Friday, 29 January 2016

I Love Spreadsheets!

Does anyone else share my love for spreadsheets? I don't know what I'd do without them, they're so handy. Jack laughs at me as I have so many different ones, I spend ages on playing with the layout, adding in formulas, pivot tables etc. and I have a spreadsheet for just about everything! Shame I can't make the actual figures stretch any further than they already do, but such is life! :-)

This time of year I always make an extra effort to keep them all up to date and count the pennies. I always shop around too, especially when it comes to household bills. I always tell my mum that she should make more of an effort to do the same! I've saved £70 on our home insurance this year with even more cover than we had last year, I've saved on our electricity too by changing tariffs. Next on the list is Sky TV who I detest with a passion; their customer service is the worst out there! I'd quite happily walk away from them all together but I think Jack would be a very upset man without his sports to watch and that's his way of relaxing after working a very hard week so I won't begrudge him that, though it is the most expensive part of the Sky bill...!

We've got a quiet weekend at home planned this weekend; my jobs are to have a sort out for an EBay selling session, I've got coving to paint in our bedroom (which I keep putting off as it's a horrible job) and then in between that I hope to find some time to bake something, crochet something and read more of my book! I've started reading War and Peace (gulp!) because I'm enjoying the BBC TV adaptation so much. Tolstoy books aren't exactly an easy read but I love reading and I'm enjoying it already - Jack's Dad told me I should add it to my CV as an achievement if I finish reading it!!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend, I hope Storm Gertrude doesn't cause you too many headaches or damage (take care!) and I hope you all get time to relax :-)

Em x

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

One Year Anniversary In Our Own Home

I can't quite believe that a year has passed since Jack and I got the keys to our very first home. It was a very exciting day, especially after the stress of the weeks leading up to it when there seems to be endless paperwork, keeping fingers crossed that the mortgage is accepted etc. but we did it! Here we are a year down the line and loving having our very own place. We'd rented a flat in Newbury before that and though our little flat was homely and nice we were both super keen to get a place of our own to decorate and also so that our money felt like it was going somewhere - even if our first annual mortgage statement that we received last week was rather depressing!

The view from our bedroom window - at our first viewing
The house was rather dirty when we moved in and so I spent the two weeks I'd booked off work cleaning like mad. The previous owner smoked in the living room and so my first mission was so get rid of the musty smell. Sugar soap became my new best friend and the filthiest rooms we painted in magnolia to freshen it up in the interim until we got around to decorating properly. Affording a deposit on a house is NOT easy! Both Jack and I worked extremely hard to save for our deposit and we were very lucky that our parents lent us some money too. What that meant though is that every penny we did save up went straight on the deposit and fees leaving us not a lot of savings when we moved in. That means that we've had to decorate a room at a time as we've managed to save the money up. We don't really mind this though because we've gradually seen the house transform from a neglected and out-dated two bed terraced home to a much-loved, brighter home. However, my tip for anyone who's buying for the first time (we've been trying to give some of our friends advice too) is that whatever you think you need... you need more! I'd like to have been in a position where we had a bit of savings set aside for decorating, tool buying and furnishing but then I suppose if you were buying a new build you wouldn't have the decorating costs quite so much.
I loved the bathroom tiles when we moved in but absolutely hated the wall colour...
Jazzed it up to a 'periwinkle' blue! The bathroom now has a beach theme
I like to be thrifty when possible and so we visited the local community project shop regularly to see what pieces of furniture had arrived. We came home with some lovely dining chairs which now sit downstairs and in the spare room. I also got a bargain old book case which I've already filled on the landing - I now need to source another antique book case because I won't diminish my quantity of books!
Lovely dining chairs - they only had 3 but they cost us a total of £15 and just need a little TLC.
The garden was probably what I was most excited about when we moved in; I've always loved gardening from a young age when I used to help my mum in the greenhouse at home. To have a garden of my own means so much and I love escaping outside to potter around the plants or just to admire the countryside views over our back fence. The garden was quite the jungle when we moved in so our first job when Spring arrived was to get the choking plants under control and I planted lots of new plants too. All look pretty healthy still, only a few casualties along the way which is par for the course and a learning curve for me.
The clematis had completely engulfed the oil tank and the oil company refused to deliver more until they could actually get to it so our first job was to give the clematis a hair cut. The small shed you can just about make out as also gone; it was totally rotten inside and this is where Jack has now built his shed
Jack and Dad putting up new fence panels ready for the imminent arrival of a little puppy... You can also see the very harsh hair cut I gave the clematis (near the trellis). It bounced right back last year and was covered in flowers, I look forward to it being in full bloom again this year.
When I started to put plants in...
 So we are very happy with our home and it's definitely lovely having your own place to do what you want and make changes that you want (as opposed to renting). We've still got lots to do, garden wise; Jack's almost there with the shed, I need to finish building the raised vegetable bed and finish the tortoise's outdoor run, then inside we have the hallway, kitchen, living/dining and conservatory still to decorate. All good fun and all in good time...
Em x 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Spa Weekend Turned Into An Eventful Weekend :-(

