Before & After: Kitchen

I thought it might be nice to introduce our house with before & after pictures. When I moved in five years ago the first thing I said to S. was “We are going to have to do some work around here”. He didn’t think anything needed changing, five years later…? We have changed every single surface. Let’s start with the kitchen.

Before 

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The kitchen had bright red walls, birch cabinets, white appliances, PVC window, boiler in the middle of one wall on its own, brown and cream wall tiles…do I need to go on? But the biggest problem was that it was a separate room from the living room. That meant that if we had a dinner party, the one who was cooking was completely cut off from the party, not very practical or fun at all.

After 

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The most important thing was that we took out the wall between the kitchen and the living room and this way created one big space, a kind of family room for cooking, eating, sitting by the fire, listening to music and so on….and the bonus? The 46″ monster of a TV relocated into the TV room, happy days!

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What else happened? The boiler was moved upstairs, one window was covered, the other window was made bigger and changed into a double glazed timber sash window, the plastic flooring (do you call that lino?) was changed into hardwood flooring, the same as in the living room which made it feel like one big space and we got integrated appliances. Our kitchen supplier? Good old Ikea, assembled by us.

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For the Love of Chairs

When we got married nearly four years ago, we got two wedding presents. To clarify we had asked our guests not to bring presents as we got married in Finland and some of our guests had to travel 17,000 kilometers to come  to our wedding. Yes, that’s a lot.

But still we got two presents. Firstly our very own little summer house or “Love Shack” at our summer house. Dad had converted an old boathouse into a bedroom for us in total surprise. It is the cutest little bedroom and we have enjoyed countless summer nights in our little house sleeping like babies, sometimes listening to the rain drumming on the roof, sometimes enjoying a midnight swim as the house practically sits on the lake.

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Next summer will be the first one that we return to it as a family of four and I think it will not be big enough to add two cots but we will have to see. Perhaps we will have to lend it to the next couple getting married, my brother and his fiancee while we attend to baby duties in the main house.

And the second present was these beauties. Four Eames DSW chairs for our home in London. I have loved these chairs for as long as I can remember and when we got married I thought that we should get something that will last a lifetime and something for our home together and so the Eames chairs moved in.

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These chairs are called “blog chairs” in the Finnish social media because they are so popular and almost all Nordic bloggers have them in their house. Some people claim that you should be more original and that having these chairs and other “blog products” makes your home soulless and boring.

Personally I don’t agree. Yes, you can see these chairs in almost every edition of the Elle Decoration and yes, many bloggers have them in their homes but to me that is what great design does. These chairs were designed in 1950 for MOMA’s Low Cost Future design competition (so a kind of Ikeas of their day) and so they shaped the industry and became iconic. And to me they are the most beautiful chair ever made. And what’s even better is that they are extremely comfortable to sit on and great for family with kids as you can wipe away any dirt that lands on them.

But ultimately why I love mine and don’t care if you can see them everywhere is what happens around them…our little family cooking, eating…coming together with friends and loved ones…How could it ever be soulless or boring?

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This was a particularly special evening, it was when something else moved in. ❤ ❤

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Bathroom planning

The last room in our house that hasn’t been renovated is the downstairs bathroom. The drop-deadline for all renovation projects is quickly approaching. When I go back to work in 6 months time we’ll get an au pair and you can’t exactly ask her to put up with renovation mess and dust. So this is my last chance to get  everything done!

And this should be a quick and easy one (what I always say to my husband when I tell him about my reno ideas 😉 ) Anyhow the plan is this, materials and fittings will be the same as in the upstairs bathroom: large white matt tiles on the wall and small limestone mosaic flooring. The downstairs bathroom doesn’t have a window, so I’m hoping that the white tiles will help make it seem lighter and bigger.

