Thursday, 30 June 2016

Blackbirds Nest Update 30/06/2016

I can confirm that all four chicks hatched safely and are growing well, I can't believe just how quickly they grow!

Mr and Mrs Blackbird are very busy parents, constantly bringing food for their hungry brood throughout the day and until the sun disappears each night.

More updates soon!

Em x

Kitchen Tiling Is Finished!

My parents were back from France for a fleeting visit at the weekend and it was lovely to see them. While Dad stayed with us he very kindly finished the tiling in our kitchen and just left me a little bit of grouting to do which I got finished the other evening; I can now add grouting to my growing list of DIY skills!

I was quite worried that the 'Pistachio green' tiles would be too bold but now they're finished I love them! The contrast with the 'soft stone' coloured walls and the white grout is lovely and is made the kitchen feel jazzy, modern and clean. These are what they call subway tiles and were from Wickes, surprisingly good value too and came in an array of colours (subway-style tiles seem to be rather expensive). I love it!

The house decorating is really starting to make a difference now; it might seem a bit slower than I'd hoped but work and other commitments as well as finances mean you can't do everything all at once! The house is starting to look like we had imagined anyway; cleaner, tidier and full of the things we love. Jack still looks exasperated when I bring out the list of all the other things to do on the house and garden... it's about three A4 pages long! Thankfully there's not a lot left to do in the kitchen; I bought a new roller blind from Dunelm yesterday so that needs putting up, I'm yet to finish sprucing up a plain cork notice board that hangs in the kitchen, then we just need a few accessories like a display shelf and clock, and then it's all finished in there. It already has a nice tiled floor so it's easy to sweep and clean - I love tiled floors!

I'm yet to silicone around the bottom of the tile line (before anyone points it out!)

Onto the next house decorating task!

Em x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Lovely Weekend With Family

We headed over to my Brother's on Saturday afternoon to spend the night at theirs along with my Parents as they're back from France for a long weekend. It was lovely to see Mum and Dad, Simon and Jenna and Barry of course came with us too.

Just a quick family photo we got on Dad's ipad while we were all in Si and Jenna's garden

Jenna and Si have settled into their new house and they're making it look lovely and homely. The garden is looking great too and it's lovely to see them so excited at making a place their own just like we've been doing with our house. Barry seemed to enjoy exploring a new house and it's nice to get him feeling settled there as he'll be staying with my brother and Jenna when we go to America in August.

We treated Mum and Dad to a dinner out at the local pub as it was their wedding anniversary on Saturday; the portions at this pub are gigantic and the food is very tasty - just far too much and I never thought I'd say that! I had a steak, Guinness and mushroom pie, while Jack had steak.

It's certainly been a weekend of eating; Si made us all bacon sarnies on Sunday morning before Jack and I headed home with Barry. Mum and Dad followed on to ours later yesterday afternoon and are now staying with us until Tuesday when they return to France. I cooked a huge toad in the hole yesterday; tasty traditional Newbury sausages from the local butchers and I like mixing sliced red onion and fresh sage leaves into the Yorkshire Pudding mix as it goes in the oven to give it extra flavour. We had it with Rosemary roast potatoes, green beans and a pork and cider gravy I made a couple of weeks ago and had in the freezer. I love real gravy!

Spending time with family is my favourite, just as much as eating a bacon sandwich is also my favourite!!

Em x

More Gardening

We spent Saturday morning working on the back garden which had been somewhat neglected while we'd been busy transforming the front garden. Everything had got a little unruly thanks to the regular supply of rain and sunshine.

The bees are loving all the different Lavenders in my garden

Jack has fitted guttering onto his shed so I now have a water butt slowly filling with rain water.

I weeded all of the flower beds, gave the herbs a bit of a tidy and admired 'Grandad's Rhubarb' which is growing really well since we planted it late last year.

Jack mowed the lawn, I edged it, Barry christened it (you know what I mean..)

I gave the Tortoise's run a tidy up; Squirt and Lola love the little cave I created for them with some slate and bricks. The Fuchsia in their run is full of flower buds too.

I weeded the whole patio - back breaking but looks so much better again

We packed up all the gardening tools just as the sky got incredibly dark and a big thunderstorm arrived, hence the 'moody' looking photos below!

Have a good week everyone!

