Tuesday, April 28, 2015

you made me feel like the one

(Dakota - Stereophonics)

I got back from London tonight, met at the train station by The Husband and Millie, who was looking very happy see me bouncing around the front seat of the car. It is nice to be home, I got work done on the train, which I don't normally manage, and after a quiet hour catching up with blogs I am planning a run (after a few days break - wish me luck) and a few bits and bobs of jobs, mainly sorting out the recycling. Not the most glamorous of tasks, but I quite enjoy ten minutes of organising things into the containers, it feels quite nicely productive, and there's obviously that slight smugness that comes from having done something that feels environmentally friendly!

As I ate some dinner, The Husband kindly undertook the serious work of removing Millie's hair from my coat after her over-zealous cuddles in the car (thank goodness for our sticky roller gadget - bought when I was completely and unusually won over by one of those bizarre product demonstrations in the middle of a supermarket shop). I spotted this article about this collection of pictures by an artist called Puuung, entitled Love is in the Small Things. I don't want to reproduce them here, as they are obviously original work, but do go and look at them. To me they perfectly captured all those small moments that make up a loving relationship, sitting watching a film, having a silly dance around the kitchen, singing along to a song in unison (if not in tune), sharing the little things. The Husband handed me a cup of tea and we looked through them together, and I felt happy to be home, and lucky to be loved in all of the small ways.

UPDATE: lest I start to present an image on this blog that is verging on blissful domesticity please note the following - shortly after writing this I went to do the aforementioned recycling only to find one of the multiple containers required was missing. Undeterred, I took the proactive approach and went to request a new one on the local council website. At exactly the moment I realised, with much frustration, that the one webpage I needed was inexplicably unavailable, Millie took it upon herself to, without warning, wee on the floor (a habit we thought she had long ago left behind but has made a recurrence more than once in recent weeks). To add insult to injury she targeted not only the floor and the nearby blanket but also the charger for The Husband's laptop which promptly short circuited and tripped all of the fuses for the entire house. The blanket is in the wash, the floor is cleaned, the electricity is back on, the clocks have been reset and I am most proud of the fact that I even made it out for my run. The recycling bag is still not ordered, however, and Millie is most definitely in the dog house.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

project 365: week 17

I did warn you that this is a spectacularly unexciting week of photos, so apologies for the lack of inspiration over the last seven days!

109. Ready for a run in the sunshine, having got out of the habit while in Brussels it was good to get back into it and realise I hadn't lost all of the improvements I had built up over the previous weeks.

110. The blossom on the tree in our garden caught my eye as I let Millie out in the morning. 

111. So very, very close to missing a day. After travelling to London and then getting back late from an evening with colleagues, I completely forgot to take a picture. I was so disappointed to think I hadn't managed to keep it up, and then found this screenshot on my phone from this article I was reading. I took the picture because I was struggling to read it on my phone, and thought zooming in might make it clearer, as you can see it didn't (the link takes you to an easier to read one), so I apologise for the appalling contribution to day 111 but I was so very pleased to realise I had a contribution at all!

112. Dark chocolate, a good book, and an early night to cheer me up in the midst of a very busy week.

113. Another by the bed shot, and another blurry shot I'm afraid, of my bedtime cup of tea.

114. On the road with The Husband after work on Friday, to go and meet up with a big group of friends from his university days. Lovely weather, and a lovely journey, chatting, reading and enjoying the views.

115. Just by means of a change, a by the bed shot from the hotel room, after a great night out with friends. This book was brilliant, absolutely captivating, and has brought me lots of enjoyment this week.

Linking up with The Boy and Me

Friday, April 24, 2015

word of the week #17

After a lovely weekend of afternoon tea on Saturday, and meeting up with a friend on Sunday, it has been a bit of a mundane week. There has been plenty of work and long days. I flicked back through my photos for some inspiration, and they were pretty uninspired too (it is not going to be an exciting 365 post on Sunday I warn you now - the heady days of koalas and dolphins are long gone!).

What I did notice was the light. Photos of the warm afternoon walk by the lake with Millie and The Husband on Saturday, the new rosebud on the kitchen windowsill in the afternoon sun on Sunday, blue skies in the garden and rainbow coloured shadows in the hall  on Monday. 

It has been a lovely week of sunshine, glorious skies every day, no trudging from work in the rain or battling with a brolly blowing inside out. There has been a resultant coat dilemma, where my long woolly winter one seems a little excessive all of a sudden but the thought of not wearing one at all seems cavalier (I obviously have a very mild definition of cavalier). We have sat in the conservatory  reading, played fetch with Millie in the garden - although she is still a little unclear on the bringing the ball back part of that game so it tends more towards chase, and even been to a garden centre making plans for a vegetable patch.

