Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Easter Weekend

Morning all, I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend with family and friends, ate lots of chocolate and hopefully none were too affected by storm Katie! We had gales and torrential rain all of Saturday daytime and night time and woke up to find the two new fence panels we'd bought had been thrown half way around the garden (they've not been fitted yet and were leaning against the conservatory) Thankfully they are still in one piece and my plants had managed to avoid being squashed.

I did Roast leg of English Lamb on Friday, cooked with rosemary and garlic and some white wine too. It made the tastiest gravy!

Friday however was a beautiful day and we spent most of it outdoors with Jack's parents who had arrived on Thursday evening. Sarah did some gardening for me while I was cooking us a tasty roast Lamb dinner. Jack and Richard managed to lay electrics to the shed and we now have plug sockets and a working light in there which is great. I've also now got a plug socket in the conservatory so we've moved the tortoise's table into there as they will soon be spending the daytime outside and just coming in to sleep at night for the warmer months of the year (before hibernating in the winter). We now have a big space in the dining area of our living/dining room so our small dining table now looks tiny. I hope to get a bigger dining table soon, but it all costs money and we can't do it all at once. We keep an eye out in the local community project centre where you can take old furniture as we've picked up a few bargains from there in the past.

The Torts enjoyed their first proper day outside of this year in their run, lovely sunshine!

Jack's parents headed home on Saturday morning, so Jack and I braved a trip to Wickes in the pouring rain to get a few bits we needed while there was 15% off. They had 15% on top of the deals they already had in place so we then came home and ordered tiles that we'd seen in store that we liked. We've got some big square 'taupe' ceramic floor tiles to do the conservatory floor and we have finally chosen the tiles we want for the splash-back area of the kitchen and have gone with some lovely subway tiles in 'pistachio green'.

Jack had to work on Sunday and Monday so I was on my own and wanted to make the most of the time off of work to get back into the swing of decorating as there's still so much to do in the house. As we now have the kitchen tiles arriving this week and my Dad coming to do the tiling in a few weeks' time, I was conscious that I needed to get on with painting the kitchen in anticipation of the tiling. The kitchen was probably the grubbiest room when we first moved in and the walls were full of huge holes where things had been moved around over the years. We were very lucky that the kitchen was nice and modern though so it's saved us a lot of money in terms of needing to replace it and all the kitchen needed was a thorough clean and spruce up. I spent the last two days scrubbing, filling holes, sanding and then painting! I had to shut Barry in his crate while doing the decorating because he loves his Mummy so much that he wouldn't leave me alone and kept coming into the kitchen to have a scratch and send his hairs flying into the wet paint!! He loves his crate though and by shutting him in he realises he can see me but that he can finally have a snooze.

Clearing, Moving, Cleaning, Filling, Sanding, Painting, Glossing and putting back together again! This is the start...

... And the finished look. We went with 'soft stone' on the walls and then we're being bold and going with a 'pistachio green' tiled splash-back area. I can't wait to get a new oven too - this one is over 12 years old and on its last legs (no working grill, oven can be hit and miss too!), but it's served us well since moving in.

It's back to normal today; a quiet-ish day at work before the next month end arrives and outside of work I've got more decorating jobs to do; I want to make a start on freshening up the two hall cupboards. One sits next to the kitchen and we think we might turn this into a pantry (I do have a lot of kitchen appliances and cookware after all), so it just needs some holes and blemishes filling and sanding, a lick of paint and then shelving putting up. We also then have a much larger cupboard which we hope to turn into a downstairs toilet. We're just waiting to save up a few more pennies before we get builders and plumbers out to work out the feasibility of it all. It could mean digging up floors and a lot of mess so we will see. That cupboard I intend to paint for the meantime so it's tidy. At the moment we just use it to store our bikes, shoes and coats so it really is a very big cupboard and would be perfect to be a WC/Cloakroom.

A quiet week is planned here and then Jack goes on his annual rugby tour with his rugby team. They're off to Edinburgh this year; lots of beer and not as much rugby is involved I think! My brother's girlfriend Jenna is coming to stay for a girly weekend, so that will be nice.