This weekend my best friend and I visited Ragdale Hall; it's honestly the most amazing spa and I'd recommend it to everyone! It's not cheap but I think it's totally worth it and this was my third visit. We have had this booked for weeks; I needed a bit of de-stress and I wanted to take my best friend away somewhere special to try and help her relax a bit given it's approaching two months since her Mum passed away (and quite understandably she is struggling with it all). So I had everything well planned to make this a special weekend for Jess, I even arranged for a surprise bottle of sparkling wine to be waiting in our room on arrival... only our arrival was a little late due to the fact I crashed Jack's car on the way there :-( I feel so stupid and guilty and my main worry was just the fact that I had damaged Jack's car and quite considerably too. I went into the back of a tractor/fork lift type vehicle, so you can imagine which vehicle came off worse! We're fine (everyone keeps asking if I'm ok but I'm just worried about Jack's lovely car!), but the damage to the front of Jack's car is substantial. I was a bit hysterical saying "Jack's going to kill me!" but he's been so lovely and keeps reminding me it's just metal and that he'd rather have me in one piece. I still feel so stupid and guilty though. The car was driveable so we got it to Ragdale and parked up and after a phone call to Jack he started sorting it with our insurer. We still went to the spa (couldn't get a refund that late anyway) and I think Jess still had a good time but I do feel like I ruined the whole weekend for her and I couldn't relax at all despite being in the best place to relax! The car was recovered yesterday morning after our one night stay at the spa and is being taken to somewhere in Newbury today to await assessment - we think it's a write-off but will have to wait and see. Jess' fiancé very kindly came and picked us up from the spa and dropped me off at Jack's parents and then Jack's Dad gave us a lift back to Newbury last night. I dropped Jack to work this morning in my car and hopefully we'll have a courtesy car soon.

Anyway, despite the fact it's all I can think about, enough about the car and let me share with you a few photos of our trip to Ragdale,, which is located just outside of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. It's in beautiful grounds, the rooms are beautifully decorated and comfy and the facilities are just amazing! There's lots to do there but all very relaxing and the food is lovely, which included a three course dinner on our first evening there, breakfast in bed (you pick what you'd like the day before) and then a hot and cold buffet lunch. Our package included a facial and back massage treatment which I really enjoyed using Clarins products which are my favourite anyway (I blame my Mum for introducing me to expensive beauty products, but considering mascara is about the only thing I wear make-up wise I think I can afford to spend a little more on a nice face cream!). I won't go on and on about our spa experience, but here's a few photos of our time there.