Typically, it just started spitting as I have been writing this, as The Husband drives us to meet up with some friends for the weekend. However, it has stopped as quickly as it began and there are clear skies up ahead. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and thank you for all of your comments on my recent posts, I hope to catch up with my replies very soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

project 365: week 16

102. View from the Atomium in Brussels, as part of our weekend away.

103. The Grand Place at night on the final evening of our stay. We had a lovely few days in the city.

104. Flowers in the hall from my lovely mum to welcome us home. The shadows on the wall caught my eye as we headed up to bed.

105. The handwritten version of my 30 Things to do Before 30 list.

106. While I was in work in Brussels, The Husband went wandering round the city and met me with a box of personally chosen chocolates - he knows me well!

107. Cuddles from Millie.

108. A lovely afternoon tea with Mum, Mal, Grandad and The Husband, followed by a walk with Millie in the sunshine. A great Saturday.

Linking in with The Boy and Me

Friday, April 17, 2015

word of the week #16

We went to Brussels without a guidebook, figuring that having been before we wouldn't need to buy one. We were wrong. Turns out that for us, part of the holiday is in reading about the places we are visiting, finding out some history, and also that we tend to need the maps and phrase books! So it was that we managed to find a Waterstones in Brussels, and spent a happy half hour sat on a windowseat flicking through guidebooks and picking one to purchase for our weekend. 

While we were there, we spotted the Little Black Classics range that Penguin have just brought out, and had a bit of a spur of the moment idea that we would love to buy the set of 80 books for in our study. They are little pocket sized books, from a whole range of authors. When we got back to the hotel we found them for half price on the Telegraph book shop - they are still on offer but not half price now. So on a whim we ordered them, they arrived this week, and other than the dodgy delivery in which they were left on our drive in the rain (thank goodness for lovely neighbours who know us, know my parents, and let them know so they could bring them inside) they are fabulous.

 It's like a little pick and mix, and they are the perfect size for commuting. Seeing them on the shelf makes me smile every time. The only trouble is, I found out about all the other sets Penguin have done over the years, including this recent set which I have entirely fallen in love with. They seem to be in America, and at $22 each rather than 80p, I won't be buying the full 26-book set any time soon, though it is rather tempting in view of number 6 on my recent list!

Linking in with Jocelyn's #WOTW project

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

adventures before thirty - part 2

So, following on from this post, it is now exactly 300 days before I turn 30, and my list is complete.

1. Run a 5k race

This is booked and paid for ready for early June, the training is underway.

2. Go camping

A few days after we got engaged The Husband and I went to a festival and camped in a tent. Since then, the specially bought tent and sleeping bags have remained unused, and I would like this to change.

3. Attend a class to learn a new skill

We really enjoyed our Italian lessons, and also noticed in Brussels this weekend how much difference it made that we didn't know a little French compared with our trips to Milan and Sicily. I'm not sure if I would like to learn another language, improve my photography, or a completely new craft altogether.

4. Plant a vegetable patch

I've been wanting to do this for years, and hopefully this summer I will finally get around to it.

5. Clear out our 'junk' room and put up some pictures

We have done really well over the last few years, and with much help from our family, to get our house decorated how we want it. There is one bedroom that remains unfinished and filled with piles of things that don't yet have a home, and plenty of rooms without pictures on the walls. If we can rectify these two things, the whole house will really feel like home.

6. Read 5 classic books

I'm going to pick some all-time classics that I have never read and dive in.

7. Go to the beach

I do love to be beside the seaside, so I'd like to make a trip there soon.

8. Learn basic car maintenance

I would like to feel that I could change a tyre, lift the bonnet, check my oil, replace my windscreen wash, all those things I am ashamed to admit I rely on The Husband or my step-dad to do for me, some basic proficiency is much needed!

9. Volunteer locally

The Husband has recently had the opportunity to do some volunteering through a scheme at his office, and I would like the chance to do something similar.

10. Visit a new city

I don't know that we will definitely get the chance to go to a new country before I turn 30, but I would hope that we can manage to explore a new city!

11. Run a 10k race

Another one that is booked and paid for, it seems such a long distance compared to the meagre amounts I am managing at the moment, I would be thrilled to achieve this eventually.

12. Try a new food

I'm not a particularly fussy eater but I don't often try completely new things any more.