Hope you all have a lovely week!

Em x

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Chocolate Easter Cake

Hi All,

Yesterday I spent forever hours baking a rich chocolate cake which I then decorated with an Easter theme (called an Easter basket cake). I'm really pleased with how it turned out and I think that's only because I did actually take my time for once rather than rushing the decorating part.

So it's a very moist and rich chocolate cake, with fresh whipped cream sandwiched in between, then covered with a thick chocolate frosting, with green sugar sprinkles to represent the grass. Then, mini eggs and little chicks to finish the Easter decorations.

Jack wanted a slice of it last night but I slapped his hand away and put it safely into its container and in the fridge ready for Jack's parents who are due to arrive with us this evening. They have a sweet tooth like Jack so despite it being a rather large cake, I don't think it will take long for us all to polish it off, I might even treat myself to a small slice if I can manage how sickly sweet it will all be (give me savoury any day)! I think I upset my new work colleagues when they got wind of the fact I like to bake but didn't bring anything in for them, oh well it will be their turn next!

While busy baking up a storm in the kitchen yesterday (or making a big mess as Jack says), I also tried a new recipe following on from one of the New Years Resolutions I set myself this year and cooked something new at least once per month; I did a simple but very tasty Chicken and bacon potato pie. It was creamy and lovely and I served it with some tenderstem broccoli. It was so easy to put together and pop in the oven once the cake had come out and made for hardly any washing up either - the perfect kind of meal!

Thanks for all your love for Barry, he's feeling much better and just about his normal self again, so he sends big wet kisses to you. He's back on his normal food (much to his dismay as I think he prefers boiled chicken and rice to his usual biscuits), back to normal walks and just his usually happy chappy self, so a big relief for us. The illness cause still remains a mystery; we're waiting for biopsy results but they think the likelihood is that these will only show up inflammation and obviously we'd rather they came back clear anyway. The vet seems to think he might just be the kind of dog that has a bad flare up (kind of like IBS) every so often and it will result in a stay at the vets for him each time in order to get fluids into him because he gets so dehydrated from the days of constant sickness. Hopefully he doesn't have too many cases of it because he's a fit and healthy dog apart from that and doesn't have too many disgusting habits, though he can't say no to a little taste of a rabbit poo or two on a walk...!

Sleepy yesterday evening after a long walk and monitoring my baking progress - he refuses to go and have a lie down while I'm cooking and instead stands in the kitchen doorway the whole time watching me. Jack says one day Barry will take himself off for a lie down but I highly doubt it, he doesn't ever stop!

Right, I had better get on with tidying the house and making up the guest bed before Jack's parents arrive. Jack is on hoover duty and I'm on bed making duty (because for the life of him he's useless at putting a duvet cover on!), then we're rewarding ourselves with a very rare Dominos pizza treat seeing as it's the long weekend and pay day today.

Have a lovely Easter everyone, hot cross buns in the morning!

(Apologies for talking non-stop about food...)

Em x

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Looking Forward To Easter & Poorly Pup Update

I hope everyone had a nice weekend, the final one before Easter weekend which I’m sure most are looking forward to. Do you all have nice plans for Easter? Jack’s parents are coming to stay with us from Thursday evening until Saturday so I’m sure we will plan a nice day out on Friday. I’m going to have a go at cooking some sickly sweet, rich, overindulgent chocolate Easter cake, but I’ll buy hot cross buns to save me some time! I love Spring Lamb too so I’m sure there’ll be a leg of lamb on the cards for the coming weekend too (have I mentioned I love food??). We might try and go to Thame Country Fair on Sunday; it’s not too far from us and looks like it has lots going on. A couple of my friends from Cambridgeshire are also taking part in the Horseboarding Championships and I’d love to see them in action.


