Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Awesome Autumn Warmers!

Autumn is upon us - the trees are ablaze with colours, the weather is cooling down (scrap that - it's freeeezing already!) and the nights are drawing in, but fortunately I have these current perfect little pleasures keeping me as snug as a bug in a toasty little rug.

1. The online 21 Day Meditation Challenge from Chopra Center Meditation - It's a 15 minute daily guided meditation on inviting abundance into your life and is a welcome break from life's current pressures.

2. The Bridge Season 1 & The Killing Season 2 - I currently can't get enough of Scandi noir; so much so that I managed to watch the entire season of The Bridge in one weekend!

3. Modelo Beer - If you enjoy Mexican beers such as Corona or Sol, then I recommend you try Modelo beer. It's delicious, refreshing and refined.
4. I've recently invested in a pair of Salomon trail running shoes and they're so good that I could wax lyrical about them all day. They're comfortable and provide excellent support, and are actually rather 'sexshy' (as far as running shoes can be anyway!).
5. Spending more time in the kitchen - The current snap of cold weather has been a great encouragement to stay in and try out some new recipes. Recent experiments include Jamie Oliver's home made granola and my personal favourite - Canadian pancakes with blueberries, maple syrup & bacon on a lazy Sunday morning.
6. It's only taken me 3 years, but I have finally found a fabulous pair of winter boots from Rieker. They are one of the leading designers of anti stress boots, so it's safe to say these boots rival my new Salomon trainers in the comfort stakes!
7. Party planning - My birthday is swiftly approaching which can mean only one thing - house partaaaay! The theme is Mad Hatters & Mayhem - I recently came across the Vintage Dorset website, which has some brilliant ideas I may be using for the party!
8. Autumn - What's not to love about Autumn? Crisp, sunny mornings, the first frost, pumpkin carving, the Fall leaves and the promise of the Christmas break just around the corner... Yes please!
9. Warm Wolf - Cold nights mean that it's time for the return of Warm Wolf - a wolf teddy bear with a hot water bottle inside it. Yes, I may be in my 30's but I don't care!
10. M&S food - Ok, this is an expensive addiction to have, but Marks & Spencer's food is just so deliciously, fantastically, resplendently amazing. That is all. :)
What are your perfect little pleasures right now?


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Trail Running in the Savernake Forest

One of my happiest discoveries this year has been my love for trail running. I've been an avid road runner for a couple of years now but it's only more recently that I've ventured off road into the exciting and extraordinary world of trail running.

This weekend a friend and I headed to the Savernake Forest in Marlborough to stretch our legs in the 4,500 acres of this beautiful woodland owned by the Earl of Cardigan. The forest is in a designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and words alone simply cannot do it justice.

 I took my phone camera along for the run which was both a good and bad thing - on one hand it allowed me to capture these beautiful images, but it meant that I kept stopping intermittently to take pictures! Fortunately, my running buddy was very patient and admittedly the breaks were welcome as the Savernake Forest is certainly a challenging run consisting of ample hills and some very boggy terrain underfoot.

Some people discount trail running if their focus is on achieving good running times. Naturally, the pavement or the treadmill are better if you're trying to improve your time but there's no harm in adding a spot of trail running into your routine too. It brings a whole new dynamic to the sport - it's both challenging and rewarding and it allows you the opportunity to spend quality time outdoors in the beautiful countryside. It's worth investing in a good pair of trail running shoes if you live in the UK though as it can get a tad muddy along the way!


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

What's not to love about Halloween? Copious amounts of sweets, spooky decorations, trick or treating and of course pumpkin carving!

This evening a friend held a pumpkin carving evening at her house, in preparation for the almighty HallowBon party she is throwing this weekend (HallowBon is a combination of Halloween and Bonfire Night and looks set to be the party of the year!).

I have to confess I have never carved a pumpkin before in my life (sad I know!) but with a little inspiration from some pictures sourced from the Internet and a super sharp knife and voila! these are the beauties I created!

Happy Halloween :)


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Happy National Poetry Day 2012!

image from dreamstime
A friend sent me a fabulous email at work today in which she not only wished me a happy National Poetry Day, (how did I miss this? I love poetry!) but she also wrote me a joyful little poem about the flat pack joy that was our evening last night. (The move is almost done... finally!)