13. Bake 5 different types of bread

Despite this post I have never attempted to bake bread since, I'd like to change that.

14. Buy some new glasses and a new purse

My current pair of glasses slide off my face at the slightest opportunity, and I have owned my current purse for about ten years and it is looking a little tired. I make use of these things on a daily basis and it would be nice to update them.

15. Go stargazing with our telescope

One of our wedding gifts was a telescope, and The Husband and I have always been interested in astronomy. After some incredible sights on our holiday in Australia, I'd like to get out into the country, away from the light pollution, and make proper use of our gift.

16. Watch 5 classic films

Like number 6, I want to pick 5 must-watch films and finally see them.

17. Reach a healthy weight

I am determined not to enter my thirties weighing more than is healthy. This is probably the toughest one on the list, it is something I have struggled with for many years, but it is perfectly achievable in the time available. 

18. Get up at 6am every day for a month

I feel much better getting up early, but find it too easy to sleep in given the option. I'm hoping forcing myself to stick with it will eventually make it a habit.

19. Climb a mountain

Something I have never done, and won't be easy, but I would like to! My step-dad has always enjoyed walking and hill-climbing, and I'd love to share the experience with him.

20. Have a fondue

Another wedding gift we have yet to use. I just haven't decided on cheese or chocolate!

21. Skim a stone

A skill I have never mastered, and considering it is on the National Trust list of things to do before you are 11 and 3/4 it is about time I did.

22. See 5 live shows

We are really enjoying going and seeing the National Theatre live cinema screenings, but I also hope to fit in a few more live theatre productions and gigs over the coming months.

23. Fly a kite

I have some great memories of happy hours spent with The Husband flying our kite, but we haven't done it for several years.

24. Vote

Another one I am ashamed to admit, but I have never voted before, citing ignorance of politics as a reason. With the general election looming, I am determined to be an informed participant in the process.

25. Be a tourist at home

We have often said that it would be great to visit the cities near our home and do all of the tourist activities, I might even buy us some guidebooks.

26. Have a spa day with my mum

At our meal out recently, it was lovely to spend some time with just my mum, doing something special. We both have a long-standing love for a bit of pampering, but I can't remember the last time we went to a spa together.

27. Go orienteering

I think I last had a go at orienteering in junior school, and I've always fancied giving it a "proper" go. 

28. Surprise 10 people randomly

After doing this on a smaller scale, over the next 10 months I'd like to brighten up the days of friends and family out of the blue.

29. Take a roadtrip with The Husband

We really enjoyed the roadtrip part of our Australia trip, it was a great way to see new places and we both thought we would like to do it again soon, possibly in the UK, with Millie too.

30. Have a party

We don't often have gatherings at our house, other than Christmas it is very rare for us to have people round apart from one or two friends at a time. It would be great to feel like our home was a place where we made great memories with our friends and family, and at some point I'd like to throw a party, perhaps even a 30th birthday one!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

project 365: week 15

95. Millie got her very own Easter Egg which she made very quick work of indeed. I think we will still be finding scraps of white plastic around the house come Christmas.

96. A lovely day out making the most of the long weekend, and enjoying a coffee after a leisurely lunch.

97. Millie and The Husband snuggled up in the late afternoon sunshine.

98. Our Australia photobook arrived and we had a happy half hour looking through it. It came together really well, I'm so glad we took the time to do it as it is a great keepsake to have.

99. Thursday afternoon getting cuddles from Millie in the conservatory and having a few moments of peace in the sunshine.

100. Ready to leave the airport and travel into Brussels.

101. Watching the sunset over the city from the steps of the St Jacques-sur-Coudenberg church at the end of a wonderful day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

word of the week #15

It has been a strange week. There was the enjoyment of easter and the long weekend, lovely to spend time with family and have a break. However last week we got some news that a family friend had died suddenly, in an accident, leaving behind a young family.

It is desperately sad and I have found myself in an uneasy mood all week. It is something about that very sudden loss of life, the instantaneous nature of it, a moment between being living and dying, how immediately we can cease to be. I remember feeling very similar when someone at my university died suddenly in an accident. It is something other than grief, it is a sense that seems to creep under my skin and make me uncomfortable for a while. Whilst living each day as if it is your last can be galvanising, thinking that in any one second a life can be over without warning is somehow paralysing.