Barry went from bad to worse last week so we had no choice but to take him back to the Vets on Thursday as he was very dehydrated from the constant vomiting. He was still bright in himself though quiet, but we couldn’t ignore it as the sickness had been going on for over a week and he was beginning to look a bit tucked up. The Vets decided to keep him in overnight to get him on some fluids and do some investigative tests the next morning; they did an x-ray, ultrasound, took biopsies and he had an endoscopy so the full works! Luckily no obstructions were found or anything untoward so it still remains a mystery. They kept him in for a second night to continue with the fluids, some antibiotics and some anti-sickness medicine to ensure he managed to get some food successfully through his system. I went and saw him on Friday as I couldn’t go a whole day without seeing him but he was still very groggy from the general anaesthetic, although they let me take him outside for a tiny walk (the staff at Donnington Grove Vets are all so wonderful and friendly). We were then allowed to pick him up on Saturday afternoon after a successful first day and night of no sickness. He’s very happy to be back home with us and we are too as we felt lost without him. He’s got a shaved tummy and various other shaved patches so he looks quite funny, but for the first time in a week he picked up his toy last night to play which we were so relieved about – he usually doesn’t leave us alone and is ALWAYS playing with his toys. It’s hard to know what caused the illness; severe gastroenteritis, a virus, or a food intolerance are all possibilities, but we’ll just have to keep an eye on him. He’s still on boiled chicken and pasta for a few more days along with some probiotics that the Vets gave us to help perk him back up again. I’ll be glad to have our boy back to normal J And thank god for pet insurance too!! We’ve certainly proved why you need insurance for the past year with Barry (see broken leg blog posts)!



In other news, after my rather moany last blog post, I can report I’m much happier having completed a month end at my new job so I’m sorry for being negative in my last post. I’m not sure if I previously mentioned but I took quite a step up when starting here and I’m now in a management accountant role so it’s taken some adjusting to the accounts assistant roles I’ve done over the last 6 years, even if it was a slight drop in hours to give me more time to relax and continue my studies. I’m really enjoying using my brain a bit more, even if I only have a little brain! I think it’s just going to take a lot of adjusting and this role requires a lot of knowledge about what’s going on in the various company departments, which will only come gradually over time. I was certainly feeling much more positive at the end of last week and I think that’s made me feel more relaxed at home. Perhaps soon I can start enjoying the small drop in my working hours and make the most of my free time! I haven’t even picked up a crochet hook and yarn for weeks other than when I made my Mum a mother’s day present, so I’m hoping to get back into crochet again soon.


On Saturday I went to try on my bridesmaid dress with the other two bridesmaids and the bride, my best friend Jess. Our bridesmaid dresses are beautiful, the colour is a gorgeous dusty pink and they’re just so pretty! We all need some alterations, mainly as they’re far too long, but I’m glad mine fitted. It feels slightly tight across my ribs but the bridal shop assistant assures me this is just the boning detail in the dress and that you’re just not used to the feeling of the fitting… let’s hope so because I don’t know how to lose weight around my ribs! 10 weeks to go until the wedding though, so it gives me a good excuse to get back into doing my daily abs challenge to tone up. Jack has also signed up for an 88 mile bike ride at the beginning of June so he’s also just about to start a 10 week training programme he’s designed, so it’s nice to have an excuse to exercise and eat healthy together.


I had a busy day yesterday getting lots more seeds planted; I potted on my mangetout and peas, but I’m keeping them indoors until the risk of frost has passed. I also potted on my cherry tomato seedlings, Gaillardia and cayenne peppers. I then planted some runner beans, pak choi, mixed lettuce leaves and small sweet Frigaletto peppers. I’ll have to fight the tortoises for the pak choi as they go mad for it, along with fresh young salad leaves. I also planted quite a few flower seeds; a few sunflowers, lots of sweet pea and antirrhinum (does anyone else call them ‘bunny rabbit flowers’ like me? That’s what my Nan used to call them). I’ve also planted Borage, Cornflower and Lavatera, all of which are for my wildflower bed at the bottom of the garden. I’m very conscious about the fact we had to cut down the Buddleia in the back garden last year – it was over 10 feet tall and resting on the conservatory so we had no choice but to cut it down. We cut it back to about 4 foot tall and it’s full of shoots and leaves, so I’m hoping it will flower again this year after the harsh hair cut as the butterflies and bees were frequent visitors to our garden last year almost solely due to the Buddleia. That’s why I’m ensuring they’ve got lots of other flowers to visit in the garden. We do still have a huge Buddleia in our front garden too which the wildlife also loves. Cornflower blue is one of my favourite colours anyway and I have lots of lavender in the garden as I love the scent, so hopefully I’ve not put the wildlife off. The little Wren who frequents our garden is certainly enjoying hopping amongst the grape hyacinths which have come up in droves in our back garden and front garden. We have a big noisy family of sparrows who love singing away in our privet hedge too and they love the fat balls I leave them.



