Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the sun is out the day is new

(Regina Spektor - You've Got Time)

Wishing you and your families a wonderful year ahead. New Year's Eve leaves me feeling reflective, and this beautiful post from Cathryn at Little Paper Swans reminded me not to pin too much on the changing of the years, and focus more on the day to day. Here's to hope, the hope of the new year, and each new day, and the hope that 2015 holds health and happiness for you all.

Monday, December 29, 2014

a year in books

Oh dear - I do realise the point of NaBloPoMo is not to post religiously for a month and then spend the next month not posting at all, but December seems somehow to have disappeared. There was lots of travelling up and down the country, and then all of a sudden it was Christmas Eve. We had a lovely Christmas Day at our house, the cooking went well, and it was great to relax with family. Unfortunately the post-Christmas long weekend was somewhat hampered by The Husband and I both coming down with the bug that has been doing the rounds, so after a few days dosed up on the sofa suddenly it was back to work this morning and Christmas was over. I must admit to feeling a bit cheated that the much-anticipated festive season passed us by in a blaze of cooking and colds, but the New Year beckons including our Australian adventure and the general sense of hope that January 1st brings with it.

This year I attempted to join in with quite a few online projects. NaBloPoMo was fairly successful, in as much as I managed to complete it. A photo a day, 100 happy days, and the great british bake off bake-along all fell by the wayside one way or another. The one that made the most noticeable difference to life though, was the year in books from Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.

Although I didn't keep up with the posts, I did keep up with the reading, and somewhat tellingly have received more than enough books for Christmas to read one a month for 2015 too. So here is a round up of some of the books I have read in recent months thanks to Laura's project, in case you need any inspiration for next year.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - I really enjoyed the idea of this book to begin with and found it quite an enjoyable read. Towards the end I found it ventured a little too far into the realms of science fiction and I kept re-reading sections convinced I must have missed something but I hadn't. 

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer - A gripping book, I really enjoyed this. The narrator was believable and I liked the style of the writing. Some comparisons have been drawn with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and I could see some of the similarities.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - I thought this was great. A really thought-provoking read, with a brilliant twist about a third of the way through that made for a compelling plot. The language was quite elaborate in parts, but it suited the context of the story.

Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - This was an easy enough read but I found some of it a little grating. I'm glad I read it, it was enjoyable to catch up with Bridget Jones and see where life had taken her, and lots of the satire was right on point.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - It seems sacrilegious to say this after so many rave reviews but I really couldn't get on with this book. I persisted and finished it but I really struggled. I thought some of the writing was beautiful, particularly the scenes describing wartime London, but I found the format of the plot really difficult to engage with.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - I had so many attempts at reading this book I very nearly consigned it to the never-to-be-finished pile but I'm so glad I stuck with it. After two or three false starts I got properly into it and thought it was great. It is worth ploughing through some of the earlier sports-heavy chapters for the characters and sub-plots that come later.

No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe - I read this whole book thinking this was the type of book I wished I could write. Brilliant concept, completely believable vision of the future, felt like a literary version of Black Mirror. I just found the ending slightly too vague, and found myself flicking through the end pages convinced there must be an extra chapter somewhere.

Daughter by Jane Shemilt - Another gripping read with believable characters, and I loved the shifting chronology. There were certain aspects of the plot I found less believable but mostly I was hooked throughout. Although it again felt like it had quite a sudden ending I liked where it finished and thought it was a fitting point to close the book.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh - A series of short case studies from the career of a neurosurgeon, which gives a fascinating insight into the humanity of both the doctor and the patient involved in brain surgery. I couldn't put this down, but it was also good to dip in and out of.

Room by Emma Donoghue - Alongside the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, this was my favourite book of the whole year. I cannot recommend this enough, a fascinating read and beautifully written. After so many of the other books above I expected a disappointing ending but it was perfect from start to finish.

Monday, December 01, 2014

first things first

The first of December. Not entirely sure where 2014 has gone, time definitely seems to be going increasingly quickly, whole years passing by in what feels like weeks.