I love writing poetry and spend a fair bit of my free time wrapped up in creating the perfect poem. However, I'm not quite courageous enough to share my musings with the cyberworld just yet, so instead, in celebration of National Poetry Day, I thought I'd share one of my all time favourite poems:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, 29 September 2012

All About... Tragic & Lovely

One of the things I enjoy the most about my 'Bug Another Blogger' series is the insight it gives me into the lives of fellow bloggers. We certainly all share a passion for writing, but that aside, we are a wonderfully varied group of individuals. This week I asked Karissa from Tragic & Lovely a few questions about herself:

1. What accomplishment in your life to date are you the most proud of?
I'm proud of persevering - sticking in out through the hard stuff. Because my husband and I didn't give up when things were hard, we have a stronger marriage. Because I didn't quit my job when it got difficult and exhausting, I am a better teacher.

2. Do you think people are a product of their environment?
To an extent, yes! What we are taught when we are young generally remains our core. However, my brother, sister, and I are so different, despite being raised in relatively the same way by the same parents - thus, personality and personal choices greatly influence self.

3. What is your signature dish?
Chicken! I'm not a big fan of red meat and also find chicken the easiest to cook. Sometimes my husband will say, "Please, anything but more chicken!" But what I make over and over (and always get guest compliments for) would be either my mom's chicken enchiladas or the mustard glaze I put on salmon.

4. Why did you decide to start blogging?
I wanted a place to share creativity, to meet new people, to practice my writing... Plus, it's really fun!

5. What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe right now?
Since autumn is my favorite season, coats and scarves are the best! I have a beautiful coral coat that my parents gave me and a black and ivory scarf - I wear both often.

6. If you won the lottery, would you still work?
Yes! Probably mostly volunteering-type stuff or focus on my writing - but I'd be bored just sitting around.

7. Autumn or Spring?
Autumn!!! I'm obsessed. I've even begun a pinterest board
 dedicated to it.

8. When did you last see your best friend?
Fortunately, I see her every day - we work together :)

9. If you could live anywhere in the world (other than where you currently live) where would choose to your hang your hat? 

I really love Colorado and am quite happy here! But I really love Isla Roatan in Honduras and would happily live there. Or maybe semi-rural Pennsylvania.

10. Describe yourself in one sentence.

Tough! Good thing you asked an English teacher who can be tricky with punctuation ;) Here goes... I am an introspective, Jesus-loving, introverted, married teacher who loves reading, writing, and animals (among other things); I have few friends but am dearly loyal to them; I'm thankful to say I'm happy in my life - always up for improvement but generally content with where and who I am.

image credit

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What is Love?

It has been a barren few weeks on the blog front for which I must apologise profusely. (I blame it on the fact that I am currently in the middle of moving house, which involves building flat pack furniture, which in turn involves me having to lie down for extensive periods of 'recovery' time...)

In short, normal blogging services shall return very soon. In the meantime though, I thought it would be nice to share this little thought with you....

'Love is... to listen'

I volunteer for a local charity and the other evening I came across a painting in the branch with these words on it. And how true they are - one of the kindest things we can offer to our fellow human beings is a sympathetic ear. We all have vastly differing journeys through life but a common element is that at some point we will all face difficult patches. At these times, having someone to listen without judging or throwing advice at us can make all the difference. Surely that's love in one of its most selfless forms?

Why not give it a go and see what happens....

image from dreamstime

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

My Week in Photographs: 31st August - 6th September

It's official - Autumn has arrived in the UK! I have no idea exactly how or when this happened (we haven't even had a summer yet!) but it has begun. It's a little sad to see the nights drawing in but I can't help feeling a sense of anticipation about the start of the prettiest season of the year. I love Autumn and all the beautiful colours it brings.

It's just as well then that my colleague and I passed the exam for our 1 star kayaking qualification after work on Wednesday this week, as the evenings are now almost too dark to get out on the lakes for a paddle.
In a bid (of denial) to prolong the summer, I treated myself to a new and very summery coloured nail polish this week - 'Strawberry Fizz' from Rimmel. Whilst strolling home from work admiring my very pink toenails, I stumbled across this charming cottage. I think it's time for an eye test as I walk past this house every day but have never noticed it before!
Last weekend I finally went to see Broadway Tower in the Vale of Evesham. Visiting this remarkable folly has been on my to-do list for some time. I also went down the nuclear bunker on site (it's a little surreal going down a nuclear bunker that's in the middle of a field surrounded by sheep, countryside and not much else!).

