Monday, 4 July 2022

Buying my first home | part 6

What a whirlwind it's been; in part 5 of this series I shared the gorgeous news that my offer had been accepted, I'd instructed a solicitor and the mortgage application was underway. Since then I've been making plans, buying furniture off Facebook market place, speaking to roofers and so on. I hadn't planned on updating this series for a while, but there's stuff to say now...

First of all, the mortgage advisor let me know that my tax overview and tax calculation, both provided by HMRC after I submitted my tax return, did not match. Numbers panic me and HMRC panics me and the whole thing just caused me to have an absolute meltdown because I didn't know how to fix it and it needed to be fixed for the bank to continue processing my mortgage application.

I got in touch with a local accountacy firm and explained the issue; they assured me they could fix it (for £120, which seems like a lot but I took it out of my house savings as it was a house-related thing, and is SO worth it for getting the issue fixed). I sent them the necessary documents, and waited for them to let me know it was all sorted.

Obviously this halted the mortgage application, and when my mortgage advisor called me one Saturday to ask about the timescale of getting the overview & calculation back I thought that was all she wanted to discuss. But no - she was calling with the heartwrenching news that the seller has taken the house off the market, no longer wanting to sell for personal reasons. I was definitely in shock when she told me and didn't really say much, but over time I've come to terms with it - clearly it wasn't meant to be, and a better house will come along. Hopefully that's soon...

As it is, all the houses in my price range which are available to buy currently are either up for auction (no good for first time buyers!) or being sold with tenants in situ. So the search starts again, and I'll be in my parents' attic for a while longer, surrounded by boxes of pans, suticases full of decor, and a disassembled futon.

There has been some good news, though - the accountant fixed the tax issue and sent me a new overview/calculation, which I sent off to the mortgage advisor to send to the bank. The very next day, my mortgage was approved! Okay so I don't have a house to speak of right now, but this mortgage offer is valid for 6 months so when I find a new property, I'll be able to transfer the offer to a new house. This is why I definitely couldn't forsee myself buying a house without a mortgage advisor!

So it's ups and downs right now, and there's a lot going on in my personal life too, and everything has been on top of me a little bit. But I plan on building back stronger, finding the perfect house, and living my best life from now on.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Day 4 in Hamburg

Our fourth and final day in Hamburg was actually my favourite. I kept seeing 'Stade' on the train destination boards, so I did a little Google and I was absolutely blown away. Even better, it was included in the transport pass as part of the Hamburg Card, so we didn't pay to get there.

We got up, packed the rest of our stuff up and checked out, leaving our bags in the apartment building until we were ready to collect them later - I love hotels/apartments which let you do this! Then we headed over to the train station to travel from Hamburg to Stade...

Hamburg to Stade

Stade is a beautiful city 45km out of Hamburg, in Lower Saxony, and it is well worth visiting if you're after a slow pace and pretty scenery. We actually got the wrong train so had to stop the journey halfway through and wait for the connecting train to Stade but if you do it all in one go you can get from Hamburg-Harburg station to Stade in just over half an hour!

It was the canal area that had sucked me in, but when arrived I couldn't quite figure out how to get there on the map. So, being the social media freak that I am, I searched on Instagram for the hashtag #Stade and found a picture of someone at the canal, at a particular cafe, and put the name of the cafe into Google maps. We actually decided to eat here too, but more on that soon!


The walk from the station was really pleasant; it's much more of a traditionally-German-looking place than Hamburg is, and we walked through a park and across a bridge with lush water underneath. It was a lovely warm day, too, and the sun was shining. We walked through the modern town area, which to be fair reminded me a lot of a British high street, and saw a lovely looking church. Then it was time for the main event: then canal area.

It's like a cookie cutter chocolate box town and I loved it - perfect for getting some gorgeous photos, and there are loads of places to eat and drink and people-watch, which is exactly what we did. We stopped at Die Bohne, and I had a cheese and ham baguette with a bottle of Fritz Kola while my boyfriend had a currywurst and a beer. It wasn't too expensive, the staff were lovely, and there was the choice of indoor or outdoor seating. We sat outside and it was super windy but so pretty.

After we'd eaten we sat and chilled for a bit, admiring the many many dogs people walk around this part of Stade. Truly fantastic. We also visited the local museum (everything was in German but there was some Beatles-related stuff) and the nearby art gallery; you buy one ticket for the two and it was 8 euros each. We then walked back through town to get our train back to Hamburg...