The first Christmas for a long time (perhaps ever!) without an advent calendar. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On one hand I am nearly 29 and also feel that both from a health point of view and general perspective that I don't need a chocolate treat to count down to Christmas or to celebrate advent. On the other hand I feel like there are some small traditions that it is meaningful to keep, and I miss not having our advent calendars lined up side by side as they have been every other Christmas we have shared in this house. It wasn't a deliberate decision not to get one the chance just hasn't arisen, so who knows we may acquire some albeit a little late!

The first week in a while where I haven't had to pack a suitcase and set off across the country. I will be doing so in a few days but it was good not to feel that the weekend was counting down to an imminent departure. December will still be fairly hectic with nights away every week until Christmas but for now I have some much appreciated days at home.

The first blog post in a month that isn't being written as part of NaBloPoMo and yet I find myself back here so soon. I am somewhat lacking in pictures these days, I do not have much in the way of inspiration and there are only so many pictures of Millie I can put up here. Instead here is one from exactly six months ago, taken in Italy, the view from our hotel room the day after my brother-in-law's wedding.

The first steps of our Australian travel plans are getting sorted. We have a few hotels and flights booked and a clear idea of the rest of our destinations. It is lovely to see it coming together and so exciting to be in contact with my family over there and knowing we will be meeting up soon. 

The first day of the last month of a very eventful year. Just like 2013, this year has had its fair share of ups and downs. The Husband and I are both reflecting on the fact that this Christmas will be the first without some family members and friends. It has been a less relentless year than last, and we have both achieved a lot both professionally and at home. I'm looking forward to Christmas and to spending December gradually bringing this year to a close, and then to 2015 and the months ahead.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

mission complete

Hurrah for a month of posts. I'm under no illusions that they were particularly high quality posts, or that it amounted to anything other than a few lines about my day on most entries. However I'm glad to have kept it up. I have just seen something on twitter about a Blogmas challenge where there are 25 topics to post on in the run up to Christmas. I shall resist the urge to commit myself to that before I've even finished this one, as lovely as it would be to have a blog version of an advent calendar, it will be quite a relief to not feel the need to post every day.

I didn't relish having to write daily, especially after a late night or long train journey, and I was very conscious that it wasn't the most interesting content. In fact, according to bloglovin I managed to lose a subscriber in recent weeks which confirms my suspicions that it might not have been a riveting month of reading! I am very grateful for those of you that did comment, especially Penny of The Homemade Heart and Tess from driftwood. Their regular comments reassured me that there was someone out there reading it so thank you very much!

I won't be posting quite so regularly from now on but will try and keep it up more frequently. I still find the blogger app less than ideal to use (can't do hyperlinks, can't insert pictures from a URL, the font messes up, no spellcheck, etc etc) so I dislike blogging on the move which is when I am most likely to get the chance.

Having said that there are lots of things to write about, not least the wonderful evening we have just had at Breakout Manchester ( I would link if I could!), and an update on all the brilliant books I have read recently. So expect plenty more posts, although hopefully slightly less quantity and slightly more quality!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

doggy delights

Five things that happen when you own a dog:

1. Everything you own is covered in an indelible film of dog hair. Every time you wear a coat you find a supply of little plastic dog waste bags (unused I hasten to add) in every pocket 

2. Nothing below waist height can be assumed to be safe. Clothes, towels, skirting boards are all prime chewing targets.

3. Even if the dog has never been allowed any food from your plate at any point in her life, you will never again be allowed to eat a meal in peace, instead being constantly disturbed by a wet nose appearing at your side trying to win some scraps.

4. Any plans that take you out of the house for more than a few hours require careful consideration. On any trip away without the dog you have at least three conversations a day discussing how you think the dog is.

5. Even a quiet, low key Saturday night in front of the tv becomes relaxing
family time with the dog curled up across your knees. Just a shame about the state of your clothes when you come to go to bed!

Friday, November 28, 2014

that friday feeling

Well the travel was worthwhile, a really interesting trip, and that is the best you can ask. It makes being away from home feel more justified. As lovely as it is to see new cities, I seem to have an ever growing list of places to go back and visit with The Husband so that I can properly explore.