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Images from ToppsTiles

The space is small and I don’t want to change the plumbing (cost control) so the layout of the room will not change. There is no space for bath and currently there is a pretty horrible glass brick wall, so that will come down and be replaced with a fresh looking shower wall like in the picture below. This bathroom will be the boys ‘ bathroom so I would love to put in a double basin for them. The Ikea double basin below should just fit and give nice storage space.

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Images from ToppsTiles and Ikea 

For some extra storage I would love to put in another Molger shelf (same as upstairs) and an Iittala Aitio shelf for shampoo bottles.
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Images from Ikea and Iittala

So that’s the plan, demolition will start beginning of May and husband will be project manager while we are away for the summer….luckily there is Skype to make sure that tiles are not installed in the wrong way or the sink in the wrong place or towel hooks too high or anything…And trust me I’m not being paranoid, when we re-did our kitchen the builders almost took out and covered the wrong window in the kitchen!

Baby Essentials Part 1: Newborns

When I was around 6 months pregnant it hit me that we were having babies (the fact that I was the size of a whale was my first clue) and that we should probably start preparing for it somehow (as long I could still leave the house). What do you need to get for a baby? I was reading the John Lewis Baby Catalogue, all 68 pages full of products that you must have. “Can this really be true?” I asked the husband in horror. First time parents are a huge market as you can sell pretty much anything to well meaning parents-to-be, I mean who wouldn’t want the best for their child?

As we had to get two of everything I decided that we should (try to) see through all the nonsense and get just the essentials to get started. We could get more stuff later. So what is it that a newborn baby needs?

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1. John Lewis changing mat   2. John Lewis baby bath  3. Miffy lamp 4. John Lewis Baby hair brush 5. John Lewis blanket  6. Sophie La Girafe 7. Ikea Cot   8. Gap pants

Actually at the beginning it is pretty simple. The baby needs somewhere to sleep, something to eat, to be warm and clean. Oh and he has to be transported home from the hospital.

  1. Sleeping

A baby needs a cot to sleep in. The baby market suggests an additional sleeping solution for the first couple of weeks: a moses basket or a crib, but basically it is just a smaller version of the cot. Do you really need anything else apart from the cot? That is up to each parent to decide, but we decided that we didn’t. The boys started sleeping in their cot from the very beginning, first sharing one and then moving on to their own cots. Swaddling is a great way to calm the baby and make him feel safe and warm.

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You also need to get a mattress, a mattress protector, a couple of fitted sheets and a cot bumper if you like. Cot bumpers are a funny business. Some sources claim that they are extremely dangerous and should never be used as the baby could potentially suffocate and the babies could overheat as the air can’t circle through the bed. Others say that it protects the baby from hitting its head or arms at the sides of of cot. My question is; if they really are so dangerous, why does every single retailer sell them? Anyhoo, we got all the cot related items from Ikea, a lot cheaper than other retailers and boys have been happy.

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2. Eating

If you are breastfeeding you don’t need much gear, but a breast pump (I used this and was happy with it although with pumping you can’t help but feeling a bit like a farm animal) and a couple of bottles is good to have. And if and when you move on to formula, there is one miracle device that I really recommend. On our first visit to Baby Gap we bumped into a couple with twins and they told us to get this. We call it the “Milkpresso machine”. It basically makes preparing a bottle super quick and accurate. When your baby starts screaming for food, you know that in 30 seconds you will have a bottle ready that is just the right temperature (no microwaving or cooling down needed) and just the right consistency (right amount of milk and powder).

3. Keeping warm 

Newborn babies really don’t need a lot of clothes or let’s say different types of clothing. Our boys were born in the middle of summer and spent the first couple of months wearing a little bodysuit with short sleeves, that was it. If your baby is born in winter they can wear a bodysuit with long sleeves and leggings or thighs. If you have a baby girl, try to resist buying dresses until they are about 6 months old.

For sleeping they will wear a sleepsuit and a sleeping bag is great for calming the baby down and making sure that the baby doesn’t move or turn around when sleeping.