Em x

Blackbird's Nest Update 27/06/2016

I'm very excited to announce we have babies! Ugly but cute little Blackbird chicks! The photo isn't brilliant but Mum was sat at the back of the nest and I didn't want to disturb her and her babies for long. She doesn't seem to mind and is very bold but I still don't want to interfere with nature, I'm just so pleased to have wildlife making its home in our garden!

I didn't want to disturb the nest too much as Mr and Mrs Blackbird have been constantly flying back and forth alternating in bringing tasty worms for the chicks. When I peeked in when both Mum and Dad weren't on the nest it's hard to tell whether all four have successfully hatched or not, I can definitely see three and think there might be a fourth but perhaps as they get a bit bigger I'll be able to tell.

The parents are quite bold when we're in the garden and only feet away from the nest they perch on our conservatory roof with a mouthful of worms and debate on whether it's safe to fly into the nest, then moments later they do so I think they're quite trusting of us. I think they're even appreciating the tortoise's water bath in their run which is below the nest and I've seen Mrs Blackbird having a drink and a bath in there first thing in the morning before she returns to the nest.

Hopefully I can keep updating you as the chicks grow; they grow very quickly and fledge quite early; I believe they hatched on Friday and it's remarkable how much they've grown and changed already!

More updates soon!

Em x

Friday, 24 June 2016

My First Commissioned Piece Of Crochet!

Morning everyone, I hope you're all well! I'm going to start by saying that I personally won't be talking about anything to do with the EU referendum as I'm quite sick of it now. Yes I did vote, but all the negativity I'm hearing this morning is really starting to bring me down, I try very hard to always be a positive person. I believe that now votes have been made and after this initial phase (Where we're all a bit uneasy, the markets will jump around etc.), I think we need to be positive and move forward. There, that's all I'm going to say! :-)

Happy Lobelia in my new pot outside the front door

Moving onto my 'put your brave girl pants on' news; I finally plucked up the courage to believe in my crocheting abilities a little more and when my friend approached me and asked me to make some baby booties as part of a hamper she was putting together for her friend who's expecting in August I finally agreed and have been busy making them since the weekend. I'm not very good at believing in what I'm capable of and most of the time I use the excuse of "I'm just practicing" but I've finally been brave and I'm quite pleased with the results of these little shoes. I just need to steam them and set them a bit - they're equal sizes but I pulled on them quite a bit as I sewed the buttons on so they're a bit out of shape.

The finished item

I had good fun making these anyway; I had a pattern to follow but in the end I adapted it quite a bit as I wasn't pleased with the overall look of them. I call them mini loafers anyway and as the baby's sex isn't known I've tried to keep them quite neutral in colours. The yarn I used was a Katia brand, a beautiful soft merino and it's machine washable too which is great. I chose to do a cream sole and the remainder of the shoe is grey. I've finished off the shoes with a little button on the front and they should hopefully fit the new-born baby (they're 0-3 months in size).

Lovely soft yarn

I found these surprisingly easy to make, if a little fiddly because they're so small and dainty. My friend is very pleased with them anyway so that's a big relief!

Work in progress...

I've got a few other crochet and sewing projects on the go at the moment anyway with the view to selling them through an Etsy shop. I just need to be brave enough and believe in myself that I can do it! So watch this space (if I keep those big girl pants on)!

Em x

Monday, 20 June 2016

Having A Go At Amigurumi

I've had a nice quiet weekend at home getting on with various jobs while Jack is away. He's not back until Wednesday so it's just me and the Dog. I had a lovely long catch up with my best friend (Jess) on Friday afternoon; she had a wonderful honeymoon and we chatted about life in general for ages (the ups and the downs - you can always rely on your best friend to listen to your troubles and help in any way she can). I got lots of housework done on Saturday which included sorting 'that corner' and 'that drawer' out, surely everyone understands me when I say that - we all have a corner and a drawer where things get dumped for sorting at a later date! I then spent the rest of the weekend either taking Barry for walks or doing some crochet and have a go at Amigurumi.