It is so good to be home, better still to have had a brilliant night with family. There is a music quiz my parents' friends run twice a year and we spent the evening there. They said tonight they have been running it for seventeen years now and I think perhaps we have been going ever since it started. It has become a real family tradition and I always really look forward to it. We never manage to win but it is always great fun and a really relaxed night with family and friends. It's weird to think now that I have been going for nearly two thirds of my life. Long may it continue, maybe one day we might even win!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

it is...

... almost tomorrow

... almost too late

... only one more sleep until I am home

... the end of an excellent day

... time to say goodnight

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

on the move

I don't recall having ever been to King's Cross Station before, I'm sure I would have remembered that ceiling. I set off from there three and a half hours ago and I am still travelling. I am eagerly awaiting my hotel bed. The journey has been quite pleasant, although I finished my book last night so I have resorted to iplayer downloads to keep me entertained. I have so far watched Only Connect, University Challenge, Have I Got News for You, a brilliant documentary about Poets of the First World War, and am currently trying to resist shouting out the answers to the few questions I know on Mastermind. It has been an educational few hours!

I realise that I have resorted to technology to pass the time but the view from the window is simply endless darkness and those around me do not appear available for conversation. Not that I mind, it has been good to have the luxury of a few hours of escapism. I particularly enjoyed the documentary, I would never normally sit and watch something like that at home and it was very interesting. I have always enjoyed poetry but there is something particularly moving about seeing it in context, and the programme showed brilliantly the history and geography surrounding the texts.

We have just pulled up at a station and I am watching a reunion on the platform of a young man and woman through the window. It was not a dramatic greeting, she looked tired from travelling, a weariness I well recognise. There was a long hug, both seeming to visibly relax as they embraced. It conveyed to me a sense that for them order had been restored, that gently, life was righting itself to the status quo. Suddenly home feels very distant, and Friday (when I finally get back) seems far too far away.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

as in nature, as in art

There is something I find mesmerising about the colours of autumn, and particularly about trees at this time of year.

I love the skeleton that is revealed as the leaves fall, the way the network of branch upon branch seems to grow upwards and outwards like fingers reaching for the sky.

I am also fascinated by the way nature mirrors itself. Seeing the hidden structure under the foliage seems to me to replicate the networks of vessels and nerves in the human body. The same sense of an unseen system, forming the roots and branches of life. This picture on display at the Museum of Science and Industry recently, albeit not particularly autumnal, shows the wiring of the human brain and goes some way to depicting what I mean.

There is something so beautiful I think about these images, something soothing about the consistency of nature's design. I love the sense that all life is in some way the same patterns repeated. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

holiday snaps

I very nearly forgot to post, so very close to finishing NaBloPoMo and it somehow slipped my mind tonight. So I did a quick trawl through the archives and found some never before seen footage of our holiday. Exactly 6 months ago we were wandering through a market in Milan and these are some of the sights that caught my eye, my favourite is still the phone that looks like a face.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

lovely letters

I saw something on twitter the other day that inspired me to do something lovely, and I'm very glad it did. As part of their Christmas campaign, Marks and Spencers have been tweeting regularly through @thetwofairies and on Monday they suggested sending a spontaneous gift to a friend.

I saw the tweet as I was finishing work, and decided to do exactly that. I have two friends who are both working particularly hard at the moment, and I don't see either of them regularly purely because of distance. For all a text message lets them know I'm thinking of them, sometimes good old snail mail simply can't be beaten.

via thegreengables

I wanted to send them a surprise, but knew I was heading away with work, and so ventured to I've never used the site before, have you? I managed to find a little edible gift for them both, for just a few pounds, and even better I then discovered that personalised cards were free with any gift. I couldn't find many "just because" type cards, but got there eventually with a bit of searching, and dropped them both a line.

