Monday, 24 August 2015

Blackberry Picking

The weekend absolutely flew and sadly it's Monday which means back to work. We did manage to achieve a lot at the weekend though and when we were outside the weather did stay kind to us.

Jack's parents arrived Friday afternoon and we took them out for dinner as pre-payment for all their help on Saturday in our garden! Jack and his Dad managed to get the shed base done on Saturday morning while the weather was really warm and sunny. They've done a really good job and I think Jack is now itching to get the shed built. We had a lovely BBQ for lunch before Jack's parents headed home, so Jack and I got on with a bit more work on the tortoise enclosure. The fence is almost finished (we were waiting for Jack's parents to bring us more spare wood that they had) and I can't wait to get designing and planning the tortoise run, though building them a suitable house will be first priority if all this rain is anything to go by.

Shed base mixed, poured and drying on Saturday evening
I also managed to get the new skirting board in the master bedroom glossed (I caulked it earlier in the week), Sarah and I weeded the back garden and patio and finally Jack and I whizzed into town late Saturday afternoon to use our John Lewis vouchers to get new king-size bedding for our new bed in the master bedroom. The mattress doesn't arrive until Wednesday but I like to be organised.
I thought Sunday was going to be a wash-out from start to finish, but it started dry and bright so we got up early and took Barry for a nice long walk while the weather was nice and so I could spy the best areas for blackberries. I went armed with a bag full of empty tubs and was pleased that we managed to fill a large tub full of blackberries, just over 700g in all which wasn't bad considering we hadn't had any breakfast and they were a tasty snack... A lot aren't ripe yet either, so I want to go out again next week to get more. We ended up walking a lot further than planned and must have done a good 3-4 miles by the time we got home, the furthest Barry has been but it's good for him to build up the muscles again in his now healed leg (he slept all afternoon, he was so tired). He also enjoyed chasing pheasants, the first time he's ever seen them. It's nice to see he does have a bit of a Terrier instinct anyway!

 Barry and I
We walked through some beautiful countryside on Sunday, another route we hadn't explored before so it's nice to discover new routes
I did a lovely roast pork dinner yesterday afternoon and made some nice apple and blackberry mini crumbles too, they went down a treat with Jack (Mr Sweet Tooth). The crumbles weren't anything special, some oldish apples in the fruit bowl needed using, plus the freshly picked blackberries, sprinkled with cinnamon and caster sugar. I then topped them with an oaty crumble mix I made. We of course had them with custard, but I'm afraid that wasn't homemade.

We went to bed feeling very full last night, I do love proper British grub! Having a big roast dinner reminded me that this season is coming to an end, I've even noticed that the leaves are beginning to change on the trees. Autumn will be here soon, but it's such a pretty season, so long as it doesn't continually rain.
Nothing very exciting happening this coming week, I'm feeling rather tired and a bit blue at the moment... can't really explain why either, so I need to try and pull myself together. There's plenty of housework to do, I have studying to do and more decorating too so I'll plod on. Looking forward to a three day weekend this coming weekend anyway.
Have a good week!
Em x

Friday, 21 August 2015

Red Kites

Just a short blog to show you some photos I got of the Red Kites that are often seen soaring above our house/in the nearby fields. There are no end of Red Kites around here, they seem to be thriving in the UK once more. We often see Buzzards from the garden too. These photos were taken from our back garden, looking out onto the wheat field.


Hopefully I'll get some photos of the Buzzards soon. I'd also like to try and capture some photos of the Red Kites playing; we regularly see three or four playing together and they're quite funny to watch. They really are rather huge too.

We've got a busy weekend ahead of us; Jack's parents are travelling down from Cambridgeshire today to stay with us for the weekend. Jack and his Dad are starting the concrete shed base, while Sarah and I have some skirting board to gloss and the outdoor tortoise run to continue building. I'd also like to go for a snoop along the nearby footpaths and bridleways to see how the blackberries are coming along; I'm keen to pick lots this year for crumbles, pies, jams and just to freeze for smoothies. I took Barry for a walk the other evening and saw quite a few had ripened so I'm going to head out early before the blackbirds and others steal the best ones.

Happy Friday everyone! Have a great weekend :-)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Vacances Français

My parents bought a house in France back in 2013 and so far we've enjoyed many lovely holidays out there in all manner of weather. Their house is typically French with quirky décor and used to be a cattle barn. It is situated in the beautiful Loire Valley, not far from the stunning riverside town of Saumur.

