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Not quite the final kitchen update…

Well it’s officially 4 months this week since we demolished our old kitchen back in May, it’s been along process with lots of bumps in the road, but this weekend was the last Birthday of the year in our house, it always ends our summer, begins our Fall and this year it was the first Birthday we have been able to spend in our new kitchen… yay!


We now have a working stove top, oven, microwave and dishwasher, our farmhouse sink is installed at long last and fitted out with a faucet, so no more trips upstairs to the bathroom to wash anything up, although it’s become a habit it’s hard to break out of.  With the nights getting darker earlier we are thankful we now have lighting in the kitchen, as I type my kitchen island lights are being installed, it seems so long ago that my Mum and I found the newly open Restoration Hardware outlet store, it was the first day of Summer break, I dropped M to the lake to hang out with her friends, then we headed out… we had Shake Shack for lunch and I found these cool cage hanging lights, I had forgotten what they looked like until I just had to make the decision how long I wanted them to be… decisions, decisions.

I have spent the last two years planning my new kitchen, I’ve browsed Pinterest so many times creating boards with my inspiration, when the time actually came to buy the kitchen I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, light, bright, farmhouse style, subway tiles with a darker gray grout, wood and light Quartz, black handles, white ceramic sink and silver taps… I had the plan but I didn’t realize how difficult all the decisions along the way would be… small handles, big handles? One handle or two on each drawer? How wide to have the grout lines in the tile? White or silver recess lighting? Long or short pendant lighting?  The list is endless, but now the kitchen is coming together I’m very pleased, it may be just an IKEA kitchen but it’s what you do with it in the end.

We have had a slight setback this weekend, some wall water pipes had been drilled through when cabinets were installed causing a leak in the basement, this has now been fixed, and is drying out, so there is still some more work to be completed, but we are almost there now, it’s been a hard summer dealing with contractors, problems and cooking on the grill on the deck, but it could have been worse, Summer was the perfect time to be without a kitchen, no lighting, no problem we sat on the deck anyway, no cooker, no problem we love to grill in the Summer months and some of the Fall too, I think the hardest part was no sink, my potted plants suffered as I couldn’t fill my watering can so easily, we have lived with disposable everything, not very environmentally green, which I hate, but you have to do what you have to do.  

Now it is time to unpack all of the boxes of kitchen stuff and decorate this light and airy kitchen… my favorite part, we’ve already chosen the wall color, we have bought an 1800’s train station bench to renovate, we have old meat scales from the 1800’s which were from a local farm, so  very cool, we will be hanging them in the kitchen and I managed to buy some old farmhouse shutters that need a little crackle glaze and whitewash to bring them to life… oh happy days 🌞

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Kitchen renovation, Uncategorized

IKEA kitchen from start to not quite finished yet.

We seem to be at a standstill right now as far as the kitchen goes, it was all go, go, go for one week, now we are on a go extremely slow. We are at the end of August which means I have not had a kitchen now for 3 months, I think we have managed quite well with grilling outside on the deck, the thing I have missed the most is the sink, it has surprised me how much we rely on our kitchen sink, even in this world of automation and dishwashers, the sink is a mainstay of our kitchen and can never be fully replaced.

Installing IKEA kitchens and using there installation services is a little complicated just as there flat packed cabinets have a lot of components so does this service… It’s taken me almost three months to understand the way things work, I think, so let me try to explain… IKEA itself sells you the kitchen, the kitchen is made up of many, many, many components, on a $14,000 kitchen expect to have at least 250 boxes be delivered, there are screws, hinges, drawer fronts, side panels, handles, countertop, appliances, the list goes on, and within 48 hours you are expected to check a receipt that has a list of foreign names and complicated numbers that is at least 3 ft long over and match it with a garage full of boxes that have been delivered to you, sometimes in two or three deliveries and as it turns out one box can contain several items, if you don’t check this and report any missed items or damaged items within 48 hours they can refuse to refund these items to you at a later date, even if you are using there recommended contracting service.