I've heard from them both since, saying how much it cheered up their day to get a parcel (although I hadn't thought through that having to queue in the post office was extra hassle they could have done without!), and what a surprise it had been. It was so great to have made them smile, albeit from a distance, for no other reason than because I wanted to let them know I was thinking of them. This isn't a sponsored post, I just wanted to recommend both the service at Moonpig, and more generally, the idea of a bit of spontaneous gift giving! As well as hopefully making their weeks a little brighter, it has made my week happier too. I have been really excited, knowing that they would soon be getting an unexpected surprise, and so happy to hear from them when their deliveries arrived.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

leaves by lamplight

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.

(Extract from American Family by Faith Baldwin)

Friday, November 21, 2014

resistance training

There is nothing like your own bed, and seeing your husband and cuddling your dog, after a spell away from home. It is bittersweet as I already feel like the hours are ticking down until I leave again for another four days, but I will stop thinking about that for now.

One of the side effects of staying away from home is the food available, and it has been a test for my first week of trying to live more healthily. And, without sounding too smug, I've been pretty pleased with how I've got on. There is nothing quite like a hotel breakfast, particularly at the place I was at this week, there are pancakes and syrup, muffins, donuts, pain au chocolat, all manner of cooked breakfast, cereals, biscuits, pastries. 

I was also at an all day meeting today, the kind with lunch provided and rich chocolate desserts, tea and coffee breaks with trays of cakes and biscuits. Uncharacteristically for me I managed to resist temptation on all fronts. Ommelette, fruit and yoghurt at breakfast, coffee without a sweet treat at the break, lunch without the dessert. 

That's not to say I've been perfect, I've eaten out two nights this week, and on both occasions I ate what I wanted and enjoyed it. I'm feeling better overall though and also am starting to feel, particularly today, that I have made progress in overcoming my sugar cravings. I've been enjoying doing a quick daily yoga session via youtube too, and have been having the good kind of aches and pains that come from moving muscles that have been long out of use.

Apologies if this sounds in any way self righteous, I just feel that perhaps part of the motivation this week has been from writing out why I needed an overhaul, and what the health benefits would be. Now to sleep and enjoy a weekend of home comforts.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

sea fever

I must down to the seas again,

for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying

And the flung spray and the blown spume

and the sea-gulls crying

(extract from Sea-Fever by John Masefield)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

late again

It appears I am committed to the cause if not to the content. I have just got in from a very good night, and wanted to make sure I popped by, if only to wish you a very good night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

bright lights big city

I am very conscious that the quality of my posts is decreasing rapidly with every passing day! Real life is taking over, as well it should. I am surrounded, currently, by odd shoes, discarded hangers, crumpled clothes and clinging desperately to a hastily written list seeking some semblance of order.

It is time to start travelling again. I have organised reams of train tickets, and my diary shows many nights of hotel rooms between now and Christmas, and many more long days on trains up and down the country. My packing system was pretty well honed but this week I have a formal occasion to attend too and that complicated things immensely! I'm looking at what still has to go in and thinking I may well need to swap to a bigger case.

It will be fun to see a few different places over the next month, and as much as I miss home and get pre-trip blues, I'm also realising how exciting it is to have a job that allows me to travel to cities I haven't visited in years, and spend evenings with family who live miles away from home. 

I shall try to keep up the posting until the end of NaBloPoMo but I apologise in advance if I continue down the route of single sentences and random pictures!

Monday, November 17, 2014

down the rabbit hole

Today has been lovely, and ended with a great evening with friends. Alas, I am so close to being too late that I am afraid I am in the paradoxical situation that in order to post something I will have to write absolutely nothing at all....

Sunday, November 16, 2014

what has been

This weekend there has been lots of little things ticked off. There has been shopping where we stocked up on healthier food and didn't spend the earth. There has been much in the way of better meals, more fruit, more vegetables, more effort admittedly, but for the most part more enjoyable.

There has been a trip to the Christmas markets, which always sound more festive than they really are, crowded with people and lots of expensive stalls, but still enjoyable, to see the lights and get into the spirit of the season. There has been a wonderful trip to the theatre, which was our real reason for heading into the city, seeing a fabulous production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Royal Exchange.