One of Jess' friends is having her first baby at the beginning of August and Jess is putting together a hamper for her of various baby gifts. Jess has asked me to crochet some baby booties and I'm quite excited by my first official project, rather than using the excuse that I'm 'just practicing' all the time! I've been doing a lot of practicing to make sure I get my stitches and tension right and have discovered that they're actually not too difficult to make. I popped to the local wool shop a few villages away, called YarnFest and bought some gorgeous yarn to make booties with. Progress photos to come soon (I forgot to take any photos - a first for me!). Please do have a look at YarnFest's website and if you are this way then do visit their shop. It's in an old telephone exchange building in a village not far from me and they have a fantastic choice of yarn and other knitting and crochet accessories. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful too which I really appreciate when I still feel like I have so much to learn and the prices were very fair for good quality yarn.

I've also been practicing my Amigurumi recently and it's really good fun, if a little fiddly. I'm determined to make a teddy bear and other animals but my first bear attempt looks more like an alien! Oh well, practice makes perfect. I am however very pleased with how my cute little donut turned out (complete with sprinkles!) and a cute little whale too. I love whales; I intend to make another one out of a nice blue yarn that I have. Have any of you had a go at Amigurumi or (what I call) 3D crochet? I'd love to see what you've made and if you have any useful websites, books etc. that you can recommend then that would be great.

Little Whale in progress...

And the finished item, so cute!

And I love my little donut, looks so cute and tasty! I want to make some bigger versions now!

I bought these lovely stitch markers too from a shop on Etsy; they're handmade here in England and I like to do my part at supporting small businesses.

I'll hopefully have more projects to show you soon!

Em x

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Happy Fathers Day

Just to say a Happy Fathers Day to all the Dad's out there; still with us or gone but never forgotten.

Here's a few photos of my Dad out in France. He's been very busy replacing the typically French almost-vertical stairs in the house! Now there's a much safer angle on the new ones so you don't quite feel like you're rock climbing!

New stairs going in

Dad's also been building a garage in the garden. There was an old tin shed that he's taken down and he's built a nice roomy garage/workshop with the help of his builder friend out there, Steve. The tiling is almost finished and then it just needs doors and to be rendered so it matches the house. I bet Dad can't wait to potter in there building things and I think he'll be taking his Lotus Elan out there to give her a home in the garage when it's not being driven.

So Happy Fathers Day for tomorrow to my DIY Dad!

Em x

Blackbird's Nest Update 18/06/2016

I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend and I hope none of you have been too affected my the torrential downpours last week. Lucky for us there wasn't too much and to be honest I really love thunderstorms anyway and they helped freshen the air for Hay Fever.

I posted a few photos last week about Mrs Blackbird who was busy building a nest in the Clematis in our garden. She finished her beautiful nest and I didn't think to look again until one day in the week when I was putting the tortoises into their outdoor run which is right nearby. As I stood back up I came eye to eye with Mrs Blackbird sat on her nest! She stayed totally still and I carefully moved away so as not to disturb her. She doesn't seem to mind too much anyway as I've come quite close to the nest a few times as I put the torts out and bring them in again.

The other morning when I went out I noticed she wasn't on the nest and when I peered a little closer I saw that there are four vivid blue Blackbird eggs sitting in the nest! I was worried that she'd left them but within about half hour she was back on the nest and I've noticed she's off the nest each morning for a little while. I assume it's to stretch her wings and find some food for herself.

I estimate that the eggs were laid about five days ago and I've researched that the incubation period is 13-14 days according to the RSPB website so they should hatch around next weekend some time. Fingers crossed they hatch and survive. Thankfully I've done everything in my power to deter cats from our back garden and it's very rare we get a cat in there as they're one of the biggest risks to vulnerable chicks, so hopefully the chicks will have a good chance at fledging successfully. There's plenty of worms and insects in our garden for Mrs Blackbird to feed them anyway, so here's hoping they all hatch successfully.

I managed to carefully get a photo of the eggs in the nest the other day and wanted to share it with you. More updates to come soon; as you can probably tell I'm quite excited about having wildlife in our garden, that was my main aim :-)

Em x

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Front Garden Transformation

We've been living in our house for almost 18 months now and I can't believe how quickly that time has flown. I feel like we've achieved quite a lot in terms of decorating and putting our own stamp on the place but one job we've been meaning to do for a while is neaten the front garden area. It only consists of a small garden sat next to the driveway but it was very overgrown and mostly full of weeds (which the tortoises really enjoyed!).