A little surprise for Jess on our arrival
Love it just because it's different!
This room is called "The Retreat" and it's a no talking room filled with sofas, bean bags and duvets to either chill out and read a book or just to snooze
My breakfast in bed!
The pool area
This is the outside area of the thermal pool - I've been here before when it was snowing and being outside was amazing. This is located in their thermal spa area which has multiple different rooms including a thunderstorm shower, volcanic rock steam room and a rose sauna
The Pavilion - Just another lovely sitting area
Lovely Food
... and lovely desserts!
Just a quick note to say thank you for the congratulations on the job front, very much looking forward to starting a new adventure there late next month!
Em x

Friday, 22 January 2016

Horse Mad (as well as dog mad, tortoise mad and animal mad...)

I've always been horse mad and have been riding from the age of about 5, though in the last couple of years I've barely ridden as we moved to Newbury and I was only briefly helping someone excercise their horses. I miss it a lot sometimes. I don't miss it quite so much this time of year when you had to unfreeze the taps at the yard and jump from quite a height off of a horse with numb feet (it used to feel like they had shattered like ice!) There's nothing quite like exploring the countryside on horseback though and it was definitely one of my favourite parts.

Jumping with Sparky - 1999

I used to do a lot of schooling and jumping on my old pony Jack; he was a Dark bay Dartmoor Pony and super speedy! He loved jumping and loved a race too. We had a great bond and when I think back to all the crazy things my friends and I used to do on our ponies (like pretend to ride side-saddle... without a saddle!), I suppose you're fearless then. We had great fun and I know I was very lucky to have a pony to ride and attend riding lessons - my parents always said my brother and I chose the most expensive sports/hobbies; me horse riding, Simon chose golf and football.

Jack all suited and booted before we were off to a local show - 2002
Back in 2004 it was time to admit defeat where Jack was concerned and move onto something a bit bigger. Jack was only 12.2hh and it was getting to the point where my feet were catching on jumps and I could touch my toes under his barrel belly! He'd have continued to hold my weight for a long while; Dartmoor ponies used to carry men and equipment down into the mines years ago and are a very sturdy British breed, plus I was always very petite anyway. I did however want to make the move onto a horse, though initially getting used to the change in speeds of gaits was very strange (I was used to do rising trot pony-style, aka very quickly, whereas it was much more comfortable on a horse). Flash had come to our yard a few months previously mainly as a companion for the yard owner's ex-racer, but when I was offered the chance to ride him I couldn't wait. Flash was a big change from little speedy Jack; Flash was a Fleabitten Grey 15.2hh big fat slow cob but with a very loveable personality.
Day 1 with Flash - 2004
I looked like a flea on his back to begin with, rode with my stirrups far too short and booted him like mad around the arena while he plodded on swishing his tail! It took a LONG time to get his fitness up and it taught me a lot too. Soon I discovered a way to perk Flash up; going on hacks. He loved being out in the countryside and his ears would flick back and forth as he trotted along happily. He was never spooky which was great (except one time my Mum rode him and he decided to throw her out of the side door!), but he went from one extreme to the other.... If I went for a hack with my friends on their ponies and we broke into canter then Flash just thought it was a race and would gallop off with me, knowing full well I was nowhere near strong enough to stop this huge horse! I can remember doing a whole lap of the field once and eventually my friends catching up, only for me to jump off Flash, give him a whack while I was in floods of tears and make him walk all the way home beside me as punishment - only the punishment was that it was a long walk for me instead - I soon learned! We did eventually install better brakes on Flash in the form of a stronger bit and curb chain and eventually my strength built up to pull him up a bit more (or at least ask him...) - to this day we still call my arms my "Flash muscles".
Far too short stirrups! 2005
It took quite a few years but eventually Flash and I had a fantastic bond, he was my world and I used to cycle to the yard (in the next village) almost every day to see him and ride him until I passed my driving test, or just pop up to give him a carrot and a fuss. He used to love lying his head on me in the field where I'd sit with him for hours in the summer, or letting me warm up my hands under his rug in the stable in the winter. Before long we were amazing a few people at the yard by doing a few jumps and Flash always tried his hardest for me. Our main love was always hacking though and in the latter days that was what we always stuck to.
Flash was about 14 years old when I first started riding him and as he approached his twenties it was clear that he was struggling with arthritis so we took a more sedately pace on hacks, mainly just to stretch his legs which always helped. He was always on his toes though and he especially liked it when I would hack him to our house in the next village where Mum would feed him a carrot through the living room window (Flash enjoyed eating said carrot while checking out his reflection in the window!). Dad's dismay was clear when he found the slightly sunken hoof marks in his lovely front lawn, but I don't think he minded too much. At one time we had 4 of us on the front lawn - the neighbours even came out for a look!
Taken from my bedroom window - Flash having a snooze at the back!
The time came when work and studying commitments were taking over and so I made the decision to stop riding Flash, so the yard owner retired him into a lovely big field with some companions where he could gorge on grass as much as he liked! I eventually moved to Newbury with Jack but would always pop and see Flash each time we were back that way. Eventually it was evident that Flash's arthritis was getting particularly bad and it was a worry each winter as to how badly the cold weather would affect him, so in the summer of 2014 the decision was made to put him to sleep. I went and said my goodbyes which was incredibly hard, but Jack and my Mum came with me to say goodbye too. He still whinnied for me that day and I gave him lots of polo mints and carrots. I miss him so much sometimes, but during almost a decade with him I know we had a great time and I gave him lots of love.
2009 - such a handsome horse
Flash's picture now has pride of place on the wall near our stairs in the house; Jack took the below photo of me on a hack (back in 2011) and I so loved how the photo came out with the oak tree too. One day I hope to have a horse of my own again and only hope he is half the horse my lovely Flash was :-)
Em x