There has been tidying and cleaning and washing and general weekend jobs. There has been two long dog walks in the fields and woods, enjoying being out and getting moving. There has even been a brief spell of youtube yoga which I immediately loved and think will become a habit, particularly as it is a 30 day series I started doing. There has been a knock on effect from the walking and the good food in that I am taking better care of my skin and generally treating myself more kindly, taking off make up, lighting candles, doing my nails.

There has been home cooked dinners and grandad joined us tonight, followed up with an episode of grand designs where we both agreed that the house was incredible but that we would have done it differently, but then Grandad is a builder. There has been plans, slowly, slowly, developing for Australia but still nothing concrete yet, decisions to be made especially about Ayer's Rock, which may have to be left this time.

There has been lots done, knowing that I am away from home a lot this week, but also looking forward to dinner with a good friend tomorrow - a double date will be a nice end to a Monday. And now there will be sleep.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

let sleeping dogs lie

Because there is nothing lovelier than getting home from a chilly November walk across the fields and sitting down with a hot drink and a warm puppy gradually dozing off on you.




Friday, November 14, 2014

returning the favour

via pinterest

This time last year I had quite a bad car accident. Considering that the car landed on its roof I was actually very lucky to be able to get out (with the help of very kind passers-by) and to walk away without any serious injuries. I still am a much more nervous driver, and I have noticed that since I've stopped driving to work in the last few months I feel even less confident when I do come to go somewhere in my car. I haven't stopped driving though and hope that in time confidence will return.

The only real injury I had, bar some pretty big bruises, was some ongoing pain in my knee. It is only through that kind of physical trauma that you truly appreciate what an incredible thing your own body is. To withstand being thrown upside down and ricocheted around (thank goodness for seat belts or it could have been much worse), to not break and to gradually heal is pretty astounding. A colleague has recently had an injury and she said something that really resonated with me. Through her efforts to exercise, to rehabilitate, she realised just how strong and powerful her body is. Having spent years seeing flaws and feeling weak or less than perfect it has taken an injury to make her realise how grateful she is for the body she has always had.

via pinterest

Although I was astounded at how little damage my body had incurred, I can't honestly say I have been as respectful of mine as she has been of hers. I too easily saw the niggling pain in my knee as an excuse not to exercise. My body has suffered more, albeit minor assaults, in the last year. A slip out of the shower has worsened the pain in my knee, although a scan showed damage, it was not enough to warrant surgery. And so the excuses increased. 

A trip on the pavement on the way to work, a fall off a chair (perfect comedy moment), and my body has been feeling increasingly clumsy and uncoordinated. Not to mention that along with the lack of activity I seem to have foregone health in all aspects of life. Too much pre-packaged food, too much sugar, too many takeaways. For all the good my body did me when I needed it I feel like I am letting it down, and it's showing. 

This isn't about feeling thin, although I absolutely need to lose weight. It's about feeling strong and healthy. It's about recognising that whilst the human body is an incredible thing, I am not giving mine the best possible chance. It's also about feeling my age, and not spending weekends, sitting on the sofa, eating rubbish and wondering why I don't have the energy to do anything other than work. It's about recovering once and for all from the niggling pains that I have had over the last twelve months, getting my body moving and enjoying it. It's also about eating better, more fruit and vegetables, more natural ingredients, less nipping to the shop for lunch because I didn't bother to make any, or bother to eat a proper breakfast either.

I realise this is perhaps the worst time of year to be starting this, filled as it is with parties and treats and goodies. But more persuasive is the idea of travelling around Australia and not feeling like I'm holding back The Husband because I can't keep up, not feeling uncomfortable in the heat because clothes don't fit properly, and not spending the whole trip eating rubbish because I still haven't broken the sugar habit.

via meetville

I'm hopeful that being open about this on here will hold me more accountable. That having this written out to be able to return to will be a good starting point. I've also realised that just as the internet, and technology in general, can be a great thief of time and cause of inactivity, it can also be a great resource for inspiration, which I intend to start putting to good use. Today seems like a good day to commit to being healthier, and to look after the body that has looked after me.

