Sunday, 31 August 2014

A Transitioning Tag From Shannon

On this final day of the school holidays, I woke to both sunshine and a tag from my dear friend Shannon inviting me to join her in a Transition Tag reflecting on the summer and looking ahead to the autumn. 

I decided to get on with it immediately, accompanied by my final early morning cup of tea and biscuit (there never seems any time for this during the school day weeks). It's been a lovely opportunity to think back over what has been a really great and fun-filled summer and also start to get excited over what is coming in the next couple of months.

Top Ten Thoughts While Transitioning

1. Favourite memory from June
The day we hired bikes and cycled around East London to and around the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park - it was such a change from the norm and so much fun. Also, the relief at completing all 78 school reports and getting my Nursery Data in on time - phew!

2. Favourite memory from July
Is it wrong to have 3? Our visit to wonderful Wimbledon; going to the Moomin Show with my best friends and their wee ones; and of course, Nicki & Gianni's beautiful wedding followed by those camping days in Whitstable.

3. Favourite memory from August
So many from our holiday, particularly the evening we cooked a three course meal in the campervan beside a beautiful beach, our awesome stay at Cromlix and seeing beautiful Aira Falls in the Lake District. But I also cannot forget the incredible Friday Night Is Disco Night, Mum's birthday and our visit to Buckingham Palace.

4. Best thing you ate over the Summer holidays
We had some outstanding seafood suppers in Whitsable and I loved all the meals we made in the campervan using local Hebridian and Scottish produce. Our last night fish supper at the little restaurant on Scalpay was delicious but I will never forget the Porridge Brûlée I had for breakfast at Cromlix. Porridge made with cream and whisky with blowtorch blasted demerara sugar on top. Mmm!

5. Something you wish you did, but never got around to
Meeting up with more people. This summer I didn't have the energy to rush around and do lots of visiting. It's been lovely to meet up with the big and little people when we have and see lots of family at the wedding and family party and now I have a bit more go in me to keep meeting up with people into the autumn. I already can't wait for my afternoon with Sam in a few weeks time!

6. Favourite song right now
Hard one! I've really enjoyed my summer playlist and have mostly listed to the same 40 tunes in the last few months. In the past week I've been enjoying lots of Amy MacDonald, the new Kate Rusby album Ghost and, along with everyone else, Kate Bush's back catalogue. I've been singing Babooshka in my head for the last few days!

7. Favourite autumn fashion item
I need to lose a bit of excess weight in the next month or so and then I'll get some new clothes for the season. I'm looking forward to getting out my red Gloverall duffle coat again - it's so cosy.

8. Favourite thing to do with your family in the autumn
A nice walk in the countryside, admiring colour-changing trees and stomping in leaves - followed by a warming stew or roast.

Autumn memories from 2013 - Day out at Stourhead wearing that red duffle coat!
Looking forward to making lots of new memories in Autumn 2013
9. What you can't wait to cook/eat this autumn
I keep thinking a chicken and leek pie would be lovely.

10. A goal you have for this school year
To achieve a better work-life balance - to work hard but also really enjoy life both in and out of school. Also, I need to start writing lists again. I work best when I keep lists to help me prioritise, allocate time and give myself the satisfaction of ticking things off. This lapsed last year so I want to make it part of my routine again.

What did you enjoy most this summer? 
What can't you wait for this autumn?
I'm not nominating anyone in particular but do feel free to join in with reflecting and anticipating.

Oh, To Be Another National Trust Cat!

You may remember my post earlier this month about Gina, the National Trust cat I met at the Wimpole Estate; well yesterday I discovered another.

We were visiting Nuffield Place in Oxfordshire. It's only a stone's throw away from Grey's Court in Henley-on-Thames one of our favourite NT properties but Andy and I have been keen to visit this house and garden which has only opened to the public in recent years and headed there on Saturday afternoon.

It's the former home of William Morris, but nothing to do with the Arts & Craft Movement. Instead he was the founder of Morris Minor cars in 1913, known more frequently as Lord Nuffield. As well as being one of the founding fathers of the British motor industry, he was a philanthropist who gave money to both medical and educational charities. Ever heard of the Nuffield Foundation and Nuffield Collage in Oxford? - he was the founder of those.

The house is modest in size but fascinating - a time capsule of inter-war life. Viscount Nuffield moved in with his wife in 1933 and the property is found very much exactly the same as it was when they lived there. As we walked around the attractive rooms, we spoke to some really informative guides who explained that this quiet, man who was one of the richest men in the world at the time, was very unextravagant and chose to spend his money on good causes rather than himself. He even brought home scraps of carpet from his factories to sew together for his bedroom carpet!

