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Category: Life

15 Positive Things.

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve felt a bit down.

Not like mega depressed or anything – just finding it a little harder to get out of bed in the morning, or concentrate on one thing at a time.

Maybe it’s to do with the seasons changing; maybe it’s to do with the novelty of moving to a new team at work wearing off; maybe it’s the pressure I put myself under planning for our future catching up with me… Who knows…

Either way, it’s definitely time I took a moment to look at the positives. Here’s 15 things that have made me happy in September, or will do in the next few weeks:
  1. Trying out new restaurants in Bromley: The food and drink scene in Bromley has changed significantly over the last couple of years – well, the fact that there’s actually a ‘scene’ kind of tells you! There’s been some new openings recently that I went to visit, and I’ll blog about them soon.
  2. Getting back into blogging: I feel like my blogging spark has come back. It waxes and wanes, so when it does come back, I make the most of it.
  3. Seeing two friends who now live down under: A work friend and a uni friend both moved to Sydney last year; this month I got to catch up with one and next month I get to see the other! Amazing! Also, my work friend is well connected and got us a table at Duck & Waffle. I’ve wanted to go for ages, and while it was only breakfast, it didn’t disappoint!
  4. My new watch: Another from The Fifth Watches, this time from their new New York Classic Collection. Post coming soon…
  5. Reconnecting with an old friend: Putting aside old (teenage!) quarrels and reconnecting with someone you were close to is the best feeling. It’s only been a few meet ups so far, but I’m enjoying the time I’m spending with her. I hope it continues and I’m looking forward to seeing where our friendship goes as adults.
  6. Finding out that I’ve nearly repaid my student loan: Yes, that’s right – by summer next year I should have repaid my student loan in full, in what will have been 8 years since I left uni. This was no mean feat – I had the full loan available at the time. It was a bit of an accident that I’ve been able to pay it off so quickly – that’s just what working in sales for 4 years and earning commission will do, as the repayment is percentage based. Trust me, if I could have dragged it out longer I would have (at current interest rates it’s the cheapest loan I’ll ever have!) – however, the good news is that money can now go into my savings every month instead, or maybe into my pension: it’s mine to do with whatever I choose!
  7. Clearing out my wardrobe: I already did this once a couple of months back and promptly decided it wasn’t enough, so this weekend, I tackled it again. I was ruthless. I’m not quite finished – but 2 full bin bags for a boot fair and an extra one for ebay-ing later, it feels fantastic. Now just can’t wait to get rid of it all!
  8. Finally selling some big things from our wedding, over two years later: SO MUCH SPACE!! SO MUCH SPACE!! That is all.
  9. Realising it had been 4 years since we bought our flat: How time flies. I’m so lucky that we were able to do this when we did – we have such a beautiful home.
  10. Spending quality time with my husband: While this applies more to August than September, it still counts! I feel like we’ve really spent quality time together recently. In August we had our Crete holiday and our mini-breaks to Cardiff and Hastings, whereas this month has mostly been spent at home. Either way, it’s nice to be able to spend quality time together.
  11. A friend & her fiancé coming to stay next weekend: My uni friends are scattered all over, so time with them is precious! This lovely lady got engaged a couple of months back and I STILL haven’t seen her ring in real life! Can’t wait to talk all things wedding… those poor boys. Thank God the rugby’s on.
  12. Seeing Oresteia on the stage: I am a big Classics geek but I’ve never seen the Oresteia on stage. When I heard about the production at the Trafalgar Studios I was all in. I’m also doing something I’ve never done before, and going alone. There’s just no point in dragging Martin along if he’s got no interest in it, what a waste of money! Plus, I feel like SUCH a grown up so there’s another bonus.
  13. My friend from work’s wedding: A friend at work is getting married at the start of October. It should be a blast – lots of people from work are going and I’m looking forward to celebrating with her.
  14. Lifehouse are touring the UK again: If you know me in real life you will probably know that Lifehouse are my favourite band and have been since I was about 13. What can I say, I’m loyal. They’re touring the UK again for their recent (7th!) album, Out Of The Wasteland, and I can’t wait to see them on Oct 3rd!!
  15. Going to Liverpool in late October: I’m going up with one of my school friends to Liverpool to see another who lives there. It’s been ages since I’ve been up and the first time we’ve all been there at the same time… cocktail time!

What’s making you happy at the moment?

 

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2nd Wedding Anniversary: Cotton

Last month we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. TWO YEARS! Can you believe it. I look at pictures of that perfect day and I’m just filled with so much joy. There’s no other word for it.