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Happy News!

I'm very excited to tell you that I've got a new job!! Thank you to all for your lovely kind comments over the past few weeks and for your good luck wishes (you might even have managed to guess from my previous blog post that it was a job interview I was going for, I just didn't want to jinx it by saying it out loud!). A big weight has definitely been lifted from me and I feel like I can breathe a big sigh of relief. Most importantly I can get back to being my happy self!

It's a bit of an understatement to say just how unhappy I've been in my job lately and I've only truly opened up to Jack and a couple of close friends about how much it had all been getting to me. It's very hard for me to admit how much I was struggling with the tiredness and stress of it all and how poorly I was sleeping (never have I experienced such broken nights of sleep or dreaded night sweats, which apparently in my case was just down to sheer exhaustion and anxiety). It's nice to write this on the blog though and be honest with myself; this blog is as much a journal for me as it is for people reading it at the end of the day. It took Jack harping on at me to go to the doctor about it and I'm very lucky to be able to say what an amazing GP I have. He's so very understanding and despite the fact it felt like admitting defeat by saying how stressed I was feeling about everything, it did really help to open up to him. I do handle pressure pretty well most of the time as I'm always a busy person, but I am a sensitive soul and not a tough cookie like my Mum (though I really wish I was). I've always been a worrier and I think I've just let anxiety get the better of me lately. It's very easy for family and friends to say things like "stop worrying" and "don't care about what other people think" but it's easier said than done at times and I can't change who I am overnight. Someone also pointed out to me that different generations look at issues in a different light - the issues we face now may be in a different perspective to what they were a few years ago, but that doesn't make them any less valid. It took this lovely person saying that to me for me to actually stop punishing myself so much about the fact I was worrying constantly about what others think and instead to focus on myself, which is exactly what my mantra is for this year. So thank you to Jenna, I'm very lucky to have found such a lovely and thoughtful friend in you :-)

