Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Just A Perfect Day

We are at the end of 2013. It was not a particularly good year for blogging - there never seemed enough time amongst the busy-ness of life. So I've decided to abandon the usual review of the year post and think about my favourite day of the year instead.

Monday 8th July 2013

Andy Murray had won Wimbledon the day before. I was elated (and perhaps just a little bit smitten).

I had reached the penultimate day of my PGCE course. Excited catching up with friends and tutors.

London bathed in glorious sunshine. We picnicked in Russell Square.

I found out that my placement grade had been uplifted to Outstanding. I was floating on air.

I tottered (in ridiculously high wedges) across the West End, able to take in the sights and sounds of life for the first time in months without having to focus on tasks and targets. I felt like a free spirit.

I met Judith Kerr. She was delightful.

I came home to find loved ones sat in the garden, relaxing in the evening sunshine.

I logged onto the university website and saw my MA level grades - 2 at A grade. Beyond what I had imagined achieving.

We drank Prosecco and laughed. It was a special time.

I was at the end of something I'd worked so hard for and an exciting new adventure was about to begin. It was "just a perfect day".

Thanks for sharing this year and my adventures with me.
Looking forward to seeing you on the other side of midnight in 2014. 
Wishing you the very best of everything you hope for in the new year! x

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Holidays Are Coming!

I'm two days short of finishing my first term as a teacher. One NQT term down, two to go!

I'm (still extremely happy and loving my job but) exhausted, tired...knackered!

And I realise that I haven't blogged in far too long.

I've been reading blogs in fleeting moments, never having time to leave comments. How rude!

But the holidays are just around the corner and I'm looking forward to getting back in the blogging loop: posting and commenting.

There will finally be time in the day for a sit down, with a cup of tea (maybe hot chocolate), biscuit and probably dressed in my pyjamas to read and write.

I will. I will. I will!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Here At Last

About time
Better late than never
All words and phrases that could apply to me.

Oops. It's been a while, hasn't it?
September...October and now it's November.
Time has just run away with itself.

However, I've not been sat around doing nothing - in fact far from it. The last two months have been absolutely bonkers and I don't felt like I've stopped. Far from being a time of hibernation; I've been running around like a mad March hare! I feel like I've done so much but actually most of it has been centred around starting school and my first half term as a newly qualified Nursery class teacher. So much so that when I sat down to make this collage I realised that most of my photos were either of my classroom or a visit to Stourhead at the start of half term week.

It was eight weeks of preparing the classroom, meeting children, helping them to settle in and then assessing, planning and teaching to meet their learning needs (and then the cycle repeats itself). I don't want to dwell on it too much but despite every day being a challenge, I absolutely love the job. I feel like I've found something which is just perfect for me and it's lovely to have that feeling. That said - I was delighted to get to half term.

Half term began with a surprise visit from a little cat - although sadly when I was not at home. Mr P was working from home and heard lots of mewing and miaowing coming from the bedroom. When he went to investigate he found Sabrina staring at a little black cat who had made itself comfortable in our bed. The little cat stayed for two or three hours (probably traumatised by thoughts of Sabrina cornering him/her on the way out) and it was not until Mr P picked it up, gave it a catstick and showed it the back door that it decided to depart. I was so annoyed not to see it and it's not made another visit but I found the story very amusing.

Last Sunday - before the St Jude Storm blew through - we headed to Wiltshire for a day at Stourhead to enjoy the autumn colours. I'd seen it many times on the TV (usually when Carol Kirkwood was giving a weather report from there on BBC Breakfast news) and thought it looked absolutely amazing. We (Mum and Dad came too) were not disappointed as there were so many different autumnal shades: red, orange, brown, rust. It was a beautiful, tranquil spot and the day really blew the cobwebs away. I highly recommend a visit, particularly in the autumn but I'm sure it's delightful all year round. Don't miss the grotto or the gothic cottage - amazing!

We ended up with two pumpkins this Halloween as I'd bought one from the supermarket and another smaller one came in the veg box. This will allow us to make lots of pumpkin soup and roasted seeds but it also allowed both Mr P and I to get crafty with the kitchen knife and create our own spooky face. I decided on a cat for mine (no surprise there then!) - although the more I look at it the less scary it seems. I think it's quite cute really!

Now I'm trying to get back into the teacher mindset for going back to work on Monday. It's not been all play this week as I spent a morning at school and have probably worked about two days in total this week but it was nice to have a bit of headspace and not jump out of bed every day at 6am. The half term is seven weeks (the last one was eight!) but there is so much to pack in especially as I know that most of December will be spent on Christmassy things. I have already got used to the feeling of not ever being able to switch off entirely from school and teacher thoughts and it is so easy to just keep working and working and working. My aim for next half term is to know when to stop and say good is good enough.

And that means making time to write this blog!

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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Back In The 21st Century

Yes, I know I went awol for a bit.

We've had no Internet at home for the past few weeks because I wanted to get BT Infinity so that I could watch BT Sport.

