Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Long Overdue Return To The Blogging World

Wow oh wow, I'm not quite sure how I managed to forget all about blogging since October last year and we are now in February already, crazy! I have spent the last few days having a huge catch up on everyone's blogs that I follow and do hope you're all well.

I am determined to get back into blogging as I found it a great way of recording what I had been up to as well as a good way of spending some time to relax and read everyone else's lovely blog posts.

Since my last blog post where I mentioned that Jack and I got engaged, I haven't done much in the way of wedding planning, I'm actually rather terrible at it and need a kick up the butt! Jack and I have done quite a bit of discussing about what we both like and have said that we would like to get married in June 2018, so a good 16 months away but that will soon come around and I like to be organised so I'm hoping we can get a lot sorted out soon. We're sticking to a budget and don't want some big fancy showy wedding as that's just not us; we're all about love, family and food quite honestly! So if we have all of them at the wedding then that would be perfect! I'm also terribly shy and I'm already feeling sick at the thought of everyone looking at me but I suppose I will have to get over that, or that's what everyone keeps telling me anyway! As and when we have more plans I will of course share them with you on here and any advice is greatly appreciated from your own experiences of planning for a wedding!

I have also changed jobs since my last post. I was feeling incredibly unhappy in my previous job even though I had only been there for eight months, but it just wasn't for me and it started to really make me question whether I want to do accountancy for the rest of my life - the thought actually made me feel rather depressed in all honesty! I was however approached by a local community-run village shop & cafe about whether I would like to take on their accounts. I thought that this may be a little more interesting than management accounting that I had been doing (analysing, budgeting, forecasting, blah blah - no offence to anyone who enjoys that!) and the shop also asked whether I would be interested in taking on the assistant manager role in the shop and cafe. I did a couple of trial days to see what I thought of it (it's been a long time since my days working in the retail giant Next but I think these came in handy) and I really enjoyed myself. And so I accepted both roles and have been working there since late November. I'm absolutely loving it there. The shop is wonderful and the people I work with are all so friendly and helpful. It's a busy little shop an cafe for a village but word of mouth means a lot and I think it's beginning to become better known now. It's in a very pretty location too so if you do happen to be in the West Berkshire area then do pop in, the shop is called the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop and their Facebook page is here; The website is currently going through a re-design if not I'd have given you that. It's a great little place anyway and does a lot to support the local community and stock local produce. We have local artists and crafters that sell their wares in the shop too and they have already asked me if I would like to sell some of my crochet items in there, so I really must pull my finger out and get busy making things! To say I'm a lot happier job-wise is an understatement, it's just so good to have the variety of working in the shop for a couple of days each week and then my other days I work from home completing their accounts, plus it is only two villages away from where we live, happy girl I am! The accounts side has given me a lot of stress initially as there was no accounting software used so I'm in the process of setting this up and getting a better system in place, at the moment it feels like I'll never catch up but I'm really enjoying the challenge of it all. Jack is very relieved to see me much happier about work these days too!

Life at home is all good; we have continued with decorating jobs and I did so much glossing one week that I think I gave myself a throat infection from all the fumes! I have painted the hallway and landing magnolia instead of the white it was previously as white just shows up every little grubby mark, especially with animals in the house! We have been busy filling in the holes and cracks in one of the hallway cupboards which Jack is turning into a pantry for me. It sits right next to the kitchen and I have so much baking and cooking equipment that I'm rapidly running out of space in the kitchen cupboards so I'm very excited at the prospect of my very own pantry! I've shown Jack some photos of pantry ideas on Pinterest and he says I always like to pick the most complicated of designs, but I'm quite sure he loves the challenges I give him! The back garden is looking rather dull and drab which is always the case at this time of the year. I'm counting down to when Spring arrives and there's a little more colour and a little less moss out there. I've just treated myself to some vegetable and flower seeds and I plan on sewing some seeds in the warmth of the conservatory when I get a spare weekend.

Spare time at the moment isn't in plentiful supply because a new bundle of fluff joined our household at the weekend, everyone meet Nigel!