Wedding - Oaks Farm
© Foden Photography

I decided that I’d like to stick to traditional wedding presents, so this year it was time for Cotton. If you don’t know what this is all about, here are the traditional UK wedding presents for the first 10 years of marriage:

  1. Paper
  2. Cotton
  3. Leather
  4. Fruit, Flowers
  5. Wood
  6. Sugar
  7. Wool, Copper
  8. Salt / Bronze, Pottery (depending where you read!)
  9. Copper / Willow, Pottery (depending where you read!)
  10. Tin

Gift giving on anniversaries dates back to around the Middle Ages, and supposedly in some forms back to the Roman Empire; however, the above is all a twentieth century concoction – for commercial reasons, no doubt. Even so, it’s nice to have a guide, though the Sugar and Salt ones won’t be easy…!

Last year for Paper I bought Martin a (paper) ticket to a football match with his friends – this year I wanted to do something slightly more romantic, so I headed over to Etsy. Etsy is a treasure trove for unusual presents, and I eventually stumbled onto FinchandCotter, a store based in Michigan, USA.

I liked the idea of our first dance song lyrics printed on something, and FinchandCotter do both wall hangings and cushions. I loved both, but we happened to be looking for a new cushion and I figured we’d see that much more than if it were a hanging in our bedroom, so the cushion it was! Our first dance was to Stay With You, by John Legend. The song was released not long after we got together and it was the soundtrack to the early part of our relationship, so a natural choice for our first dance together as husband and wife.

Here’s the final product, hand designed, printed and sewn all the way from Chicago. Definitely more romantic than a football ticket (though knowing my football loving husband, he’d probably disagree…!) It’s made of a seriously sturdy cotton,  and has an envelope opening at the back. I got ours in the 16″x20″ size and it is pretty big, but I quite like that – though it does come in 12″x18″ if that’s more your thing. You can choose from two different colours of cotton and loads of colours of text, and the order process was really smooth. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for an unusual anniversary gift!

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 1

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 2

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 3

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 5

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 4

FinchandCotter - Song Lyric Cushion 6

 

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Busy.

So, it’s been a while. No, I’m not going to apologise, because, well, meh. There’s been a lot going on this last few months.
I’ve not actually been around much during August at all – we went to Cardiff to watch Wales vs Ireland rugby, then on holiday to Crete, then away for our anniversary… Before that, June and July were a bit of a stressful whirlwind where I just didn’t really feel like sitting in front of a computer AGAIN when I got home. Sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?
I’m going to spend the next few weeks playing catch up on everything… Bear with me!
New post coming in a couple of days.
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#tbt: Afternoon Tea at Harrods

Back in December I took my Mum to Harrods for afternoon tea with a voucher from Buyagift. Yes, it was her Mother’s Day present. Yes, I know we ended up going nearly 11 months late. And yes I know it’s now May (oops). Let’s just gloss past that, shall we? As Mum had never been to Harrods it seemed almost criminal not to have a wander round as well, so we arrived early, meeting under the massive Harrods sign on the corner.
 Afternoon Tea - Harrods Sign
As it was just before Christmas, Harrods was bedecked in beautiful Christmas lights and the whole store had that Christmas buzz. It was fairly chilly so we quickly ducked inside and slowly meandered the different rooms, looking at lots of things we couldn’t afford and all the beautiful food! A girl can dream…
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Food Hall
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Chocolate
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Tea Canisters
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Christmas swags
Somehow we managed to find the sale section, woohoo! Finally, things I can actually BUY. I bought all sorts of Harrods merchandise.. an oilcloth bag, in their Circus print; an apron for my sister in Rooster print; oven gloves in the Crowning Cats print for a friend; a bib for my cousin’s baby again in Circus; a cosmetics case in the Pet Shop print… to be honest I could have bought half of the sale section (especially the handbags – leather bags for less than £25!) but somehow I eventually managed to put my purse away.
When it came to be afternoon tea time, the voucher said the “Terrace Restaurant”, which we quickly established isn’t that easy to find, being actually called something completely different on most of the signs! We ended up at the Georgian Restaurant, where a helpful lady told us we needed to go around it, as the Terrace restaurant was round the back of the Georgian. We didn’t realise just how close it actually was – the two are only separated by a grille of sorts – but the walk around is a bit of a schlep through Fashion. Not ideal if you’re in a hurry!
The Terrace may not be as fancy as its recently refurbished Georgian neighbour but the decor was cleaner and simpler. The white leather chairs added an elegant feel and thanks to the lovely Christmas tree in the middle, we felt suitably festive. The staff were all politeness and nothing was too much trouble.
 Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Terrace Restaurant
 You’re able to choose your tea from a short menu; I plumped for Assam while my mum went for Darjeeling. I’m not a big tea drinker (read: coffee addict) but I do know what teas I like; usually Earl Grey, Assam, Chai. The Assam was delicious, as you might expect. Malty without being too heavy.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Menu
Tea
So, onto the good stuff. Look at all the good stuff.
Cakes and sandwiches
There was a selection of finger sandwiches, and I really enjoyed the Cucumber and Cream Cheese and the Smoked Salmon. Any part of the Tea can be topped up so Mum and I went for seconds!
Mum
Next came the scones. They were lovely and warm, a mixture of plain or fruit, served with clotted cream and Harrods strawberry jam. Utterly delicious and probably my favourite part!
Finally, the patisserie. By far the most visually attractive cakes I’ve ever eaten! Sadly, not all were my bag, but that’s not to say someone with more of a sweet tooth wouldn’t love them. The very helpful waiter told us which order to eat them in – lightest first, which was definitely a good idea… a couple were seriously rich and if I’d eaten them first I’d never have made it through!
Cake
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Cake 2
After some more tea we had another wander, finding a completely empty back staircase, covered in gorgeous floral wallpaper – it felt like being in someone’s house!
We got a bit lost but eventually ended up outside, and joined the crowds looking at the now-lit Christmas window displays on Brompton Road. The theme this year was The Land of Make Believe and the displays were hauntingly beautiful.
Christmas window at Harrods - Ballerina
Christmas window at Harrods - Teddy
Christmas window at Harrods - Girl
Lights
Before heading home, we even managed to find Paddington Bear.
Afternoon Tea at Harrods - Paddington Bear
Harrods Terrace - Harrods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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New Year’s Promises