I've loved my job over the past three years at this company and I am so grateful for all the experience I've gained while I've been there. It's just a shame when our company was acquired last year that everything went downhill quite quickly. Working for a giant plc company isn't for me and having been lumbered with more and more duties as people in our department left meant that it was all just too much and so I decided to look for a new job, with the focus on being happy - you spend most of your life at work after all! When job hunting it's important not to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to applying for jobs and though I did apply for a few there was one in particular that my focus was on, I have to admit. I really liked the sound of the company, it ticked so many of my boxes and so I was over the moon when I got invited to attend an interview and then a second interview. I will admit that the second interview was a lot tougher than I thought and I really didn't know how I'd done when I came out as it was pretty intense and overwhelming. However, a couple of hours later I received a call from my recruiter to say that they loved me and were offering me the role! I was so happy, but also extremely nervous about telling my current boss that I was handing in my notice. He took it surprisingly well though and seems to be very pleased for me which is good. This job is another step up for me which is both exciting and a little daunting, even though deep down I think I know I'm capable. The location is great, good company benefits, friendly team and less hours which I'm very happy about. Jack was the one who first suggested to me about doing a few less hours each week in order to be able to focus on other things, one of those in particular is being able to get my accounting qualification finished. I'm so close to the end of it now but it's just been so difficult to find the time to study after such a long and tiring day at work. I can afford it which is the most important thing to consider. It also means I get more time to do things that make me happy, even taking Barry for walks does that. Jack also cheekily turned around and said I can have his dinner on the table each night wen he gets home! I'm very happy about it anyway and regardless of what anyone might think, I don't care because I'm happy! I've got to stop worrying about everyone else's views on what I do and start doing what I want to do because it's right for me!

Apologies if this has all been a bit boring to read, or if I sound like a mad woman. It was harder than I thought to actually write that all out, but I feel a bit better for saying it.

The focus now is on being even more organised than I already am, making the most of my spare time to get my studying done, make time for creative things like crochet and photography as they're my versions of stress therapy and to also be getting a step up career wise is just brilliant; I really didn't think I'd get that too when I was looking at reducing my hours so I'm very happy about that. Now to be back to my happy slightly nuts self! :-) Lots of exciting things to look forward to this year now!

Em x

Exciting things over the horizon!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Happy 1st Birthday Barry!

Today is a special day; it's Barry's 1st Birthday! Where did that time go?!

Barry features a lot on my blog, mostly because his funny character means that he's usually been up to mischief and I just have to share it with you all. Not only that but he is a major part of our lives and one we could definitely not be without now!

Barry has been such a great companion for us both, not to mention a good excuse to get outdoors even more than we already did in order to explore the countryside and get more exercise. He's a lovely little friendly dog who always wants to say hello to all the humans he meets. He loves dogs too but he's a little more nervous when it comes to meeting some fellow four-legged friends; he tends to run the other way as soon as they approach him, to which they give chase and then eventually he realises they just want to say hello and don't want to eat him for breakfast (even the big Irish Wolfhounds we've met on a walk were very gentle with him).

Here's a little Barry Fact File:

Nicknames: Bazza, Baz, WimpDog
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier
Favourite Treat: Carrot or any dog treat you offer him!
Favourite Toy: All of them! He is partial to a tennis ball though
Loves: Playing tug of war
Loves: Cuddles in our bed on a Saturday morning
Loves: Baths or any form of water!
Loves: Walkies
Hates: Car journeys
Hates: Large cardboard boxes that move!
Hates: Having to let me out of his sight! = VelcroDog
Best Tricks: Play dead (with stump still wagging), high five, roll over

It was love at first sight as soon as I saw Barry back in February last year at the age of about 4 weeks old and it was torture not to put him in my pocket and take him home the first day I met him! I did however resist and we went and visited a couple of times before bringing our little chubby puppy home in March. He eventually grew into his puppy rolls and it's amazing to see just how much the shape of his face has changed - he looks more Jack Russell now as opposed to a miniature version of a St Bernard! He's a lovely dog now, a stocky Jack Russell but sleek nonetheless from all the walks he has. He's constantly on the go and would watch me 24/7 if he could! He's my little shadow, always has been and though he loves Jack to bits and loves a good wrestle or tug of war with him, he's definitely a Mummy's boy.

Anyone who says raising a puppy is easy is lying!! They're hard work! I can imagine it's the same as raising a child, though I've not done that myself yet... one day hopefully! Barry is very intelligent though and loved to learn new tricks and our effort paid off as we now have a very happy obedient dog and it's nice when family and friends comment on what a lovely dog he is.