He's a gorgeous and playful Border Collie, currently eight weeks old. We first met him and his siblings at four weeks old and really fell for him. His markings were gorgeous and his Mum had such a lovely personality. We always intended on getting a Border Collie this year and had been researching for ages to find the right breeder. The breeder he came from is wonderful, a lovely family with a passion for Border Collies. They only breed to continue their own lines and show their own as well as do some judging too. Nigel's Dad is a very handsome chap also from showing lines and he has show champions in his bloodlines too which is why I'm now considering giving showing a go when he's old enough as an extra activity. Barry adores playing with other dogs though he is initially nervous around bigger dogs, which is why it will be nice that Nigel will grow up here with us and Barry will no doubt be boss! We brought Nigel home on Saturday and Barry absolutely adores him! They play lots and Nigel is a real live wire! A fearless explorer in the garden and wants to eat EVERYTHING!
Sleeping Buddies

Puppies are certainly hard work but so rewarding too. I'm sure both Barry and Nigel will continue to feature heavily on my blog as they're such big parts of our lives! Just as my tortoises are too; they successfully hibernated for 7 weeks over December and January and are back to running around now and chomping away on strawberries and the extra goodies I have been giving them.

I think that's enough in terms of the updates for today; keep all your blogging too as I so love to read all of your posts, I will get around to some comments later on.

Speak soon!

Em x

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Back From Our Holiday, Overdue Blog Post & Exciting News

Apologies for the lack of blog posts for anyone who likes to read them (once again, thank you for reading, I'm quite a boring person so I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read my blog posts), where oh where is September going?! This year is just flying by!

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, The Big Sur, California

So where to start; we got back from easily the best holiday ever three weeks ago and we had such an amazing time, I'll try not to overload you with too many photos (I can't promise anything though!). For those who hadn't seen my previous blog posts, Jack and I booked a road trip around California and Nevada, USA. To start with, though an expensive holiday and one in which Jack and I have been planning and saving for some time towards, I just wanted to say how easy we found it to organise and book everything ourselves rather than paying over and above by getting a company like British Airways to organise it all for us. It gave us the freedom we wanted to plan what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, so we just booked our flights and hire car with BA and then booked all our hotels and activities ourselves separately, getting over £250 cash back into our bank thanks to Quidco (I can't recommend using that site enough!).

Sunset in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge just about visible as the fog rolls in

Our itinerary while out in America went like this:
Day 1: San Francisco
Day 2: San Francisco
Day 3: San Francisco/Big Basin Redwoods State Park/Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay
Day 4: Monterey Bay
Day 5: Monterey Bay/17 Mile Drive/Pebble Beach/Carmel Beach/The Big Sur/Morro Bay/Edna Valley Vineyards/San Luis Obispo
Day 6: San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara/El Matador Beach/Malibu/Los Angeles
Day 7: Los Angeles
Day 8: Los Angeles/Las Vegas
Day 9: Las Vegas/Mojave Desert
Day 10: Las Vegas/Fly Home

Happy cyclists!

The itinerary doesn't really do justice to just how much we managed to do while out there and I'll say it again, it was AMAZING! It was incredibly tiring and at times I struggled, especially in the heat too but I'd do it all again tomorrow if I could afford it (though I think I'd miss the dog and torts too!). We visited so many places, ate some great American food, did some fantastic activities while there, met some lovely people, got told I say lovely a lot ("you're definitely English aren't you" they said!), saw some amazing landscapes and...... GOT ENGAGED!

My beautiful ring in the beautiful setting where Jack proposed!

It came as a complete surprise to me; Jack and I have been together for nine years since the age of 18 and it's a bit of a running joke that Jack was going to make me wait until we'd been together 10 years! I think perhaps deep down I had secretly hoped he'd ask me while we were on this amazing holiday but I'm not the type to pile on the pressure like some itching to get engaged, I knew he'd ask me one day. It was therefore an amazing surprise when he did ask me while on holiday; we had celebrated my birthday the day before by going whale watching in Monterey and it was a dream come true to see one of my favourite animals ever, the Blue Whale! They're huge and though we only got a fleeting glimpse of two of them you still can't comprehend just how big they are. We also saw a feeding frenzy of Californian Sea Lion and Humpback whales enjoying a bait ball of a Anchovies. One of the highlights had to be watching Humpback Whales breaching; they leap right out of the water and to this day scientists still have different views on why they do it. Personally I think they do it just for fun and they make an incredible splash as they re-enter the water. I divulge anyway, so I had a fantastic time whale watching, sadly Jack did not and was very sea sick along with quite a number of others on the whale watching trip. They had warned us of a bumpy ride that morning so I took sea sickness tablets before we set off and they obviously did the trick for me. Jack being the tough bloke that he is refused as he is usually fine. Poor Jack, I felt so guilty! He obviously still loves me though as the next day he proposed!