The house when my parents purchased it Autumn, 2013
My parents have done a wonderful job of giving the house a bit of care and it's beginning to look fantastic inside and out. My Dad is retired and spent much of last year out in France doing updates to the house which has included putting a small extension on the back of the property which now houses a kitchen (before it just had a sink, one counter and two hob rings!). My mum was still working last year and would visit Dad in France as often as she could in order to lend him a hand. They have a lovely spacious garden and views over the fields and forests nearby, with only a handful of houses nearby. They also have a very handsome Percheron stallion for a neighbour in a paddock opposite their house and I think they enjoy giving "Horace" his daily carrot.
The lovely new kitchen extension my Dad has done
My Mum retired earlier this year and my parents decided to sell the house my brother and I grew up in and bought a lovely bungalow in Overstrand, Norfolk. It's a lovely place and they have a generous garden here too. Their new home in Norfolk is now a holiday let and they intend on spending most of next year in France while renting out their place in Norfolk. I miss them a lot as we only see each other once a month or so, but I'm so happy they're enjoying themselves and believe it or not it's actually easier to see them in France sometimes than it is in Norfolk! My Mum has always wanted her "little place in France" and she's made me believe that if you work hard enough and keep believing, your dreams can come true.
As mentioned before, we've had some fantastic holidays out in France with them already. We even took our friends out there this year and had a great time. I'm totally in love with French food (all food actually) and I loved popping to the bakery each morning to fetch some warm fresh 'pain tradition'. The roof of my mouth is usually shredded to pieces by the time we get home from France after all the lovely crusty bread. Jack and I have been out to France a couple of times with my parents too; Jack isn't one for sitting around and I think my Dad is very grateful for Jack's help with DIY and gardening jobs at "Le Petit Noisette" (our nickname for the house). Mum and I tend to supervise from nearby sun loungers or we can be found pottering around Mum's new flower beds out there tending to the plants. Dad's next challenge is to build veg boxes for Mum, she's keen to get growing her own produce out there.

Saumur view: Chateau and Loire River
This shows some of Dad's hard work; he's landscaped the garden, built a proper Boules court and built a terrace to provide some shade from the summer sunshine!
Beautiful roses in Mum's French garden, this one I've nicknamed the Rhubarb & Custard rose!
Pretty Saumur in the evening
Watching a performance at the Cadre Noir, fantastic!
Anyway, just a small blog post about it, I'm sure there'll be plenty of French holiday photos to come on here, along with holidays in Norfolk too no doubt! We're out to France again for five days next month, can't wait... :-)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Introductions: Squirt & Lola

I just wanted to give you a little introduction into the other two creatures in my life; Squirt and Lola, our charismatic Hermanns Tortoises!