Anyway back to the cat - here it is!

As we were leaving the house and wandering around the vegetable garden (where they have an iron lung in a potting shed!), I turned a corner and bumped into this beauty. Isn't she lovely?

She came straight up to me and as I bent down to stroke her she jumped straight up onto my lap and nuzzled me, looking for lots of fuss. Of course, I was more than happy to give the required attention for several minutes. 

Then as I started to get a dead leg, Andy crouched down and she moved over to him for more cuddles. 

She was delightful, so relaxed and friendly! She had a beautiful coat, a sort of grey-brown colour and her fur was soft and downy. I have a feeling she must belong to the Property Manager as what I assume is the live-in cottage was not far away.

I had a feeling that if it hadn't been closing time we would have spent a lot longer talking to her. Alas we don't know her name; I have tried to Google her but unlike Gina I sadly can't find anything about her online.

Nuffield Place is a real treasure. Small but beautiful. Well worth an afternoon visit if you're in the area. Don't forget to look out for the resident feline!

And so I've met another NT cat. I most definitely think it would be an alternative life for me! x

If you want to find out more about Nuffield Place and Lord Nuffield, have a look at this interesting article from The Independent in August 2013.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

52 Lists / Thirty Five

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the things on your weekly shop

I've been a little cheeky with this one and just cut and pasted the list I sent to Andy yesterday afternoon as he'd offered to do the shop on his way home.

Bananas - Our favourite fruity boost

1 bag of smallish apples - Best mid-morning snack

Couple of big baking potatoes - For jacket potato dinners

Couple of leeks - I'm starting to think about soups and chicken pies

Tomatoes (big and cherry) - For salads, cooking with and just popping in your mouth when you go the fridge

Eggs - So many posibilities

Yoghurts - Lunchtime staple and always YeoValley as the pots are the best for re-using at school
Creme fraiche - For sauces and accompaniments

Small pot of double cream - Ditto

Food for lunches - We've resolved to eat better this school year. Out with the ham sandwiches and in with some falafel and salad

Gnocchi - Fridge staple for days when we need a quick dinner

Chicken breasts - Not had these for ages, we usually try to get all our meat from our local butcher but if we know we won't be able to get there buy organic meat from the supermarket

Fresh crab pate - For toast and to make into pasta sauces

Picnic stuff for weekend - Because everyone loves a picnic

Loaf of bread - We prefer to make our own or buy from a proper baker but this is a sour dough boule
Something for tea over the weekend - Fancy burgers and brioche rolls

Flowers for me - He picked the bunch I bought for a friend's mum last week because he knew I liked the colours. Ahhh!

You may be wondering about the lack of vegetables and fruit. The answer is that we receive a vegbox (usually small vegbox less roots) from Riverford every Wednesday and often add additional items to our delivery. 

We've had the vegbox since 2009 and like it because it encourages us to eat more healthily and seasonally. Everything is also organic so we feel ethically good as well! 

There have been times when we've felt overloaded with veg, especially if we've been out for several days, the fridge is still full and we've not cancelled the subsequent box but we can usually clear it by making a huge pot of soup for lunches and teas. 

It has also made us eat things you wouldn't find so easily in the supermarket (kohl rabi anyone?) or avoid buying because they're too expensive or not part of an offer (fennel). 

It's not a truly representative shopping list as things change from week to week (there's no sausages and we seem to eat a lot of sausages!), especially if we buy stuff on offer and freeze. We also do eat treat things like biscuits and crisps but bought quite a few bits on holiday so are enjoying these and reliving holidays memories first.

What are your weekly shop staples?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

52 Lists / Thirty Four

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the dreams/goals you had as a child

Be a Teacher
Something I always dreamed of doing that I've just about achieved in the last two and a bit years.
(Still cannot believe I'll be entering my 2nd year of teaching next week. Time flies!)

Act in a musical
Achieved somewhat when I was 14 and in a summer holiday production of Godspell. I did enjoy it but never really pushed myself forward for acting since. Even the thought of role-play in training sessions is enough to turn me green.

Study History
Throughout school History was my absolute favourite subject and I always knew that if I went to university it would be the subject I would study. I took lots of time and a Gap Year to make sure that I chose a course that would fascinate me and so ended up studying at the University of Reading working towards a degree that focused on social history. I loved being allowed the time to read about topics that I was passionate about and although I don't work in a field that directly uses this knowledge, it continues to be one of my main interests today.

Dance professionally
I continued dancing until I was 17 and had a knee injury that persisted for about four years and then suddenly, for no clear reason, got better overnight. I've never danced professionally but it is still something I enjoy, although I've swapped ballet for the more sociable field of ballroom dancing.