2015New Year, new start. That’s what everyone always says, right? There are lots of areas of my life where I’m truly happy. Others where I’m happy enough – for now – and don’t need so much of a new start, just a bit of a change. And others …. well let’s just say a new start sounds great.

I basically never make New Year’s resolutions because I’m rubbish at sticking to them, so I figure, if I don’t make them, then I’m not letting myself down.. but as I’ve taken on more responsibility at work over the last few years, and in my personal life (buying a flat, getting married), I’ve realised it’s officially time to start being accountable for my life and Get. Shit. Done.

So, here are my promises to myself for 2015. I’m promising myself this year. Not just resolving to do them – for some reason, the idea of breaking a promise to myself seems so much worse. I’ve not put them in any particular order.

  1. Create a routine for exercising 3 times a week – and stick to it. It’s the most popular resolution apparently, so let’s just get it out of the way first. Last year I just about managed to go twice a week for quite a while. My problem though lies in when I need to break that routine, I find it virtually impossible to complete the rest of the week. Or fortnight. Or month. So this year, I’m just going to do better. I’ve been getting sick quite a lot lately, which is really unlike me – and I think being fitter in general can only help.
  2. Be the best wife I can be. That sounds a little sad – but bear with me, as it’s the most important to me. I think sometimes I take my husband for granted, because – well – he’s just naturally awesome (awwww). He cooks, he cleans – he just takes care of me. It’s time I started doing more than just the finances and admin around here. He’ll need to be more open to letting me do it of course – not doing everything before I get home would help! – but at least to begin with, I’m going to schedule certain tasks on certain days, which will get us both off to a good start until it becomes more natural.
  3. De-clutter our life. I love our flat – it’s fairly large for a one bedroom flat, but it’s got next to no storage… and I have a LOT of stuff. I tried – and failed – to get rid of some of it last year, but it’s really starting to get me down. It needs to go. I want to finish this year without the mountain of boxes in the corner of our bedroom; with a fairly empty wardrobe; bookshelves that I can actually fit new books on; cupboards in the kitchen that we can actually use… the list goes on.
  4. Finish some outstanding flat upgrades. I want to get done some of the flat ‘upgrades’ that we’ve been putting off since we moved in – our new cooker is already ordered (woohoo!) so what remains includes.. double-glazed windows; a fan for the bathroom; new flooring in our bedroom; maybe even the granny tiles in the kitchen (*gasp*); maybe repaint the bedroom after the de-clutter too.
  5. Do things that I love more. That includes this blog – though I admittedly have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. When I first started it’s just because I was bored one weekend while my husband was watching football.. but I quickly realised how much work is involved, particularly when you’re comparing your blog to those who have been doing it for years. That’s just stupid, and unfair on myself.. so this blog will just be a reflection of me. Laidback (I’m not promising regular posts!) with occasional bursts of energy, maybe even the occasional flash of brilliance, but mostly just – me.