Enjoying one of their favourite treats, strawberries
I love tortoises and find them such fascinating prehistoric-looking creatures. Anyone who thinks they're boring 'go-slow' sleepy animals are mistaken! Tortoises are totally independent from the moment they hatch from their egg and from day one they are funny little characters. They're inquisitive, not quite as scared as they make out and are notorious escape artists.
A quick little fact-file for you on my two:
Species: Testudo Hermanni Boetgeri (Hermanns Tortoise, the most popular and common pet tortoise species in the UK)
Gender: 90% sure Squirt is a female, though we do still call her 'him' most of the time!
Age: 6 years old
Fave Pastime: climbing, eating whatever she can find in the garden
Fave Food: Pak Choi, Dandelion leaves
Species: Testudo Hermanni Boetgeri
Gender: Female (we think!)
Age: 4 years old
Fave Pastime: digging holes in lawns while hunting for clover
Fave Food: Clover, strawberries
When hatched, Hermanns Tortoises are the size of a 50 pence piece!
After much research I decided to get a tortoise and chose Hermanns Tortoises as I thought their shells were beautiful colours and they had quirky personalities. I was lucky to find a lovely breeder locally; she had two separate Hermanns breeding pairs, Totty & Too and Twiggy & Tommy. I got Squirt when she was 10 months old and her parents are Totty & Too. Squirt was a mere 7.5cm in length when I brought him home and he's grown well since I've had him. Tortoises are prone to pyramiding (where their shells grow unevenly and look very bumpy) if they don't have the right diet and other factors. I think I've done a good job with my two and they both seem to be very healthy tortoises.
Squirt aged 10 months
Squirt aged 2 years
Tortoises are more than happy alone, but after keeping in touch with the breeder and hearing that Twiggy had laid eggs, I was keen to get a friend for Squirt. Not only that but Lola is totally unrelated to Squirt so if it turned out I had one of each sex then I could breed them. It looks like I've got two females but I'm thinking of getting an adult male once my two reach breeding size so I can breed them. We actually watched Lola hatching from the egg which was fascinating. We brought her home at two weeks and I was petrified that Squirt would squash her as she was so tiny but they were totally inseparable and Squirt was so careful with Lola. Quite often I'd lose Lola as she'd bury herself in the soil, but I always knew where she was as Squirt was usually asleep in the same place but would only manage to half-bury herself. They follow each other everywhere now, eat together, and sleep side by side.
Lola was a Birthday present from Jack, here she is at two weeks old
Meeting her new best friend, Squirt
Sharing a slice of tasty apple - I'm busy watching I don't lose a finger!
Squirt has successfully managed to hibernate twice, but we've had to over-winter her the past two winters because it just wasn't possible to hibernate her while we lived in our rented flat. They're now back outside much more now that we have our own house and garden and we're currently in the process of building them a permanent outdoor run so they can live out year-round and hibernate as normal each winter (though they'll be transferred to boxes and hibernated in the shed where rodents can't get to them during hibernation). This year will be Lola's first hibernation and hopefully she'll be successful. Let's not talk about winter just yet though, brrr!
Squirt and Lola have been brilliant photographic subjects; I've managed to get a few good action shots of them (best before the sunshine has warmed them up because then they're off!). I can't tell if they like being the subjects of my photos or not but I don't really give them a lot of choice! They're pleased that Barry now has to do his fair share of modelling duties too so they can spend more time devouring weeds in the garden or escaping when I'm not watching them!

Guest Bedroom Redecoration

I thought I'd share with you a few photos of our guest bedroom that we've finally finished redecorating. I've not shared them with anyone else and it seems a shame to take before and after photos just for my own reference, though it may not be of much interest to others either! :-)

We're lucky that both bedrooms in our mid-terrace are a very decent size. Both bedrooms were in need of some TLC (I'm a dab-hand at poly-filling holes and cracks now) and some updating. We decided to decorate the second bedroom first seeing as we'd been inundated with family and friends wanting to come and visit.

How the guest bedroom started; at this stage we had taken up the laminate flooring, ripped off the polystyrene coving and removed the old skirting board.

We changed the faces on the plug sockets and light switches - cost a few £s from Screwfix to do so but made the room look so much cleaner by doing such a simple thing. Jack's Dad also fitted new light pendants too. The windows at the back of our house (upstairs and downstairs) were original wood-framed, single-glazed windows and it was extremely chilly when we moved in. I didn't mind the chill but it was more the wind whistling through at night that kept me awake. The front had been double-glazed at some point (though they're looking quite old now too), but the back had been neglected (not that I'm blaming previous occupants, new windows are not cheap!). We knew that fitting new windows was a priority and thankfully the deposit we got back on our rented flat covered almost all 3 back windows (both bedroom windows upstairs and the living room window downstairs). The back windows are abnormally large (therefore costly), but I love that as it means we get to make the most of the view over the countryside.