When Jack has to work long hours Barry is great company for me, especially on these cold dark evenings - Barry is a brilliant hot water bottle. He takes his guard dog duties very seriously and can often be found growling softly at his reflection in the window...! All of our friends and family adore him and are always asking when we're going on holiday so that we can "bear them in mind" when thinking of who we'll leave Barry with. We're hoping to take him out to France with us this year for a holiday in the sunshine with my parents; he'll love their huge garden. Hopefully he won't take too much of a fancy to their neighbours' poultry, sheep and donkey though!

Tonight I'm planning on baking Barry a dog-friendly birthday cake - Jack thinks I'm completely nuts as I have also bought Barry a new toy for his birthday and a card, but you're only 1 once! Barry loved his breakfast treat of scrambled eggs this morning and I'm sure he'll love his cake too (I'll post the recipe).

So wishing my handsome pup a very happy birthday, we love him very very much!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Blue Monday - Something To Cheer You Up

Apparently today is Blue Monday; named so for the fact that we're all feeling the pinch after Christmas, pining for the summer to arrive and fed up with the winter weather. If any of you are feeling the January blues, here's a final photo from our lovely walk at the weekend in Oxfordshire; beautiful sunshine through the trees and a happy little Jack Russell bottom racing off ahead!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Dog Walks: The Ridgeway near Wantage, Oxfordshire

As one of my new years resolutions for 2016 is to take part in the #walk1000miles challenge, I'd like to incorporate that into my blog with the new addition of a blog feature that focuses on the many dog walks we do. I love exploring new places and Barry loves walkies so it seems like a good idea to blog a bit more about specific places we visit on our walks. Most will be local to us, but we are planning a few walking holidays this year hopefully.

Today Barry and I have been on our own all day as Jack was working and then went off to see the David Haye fight tonight and so I decided to explore a different area of The Ridgeway. It meant a car trip to get there but only eight miles down the road so not too bad for Barry who detests car journeys. The travel sickness doesn't seem to be too much of a problem now, it's rare he's sick. He does however get himself into a terribly anxious state, bless him. We've tried everything we can think of, everything recommended to us. It's such a shame as we feel so sorry for him, but at the same time we want to be able to take Barry out and about and so we have to just keep persevering in the hope that the frequency of trips will mean that at least he's used to car journeys. If anyone has any tips at all then please do comment as I'd love to know what has worked for your dogs.

It was a beautiful day up on The Ridgeway; frosty and sunny. The ground was still frozen even at about 3pm as we left and Barry had great fun discovering that puddles he usually loves diving into were in fact covered with ice. We didn't bump into many dogs on our walk, but we did bump into lots of walkers with their maps. It's always nice to see lots of people making the most of a good day weather-wise to get out into the fresh air.

We walked past the Lord Wantage Monument; this memorial sits high on The Ridgeway overlooking the valley down towards Wantage. It's a memorial for Lord Wantage, a soldier who was one of the first to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the Crimean war and was one of the founders of the British Red Cross. More info can be found here. We carried on along The Ridgeway for a while before I took a bridleway off to the left in the hope of eventually doing a big loop (I'd always rather do a big circular route than have to turn around and go back the same way, means you see more).

We walked through some lovely wooded areas before coming out onto a farm track which I eventually discovered was the Lockinge Estate. It has quite an interesting history and is still one of the largest estates to this day. They had a dairy, estate yards, stables, all in beautifully restored buildings. We walked around various areas of the estate, skirted on the edge of a village called Ginge and into Lockinge itself. The scenery was stunning and it was so peaceful.

