Friday, 26 February 2016

First Week At My New Job Done

Phew, it's been a bit hectic of late so apologies for the lack of blog posts recently. It was manic at my old job last week to get finished but I had a lovely last day; they bought me some lovely flowers and gifts as well as taking me for a nice lunch out at The Woodspeen.

Lovely flowers from my old work team and a lovely lunch out too.

I then had a nice long weekend before starting my new job on Tuesday. Over the weekend Jack and I had a trip to the Harry Potter Studios which was fantastic! It was really fascinating and there was plenty to see. We then popped in for dinner with my brother and his girlfriend. We bought Simon and Jenna some of the Bertie Botts' every flavour beans (you'll know what these are if you've read the books or watched the films) and it was good fun having to pick one at random to try; in the first round Jack, Jenna and I all managed to pick out nice flavours while Simon had managed to pick out the 'vomit' flavoured one! Good fun anyway and lovely to catch up with them both. 

Which finally brings me onto starting my new job... It seems like a great company to work for and the staff are all so friendly and supportive. The company is very well organised too which is always a good thing when it comes to communicating with each other. The finance department I work in is bigger than any I've worked in before but still a nice small number and lovely people. I've got a lot to learn as it's quite a step up, but I think I'm capable and hopefully they think they've made the right decision too. My brain is certainly fried this week and I'm shattered, but after some sleep this weekend I think I'll get accustomed to this new job and routine. It's certainly nice finishing early a few days a week and means I can make time for me, for crafting and for my studying too. So though it's still early days I believe I've made the right decision; I've found a great company where staff are really valued, I've reduced my hours slightly for less stress and more happiness and I've also managed to make the next step career-wise too so more than what I had hoped for. Here's hoping I get on well here and I'm clever enough for the work I'll be doing! It certainly feels like a big weight has been lifted from me having left my old place. Though I miss the team I worked with there the job/company were just asking far too much and as previously mentioned in other posts, I needed to make the decision to think about me a bit more and being happy - you spend most of your life at work after all so being happy there is important! New Emma is going to be much happier I think!

Have you all got nice plans for the weekend? It's going to be bitterly cold down here, but mostly dry which is good. Barry and I had a lovely walkies this afternoon and are now snoozing while we wait for Jack to get home from work. Jack and I are off to Twickenham tomorrow afternoon to watch the England Vs Ireland Six Nations Rugby Game, which should be good fun. It's not often I get to go with Jack when he gets tickets for rugby games so I feel quite priviledged he's taking me! He's even bought us matching England Rugby wooly beanie hats so we'll look funny but have warm ears at least! 

 We've had some beautiful frosty sunrises here this week

Anyway, I'll stop babbling for now and go back to recovering from a busy but exciting week. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Em x

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Frosty Morning Dog Walk

There was a beautiful sunrise here this morning, really orange and pink. It was lovely to see everywhere white with a harsh frost and so I donned the layers to take Barry for a walk; Jack usually does his morning walks so Barry did in fact have two this morning, not that he's complaining as he loves walks and gets quite a few every day!

I love the crunch of the frost underfoot; there were frosty snowdrops and daffodils in flower as we made our way to the field where we walk Barry in the mornings and Barry enjoyed attempting to chase a Red Kite who sat perched on one of the fence posts! Sadly he flew off before I could get a photo.

We didn't bump into any of Barry's doggy pals this morning, much to Barry's disappointment but he chased after his tennis ball instead and attempted to sniff out rabbit poo - one of his favourite foods!

And a close-up of his face as he actually stood still for five seconds; though his usual alert ears were back as he could hear the distant traffic of the A34 rumbling past!

Have a good day everyone!

Em x

Monday, 15 February 2016

Valentines Weekend & Crochet

Hi All, hope everyone had a lovely weekend and a belated Happy Valentines to you all! I know lots of people differ with their views on Valentines Day; we met up with our friends at the local garden centre café for a catch up and they're completely against it, whereas Jack and I have always celebrated it, mainly because I'm a hopeless romantic! Always have been and always will be - love a happy ending, love a chick flick, love a good Jane Austen book, I just love LOVE!