I know the mood will pass, the sadness at the loss will remain, but the fear about life's fragility will fade. For now though, I am grateful to have the means to express my thoughts here. I realise it isn't a cheerful read for anyone else, but even the act of articulating what I am feeling somehow makes it more easily overcome. We are away for the weekend, I went to work this morning in England and we will fall asleep now in Brussels, a city we have visited before and enjoyed very much. I am looking forward to the familiarity of this place, coupled with the change in mood that comes with a change in scenery. Some exploring with The Husband, and some easier days ahead. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

history repeating

I took this picture exactly a year ago. This morning I got off the train, walked to work, and saw the same blue sky overhead. This same building, it's features emphasised by sunlight, caught my eye today as it must have done twelve months earlier. It is reassuring to see this constancy, to recognise that the small things that brought me happiness today, that started my day with a smile, will remain. The little joys are easy to find, and I am glad I continue to see them, to celebrate the everyday.

Monday, April 06, 2015

the year in books: april

Such good books last month, and all really different too. I seem to have had a good run of books so far this year.

“When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence. That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence.” 

I wasn't sure how I would find this book, I thought it sounded similar in concept to Life After Life, as I mentioned here. I got more into this book as I went along, and was really engaged with it by the end. As with Life After Life, something about the repeating life plot wasn't overly appealing to me, but I felt this novel addressed it differently and it caught my imagination more. I have handed this one on to The Husband, as I definitely think this would appeal to him.

"I have an awful feeling I’m supposed to know, and that this is some kind of treat. I don’t think it’s my birthday, but perhaps an anniversary. Patrick’s death? It would be just like Helen to remember and make it a “special occasion.” But I can see from the bare trees out on the street that it’s the wrong time of year. Patrick died in the spring."

I thought this book was fabulously written, with an excellent plot. It was such an interesting concept to have the narrator as someone in the early stages of dementia, and the overlapping timelines were really effective. It was written in a really empathetic way, with moments of dark humour, but also a really captivating presentation of the experience of being affected by the condition.

"Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved. You've already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago."

This is absolutely not a book I would ever have picked, it was one The Husband bought me having read good reviews, and I was so glad he did. It was absolutely gripping, I couldn't put this down, and it was one of those books that actually made me look forward to the commute just to carry on reading it. It is apparently being turned into a film and that doesn't surprise me. 

My first book of April, which may, ahem, actually already be finished thanks to an Easter Sunday afternoon reading in the sunshine, is Us by David Nicholls, writer of Starter for Ten and One Day.

Linking up with Laura's The Year in Books Project

Sunday, April 05, 2015

project 365: week 14

88. Sunday night and ending the weekend curling up in bed with a new book.

89. Another book, I'm afraid taking photos seemed to fall by the wayside this week. I managed to take one or two each day but very few were taken intentionally for the photo a day project, so apologies for the somewhat dull content.

90. And as if to prove my point, here is an attempt, as I mentioned, to get a vaguely interesting picture from a bunch of photographs I had taken at a conference. I couldn't quite bring myself to put up a picture of a powerpoint slide, and so somehow thought a close up of the projector in the corner of the shot was an improvement. I can only apologise!

91. Two tone flowers adding some colour to the bedroom.

92. Out to dinner with Mum, and a quick snap of the plant on the table before an evening catching up.

93. Friday night doing my word of the week doodling with Millie for company, looking somewhat unimpressed. 

94. Beautiful silhouettes at sunset.

Linking in with The Boy and Me

Saturday, April 04, 2015

recipe: easter macaroon nests

The online world seems to go into a frenzy around Easter, and I was feeling the peer pressure. To me Easter is usually quite low-key, and although we are having Sunday lunch with my grandad tomorrow we didn't have much else planned.

I was getting quite envious of all the treats filling the internet, and felt compelled to try and rustle something up. First step, eggs, obviously it would seem something of a missed opportunity to omit the eggs at Easter.

Second step, some kind of Easter theme, bunnies, lambs, chicks, something baby animal related seem to be the most popular choices. I went even younger, and opted for eggs (again) - with the added bonus that they were pre-made, as it was lunchtime on Easter Saturday and I was in definite need of a quick win.

So what could I do, quickly, with the ingredients in my cupboard, that would magically turn into an Easter treat with the simple addition of some mini chocolate eggs I acquired from the supermarket during the my weekly food shop. Even more ideal was if it was something both grandad and The Husband would enjoy.

Lo and behold, coconut macaroons were fashioned into nests, and that is what I consider an Easter themed baking success. I'm very proud of these little treats, especially as they were quick, easy, and macaroons also happen to be one of the sweets my Grandad remembers his mum making for him when he was younger. Happy faces all round. And obviously, if you only get round to reading this recipe sometime next week, the macaroons are just as quick, simple and tasty without the mini eggs stuck on top.