Can you see the rhino statue in the garden?
We eventually made it back to our starting point and I think we were both grateful to see the car after over 6 miles of walking - even Barry didn't make much noise on the short journey home. First job was to give Barry (aka mud monster) a bath and then he wrapped himself up in his blanket in his bed and snoozed while I caught up on some housework and other bits and pieces. I had a jacket potato for dinner tonight, one of my favourite dinners! I've since been reading through cookbooks while catching up on the new BBC series, War and Peace (which is very good by the way).
Both of us snug in blankets post-walkies, you can just about see Barry!
Tomorrow's plan is for a shorter walk, followed by some crochet - I'm determined to get my blanket finished, so hopefully I'll have photos to follow soon.
#Walk1000miles total to date: 65 miles (long way to go yet!)
Em x

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Throwback Thursday: Frosty Days

The cold winter weather has finally shown up and I have to say, I love it! This morning at home it was beautifully sunny and crisp outside. It looks so pretty everywhere when there's a frost and it's much better underfoot compared with the boggy mud paths of late.

Apparently the weather is set to get much colder over the weekend so make sure you all look after yourselves. Here's a photo I took back in February 2012; it was taken at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes back in Cambridgeshire at about 10am, when the temperature was -14! I had a great day strolling around the frozen lakes, it was so pretty.

Almost the weekend!

Em x

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Chilly Weather On The Way

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend; it seems long ago already and I hope I'm not constantly living for the weekend while wishing half my life away the rest of the time! To say I've been tired and stressed recently is a bit of an understatement, so the weekend for me was all about trying to recharge the batteries a little and change my mind set.

Winter warming crumble...

Jack took me out for a 'date night' and we went to my favourite restaurant, Nandos, followed by a trip to the cinema to see Star Wars which was fantastic. Last time I watched a Star Wars film was on VHS! I then spent the weekend having a good tidy up and giving the house a bit of an early spring clean. We've almost been here a year now, how quickly time has flown, only seems like yesterday that we were going through the nerves and excitement that is buying your first property! I'm very organised (and not ashamed to admit it!), so our house is usually always quite tidy but there are always jobs I neglect through the year like wiping down dusty skirting boards and asking spiders politely to refrain from making cobwebs in the corners of my rooms. I also made a start on organising my craft area in our second bedroom, photos to follow soon I hope!

I cooked us a lovely posh version of bangers and mash on Saturday night, one of our favourite classic dishes. I cooked the sausages in red wine and served it with caramelised onions, garlic mash and buttered cabbage. Not exactly healthy but tasty nonetheless! We're not on any diet, I'm a big believer in everything in proportion, a balanced diet and you'll be just fine. We are however challenging ourselves to a sugar-free month which we think we'll start in February. It'll be no problem for me as I don't have a sweet tooth in the slightest, but Jack (aka Mr Sweet Tooth) might struggle a little. I didn't help the situation by making a lovely apple and raspberry crumble on Sunday!

I love cooking and like pretending I'm also good at presentation...!
Finally, just a quick note to say that I'm trying to make some positive adjustments in my life at the moment; happiness is so important and I'm trying to make some changes which will hopefully give me more time for myself and make me a lot happier, so please just keep your fingers crossed for me and hopefully I'll have more to tell you soon :-)
Em x

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Barry Artwork!

We received the most amazing Christmas present from my brother and his girlfriend; a beautiful piece of artwork of our handsome Barry! Jenna's Mum does pet portraits and very well I think as she's really captured the character and expression of Barry's face. I still haven't put it up in our house yet as I'm not quite sure where I want to put it but it will definitely have pride of place!

If anyone would like to see Elaine's other work or ask about having a portrait done then here's a link to her Facebook page;

Em x

New Years Weekend in Cambridgeshire & Norfolk

Finally managed to find a spare five minutes to write a proper blog post and include a few photos of our New Years break with family.

I headed back to Cambridgeshire back on the 30th to attend my best friend's Mum's funeral which was incredibly sad but also a beautiful service and so good to see just how many people turned up. Jess was incredibly brave and I know she's really struggling now that the funeral has passed and the reality of being without her mum is really sinking in. She has lots of family and friends that love her to bits though and are there when she needs us, so keep your chin up Jess xx

The beautiful Cattells Mill, windmill at Jack's Parents'

I stayed with Jack's parents on the night of the 30th without Jack as he still had to work on NYE, so Barry was my bed companion and incredibly smug about the fact he got to sleep on the bed (which he doesn't get to do at our house!). I say on the bed...  woke up the next morning to find he'd got under the covers and was snuggled up in a little ball right beneath my chin, very cute I must admit! Barry and I went for a nice walk around the Fens on NYE and it was nice to spend time in the countryside I grew up in, though it really is very flat!