Our contract was terminated and our connection cut by our previous supplier before the BT man could visit us to do the transfer, so that was it: www.nointernet.com

We were reconnected yesterday so now I feel like I'm back in the real world and don't just have to snatch fiddly glances at things on my mobile.


That means lots of cups of tea while I catch up on your blog posts.

It also means lots of me trying to remember what I've been 'meaning to' write and post all this time. 

This will definitely require more tea...and cake! 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...8/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."
Joining in with Jen at little birdy and Gillian at Tales From A Happy House

As you can imagine there's been little else on my mind this week.

Starting school 
I survived my first week as a teacher - hooray! 
Do you think I should have earned a sticker or certificate?

The feeling at the end of the week was rather odd as unlike my peers from my PGCE course I could not claim to have completed a first week of teaching. Although I felt tired this was more due to with setting up the Nursery classrooms (a huge job!) than any lengthy interaction with children. I suppose my time will come and I'll feel both relieved and exhausted as my friends have been this weekend.

I won't have a full class until 30th September when all the children will have started. We have a drop-in play day on 20th September when the children can come in to see the classroom with their parents and carers; then the following week I begin a phased start with 12 starting on the Monday, another 12 on the Wednesday and a final 12 the following Monday.

I've had a lovely start to my teaching career. The staff in my school have been so friendly and welcoming, everyone has been so approachable. From Wednesday I've been on Home Visits to meet the children and their parents. I always go with one other Nursery Practitioner (I have two colleagues in Nursery to support me) and we spend about 20 minutes with each family, getting to know the children and completing final paperwork with the parents. All the families have been so friendly and are keen for their children to get the best start to their school career but without being too pushy. I believe it's important at this age for the children to be happy and want to be at school before you can even start thinking about learning and so far most parents seem to agree with this ethos.

I've saved my photos of the classrooms for a big reveal later in the month when it looks complete and ready. Some days I look at it and think that it will never be right and on others I can see that it is starting to come together. I'm hoping I'll feel more of the latter this week as I'd like to get it completed by next Friday to avoid a last minute panic during the final week of home visits.

The school crossing plaque was photographed at the Beamish Living Museum back in August. I thought it was very appropriate and loved the 1950s styling. I don't think that children look quite so smart these days when they're rushing to/from school.

Kind words and gestures
I've been the recipient of so many kind words and gestures from friends and family this week (including the messages from you - thank you!). I have had lots of good luck cards and texts to make me feel excited and capable as so often I feel just nervous that I won't be able to do the job. It has been more than enough to keep me going and make me smile.

The personalised 'teacher pocket' was a first-day present from Mr P. I'd spotted it a while ago on Sew Sweet Violet's blog and after adding it to Pinterest, he sneakily purchased it from her Not On The High Street shop. Like all her pretty things, isn't it quite? When my classrooms are ready I'm looking forward to finding a nice spot to hang it up and keep all my must-haves (probably post-its and pens) handy.

Autumnal cake
Having read lots of lovely posts about people feeling autumnal, I don't think we've quite reached this point in London yet. It has mostly been a very warm and sunny week, even the rainy days that were promised for Friday and Saturday didn't fully materialise and the grey dampness did not last for long and this morning the sky is blue and full of sunshine.

Nonetheless, I really wanted to do some autumnal cooking and on Saturday afternoon I made this Blackberry Cake using a recipe given to me by a lovely friend. I've sampled the cake many times at birthday parties and special occasions and it is completely delicious and as I've discovered is very easy to make. I shall have to ask if I can share it with you because it's too nice to keep to oneself!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Liebster Love III

It doesn't feel like five minutes since I received my last Liebster Award and now I've been awarded another!

The lovely Annatha at Prattle and Froth nominated me for one on Thursday and it cheered me up greatly after spending the evening listening to Andy Murray's dismal match at the US Open. I was not a happy bunny until I crawled into bed, had a flick through Bloglovin on my phone and read her post. 

Thank you so much Annatha - it was very kind of you.
So here's my answers to her interesting and tricky questions...

1. Why did you start blogging?
I started reading blogs in the winter of 2009 - Attic 24 and Domesticali were two of the first I became  an avid reader of. I like that they were about the simple things that I were interested in rather than magazines that were full of material things to lust after. More and more I thought of things that I would write about and then I just decided to give it a go. Pink Cat, Custard and Cake was born over at Typepad in late February 2009.

2. What is the best thing about the place that you live?
Mum and Dad living nearby. I'm so lucky to have my parents living only five minutes walk away. I wouldn't want it any differently. My part of London is interesting: slowly becoming more affluent but still a real melting pot. I like that I can get to lots of different places in and out of London very quickly as the transport links are so good (starting to sound like an Estate Agent now).

3. Who/what inspires you?
Hard question - so many people but I've decided to go with The Queen. She turns up at everything still looking cheerful even when she would rather be doing something else, always says the right thing and never stops learning about the people and places she's meeting. I hope I'm just as 'with it' when I'm in my eighties.