So I just thought I'd share a few photos to show the transformation; we weeded the bed, some of the wildflowers I've dug up and re-planted in my wildflower bed in our back garden. Once the bed was weeded I created a flower bed under the Buddelia and we levelled out the remainder of the ground and prepped it for turf.

After a trip to the garden centre to purchase turf and some plants for the newly created flower bed we went home, laid the turf, planted the new flower bed up and laid slabs for the wheelie bins to sit on. Ugly though they are we don't have anywhere to hide them away, but at least they're now sat on slabs so they're easy to move. There was a flower bed in front of the kitchen window too. It was full of a type of Valerian (I think that's what it is...?) and although it is pretty it was very invasive and growing through the gravel, not to mention soaking us each morning when we had to brush past it to get to the car. Therefore I pulled it all up and again have replanted a smaller amount in the back garden where I can better manage it. This newly emptied bed under the kitchen window was then planted with Osteospermum I bought from the garden centre and with Gaillardia that I have grown from seed. I love Gaillardia and they're great for spreading across a bed and are covered in bright orange and yellow flowers each year.

We both worked very hard anyway and we're really pleased with the finished look; a pretty front garden that's nice and easy to maintain (because all the hard work is in the back garden!). Just a small lawn to mow, Privet to trim and a few flower beds to keep happy. The only jobs we have left out the front to do is pull the remainder of the dead ivy off of the house and re-paint the brickwork. We also desperately need a new front door before the next winter approaches (this one sticks terribly in the cold weather). We'll get there eventually :-)



And because of the pesky cats I've had to protect my new flower beds

The downside of all this gardening? My hay fever is extremely bad at the moment, but I'm determined not to let it get the better of me!

Em x

Monday, 13 June 2016

Football Mad Household - I'd Better Get Used To It!

It's football mad here in our household now that the Euros have started. I'm not a huge football fan to be honest, I much prefer rugby (a sport where real men don't dive on the floor with invisible injuries, not to mention the fact that rugby players have much better manners and respect the referee), however I do like watching international competitions and cheer England on (even if at times we can't bear to watch! - 1-0 up on Saturday and then we let Russia get an equaliser, oh England you were playing so well!).

I bought Barry a little limited edition Euros football on Friday. He is obsessed with any ball, tennis balls are his favourite, but this football was extremely exciting. It took all of 2-3 hours for him to puncture the ball but he's still happily playing with it (thankfully he hasn't tried to shred it apart).

Jack is off to France at the weekend with his best friend to go and watch England play Slovakia next week in the Euros. They're both really looking forward to visiting my parents for a couple of days and they're excited for the football, though the issue of fan violence has overshadowed it somewhat. It's hard to know what to believe with what you hear through the news but I think it's a mixture of various parties causing problems, rather than any country's fans or French police in particular. That's not me trying to say England fans are angels; lots go out there with the sole intent of drinking too much, causing trouble and that ends in violence, which makes me very angry for people like Jack and his friend who are driving out to watch a sport they enjoy and cheer on their country. Anyway, I won't get started on a rant, promise! I'm a bit worried about them going out there but hopefully they'll be safe. 

While Jack is out in France I've got a quiet weekend of crafting, crocheting and house decorating planned. I'm looking forward to a weekend on my own - I can leave yarn all over the sofa and craft supplies all over the dining table, he he! Plus I have Barry to keep me company and I'm hoping the weather will be kind for us to go for some nice long walks locally.

We had a very busy weekend in the front garden, transforming it from an overgrown untidy garden to a presentable, easy to maintain garden. Another blog post on that to follow shortly.

Have a good week all!

Em x

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Walk Around Our Garden

The Alliums are out; this is the first time I've grown these and I love them! It's great to see the bees appreciating them too
I love my little bug house that Jack's parents bought me. Some insects have already made it their home and it's well hidden amongst the blackcurrant bush - there's going to be lots of blackcurrants this summer!
I love the flowers on Chives :-)
Mrs Blackbird has been busy flying in and out of our Clematis; she's making a fantastic nest...
...While Mr Blackbird/potential suitor has been keeping a close watch from the top of our conservatory.
Em x

Wildflower Walkies

Before being struck down with the nasty tonsillitis I enjoyed some lovely walks out with Barry. We've explored a few new circular routes local to us; Barry and I like finding new footpaths etc. to explore and we came across lots of beautiful wildflowers on some of these. I have however got a big bed full of wildflowers in my front garden and I've been picking them occasionally and displaying them in the house, they look so pretty!