via wordsonimages

Thursday, November 13, 2014

an absence of eloquence

Today I forgot my phone. Once I had emailed Mum and The Husband to let them know and dissuade any worries if I didn't respond to the usual morning text it really wasn't a concern. I was surprised how often I went to check it, what a reflex action it has become for me to reach for the reassurance of a text or an email. I don't particularly use my phone during the working day but I realised I must check for updates on an alarmingly frequent basis. I actually turned off automatic alerts a while ago, so that I wouldn't be distracted from a task by the flash of the screen. Instead it seems I distract myself by manually updating my mobile instead. I don't have any drawers at my desk (the side effects of hot desking) but I am tempted to try leaving my phone out of sight to try and break the habit.

During the day, other than the sense of my subconscious routine having been disrupted, I wasn't at all disconcerted about the lack of a phone. As long as my family knew I was ok and I was sure it was at home rather than lost I was unconcerned. On the commute though, was a different matter. This morning I barely noticed, generally in the morning I am still bleary eyed and trying to stay upright on a crowded, hot train. I regularly close my eyes and count the minutes - too penned in to attempt to rummage around for entertainment in the bottom of my bag. Travelling home I luxuriated in the rare treat of a seat, a delight except for the complete and utter bewilderment I felt as I looked around the carriage.

Row after row of plugged in people. Fingers frantically flicking, eyes skimming screen after screen of information, whilst wires protruded from ears completing the circuit between man and machine. Phones, tablets, e-readers, sitting, standing, leaning on a bike. One person I could see was reading a newspaper but everyone else in my line of sight was simply the crown of a head, face buried into technology.

I actually felt odd, like I was the unusual one. Another day recently some older ladies got on the rush hour train and were right next to me. It became apparent from what they said that they had just been to the theatre and I asked what they had seen. We chatted on and off during the twenty minutes of my journey about different shows. It was perfectly pleasant and I got off the train with a smile, we wished each other a safe journey, and it struck me what a shame it was that it felt unusual to have done that. I could see people around looking as we spoke, bemused that strangers would strike up a conversation and find something in common.

I'm not a technophobe by any means and would still sooner carry my phone than not. I just think the art of conversation is slowly dying, social media is making us ever less sociable and we are so busy downloading data into our brains that we forget to look up or speak out. It is nothing new or original but today I really did sense it so starkly as I saw how dehumanised we appeared as a collective mass, connected to electronics and disconnected from each other. The irony is not lost on me that I am writing this on my phone whilst The Husband, who I haven't seen properly in days is sat next me, and I am tutting as he tries to chat because I want to get this finished. So I will finish. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


In the absence of anything exciting to report from a long day travelling with work, I took inspiration from the WriteALM prompts and thought I would share a few photographic memories of recent weeks.

A spontaneous day of annual leave spent on the beach with Millie followed by fish and chips - bliss!

Family lie ins on a Sunday morning.

Our kind of husband and wife selfie on a trip to a museum.

Creatures at the Minster in Doncaster after a trip to the races.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Tonight The Husband is working away. It is odd having the house to myself. I have been for dinner at my parents (the joys of having them round the corner). I've decided to come and read in bed, an early night, pyjamas and a cup of tea. And of course Millie for company

Perhaps you may remember this post? Oh how long ago that seems now. How resolute we were, and determined not to give in. How naive of us. It is now a Sunday morning tradition to go and let her out, after which she follows us upstairs and curls up on the blanket  for a family lie in. So far tonight she has, in turn, brought up and on to the bed, a toy bone, her blanket, a toy stick, and now a toy hoop. She has just had a bonkers five minutes getting very confused by the sight of herself on my screen. I try to console myself with the thought that she won't be allowed to stay up here overnight, but I think it is clear that she has won game, set and match.

linking up with Amanda's November prompts

Monday, November 10, 2014

when i get older

(The Beatles - When I'm 64)