4. What is your favourite thing about yourself?
My ability to retain information about people, places and dates - it helps with remembering faces, names, birthdays and other special occasions. It helped me be a successful PA, I'm hoping it will be a useful skill as a teacher and it certainly makes me happy to know that I rarely forget to send a card. (I love sending cards for any occasion!)

5. Do you have any unusual talents?
Ummmm. I'm good at playing along with Popmaster on Ken Bruce's Radio 2 show. I guess it goes along with the skill mentioned above but I seem to easily remember names and lyrics of songs and what year they were released in.

6. What is your favourite smell?
Cinnamon and mixed spices - mmm.

7. What is your favourite book?
'I Capture The Castle' by Dodie Smith - it is beautifully written and really captures the feeling of moving from teenager to young woman. I love the period and still long to be Cassandra. The film is also lovely and I felt it captured the atmosphere of the book very well.

8. What do you hope to achieve in the next ten years?
I'll be 41 then - eek! I'd love to have a couple of children and just be happy with Mr P. I also hope to be a successful Early Year's Teacher and because I know that finances will demand that I'm a working-mum, I hope to be able to balance both successfully.

9. What is your favourite time of the year and why?
I used to always say autumn and winter but I'm starting to think that each season is special for different reasons and worth making the most of, rather than longing for something several months away. I imagine the glorious summer we've had this year may have something to do with my thinking. But I do still love the freshness of autumn and the feeling of 'starting over' and getting back in routine. I always loved October half-term the best because of walks, baking and cosying down and I'm hoping I'll have that feeling this year.

10. Where is your favourite place in the world?
Another hard one! I love to be at home (when it's tidy) pottering, relaxing and doing my own thing. I like long walks in the country - Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire is a favourite place for a Sunday wander as it's easy to get to on the M40. I also love Fortnum and Mason's - it just feels special and decadent!

Wow - that was a challenge!

I'm opening this up to anyone who would like to join is as I am reading far too many lovely blogs at the moment to pick particular ones. I look forward to finding out more about you!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby

The first of my holiday posts and this has to be devoted to our beautiful home on wheels - otherwise known as Ruby.

Isn't she beautiful?

FYI - Ruby is a VW RHD Bay Window Campervan and she was constructed in 1976. 

She's been carefully restored by the lovely couple who run Big Van Adventures and has got a new engine, a glossy coat of pillar box red paint and all mod-cons. (Although I chose to live freely for a week and chose not to use my hair straighteners!)

Ruby was amazingly cosy and we were quickly able to get into a morning and evening routine. Mr P took care of the breakfast and I made the evening meal. It was just like playing house!

Do you like the lanterns? Mr P found them in a pound shop on the first day when we were out buying some food. We put them up in the van every evening as it started to get dark. It helped to make it feel even more homely as we sat drinking hot chocolate and listening to the radio (usually Radio 2).

We both soon adapted into the laid back VW life. It's a great way to make friends on a campsite - everyone wants to talk to you and have a peek inside. There's also a brilliant unwritten rule that VW drivers must wave to each other as their vans pass each other on the road. It's so cheery but it does mean you soon want to wave at everyone!

We're definitely converts and can't wait to do it all again. We've even bought a copy of a Campervan magazine just to look at all the different vans and get an idea of what could be hired or maybe even bought in the future!

And if you want to hire a campervan in the Yorkshire I highly recommend Big Van Adventures as they provided such a lovely personal service. Helen was friendly and helpful in communications before we picked Ruby up and then when we collected the van from a village near Thirsk, she gave a comprehensive rundown of everything we needed to know. She was even so kind to take a call from us on the first evening when we weren't sure if we were switching the fridge on correctly. Doh!

I know you've seen this photo already but this post provides the perfect excuse to use it again. My favourite holiday picture.

Just Ruby and the road ahead = bliss!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Sounds of Autumn

According to meteorologists, it is now autumn (or 'fall' if you're in North America).

It may still be warm and sunny but starting school gets me thinking about the changing seasons.

No more long, carefree days; back to routines and responsibilities. It certainly changes my mood pretty abruptly.

During the summer months I had a brilliant playlist on my iPod full of tunes that reminded me of hot, sunshiny days. They evoked memories of past summers and created memories of this summer. When I listen to the playlist in future years there will definitely be lots of songs that will remind me of jolly holidays in Ruby.

Here's a selection of what was playing throughout the brilliant summer of 2013...
Caravan of Love - The Housemartins
Somewhere In My Heart - Aztec Camera
Staying Out For The Summer - Dodgy
Mr Blue Sky - ELO
More Than This - Roxy Music
The Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Run To You - Bryan Adams
Good Enough - Dodgy
Alright - Supergrass
Let Your Love Flow - Bellamy Brothers
Supersonic - Oasis
Fun, Fun, Fun - The Beachboys
Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin

As you can see, it was quite extensive and quite diverse.

