How can it possibly be Friday again already? Bank Holiday weeks seem to whizz by faster than any other, obviously probably due to the fact that we get the long weekend followed by a shorter working week, but this one seems to have passed even quicker than usual.
So, here are a few of the things which I am thankful for and have made me happy this week:
1. Walks with D and B – as I described earlier in the week, we went on a couple of wonderful walks over the weekend. It was lovely for D and I to do one together, just the two of us – we realised when we had finished that we hadn’t stopped talking all the way round the 5 and a half mile route – not about anything important or life-changing, but just chit-chat, which was so nice. Then we took B with us for the slightly longer one on Monday, which again was lovely – and, as usual, I don’t think that HE stopped talking all the way round- no change there!
2. Food by the fire – we had three great evenings out by the firepit, and had some great food out there too, eating s’mores, bangers and mash and then barbecued burgers and fish on the final night. We all love eating outside – it feels so special and simple.
3. Crosswords – I haven’t done a crossword for years but I suddenly felt the urge to do one last weekend, so I bought a small book of them, which I’ve started working through this week – and I’m really enjoying doing them! They certainly make you think!
4. Blog comments – as my blog is attracting more and more visitors, I am beginning to receive more lovely comments on my posts, which is so gratifying and I truly appreciate them.
5. Reading – one of my posts from earlier in the week was a review of two fantastic books I’ve recently read, so I’ve been very grateful that I’ve had more time to read again this week. At the moment, I’m 24% of the way through “The Girl on the Train” – wow, absolutely loving it!
6. Board games – one of the upsides to G having to revise all week is that I have had plenty to time alone with B, and, as we both love board games, we’ve been making the most of the time we’ve had and played quite a few. Game of Life Celebrity Edition, PayDay and Mastermind have been our favourites.
7. G’s revision – much as she is now getting a little fed up of it, G has worked so hard this week, being shut away in her room for the majority of the time revising for her end-of-year exams next week. I’m so proud of her conscientious and diligent attitude – I’m sure that it will be rewarded.
8. Baking – in order to keep G fuelled throughout the long hours of study, we have done plenty of baking this week, making cupcakes with fresh fruits and chunks of meringue in, a Victoria sponge with G’s favourite butter cream filling, and a chocolate cake with white chocolate chunks – yum!
9. Lazy mornings – with G and B on half term, it has been so nice to be able to stay in bed a little longer in the mornings (this has been my favourite reading time), and not have to rush around like crazy making early breakfasts, packed lunches, ensure all school and work bags are ready and do the school run on the way to work. A real treat!
10. Yoga – as I did Adriene Mishler’s 30 Day Yoga series a little while ago, I have embarked on another of her yoga programmes this week. I can’t say that it has been fun all the way – it has been very challenging and my body has rebelled slightly afterwards (on Thursday morning, EVERYTHING hurt!) but it does make me feel so much better to do it and it does give a real sense of well being after each session.
So we have a nice quiet weekend ahead. D may have to work, which will be a shame, but that just means that we will have to make the most of our evenings together, when he is back home and G has finished for the day.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Three day weekends are just THE BEST, aren’t they? They encompass everything you love about normal weekends but with extra servings of fun and relaxation. Three relaxing evenings, three mornings to lie in…what’s not to love?!? I feel that we really made the most of this last Bank Holiday weekend, so here’s a little round up of what we got up to:
:: We had three great nights out by the firepit, making s’mores, eating “bangers and mash” and we even barbecued our dinner on it, with D cooking bacon steaks, burgers and sea bass to perfection.
:: We did two fantastic walks. D and I did one alone on Saturday, around the Melbourne area. It started off near Melbourne Pool, which is a lovely spot – and is where Honey had her first encounter with geese! It was then a lovely, varied walk – we went across meadows, past bluebell woods, alongside the golf course, through the village of Breedon-on-the-Hill, through a rapeseed field, before returning to Melbourne itself (for a quick stop-off for a drink before heading home). It was a beautiful walk, not even spoilt by the fact that we added 1.25 miles to it by getting a little lost! We then did a second great walk on Monday, with B as well (G was busy revising with friends), around Calke Abbey and Staunton Harold Reservoir. Again, this walk will definitely be repeated, as we loved it – the reservoir is stunning, the bluebell woods we walked through just beautiful, and it was lovely to explore a little more of the Calke Abbey estate than we have previously done. We have decided that following directions it not our strong point, as we went wrong AGAIN but, again, this wasn’t a problem at all. The puppies loved the walks too, as there was plenty of opportunity for them to be off their leads, so got so much exercise.
