Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fight or Flight

Some people escape reality and responsibilities. Some fight it. My father died when I was 5 and fighting for my happiness was ever the only real option for me. If there is an issue I face it, if there are problems I search for a solution. If I can't find it, I seek help. Help from friends, help from professionals, help from my inner self. I am my worst critic and my strongest supporter. I believe in honesty. With oneself and with others. 

I believe in letting people close into my life and showing it for what it is, good and bad. I don't believe in putting up faces, in pretending, in escaping. The flight coping mechanism feels unnatural, time consuming and frankly a bit childish.

I went on twitter this morning and this quote was the first thing that popped up in my timeline. Sometimes God has his own ways to tell us things...

Friday, 25 July 2014

The 7 Rules of Home Improvement. Sadly learned too late.

It is currently week 9 of our home renovation project. It was meant to take 4 weeks at best, 6 at worst and the end is still not entirely in sight. I did all those things that people recommend you to do. Hire a good architect. Check. Hire a project manager that you trust. Check. Get 4 or 5 quotes and don't go for the cheapest (nor the most expensive). Check, check, check. 

Yet my experience ended up a total fail, so here is what I have learned hoping to save someone else the trouble.

1. A good architect will pay his or her fees in savings to you. Either by knowing the cheapest supplier of Corian worktops or by knowing of obscure websites which can save you a fortune. Plus good architects have good ideas and, let's face it, they'll be better than yours. Architect hiring gets my vote!

2. If this is your actual home rather than an investment property, do not waste money on a project manager. This person will take a minimum 10% cut and he or she will never truly have the same interest as you in the project. He or she will come with recommended tradesmen, but this will make you lazy on doing your own homework and checking who they are, which leads me to point 3.

3. Do not let anyone work on your property because someone else has got them there or you will set yourself up for possible disasters. A builder might have a great plumber who he works with but he might also have a terrible tiler. Do your homework and check each tradesmen within its own skill set or you could end up with an electrician painting your walls and I assure you, it is not a pretty sight!

4. Home renovation is always a headache, but if you want the right skills on site at the same time, spend the time upfront booking tradesmen separately because even the best renovation company has weaker links and you don't want these people to be in your home after all.

5. Do not expect tradesmen to have any logic when it comes to working hours. We had people drilling at 8am on a Sunday morning who thought nothing of it...until the neighbours threaten to call the police! We had painters turning up at 12 noon and painting at night time with a torch. Yes, really! And we had handymen and electricians charging us for a day rate when the day is 10:30am to 3:30pm! 

6. Ikea products mesmerise all tradesmen. They all hate having to use their brains and dealing with flatpack kitchen or European electrics. They will spend hours directing you elsewhere despite you knowing that you are not interested. If you want an Ikea kitchen, hire their own fitters. And even then, pray God that you get given good ones.

7. Line up plan B, C, D, E and F as tradesmen will quote you a date to complete the project and this will never be realistic. And if it is it might be coming at the expense of quality of the finish. 

How are we coping with it all? Badly! I have not felt this stressed in a long time and Little G is often out of sorts. We travelled for 2 weeks and were meant to live at friends for 2 more weeks, 3 at the most. We are now on week 9 and still 'homeless'. I curse the day that I decided to 'improve' my home. 

The only good thing that has come of this all experience is that you really get to find out who your friends are. I have been touched by the love and kindness of some friends in a way that has brought me to actual tears. I have some amazing people in my life. I knew they were amazing, I didn't know them to be quite so mindblowingly awesome.

Some 'good' friends have not been in touch for months. I guess when you cancel weekend plans for a trip to Ikea or the lighting shop, some people feel that you've stopped being fun after all. This is also a good lesson to learn as once your home is repainted and eventually finished, you'll know who you don't need to bother inviting over for dinner. Who wants their newly painted white walls possibly marked or scratched, right?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

San Diego and Young Love. Aww...

San Diego is the second biggest city in California, but it often flies under the radar compared to San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs or even Monterey. Having been to all of these Californian cities, plus some, I think San Diego gets the raw end of the deal. It is in fact a fun city to visit and with plenty to offer for adults and kids alike.

San Diego feels like a much smaller Los Angeles. The beaches, the sand, the palm trees are still here. The variety of neighbourhoods, each with its own distinctive vibe, which is so typical of LA is also a characteristic of San Diego, but gone is the horrendous LA traffic and the angsty attitude of the Angelenos (with that traffic, how can you blame them?). In San Diego there are (slightly) emptier freeways and a much more relaxed mood. 

If in LA people live in sportswear and trainers and they are often chasing the dream, in San Diego they wear a vest, shorts, flip flops and they are often chasing nothing the waves. Of course I am exaggerating, but all in all San Diego is a pretty chilled affair. Yes, go and experience it for yourself what it feels like when 'You are on beach time' after all. 

Both Mr H and I had visited the city before so this trip was all about going places that we knew we would love as well as making sure that Little G would have enjoyed them too. We rented a house with a couple of good friends and their little boy who is the same age as Miss G and her favourite Skype friend, so we knew the weekend would have been a fun one for everyone. In hindsight the kids loved each other's company so much that we could have basically not have left the house and the;d be happy. But leave the house we did and here are some of the places we went to

San Diego Zoo
One of the best zoos in the world, San Diego zoo is home to koala bears, tigers, elephants, polar bears and other 600 species of animals including two giant pandas (prepare to queue to see those though). It is a peaceful park and one that can't help but please both adults and kids alike. When it all gets too hot, you can ride on the Skyfari and appreciate the aerial view of the zoo and enjoy a bit of cool air.

Mission Bay
Luckily for us the Mission Bay beach was on our doorstep and Miss G and her little friend B clocked on to this straight away and demanded impromptu visits to the beach. Mission Bay is a lagoon and offers warm and calm water which is just perfect for splashing around, playing with rocks and seaweed. Had we had more time, renting a bike to cycle around the bay would have been on the agenda too. Maybe next time.

La Jolla 
San Diego is not only home to humans, but it is also home to some adorable seals. They like to swim and sunbathe in La Jolla cove. They are truly funny and wonderful animals to observe and the kids had plenty of fun looking at them. Despite the cold Ocean water, Little G and her little partner in crime decided it was time for a splash and another bit of playing by the sea.

Whilst La Jolla Cove and the seals are fun to look at, La Jolla village with its little boutiques and bars is also a good place to hang out in San Diego. And if you fancy a short 10 minutes drive the Birch Aquarium is a fun and educational place to visit. And surely much better than wasting money to see animals perform tricks at SeaWorld. What? You thought that SeaWorld would be a San Diego must-visit? I bet you'll disagree if you rent a copy of 'Blackfish'

There are plenty of other fun things to do in San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter is one of my favourite spots in town to grab a nice dinner and drinks, whilst for the kids the huge Balboa Park with its 15 museums, rides and restaurants is a must-see. Of course we would have done all of this, but Miss G and her little friend B had no interest in much else beside each other so us adults took a leaf from their book and just took it easy. When in San Diego...

... walk to the beach with your best buddy
... climb on elephants with your best buddy
... splash in the ocean with your best buddy
... share a buggy, a bath and a bed with your best buddy
and make sure to have a rooftop dinner in your matching sheep PJs overlooking the bay.

Oh, the fun and games of young love...aww...


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