Now I'm stuck. Can you help?

I want an equally outstanding playlist for autumn and am struggling to come up with a good list of songs that will become the soundtrack to the season. The songs that evoke strong feelings of this time of year and that will always remind me of my first term as a teacher.

I have got three songs on my list...
Cello Song - Nick Drake 
(Mr P and I always seem to listen to lots of Nick Drake as we potter round the house in autumn)

Weather With You - Crowded House
(because it sounds like the perfect 'end of summer' song - chilled and relaxed)

Flowers In The Window - Travis
(another 'end of summer' happy ending song)

What will you add to the list? 

What song always makes you think of misty, chilly days,  bundling up in ever-increasing layers, long walks over crunchy leaves or cosying up at home?

I know that you're always so good at helping me out with these things. I can't wait to read your ideas! x

Sunday, 1 September 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...7/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."
Joining in with Jen at little birdy and Gillian at Tales From A Happy House

So we've hit 1st September 2013 and that means that I'm actually in paid employment for the first term since last August. Hooray!

Last week was hectic week as I spent days tidying up my classrooms and preparing for 'starting school' tomorrow but there have also been some nice days out with Mr P and my parents.

School/teacher posts will happen soon enough so I'm going to focus on the nice stuff.

Dear Deer!
This was taken yesterday on our visit to Dyrham Park which is a National Trust property close to Bath and Bristol. I took the photo at the end of the day when most of the visitors had headed home, Mum and Dad were getting the shuttle bus back to the car park and Mr P and I were slowly dragging our feet back to the car. The deer seemed quite comfortable having visitors walking through their field. I was particularly pleased with this picture and the one on my Instagram page. This darling deer certainly liked the attention!

The Lamb National
For the second year running we visited the Edenbridge and Oxted Country Show in Surrey on the Bank Holiday Weekend. It really is a great day out, not too far from London and yet very countrified! The Lamb National is merely a border collie shepherding some sheep in colourful jackets across a jump course but it really is amusing. The commentary provided by the farmer and his son was great and whipped up lots of enthusiasm. Being the keen gambler that I am, I picked out one sheep and cheered it on. It even one two rounds! 

Summery Sunsets
I think it must be due to the gorgeous weather this summer but there have been some brilliant sunsets recently. The one on the left was taken at Virginia Water in Berkshire on Bank Holiday Monday. We had an early evening picnic by the lake and watched the sun starting to set. I love these bridges - they remind me of something out of a Jane Austen novel. I can just see Mr Darcy and his horse trotting across it. 

The sunset on the right was captured yesterday at Caen Hill Locks in Wiltshire after our visit to Dyrham Park. Once we found the locks (having had a picnic there when I was about 16, we tried to find it again and got a little lost en route!) it was starting to get a bit too dark and there were too many mozzies to picnic outside but we did take a stroll across the canal to see the view which was absolutely spectacular. In traditional English style, we then had our picnic in the car! 

A Bit Of Patriotism
On Bank Holiday Monday we visited Windsor Castle. As it is so close to our home and tickets allow you to make unlimited visits for a year, we didn't rush to see everything but had a tour of the Grand Kitchens (amazing - well worth seeing when they are open in August and September) and then took a stroll around the Moat Garden (open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during August) which is the private garden of the Governor of the Castle who is 'in charge' of the castle when the Queen is not in residency. I was amused to see that no-one, however important, is immune to a bit of cheerful patriotism!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

52 Weeks Of Happy...4, 5 and 6/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."
Joining in with Jen at little birdy and Gillian at Tales From A Happy House

If this post was a library book the fines would be frightening! 

I know this post is long overdue, especially as we have been back from holidays for almost two weeks but the truth is I have just been too busy to sit, type, tweak photos and publish. 

But I'm back, have finally written something. This is a combined post for three very happy weeks. I'm delighted to say I had the most amazing time on my holiday (Weeks 4 and 5). We loved loved loved it!

Then the week before the Bank Holiday (Week 6) was spent enjoying a whirlwind of lovely sunny days with friends. I met up with four separate groups of friends in three days! After a year of not really seeing anyone there was a lot of catching up to be done all across the summer holidays but especially this week.

So there were lots of happy times but here are some of my favourites...

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby (Week 4)
Our gorgeous VW Campervan. We had such a super time riding around in her, cooking meals and sleeping in her cosy compartments. One of the best things was just being able to pull up in a picturesque spot, make a cup of tea, cut a slice of fruit cake and sit back and enjoy the view. Peaceful bliss!

North East Coastline (Week 5)
I fell in love with the North East coastline. It is heavely. The beaches between Seahouses and Bamburgh were some of the most tranquil, calm spaces I've ever seen: such white, vast sand. If they were in Cornwall or Devon, no doubt they would be packed out every day but on these you could find plenty of space and just sit yourself down quietly to enjoy looking out to the blue sea.