Also this week:
  • Spent a rainy sunday in Bristol with a friend shopping at the Mall in Cribbs Causeway, which involved trying on the biggest coats and strangest hats we could find!
  • Came across Costa-Rican red bananas for the first time at my local greengrocers
  • Walked almost every day on my lunch break as the weather has been glorious
  • Found a French sweet company in desperate need of help with their branding - gross!

How has your week been?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Science Museum, London

Yes, it's science, but there isn't a whiff of geekiness in this museum. In fact, strolling through the exhibits, I was taken aback by just how cool the Science Museum is. With over twenty different galleries spread over several floors, you can easily while away an afternoon, or even a whole day in here.

Exploring the exhibits, it's difficult not to feel a sense of pride and awe over the extraordinary accomplishments of scientists and pioneers over the centuries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Making the Modern World gallery, which showcases hundreds of the world's most iconic inventions from the 1700s through to the 21st Century. You'll find the Apollo 10 command module here, along with Stephenson's original 'Rocket' locomotive, the Raleigh Chopper children's bicycle and Crick and Watson's DNA model. Prepare to be enthralled!

Another absolute treat is the Exploring Space gallery that follows the history of the space age starting from 1957 with the launch of Sputnick 1, to sending spacecrafts to other planets, walking on the moon and launching thousands of satellites across the world.

Also on site is an Imax cinema and a museum shop that's brimming with gadgtes, science toys and gifts. There are also a couple of cafe's and restaurants which are ideal if, like me, you need to sit down and consume copious amounts of coffee and cake to get over the fact that you're extraordinarlily stupid compared to the remarkably talented inventors of the bygone eras. (I had two pieces of cake...)

As with all the major museums and galleries in London, the Science Museum is free, so there's really no excuse not to drop by for a little lesson in all things scientific.

For further info check out the Science Museum's website here


Word of the Week

(Noun/ Adj.) Remedy that alleviates pain without curing or dealing with the underlying cause
Synonyms: alleviant; alleviator, soothing 
'Not even his charming company could serve as a palliative for her solitude.'
'Living is a sickness to which sleep provides relief every sixteen hours. It's a palliative. The remedy is death.'
'Palliative care is sadly lacking for patients with certain illnesses.'
image from dreamstime


Thursday, 6 September 2012

'Mission Kayak' Accomplished!

There's nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishing something new! This week, I am basking in the warm fuzziness of that feeling because I have just completed my 1 star kayaking qualification from the British Canoe Union.

The course ran over a series of five weekday evenings and covered all the basics of canoeing and kayaking, including elementary manoeuvres, embarking and disembarking from boats, capsizing and of course health & safety and rescue procedures.

Another requisite for the award is to complete a river trip. I had this pleasure back in August on an all day kayaking excursion along the Thames in Oxford. We had dreadful weather that consisted of perpetual rain, thunder and lightning! (But I did it!)

Admittedly I still have a lot to learn - my kayaking skills are more 'learner driver' than 'formula one' racer at this stage, but I intend to persevere with it, as I would love to become proficient enough to be able to go sea kayaking in the none too distant future.

But let's not get ahead of myself. For now I shall simply pat myself on the back and enjoy practising my new found skills. :)


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

My Week in Photographs: 24th - 30th August

It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun fancy dress parties are! Last weekend saw Suze's 4th/ 5th/ 6th? (I lose count!) consecutive year of celebrating her birthday in unusual attire, although the fun started in the office on Friday when the wig for her costume arrived, and was subsequently modelled by half of the office!

The fancy dress party proved an enormous hit as always and we were tripping the light fandango into the early hours of the morning. I then got up and did it all again the following day - albeit this time in a party dress rather than fancy dress! - for a good friend's wedding. And what an extraordinary wedding it was. (Greek weddings rock!)

Between all the partying, I also managed to finally see one of Royal Mail's golden postboxes in Cheltenham. I love the fact that it looks like a child is stuck inside this postbox!

There was also excitement and greedy bellies this week when we discovered that a delightful new waffle house has opened up in Cirencester. Nom nom!

In keeping with the food theme, I also dined at the lovely Hampton Manor Hotel in Solihull this week. The food was spectacular and the hotel is rather grand too!

Other than that, the only other 'mini' entertainment was a road closure as a result of a tractor dropping its hay bales everywhere. Welcome to the Cotswolds!

How has your week been?