:: We had fun playing “Risk” – as you can see, the boys take it all very seriously!
:: We did a little spot of baking – vanilla cupcakes with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and meringue mixed in.
:: We had delicious breakfasts in bed on two mornings. We love spending time in our newly decorated bedroom, so D and I took it in turns to get up to deal with the dogs and prepare yummy breakfasts, which we then took back up and enjoyed in a very leisurely manner.
So that was our incredibly relaxing weekend – I enjoyed every second of it! What did you get up to?
One of the many things which I have enjoyed this month, with the start of the better, warmer weather, has been the opportunity to read outside in the garden and I have been fortunate enough to stumble across two absolutely fantastic books, both of which I would thoroughly recommend.
As you can tell, I enjoy many different genres, and these two books are sooo different from each other. The first is Six Years by Harlan Coben. I have read two of his books previously – The Woods and Caught – and did enjoy them, but I bought Six Years for a friend last year and I remember her saying how much she was enjoying it at the time, so thought that I would give it a go. The basic premise is that, six years ago, Jake Fisher falls profoundly in love with Natalie during a three-month whirlwind romance at a retreat. He is then shocked beyond belief when she suddenly leaves him and marries another man, making Jake promise that he will never try to contact her again. He manages to keep this promise until he learns that her husband has died. He attends the funeral, hoping to re-establish contact with Natalie, only to see that the grieving widow is not Natalie, and that there are also two teenage children in tow. Jake then sets out to find Natalie, showing unbelievable amounts of persistence in the face of countless obstructions and messages that he should leave well alone.
Within just a few pages, I realised that I was completely hooked, and that this book was going to steal an awful lot of my time until I had completed it and found out the real story of what happened to Natalie all those years ago. Jake, the narrator, is a likeable character, and you can’t help but admire his determination, against all the odds (bearing in mind that this is a thriller!), to continue his quest for his one true love. There are so many intriguing questions raised and tangled mysteries revealed, making for a complex but compelling plotline, that it could be quite difficult to follow, but there are recaps along the way, which are incredibly helpful. I found that it was, without doubt, a literal page-turner, as Coben revealed just enough of the various layers of the mystery, intrigue and secrets to hold my attention completely, making me want to keep reading to find out more. The ending was relatively predictable, but the twists and turns along the way made this acceptable to my mind, and the exploration of the depth and passion of a lost love as a theme throughout the book was strong.
The second book which I have absolutely loved this month is Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech. If you haven’t come across the Sobiech family before, I urge you to watch Zach Sobiech’s “My Last Days” film which I first saw posted on a friend’s Facebook page in May 2013 and watched – and was affected by – immediately. Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer which is most common in children, at the age of 14, in 2010. In 2012, he was told that he had about a year to live. His mother, Laura, who wrote this book after his death in 2013, advised him to start writing letters to those closest to him but, having been a very keen musician for years, he wrote songs instead. His beautiful song, “Clouds”, was released in December 2012 and immediately went viral, leading to a very interesting and unexpected final few months of his life.
In this book, Laura tells us more of Zach’s life and story. I had been waiting to read this for a while as I had been so inspired by the whole family, so, again, got completely and immediately hooked by it. It is beautifully written, and is an incredibly poignant, honest and open account of Zach’s illness and the effect it had on him, the entire family, their friends and, ultimately, a much, much wider community. Zach was so, so much more than his illness – his faith, maturity, positivity, bravery and grace throughout are absolute testament to that. It is, as you would expect, an emotional book, and Laura is very generously and honestly open, but it is certainly not a sad book. Yes, it is heart breaking at the end, and I certainly shed some tears, as I did when I first watched the film, but it also touches you on so many levels. It is much more than an account of Zach’s final years – it shows the absolute power of faith, family, friends, hope, how one person can make a difference and the ability to continue to live a beautiful and fulfilling life even though you know it is coming to an end.
I honestly can’t praise this book enough. I’m desperately trying to choose the right words to make you all pick up this book, as it is a truly inspirational, powerful read.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these books if you have already read them or, if you follow my recommendations, what you think of them after reading them. Alternatively, I’d love to hear of any books you’re loving at the moment – I’m always on the lookout for a good read.
NOTE: Please click below to read the comment by Laura Sobiech, in which she clarifies how money is raised for the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund and how much has been raised in Zach’s name so far. Thank you so much, Laura.
I have to say that I had the most lovely few days celebrating my birthday at the end of last week – and if you can get away with making it last for three days, that can’t be a bad thing!