Jack and I went to Bristol for a trip out on Saturday; it was our first visit here and we had a wander around but mainly kept near the shops as the weather was abysmal. We had a nice lunch out though at Brasserie Blanc before heading home again. It was a nice day anyway and nice to spend time together and the first weekend Jack's not had to work in a long long time. I surprised Jack with a weekend away that I've booked in a lovely B&B pub in the Wye Valley. We go in April, take Barry with us and can't wait to explore somewhere new! I'll tell you more about it nearer to the time.

I did manage to make some time for some crochet this weekend and had fun having a go at some crochet flowers. I successfully managed to make a daffodil and a rose, photos of the daffodil below. I also made a cute 3D red heart following Just Pootling's instructions, which can be found on her lovely blog here. I'm quite impressed at my first attempt, there were no tears or tantrums and other than the fact one side of the heart looks bigger than the other it's turned out quite well for a first attempt!

I'm now going to try and make a whole series of daffodils in different yellow/white shades if I can, watch this space!
I also bought some lovely coloured threads from eBay a while ago as I wanted to have a go at thread crochet; I made a few initial attempts and did huff and tut a lot because it's mighty fiddly! Oh well, practice makes perfect yes? I hope to have some photos to show you soon...

I was a busy girl yesterday giving the house a tidy and spruce up. I made Jack a tasty lunch for work this week; Italian style beef meatballs in a red pepper and Bolognese sauce, with fusilli pasta, which should keep him going on these long days he's working at the moment. I made some soft white bread rolls; the dough of which went crazy in our warm kitchen while I was cooking our roast dinner. I dusted them with semolina before they went into the oven; I like the slight crunch it gives the bread.

The weather was beautiful here yesterday so we went for a lovely Valentines walk up the gallops and onto The Ridgeway. It was so nice walking along in the sunshine and Barry enjoyed chasing crows and running along at 100 mph!

A short while after returning from our walk a delivery driver knocked on our door with a beautiful bunch of red roses for me and Jack stood behind me with a proud grin on his face for managing to surprise me. They're beautiful and came with a lovely jug too and are now sitting on the living room windowsill next to my Gerbera which is beginning to flower again. I'm a lucky girl :-)
We also managed to collect my glazed pottery first thing on Sunday morning and I'm quite pleased with how it's turned out. It looks slightly like a child has painted it and proved to me that I must take more care next time but I'm happy nonetheless and Barry loves his new water bowl... not that he's told me that, I'm just assuming he does!
Excuse my spotty socks in the photo! Barry's Water Bowl
Pencil Pot for my craft room
Flower Pot
Lastly, while waiting for above mentioned bread to rise and while catching up on some paperwork I came across a bag of plant labels, so I decided to decorate a few in anticipation of getting started on some seed planting in the coming weeks. I'm determined to be organised this year and see how successful we can be at growing some of our dinners. The flowers I grew last year were mostly successful too so I hope the ones I plan on planting this year will be. I love Gaillardia and they come up every year full of beautiful orange/red/yellow flowers. I plan to put them in the front border below our kitchen window to add some contrast to the cream colour of our house walls.


It's my last week at work this week, it's certainly come around fast. Lots to try and get done before I leave, but we've planned a nice lunch out on my final day with my work colleagues so I'm looking forward to that. Then I've got a long weekend before starting my new job. I'm excited about getting started at my new job but I'm also super nervous about it :( I hope it goes ok...

Have a lovely week everyone, wrap up warm!

Em x

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Last Weekend's Cooking & Baking - Gooey Choc Chip Cookie Recipe

Hope everyone is having a good week and I'm sure you'll all agree with me that I'm glad to see the back of Storm Imogen. It's a beautiful day here today; clear blue skies and sunshine, just a little chilly breeze too. It's definitely getting lighter in the evenings now too so I can't wait to be able to take Barry on longer evening walks around the fields again rather than having to stick to the village with a torch.