After arriving back at the station near our apartment, we ran across to grab our bags then got back on the bloody train to go into the city centre and back to Paddy's Irish bar for the Merseyside derby. There was a huge dog in there, possibly a St Bernard or something, who was having a terrible time with a fly that kept annoying him - he was so cute and I'd go back just to pet him again. We watched the match, had some drinks, and of course managed to bump into someone from our home town because obviously. He works over there now but his wife was visiting and happened to be on our flight, so we got a taxi back to the airport with her - there was some stress over not having enough cash before we got in but you can pay on card in taxis in Hamburg, and the barmaid called one for us which was great.

Our last day was very chilled, and our flight home was very smooth (love u EasyJet please don't cancel my flight to Switzerland next month!!!) - Hamburg was a city I'm glad to have ticked off my list, but I'm not sure it's one I'll be rushing back to. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I had a fantastic time, it's just done now. Have you been? Let me know in the comments!


Thursday, 16 June 2022

My recent reads | June 22 part 2

It seems I've been reading quite a lot lately; it's been a slow month in terms of freelance work, which happens every so often - typically it would happen as I'm in the process of buying a house - meaning I've had some spare time. I also went to Download and had 2 long coach journeys so, I really have read my fair share of books recently. Below you can see what I've been reading and what I thought of them!

Welcome to your Life by Bethany Rutter

I adore Beth, having followed her on twitter for years - I've read both of her YA books, and I hadn't got round to reading Welcome to your Life but when it was on Kindle for 99p I could hardly pass up the opportunity could I? This is adult fiction, about a plus-size woman who sacks off her wedding and gets a second chance at life/dating/falling in love; at first she's worried about dating as someone who is fat, but this is a gorgeous journey of a character's self-discovery and finding her self worth... buy Welcome to your Life here.

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

Despite not enjoying The Flatshare and being the only one in that camp, I do love Beth O'Leary as an author and all her other books are fab - including The Road Trip. This is all about Addie and Dylan, who have come out the otherside of a tumultuous break up and are (separately) driving to a wedding - disaster strikes and they end up having to drive to said wedding together. The story is a dual-narrative, told from Addie and Dylan's perspectives, and flits been now (the road trip) and then (their relationship). With plenty of hilarious sub-plots and really interesting characters, I loved this! buy The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary here.

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Shari Lapena is one of my favourite authors, and this book was no exception; in the aftermath of the death of a wealthy couple in the States, we follow the investigation as it unfolds. The couple had three children, all of whom will benefit from the death of their less-than-perfect parents - but who did it, and why? And as secrets come tumbling out from every nook and cranny, it only becomes more of a question. I love how the book keeps you guessing right until the end, and even then leaves you on a bit of a cliffhanger... buy Not a Happy Family here.

I Know What You've Done by Dorothy Koomson

I don't think I've ever read a Dorothy Koomson book before, but I really enjoyed this. Another thriller, it takes place on a street in Brighton where a woman has been attacked; she's the local busybody, with 'dirt' on everyone - and nobody wants their secret to get out. The story unfolds in the aftermath of her attack, but also has excerpts from her diary and snippets from past times. It is told from the POV of a few characters, which can make things a bit confusing unless you're really concentrating, but it's an interesting story which again will have you guessing for ages because anybody could have done it. It is also one of the only books I personally have read which makes reference to lockdown, the pandemic, working from home and so on which I found a really interesting addition! buy I Know What You've Done by Dorothy Koomson here.

House Swap by Olivia Beirne

I mainly picked this up because one of the main characters is called Katy, but I absolutely loved this book. It's about two sisters who are near-estranged, one living in their childhood home in Wales and the other living in London. Each thinks the other has the perfect life but when they end up having to swap houses for a week, the facade unravels... This is a gorgeous story about sisterhood, dysfunctional families, and keeping up appearances. buy House Swap here.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know - and if you've any recommendations, I'm always looking to add to the 843 unread books in my office...

Friday, 10 June 2022

The best Stranger Things merch on Etsy!

Stranger Things season 4 is absolutely mindblowing - if you haven't watched it yet then where have you been?! It's definitely my favourite season yet and as such, I wanted to share some of the best merch across Etsy for Stranger Things fans looking to support small businesses... 

First of all is this retro Stranger Things print - there are sooooo many prints on Etsy and I'm a big fan of this one, very movie-style and quite understated. This starts at £6.76 for an A5 print and sizes go all the way up to A1. Very good very nice.
Next up is this Eleven room spray which has a candy & waffle scent - a room spray is a really nice housewarming gift I think so if you know a Stranger Things fan who is moving house, something like this is probably ideal! This is £9.99 and reviews for this shop are great.