Humpback Whale breaching - Amazing! Monterey, California

The Big Sur/The Pacific Coast Highway, California

On Saturday 3rd September we left Monterey Bay to travel along the stunning Pacific Coast Highway to San Luis Obispo. It's the best drive we've ever done and in our bright red Mustang GT Convertible it was lots of fun. There are plenty of places along The Big Sur to pullover to admire the views of the Pacific Ocean, white beaches below and of the cliffs, gorges and mountains too. We made a number of stops along the way and by far my favourite was when we parked up at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to walk to McWay Falls, a beautiful waterfall that flows onto a sandy beach below and where the sea seems extra blue. It's only a narrow walkway around the edge of a cliff to view the falls and I was busy taking photos when Jack said he had a question to ask me and popped THE question! It was incredibly romantic and by far the best memory of our holiday and this year! I of course said yes but later on said that I should have played harder to get after waiting for nine years! It means even more to me that Jack rung my parents before we went on holiday to ask for their blessing; Jack said it was like asking my Dad if he could borrow a tool out of his toolbox as my Dad just said "'course you can" while my Mum blubbed happy tears in the background! Now Jack is not a decision maker at all so I was even more impressed at the fact he picked out my engagement ring all on his own. It's beautiful, simple and dainty with a sparkly diamond on a platinum ring, just what I think I had imagined. Jack knows I like dainty and simple and he also knew that I hate an audience so he asked me in a place that was quite private other than the odd few people walking past, it was just perfect! I'll stop gushing now as I probably lost you way way further up on this blog post! To say I'm a happy girl is an understatement though!

Morro Bay, California

The rest of our holiday was wonderful too; picking a favourite place is very hard as they were all so different to each other. San Francisco was beautiful and lots to do there, though very expensive - even cost $50 per day to park our car at the hotel and that was cheap! Monterey was pretty and for wildlife it's a fantastic spot, we could see Sea Otters from our hotel balcony! San Luis Obispo was mainly just a stopover place to break up a long journey but it was a nice city and the vineyards were beautiful and quite different to the vineyards I'm used to in the Loire Valley, France. Los Angeles was great but we agreed probably our least favourite place; Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills were all fantastic and we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Hollywood too, though it's quite worn out and over-touristy. Finally, Las Vegas. I think Vegas is the sort of place where you either want to go there or you don't. I personally wanted to go and see what it was like, not for the casinos but for all of it and we were not disappointed, it was brilliant! It's a clean place, unbearably hot outside but the casinos and hotels are nice and cool, there's so much to see and do even if you don't want to gamble and I'd definitely like to go back there again, as with all of the places we visited. I've provided a few highlights of the holiday below.

Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco
Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge was probably the best part of our time in San Francisco, the views were a great reward as the cycle ride was hard work for me! We enjoyed our tour of Alcatraz Island and it's something I'd recommend to others but it's not as amazing as everyone says - unless you like wandering around a prison, I personally don't! I more enjoyed the wildlife of the island and found it strange that people were queuing to get a book signed by former prisoner - no offence intended to anyone, but it's just not for me. Pier 39 was fantastic for shopping and going for a drink, the Ferry Building had some amazing little boutique shops too full of handmade gifts and tasty food. We also rode the cable car from down near Union Square back up to Fisherman's Wharf where our hotel was and it was great fun, the steep roads in San Francisco are something else.

Alcatraz Island

Californian Sea Lions at Pier 39, San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

Monterey used to just be an old canning town and so the history of various buildings on Cannery Row was quite interesting. There are lots of great seafood restaurants here with really fresh seafood on offer; I enjoyed a lobster tail and crab claws on my birthday meal out and it was delicious! I think Monterey bay area is going through a lot of investment and refurbishment and it would be interesting to come back in a few years time to see how it's changed. The Monterey Bay Aquarium was fantastic as there's so much to see and very informative. There are lots of small beaches to sit on and while away some time just relaxing and it's funny to be so close to animals like Sea Otters and Californian Sea Lions and think nothing of it like the locals! I was more in awe obviously! Whales and dolphins are even seen through binoculars only half a mile out in the bay. For wildlife it was great and I really enjoyed spending my birthday here. As described above, whale watching was truly phenomenal and a dream come true for me. I was lucky enough to go whale watching a few years ago while visiting some family in Vancouver, Canada and we saw Orca then, so to see so many other different species on this trip was brilliant.