Share A Coke With Jo (Week 5)
Somewhat frivolous but I'd been looking for this for ages and found every name bar my own! I don't know why I was so intent on finding 'my' personalised bottle as I rarely ever drink Coca Cola but had kept looking whenever I wanted to buy a drink - such a clever PR move! I finally found a bottle in Durham. There were photos taken with it but it tasted just the same. Perhaps a more personalised advertising campaign would have been to 'Share A Pink Lemonade With Jo'? 

Time With Special Little People (Week 6)
Visiting friends means lots of time with their little people. Although some of them are not so little anymore - children really do grow quickly when you're not looking! This photo is of my god-daughter who is now 7 years old. We spent the day with Kaitlin and her brother Zac (aged 4 1/2) visiting the beach and the park before heading home for a special afternoon tea with them taking on the roles of waitress and chef. They are such lovely, kind children and I'm so proud of everything they're achieving at home and school. They have both learnt to ride their bikes this summer and it was fantastic to see them develop their confidence as young cyclists.

With school starting on Monday (that's where I've been most of this week) I'm definitely getting back to normal and will be writing those much delayed holiday posts over the next couple of weeks to show you all the delightful things that I got up to whilst 'up north'! x

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

We're Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly*

* We hope.

We're off on our summer holiday tomorrow!

No posts for a little while but I promise to send you a postcard every day if you follow me here on Instagram.

In the meantime, think of me and Mr P driving along in the campervan and singing this song.

Ok, so it's not quite a Routemaster but you get the idea! 


Sunday, 4 August 2013

52 Weeks Of Happy...3/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."
Joining in with Jen at little birdy and Gillian at Tales From A Happy House

This was a quieter week of the holidays. Lots of staying in and procrastinating. I'm still not feeling completely full of energy and at times my head just feels wooly and incapable of focusing on anything for a significant amount of time. I'm hoping that our upcoming holiday will provide the mental rest that I need and I'll come back feeling revitalised and ready to go, do and think like a capable adult again!

But in the midst of the tiredness there were some happy things.

Size 12
For as long as I can remember I've been wearing Size 14 trousers. I'm an unfortunate shape - tiny on my top half but with big hips and chunky thighs. However the combination of being rushed off my feet and not snacking (I'm one of those people who forget to eat when busy or stressed) during the PGCE meant that I lost just over a stone during the year. I needed to buy some new jeans and was delighted to fit into a smaller size. I just need to make sure I keep it off now - especially as I'll be commuting in the car and not having a good walk to and from the Tube twice a day!

Mum's Birthday Cake
Not sure I'll keep the weight off if I keep eating these, but yesterday was Mum's birthday and to celebrate I made this cake. We were spending the day with lots of Dad's family near Cambridge and so the cake needed to be larger than I would normally make. It was a three layer sponge - vanilla/chocolate/vanilla with rose buttercream and strawberries between each layer. Vanilla frosting and strawberry chocolate buttons decorated the outside along with the lovely banner created by Sew Sweet Violet. I came across Jooles' lovely blog recently and then found her Etsy shop which is full of very beautiful things. When I knew I was making the birthday cake I immediately decided that I wanted to get one of these as I knew Mum would love it. It certainly was a beautiful finishing touch and now I'm hoping that someone will recycle it next February when it's my birthday - hint hint!

Roaring Fire
We stayed at my cousin's house in Cambridge until late in the evening and as it got dark a fire was lit in the fire pit. It was lovely to sit around the fire, chatting and warming ourselves. The crackle and hiss of the flames were a lovely sound. Definitely a simple but lovely pleasure!

Cute Card
It was great to spend time with my extended family - there were at least three generations of us at the party. I enjoyed getting to know my cousin's little girls better. They are five and three year's old and are very sweet. At the end of the evening, the eldest - Lola - presented me with this lovely card to thank me for playing with her during the day. It was full of kisses inside. I felt very lucky - she kept saying I was her best friend. Sweet! 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Blue & Yellow Beach Huts

I spotted these blue and yellow beach huts when we visited Littlehampton.

Don't you think they look like teeny tiny Ikea shops? Do you think if you opened the door you'd find a Billy Bookcase or 1001 tea lights?

I love beach huts but wasn't too sure about these. To me they look like garden sheds that someone's painted with a job lot of bright blue and yellow paint. 

I prefer them when they have a bit of a porch and are painted in a variety of colours so they look individual and are a bit more aesthetically pleasing.

But I suppose they all do the same job in the end: provide a bit of shelter, somewhere to sit and watch the day drift by and somewhere to make a nice cup of tea whatever the weather! Beach huts are the sort of things I dream of owning!

What do you think? x

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What To Pack? What To Do?

This time next week Mr P and I will be waking up in York.

Yes! It's almost time for our much anticipated holiday with Ruby!