Last weekend I had a good tidy up in my kitchen cupboards. It was a job I'd written on my list of "to do this year" jobs and so I'm impressed I've managed to do it so early on into this year. I'd bought a few little plastic baskets to make it easier to store things in the cupboards, particularly my baking cupboard which is full of sprinkles, flours, sugars and all sorts of sweet delights. While the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it with everything balancing on the sides, I also decided to bake something while all the baking bits were out and the easiest thing to make was going to be choc chip cookies as I seemed to have quite a collection of chocolate!

I've probably mentioned before but I don't really have much of a sweet tooth but do enjoy making sweet things for other people. I do however really enjoy these cookies even if I only manage to eat one compared with Jack who could polish two or three off in one sitting! These cookies are so easy to make, the recipe can be adapted to include anything you prefer (smarties cookies, white chocolate and raspberry are lovely etc.) and they take minutes to cook. I'm not a fan of crumbly cookies, I much prefer the gooey type and so this is how these turn out.

125g butter, softened
100g light brown soft sugar
125g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
1/2tsp salt
200g chocolate chunks (or chips)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cream the butter and both sugars together until fluffy and then gradually mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour and salt to the mixture, followed by the chocolate chunks. Give this a good mix until it becomes a dough, then use your hands to great a big ball of cookie dough.

Create smaller balls from the dough, about the size of a walnut and sit on a greased baking tray a sensible distance from each other to ensure the cookies have room to spread as they bake.
Pop in the middle of the oven for just 7 minutes before removing from the oven. I use a spatula to finish flattening the cookies before transferring them onto another tray or rack for cooling. Be careful if using a wire rack as the cookies aren't quite cooked and so can sink through the rack!
You'll find the cookies are crisp and golden on the outside but have that gooey chewy texture in the middle, yum!
They certainly go down very well in our house!

I thought I'd include a photo of my now organised baking cupboard; one of anyway because I seem to have so many baking bits and bobs!

Nice and tidy once more
I also cooked us a nice meal of beef fillet steak; it's the first time I'd cooked fillet steak. It's probably my least favourite cut of steak; it's tender but in my opinion there are far more flavoursome cuts, sirloin being my favourite because I love the fatty bit too! I did however cook these well considering it was my first time and I did them with a red wine and balsamic reduction which tasted lovely. This is one of my New Years Resolutions; to cook at least one different dinner each month following a recipe in the many food cookbooks and magazines I have! I'm actually doing quite well this month because tonight I'm cooking a smoky sausage casserole following a recipe in the most recent Good Food Magazine, looks tasty so we will wait and see...
Lovely beef fillet from the local Griffins Butchers in Newbury
Now that you're all drooling at the thought of cookies and steak, I feel like I've got my own back on all the amazing photos I've seen of pancakes so far today which have been making me very hungry! :-)
Em x

Monday, 8 February 2016

Pottery Painting

I had been looking forward to yesterday for a number of weeks as it finally meant a girls day out. I don't have many of these, I'm a home bird and I like my own independence, but there's times where you do need the company of your friends and I've got some lovely friends so it was great to have a girly day! The girls were all very impressed with my idea of visiting a local pottery painting studio and it was something different to do (I'm not a fan of clothes shopping, I actually hate traipsing around clothes shops, though home décor shops are another matter!). We went to Leapfrog Ceramics in Thatcham, which isn't too far away from where I live or where my friends live either so it was a good meeting point for us all.

It was lovely and sunny yesterday (before Storm Imogen arrived - hope you're all safe and no-one has been too badly affected by the strong winds and torrential downpours) and we all took quite a while at first to decide what to paint as there was so much to choose from. Pieces ranged in price but were quite reasonable and the studio fee was £1.95 each. They also did a 3 for 2 on all pottery so I decided on a dog bowl for Barry, a flower pot for the kitchen windowsill (for some sort of herb growing) and a pencil pot for my craft desk.