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4. Cleaning

A changing table is great at the beginning as the baby doesn’t move around yet and if like me you have a sore back, with a changing table you don’t have to bend down which is great. And for bathing you need a little baby bath. Apart from getting your your baby clean and relaxed, an evening bathing routine helps with setting up with the routine in general and making the baby understand the difference between daytime and nighttime. Nighttime starts with bath, the changing into jammies, then evening bottle and then to bed. And nights are for sleeping, days are for playing.

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5. Getting home 

The hospital folks will not let you leave if you don’t have a car seat (fair enough!). We chose the Maxi-Cosi Pebbles and the bases. The base is really great, it is attached to the seat of the car and you simply put the car seat with the baby in it on top of the base and it automatically slides in place and makes a little sound to let you know that the car seat is correctly installed and your baby is safe to travel. This saves you a lot of time and hassle as you don’t have to attach a seat belt around the car seat. The base is compatible with both the infant car seat (Pebble) as well as with the toddler car seat.

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And last of all you need…

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String Love

This post is not about my love for tiny underwear, but for the Swedish shelving system. The String shelving system was designed in 1949 but despite its 65 years age, it looks as modern and as fresh as ever. What is great about the String system is that it is modular and hence totally flexible. You can start with a smaller unit and add to it later, you can have shelves that hang on the wall or sit on the floor and you can add cabinets and drawer units as well.

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(Ps loving the Artek chairs in the picture above, remind me of my childhood….)string2
And the String system is so fabulous (and the Swedes are such great marketeers) that their lifestyle images make other products super popular too! After this image was published suddenly the TON chairs and Merci paper bags were everywhere and the most stylish kitchens had square tiles….I wonder why? 😉

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I was looking for shelving that wouldn’t be bulky as the London flats are notoriously small and can be quite dark (what Brits like to call “cosy”). On the other hand they have lovely period features which I think go really well with more modern looking furniture. Because the String system is so flexible you can fit it in almost any space.

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Strange as it might in this era of digital content, we still have loads of books in our house. I love reading and I love my “offline” books and refuse to ever give them up. And now we have beautiful shelves to keep them all in!
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Currently we have String shelves in two rooms (living room and TV room), but if we sometime in the future move to a bigger house we can stick all the parts together and make one big shelving unit in the living room. But you could also have them in the kitchen (something for the summer house?), in the bathroom (for the new bathroom?), in the children’s room (when boys are bigger and need desks?) Hmm…I think my husband would say at this point “Calm yourself woman!”…must not go String-crazy….;-)

Winter Travel Edition

We spent 4 weeks in Finland over Christmas and this put our Donkey through the ultimate test. In Helsinki it was still going good, there was a little bit of snow on the ground and a couple of minus degrees, no problem.

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Then we traveled to my hometown about 3 hours north of Helsinki and suddenly the weather got a lot colder.

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When it got to -15 degrees our trusted Donkey came to a halt. Its front wheels froze and we had to look at alternative methods of getting around. When you have two babies to transport you can’t use a baby carrier unless you are two people and to be honest with my already sore back I try to avoid carrying my almost 10kg babies as much as I can. So what to do?

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Well we took our Maxi-Cosi car seats and put them on sleighs. The boys were strapped into the car seats and tucked under blankets to keep warm. Little chaps proved that 50% of their blood is Finnish as they seemed to love this winter adventure.

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This solved our transportation issue, we were able to continue our daily walks and the boys were happy. They didn’t mind all the attention that they attracted, actually they seemed to revel in it 😉

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My kind of sport

Today is one of those miserable February days when the London sky is grey and rainy and summer seems far, far away. To cheer myself up I was looking at some summer photos and these ones brought a smile to my face.

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Dad is an eager sportsman, skiing in winter and kayaking in summer. He tries to encourage the rest of us to get up from the hammocks and get out to the lake. And on a hot summer’s day, it ain’t actually that bad. Especially if we do it our way.
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That means legs on the kayak, stopping to float and sunbathe in the middle of the lake and pushing the kayaks through all kind of jungles.