Booked back in January, we have a detailed itinerary for where we're staying on which nights:
  • Heading off on Wednesday for three days in York in a lovely Premier Inn
  • Pick up Ruby on Saturday and stay three nights at a campsite near Durham
  • Three further nights on a campsite near Seahouses
  • Back to Durham for a night
  • Drop off Ruby on Saturday morning and head to Runswick Bay for one night in a beautiful hotel
  • Home to Brina!

But there will of course be lots of days to fill with fun and this is where I need YOUR help.

It is our first time in a VW Campervan and although there is a pretty detailed list of what is provided and what we need to bring on the hire company's website, we don't want to miss any important things when we pack and then have to spend wasted hours trying to find it and buy it when we could be having fun.

So what do I pack? I know that it has to be pretty minimal because of limited storage space and I also need to take account of all silly English weathers. We'll be bringing the travel Scrabble to keep us occupied on potential rainy days, a new kite is on its way and I'll also have my Kindle loaded up but are there any other must-packs?

And what must we do? We've already selected some things that we both really want to see. It's pretty much a list of the standard touristy things:

But what are the things that we should do, places we should visit and places we should eat that are not on the touristy websites? The sort of places that you don't find unless you're a local or stumble across them.

Mr P and I would love to know and hope we could do the same for you if you were ever coming on a visit to London! 

Right, I'm now off to bake my holiday fruit cake. Not something I'm looking forward to doing on such a hot August day but I'm sure I'll be pleased I did it when I can enjoy it on a picnic by the sea! x

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Liebster Love II

First Things First...

I must loudly sing the praises of lovely Vaida at Don't Tell Anyone Arts who has transformed my blog and made it oh-so-pretty. For months I had wanted it to be more attractive to the eye and more representative of me and what the blog is about. In just 24 hours she created my lovely new logo and changed all my settings, as well as adding some pretty buttons. I am ever so grateful especially as it looks exactly how I imagined it. You can also find her Etsy where her templates and buttons can be browsed. Thank you Vaida! x

And Now...

Lovely Leanne at Today's Stuff has kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award. I got one of these back in 2011 and it has certainly evolved since then. I was so surprised when I saw my name pop up on Leanne's blog on Sunday. Thank you so much!

I enjoy doing these as I'm too nosy for my own good and like to find out the odd details about people that don't necessarily get 'exposed' in other posts. 

For this award I have to write eleven facts about myself, answer the eleven questions set by Leanne and then write eleven questions of my own for my selected blogs to answer. Well, here goes...

Facts About Me

Jo is short for Joanna.

I'm an only child with just one first cousin who lives in Australia but have a huge extended family on both sides.

I love my magazine subscriptions. At the moment I get Mollie Makes, The Simple Things, Country Living and Good Food.

I blame my Nana for my love of cold Bird's Custard with tinned peaches - she always saved me some from her lunch and I ate it when I got in from school.

I have four wonderful best friends and I met them all at different places: one from high school, another from sixth form, one from university and the other happens to be the sister of my best friend from sixth form.

Lego Mini-Figures often find their way into my shopping trolley as a treat for Mr P. He blu-tacks them to his computer at work.

Before I get out of bed in the morning I reach for my mobile and check the following - always in the same order: BBC News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Bloglovin. I am then ready to face the day.

I own 12 Emma Bridgewater mugs and have another on its way. I think I'm going to have to organise a tea-swigging party to use them all.

I've known Mr P since I was 17, he was 19. It was almost eight years before we move in together and nine years before we got engaged. We got married in 2010.

I had lots of little bridesmaids and pageboys when I got married: Amber (8), Lily (6), Kaitlin (4), Zac (2 and 3/4), Lydia (almost 2), Ben (16 months) and Dylan (8 months). They were all super cute!

My middle name is Elizabeth. It's Mum's middle name and was Nana's first name. If I ever have a daughter it will definitely be her middle name.

Eleven Questions To Answer

Are you a morning person?

I'm a morning person but I can last out until about 11.30pm before flagging. I do like routine though and start to get grumpy if I get out of sync.

What is your favourite fruit?
This is a hard one as I love most fruits but at the moment it's strawberries and cherries.

Are you superstitious?
Very! So much so that it annoys Mr P. I don't like magpies, I throw salt over my left shoulder, want black cats to cross my path and pinch and punch people on the first day of the month.

What is your favourite smell?
That Christmassy smell. Not sure what it is exactly but you know what I mean - oranges, cloves, Christmas trees, spices. Mmmm!

Rock chick or hippy chick?
I like folk music and I'm going on holiday in a VW Campervan, so I'm a hippy chick in a scrubbed-up White Stuff kind of way.

Do you have any pets?
We live with and love our moggy, Sabrina (Brina). I also want to get some goldfish for my Nursery class so I guess they will be mine as well.

Where is the furthest from home that you've travelled?
New York - not particularly exotic. I'm a home-bird!

Do you read a paper?
We don't routinely buy one, although I do dip into the gossip on the Daily Mail website which is utter tripe and I feel very guilty about!