My finished pieces, ready to be fired and glazed! I get to pick them up later this week.
It was lovely nattering away while painting; I have come to the conclusion that my 'art' looks quite child-like and I need to do more practicing before going back again! I am however happy with my pieces and I'm looking forward to seeing what they look like once they've been glazed. The girls also enjoyed themselves and the photo below shows our pieces once painted, awaiting glazing.
I'll do a blog post in the next few days to hopefully show you the finished pieces once they have bee glazed, the colours should then look much bolder which is good! In all, a really good fun day out and we spent quite a few hours in there. I'd definitely like to go back again and would happily while away and hour or two in here on my own. They do a ladies night where a free buffet is provided, no studio fee and you can bring your own wine, so we may try and attend that if we can as it sounds like good fun!
Em x

I've Completed My First Ever Crochet Blanket!

I did it!! Finally, I got around to completing my crochet blanket last night and I'm so pleased with it!

It's huge, soft and I can't wait to snuggle into it! I made it wide enough (just!) to lay across our bed, which is also the reasoning behind the colour scheme, so it matches the theme in our master bedroom. I therefore used purple (my favourite colour), grey and white, I then also did a quick bit of edging in a different purple shade, mainly just to make the blanket look complete.

I'm so proud of myself for getting it finished; I can have a terrible habit of admitting defeat sometimes and moving onto the next craft project before finishing the last, but this one I really was determined to get finished and it's been great practice for me as a fairly new kid to the 'crochet obsessed' party.
Now I need to decide what the next crochet project is going to be as this has spurred me on into making lots more crochet pieces for the home, please let me know your ideas! Anyone know any straightforward tutorials for crochet flowers? I'd like to master these next as I'm hoping to make some sort of tie back for our new bedroom curtains and I thought they'd look really nice with little crochet flowers on them.
On another note, I just wanted to show you a photo of the lovely illustrated prints I got from a delightful company called JillyJilly. I think they're really cute and I couldn't decide on which I liked more so in the end chose to get both; one for the craft room and one for the kitchen. They have a shop on their website (here) with lovely items, great Mothers Day ideas and all in beautiful pastel colours. I am a big lover of small businesses and designers because I always like to find something a little more unique and it's nice to know your purchase is going to make a difference to them coming up with more lovely designs in the future :)
So cute! Can't wait to get them framed and hung on the wall!
I'm in my final full week here at my old company and it's been rather hectic, hence a bit of neglecting on the blogging front (sorry!). I'm looking forward to finishing at this company at the end of next week, though I will miss the people I work closest with. I am however very much looking forward to starting my new job but I'm feeling very anxious about it if I'm honest... it's a step up and I just hope I'm capable. I'm probably being a sillyworryingbilly but I can't help it! But anyway, I hope within the next three weeks to have finished at this job, got my first week done at my new job and hopefully have some more time on my hands for blogging... watch this space! Lots of aims on my new 'happiness plan' for March!
Have a good week everyone!
Em x

Monday, 1 February 2016

Barry's "I can get whatever I want" Face

Just had to share this photo with you; Barry does the cutest head tilts, as do all dogs and he knows that if he does it as I'm speaking (whether to him or not) and then I meet his eyes that I'm going to totally give in to whatever he's after... which is usually to either give him a cuddle, give him a treat, throw his ball, take him for a walk or take him for a bath - all of his absolute favourite things. Anyone else have a dog that knows the world revolves around them?!

Hello February; Bargains, Cooking and Lots Going On!

