normal things I was scared/anxious about: driving to an unknown place, learning something that should be easy for me, interacting with other adults with, presumably, the same level of intelligence as me.  Makes me feel a bit ridiculous but maybe recognising it could be the first step towards changing my own behaviour and thoughts? I think I learned something like this at therapy. Now I am semi confident that I would be able to get a job and not make a complete fool of myself, so thank you Mr Instructor.

Now I am trying very hard not to get anxious about the house buying thing – if everything goes right, this time next week we will have keys to the new place. I am accumulating samples and should be doing some mood boards at some point this next week, so stay tuned!

(I can’t believe I nearly failed my own challenge on the second day! Shame on me!)

House search: the final instalment (or how to live with disappointment)

Ok, ok. I know my blogging has been a bit hit and miss (or would it be miss and miss?) which is why I decided I will be blogging everyday for the next 30 days. I will be a challenge, but I am in need of challenge at the moment, so here we go! 😀

I will start from where I left off: the house search. On the last post, we were just about to go and see for a second viewing of house #2, which we had already pretty much bought in our heads, knocked down walls and built imaginary bathrooms. I don’t know what it was but we just didn’t like it. I mean, I would still have bought it, but husband just couldn’t. So that was out.

And then there was house #5. I really really wanted to hate it, the rooms were too small, the price was too big. But I couldn’t. I loved it. I loved it so much I wouldn’t stop going on about it. Mike was less convinced and still wanted house #4, which was a resounding no from me.

So, with nos flying all around and us with no house to buy any more, I suggested we went to see another new build in a neighbouring seaside village. Husband fell in love with the house. I had promised myself I would never live in a new build again. I lost.

And this is basically the story of how, on Easter Monday, we paid a deposit and got ourselves a brand new house. To be fair to the house, it is quite big, the room sizes are great, the garden is pretty decent for a new build and we do have (partial) sea views. But I had this dream of stripping floor boards and choosing new bathroom suites which has pretty much been crushed by this house. Oh well, it was meant to be, I suppose. I will have to content myself with decorating and styling what we got – and start a savings account ready for me to rip off the flipping carpets and putting down underfloor heating.

Now the good – and highly stressful! – thing is that they want to complete on the 27th April. As in, next week. So we have been trying to arrange a mortgage and do all the paper work in three weeks, which is partly the reason I haven’t been here!

I have already started designing for the house and will share a bit of my design process here and, hopefully, the execution once we are in. Wish us luck! <3