Happy car fanatic Jack in our 5 litre Mustang GT!

Monterey Bay, California

Another Humpback Whale, Monterey, CA

Driving The Big Sur
Driving the Big Sur/Pacific Coast Highway was great; the views are amazing and as mentioned above, there are plenty of places to stop and admire the views. There's also a beach along here home to lots of Elephant Seals and the viewing platform gets you quite close to admire these big animals. The wildlife in America and Canada is just amazing; I love British wildlife and I'm always out taking photos with my camera but it's always nice to see other wildlife in another country and I'm a huge fan of birds of prey. The Turkey Vulture and Red Tailed Hawk were frequently seen soaring high above us.

The Lone Cypress, 17 Mile Drive, California

Bixby Bridge, The Big Sur

Los Angeles
Beverly Hills is a very swanky place to spend some time and Rodeo Drive has some very expensive shops. There are also lots of fantastic restaurants though and we had a lovely meal at a French Bistro; a welcome break from the overwhelmingly huge portions of American food in other restaurants! Santa Monica Pier was great fun; lots of performers, street art and lovely white sandy beaches (see, I said lovely again!)

Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, CA

El Matador State Beach, Malibu, California

Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA

Hollywood Walk of Fame, LA

Las Vegas
We stayed in The Bellagio while in Las Vegas and it was brilliant. The fountain display outside the hotel each evening is great to watch and we stayed for quite a few songs, before Jack dragged me away to find some dinner! Vegas is hot and you melt as soon as you step outside, it's a clever ploy by all the hotels and casinos to keep indoors so cool. It's bearable though in our opinion and we managed a long walk along the main strip to admire the other hotels and stop in a few shopping centres. You don't have to leave your hotel if you don't want to though; each has it's own shopping mall, some have over 10 restaurants, multiple swimming pools etc. I hadn't quite realised just how huge the casinos were! We liked the Wynn where we went for a buffet dinner. Buffets are like nothing you've had in England where you tend to get a lot of 'kept warm' food. The Wynn had a fab salad bar, Alaskan King crab claws (I loved those!), a Mexican taco stand where fresh tacos were made, carvery of various meats, pasta dishes, freshly cooked pizzas, a chocolate fountain, freshly made crepe stand and tonnes more! To say we ate well that night was an understatement! We had booked an activity before we went out on our holiday to go off-roading through the Mojave desert and we really enjoyed it. The company picked us up from one of the nearby hotels and it was a short drive to their base in the open desert. It's hot, dusty and sticky but such good fun! I fear I may have spoilt it for Jack a little; he was the one driving our 4x4 dune buggy-type vehicle and I was screaming at him to slow down at one stage, scared we would roll it as we clambered over rocks, sand and in old dried up streams (washouts), but I did eventually relax a bit and enjoy it! We also saw a show while in Las Vegas and decided to see Cirque Du Soleil's "O" show which was showing at the theatre in the Bellagio. It was incredible! The performance was using a giant pool of water instead of as stage and the performers are amazing, I'd definitely recommend a show to anyone going out there.

Outside our hotel, The Bellagio, Las Vegas

Las Vegas by night

Bellagio Fountain Display

Off-roading in the Mojave Desert! Great fun!

I'm going to stop the babbling there, I know it's not everyone's cup of tea hearing about someone else's holiday, but we did have such an amazing time so it's hard not to keep re-living the memories out loud. I've started a scrapbook anyway to store all of the things we collected along the way, plus photos and maps of our route. I'm still trawling through lots of photos I took while on holiday. If anyone is thinking of a holiday like this in the future then I would definitely recommend it if you're up for lots of fun, lots of walking and driving and lots of food! If you're interested in knowing what hotels we stayed in, I've listed them below. All were fantastic, but our favourites had to be Pier 2620 Hotel in San Francisco with their amazing industrial décor (we got a free room upgrade too which was great!) and the Bellagio was just amazing; we stayed in a suite as we got such a good deal on the room - it's not too expensive to stay in Vegas as they want you to spend all your money in the casinos. Even the motel we stayed at in San Luis Obispo was lovely for a basic motel room with your car parked right outside the door!

