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Speaking with one of my friends recently, she said something that I think many of you would agree with when it comes to starting a family. “We spent nine months readying ourselves for everything to change. And still I was surprised that at how different our lives are!”

A truer word spoken you’ll struggle to find, and the changes actually start taking place even before you welcome your bundle of joy into the world. The house becomes baby-proofed, the car gets bigger, space needs to be found for the strollers, the clothes shopping is relentless and, of course, sleeping patterns descend into disarray. Of course, it all takes some adjustment, but as a parent it’s all part of the experience, and the sorts of things that you easily get on top of.

But as your family increases in both quantity and size, one of the big questions that burns is: Do we need to upsize our house?

The case for (and against) loft conversions


It’s the ultimate cost-benefit analysis, and one that is entirely subjective and personal to you as a family. But deciding whether to upsize or move isn’t just about increased living area. It’s also about adding value, and getting the most you can from what is ultimately a very important investment.

Furthermore, it isn’t necessarily a choice that’s in your hands. Space to make extensions sideways isn’t always a possibility for many existing homes, which is why expanding families are looking upwards through loft conversions instead. There are three main types of loft conversion:

Velux/Skylight: Involves simply converting existing roof space, and adding lights to the roof. It’s the least disruptive and cheapest option, and is ideal for smaller loft conversions.

Dormer: This involves adding an extension to existing loft space in order to increase headroom.

Mansard: This is the biggest and usually most expensive undertaking of the three, which involves extending roof space to the rear, and sometimes the front too; typically with brick sides and vertical windows.

Loft conversions are undoubtedly a cheaper alternative to moving home entirely, although as an investment, may warrant some careful consideration first. After all, for an outlay of anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000, you want to be sure that it is adding value to your property too. Bear in mind though that if your loft was formerly a major place of storage, the reduction in storage space could hinder the enhancement of your home’s market value.

You’ll also need to make sure that you have the necessary planning permission or permit from your local planning authorities before going ahead. In addition, it’s well worth asking yourself if your loft really is big enough. How much space will you actually be able to squeeze out of your existing loft? Both in terms of floor space and height? It may even be worth getting an architect in for advice.

Handy loft conversion tips

Nevertheless, if after considering the above you decide to go ahead, here are some tips which may help your cause in terms of maximising the value you get from the conversion…

Avoid shortcuts: The complexities of loft conversions are such that you don’t want to cut any corners in terms of finishing. For this transformation to be worthwhile, and to get the most bang for your buck, make sure you do this properly, and keep the finishes to a high standard.

Regulations: Crucial to being classified as a ‘living space’, it is vital that the new room has a proper staircase and windows, and meets health and safety regulations – otherwise there won’t be any value added.

Get quotes: Loft conversion is a highly competitive industry, so shop around in terms of quotes. Four or five should be the absolute minimum you aim for. Be sure to research their reputations too.

Good-value loans: Similar to the above, if you need help financing your loft conversion, you’ll be pleased to hear that the market for personal loans is hugely competitive, especially with the emergence of alternative finance. Be sure to check out some price comparison sites to find the best deal out there.

Make it a part of the house: You don’t want the conversion to feel like an add-on that appears as a blatantly separate addition to the house. Keep the style in line with that of the original house, and ensure that the stairway is a natural continuation so that the transition from the lower levels to the new room is seamless.

It may all seem like a lot to consider, but if a loft conversion fits the bill of what you’re after, it has the potential to be a great success. They’re increasingly popular in this country, especially given the current housing situation. As long as you stay the course, get all your ducks in a row, and keep smiling, there’ll be plenty of benefit to be had from it for you and your family for years to come.

I'm always interested in having a virtual nosy around other people's houses. Once, Sian showed off her favourite corners of her old home and I adored the individuality of it. Our house needs a lot of work structurally but the interior home architecture means that we would never find another that suits our needs anywhere else. It's decorated quite neutrally but we all have our own space; each of the children have their own bedrooms adored with gadgets galore, I have my home office (also the spare room) and my husband has a room for all his boy toys (he’s an amateur radio operator)

I have a whole corner of the lounge to myself right next to the radiator. Within reach is my Filofax, a notebook, my hard-drive, my kindle, my craft basket and my laptop. It is a perfect viewing spot for the television and is completely central in the whole of the house.