Cheeky Barry made himself at home in my crochet blanket!
Em x

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Coles Wedding; My Best Friend Gets Married!

This is a long overdue post but I've spent the past week hardly moving from bed due to a severe case of tonsillitis. It's the most painful I've ever had it and it's completely knocked me for six. I've got no energy, but I've been on antibiotics for a few days now and they're beginning to do their job. My throat isn't so painful, just sore and easily aggravated by eating so I'm resting up as much as I can as I want to get back to work.

Firstly I'll go back to just before the bank holiday weekend when I headed to Suffolk where my best friend Jess lives, to help her set up for her and Robert's wedding. It was great fun, though extremely tiring for all involved but we had lots of giggles and I loved spending a good few days with my Bestie. Robert's a farmer and therefore the wedding theme was rustic/countryside. We did all the flower arranging too which was good fun, but not so much with hay fever which meant I spent more time helping to set things up in the marquee for the reception.

The Wedding Day
Jess, myself and one of the other bridesmaids went to a hotel in nearby Newmarket the night before the wedding. We all had manicures & pedicures before having dinner out and collapsing into our beds exhausted. Saturday morning dawned with not a cloud in the sky and the weather was beyond perfect for the wedding day, I like to think Jess' Mum Jan had something to do with that, to make the day extra special for her daughter. There had been a few tears the night before and the morning of, I wish so much that Jan was still with us and could be there to see her beautiful daughter get married, but I told Jess and completely believe that our loved ones are with us the whole time, so she'd have been there beside Jess giggling as we got our hair and make up done, as I helped Jess into her dress and as her Dad walked into the room to see Jess for the first time in her dress. I feel so honoured to have been a big part of the day and to see Jess so happy too. Jess bought each of the bridesmaids beautiful pearl bracelets which looked lovely beside our dainty bouquets of flowers. Jess's bouquet was extra special, with a photo of her mum attached so Jan would be walking down the aisle with Jess.
The bride, father of the bride, bridesmaids and flower girl travelled in style to the Church just along the road from where Jess and Robert live, in the form of a cute VW Campervan, meanwhile Robert went by Tractor!
The service in the church was lovely, it's a tiny little Church in Little Saxham, but it made the ceremony feel all the more special and intimate for Jess and Rob with their families. I was Maid of Honour and witness for Jess (I was so touched when she asked me about both roles) and I also looked after her little eight year old sister Millie (flower girl) who was extremely nervous about walking down the aisle, though Millie's Mum (Jess' stepmother) Trish was close by. Millie's so lovely and she held my hand tight which I think I appreciated just as much as she did! After the service it was great to see Jack who had been sat a few pews back from me, he looked super smart in his suit. We headed back to the reception venue where a vintage ice cream van served tasty ice creams and these were followed by Pimms and canapés. It was lovely to be able to sit outside the marquee for a while to enjoy the Pimms in the sunshine and see old friends from where Jess and I grew up. We were then seated in the marquee for a tasty main course of steak pie and mash, followed by a dessert of wedding cake - they had 3; a beautiful rustic sponge tower wedding cake, a tasty fruit cake made by Jess' mother in law and an Italian wedding cake too as Rene, Jess' mother in law is half Italian. The food was all delicious.
My place at the table with the handmade favours Jess had done which included a mini jar of homemade strawberry jam, a tea bag and a scone recipe card, cute!
Beautiful wedding cakes
The speeches were incredibly touching, especially Robert's who made special mention to Jan and the fact she wasn't with us. He had everyone in tears at this stage and it was special to raise a toast to Jan.
And then the reception began, with lots of music, dancing, evening sunshine outside and artisan wood fired pizzas for supper. Jess and I love a dance and were up on the dance floor a lot! It was an absolutely amazing day and I was so glad to be a part of it. Jess and Rob are now on their honeymoon in the Maldives and probably having a lovely time!
Jack and I
Back to my bed I go to continue to rest, hopefully I can shake the last of this tonsillitis away soon and feel better. I hate being poorly, I feel so low and sorry for myself. Not to mention to guilt of not being at work eating me up. Being happy and positive when you feel ill is hard!
Em x