Finally, I have my conservatory back! Hurrah! I can also show you photos of Jack’ finished shed and I’m very proud of him as it looks great. I’ve got one final bit to paint (yes I’m the paint slave), but it’s lovely to get all of the tools, lawn mower, gardening bits and bobs out of the conservatory and into the shed where they belong. I now have more planting space, the torts will be moving in there shortly before they move to live in their outside run and then I would like to get a rattan seat or two so I can enjoy sitting in the nice warm conservatory with a book while admiring my garden.


Have a lovely week everyone and an early Happy Easter (just in case I don't get around to another blog post for a little while)!


Em x

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bad Blogger!

I've been terrible just recently at blogging, mainly because so much has been going on and my little brain hurts!

How are you all? Well I hope! There seems to be a lot of colds, bugs, viruses going around at the moment and I've just had tonsillitis, bleugh!

So my lack of blog posts has mainly been due to my new job, which is going well for the most part; the company is great and all the people are so lovely so in that sense I've settled quite well. However, there's been lots to learn which has meant I've been coming home shattered every day. It's very different to what I've done before and involves a lot more analysis. I like the challenge of that but there's also meetings after meetings which isn't really my thing so that's taking some adjusting to, but hopefully once I've learned everything I'll feel more confident and happier. Getting used to a new routine is also a big challenge and though my hours have reduced I'm up an hour earlier every morning which I didn't think would affect me because I'm a morning person but I've really been struggling, mainly because I wake up so cold and my bed is so snug! Hopefully once the clocks go forward in a couple of weeks' time I'll find it a bit easier. I'm certainly enjoying not having to crawl my way through Newbury and it's ever changing roadworks and traffic lights; instead I go the back way along pretty country lanes which are currently blooming with daffodils, so it's a pleasant fifteen minute drive to work.

In between the new job, fighting germs etc. we have had a few trips out and about, one of which was a trip to a local farm on a lambing weekend they were holding. I love farm animals and baby farm animals are even cuter so I couldn't resist dragging Jack and our friends for a quick visit to see the little lambs. Sadly we didn't get to see any born, though I was lucky enough to see that years ago and would love to see it again one day. They breed Oxford sheep as well as Suffolk sheep, both of which were lovely. They also had the cutest Oxford Sandy and Black piglets! I wanted to sneak one home with me!!


We've enjoyed some lovely walks recently in the foggy/frosty mornings. We've only stayed local to us but tried a few different routes as I've been looking for more circular routes that I can alternate between. It was lovely watching the racehorses being exercised on the gallops in our village the other morning; Hugh Morrison has his training yard in our village and always stops to say hello to us as we make our way to the Ridgeway with Barry.