New double-glazed windows fitted
Next job was painting the walls now that I'd finished filling the holes/dents/cracks and sanded them. Jack is more than happy for me to choose colours etc. but I always ask for his opinion (he's grateful that I'm not a pink-fanatic). We decided to go with 'Taupe' in the guest bedroom, a nice warm neutral colour, my thinking being that I could accessorise in the room for a fairly low cost and it would fit in with our old bedroom furniture that would be staying in this room.
Walls painted with Dulux matt in 'Taupe', new skirting board fitted by Jack (caulked and glossed by me), windowsill sanded back and then glossed, finally the radiator is no longer a horrible greyish colour and I painted it white once more with Ronseal radiator paint.
I think the skirting board looks lovely and the main reason for us replacing it was that the rest of the house already has this skirting, but for some reason the two bedrooms had been left. Coving wasn't as easy job (it's so fiddly and more arm-aching above your head), but Jack and I remained on speaking terms despite how annoying it was at times to get someone to hold the coving while the other sands a smidgen more in order to get the corners flush. We're now experts and I'm hoping the master bedroom will be quicker to do coving-wise, though there are a lot more corners in there...
We had decided we wanted carpet upstairs (I like the feel of carpet between my toes in the morning when getting out of bed) and after getting many quotes done we went with Luke Johnson Flooring, based in Newbury. They were fantastic and we're really pleased with the carpets. We had the second bedroom and landing carpet done at the same time in the same colour, this is a Cormar Saxony carpet called 'Primo Delight' in the shade 'Almond', it has a nice deep pile and a slight fleck in the carpet so helps not to show up grubby marks too quickly. We're undecided whether to have the same colour fitted in the master bedroom (I'll update on that soon when we reach that stage).
Coving fitted, door and door frame glossed (we are yet to replace the door handles - every room in the house has a different one!), finally the carpet has been fitted.
We decided that for the meantime we would move into the guest bedroom now that it was finished, in order to help empty up the master bedroom so we could get started on the decorating in there. We moved the furniture into the guest bedroom (this furniture is staying permanently in there) and here's a photo of the finished room - only thing missing is some wall art which I just haven't got around to yet.
Glass bottle table lamps - Ikea
Beside tables & chest of drawers (not in photo) - Malm, Ikea
Duvet cover - Dunelm
Curtains - Dunelm
Ceiling Lampshade (larger version of table lampshades) - Ikea
Thanks to our old furniture, we managed to save a lot of money on this room. We intend on buying new furniture for our room but I think our family and friends will be more than happy with our old furniture in here. I'm pleased with how the room looks, pretty plain but that's what I wanted. I hope to get one of my nice landscape photos I took in nearby Micheldever Woods (Hampshire) blown up and framed for the wall above the bed. We've also installed a small desk (not in the photo) in here for me to do my sewing and crafting. The sewing machine now has its own permanent home! I managed to find some vintage wooden reels of thread in a local antique shop that I plan on displaying in a large mason jar/glass bottle on the chest of drawers to give the room a bit more décor, along with another nice box filled with some of my knitting wool and needles. In total, all décor, paint, DIY materials came to just under £350, well under the £500 decorating budget we set for this room. This doesn't include the cost of the new window or carpet which came to £950 (ouch!). It gives us a bit more spending money for the master bedroom which is good as we need all new bedroom furniture for that room which won't be cheap.
So this is the guest bedroom just about fully complete. We always give up the room when we have visitors (Jack and I are more than happy on the air bed for a night in the "building room" aka our master bedroom) and they all compliment the room so that's nice. For our very first house and our very first go at some things like fitting skirting board, sanding doors and windowsills I'm quite pleased with how well we've done. It's all a learning experience after all and I've discovered I have an extra talent for painting and glossing (Jack's least favourite jobs). We wanted a bit of a project house and this house has just the right amount, allowing us to put our own stamp on it while hopefully adding a little bit of value to the property. Here's to more exciting decorating projects! :-)

Monday, 17 August 2015

Weekend Activities & Barry Update

The weather was kind to us all weekend after the torrential downpours during Wednesday and Thursday and it was nice to see my water butt full once more in the garden (I must must invest in another water butt, I'm sure I can fit another one somewhere in the garden). We enjoyed sitting out in the garden in the sunshine admiring the hard work we've done in the garden so far. Jack has been busy clearing a space where he's going to construct his shed and he's also been busy building the outdoor tortoise run (photos coming soon). He wasn't the only one doing manual labour; I weeded the beds (Barry ran off with said weeds, scattering soil everywhere) and I painted the trellis - well half of it anyway as almost all of the top half is covered in a very happy and healthy Montana Clematis.