Pursue a career as a Wedding Dress Designer
This was my big fascination between the ages of about 8 and 11. I spent ages reading wedding dress magazines and trying to create my own designs. However as I cannot draw for toffee this was never going to be a reality.

To have a cat of my own
Done and much enjoyed. Miaow!

See London by helicopter
I loved doing this in July 2012 as part of my 30th birthday present from Andy. Amazing!

Be able to touch type
I could type around 95 words per minute at my best - now it's about 75 wpm.

Meet Shirley Hughes & Judith Kerr
Growing up I always wanted to meet my favourite authors and in the last couple of years have got to meet them both!

Be a Blue Peter presenter
One of those dreams that you aspire to but know it will never happen. The closest I've been to achieving this has been having described as having the warmth and personality of both a BP and Children's TV presenter when I've been observed teaching. I'm hoping I'm more of a Sarah Greene/Janet Ellis/Helen Skelton type than Katy Hill!

Visit New York
Growing up I was fascinated by New York and have been lucky enough to visit it twice, firstly in 1999 and most recently in 2009. It's an incredible city but in terms of US cities I think I'd actually prefer to live in Boston and all-in-all love London even more.

Get married and have a family of my own
I ticked off part one in September 2010 and am hoping that part two will be achieved in the next few years.

What were your hopes and dreams as a child? 
Have you achieved them?

Friday, 22 August 2014

52 Lists / Thirty Three

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the things you can see right now

Slightly late by a week and a bit as we've been on holiday, only returning late last night. This list has been rather determined by the fact that I've had a pyjama day so far and although I've been busy pottering, I'm still not dressed and seem to have the baggage from a fortnight away littered around me.

My cold feet wearing my sheepskin moccasin slippers up on the sofa

Binoculars (which need to be returned to my Dad) used for spotting the cutest seals and sheep

Pile of leaflets for visitor attractions in Scotland and the Lake District that prompt return visits

My gorgeous new sheepskin rug

Two feather pillows, used for campervanning and for using when hotel pillows are a bit too foamy for my liking

Andy's union magazine perched on the arm of the sofa, reminding me that we have jobs to go back to

Nails that need a manicure

Holdall containing the summery clothes that I did not get to wear on the Outer Hebrides

A camera full of photographic memories of a fantastic time with Andy

Bags of beautiful souvenirs - some bought, others collected

A very sleepy cosy cat who makes coming back to normality a pleasure.

Friday, 8 August 2014

52 Lists / Thirty Two

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the things you wish you had known as a teenager

You might think you're fat now but you'll back on yourself in yours to come and wonder at how slim you were

It's silly to on switch your mind off from subject matter you don't think is interesting now

Some things just aren't worth spending your money on

You should always follow your dreams but listen to the wisdom of others around you

It's not a good thing to aspire to be other people, just strive to be the best of what you are

You will get there - eventually

What do you wish you'd known in your youth?

If you've enjoyed this, you might also like to read the letter my 16 year old self. x

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Oh, To Be A National Trust Cat!

Last Sunday we spent the afternoon visiting the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. It's owned by the National Trust and has the usual beautiful period house, immaculate gardens and in addition to all that, an amazing farm.

Now you already know how much I love visiting National Trust properties and my complete love of cats and on the Wimpole Estate I was in my element as I found something which combined these two passions.

Meet Gina, the 14 year old tabby cat.

She spends her days sleeping on the gift shop shelves and occasionally, on warm days, ventures outside to the plant shop to snooze in sunny puddles.

She occasionally wakes up to have a look at the visitors admiring her or to give herself a little wash.

And then it's back to sleep, hoping that the visitors will leave her to sleep in peace.

Oh, to be a National Trust cat! 
That would really be a lovely life. x

Friday, 1 August 2014

52 Lists / Thirty One

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the good things you have done this week

I've found this one rather tricky as since we returned from our camping trip on Tuesday night, I've been a bit of a home-bird and not really done much but here goes...

Got up at 6am to make biscuits for our camping trip

On Sunday morning I helped my family to tidy up after the lovely wedding the previous day

Acted as designated driver for the entire weekend

Remembered to send my friend and colleague a text to wish her Eid Mubarak

Spent a long time brushing Brina when she returned from the vet's cattery

Dropped everything to give Dad a lift to the garage when he realised he'd forgotten to give the mechanic something that was necessary to fix the car

Rescued a little mouse from a playful Milly

What good deeds have you done this week?

My list doesn't look very impressive. I think I would be graded as 'must try harder'!

Have a good weekend! x