Text conversation with my Grandad yesterday:

hope you are ok lots of love xx

Just practising snorkelling on the carpet love you loads xxx grdad

It's if you spot any fishes you need to worry!! xx

Just swam past a tin of salmon, going faster than me xxx

One of my favourite memories of last Christmas is that I had an advent calendar with a joke on each window. Each day I would text him the first part, and invariably the punch line he would send back would be far more entertaining than the one I had to offer. My Grandad isn't just funny, he is one of the kindest, most sociable people I know. It is well accepted in our family that you can't go in to town with him without him seeing at least three different people he knows. He was reading the local paper at our house the other day and knew two of the people who featured in different articles.

via emotionsforever

In the last few years he has built us an extension from scratch, cut down trees, re-paved our patio, and only this week he replaced a door and offered to put coving in our hallway. Not bad for someone who turned 80 a few years ago. As someone who worries easily about the worst case scenario I see my Grandad getting ready to come travelling to Australia with us, getting excited at the prospect of seeing parts of the world he hasn't seen before and see how much better things are when you focus on the positive parts of a situation instead of worrying about what could go wrong. If I am lucky enough to reach my eighties with as much health, humour and happiness as my Grandad has I will consider it a life well lived.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

there's no place like home

Millie is currently lying across my lap, snoring. The house is clean and there is newly washed bedding on the bed. All of the ironing is done (courtesy of The Husband). The fridge is stocked. There are fresh flowers, lilies thanks to my Grandad and roses from my parents who are home from their trip. We have had a quiet, cozy night curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine.

These are my favourite kind of Sundays. A lie in, a few productive hours, and then a calm, happy evening feeling rested and ready for the week ahead. There are some busy weeks coming up again for both The Husband and I. There are big adventures too as we plan our travels in just two months time. But for tonight, I am grateful for the small pleasures of flowers and a freshly made bed.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

recipe: bacon, leek and potato pie

I do love it when a plan comes together. I am, unfortunately, not talking about our travel plans just yet. We have made some progress today but still very much at the drawing board stage. If I thought commuting was tricky, planning a trip for three, across the vast geography of Australia, with limited time and budget is proving infinitely more complex. I am very much looking forward to going, but trying to make sure we plan a realistic, but special holiday that doesn't blow the budget all together is the task ahead!

On an altogether smaller scale, though, was the creation of this recipe and it is being firmly placed in the successfully completed plans box. It was one of those recipes borne purely out of what was left lurking in the fridge before I do the weekly shop tomorrow, knowing that Grandad was coming for dinner and wondering what to make. With a trusty BBC Good Food recipe, the saving grace of some puff pastry lurking in the freezer, and the fact that a good home-made pie is an unbeatable meal on a cold, dark, November night, I turned leftovers into a great dinner. It's pretty much the BBC Good Food recipe (link below) just adapted a little to what I had in, and other than a rogue bay leaf that ended up on The Husband's plate it worked very well. I don't ever feel like a particularly good cook, I enjoy baking cakes, but savoury dishes are not really my thing, so it was lovely to eat something and feel like it had been a success.

Recipe: Bacon, Leek and Potato Pie

Serves 4

(Recipe ever so slightly adapted from BBC Good Food)


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion
3 medium leeks
1 packet of smoked bacon (300g)
4 large potatoes
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
300ml chicken stock
100ml milk
3 tbsp flour
2 tsp english mustard
3-4 bay leaves
1 egg


  • Preheat oven to 180° C.
  • Boil kettle of water. Whilst kettle is boiling, peel potatoes and chop into medium chunks.
  • Put potatoes in pan, cover with boiling water, add salt, and put on high heat to boil.
  • While potatoes are boiling, peel and slice onion and slice leeks. 
  • Heat oil in an ovenproof pan/dish (if you don't have one make this mixture in a pan and transfer to pie dish later).
  • Add onions and leeks to oil and cook to soften. Sprinkle with flour.
  • Chop bacon into strips and add to onion and leeks. Stir until bacon cooked through.
  • Add mustard, milk, bay leaves and chicken stock to mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
  • When potatoes are cooked add to the mixture and heat until thickened (transfer to pie dish now if required).
  • Top with sheet of pastry, cut some slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg.
  • Bake in oven for twenty minutes, until pastry is risen and golden.
  • Serve (keep an eye out for the bay leaves!).