What was your favourite TV programme as a child?
So many! I loved Play School, Postman Pat, Jonny Briggs, Bagpuss, Bertha, Button Moon and Paddington Bear but probably the one that I enjoyed watching the longest was Blue Peter. I would still love to be a BP presenter! 

Flora or fauna?
Probably flora. You can buy it in a supermarket and they make my home look decorative. Not sure I could stick a kangaroo in a vase very easily.

What is your favourite Madonna song?
I'm not the biggest Madonna fan - I always thought she was a bit of an attention-seeker - but I do like Take A Bow.

Eleven Questions...

Bright or pastel clothes?

What is the most random song that you know all the words to?

Countryside or seaside?

Which celebrity would you love to see on Strictly Come Dancing?

Where were you on September 11th?

Sweet or savoury?

What was your favourite book as a child?

Kirstie Allsopp - love or hate?

What is your favourite cocktail?

Do you regularly read a magazine?

George - good name for the royal baby?

To Be Answered By...

whose blogs I really enjoy reading and wanted to introduce to you if you're not already reading them yourself. 

Kate, Lucy and Gillian - If you've already had this award, please feel free to skip, otherwise make a cup of tea before you sit down as I found it helped with thinking process!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Team GB Heroes

I doubt I will ever get bored of thinking and talking about the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. Living in London and feeling 'part of it' made every minute of last summer feel exciting. 

I was lucky enough to attend a number of Olympic events: the football final, a night of athletics and the wonderful (but very long!) Closing Ceremony; and also a night of Paralympic athletics. It was brilliant to have a good look at the Olympic Park, sit in the stadium and wonder at how it all had all come together since London won the bid in 2005.

And certainly all those gold, silver and bronze medals won by Team and Paralympics GB made it even more memorable!

On the last night of both the Olympics and Paralympics I felt extremely proud to be both British and a Londoner.

This weekend I was thrilled to be back in Stratford attending all three days of the Anniversary Games

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and I was right in thinking that the biggest cheers would go to our Team GB heroes. 

Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world but everyone stood up and clapped non-stop when Mo Farah entered the track and kept going as he won the 3000m race with ease. Whilst the slow-clapping build up to one of Jessica Ennis-Hill's attempts at the long jump were deafening.

My top tip for the World Championships in Moscow is Katarina Johnson-Thompson, another heptathlete, who won the long jump on Saturday. Only 20, she will be one to watch if Jessica Ennis-Hill has to pull out due to injury.

But what is even better is that at Sunday's meet for Paralympians, the applause for every athlete was huge. Even though Jonnie Peacock came in third (in an amazing 100m race with so a new world records and lots of personal bests) he still got a huge standing ovation. I'm so pleased that now Peacock, along with Cockroft, Whitehead and Weir are household sporting names. It seems that our attitude towards the Superhumans (as Channel 4 called them) has changed for the long term. Definitely a brilliant legacy!

PS: The pictures of Mo and Jessica (and Usain Bolt in my previous post) were taken by Dad on his camera with a long lens. Sadly Mum and Dad were only able to come with us on Friday and Saturday so I only have 'good' pictures of those days. For Sunday, we were missing the long lens but were also up in the 'gods' of the stadium and I did not think you'd want to look at any athletic ants! x

Sunday, 28 July 2013

52 Weeks Of Happy...2/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."
Joining in with Jen at little birdy and Gillian at Tales From A Happy House.

Five things this week. 
My excuse - it's the holidays and it's been a very busy but lovely week!

The Orbit
For the past three days we've been zipping (or maybe Tubing as we were on the Central Line) back and forwards to Stratford for the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games. Yesterday afternoon I captured The Orbit (I refuse to call it by it's ridiculously long sponsor name) again with some lovely fluffy clouds. We had some interesting weather over the weekend from blazing sunshine to heavy downpours but it didn't put a dampener on our fun. It brought back amazing memories of my experience of London 2012 and reminded me why this part of London will always be special to me.

Bathing Pigeons
Spotted in Coram's Fields early on Thursday morning. I was treating my friend's lovely four year old daughter to a day out in London with a trip which included a visit to the theatre and an ice cream sundae in The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason's. Lydia was dropped off at Kings Cross by her Daddy on his way to work and from there we headed down the road where she enjoyed an hour or so in the playground and sandpit which was made even better because she had it all to herself! We had a good giggle at these pigeons having a bit of a bath in one of the giant puddles in the playground. The one looking on eventually joined them and they had a good splash about for around 10 minutes!

Murray Mug
My Emma Bridgewater celebratory Andy Murray mug arrived this week and I'm loving being reminded of his Wimbledon victory every time I use it (I'm having a cup of tea and a Hob Nob as I write this). If you follow me on Twitter or Pinterest you'll know how excited I was throughout Wimbledon - although you (and Mr P!) may wonder why I have so many pins of Andy Murray in suits. I must admit I have been lusting after him a lot lately! I think this concerns some people, as my cousin's wife said to me recently, "Sadly if it wasn't for your obsession with Andy Murray, Jo, you would be perfect." 