Once you have purchased your kitchen and you decided to use their installation service you move onto their company called Traemand, now it has taken me a while to realize they only deal with cabinet making, installation, countertops and dry fitting of appliances, be warned to check the invoice thoroughly before you sign it, little things like fitting toe kick boards on a 47 linear foot kitchen cost $980 to fit, making your less expensive IKEA cabinets more expensive in the long run.  Be warned the invoice only says it’s an estimate and can change at any time without you even realizing it, ours increased by $300 and they didn’t even tell us why and I’m still trying to work out why exactly.  The cost of fitting our cabinets, butcher countertop and dry installation of appliances was $4400 and is now $4700 plus now we have added different toe kick boards and different end panels adding a total of $1200… In total installation is $5900.

Now we move onto almost everything else… I decided to use IKEA design service for our kitchen, the cost of this is $199, I am not a kitchen designer, I had an idea in mind how I wanted my kitchen to look but I didn’t want the responsibility of the final design and cabinets that did not fit in because I did not know what I was doing.  Traemand sub contract out to different contracting companies depending on the area you live, our IKEA use a company called Best Carpenters, their project manager was our kitchen designer… Enter Oleg, he wears many hats from design to project management.  Best Carpenters basically do anything else you need or want done, so we signed into a contract for them to complete our electrics, plumbing, Sheetrock and tiling.  This is where it gets complicated, Best Carpenters also fit the cabinets and install them too, it gets complicated because at this point you are not sure who you are dealing with for different things, should you speak to Traemand because of the cabinets or Best Carpenters because they are managing the whole project… Who, tell me!!!


The Friday before last after a busy week of cabinet installation we were asked to complete a completion form, I was skeptical of signing it, but it was 8pm, the light in the kitchen was fading, still no lights fitted, my younger children were hungry and tired as we were waiting for the kitchen guys to leave, it seemed weird to be signing a completion form when our kitchen looked like the above photos but I did it and instantly regretted it, I emailed over the weekend to Best Carpenters and Traemand to retract my signature but it made no difference, two days later Traemand tried to take the full amount plus more of the final payment on installation, luckily the money was in a different account and it did not go out, they didn’t send me an invoice to check, they didn’t ask how I wanted to pay they just tried to take the money as according to the Best Carpenter guys my cabinets were installed and my dry fit of appliances were in place… Well as you can see the cabinets were definitely not completed, there are still many boxes of components hidden in cabinets, appliances are nowhere to be seen, but they still wanted the final payment in full plus more with no invoice sent to explain the extra charges

There is a fourth part to the component of a Kitchen installation, the Quartz countertop people, you purchase the Quartz countertop in store then you call a different department for the template to be made, be warned the store told me that they would be out the next day if I needed it, but in reality they work on appointments a week to a week and a half in advance.  The cabinets need to be fully in place, appliances need to be fitted and after you have taken full responsibility for the template they draw up, it takes about 10 to 15 days to get your new countertop. 

After taking our old kitchen out three months ago I now have cabinets, not finished yet, some countertops but no stove top cut into them, I have a fully installed and working microwave, the dishwasher and oven are in place but not working yet, our refrigerator is in place and we had it before the whole new kitchen thing so that is still working, we have our template being drawn up for the Quartz on our island this Wednesday coming and I am making my third trip to IKEA this week to change and return parts… It’s been quite an experience, I’m hoping it will all be worth it in the end, by the time it is finished snow will be on the ground And I will have to relearn how to cook it’s been so long 😃

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Cowboy contractor

Well it’s officially been two months since we demo’d our kitchen, I have to tell you I really thought I would have my new one by now, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

There was a miscommunication between myself and our contractor that led to a delay in obtaining our permits, then we went on vacation and here we are today, still no kitchen but it’s getting there slowly.