At the top of the stairs hangs my favourite piece of art. I found it at the Hippy Market in Ibiza and it cost about 15€. Because of it’s placement - it being in view all the time - you’d think I'd get used to seeing it there but I love looking at it every single day.

I am reclaiming my office space in the spare room at the moment (hence the very tidy looking desk) and making it a space where I can feel creative.. I should spend more time up there writing, away from the distraction of the television but it feels very isolated and I'm not good at dealing with that. It's going to change even more in there soon as I undertake a new venture - more about that soon. When you look around in my unofficial office tour, you can also catch a glimpse of our shelves full of videos that I'm loath to get rid of (I have been challenged to write about them so that's coming soon).

Also in my office space is the final 'Love Heart's picture. It's nothing special - it cost just a couple of pounds in a bargain store but it's bright and cheerful and the words "Dream Big" always remind me that nothing is impossible.

What are the favourite parts of your home?


This is a featured post. Please view my disclosure policy
... I had a proper lie-in
... household chores were done without someone having to be reminded or asked
... someone gave me a hug, just because
... I hit my sales target at work
... I wore high heels
... I organised myself to get everything done
... we had spare cash so we didn't have to think about what we were spending
... I had someone to call a 'best friend'
... drank a whole brew whilst it was still hot
... I felt good about myself
... I did something where I felt proud of me
... something exciting happened at the weekend
... I didn't crave for a cigarette
... I ran for any length of time and it didn't hurt before/during/after
... I thought about myself before anyone else
... I read blogs or online articles properly
... the weather was nice
... I had a doze on the settee without someone shouting my name and 'needing' me
... I ate healthily for a full week
... someone paid me a compliment about the way I look
... I read a book
... I didn't lust over wine
... I did something without thinking of the consequenses
... I went to bed early
... I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw
... I formulated a plan and stuck to it
... I left the house without being all 'OCD' about everything
... my finger wasn't sore
... I had a great idea that I could devote time to properly
... something made me cry
... I stayed away from social media for 24 hours
... I didn't feel judged
... I got everything off my chest
... I clicked 'Publish' on a blog post without giving a shit << I did this today
Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where people share five music tracks that transport them back to a memorable time in their life.



Today's Soundtrack To My Life comes from Annwen.  Her blog is one that I have followed for a while and whilst she enjoys writing about style and travel she also incorporates family, fun, style, health, travel and life in general. In this choice of tracks, she's introduced me to a couple I haven't heard of before and a couple that I haven't heard for a while.  A great mix.  For now, over to Annwen...


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Suzanne Vega - Luka


The first song I remember really liking as a kid, as a child of the 80's I was brought up on really good music from Suzanne Vega, Belina Carlisle, Mel and Kim etc. I remember road trips in the car with a mix tape of all of the above!



The Tony Rich Project - Nobody Knows


The soundtrack of my first breakup, I was 15 and madly in love, he was going away to uni and didn't want a long distance relationship. I remember crying into my pillow for hours and this song will always remind me of how much it hurt at the time. Now when I hear it I remind myself of how strong that breakup made me and what it taught me about love and self respect!



Phil Collins - You'll Be In My Heart


I love the Tarzan sound track but this song in particular has always been my favourite. When my son was born this song just seemed to sum up how incredibly protective I was of this little person in my life. I was quite overcome by how much it meant to me in his first weeks. It will always be an important part of our bond.



Lady Gaga - Bad Romance


I'm not a huge Lady Gaga fan, in fact prior to the moment that this became part of the soundtrack of my life I can't say I'd really paid it any attention. When I had a planned csection with my daughter I hadn't taken a CD for them to play so we settled on the hospital radio station and this song was playing as my daughter was born. I still don't like the song but it will forever remind me that it was the moment my little girl was delivered safely and for that reason I will always smile when I hear it and listen to the whole song.