Thursday, 30 August 2012

He Says She... Waffles

Being the sweet-toothed, culinary piggy that I am, my ears pricked up today when my work colleagues mentioned that a shiny new waffle house has come to Cirencester. So, at lunch time, I followed the syrupy-sweet scent of waffles all the way to Blackjack Street in the town centre, where the brilliantly named 'He Says She... Waffles' is neatly nestled.

This place is seriously awesome. The decor is a perfect blend of modern yet homely tables and chairs, with loads of quirky, waffle-inspired curiosities dotted about the cafe, lending it a fun and quirky air.
The menu is extensive too (providing you like waffles!) with plenty of sweet and savoury options, all at reasonable prices. The waffles took a little on the lengthy side to reach us but were worth the wait and were really attractively presented.

The only downside - He Says She... Waffles is less than a five minute walk from my office, so I fear I may end up in here more than I probably should in the coming months!

Check out their website here - or better yet head to Templar Mews, Blackjack Street, Cirencester and try out the waffles for yourself.

Happy waffling!


Hot This Month!

August has been another windswept month for the UK, but fortunately I've had these 'hotties' to keep me happy:

1. The Olympic Games - London has done a fabulous job at hosting the 2012 Olympics and as if we haven't had enough excitement already, this week sees the start of the Paralympics. Whatever will we do with our spare time when it's all over?

2. Greek Weddings - everyone should have the opportunity to attend a Greek wedding at least once in their lifetime as it's a phenomenal experience! I went to my first Greek wedding this month and had enormous amounts of fun, particularly watching the traditional Greek dancing!
Image from dreamstime

3. 'Smother' by Daughter - I heard this song on the radio for the first time this month and instantly fell in love with Elena Tonra's hauntingly exquisite voice. The song isn't due for release in the UK for another month or so, but I shall certainly be getting my paws on it as soon as it's out!

4. Tesco's Feta & Butternut Squash Salad - This may seem like a strange combination for a salad but don't be sceptical as it's delish! It's packed with ingredients including quinoa, edamame beans, spinach, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and oh-so-sweet cranberries. I could happily eat this every day!

5. Homemade Cocktails - This month saw me attempting to make my own cocktails for the first time - not only were they super tasty but I had great fun making them too!
Image from dreamstime

6. Murder: Joint Enterprise - This brilliant new TV drama aired on BBC2 is directed by Birger Larsen, who helped create the Danish hit TV series The Killing (which I loved!).

7. Fancy Dress Parties - August has now become synonymous with one thing only - my friend Suze's infamous annual fancy dress birthday party! This year proved to be another smash hit.

8. Bio Oil - Love this stuff. 'Nuff said.

9. Cadbury's Chocolate Coated Pretzels - these little bite sized, chocolatey pretzels are utterly scrumptious and frightfully moreish. Yum!

What are your perfect little pleasures right now?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Word of the Week


(Adj.) Showing great attention to detail or correct behaviour.

precise - scrupulous - meticulous - pedantic - pernickety


'Her punctilious manners made her fit right in at the country club, but down at the local dive bar she stood out like a black sheep.'

'The officer insisted upon punctilious execution of his commands.' 

image from dreamstime


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Cocktail o'clock!

If you're having friends over and are stuck for ideas for something entertaining to do, then perhaps consider holding a cocktail-making party.
Recently, a couple of the girls and I got together for exactly this and I could wax lyrical all day about how much fun we had!

How to go about it:

You'll need the following basics:

  • A good cocktail book (we used '1000 Classic Cocktail Recipes' by Robert Cross)
  • A cocktail shaker, preferably with a strainer
  • A blender (for making 'frozen' cocktails, which I'd definitely recommend)
  • Various spirits and mixers, depending on which cocktails take your fancy. If you're on a budget then I suggest picking recipes that use the same spirit/s to keep the cost down
  • Some nice glasses & decorations for the drinks, such as fresh fruit, drinking straws and mini umbrellas
  • Lots of crushed ice
  • A couple of willing guinea pigs participants to join in the cocktail shaking and drinking
And voila! you have all the ingredients for a perfect party.

We experimented with several cocktails during the evening, including good ol' classics such as mojitos, and classics with a twist - saocos (a Caribbean recipe similar to a pina colada but made with coconut milk instead of creamed coconut) and my personal favourite - frozen raspberry daiquiris. I couldn't find an exact recipe for the berry daiquiris so we improvised a little with superb results! The secret is to taste your creations whilst preparing them (any excuse!) until you get the perfect balance.

Happy cocktail making!