Slowly the fog has been clearing during the mornings...
Once the sun burns the fog away, it has been a beautiful day
Our Barry isn't great at the moment though sadly. I'm a little bit at my wits end as to know what to do for him. He's been suffering with itchy ears and eyes for a couple of months, and had sickness on and off. Then for the past week or so he's been sick constantly so the poor boy isn't really absorbing anything. It got to the point where I took him to the vets on Monday after he'd be continually sick, then very lethargic and dehydrated because of it. He had blood tests and a test for Pancreatitis but all came back clear which is good. The vet has prescribed tablets to help settle his tummy and we're feeding him boiled chicken and rice until his tummy settles down, but even this is making him sick so I don't know what to do! The Vet said Barry could have an intolerance/allergies so we can get some tests done for that, but nothing in his routine has changed at all and we've literally been through everything to be sure. He's already fed on a good brand of food and in himself he's mostly his usual bright self. The last few days he's been a bit quieter than normal, probably because he's not getting much energy from his food when it doesn't stay in his system for long. It's a nightmare anyway and I feel so sorry for him. We now call him 'Sicky Boy'! I hope he's on the mend soon anyway, I'll keep you updated anyway, though it seems it's going to be pretty hard to find out what it is. I myself suffer from IBS so know just how difficult it can be to pinpoint what causes flare ups - Jack thinks Barry just comes out in sympathy for me haha!
Well I think I've babbled enough to you now, I'm quite bad for that! I'm very tired at the moment and my brain won't quite work right. I'll be glad to be settled into this new routine soon, hopefully have a happy healthy puppy and HOPE we get Jack's car back soon.... it's still being fixed since my accident in it back in January! The garage are a nightmare and I've been very upset and angry to learn that the farmer I crashed into has made an injury claim. I'm not going to start going into detail or it'll make me angry again, but I try to pride myself on being an honest, kind person, so I just find it so upsetting that people can be so very dishonest. "Take it with a pinch of salt" is what people tell me, but my brain doesn't work like that and this crash seems to be punishing me...
So my head aches, but I keep persevering with everything and try to be positive :-) My blog, my crochet and my garden are just three examples of my little ways to escape from my own head and every day life! I can't wait for Spring now, who else finds pottering in the garden very therapeutic?
On a final note, I cooked a tasty Irish stew for dinner tonight in early celebration of St Patrick's Day tomorrow. Happy St Patrick's Day!
Have a lovely rest of your week everyone and I promise to stop being a moaner in my next blog post - sometimes you just need to vent and it's hard to know who to talk to!
Love to you all
Em x

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Hello March!

I can't believe it's the 1st of March already, how quickly the past two months have gone despite an extra day in February. I am however excited at the prospect of Spring being just around the corner. There's signs of its arrival already despite the drop in temperature recently; buds on the trees, blossom appearing, daffodils blooming and birds returning. I for one am ready for Springtime!

We had a lovely time on Saturday at Twickenham watching England beat Ireland in the Six Nations rugby game. I was very privileged that Jack took me to watch it, usually I'm last on the ticket list haha! It was a great game anyway and we needed those tries as an excuse to jump up and down to warm up! We then spent all of Sunday in the garden having a good tidy up. We had a big pile of old wood on the patio that we've finally managed to clear ready to replace two broken fence panels between us and our next door neighbours. I've planted some primroses in the patio pots for a bit of colour in the garden. My plants are all looking healthy in the garden though; the Hydrangea is covered in buds and the Rhododendron has really grown since I planted it last year. Jack's Mum gave me a Buddleia that I need to get into the garden and I also bought a Hibiscus reduced to £5 at the garden centre so need to find a place for that to go too where it will get lots of sunshine - difficult in our garden as it sadly doesn't get a lot of sunshine except for in the height of summer when the sun is high in the sky.

I'm in love with these 'raspberry ripple' primroses!
And I've also been trying to fit in some crochet in between learning lots in my new job - my brain has been pretty fried by the time I've got home each day but getting home early three days a week is so lovely. I've managed to make two coasters, my first coasters, and I'm pretty pleased with them.
Anyway, that's just a little blog post update for today; as I say my brain is a little weary so I can't think what else to write at the moment! I'll be back soon though!

Em x

Blog Problems... Hopefully Fixed!

Hello All, hope you're ok.

Thank you to the lovely Jo for getting in touch to say my blog wasn't loading - I'd have been none the wiser if not as it was still managing to load from mobile devices, but not from Desktop. It seems there was problems with my blog template and I'm not really an IT geek so unable to work out how to get it to work again. To make things easier I've reverted back to a different template and I think (and hope) that's done the trick, please let me know if you manage to read this post :-)

Em x