My celebrations started on Thursday, when I had my little dinner party. I spent a lovely day preparing for it – making the table settings look pretty and making the food and drinks. It was a lovely evening – a small group of people who are very special to me, with food, drink and chat which all seemed to go down well. It was a great way to begin my birthday – and to christen the newly decorated dining room!
My actual birthday was then on Friday, and I had the biggest treat – a complete day off from all work and housework. D did the school run, which left me free to go back to bed with a cup of tea and a great book – what a luxury, to be able to devour page after page in one sitting. The rest of the day proceeded in a similar fashion – a long, indulgent bath in the middle of the day; a Netflix binge (how have I never watched Spooks when it was on TV for so many years? Now hooked!); a lunch of leftover fig and parma ham salad with a glass of wine; more reading on one of our new outdoor beanbags in the gorgeous sunny garden; and finally, a spot of colouring! I have come across various articles recently about the rising popularity of adults buying colouring books for themselves – apparently, this is a phenomenon that has spread across the Channel from Europe, with bookshops and other retailers reporting a huge increase in the numbers of colouring books being bought for adults, as they turn to colouring for its therapeutic, de-stressing benefits. The Huffington Post featured an interesting article on it here, clearly stating that “The practice generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.” So, as I always loved colouring as a child, and enjoyed joining in when the children were younger, I thought that I would give it a go – and, I’m pleased to say, that I still love it! I had bought the children some colouring books a couple of years ago which contain some quite intricate patterns, so I chose one of those, and really enjoyed it.
We then went out for a lovely family meal on Friday to a great pub in a village not too far away. It serves a mixture of superbly cooked pub meals alongside stone-baked pizzas from their pizza oven, which were a great hit with the children, so it was a really lovely night.
The activities of Saturday were actually nothing to do with my birthday, but it felt very special to be able to meet up with my university friends just the day after. We all got together at our friend, Tracy’s, house in Lincolnshire and had a fantastic afternoon. We had all contributed to the food (it was a great excuse for me to try out the recent recipe I had seen for Caramel, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Popcorn, which fortunately was as yummy as I’d hoped!), so had a lovely meal, copious amounts of wine, and lots of catching-up chat. It really was so good to all be together and, as always, we stayed much longer than we expected, which is always a good sign!
So, all in all, I had a very special few days, which made me reflect on how lucky I am to have such exceptional people in my life: my truly lovely sisters and friends, and D, G and B. I am someone who prefers to have a smaller number of very special, close friends than lots of people whom I’m not so close to, and to spend time with so many of them within such a few days was so nice.
Having a day off also made me reflect on how rejuvenating it is to just take some time to completely unwind and relax. I don’t usually ever “stop” completely during the week, both because there always seems so much to do but also largely because I feel terribly guilty if I do, for some reason. But D knew how much I had enjoyed my day and said that I should do it more often, as he wouldn’t mind, and wouldn’t feel guilty if it was him, so I just might. I do believe that, although people these days are without doubt busier than ever before, it does sometimes seem to become a sort of contest at times to be the busiest person, with a standard response to the question “How are you?” being “Busy”, rather than a proper answer. There shouldn’t be any shame in making time for yourself to relax in whichever way you prefer, if you possibly can, so I will look forward to my next “day off”, whenever that may be, with joyful anticipation.
Well, I’m hoping that this turns out to be a “happy Friday” as it’s my birthday! I have very little planned for today, which I am very excited about – a complete “day off”, so no work, no food shopping, no housework, etc. – what a treat! Then we are going out for a meal tonight, just the four of us, so that will be lovely.
Anyway, here’s what has made me smile this week so far –
1. D and I worked hard in the garden last weekend and we are so pleased with the results. I will probably blog about this later but, in a nutshell, over the past couple of weeks, we have done lots of “tidying up” – weeding, mowing, strimming, power washing, painting fences, having trees removed, re-gravelling, etc. – and we finished this project off at the weekend, with the main aim being sorting out the area for the firepit!
2. The firepit – what a fantastic purchase! We used this last Saturday and Sunday and it was so great. We are beginning to think that we are a little obsessed with fire, being that we lit the woodburner every single night of the winter, and now are loving this! It meant that we had two lovely family evenings, all together, outside, with no screens, toasting marshmallows and baking potatoes (wow – they were AMAZING!).