Carrie Underwood - Jesus Take The Wheel


I love country music, probably now more than I ever have. This song in particular is a favourite for me, partly because the lyrics mean something to me personally but more because even at age 5 my song still likes a lullaby and this is always the first song he asks for, I think he's a country boy at heart!



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Soundtrack To My Life - Annwen
You can find Annwen on her blog - Ramblings Of A Surburban Mummy - or on Twitter and Facebook

Find out more about Soundtrack To My Life here the read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries or follow the Pinterest board. If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.
How To Make Vegetable Soup

I'm very much a ''throw it all in and hope for the best" type of cook. I sort of follow recipes but always experiment and attempt to try out adaptations.  I recently had a whole load of vegetables that were about to become past their best and needed to use them up so I had a glance at a recipe online, took note of what I had, threw it all in a pot and kept my fingers crossed.  It was one of the best things I've ever made and has become much-requested in this house.

If you have ever followed any of my other recipes, you'll know that I don't do much measuring so everything is adaptable.  This recipe makes six to eight large portions and is ideal for lunch with a crusty loaf or as a starter for a main meal. 




Ingredients


  • 4-6 carrots
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 peppers (any colour)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 large leek
  • 6 smallish potatoes
  • 2 small onions (I used red onion)
  • ¼ celeriac
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • turmeric
  • thyme
  • a big squirt of tomato puree
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes


Method


  1. Peel and chop the carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and celeriac into small cubes
  2. Cut the (de-seeded) peppers, celery, leek and onions into small pieces
  3. Add to a large pan with the vegetable stock, turmeric, thyme, tomato puree and can of chopped tomatoes
  4. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour or until all the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally
  5. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth
  6. Serve and enjoy!


This recipe is Slimming World friendly and stores in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for three months. Do let me know how you get on and if you have any top tips for making soup.



Keeping up a monthly series is Hard Work.  With all the good intentions of doing this monthly round-up (which I love pulling together) I didn't bother in November or December so you didn't get the promised learning experiences including:
  • My disappointment when my doppleganger didn't contact me (see October's 'Things I Learnt In...') but she was probably too freaked out at the message she received via Facebook.
  • The full rundown (no pun intended) of the two 10k races and a 5k Santa Dash I participated in.
  • A mention for 'Girls Against' - a group of young women who are campaigning against groping at gigs.
  • The time I learnt that your quiz book won't fend for itself on Amazon.
  • That you can make a London Undergroup map from Quality Street chocolates.
  • Grandchildren will say the best part of Christmas dinner is sitting at the big table and not a separate 'children's table'
  • Getting Danny Boyle and Quentin Tarintino in an interview together is genius.
  • Injury sucks (more of that in a minute).
  • Peter Kay's Car Share is returning and a whole nation cheered in unison.

Anyway... new year, new intentions, new "What I Learnt In..." series enthusiasm so here is January.


Telling Casey Neistat about the Boyle/Tarintino interview gains you a "heart" on Twitter and a total #fangirl moment. This one should really have been in December but it warrants more than a quick mention. Point of note: if you are looking for an inspirational role model / engaging vlogger / beautiful time lapse shots of gorgeous scenery / enthusiasm about life in general then you should be following Casey Neistat. I spent most of 2015 tuned into his daily vlogs and watched his subscriber count grow rapidly - and it's so easy to see why once you start watching.  He is a film maker by trade and has been commissioned to create online campaigns for big brand names but he has an inquisitive mind by nature so everything is an adventure. So, I don't normally tweet links to 'famous people' but thought that he'd enjoy the aforementioned Boyle/Tarintino interview. And this happened.

Things I Learnt In January, Casey Neistat, Twitter


Netflix is addictive. Yes, I know I'm a late adopter but there's always something else going on in my life and I rarely watch television unless it's something I can interact with, i.e. a reality TV programme that people are tweeting along with. My husband signed up for the free month and I now have my own section on his log-in with more shows queued up that I can watch in six month. Bye bye normal television. Here Netflix, just take my £6 per month and let me get on with it.