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And if you want to go a bit further afield, no problem! Simply attach the kayaks to a small boat off you go.

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When you find a beautiful spot, park the vehicles, climb ashore and enjoy some sandwiches and a cold drink.

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Next summer a dear friend will visit our summer house for the first time with her family. How about it S.? Shall we make a day trip?

In planning mode

At the moment the venue looks like this…silent, empty, in winter sleep…..

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As every year in February it feels impossible to imagine, but eventually it will look like this…

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And then it will be time to celebrate the boys’ first ever birthday and their christening, full of joy, gratitude and love.

And if this momma is good at something, it is planning and organising! So let’s do it, the guest list, invitations, theme, menu….this is what I’m thinking so far;

  • Venue: where we got married 4 years ago ❤
  • Guests: our beloved
  • Theme: vintage/ afternoon tea
  • Menu: champagne, scones, cup cakes
  • Deco: bunting, pom poms, vintage china

A quick look at Pinterest for some lovely ideas;

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Images from Pinterest

And most importantly what I would like to say to my little chaps on this special day….

That you would bravely see over obstacles and prejudices, over doubt and insecurity you would see your path and hear your calling, you would recognise what is yours and for you.

That you would notice the voice whispering inside you, that you would trustingly go and find what for you is good and beautiful and right.

That you would touch gently when cruelty and shame knocks you down, that you would take yourself by the hand and whisper: It is ok to make mistakes and try again, to change direction and opinion.

Always believe in dreams and hope for the impossible.
(Irja Askola) 

Bugaboo 4 U?

When it comes to choosing a pushchair it can seem a daunting prospect, mainly because they are very expensive. Which brand to go for? Which model? Where to buy it? Online or in a store? Should you buy one second hand or get a brand new one? As with everything when having a baby, folks are going to tell you their opinion on what you should do. My motto? The one who pays, decides.

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When I was 6 months pregnant and reading a pushchair brochure in a coffee shop, a guy with a 3 year old child said to me “Choose your pushchair wisely, we are onto our 8th!” Ok…decision no1: We would buy only one pushchair to cover all the needs and see us through the buggy-period in our life. Better to pay a bit more once than buying 8 strollers!

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When we found out that we were having twins (and after getting over the initial shock) I felt very strongly that I wanted to have a pushchair where the babies would ride side by side, and not the “double-decker” one where (probably the easier baby) would always be stuck in the lower seat (this turned out to be very true). This preference narrowed down the possibilities significantly, Bugaboo was almost the only one who offered the side-by-side twin buggy, called the Donkey.

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My colleagues at work told me to buy a second hand pushchair from e-Bay and when I checked out what was on offer I noticed that the Bugaboos had an excellent re-sale value. You could buy one new, use it for couple of years and sell it for 60% of the original price, great!

So suddenly it started to feel like there really was just one possibility and when I started looking around, they were everywhere, Donkeys, Buffalos and Chameleons! The Bugaboos had taken over our neighborhood.

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And I must admit, if Bugaboo was the choice of Gwyneth Paltrow and Princess Madeleine, well it had to be mine as well. bugaboo5

The last decision was about the colour. My babies were arriving in July, so I wanted something light and went for “Off white”. The summer turned out to be long and very hot, so this colour was great. A black buggy would have been too hot for newborns. Of course there is another way at looking at the all important choice of colour. A friend’s husband offered great advice: “Think of the clothes you have and think which colour buggy would go with your wardrobe”. A Bugaboo is the ultimate fashion accessory!

And how has it been? Worth the investment? Every penny.

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H&M Spring

I’m loving H&M’s new spring line for babies. It’s a bit “Petit Bateau” in style, but fraction of the price, happy days! I wonder if they have been seeing Lindex’ (who is by the way entering UK market, yay!) success with baby clothes and have decided to go after that market…? Whatever the reason, I think I have to grab some of these beauties for my boys…

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