Flooring is so incredibly expensive, I had not realized just how expensive until we started this process, we have swung from replacing our whole 600 square feet room flooring, to tiling just the kitchen area and then just sanding our original pine flooring and restainining, well the cost for replacing the wood floor alone was $6000 and that was with a reasonably priced wood floor, to tile just the kitchen area was another $6000, and as much as I would love to do this I think a tile accent at a later date will be the way we will proceed.  We have settled for the bargain priced sanding and restainining of our original floor boards, it’s half the price of the other options but still in my opinion an expensive option at $3000.  We hired a flooring contractor recommended by our project manager, not thinking about how it all works in the US, we took this guy at his word, I’m not a stupid person but in this case I feel very idiotic, he wrote a number on a scrap piece of paper as a quote, we wrote him a check for $500 and then another one for $750 a few days later even though he hadn’t started any work.  One month later he started work on our floor, he was late every single day, not just 30 minutes either, he was 5 hours late some days, when he did eventually arrive he would unload his limited equipment and kind of work for about an hour, then there was always an excuse why he had to leave… A 2 day job was taking 6 days and counting.  After a couple of days and a couple of hours of work he asked for another check this time for $1250, of course he didn’t give us a receipt again, he also wanted another check at the end of this week for another $1250, he explained the wood he placed into our floor had escalated from $400 to over $1000, even though he only bought approx 30ft of wood at $2.65 a foot,  I was totally against paying him more money, but Paul wrote him the check and I, a couple of days later stopped that check, thankfully. His time keeping was terrible, his work ethic was horrible, he diluted the stain with mineral oil and emulsifier, it was so diluted the floor looked like it hadn’t had any stain on it the following morning to him applying it, even the second coat is a totally different color from the one he showed us.  It took him 20 minutes to stain our 600 square foot room, in out and gone, I looked at him mopping the watery stain on the floor one day and thought, I could do that myself.   I approached him about the mineral oil added to the stain and he assured me he wasn’t duping me, he had been doing this for 32 years, he knew what he was doing.


The worst thing he did in my opinion was lie to us about the stain he was using, he assured us he was using a water based stain, because the smell of oil was overpowering and not good for us to be living in the house, Paul and I had gone backwards and forwards over an oil based stain over a water based one, I had somewhere to stay whilst it was being done with our children if we used the oil based stain, in the end we decided on the water based stain, as he recommended it would be best, unfortunately he was a liar, he used a cheap oil based stain diluted with mineral oil paint cleaner, the smell was intoxicating, he did not warn us to ventilate the house properly, he did not open a window or door in our kitchen, he just left letting us think he had used a low odor water based stain, of course we ventilated the house as best we could, but we slept in the house with these horrible fumes, I allowed my 2 and 5 year old to breathe in these toxic fumes, we suffered from headaches, irritability, and breathing difficulties.  He had to apply this stain twice as he had diluted it so much the first time, and on both occasions he did not inform us or ventilate in any way, in my opinion causing damage to our health.

I have since fired him and I am in the process of retreiving our money, thankfully I stopped the second check, when he found out he was not happy.  After some research I have found out that in the State of New Jersey you need to be registered with the state to be able to do any kind of construction work here, you need to fully disclose your State registration number, your business name and address and proof of liability insurance, you also need to provide a written quote for anything over $500, he did not fulfill any of these requirements, I have since asked for this information and he hasn’t supplied it, so I’m guessing he is not registered and if so I am fully within my rights to report him to the New Jersey Department for Law and Safety, they will then prosecute him for my loss of money and the first fine he will receive is $10,000.  I have one thing to thank him for, I now know my rights and that I need to make sure anyone we use in the future has all the States requirements before we hire them.


This is my finished kitchen floor and it doesn’t match the color of the other end of the room at all.

Kitchen renovation

IKEA kitchen fun… Part 1


It’s been a few years since I started my quest for a new kitchen, it’s been a whole year in the planning phase and now it’s finally here, the cabinets, appliances, sink and faucets are ordered and arriving next week… Onto phase two, installation.
I have changed my mind several times along the way, don’t get me wrong my kitchen style has never changed, farmhouse kitchens have gained popularity in the last few years, farmhouse sinks, simple shaker cupboards and subway tiles are all the vogue, but these were all things I chose for my kitchen 14 years ago back in England and they are all things I still love to this day, so my obvious choices were always going to go back to my roots despite its popularity these days. The things that have changed are how and where I would get my cabinets, we plan to be in our house for a relatively short amount of time, now things could change but I’m hoping when Mabel is out of High School we will be moving, so in all honesty it seemed crazy to spend a huge amount of money on a big fancy kitchen, also if anyone knows me I’m not a big fancy person, I like thrifting, mismatched shabby chic and pure and simple country style. If I had my way I would have a kitchen made up of all old free standing cabinets, an old farmhouse sink with a curtain underneath for a door, an old work table as an island and reclaimed floorboards for the counter tops, unfortunately this is not only impractical with living in a house in a field and mice, but also I think Paul and Mabel would freak out too.