This Upside Down-themed (not literally upside down) whisky glass is so cool - I hate whisky but little glasses like this are ideal for a quick swig of orange juice in the morning too. This is a tenner and would make a great birthday gift.

I think this Stranger Things activity book is adorable; I got one of these a few years ago and they are tiny, the ideal stocking filler (I know it's only June but...) or for some fun on-the-go like for a road trip or long flight. Just something really different and it's only £2.99!

Hellfire Club has my heart and I obviously want a badge. There's a selection of sizes and a keyring too, starting at £2.50 - there's already one in my basket. I'm on the hunt for a proper t-shirt, white with the black sleeves, but Primark have sold out and all the Etsy ones are from 'Murica. If you know of any please let me know!!

I am obsessed with this map of Hawkins print - it's so cute and I think I might get it for like the staircase wall of my new house! It is quite expensive at £21 for the smallest size but I do absolutely adore it.

I'm an Adidas lover anyway and this Stranger Things Adidas-inspired t-shirt is so very cool; just imagine this with mom jeans and black Converse in the summer?! This is a tenner and the reviews are great too.

Running Up That Hill, if you know you know. This bracelet is soooo dainty and cute and definitely a more subtle nod to Stranger Things if that's the kind of merch you want. Dreamy! It's £14.50 which isn't too bad for a handmade bracelet.

Not so subtle is this incredible Steve Harrington t-shirt; I love these 90s style celeb t-shirts and I love Steve so this is a winner. It's from a US seller and quite pricey but there are a lot of variations across Etsy if you want one of these.

Like I said, so many prints. This Stranger Things colour palette print is just stunning - what a great design. Love love love. Nothing more to say really! This is £13.99 which is decent for an A3 print...

Last but not least is yet another print; I know Barb is old news now but I loved her and this missing person milk carton print just really made me chuckle. Plus it's pink... It's a fiver for A5 print or £10 for A4.

Have you watched season 4 yet? Have you bought any good merch? Let me know!

Monday, 6 June 2022

Day 3 in Hamburg

Our third day in Hamburg was one I was really excited for: we were going to a football game! When we first booked the trip we both said this was something we really wanted to do; looking at the fixtures, we were unable to attend either a Hamburg or a St. Pauli game, but I did a lot of research and found that we could go to a Holstein Kiel game - so we did...

Day 3 in Hamburg

We were getting the train from Hamburg central station to Kiel, and had a few hours to kill in the morning so we got ready and headed to the mall for breakfast pastries before slowly making our way to the city centre. Here we got a train to Kiel; I actually booked this on the day so it cost us around £30 each return, but I'm sure it would have been cheaper to book in advance. Oops.

The train had a few little private compartments, and we managed to get in one of those all the way there; this meant we could take our masks off and charge our phones all the way there. The journey took just over an hour and then there we were, in Kiel - which is a beautiful port city and one I really want to return to! We jumped in a taxi to the football stadium, paid twenty euros for 6 beers (you can drink in the stands) and made our way to the section we'd been allocated. The game was a draw but the fans were so passionate and we honestly had so much fun. We then jumped on the train back to Hamburg, picking up some snacks from the train station on the way.

We went back to the apartment for a bit of chill time, then got changed and headed back into the city centre where we watched the sunset and then tried to find somewhere to eat. It was Saturday night so the city was busy and most places were full - and we weren't dressed for the posh restaurant underneath the town hall which I *really* wanted to go to. We ended up in a lovely little Italian called Tavola Calda de Ferri, which had delicious pizza and staff who were attentive & friendly. It came to £27 (32 euros) for the two us which, for somewhere so central, I didn't think was too bad...

We ended the night in Paddy's Bar, which is obviously an Irish bar, also really central. My boyfriend wanted to watch the Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte fight, so we did that, and then headed back to the apartment for a good night's sleep.

Booking tickets for a Bundesliga 2 game

I found the ticking purchasing process a bit stressful but this was mostly because I was completely in the dark about how to do it and nobody seemed to be able to offer any tips. In the end,  I just kept checking the Holstein Kiel website (all in German) for tickets for the particular game we wanted to go to, which were available around 10 days in advance. From there it was a case of filling in all our information and buying the tickets which were around £12 each.

 So that was our third day in Hamburg - and our last full day. We didn't do *a lot* but it was one of my favourite days, watching the match and seeing a beautiful sunset. Just spectacular.