San Francisco - Pier 2620 Hotel, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco,

Monterey - Monterey Bay Inn, Cannery Row, Monterey,

San Luis Obispo - Inn at San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo,

Los Angeles - Crescent Hotel, N Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, LA,

Las Vegas - Bellagio, On the strip, Las Vegas,

Lastly, I completed a travel journal while we were on holiday using a great app on my phone called BonJournal. It made it easier to update family and friends with what we were up to and where we were as it sends them an email each time I completed an update. I always used to write holiday diaries when I was very little and they're always good fun to read back through. If you're interested in having a look then the link is; Please don't feel like you have to read it, you deserve a medal if you've read all this! I talk about food A LOT in it because I just love food!! As I say, it was done for my family more than anything, but I trust you all enough not to laugh too much at it!

We came home to lots of beautiful birthday cards for me and engagement cards and we seem to have raised quite a few toasts! Jack gets a lot of "well done" pats on the back and he's also had a lot of "About bloody time!" even from our own parents! It's been lovely anyway and I still have a big grin on my face each time I look down at my ring. We're very happy anyway! :-) I've had a lot of people asking me if we've set a date and what our wedding plans are and to be honest we're only just starting to think about that. I'm not one of these girls that already has her whole wedding planned out on Pinterest, perhaps I should have been and then I can answer everyone's questions! Again no offence intended but for us we don't want a big showy wedding. I'm not saying they're not nice but they're just not for us. Jack and I are quite plain and simple in what we like and I expect nothing different for our wedding either. I'll want to do lots of craft and handmade elements for the big day because that's what I like but I begrudge spending stupid amounts of money just because that's what articles you read tell you to spend! It's all about love for me and about having our family and friends there to celebrate it with us! I can't count how many times I've been asked if Barry will be pageboy....!!

Hoping to get back to writing lots of blog posts soon, lots to chat about and lots to catch up on. I've had a lovely time catching up on all your blogs over the last few days :-)

Em xx

Ps. Sorry again for such an excessive post! If you have died of boredom all I can do is apologise!                    

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Highclere Castle/Downton Abbey

Our good friends Laura and Hugh came to stay with us at the weekend and it was great to catch up with them. Back in February we booked tickets to go and visit Highclere Castle as it is extremely popular and tickets sell out fast.

The weather was a little hit and miss to begin with but we really enjoyed wandering around the house, Laura and I nattering away constantly about Downton Abbey and various scenes from the TV series, while the boys trundled along behind us. By the time we got outside again to have a drink at the café and wander around the walled gardens the sun had reappeared and it was a beautiful day. The gardens were very pretty, smelled wonderful as everything was in flower and then we headed off for Sunday lunch at The Woodspeen, my favourite restaurant!

Here's a few photos from our visit to Highclere Castle

Em x

What We've Been Up To Lately

Apologies again for lack of blog posts!

We've been enjoying the sunshine and garden lots just recently and all our hard work in the garden seems to be paying off. Jack's shed is all finished, painted and shelving sorted inside. It's looking neat and tidy and we finally got the sign up that I bought for Jack at Christmas.

The wheat was harvested last week, straw has been baled and now there's just a stubble field left; that brings back memories of galloping across stubble fields on ponies! Our house has been filthy with dust thanks to the combines but I don't begrudge them too much as I can never get bored of our beautiful view and watching them work.

We have visited the Garden Centre a couple of times just recently and picked up a few brilliant bargains. Almost everything at this time of year is at least 50% off at our garden centre and so far we've picked up a raspberry plant for £5 a Blueberry plant for £6, a large Hibiscus for £4 which is now flowering as well as a few other Alpines and bedding plants for the borders. I got some beautiful Dahlias too with this giant pot's worth only setting us back £3! It's nice to add lots more colour to the garden, especially as a nice contrast to our newly painted back fence. I've just got a few more panels left to paint this week if I can.

We finally got around to replacing the two rotten fence panels in the back garden with new ones (more painting for me!) and we've taken out the redundant smaller panels that sat in front, so the garden seems even bigger now for some reason. That's the last of the big jobs done in the garden anyway, other than re-laying the patio at some stage but I think we wait until next year to tackle that job. It was very windy on Saturday when Jack and his friend fitted the new fence panels; Grandad's Rhubarb plant in the garden was almost a victim, one of my beautiful National Trust pots got knocked over and smashed and they managed to break all of the Sweetcorn stalks, never mind! Jack does however realise he owes me a new plant pot and they're not cheap!

