Our house renovation dream

Dene Cottage – Before and After

Now that we’re planning our next project, I’ve been looking back on the work we did to Dene Cottage. Like childbirth, the pain of the process has been mostly forgotten, but finding these photos has jogged my memory! Here are the final before and after pics of Dene Cottage:


Dec 2012

April 2013

April 2013



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Dene Cottage-10_LowRes

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Dene Cottage-09_LowRes



January 2013 (5)

December 2012 (18)

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Living Room

Dec (5)

December 2012


Dene Cottage-13_LowRes


Conservatory (not a single before pic! We planned to knock it down but used it temporarily as a playroom)

Dene Cottage-12_LowRes


Loft In December 2012



Loft conversion

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Dec --2012 (5)


Feb March 14 (1)

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River’s Bedroom

December 2012 (12)

May-13 4

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December 2012 (11)

January 2013 (17)


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Moving On

Today we moved out of Dene Cottage.


I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the name of the house for fear of herds of fans camping outside; or more truthfully because someone might decide to try and nick the copper bath. I think the bath is the hardest thing to leave behind despite it being a nightmare to clean when your baby and husband use it every day.

It was supposed to be a forever, or at least long-term home for us. Which is why we shoved it full of the best insulation you can get, soundproofed, underfloor heated and tanked it to make it like the best quality self-build within the walls of a new build with the added bonus of being allergy-friendly for Paul. We didn’t realise it wouldn’t be baby friendly. And by that I mean less the rock solid limestone floors (although they weren’t especially fun for River) and more the isolation I experienced in our house as a new Mum with a baby that hated (still hates) the car.

So we’re moving on to a new project, a little house, half the size of Dene Cottage, down the road from my family so that River can grow up with her cousins on her doorstep, with the added bonus of acres of woodland to discover and climb.

Here are some of my favourite moments from Dene Cottage

Wielding an SDS drill, eating pasta from Tupperware in sub zero temperatures on Boxing Day 2012

Bosch SDS Hammer Drill

Visiting the house to find it with no roof or foundations

September 2013

Spending time getting to know Paul’s Dad, Trevor, in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to had he not helped us so much with almost every aspect of the build.

July 2014


Planning rooms Dexter-style

September (5)


Late-night wonky wall building

April 2013

Sleeping in the living room with Mojo

June 2014 (Sleeping in Lounge)

Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner for 15, done!


Getting engaged in the kitchen, by the hole in the wall we only just got round to fixing

Spending the morning of our wedding surrounded by family and friends getting ready, speed walking to the Church and forgetting the keys.


*Photo credit: Anna Hardy

Every single bath (especially whilst pregnant)



Bringing our newborn baby home.

Thanks for the memories, Dene Cottage.



All The Stuff You Need To Get Your Baby To Sleep



One of my many worries in pregnancy was that the already awful sleep I was experiencing due to an extremity in the ribs, was about to get worse. I’m the kind of girl who is flagging on a night out at 11pm. The first to admit defeat and not make it to a midnight feast – the thought of sleep deprivation was terrifying to me.

So I did my research. Surely throwing money at this potential scenario would make it go away – I stocked up on the must-haves:

  • A Sleepyhead – the go-to sleep miracle for newborns! Amazon reviews cannot lie! “My baby slept through the night from day 1! “It’s saved my life!” “I do yoga while my baby is in it!” etc.
  • A Snuzpod cosleeper – all the rage. Scandi, aesthetically pleasing (before puked on) and means your baby is so close to you but not so close that you’re in the DANGER YOU WILL SQUASH YOUR BABY IF YOU PUT IT IN YOUR BED zone.
  • A Ewan the Dream Sheep, who makes the sounds of the womb and glows as if the baby is still in there. Why the terrifying eyes and short battery life I have no clue but ah, how this trio would work in perfect harmony to lull my baby off to sleep.

We returned from hospital and deployed the trio. They failed instantly and repeatedly – the baby would scream if put on a surface other than a parent’s chest and we quickly realised we had to sleep in shifts. So other tactics had to be used because as fun as it sounds to watch Gossip Girl from 2-4am it isn’t when it goes on for weeks.


We warmed up the Snuzpod with a hot water bottle, put my smelly milk-stained t-shirt around the mattress. Didn’t work. Bought a heavy duty fan, convinced it was too warm, a footless sleeping bag, more blankets, less blankets, borrowed a friend’s Cocoonababy, window open, window closed, a short sleeved vest, a long sleeved vest, dairy free diet, IT MUST BE ALL THE ALMONDS I ATE – no more almonds, more almonds?, an air purifier, a humidifier, a dehumidifier, a wedgehog (baby must be at a 45 degree angle), swaddle, unswaddle, the sound of rain, alpha music, red light, no light, blackout blinds, a cashmere mix sleeping bag, trapped a nerve trying to put a boob and half my body into the Snuzpod.

Weeks of this suck all round. The baby hated it and so did we. So in desperation I tucked her into my arm in my bed. And she slept.


And woke up again. Every hour or so, but those were hours we could sleep too. Following safe co-sleeping guidelines we could all sleep. And loads of people, it turns out, do this too. Because you know, sanity is useful.

I don't sleep in here

I don’t sleep in here

A year later we sleep like this, cuddled together. It takes practice but sometimes I’m not even totally awake when I’m getting her back to sleep. I am the best ‘sleep aid’ for my baby, totally free. Although a Superking size bed is probably the best investment we’ve ever made. The Snuzpod does make a convenient bedside table though.

I wish I’d known my aptitude for sleep deprivation was so good. I should have partied till 4am while I had the chance.