Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Highclere Castle/Downton Abbey

Our good friends Laura and Hugh came to stay with us at the weekend and it was great to catch up with them. Back in February we booked tickets to go and visit Highclere Castle as it is extremely popular and tickets sell out fast.

The weather was a little hit and miss to begin with but we really enjoyed wandering around the house, Laura and I nattering away constantly about Downton Abbey and various scenes from the TV series, while the boys trundled along behind us. By the time we got outside again to have a drink at the café and wander around the walled gardens the sun had reappeared and it was a beautiful day. The gardens were very pretty, smelled wonderful as everything was in flower and then we headed off for Sunday lunch at The Woodspeen, my favourite restaurant!

Here's a few photos from our visit to Highclere Castle

Em x

What We've Been Up To Lately

Apologies again for lack of blog posts!

We've been enjoying the sunshine and garden lots just recently and all our hard work in the garden seems to be paying off. Jack's shed is all finished, painted and shelving sorted inside. It's looking neat and tidy and we finally got the sign up that I bought for Jack at Christmas.

The wheat was harvested last week, straw has been baled and now there's just a stubble field left; that brings back memories of galloping across stubble fields on ponies! Our house has been filthy with dust thanks to the combines but I don't begrudge them too much as I can never get bored of our beautiful view and watching them work.

We have visited the Garden Centre a couple of times just recently and picked up a few brilliant bargains. Almost everything at this time of year is at least 50% off at our garden centre and so far we've picked up a raspberry plant for £5 a Blueberry plant for £6, a large Hibiscus for £4 which is now flowering as well as a few other Alpines and bedding plants for the borders. I got some beautiful Dahlias too with this giant pot's worth only setting us back £3! It's nice to add lots more colour to the garden, especially as a nice contrast to our newly painted back fence. I've just got a few more panels left to paint this week if I can.

We finally got around to replacing the two rotten fence panels in the back garden with new ones (more painting for me!) and we've taken out the redundant smaller panels that sat in front, so the garden seems even bigger now for some reason. That's the last of the big jobs done in the garden anyway, other than re-laying the patio at some stage but I think we wait until next year to tackle that job. It was very windy on Saturday when Jack and his friend fitted the new fence panels; Grandad's Rhubarb plant in the garden was almost a victim, one of my beautiful National Trust pots got knocked over and smashed and they managed to break all of the Sweetcorn stalks, never mind! Jack does however realise he owes me a new plant pot and they're not cheap!

This week is all about getting organised for our holiday next week, so lots of tidying, sorting and packing to do. We made a nice £150 on eBay at the weekend for the purpose of some extra spending money in America so I now have lots of parcels to take to the post office, the chore part of selling on eBay! It's good to get rid of things we didn't want anyway. I've also been busy making more crochet and other items ready to start selling on Etsy once I'm back from our holiday and I've been making a birthday present for my brother's girlfriend too - I'll show you photos soon.

It's going to be hot hot hot today so I had better get on with painting these fence panels - no doubt Barry will keep me company, he's usually found somewhere nearby up to mischief!

Em x

Having A Go At Embroidery

Morning all, I hope you're all well and enjoying the sunshine today. A few complained about the rain over the weekend but it was gratefully received in our garden. We've had a pretty good summer so far which has meant hardly any rain, so a chance for the water butts to refill is always nice.

I recently had a go at some embroidery having bought a little beginners kit recently off of Etsy, which I'm yet to start. In between all the crochet it's nice to do some sewing and I'm in the process of making a hanging wall organiser, decorated with a bit of embroidery. I'm quite pleased how this has come out anyway for my first attempt - something you have to be patient with!

I should have more photos of the finished product to show you soon.

Jo, I'm conscious I haven't yet posted the chocolate cake recipe yet, promise to try and get round to it before I go on holiday! I can't deny Mike and the boys chocolate cake! :-)

Have a great week everyone!

Em x

Monday, 8 August 2016

Countryfile Live

Good morning all! I hope everyone has enjoyed the weekend sunshine, it was glorious here in West Berkshire/Oxfordshire and I heard that it's meant to get even warmer towards the end of the week. Just to say a special thank you to Dawn and to Jo for your lovely comments on my last blog post, it really was appreciated!

We had a great day out to Countryfile Live on Saturday at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. It's the first time they've done this event and I think it was a huge success for them, though a few glitches with parking and layouts perhaps to think about for next year. We got there at 10am in order to spend a good amount of time there and we went prepped with a picnic blanket, plenty of water, Barry's collapsible bowl (best purchase I ever made!) and money of course! Barry was very excited to be walking along beside us, meeting lots of other people and dogs and other animals too - he got a kiss from a very cute Berkshire Piglet at one stage! It was a very hot and sunny day, a lot warmer than expected for lots of people so I'm glad we went prepared. It was easy to get down the pretty bridge and river area so we visited there often during the day to let Barry cool off properly in the water. He loves a swim and fetching a stick! (video on my Instagram if anyone's interested - @handmade_em).

There was lots going on at the event and plenty to take part in which is what made it such a great day I thought; fairground rides, lots of agricultural machinery to look at, local food produce stalls, Adam's farm area with lots of different livestock to see, an equine area and a dog area, not to mention the fantastic craft stalls. It was great to see stands such as The Woodland Trust so busy with people getting involved in planting more trees, we even took part in a quiz - I need to brush up on my tree knowledge! We enjoyed watching a few different events in the many arenas and enjoyed a very tasty hog roast roll for lunch followed by some lovely ice cream made in Yorkshire. We saw Adam Henson in the livestock area cuddling some cute Berkshire piglets. It was the Gloucester Old Spot piggies that I fell for though, they've always been my favourite pig breed, closely followed by Tamworths.