These were very small chocolate eggs that I found in a jar at the supermarket - mixed with jelly snakes for some unknown reason, unless snakes are an Easter tradition that has passed me by, not the standard size "Mini Eggs" just so you don't think these are gigantic macaroons - I have done a helpful size comparison photograph below for your enjoyment.

I'm sure I'm not the first to think of these, in fact a quick google of Easter macaroon nests as I write this blog has shown me that plenty of people have done these before. However I am not going to let that dampen my pride! So if you are in need of a quick, store-cupboard, (also happens to be gluten free) Easter dish to stop you feeling entirely lacking in the festive food department, here's the recipe for you. Whether you bake or not over this long weekend, I hope you have a very Happy Easter.

Easter Macaroon Nests

Makes 18 Macaroons, Prep Time 10 Minutes, Cooking Time 20 Minutes


280g unsweetened desiccated coconut
3 egg whites
180g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
Approx 75 (very) mini chocolate eggs 


  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Line three baking trays with non-stick paper.
  • Separate three eggs, and put yolks aside. Lightly whisk the egg whites and add sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add coconut to egg white mixture and mix well until coconut is sticky but not wet.
  • Using two teaspoons, or your hands, split mixture into 18 evenly sized mounds, placing 6 on each baking tray, well spaced apart.
  • Use your thumb to make a small indent into the centre of each, to create the nest, and shape the sides slightly if required.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Cool for 5-10 minutes. Place 4-5 chocolate eggs in each macaroon nest, and serve.

Friday, April 03, 2015

word of the week #14

Last weekend was spent creating a photobook of our Australia holiday, looking back through pictures of our trip. It was lovely to think back on our adventures and did make me wish for another holiday. Luckily we have a weekend break coming up soon so not too long to wait!

In the meantime this week has definitely been a break from the usual days in the office. There was a day working from home which always represents a bit of light relief from the commute. Then there was a day at a meeting with all of my old colleagues. My year on this placement comes to an end in August and I will be returning back to my previous role. It was lovely to be back amongst old friends and catching up both personally and professionally. It has made me feel really positive about returning, as well as grateful for the brilliant opportunities I have had this year.

On Wednesday I spent my lunch break catching up with a neighbour. We both work quite near each other and have been trying to make arrangements to meet up over lunch for what seems like ages. It was a lovely hour having a chat and much better than a sandwich at my desk!

A break from the norm last night as my mum came to meet me from work and we went for a delicious dinner just the two of us. It isn't common that we catch up these days without the men in our lives around and so it made a really nice change to relax over a meal and share the evening together.

And today the start of the wonderful long weekend. There is baking, cleaning, running, day trips, cooking and relaxing all planned. Starting today with food shopping and an afternoon with mum and millie doing crosswords and cuddling in front of the fire while The Husband, Mal and Grandad were all at the rugby (all had gone separately and supporting opposite sides!). A brilliant break ahead over this Easter weekend. Hope you all have a lovely few days.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

first things first

The first of April.

The first full month of spring but alas so far April showers appear to be dominating. So a picture instead from February walks with Millie which feels much more appropriate.

The first day of post haircut regret. I got a very short haircut last weekend and it had been so far so good. As is always the way trying to do it myself wasn't quite as successful but it was passable. Then today came the inevitable oversleep and trying to make short bed head look vaguely professional when tying it up wasn't an option was an utter failure. No more lie ins for me!

The first time, probably ever, I have got to a pace of less than 9 minutes 30 per kilometre. I am at the alternating running and walking stage so whilst I know this isn't any great speed it is definite progress for me, and during the running segments I was getting to under 7 minutes. It was cold, wet, dark and entirely unappealing but thanks to The Husband agreeing to bring Millie for a walk and be a cheerleader following behind me I made it out and was pleased that I did.

The first day (yesterday) that I forgot about project 365. Luckily I had taken some pictures at a conference so I have tried to turn one of those into something vaguely interesting! I don't know that I have succeeded but I was glad I hadn't spoiled the run as I've been really enjoying taking part.

And now for the first early night of the month, with the hope of getting back into a better routine of early mornings. Oversleeping today highlighted how much I missed being in the rhythm of getting up early. I felt so much better  when I got back from Australia and was naturally getting up bright and happy in the morning but it has gradually slipped away over recent weeks especially after a few late nights, a bout of illness, and compounded now by the clocks going forward. So here's to the first night of a new body clock, though I might not be so easily persuaded in the morning!