Oh yes, it's time for the running section again... 

Living with a running injury is Very Frustrating. I started getting twinges in my knee last November and I probably shouldn't have participated in a couple of events (namely our 'end of plan' 10k Celebration Run and the Liverpool Santa Dash) but I'd been waiting for these runs for ages and couldn't resist.  As a result, I was in too much pain to run and had to rest.  Two months later and I'm still not running properly and I'm awaiting the results of a knee scan. One thing I have learnt from all this is that running is now a positive make up of my emotional and physical well-being and I crave that euphoria.

Things I Learnt In January, Run Like A Girl, medal rack,

If you want a 'Run Like A Girl' medal rack, just buy it yourself. I hinted hard for this medal rack for Christmas but it never arrived (to be fair, they were out of stock) so I ordered it myself on Boxing Day and it arrived a few days later. It now has pride of place in my home office

This whole video just makes me want to go for [another] run. And when the girl says "I'm knackered" - that's soooooooo the best feeling in the world!



Finally a motivation video without fitness models, but with ordinary girls!
Posted by Gym Bitch on Wednesday, 11 February 2015


If you weren't here for the running stuff, you can stop scrolling now!

You can give a neglected project a much needed boost. I have a collaborative stationery blog with Sian that started out with good intentions but busy lives get in the way so easily. Stationery Lovers is now reborn with additional contributors in the form of Kirsty (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) and Kara (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) so watch out for videos and blog posts from us all with additional input on the Stationery Lovers outlets (Twitter | Facebook) starting in February. You can see a sneak peek Periscope on my Facebook page. EXCITING TIMES!

I can make soup! I've always been a bit of a chuck-it-all-in type of cook but I've never attempted soup. We had a load of vegetables to use up and I've been cooking more from scratch recently so I had a glance at a couple of recipes online, cobbled something together, blended it, crossed my fingers and gave it to my husband to test. It was declared a great success and I'll be writing the whole recipe up at some point in the near future.  [edited to add... the recipe and video is here]

Things I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soupThings I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soup,


Luke Marsden from Big Brother 9 is a bloody nice bloke! I met him whilst marshalling a race one weekend (a company he works with sponsored the race t-shirts) and he had a right long chat with myself and a friend about what he's doing now. I might have also done a bit of schmoozing which will hopefully lead to some sponsorship for our running group.

Not enough people are raving about Walk Off The Earth. You may not think you know who I'm on about but you've probably seen their version of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' with five people playing one guitar and, if you like that, you'll love loads of their other covers including this version of Adele's 'Hello' which I've nominated as my video of the month. It's so clever - I'm in awe!!




Recommendations Of The Month  

I wrote a HUGE post which is full of top tips for new runners when they are buying clothes, trainers or accessories. It's proving to be a really popular article so if you know someone who has stuck to their New Year's resolution and is out pounding the streets then show them this.

I have been reviewing aromatherapy oils and a diffuser from Essence of Arcadia. There are some gorgeous smells wafting around my lounge now and I alternate the diffuser with wax melts or scented candles.  Read the full review here.

I love a good geek review and one of my favourite brands, Omaker, sent me a couple of their premium USB cables to try out. They are perfect for data transfer or charging mobile devices and their nylon braided cable is so much more durable than your usual rubber coated cables. Definitely handy to keep around and I've now got one in my bag attached to my portable charger. Buy direct from Amazon here

We were trying to work out how long we'd had our mattress, especially after the recent 'change your mattress every eight years' campaign and it's definitely time for a new one (we've had our feather mattress topper on for a couple of years now and I wouldn't be without it). We've decided to check out the January sale at Mattresses Online and sort ourselves out. 

Soundtrack To My Life is enjoying a bit of a reboot so if you fancy sharing the five tracks that always transport you back to a specific time and place then come and share that music. Read all about it and fill in the form.

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you have learnt this month.