We have looked around at high end kitchen showrooms, middle of the range cabinets and IKEA… Well guess what IKEA won, their cabinets get good reviews, have a good warranty and are reasonably priced, they are very customizable so you can really mix and match to get the configuration you want, they are not as cheap as I was led to believe though. I have waited for their annual kitchen offer to come into play, I also used their kitchen planning service $199, a bargain, as an IKEA family member I get a full refund when I ordered my kitchen, they also have an installation service that includes as much of the work you want done or as little. The 15% back from the purchase price of your kitchen comes in the form of an IKEA gift card but was well worth doing as it means when all is said and done I will have saved $2000, as I plan to use the gift card on some of the kitchen not yet ordered.
All in all so far I’m excited… The ordering process in the store was extremely slow and took a lot longer than I had planned for, F and T were starting to bounce off the walls we were confined in the store for so long, now don’t get me wrong I love a shopping trip to Ikea usually but this was just long boring and seemed so unnecessary as I had the documentation from the planning service. I’m hoping to farmhouse chic my new kitchen with a few new thrifting pieces once it’s installed, but for now it will be arriving next week and the hard work has to begin… Where do I put all the stuff in my existing kitchen cupboards ready for Demo Day.

Photographic diary

Life through my lens…

A few years ago now we turned our formal dining room into an office, we never sat around the table in that room, as we preferred the table in the family room! We never redecorated, we just had a change around, well it’s hard to believe but we’ve been in our house 6 years… Crazy right? We are in our 9th year of living here in the States… It was time for a fresh coat of paint, it’s Paul’s 50th Birthday so it was the perfect time for a makeover into an office for a music loving Dad, who is on the verge of starting his new adventure after 29 years in a new company!

Now, I am huge fan of a show called Fixer Upper, for anyone that hasn’t seen it, it is a house makeover show, a husband and wife team sell houses, flip them and then totally refurnish the whole house, Joanna’s style is so my style, I love everything she does… I love light airy spaces filled with eclectic furniture and things, I love shabby chic, so with this in mind I wanted Paul’s office to have a musical theme , but incorporated with a very pale shabby chic undertone… So far I’m loving this room, it’s not fully finished yet, I need a few trips to second hand stores for a chair, lamp and accessories, I still need white wood slat blinds too… A trip to ikea revealed they have discontinued my beloved blind!  The whole room is getting there, thanks to a dedicated husband and his attention to decorating detail in every way!



Paul’s milestone Birthday this year meant that I had a great excuse to buy him a record player, I contacted his Mum to see if I could get any of his old records sent over, unfortunately there were not many left after all of these years, but we did manage to get a few, so I’m thankful to my mother in law for helping me out! 

In anticipation of having a lack of records to play, Dom and I visited a local record store, where I managed to also purchase two very cool album covers to frame for the walls… A fun day that also included a trip to the Cheesecake Factory and and entertainment in Macy’s as we witnessed someone getting arrested in the men’s clothing department!



The giant X was a Valentine’s Day kiss from a secret admirer… Wink, wink!

A family desicion was made to buy Paul a new Apple computer, but which one should we buy and which one could we afford, after weeks of talking about it and planning it… It was decided that we would take him into the Apple Store on his actual Birthday and he could choose… Each of our older boys and my parents contributed, but of course my portion ended up costing a little more than I had budgeted for… As it was decided that this super Dad needed the nick named 5k… But hey ho, your only 50 once!  What we didn’t figure on was that this super duper computer would very quickly become Florrie’s new tv and games machine… Poor Daddy hasn’t had a look in!

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Irrational thoughts…

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I think my hormones are changing, I’m getting ready to give birth… Isn’t it funny how emotional you feel as your body begins that change into motherhood again, I could cry all the time, and when I say all the time, I really mean it! My head is racing with irrational thoughts, I look around at our family as it stands right now and think to myself ‘am I really crazy, do we not have enough chaos in our lives right now?’ The thing I worry about the most is my little Florence, how she will cope with all of this… I know I have done this many, many times before, but I really feel Florrie is different, you see she is the youngest in a family of grown ups and almost grown up siblings, she is the absolute apple of each and every brother and of course sister, rone minute she is a complete Mommy’s girl, then the next she is kissing and cuddling her Daddy! Everyone absolutely dotes on her 100% of the time! there is always someone around to cater to her every need… To see her 27 year old brother sitting on the floor letting her brush his hair and put bows in it, is remarkable and extremely touching… So you see, she really is the princess in this large family!