Morning All, did you all have a nice weekend? Where did it go?? Weather wasn't too bad for us here in West Berkshire; sunshine prevailed on Saturday which meant Jack could get on with shed jobs while I got on with indoor jobs with all windows flung open to give the house a good dose of fresh air.
We bagged ourselves a bargain on Saturday and I have to tell you about it. There are perks to living in a tiny village and when I spotted on the village Facebook group that someone was getting rid of a dresser I jumped at it. We've been after a dresser for some time and having seen that prices start at about £700 for the ones we liked in Oak Furniture Land we decided a pre-loved dresser would do perfectly for us (even if just for the interim until we'd saved some money). Sadly someone beat me to it on the post and so I didn't think we'd be successful until the dresser owner messaged me late on Friday night to say the other interested party didn't want it as it was too big, result for us! We arranged to pop round to their house on Saturday morning to have a look and it was so funny to be greeted by a lovely gentleman we've already met a number of times up at the field with his lovely yellow Labs who Barry loves to play with. He recognised us too as "Barry's owners" and we had a good chat before having a look at the dresser which is beautiful! He and his wife had it bespoke made and it's a stunning solid oak dresser. They have however changed their mind about it and no longer want it, it's not very old either and looks brand new. He refused to take any money for it despite the fact it must have cost them well over £1000 to have it made and he was ever so helpful in helping us move it to our house. Jack borrowed the work van which was a huge help as the dresser is extremely heavy but it looks amazing in the dining area of our living/dining room and I'm in love! I was so grateful for Chris helping us move it and still refusing any payment, so I ran round later that day with a bottle of wine for him and his wife by way of at least saying some extra thanks, to which he was very grateful. I can't wait to start arranging some things in the dresser; as yet we've just stored all the drinks and wine glasses in it, but I can finally get my ornaments out of the loft and put them on it. I've got a beautiful little Murano glass horse that Jack bought me in Venice; we even watched it being made on Murano Island, so it's a very special ornament to me. I love a bargain/freebie!
The beautiful solid oak dresser in its new home! Excuse the plug socket beside it, Jack pointed out to me that I'm yet to fill and sand this - cheeky little...!!
So as you can tell, I'm very pleased with how lucky we are to have this lovely piece of furniture in our house and I can't wait to get decorating the living/dining room so it really sits proud. It was definitely the highlight of my weekend. We didn't do too much else this weekend; Jack had to work on Sunday so I got on with planning our meals for this week and had a good cook-up. We had a whole chicken to use which I cooked for our lunches and dinner this week; I roasted some lovely vegetables too so we've got chicken and roasted veg couscous for lunch at work this week, nice and healthy :) I cooked a pork joint too and as always the crackling is my favourite bit! We've got pork stir fry for dinner tonight with the leftovers and I think it'll easily stretch to do some sliced pork warmed up in my homemade gravy with mash - one of my favourite dinners! I also made Jack a healthy granola. I made it just the same as the recipe on my recipe page here, only it's a healthier version made with coconut oil instead of butter and no sugar, just a splash of maple syrup. I didn't chop the nuts up this time either, decided to leave them whole (mostly because I was being lazy!) and Jack enjoyed it for breakfast this morning with fat free yoghurt, he's on a health kick and being a good boy.
Lovely colours of the vegetables for roasting

We've got lots planned this month and seem to have something on every weekend which is a bit unheard of for us; we much prefer the quieter life at home. I'm looking forward to this weekend as I'm going to a pottery painting studio local to us with a couple of my friends. I can't decide what to paint and will probably end up doing more than one piece! I'd love to do a personalised food bowl for Barry and perhaps a small vase too... watch this space, I'm sure I'll blog about it early next week. We're also off to the Harry Potter Studios later this month which I'm very excited about, I'm a big Harry Potter fan and I loved the books and films. I've also been busy scribbling notes in an empty notebook I found of what I want to achieve in the garden this year; I'm going to put another spreadsheet together (another one you say!) so I can keep note of when I planted seeds, where I intend to put them etc. and at least then I can hopefully look back on the success rate next year. That's the intention anyway! I also only have 3 weeks left at my current job before I start my new job, which is very exciting (and also very daunting too!!). We're also having a day out in Bristol for Valentines, I'm itching to go to Bath too but I'm not sure we'll have time in just one day. So lots going on this month and lots of being positive and happy :-) What plans do you have for this month? Are you making the most of the extra day we get this month? Don't forget pancake day, Jack's favourite day of the year!

Have a good week everyone

Em x