This week is all about getting organised for our holiday next week, so lots of tidying, sorting and packing to do. We made a nice £150 on eBay at the weekend for the purpose of some extra spending money in America so I now have lots of parcels to take to the post office, the chore part of selling on eBay! It's good to get rid of things we didn't want anyway. I've also been busy making more crochet and other items ready to start selling on Etsy once I'm back from our holiday and I've been making a birthday present for my brother's girlfriend too - I'll show you photos soon.

It's going to be hot hot hot today so I had better get on with painting these fence panels - no doubt Barry will keep me company, he's usually found somewhere nearby up to mischief!

Em x

Having A Go At Embroidery

Morning all, I hope you're all well and enjoying the sunshine today. A few complained about the rain over the weekend but it was gratefully received in our garden. We've had a pretty good summer so far which has meant hardly any rain, so a chance for the water butts to refill is always nice.

I recently had a go at some embroidery having bought a little beginners kit recently off of Etsy, which I'm yet to start. In between all the crochet it's nice to do some sewing and I'm in the process of making a hanging wall organiser, decorated with a bit of embroidery. I'm quite pleased how this has come out anyway for my first attempt - something you have to be patient with!

I should have more photos of the finished product to show you soon.

Jo, I'm conscious I haven't yet posted the chocolate cake recipe yet, promise to try and get round to it before I go on holiday! I can't deny Mike and the boys chocolate cake! :-)

Have a great week everyone!

Em x

Monday, 8 August 2016

Countryfile Live

Good morning all! I hope everyone has enjoyed the weekend sunshine, it was glorious here in West Berkshire/Oxfordshire and I heard that it's meant to get even warmer towards the end of the week. Just to say a special thank you to Dawn and to Jo for your lovely comments on my last blog post, it really was appreciated!

We had a great day out to Countryfile Live on Saturday at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. It's the first time they've done this event and I think it was a huge success for them, though a few glitches with parking and layouts perhaps to think about for next year. We got there at 10am in order to spend a good amount of time there and we went prepped with a picnic blanket, plenty of water, Barry's collapsible bowl (best purchase I ever made!) and money of course! Barry was very excited to be walking along beside us, meeting lots of other people and dogs and other animals too - he got a kiss from a very cute Berkshire Piglet at one stage! It was a very hot and sunny day, a lot warmer than expected for lots of people so I'm glad we went prepared. It was easy to get down the pretty bridge and river area so we visited there often during the day to let Barry cool off properly in the water. He loves a swim and fetching a stick! (video on my Instagram if anyone's interested - @handmade_em).

There was lots going on at the event and plenty to take part in which is what made it such a great day I thought; fairground rides, lots of agricultural machinery to look at, local food produce stalls, Adam's farm area with lots of different livestock to see, an equine area and a dog area, not to mention the fantastic craft stalls. It was great to see stands such as The Woodland Trust so busy with people getting involved in planting more trees, we even took part in a quiz - I need to brush up on my tree knowledge! We enjoyed watching a few different events in the many arenas and enjoyed a very tasty hog roast roll for lunch followed by some lovely ice cream made in Yorkshire. We saw Adam Henson in the livestock area cuddling some cute Berkshire piglets. It was the Gloucester Old Spot piggies that I fell for though, they've always been my favourite pig breed, closely followed by Tamworths.

I most enjoyed the huge array of craft stalls on offer; it was nice to see so many artists, crafters etc. and even better to see their work and watch them making some too. I chatted with a few artists - I fell in love with so many pieces of artwork and I like to let them know how lovely they are. I only wish I could afford to buy them all! Sadly our lifestyle doesn't stretch to becoming avid art collectors, but I'm determined to save up for a few pieces in the near future. I was especially taken with Debby Mason's beautiful sea-inspired artwork. It's very rare you see Whale art and I'm obsessed with whales - Jack had to tear me away eventually! There was a beautiful Blue Whale piece and after dogs and horses they're my favourite animals. It's definitely going on my wishlist! These are a few other stalls that really stood out to me on Saturday, do take a look in case any of their wonderful items appeal to you too:

Debby Mason Artist
Hogben Pottery
Sally's Shed
Emily Cross Ceramics

Concentrating very hard in case I drop any of my ice cream!