 

So there you go. I’m going to try to check in every few months to see how I’m getting on.

What are you promising to do this year?

Happy New Year everybody!

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Reflecting on one year of marriage

Four weeks ago Martin and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Saying it came out of the blue would be a bit of an understatement – the last few months have positively flown by… all of a sudden, it had been 12 whole months since I’d stood in front of all my family and friends, agreeing that I would marry the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend.

Our Wedding - Vows by Foden Photography
Our Wedding - Vows 2 by Foden Photography
Our Wedding - Vows 3 by Foden Photography
Our Wedding - Vows 4 by Foden Photography

Our Wedding - Vows 5 by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography

Lots of people ask me, “How is married life?”, or, “How have you found being married?” and I actually find it a really difficult question to answer. After being together for 8 years already when we got married, life post-wedding / honeymoon settled into our normal routine. It isn’t *technically* any different on the surface, but it’s just always difficult to know what people expect me to say. How deep do they want me to go? I generally reply with something along the lines of “Nothing’s changed, really… Everything’s great” and leave it at that. It’s true, but not the whole story – but like I said, how deep should you really go? I could tell them that while not a lot has changed on the surface I feel as though our relationship is stronger for it. There’s an underlying sense of This Is For Life. We’ve not quarrelled all that much since the wedding, and the arguments we do have are shortlived – petty arguments just don’t really seem worth the time when This Is For Life. Don’t get me wrong, of course there’s day-to-day gripes – usually because I haven’t tidied up or he hasn’t put the clothes on the line in the right way (YES, there is a ‘right’ way to hang clothes on an airer!!) – but it’s just not worth it.

Maybe they want to hear about how happy it makes me to be around him? How I love nothing more on a Saturday night than cuddling on the sofa together watching trashy TV? (quickly losing my street cred..) or maybe how I still get a little thrill saying, “my HUSBAND”? I don’t know. I guess I could say that – for now, for me – being married is being happy and content in each other’s company, knowing that we are building the rest of our lives together.

 

Our Wedding - Signing the Register by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
So that’s life since, but what about the wedding itself? I have the worst memory at the best of times, but most of that day will stay with me forever. It’s the little things that come to mind, in particular…

 

…Getting ready in the morning, with my Mum, Mother-in-Law and bridesmaids at my flat, and our wonderful photographers (Matt and Brenda of Foden Photography) commenting on how calm it was!…
…Seeing my Mum look so beautiful in her new dress, getting made up by my lovely make up and hair artist, Lauren Reynolds
…Getting our bouquets from the florist (Well’s Flowers, Bromley) and being so proud of how good a job my Maid of Honour Katy, my Mum and I did when we spent a day putting the table flowers together! They just looked so perfect next to each other…

 

Our Wedding - Bouquet by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
…In the cab on the way over with my Dad, and him saying something along the lines of, “Jen, I’m at great risk of getting emotional today” – if anyone knows my Dad, you’ll know why that’s such a big deal and why I was suddenly at risk of ruining my make up…
…Standing just outside our beautiful ceremony room (the Orangery at Oaks Farm) with all the bridesmaids, our ring-bearer Archie and Dad, and realising we’d not organised / rehearsed walking down the aisle…! Queue a panic and getting everyone in line, and my dad moaning that he hadn’t expected instructions for how to walk (slowly, one step at a time, a short pause for me to turn into the aisle so I could swivel my dress round, and to stop at the end so I could give him a kiss before he ran off!) – and not realising that he was on the wrong side of me until we got to the end of the aisle…

 

Our Wedding - Orangery by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
…Watching my sister Vicky doing one of our readings – about dinosaurs – with aplomb. Anyone that can take a reading about dinosaurs and do it seriously, with confidence, is pretty awesome in my book (it was “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton if you’re wondering!)…
…Saying my vows, looking into Martin’s eyes and seeing the emotion and love in them. Then, catching a glimpse of my Dad over his shoulder, taking a big gulp and looking at the ceiling, and that’s when it really hit me. My voice croaked and I had to take a moment! Advice for future brides – make sure there’s some tissues waiting on the table!…
…Finding out our ‘welcome’ cocktails were absolutely lethal, even after being watered down with more juice…
…Our friends raving about our magician, Roberto Forzoni – who amazed everyone with his up-close tricks and mind-reading – best last minute booking ever (and they still talk about him!)…
…Having to do our confetti shot twice, after our over-zealous guests threw before the photographers were ready! luckily we’d bought extra…

 