More Dahlias flowering in the garden
The combine was humming in the background nearly all weekend as it harvested the wheat in the distant fields, only a matter of days now I should think before they cut the wheat in the field directly behind our garden. As much as I love watching the Combine, Tractor and farmers working hard, the day they cut the wheat I will ensure I'm not home because the dust will do my Hayfever no favours (it's been behaving for the most part so I don't want to trigger it off again with lots still to do in the garden).
We fetched lots of bricks for the purpose of providing a base for the tortoise run (wood fencing on top, but the bricks buried into the soil around the perimeter will hopefully deter Squirt and Lola from trying to dig their way out) and so Jack's car was rather red and dusty inside by the time I'd finished. I was kind though and gave it a hoover and also washed it too while the weather was nice - good excuse for exercise and definitely just as energetic as a gym session!
Barry helped me wash the car
I took Barry to the Vets this morning for his check-up. They're pleased with how well the wounds are healing and his leg is looking nice and straight. We can increase his walks again now and gradually get him back to normal, so he's a very happy puppy. The Vets and Nurses at Donnington Grove Veterinary Surgery have been amazing, but I do hope we're not at the Vets any time soon other than for something very routine!
Sleepy Barry keeping me company on Saturday night while Jack was at Twickenham cheering on England in the World Cup warm-up - excuse the state of our sofa, I've patch-worked and fixed it so many times, we will eventually get a new one!
I also managed to get around to a little craft time at the weekend and made a simple Birthday card for my brother's partner, I do hope she likes all things floral and colourful!
Wishing you all a good week! :-)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Introductions: Barry

I'd like to introduce you to our handsome Jack Russell Terrier, Barry!

His name gets a lot of laughs but also a lot of approval! Jack chose his name and said he had to have a 'bloke's' name; I was very sceptical about "Barry" at first, but it totally suits him! He's also a "Bazza" or "Baz" at times, plus the odd expletive when he runs off with the washing!

We met Barry when he was five weeks old and it was love at first sight. He was a chunky little puppy with an inquisitive nature. What makes him even more special is that he was born with a little stump rather than a full tail. He was the only one in the litter of five like it, but Vets confirmed he was totally healthy and on researching I discovered this can be quite common in a number of breeds (some pups are born without a tail, some with a 'half-tail' or a little stump like Barry). On our first meeting I think Jack only had to take one look at my face and know that there was no way we were leaving without putting a deposit down. Then came the agonising but exciting weeks prepping the house ready for Barry's arrival.
Barry with his siblings