It was a really great day and I'll definitely be going again next year and I would definitely recommend it to you all. We got home at around 5pm on Saturday feeling very tired after all the sunshine and walking. Barry had a snooze on my lap all evening but was back to his usual energetic self by Sunday morning! We had a quieter day yesterday; we went strawberry picking with a few friends, I cooked a roast dinner as we hadn't had one in ages and we also bought some bargain plants at the local garden centre, all of them 50% off. I got them all planted up before spending the remainder of the evening sprawled on the sofa watching some of the Olympics. Go GB! With a big cheer for William Fox-Pitt one of our GB eventers! 9 months ago he was in a coma after a bad fall while eventing in France and it's been a tough time for him to get back to the level he was at and now he's currently sat in gold medal position after dressage, with Cross country later today! I'll definitely be tuning into the cross country this afternoon while doing some crafting!

Have a great week everyone!

Em x

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Small Steps Towards Making Some Changes

I've finally got around to organising all of my craft materials properly! I've been collecting corks for a while as I've got a piece of artwork I want to make using them!

I hope everyone is well and the change in weather isn't affecting you all too much; we had a night of heavy rain on Monday but I'm not complaining as it's filled our water butts to the brim and saved me the job of watering the garden for a couple of days after 3 weeks of non-stop sunshine. The sun returned yesterday and we enjoyed a lovely evening walk with Barry; he discovered rabbits a few months ago and enjoys the odd pursuit! I'm relieved that his Terrier instinct isn't too strong when it comes to the chase and because he's a giant Pansy/Girls Blouse he instead just chases until he gets within a few metres of them and then decides they're actually a little bigger than first thought and so he 'herds' them back towards their homes! It's funny watching his little legs racing across the field after the rabbits anyway and it's good exercise for him!

Barry is incredibly fit and when Jack and I went running with him last weekend we realised just how unfit we are! We're doing lots of exercise and healthy eating before America though (where we will be devouring copious amounts of naughty but tasty American food!). We fly to San Francisco at the end of this month and we can't wait to start our California road trip! We've booked a few activities in advance including a tour of Alcatraz after having multiple people telling us we must do it (the thought of wandering around a prison doesn't excite me, but I'll give it a go) and more importantly a whale watching trip at Monterey Bay!

I have to admit that I've been struggling a bit of late and I'm hoping when I come back from holiday I'll have a refreshed mind-set. I'm in the process of getting a small business set up with all of my craft and crochet bits that I've been making and I'm trying to do it properly in order to prove to myself I am capable (whereas at the moment a little voice in my head keeps telling me it will fail and the anxiety demons keep looming) and I really want to make a go of it. I'll hopefully have a proper website soon as well as an Etsy shop and I've got lots of ideas so watch this space!

 A recent baby blanket I've made, ready to add to the collection of handmade items I'll be selling soon hopefully!

An order I completed recently for a friend; cute little baby booties!

For a long time I've believed that I've made my bed so I must lie in it but family and friends keep telling me that it's never too late to make changes to do what you love. I'm not driven by money in the slightest and I find it depressing that the world revolves around it so much that to a certain extent you do have to take great care with every penny (especially as we, like most of the population, have a mortgage and bills to pay!). That's what makes going down different paths so tough; the unknown, something that strikes fear in my mind every single day. I do take each day as it comes, but I spend a good proportion of each day worrying about what the future holds. I feel like I'm yet to find my purpose in life other than making everyone around me happy, which has always been most important to me above all else, but perhaps I will now take Jack's advice a little and make myself happy too, even though I'm not quite sure how to do that! I'm sorry for being negative, I know sometimes it probably seeps into my blog posts, but sometimes being able to write it down does really help at the thought of strangers reading it but my readers always being so kind and supportive, especially when the only person I feel like I can go to for support is Jack. Obviously Jack gets it every day and I'm extremely lucky that he's such a good listener and that he always tries to offer advice and support, but at the end of the day it's only me that can make the changes and I've got to be brave and get on and do it - try and try again and all that!

Ending on a positive note, here's a beautiful Brimstone Butterfly in our garden :-)

I'll hopefully have more to report to you about soon and apologies again for the moaning!

Em x