Baby George
Yes, I was glued to the TV from Monday through to Wednesday watching non-stop coverage about the birth of Prince George of Cambridge. I do love a bit of a royal occasion and the birth of any baby is worth a celebration. I'm loving the name as George is one that runs in my family (Mum is called Georgina and we can trace George back several generations) and I'm also loving this TfL poster that I spotted in our local tube station late last week.

We Went On A Bear Hunt
I had the pleasure of seeing Lydia again on Sunday as we met her and her Mum and Dad for lunch as we were both going to the Anniversary Games. There she presented me with this lovely handmade card to thank me for taking her out earlier in the week. Lydia is on the left and I have the dark hair on the right. Mine isn't actually that dark brown but Lyd has beautiful long, blondey hair so it is only right that she used the yellow on her! I had such a lovely time with her that I can't wait to treat her again in another holiday and I'm hoping that they'll be more occasions where I can take my godchildren and other friend's little ones out in the future as it gives me the excuse to do lots of lovely child-friendly things! 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Bolt Is Back

I must admit I didn't get Usain Bolt until last night.

I admired him for being super fast but wasn't drawn to all the hype about him. 

Even when we saw him racing in one of the 200m heats at the Olympics I wasn't wowed.

But last night, attending the first night of the Anniversary Games, I was won over.

Arriving on a rocket, he made the stadium come alive.

We had an amazing evening but it seemed like the whole of the stadium was waiting for his moment.

When he ran the last race of the evening, he made it look effortless.

And he still had the energy to do a lap of honour. 

He even took off his trainers and threw them to the countless fans in the crowd.

Amazing. Unique. Legendary. 

We're back at the Olympic Stadium again this afternoon to see some more 2012 heroes, this time of the Team GB variety.

I'm expecting the cheer when Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah enter the track to be 10 times as loud because they are OUR legends.

Friday, 26 July 2013

New Bird On The Block

Spotted in Trafalgar Square!
A new bird!
Not the usual feral pigeon variety!

Yes - a bright blue cockerel! 

I happened to be in Trafalgar Square yesterday shortly after Mayor Boris had unveiled it.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it and neither was my friend's four year old daughter. 'Bizarre' was my choice of word to describe it. 'Silly bird' were Lydia's.

It is rather unusual but then anything that goes on the Forth Plinth usually is. I wonder if they will ever decide on something more permanent? Somehow I doubt it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tea Beside The Seaside

Shortly after our visit to West Wittering in May, Mum spotted a review for the East Beach Cafe which is just up the road in Littlehampton. It was so good that I was really keen to visit - not only to feast on the delicious sounding food but to see the innovative building.

When I looked at the weather towards the end of last week, I was delighted to see that it was going to be the perfect weekend for a trip to the seaside. On Saturday we awoke to a cloudy and muggy morning and so Mr P and I made a quick getaway out of London and headed for the West Sussex coast.

We arrived in West Wittering mid-morning and the weather was glorious. We spent some lovely hours picnicing, reading, paddling and strolling along the beach. We had ice creams and watched children playing and it was really the perfect sort of sunny summer day.

The sky and the sea just sparkled!

On the Friday afternoon when we decided to definitely take our seaside day trip, I called the East Beach Cafe and booked a table for Saturday night. From the information on the website it sounded like it had the potential to get quite busy.

When it was getting close to teatime we drove round the coast to Littlehampton, I swapped my swimming costume for a summer dress and we had a little stroll along the beach before it was time to eat.

We were not disappointed. The setting and the food were fantastic!

The building (designed by Thomas Heatherwick famous for creating the Olympic Cauldron for London 2012) was amazing. From the outside it looked like a chunk out of a cliff but when inside you felt like you were in a little cave. It has to be seen to be believed. I also liked that in the toilets there were framed postcards from Littlehampton's seaside heyday in the 1950s and 1960s that had been displayed showing both pictures and text so you could read the quaint messages that people had sent home. I probably spent far too long in the toilets reading these and can imagine Mr P was left wondering what on earth I was up to!

From our table we had a beautiful view of the shoreline and the waitressing staff were very friendly and relaxed. As we were beside the sea, we opted for fishy options: Mr P indulged in a yummy fish soup and I enjoyed Dorset mussels in a cider, parsley and cream sauce to start, and for our mains Mr P chose fish and chips and I opted pan fried sea bream with beetroot and new potatoes. We shared a vanilla panna cotta with an orange sauce for dessert.

It was delicious and we could see why the restaurant had been given such rave reviews. I highly recommend going for lunch or dinner if you are down that way but make sure you book in advance. While there were just a few groups when we arrived at 7.30pm, only 30 minutes later it was completely full. 

And then we had a long drive back to London: up and down windy, hilly 'A' roads. It seemed to take forever but for a day in the sunshine with sea air and delicious food it was definitely worth it.