The Fens
We had a great time on NYE with Jack's family and friends; there was quite a few of us and Barry loved all the attention he got. He was completely worn out though before midnight and not happy about me jumping up to chink glasses at midnight (he was quite snug on my lap!). Then on New Years Day we drove onto Overstrand, Norfolk where my parents live to spend a couple of days with them, my brother Simon and his girlfriend, Jenna. We managed a quick walk along the beach when we arrived while the tide was out and before it got dark and Barry seemed very happy to be at the seaside.
A quick walk along the beach in the last hour of daylight
We had a good laugh that evening playing the game Heads Up, have you heard of it? It's a guessing game you can download on your phone or ipad; one person holds it up on their head and the others have to give you clues in order to guess the name of the person/object/action on the screen - kind of like the game we used to play with post-it notes! "Act it out" was my favourite round and us girls beat the boys hands down in the 'guess the animal' rounds. Very funny indeed! Jenna and Simon headed off on Saturday morning, so Jack and I headed out for a walk with Mum and Dad. We eventually did a full circle and left Mum and Dad to head home while Jack and I continued along the beach to Cromer.
This is where we bumped into a wild Grey Seal! I wasn't expecting to see one on Overstrand or Cromer's beach at all, but know they're a few miles further around the coastline at Horsey (I think that's the name of the beach!), where they're currently raising their pups. Given that this little seal was all alone on a beach where lots of dogs are walked, I was quite concerned that a dog would hurt it and so rang the Seal Rescue. Having described the seal to them they said it sounded like it was just exhausted and having a good rest and at that the seal yawned, stretched and had a scratch! By this time Barry was crying at Jack's feet to go and give the seal a friendly lick to see if it wanted to play! It was lovely to see it anyway and hopefully it made it safely back into the sea unharmed by humans or dogs.
Having a scratch, or laughing at us?
Happy Dog!
We eventually carried on our walk to Cromer before turning around and heading home again; it's a nice walk - about 5 miles in total so a good stretch of the legs and I think we've completely worn Barry out with walks recently! We're now giving him a little bit of a break and back to just two/three short walks a day as he was a tad stiff on his [previously broken] leg when we got back - not that you'd know with the way he throws himself around playing with all his new toys! It was nice to spend time with Mum and Dad too and I'm very proud to tell you that Mum has taken up loom knitting and is a complete natural! She often wonders where I get my organisation and creativity skills from but she's just trying to hide hers ;-) I'm just waiting for Mum to make me a bobble hat now. I might have to give it a go at some point as it looks like you can create scarves, hats etc. very quickly. I still love my crochet though!
On Sunday morning Barry and I headed to the beach alone for our last walk; it was nice to get some fresh air and have some thinking space and Barry enjoyed fetching his tennis ball as we walked along. I can't wait to go back to Overstrand again soon and my parents are very pleased that they have multiple bookings already, so will be heading out to France Easter-time. If anyone is interested in staying at my parent's place here is a link to the holiday letting agency; it's a great little property and is very near to everything you need. Norfolk really is a pretty place and there's lots to do and see along the coast.
We're now back into our normal routines and I've written out my New Years resolutions; apparently only 8% of people stick to their New Years resolutions... I won't say anymore than that! It's good to make a list of things you aspire to in the year ahead anyway. One thing I saw on Pinterest I thought was a fab idea was getting a large empty jar and filling it with happy memories throughout the year and then reading back through them again on the next NYE, I'm going to try and do this, though I tend to write things down in my journal anyway!
I hope all of your resolutions, plans and aspirations are coming along nicely in these early days of 2016 and throughout the year!
Em x