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Our next project - renovating the study!

You may have noticed that house renovations in our camp have slowed down somewhat. The bulk of the big work was done when we first moved in and we are now in the usual phase of neglecting all the little bits and doing them as we go.

The room designated for our study is at the very back of the house and is part of an extension built by the previous owner. Its a fairly small room, but isn't near a road so is a lovely quiet space. Our back garden isn't overlooked by any other properties so while its not exactly backing on to lush green forests, its quiet and peaceful and away from traffic noise. 

We should start with a before picture, so you can see what we were working with. Sorry about the poor quality - I had to take this from the Estate Agent's pictures!

With this room I really wanted to create a space that felt light and airy and that took advantage of the fact that it's quiet. I wanted to pull in some of those Scandi vibes and have exposed wood, a deep foresty green and lots of plants. 

There are still a few little touches that we'll continue to build on over time, but here's what we came up with:

The shelves were built by me using an old pallet and some beautiful shelf brackets that I bought from Suffolk Latch Company and the desk was purchased from a seller on Etsy; also made of pallets. Most of the other furniture is from Ikea including the cute little wicker chair. 

The adorable little plant coaster, which fits in so well with what I wanted for this room, was kindly sent to me by the lovely Amy Harwood. She also sent me a bunch of amazing dinosaur stationary goodies, including the little stegosaurus card and stickers you can see on my desk. All of Amy's goodies are available in her shop and also through Etsy. The coasters are currently on pre-sale and are just £3 each, or £5 for two. 

What I really love about this room so far is that there isn't really a theme or rules for what goes in here. You can see from the pictures that I still haven't unpacked all of my books from the loft and so there's loads of space and storage to play with. It means the room can develop and change to suit how we use it!

Although it does now mean I don't have any excuses not to study...!

Thaikhun Southampton cooking school

This week I was very lucky to be invited to the first ever Southampton Thaikhun cookery school, which has now launched in their Southampton Westquay restaurant. I hadn't yet had the chance to visit Thaikhun so it was the perfect opportunity to go and check out their menu.

When we arrived the cooking area was already set up and waiting for us, with all the ingredients we needed to cook our own authentic thai dinner - with the added bonus of mocktails, yum!

We donned our aprons and very cool (ahem) looking chef hats and had an introduction from the chef about what we were making before jumping straight in with a hot and sour soup.

The best bit about this was that we could see all the fresh ingredients laid out in front of us and could see exactly what goes into the meals they prepare, the same as the food on their menu! This also meant that any dietary requirements could be easily looked after because you could simply leave out any ingredients that you didn't want to/couldn't eat. Chef was always on hand to give advice and some very funny commentary along the way.

Most awkward chef ever award goes to... me

After wolfing down the soup; which was divine, we got straight on with making our classic pad thai dishes. We had a demonstration from the chef which also included another explanation of all the ingredients and how they add flavour to the finished result - before trying to remember how to reconstruct it ourselves!

The servings were enormous which meant as an even bigger bonus, we got to take the leftovers home in a cute little takeaway box, along with a little bag of Thaikhun goodies. Hello next day's work lunch.

I've never tried a cookery class before but I absolutely loved it. The food was amazing and the staff were super helpful along the way, I would definitely try something like this again. If you fancy booking into Thaikhun's cooking school, or just seeing some of the lush food on offer, take a look at the Thaikhun website for more details.

Visiting Vancouver and Seattle

I have been putting off writing this post for ages and actually, I'm glad I did. By delaying it, I get another chance to go through all my notes, scribbles and pictures that I put together while I was there and relive the funny little moments I would completely forget if I didn't write them all down somewhere.

Despite being a wee bit sad about turning 30 this year, I was incredibly lucky; AJ and my family all clubbed together to give me enough money to buy a return flight to Canada, so I could visit one of my best friends who moved there last year with her boyfriend.

I usually handle long haul flights fairly well, probably something to do with two solo trips to New Zealand (hello 37 hours of travelling). So practised am I these days that I didn't even suffer with jet lag once I arrived. I was recently lucky enough to be included in Travelbag's recent article with lots of tips on handling long haul flights from bloggers - you can take a peek here - its full of good ways to deal with long haul flights, wherever you're going! Even with no jet lag, by the time I arrived and got through the airport there was just enough time to have amazing sushi from a local restaurant, have a quick catch up and get an early night!

The next few days in Vancouver were really relaxed; we pottered around doing bits and bobs including walking around the sea wall to Stanley Park, checking out the waterfront, Gastown, aimlessly wandering around the art gallery, visiting Bowen island and walking the Killarney lake trail, all in beautiful sunshine. We had a barbecue, I ate all sorts of yummy food, including the infamous double big mac, pancakes and bacon with maple syrup, poutine, zugo juice, sushi, Wendy's, Denny's, the list goes on!

Laura had even planned for the two of us to take a mini road trip to Seattle - so I got to tick two places off of my list in one! I've never been to Canada or the States before so to be able to do (a very small part of) both in one trip was amazing. Seattle is around a 2 hour drive from Vancouver and we booked into a hostel to keep the cost down. 

Seattle is definitely the city of coffee shops and bars! There is a brilliant and relaxed cafe culture and you can even go and visit the first ever Starbucks! We walked around Pikes Place Market sampling and smelling an amazing range of foods and stopped to watch the famous fish market. Its difficult to describe.. but involves lots of harmonised singing and throwing fish..! We visited the sculpture park, fed the seagulls (apparently this is the done thing) and on the second day, we took the bus to Alki beach and spent the day reading our books in the sun, looking back on Seattle. Absolute bliss. Until we got sunburned.. but the rest was bliss. 

We had dinner at a vegan fast food chain, Veggie Grill, which was a m a z i n g! Everything on the menu is vegan and the refillable drinks are a variety of iced teas. We had vegan chik'n buffalo wings, beyond meat beef burgers and lots of fries! In fact, it was so good, we went back there the second night! I would never usually eat at the same place twice when visiting somewhere new, but I just had to have those buffalo wings in my life! On the way home from Seattle I got to experience my first ever Walmart visited Steveston and went to the loveliest mini donut shop.

After getting back from Seattle and back into Canada, we spent a few days visiting Jericho beach, eating my way around Granville Island (crepes and sushi in one sitting.. I have eclectic taste), playing in the arcades, traipsing up Main Street and going to a thrift store; where I picked up a lovely big old Vancouver jumper, tried a Nanaimo bar, met some very odd people on the bus, including an "author" and topped off the last of our spare time with an absolutely incredible sunset harbour cruise around Vancouver. Laura arranged it for us and it was really amazing. We had dinner on board and the boat went all the way round Vancouver harbour, coming back under Lionsgate bridge just in time for the sun to set behind us. The Captain even let Laura and I drive the boat!! Bad idea.

We topped off the weekend with a night of camping in Squamish with friends, where I tried my first ever s'mores, spent the night worrying about bears coming into the tent to eat me and ate barbecued burgers and drank beers. The following morning, after breakfast of croissants and fresh melon, we went on the sea to sky gondola which had incredible views of the mountains and then spent some time at Alice Lake sunning ourselves by the beach and walking around the lake, before I put my sunburned bum (literally) on the plane to fly home.

I had such an amazing time and honestly, Canadians are some of the nicest people I have ever met! Everyone was super friendly, generous and I completely fell in love with the way of life. I will 100% be going back again at some point - I'd love to go in winter to go skiing and snowboarding.

Has anyone else visited Vancouver? Have you got any recommendations for my next trip?