3. Never mind Happy Friday, I met “Happy Tuesday man” earlier in the week! It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was walking the two puppies (Tilly was on bed rest with a sore leg!) when a man, with a gorgeous border collie, walked past, smiled and just said “Hello, you three. Happy Tuesday!”. It put such a huge smile on my face!
4. I have managed to find two perfect picture frames this past week, which I’ve been looking for for a while, one for a beautiful word-art that Georgie made me for Mother’s Day, full of the most complimentary things possible, and the other for a painting we have of the church where we got married. We had this hung up for years, but haven’t put it up since we moved last year, as I decided that the frame didn’t do it any justice and was frankly pretty old-fashioned, but it now looks lovely in its new, white, triple-mounted frame in the dining room.
5. Talking of which, the dining room re-decoration is now complete and we are so thrilled with the results. It is so much lighter and brighter, the tiled floor is fabulous – and you should see our rather quirky light fitting!
6. Considering how new my blog is, I’ve been really happy with the visitor statistics I’ve been getting. Having hundreds of visitors has never been the aim of it, but it’s still very gratifying to see that lots of people are reading my ramblings and leaving lovely comments. The other aspect that has made me very happy this week though, is that one of my posts from a few weeks back, on Sibling Love, has been featured on two other websites – www.theguiltfreeguide.co.uk and www.post40bloggers.com which is pretty thrilling to see!
7. Nothing really specific but, following on from a pretty rubbish week last week, this one has been a whole lot more positive – definitely something to smile about!
8. I hosted a really lovely birthday meal last night for two of my sisters and two of my closest friends, and it was such a great evening. I made a Strawberry and Basil mocktail to drink, which was very tasty, then we ate Fig and Parma Ham Salad, followed by Pistachio and Lavender Salmon with Salmoriglio Potato Salad and Samphire, Asparagus and Bean Salad, then Meringues with Lemon Curd and Strawberries to finish. Conversation flowed about all sorts of things – books, films, theatre, children – and it was 11.30pm before we’d even thought to look – surely the sign of a good evening.
9. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find figs?!? Well, I certainly didn’t until this past week! I decided that I wanted to do a Fig and Parma Ham Salad for the starter for my birthday meal, but could I find figs? No! I visited two different Sainsburys four times, only to see a huge blank space above the figs label, which was an improvement on Tesco and Morrisons, which didn’t even have a space for them. Luckily, M&S to the rescue – a quick trip there yesterday proved fruitful (ha – see what I did there?!?) and figs were eventually located and bought. Parma Ham Salad wouldn’t have been quite the same!
10. So, as I may have mentioned(!), today is my birthday, so I am very happily looking forward to my lovely relaxing day, followed by a family meal out tonight, then a university friends get-together tomorrow. It’s not easy for the five of us who shared a house at uni and have stayed very close friends to all meet up, as Emma has only just returned to England after living in Europe for ten years, whilst Helen has spent the last few years in Paris and then Jersey, and is soon leaving for Hong Kong, so it is always a really special occasion when we can all spend some time together.
So, that’s pretty much my week in a few points. What has made you happy this week?
I have to confess that I’ve never been great at drinking the recommended daily allowance of water. I’ve always had a glass of it on my bedside table, and sip it before going to sleep, during the night and when I first wake up, and I have it when I go to the gym and sometimes at work, but, apart from that, I know that I don’t drink nearly enough of it. I have just always found it to be “boring”, so it has rarely been my beverage of choice. However, there are, as we know, countless benefits of drinking water – it is fantastic for fluid balance (roughly 60% of the body is made of water), calorie control, clearer skin, kidney function, brain power, hangover cure, muscle use and concentration aid, to name but a few.
So, I decided that I should really give it more of a fighting chance, so have been experimenting with adding various natural ingredients to it, to give it more flavour – hence, fancy water!
Of course, you can choose any combination of fruits and herbs that you desire, but some do go together a little better than others, so I’m showing my favourites here – the ones which I believe have worked the best and provide the nicest flavours. The best thing about them is that they are completely natural, all made using fruits that I already had at home and herbs from my garden. They are ridiculously easy to make but alter the taste incredibly well, so that I no longer have to endure “boring” water!
Blackberry and Mint
Blackberry and Sage
Orange, Lemon and Ginger
As well as being one of my favourites from a taste point of view, this is incredibly good for you – oranges help your circulation, lemons aid digestion and ginger is a fantastic immune system booster.
Strawberry and Basil
This is possibly my favourite flavour combination, as I absolutely adore basil, with its aromatic flavour, which goes so well with the strawberry. Plus just how pretty does it look? If you leave it longer, it also turns the water pale pink!