Barry days old and at 5 weeks old
Barry settled in at home with us very well. He became my little lost lamb following me everywhere (he still does). He had his own comfortable bed downstairs with lots of toys and a hot water bottle and within a week the crying at night had stopped (thank god!). He was soon getting up to mischief and loved exploring the house with me as long as I was close by. He loves exploring the garden too - he is eyeing up my cherry tomatoes in the garden at the moment, so I'm going to have to watch him! We've been really lucky that he's such a clever little dog and it didn't take him long at all to get the gist of toilet training. He also loves learning new tricks, "rollover" being his current favourite.
Barry perfected the art of the 'butter wouldn't melt' face from a very early age! (8 weeks old)
We took Barry to puppy classes for ten weeks and it was really good for him to meet other puppies. He's still a nervous dog even today at six months old despite often meeting dogs on walks, but with a little encouragement he's happy to say hello and then soon discovers the other dogs won't eat him and just want to play! Puppy classes were also really good fun and Barry was top of the class on more than one occasion; his recall is really good (for the most part!) and at the promise of a treat he'll do whatever he's asked to do.
Hogging the remote (9 weeks old)
Our family and friends all love Barry. I think everyone has enjoyed watching him grow, though I'm sure my friends are also a little sick of all the Instagram posts I've made about him! He grows so quickly though and being a photographer (an average one at that!) I can't help but take a million photos of him. He's grown into a really nice dog and now at almost seven months old I don't think he's got much more growing to do. He's a sturdy build just like his Dad. Barry's Dad is called Patch and he's a handsome tan and white smooth coat Jack, while Barry's Mum (Honey) is a petite tan and white rough coated Jack Russell. Barry has a lovely smooth coat and is tan and white mostly, but with cute black markings around his eyes. He has a perfectly symmetrical face and I'm sure this is what everyone falls in love with.
Starting to grow out of his puppy fat! (15 weeks old)
If you read my 'Newbie' post then you'll know that Barry broke his leg four weeks ago :-( He fractured his right femur just above the kneecap; not a bad fracture but not in the best of places. Luckily it has healed well and the limb has stayed fairly straight (there was a worry that he could have a slight bow, common in Terriers), four weeks later and this Monday just gone he had the two pins removed from the leg. The wound is healing nicely (one incision either side of the leg) and it's great to see Barry weight-bearing properly on that leg now. He's desperate for us to throw his tennis ball for him but he's got another week of taking it fairly easy. He's pleased to be back out on walks though and is allowed a 5-10 minute walk on the lead every day. He rolls his eyes at me about the fact he's on the lead (usually always racing ahead of me on a walk and then running back to me to say hello), but hopefully being strict with him over the past few weeks will mean that he won't have any long-term issues with that leg.
Barry loves cuddles in bed on a Saturday morning - his weekend treat! (6 months old)
The only problem we've come across with Barry is that he hates travelling. We go back to Cambridgeshire to visit Jack's parents every few weeks and onto my parents in Norfolk so the journey can be up to four hours. It doesn't seem to matter if it's a short trip either though, he's nearly always sick in the car and we've tried everything; putting him in different places in the car, ginger biscuits/treats before the journey, he doesn't eat for at least 3 hours before we travel and I've even tried sitting him on my lap only for him to be sick all over me too. We give him lots of fuss and sometimes he'll eventually lie down and settle. He doesn't pant in the car and only tends to shake and cry for the first fifteen minutes of a journey before going quiet and just sitting still. I think he's got a bit of anxiety about being in the car as he seems to travel a lot better when we're on the way home (almost like he knows he's going home). Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated if ever you've had similar problems with your dogs! Our Vet says he'll likely grow out of it and we continue to take him in the car even if it's just a trip to the next village to get him used to lots of car journeys. He's fine as soon as he's out of the car and pleased to see whoever we're visiting.
We had a trip to my parent's home in Overstrand, Norfolk back in May and that was Barry's first experience of the beach - he LOVED it! He loves water anyway (he cries to get back in the bath once I've taken him out of the water) and enjoyed chasing a ball across the sand. He soon discovered seawater doesn't taste too nice and thankfully doesn't drink it. We can't wait to go back to the seaside with him again once his leg is completely better and he's built the muscles back up.
Playing on Overstrand beach, Norfolk (15 weeks old)
To say he's become a member of the family is very appropriate, we can't imagine being without him now and he's great company for us, especially for me if Jack's working late. We love exploring the local Berkshire countryside with him and he provides us with hours of entertainment too! I'm sure he'll feature a lot in my blog posts and I hope you enjoy hearing about his latest adventures.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


Having only moved into our house back in January, we decided to leave the front and back gardens mostly as they were for this year to be able to discover what plants and flowers were growing there. The previous homeowner left things to run a little wild though which meant that we had to do a bit of pruning in order to regain the beautiful view over the back fence to the countryside that surrounds us.

One plant that I've always been a big fan of is Buddleia, mainly because of the pretty little creatures they attract; Butterflies. The Buddleia in our back garden has been allowed to run wild and tall this summer and is full of tiny purple flowers. This is how I've managed to take part in the Big Butterfly Count last month and this month for Butterfly Conservation Our Buddleia is full of butterflies! So far the species I've managed to spot in the garden are:

  • Large White
  • Small White
  • Small Tortoiseshell (I counted 20 on the Buddleia at one time!)
  • Red Admiral (my new favourite)
  • Meadow Brown
  • Comma
  • Peacock
Stunning Red Admiral in the garden

I can remember not that many years ago when Butterflies became a really rare sight, I especially noticed that back in Cambridgeshire. It's funny how you notice trends like that - another I notice here on a different note is that I very rarely see Kestrels (my favourite bird of prey) in West Berkshire, yet they were a common sight back in Cambridgeshire. We do however have Red Kites soaring right above our house here in West Berkshire and they are a wonderful sight too, there were four playing just the other day, soaring and dive-bombing and playing in the blue skies. Given the size of Red Kites it's no wonder that you don't see many Kestrels! Back to the butterflies though, it's lovely to see so many different species all in our garden. The farmer has left a nice big wildlife boundary between our garden fence and the wheat field and this is abundant with grasses, wildflowers and nettles, the latter being the ideal plant for butterflies to lay their eggs. As well as the Buddleia attracting Butterflies to the garden, it's also attracting another garden favourite, the Bumblebee! I love watching these insects working, they don't seem to stop and we've had some rather big Bumblebees in the garden. The noise they make as they buzz from flower to flower is rather loud and quite often I catch Barry looking up at the Buddleia wondering why it almost seems to be humming. As yet Barry hasn't been stupid enough to catch a Bee and let's hope he doesn't! He's quite the fan of chasing insects in the garden! I also met a Carpenter Bee for the first time the other day when it sadly got trapped in our conservatory while the door was open, but I managed to guide it out. We also have a number of honey bees in the garden and suspect there are hives nearby in the village.

