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.


There's not been much pausing going on in my life so far this year.

Since last September I have been rushing around full pelt. 

There's not really been much chance to stop and breathe.

When I finished my PGCE on 9th September I looked at my diary and decided that I'd probably done some kind of university or school work every day since 1st January. That's 189 days without stopping!

So it's no surprise that it's taken me a while to return to normal. 

I've had to learn to slow down and stop. 
To take the time to pause and think. 
To switch my mind off. 

I've had to make sure that instead of arriving home from work and immediately switching on the laptop and moving straight onto the next task of the day, I just take time to sit and think

Cloud watching is the perfect activity for this.

On this particular day last week, it was gloriously sunny and not too hot. I made a cold drink, dragged out my yoga mat and a cushion and lay on the garden patio looking up at the sky. Before long I was completely free of all thoughts and worries and eventually drifted off into a sunny-puddle cat nap. It was bliss. Just what I needed.

I'm just about starting to feel human again and ready to enjoy the summer break.

Monday, 22 July 2013

52 Weeks Of Happy...1/52

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, 
they just make the best of everything."

Having first found this 'blog project' on Gillian's brilliant Tales From A Happy House blog and then seeing that it originated with Jen's at lovely little birdy, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and post about four of the lovely simple, pleasures that have made me happy in the previous week. 

I always look forward to reading these on people's blogs and seeing the different things that people appreciate that are often linked to the seasons and celebrations. It's a lovely way to reflect and acknowledge all the little things that make up a year, especially when they seem to pass by in a flash.

Now I've just finished my PGCE course and now as I venture out as a NQT it seemed like the perfect moment to start this. It will include these six weeks of summer holiday and then follow the whole year round to me finishing my induction teaching year next July. 

The first year as a teacher comes with different challenges and expectations. Some experienced teachers have told me that it's better than the PGCE year and others have said that it is far worse. I'm prepared to work hard but I'm also hoping that being settled for a whole year in a school that appears to be full of extremely kind, friendly and supportive staff, will make it a pleasurable one. 

Whatever happens, I want to make sure that it doesn't pass in a blur and I remember and appreciate all the lovely things that happen week by week and would like to share them with you.

So here goes. 
This is the start of my holidays. 
The start of a new adventure - both in life and blog.

Our garden - full of pink and white, bunting and blooms. Mr P spent the weekends in May and June pottering in the garden, putting up trellis and buying some lovely plants to make it look colourful and cosy and ready for me to relax and entertain when my course ended. Little did we know that it was going to coincide with a period of amazing weather! We've had lots of al fresco dinners and it was lovely to use this space when my uni friends came over for afternoon tea. It is now lovely to get home in the evenings and relax in it. Bliss!

Figs - we received this fig tree from my best friend and her partner as an engagement present back in 2009. We put it in our north-facing back garden in the past few summers we've had a few figs but not much to speak of. This year I decided to move it to the south-facing front garden and with the help of the hot, sunny weather it is producing lots of figs that seem to grow bigger and bigger every time I leave the house. I can't wait to enjoy them with some goats cheese - mmm!

A midweek night at the races - a special treat from Mr P to celebrate the end of having to study in the evenings. Last Wednesday we went with Mum and Dad to Sandown Park for the evening's races. I do love a flutter, going on my gut instinct or a name that triggers a memory or meaning. Having said that it wasn't a very successful evening - I only had one win but that didn't matter as there was a lovely atmosphere. The races were followed by a performance by Madness. We thought they would be only on for a few songs but they were actually on stage for about 90 minutes. It was a hot and balmy evening but lots of fun! 

Beach huts - Colourful beach huts make me so happy. I love looking at the different ways they've been painted and peeking in to see the little kitchens and seating areas. They're like wendy houses for grown ups! These were taken at West Wittering last weekend when we went for our second visit of the summer. I'm thinking these would be perfect for me and Mr P - definitely his and hers! 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thank You!

I just wanted to say a BIG thank you for all the congratulations and kind comments you took the time to write after my last post.

It was so lovely of you and I was overwhelmed by the generous things that you had to say.

If I could then I would invite you all round to share a celebratory cup of tea and slice of cake and say thank you in person.

As I can't, then I highly recommend this yummy cake recipe which I tried out last weekend when my PGCE girlfriends came round for an End of Course Afternoon Tea

We had a lovely few hours together in the sunny garden and it was a great opportunity to chat, relax and share our excitement and worries about being 'proper' teachers next year. I don't think any of us will believe it is real until our classes of little people arrive in September!

Thanks again. 

Hugs x

Sunday, 14 July 2013

I Am Now A...


I am still awaiting final confirmation from uni but all being well I have qualified with top marks for both my teaching practice and MA level assignments. 

As you can imagine I am over the moon but also completely overwhelmed by doing so well. Even though I've worked so unbelievably hard all year, I'm still surprised that I managed to pass. I now feel like I've got lots to do next year as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) to prove that I'm actually half as good as my tutors think I am. 

Although I finished uni on Tuesday (with a lovely sunny picnic in a Central London square with all my uni friends) the holidays have not really begun quite yet. 

On Wednesday afternoon I went back to visit the children at the school where I had my first teaching placement. It was lovely to see them again and they were so excited to see me I felt like a celebratory. They had changed so much and all seemed ready for Year 2 in September. It was amazing to see how tall they had grown and how much more they were able to write now. They generally seemed a lot more mature now - well, if 6 year olds can be classed as mature!

On Thursday I spent the day in my new school. From September I will be the Nursery Class Teacher for 78 three and four year olds. The reason for the large number is because it is split morning and afternoon sessions so I have 39 children for each session. Luckily I will not be on my own - there are two lovely Early Years Practitioners to support me. When I officially start in September I have two weeks of home visits followed by a Play Day when the children can come in with their parents or carers. Then there is a gradual start to session attendance with 12 children on the Monday, followed by another 12 on the Wednesday and then everybody in from the next Monday. So I won't actually have a whole class until the end of September!

For now my head is full of how I can create a colourful, creative and effective learning environment for the children to enjoy. The SLT have given me the complete freedom to give the place a makeover so that it is exactly how I want it. There is part of me that is extremely excited about this prospect and another part that terrified by the thought of it.

I'll be in school for most of this week and a couple of days the following week before I have a four week break before heading back end of August to do more prep for September. Although it will be a holiday, I don't think my mind will be far from my new responsibilities and I will have to do my hardest to find time to switch off and relax. 

I guess this will be the first of many challenges for the foreseeable future. As we were told countless times by our uni tutors - teaching is a vocation not a job!