I most enjoyed the huge array of craft stalls on offer; it was nice to see so many artists, crafters etc. and even better to see their work and watch them making some too. I chatted with a few artists - I fell in love with so many pieces of artwork and I like to let them know how lovely they are. I only wish I could afford to buy them all! Sadly our lifestyle doesn't stretch to becoming avid art collectors, but I'm determined to save up for a few pieces in the near future. I was especially taken with Debby Mason's beautiful sea-inspired artwork. It's very rare you see Whale art and I'm obsessed with whales - Jack had to tear me away eventually! There was a beautiful Blue Whale piece and after dogs and horses they're my favourite animals. It's definitely going on my wishlist! These are a few other stalls that really stood out to me on Saturday, do take a look in case any of their wonderful items appeal to you too:

Debby Mason Artist
Hogben Pottery
Sally's Shed
Emily Cross Ceramics

Concentrating very hard in case I drop any of my ice cream!

It was a really great day and I'll definitely be going again next year and I would definitely recommend it to you all. We got home at around 5pm on Saturday feeling very tired after all the sunshine and walking. Barry had a snooze on my lap all evening but was back to his usual energetic self by Sunday morning! We had a quieter day yesterday; we went strawberry picking with a few friends, I cooked a roast dinner as we hadn't had one in ages and we also bought some bargain plants at the local garden centre, all of them 50% off. I got them all planted up before spending the remainder of the evening sprawled on the sofa watching some of the Olympics. Go GB! With a big cheer for William Fox-Pitt one of our GB eventers! 9 months ago he was in a coma after a bad fall while eventing in France and it's been a tough time for him to get back to the level he was at and now he's currently sat in gold medal position after dressage, with Cross country later today! I'll definitely be tuning into the cross country this afternoon while doing some crafting!

Have a great week everyone!

Em x

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Small Steps Towards Making Some Changes

I've finally got around to organising all of my craft materials properly! I've been collecting corks for a while as I've got a piece of artwork I want to make using them!

I hope everyone is well and the change in weather isn't affecting you all too much; we had a night of heavy rain on Monday but I'm not complaining as it's filled our water butts to the brim and saved me the job of watering the garden for a couple of days after 3 weeks of non-stop sunshine. The sun returned yesterday and we enjoyed a lovely evening walk with Barry; he discovered rabbits a few months ago and enjoys the odd pursuit! I'm relieved that his Terrier instinct isn't too strong when it comes to the chase and because he's a giant Pansy/Girls Blouse he instead just chases until he gets within a few metres of them and then decides they're actually a little bigger than first thought and so he 'herds' them back towards their homes! It's funny watching his little legs racing across the field after the rabbits anyway and it's good exercise for him!

Barry is incredibly fit and when Jack and I went running with him last weekend we realised just how unfit we are! We're doing lots of exercise and healthy eating before America though (where we will be devouring copious amounts of naughty but tasty American food!). We fly to San Francisco at the end of this month and we can't wait to start our California road trip! We've booked a few activities in advance including a tour of Alcatraz after having multiple people telling us we must do it (the thought of wandering around a prison doesn't excite me, but I'll give it a go) and more importantly a whale watching trip at Monterey Bay!

I have to admit that I've been struggling a bit of late and I'm hoping when I come back from holiday I'll have a refreshed mind-set. I'm in the process of getting a small business set up with all of my craft and crochet bits that I've been making and I'm trying to do it properly in order to prove to myself I am capable (whereas at the moment a little voice in my head keeps telling me it will fail and the anxiety demons keep looming) and I really want to make a go of it. I'll hopefully have a proper website soon as well as an Etsy shop and I've got lots of ideas so watch this space!

 A recent baby blanket I've made, ready to add to the collection of handmade items I'll be selling soon hopefully!

An order I completed recently for a friend; cute little baby booties!

For a long time I've believed that I've made my bed so I must lie in it but family and friends keep telling me that it's never too late to make changes to do what you love. I'm not driven by money in the slightest and I find it depressing that the world revolves around it so much that to a certain extent you do have to take great care with every penny (especially as we, like most of the population, have a mortgage and bills to pay!). That's what makes going down different paths so tough; the unknown, something that strikes fear in my mind every single day. I do take each day as it comes, but I spend a good proportion of each day worrying about what the future holds. I feel like I'm yet to find my purpose in life other than making everyone around me happy, which has always been most important to me above all else, but perhaps I will now take Jack's advice a little and make myself happy too, even though I'm not quite sure how to do that! I'm sorry for being negative, I know sometimes it probably seeps into my blog posts, but sometimes being able to write it down does really help at the thought of strangers reading it but my readers always being so kind and supportive, especially when the only person I feel like I can go to for support is Jack. Obviously Jack gets it every day and I'm extremely lucky that he's such a good listener and that he always tries to offer advice and support, but at the end of the day it's only me that can make the changes and I've got to be brave and get on and do it - try and try again and all that!

Ending on a positive note, here's a beautiful Brimstone Butterfly in our garden :-)

I'll hopefully have more to report to you about soon and apologies again for the moaning!

Em x