Small Tortoiseshells on the Buddleia
I'm not sure how much longer the Buddleia will keep flowering for, but luckily my lavenders in the garden are also thriving and this seems to keep the Butterflies and Bees happy. I've only managed to plant a few other plants in the garden such as Dianthus, Dahlias, a lovely Hydrangea and a few hardy Fuchsias. I'm absolutely loving having my own garden, but sadly I'm a Hayfever sufferer and it's been a particularly bad pollen season for me this year. I don't let it deter me for the most part but have to admit defeat when my eyes just about swell shut (not a pretty look!). The Butterflies have given me the photography urge once more though and I have to say it's lovely playing around with the camera again (hopefully I'll have something more than these phone photos to show you soon).

One other part I love about having my own garden (other than pottering around, enjoying fresh air and admiring the countryside views) is growing my own herbs and other food. I'm a keen cook and I love using fresh products. There's something even better about them being grown in your own garden. I'd love a smallholding one day, it's been a dream of mine since I was very young and I love the idea of living more sustainably. Sadly I think the chance of a smallholding is a long way off (if at all) but something I'm still determined to try and work towards. I love my current job, but I don't like the idea of being sat at a desk doing accounts/finance all my life, though I do think a financial brain may come in handy when trying to budget on a smallholding. As mentioned earlier, hayfever and only fairly recently moving has scuppered plans this year for growing much veg, but I did however manage to grow Peas, Mangetout and Runner Beans successfully in some large pots until we can dig over an area of the garden for a more permanent veg bed. I've also got some pumpkin plants coming along nicely. My best plants this year that I've grown are my herbs. They're in a nice dry sunny spot under the Buddleia tree and seem to love it there; I've got Rosemary, Mint, Apple Mint, Sage (my favourite herb), Thyme, Lemon Thyme and Chive. I've cooked some lovely chicken breasts stuffed with fresh herbs and we've had lovely potato salads with home-grown chopped chives. They've come on really well anyway and are finally starting to look like they're filling out the herb bed areas I've made. I'm getting there with the gardening anyway and it's certainly very therapeutic pottering around in the garden, I hope to plant lots more next year.
One of my herb gardens
Finally, I'd just like to share a couple of photos of my Dahlias. This is my first time growing these and they really are stunning. I am however angry at the Black Fly that seem to over-take the white Dahlias in my garden. Thankfully they've left these pink ones alone!

Hopefully I'll have some more gardening updates for you soon - nothing too spectacular as we only have a humble little garden at our two-bedroom terraced house, but I'm making the most of it nonetheless. Start small and work your way up is what they say... :-)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


I'm pretty new to the blogging scene and I'm not sure I'm actually all that good at it either, but I wanted to share some of my musings anyway!

Having set up my blog I'm reminded at just how much I've forgotten from IT lessons at school; I use a computer every day in my job but creating blogs/websites/pages is not my area of expertise! (give me an Excel spread sheet any day of the week). So I'm sure there'll be many tweaks over the coming weeks/months/years if I keep this blog up, in the meantime apologies if my layout causes headaches or eye strain!