Confetti by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
…Despite not being able to find his notes (they were in an elusive suit pocket), Martin soldiering on and giving a lovely speech…
…Taking some time to have a chat with my Mum over the scrumptious dessert, plotting to steal my Dad’s and Katy’s (but they came back too soon!)…
…Watching the ‘there’s-always-one’ table, full of my friends from uni, school and our neighbours play drinking games at the end of the meal…
…Having 10 minutes to myself after dinner in our cottage on the grounds to let everything sink in – I. Am. Married!…
…Dragging everyone on the dancefloor for the Macarena. Good request, Vicky & Carlos…
…Jumping around to Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” with my two favourite Frogs, Julia & Rachel…
…Reading through all our cards and guest book before bed…

 

Our Wedding - Guestbook by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
…The next morning, helping ourselves to the lovely breakfast in the cottage, just the two of us, before packing up the detritus of one of the best days of my life…

 

Our Wedding - Jukebox by Foden Photography
© Foden Photography
All photos copyright Foden Photography
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Kitchen Upgrade – The Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri*

You may or may not know that hubby & I bought a flat in 2011. It’s a lovely little place – one bedroom, right by our local high street, a miniscule amount of outside space. We decorated when we moved in, and over time have slowly been upgrading our furniture and fittings as we’ve gone along. One area we’ve not shown a massive amount of love until fairly recently was our kitchen – relatively ironic, considering my husband is a chef! For some reason it always ended up further down the list, until we decided last year to try to get our act together.

We started by deciding to paint our severely 80’s “pine” laminate cabinets to bring them a bit more up to date, and got a new light fixture for the seating area to match the new door handles. I’ll do another post in more detail on these updates soon once we’ve finished Phase 2 in a few months – also known as “getting rid of that awful plastic sink”!

Here’s the list of things still left to do:

  • Paint the cabinets
  • Replace the cabinet handles
  • Update lampshade
  • Replace the sink & taps
  • Either replace or trim the worktop to enable us to…
  • …Replace the cooker (which was left by the previous owners and is an awful, old, slimline cooker)
  • New tiles? (still deciding on this one)
  • Replace the blind
  • Replace the net curtains
  • Upgrade all of our cooking equipment

On the last point, we’ve picked up bits and bobs over the years but are still using the stainless steel pan set we bought when we first moved in to a rented flat in 2010. Don’t get me wrong; they’ve lasted well and no doubt would for years to come, but we dream of good quality pans! Non-stick coatings! Ah, how life changes as you get old, eh?

So, when Moderna Housewares offered to send me the Ozeri Stone Earth Pan* to try, it was almost like fate! We’ve been using it for a month or so now, so can give our honest opinion.

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 1

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 2

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 5

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 8

This pan is FAB. It’s that simple! The pan we have is 26cm (10in) which is a more than adequate size for our 2 person household, though considering the depth of the pan (about 5 cm!) it can accommodate a lot more besides – making it great for big curries, bolognese and so on as it can hold a great amount of food and sauce! It’s made using Stonehenge®, an “ultra-safe, 100% PFOA-free non-stick stone coating from Germany”. You may not realise but most household cooking equipment with non-stick coatings contain PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid); while the effects of low doses on humans is still disputed, studies have shown links to high cholesterol, and high doses have lead to cancer among other things in animal testing. I never had a clue this was the case, so I’m glad this trial opened my eyes and definitely something I will think about going forward.

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 4

The non-stick coating really is impressive. Compared to our stainless steel pans, where it is a constant battle, this is like a dream. The inner is made from heavy-gauge die-cast aluminium and the base is magnetised (so those who use induction hobs are safe), allowing the heat to be distributed evenly and quickly. As promised in the description, I’ve not noticed any “hot spots” which is often the case with our stainless steel pans on our electric hob. We’ve definitely noticed that food cooks more quickly and as it’s so balanced across the pan it’s much less stressful to use (particularly for a novice cook like me!)

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 3

The heat-resistant silicon handle is an added bonus, as my husband often moves food straight from the hob into the oven. Maybe the only downside to the pan is that it can’t go in the dishwasher. First world problems or what?! As it happens, cleaning it by hand is really easy – I guess another nod to the non-stick coating.

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 6

There was an extra in the box that I wasn’t expecting and haven’t seen before – a thick felt pan protector. Even though the durable coating means it is less likely to scratch than other pans anyway, this is still a genius addition and another hint at the quality of the pan that the manufacturers have thought about this sort of thing!

Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri 7

We would highly recommend the Stone Earth Pan* by Ozeri and look forward to expanding our set to some of the other products in their range at some point in the future! Check them out here on Amazon.

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