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I’m not sure if you all know, but my little girl still sleeps in our bed every night, although she loves tucking into her Mom and Dad, sometimes I think it is like a security blanket for me, I know where she is of a night, if she wakes up I am there to cuddle her without getting out of bed, and although hugely pregnant and running out of space in our bed, I love her warm breath touching my face… But it is time to move on, so a trip to Ikea yesterday saw us with a new bed frame, mattress and bedding for my little girls newly decorated room, she is very excited about her big girls bed like Mabel, but I have to say I am nervous, maybe it’s those hormones again, but it makes me want to cry, how will she cope with being a big sister and a new bed, even as I type I feel my eyes welling up with love and worry for this little girl, suddenly she not only has to share her Mommy but also her new room… I know irrationality has set in and I am being a crazy pregnant lady… Who knew I was this crazy,I normally give an air of such calmness… I wish!

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The most frustrating thing this pregnancy is the nesting instinct, it’s here, but I ache so much that I have all these ideas Of what I want done before this little man arrives, but my poor old body is saying 8 children is too many to carry… Bending is hard, walking is hard and energy levels are low, so I am trying to get a few things done, but in all honesty I am just too exhausted! Moaning aside, I realize that we are very lucky to have what we have in this life, so although my emotions are crazy and my body is old and achey… I am one very lucky Mum, to have been so lucky to have my wonderful family (at times… Ha, ha)… No matter what anyone else thinks 8 children maybe crazy, but we are the family we are, and life is never boring, that is for sure!

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Sharing a room…

After the announcement of our new little boy this week my focus has been on decorating a mixed gender bedroom for two tiny people… Some people do not agree with the idea that a boy and girl should share a bedroom at all, but others like myself do not see a problem with it all… Well there is one problem… How do I decorate a room for a little girly girl and a tiny new blue bundle of joy? My first thoughts when decorating a room for my Florrie was pink, pink and flowery, but this is not going to work when I add a little boy to the room, so after some research, Google, Pinterest and whatever else I could find I am very keen on a gender neutral off white room, with off white slatted wooden blinds from Ikea, oh how I love these blinds then off white ruffle drapes/ curtains… The perfect palette for one little girl and an added baby boy.

I love, love, love flowers, I am a huge Cath Kidston fan, I love Cabbages and Roses and I absolutely adore the English shabby chic country garden look… With this in mind, Florrie my very girly pink girl is having a very feminine flower pink, Blue and green bedding, pottery barn style, they actually have pink cabbage rose bedding, so perfect. Then at the other end I am going to take the blue and green from Florrie’s bedding and create a classic baby boy area. I am not a fan of the generic boys apparel, bed linen or really anything boyish really, so having a baby boy is a challenge, I really don’t like clothes with animals, cars and trucks all over them, I dislike the primary colors on boys and I really dislike baby boys in jeans, khakis and sweat pants… So as you can see having a baby boy is a big challenge for me to be different in all aspects of baby boys… I am loving Etsy, the baby boy items are so different, cute little long johns, onesies, baby legs and crochet hats, my creative juices are ebbing and flowing with boy ideas.

At each end above my two baby beds I am going to create their names using the wooden letters from Michaels and AC Moore, an idea from Pinterest is to cover each letter with different scrap booking paper giving it a very Anthropologie style, again another absolute favorite of mine! I am going to put a canopy over Florrie’s new toddler bed and then everything else I will just see how it goes from there… this is my plan, I think keeping it neutral will also help with selling our house next spring so hopefully we can move onto a new town and new lives… It is time, so fingers crossed our house will sell quickly as we have other places to be eventually and new friends to meet!

Now all I need is the paint, a paint brush, a trip to ikea and my Mum… Why my Mum I hear you say, well she is a whiz on the sewing machine and I have bed linen I need making and perhaps a few other items to make this room look perfect!

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