I'd like to start my blog with some bad and good news in order to introduce you to our handsome puppy, Barry, as I will most probably write a lot about him in this blog. Barry is a Jack Russell Terrier and true to breed traits he's energetic, intelligent and just a little bit nuts too! He joined us at eight weeks old back in March and since then has been my little lamb (only with sharper teeth). He's provided us with hours of entertainment, endless love and company and some expensive vet bills too! Which brings me to the bad news... Four weeks ago Barry fractured his femur. I'm not quite sure what happened as I only heard a bang and thud as he came running in from the back garden at a million miles per hour; knowing Barry (total wimp) a Pigeon probably landed on the back fence and scared him half to death and he raced in too quickly. We think he missed the step into our conservatory or caught the doorframe, either way an immediate trip to the Vets confirmed he had fractured his femur (after I had stopped hysterically crying down the phone to my boyfriend, Jack, on what I should do)! He had surgery and two pins inserted to support the fracture and four weeks of cage rest to ensure it healed correctly. Thankfully Bazza is a fan of chilling in his crate so cage rest wasn't too horrendous for either party and here we are four weeks later with a happy puppy now that the pins have been removed (the fracture has healed really nicely) and only another few days of cage rest. At only six months old it was important that the fracture healed correctly and that the pins were removed to ensure they didn't affect Barry's growth plates and I was very relieved when the Vet told us he thinks he'll be completely back to normal in no time. Meanwhile, attempts have been made around the back door to ensure we don't have a repeat of this. People keep telling me "he won't do that again in a hurry" and I keep reminding them that he's a dog, a puppy for that matter, and therefore like children he probably won't learn on this first occasion! Here's hoping that we never have a repeat of this!

Barry at home resting, having had the pins removed from his "chicken drumstick" leg yesterday morning.
I have grown up around dogs but was never lucky enough to have my own. Oh the times I thought my Dad was going to come home with one when he'd tell me "I'm going to see a man about a dog", only years later did I discover that actually meant "I'm going down the pub". Jack and I moved into our very own house together back in January and we soon settled into village life (having lived in Newbury town centre for the past two years). We're located in the beautiful Berkshire Downs and our bedroom view looks out over 'The Ridgeway', believed to be Britain's oldest road. Having grown up in pretty but flat Cambridgeshire, I can't get enough of the rolling hills here. We love exploring the countryside and go for walks daily and there's nothing quite like having a dog by your side when out in the elements. We can't imagine being without Barry now as he's fantastic company for us. Everyone that meets him loves him and we've even been told at the pub in the village not to bother turning up for a drink without him! He's rather popular with the ladies too!
The view last Sunday from our back garden
And now to the next introduction, Squirt and Lola, our two Hermanns Tortoises. I've always had a fascination with tortoises since I was little when my Mum used to tell me stories about her escape-artist tortoise named Toby (he regularly escaped and made it over a mile away in the space of an afternoon to the local Doctor's house, before they'd call the number painted on Toby's shell and my Mum would take her pony Rosie to collect naughty Toby!). I got Squirt when she was 10 months old and around 7cm in length, before getting Lola as a companion for Squirt the following year. Lola was just 2 weeks old when I brought her home and the size of a 50 pence piece! Though tortoises are perfectly happy on their own I have to say I think they're a lot happier together and my two follow each other everywhere, sleep next to each other and fight for the same dandelion leaf! They're funny little characters and by no means slow, so never underestimate a tortoise! Barry finds them interesting but for the most part ignores them which I'm pleased about; dogs are naturally very inquisitive and as friendly as Barry is I would never leave him unsupervised with the tortoises. Likewise Squirt is not afraid to push Barry out of the way should he be in her path and weighing almost as much as a bag of sugar she's a fair weight!
Lola and Barry conversing in my parent's garden in Norfolk, with Squirt in the background doing a runner!
We've been living in Berkshire for over two years now and feel really settled here. We miss our family and friends back in Cambridgeshire but often go home to visit or enjoy having visitors here. It's hard sometimes being hours away from everywhere and everyone you knew, but we've met nice people through work, in the village etc. and we've always been happy with each other's company anyway. Jack and I have been together for almost eight years now. We're both hard working individuals, but enjoy making the most of our time outside of work whether its decorating our new house, exploring somewhere new on a walk with the dog or socialising. Jack (like most men) is sport-obsessed; he's a formula one fanatic (I am too now thanks to him) and a rugby player too. He's also a keen cyclist and squash player and quite happy to give any other sport a go! I'm more of a hobbyist and enjoy sewing, crafting and love nothing more than getting out and about with my camera to take wildlife/flower or landscape photos. I have ridden horses all my life but sadly since moving to Newbury have hardly had the chance other than helping on the odd occasion to exercise someone else's horse. I miss being around them, I loved hacking through the countryside. I hope to get back into it again, perhaps next Spring if I have more time, though I think I'll invest in a seat-saver for whatever saddle I sit on or I fear my bum-bones may not survive!
I think I'll leave today's blog post there for fear that you've already fallen asleep back at the second paragraph! I'll provide an update on Barry's recovery soon :-)